Book Review: TNG – Q&A

For many years, the enigmatic Q has been a recurring companion (or should that read nuisance?) to Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise. For the better part of two decades we have witnessed his exploits on the Federation’s flagship, as well as in other parts of the universe. But now, the ultimate riddler prepares to deliver the ultimate answer in Keith R. A. DeCandido’s new Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, "Q&A". Right off the top, "Q&A" sets itself apart from the recent batch of Next Generation novels, opening with quite possibly the most unique prologues of any Star Trek work I have ever picked up. To be honest, it felt more like the work of Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide series) than anything else.

First and foremost, humor, while rampant throughout the story, was not overboard – at least, no more overboard than your average Q episode. DeCandido nailed John DeLancie’s delivery and Q came across just as if the book was another Q episode aboard the dear ole’ starship Enterprise. Q, however, is not the only element of the novel that is appealing. The Enterprise is finally out exploring strange new worlds again, and she has a complete crew that actually gels. Unlike "Resistance", "Q&A" actually takes the effort to give each member of the crew a time in the spotlight. Geordi LaForge, sadly missed in the past several novels, is back in genuine form this time, and has several encounters that are substantial and important to the future storytelling of the Next Generation series.

Worf, the new First Officer, has settled into his post very well. We finally have the chance to learn just what his many experiences over the years have taught him about life, the universe, and… well… just about everything. Worf’s strategies, on everything from away missions to dealing with Q, come as a welcome and invigorating change of pace. Worf is able to make his own mark on the position of First Officer, one that would make Will Riker proud. Worf has matured, and DeCandido writes him like no one else can. At the same time, the Picard/Crusher relationship –poorly played out in the past few ‘relaunch’ novels – is approached far more maturely (and likeably) in "Q&A". One actually gets the feeling that they are settling down to for a life together, and DeCandido’s writing finds subtle ways to bring that out. Counselor T’Lana is formed into a far more intriguing Vulcan by DeCandido than Dillard managed in "Resistance". One now begins to see her value to the crew (in "Resistance" her value was limited to the return of a Vulcan to the bridge and her decision to oppose Picard) as a counselor. Her encounter with LaForge in "Q&A" establishes her as a counselor who can carry herself with dignity and composure, and who can get into the mind and heart of the patient to help them discover themselves.

To top off "Q&A", DeCandido introduces us to two new members of the Enterprise crew: Miranda Kadohata, the new second officer, and Zelik Leybenzon, the ship’s security chief. Both of these new crew members has their own unique background and storie, and it is the unfolding of their stories, intertwined with the contemporary events of the Enterprise‘s voyage, that make their presence aboard the ship so welcome, and their personalities so interesting. While various authors have done a very good job at creating backgrounds for new crew of the Deep Space Nine relaunch, I daresay that DeCandido –in a single tale- has outshone them all through Kadohata and Leybenzon.

One interesting feature (and one I normally would complain incessantly about) that DeCandido worked into "Q&A" was galaxy jumping. Various chapters included events in all four quadrants of the galaxy – with appropriate cameos from various television episodes and book series.HWhere other writers have made such side trips feel forced, DeCandido was able to give them an integral feel. Far from the, "Oh no, not again!" reaction that other recent novels have left me with, each of the visits to other ships and crews in "Q&A" feel absolutely smooth, and help to weave the tale.

"Q&A" is not without its faults. As an individual who missed a lot of Star Trek: Voyager when it was airing, it was hard to keep complete track of the entire back story of Q (though a quick trip to Memory Alpha helped). Unlike "Death and Winter" and "Resistance", both of which couldn’t end soon enough, "Q&A" ended far too quickly, and, in some respects, too abruptly. There was so much that could have been expanded upon; so many questions that could have been answered – both about Gorsach IX and about the events of the novel’s climax. (Maybe those answers are being saved for a future story.)

Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to "Q&A", however, is to boldly state that this novel should have been the first Next Generation relaunch novel. DeCandido’s work is everything that "Resistance" and "Death in Winter" should have been. It is a worthy pilot for a new series of adventures, one that actually establishes the crew of the Enterprise as comrades who, together, can face just about anything the universe –or the Q- can throw at them.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q & A
Pocket Books – 320 pages (Paperback)
by Keith R. A. DeCandido
…available now at Amazon

 

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JCool

good job!

SolFlyer

Glowing review. I may have to check this one out.

Sean4000

Bur are these books post-nemsis canon? Or just like Shatner’s books, good but not true to the timeline?

NZorak

It took me about three days to finish this book; my average is about a week and a half. It really is as good as Robert Lyons claims it is, and I agree that it should have been the first in the relaunch series. I found this book to be on par with the best Next Generation episodes, a statement that, to me, is paying it the highest compliment. Unlike many Next Gen books I’ve read over the years, DeCandido really managed to capture the magic that is Star Trek TNG, and he was able to do it without three of the original main characters (though in all fairness, Data’s presence was felt, even if he himself was atomized. Still wondering if they’re going to find a way to bring him back since there are so many possible ways to do it).

NZorak

#3
As with all Star Trek books, they are not canon.

But, and this is huge, Simon and Schuster was licensed to produce these books since the TNG era is essentially dead. Even if the studio were interested in making more TNG (which they aren’t), Patric Stewart has stated that he’s done with Hollywood and he refuses to put on the captain’s uniform again. Also, all books go through a thorough review by a Paramount licensing team to ensure that the books stay true to official canon and that they represent the franchise appropriately. What this means to us is that since they aren’t making any more TNG in the foreseeable future, these might as well be canon. I’ve decided to accept them as such.

Scotty

Nice review I really liked this book. Keith did a great job with all the characters in this book and how Q was handled in the stoey..

Miguel

I agree. The other novels just seemed trite. This one looks worth looking into.

Sean4000

So, we can consider this the first real postnemesis TNG tale since most of the problems have been hammered out.

Laserlover2254

Canon and continuity are NOT one and the same.

And only the TV shows and films are Canon.

Wow. I’m totally going to check that one out.

NZorak

#8
I admit to having decided to skip Death In Winter because of the reviews. I mean as long as we know that Crusher rejoined the Enterprise and that her and Picard are now in a romantic relationship, the rest of it just didn’t sound very appealing.

So with that one piece of information, you have all the background you need to read Resistance. Now I admit that Resistance fell a little flat with me, but I would still start the relaunch there. Besides, the next relaunch book, “Before Dishonor”, practically makes knowledge of the events in Resistance mandatory. Before Dishonor was also written by Peter David, who has been regarded as the best Star Trek novelists since the beginning of Star Trek TNG. In case anyone is wondering, I’m only about 50 pages into that one, so I can’t say for sure that it’s good, but so far no complaints.

Etha Williams

I’ve got a nice stack of novels to finish that I bought at a convention earlier this month, but I can’t wait to read this…

trektacular

Peter David is the best Trek novelist, I can agree with that.

I wish the novels weren’t so intent on bringing in every single character they can. Why was Ro Laren in the DS9 relaunch novels? She was a Maquis. She should be in prison. And the other stuff with Hugh and Seven and… every other character that could be thrown in?

Case and point, Worf was an ambassador after DS9. But whatever. I’m sure it’s a good book.

Demode

I’m so glad to hear WORF in the First Officer. About time! Enterprise is where he belongs. Maybe its time for a Star Trek: The Next Generation: Phase II – television series!

Demode

I’m so glad to hear WORF is the First Officer. About time! Enterprise is where he belongs. Maybe its time for a Star Trek: The Next Generation: Phase II – television series!

Izbot

Good to hear that the warm fuzziness of the cameraderie from the TNG series is back. Nemesis and the subsequest novels (and the A Time To.. novels) went a long way to remove this key element — to dissatisfying results. Making TNG grittier and more disfunctional is antithetical to its very premise. Nemesis, to me, gets harder to watch with each viewing. Especially apparent is Baird’s unfamiliarity with the characters and the actors consequent performances in reaction to that. Patrick Stewart ‘phones in’ his entire performance and seems mostly disenterested with everything going on. It totaly strips Data’s death scene of any impact. Glad to hear that finally someone is steering the TNG stories back to basics and away from this ill-conceived ‘trek’ into gloom and doom.

NZorak

#14
Worf barely agreed to take the ambassadorial post in the final episode of DS9, and he was officially back with the Enterprise as of Nemesis. Getting back to the novels, he was back aboard towards the end of the A Time To…. series.

#17
I’m actually finding that I like Nemesis better with each viewing. I’d go on a lengthy review here, but I’ll just send you to my blog instead: http://nzorak.blogspot.com/

om

…Again, thank God/Yahweh/Roddenberry that it’s not another Michael Jan Friedman hack job.

Kirk: The Jack Bauer Of Space

My interest in the new Trek movie has me reading Trek novels again, first time in maybe ten years. I read Q&A and though it was excellent.

While reading Mr. Lyons review, which I agree with, I started thinking that the Q&A novel would make an excellent script for a new TNG movie.

Having Q back, Riker in command of his own ship, Worf second in command on the Enterprise–all these elements would generate a huge interest in a new TNG movie. Anyone from Paramount reading these comments here? Hello?

Give us a new TNG move franchise starting with Q&A, and then we can have a JJ Abrams TOS movie one year, and look forward to the new TNG movie the next. And they can alternate release years for the next ten years!

Alternatively, there is always TV….

Johnnie F

I’m excited to read this new book (I just bought it today along with Star Trek Academy Collision Course), but I wish they would find a way to bring Data back. He was my favorite of all time. Since he was not actually human and can survive in space, why can’t he show up somewhere floating around – or at least his head, which could then be attached to B4’s body. Or maybe they could find a previously unknown switch that releases Data’s ‘personality” into B4. Hey, they brought Spock back.

Luca AKA RuFFeD_UP AKA Lukas

I hate Trek books but I’m considering this one, the only other ones I’ve read are Dysons Sphere which sucked major Donkey Balls and the 2 Maximum Warp Books which weren’t bad.

Sxottlan

From what I’ve heard about Dyson Sphere and the two Maximum Warp books, I can see why you don’t like Trek books.

Try the DS9 Relaunch, Vanguard, the SCE etc.

Oregon Trek Geek (Formerly "Kirk: The Jack Bauer Of Space")

Yes, bring Data back. It was stupid to kill him. It was stupid to kill Kirk. It is stupid to kill any major ST character.

Anyone’s idea for bringing back Data would work. My version? The death of Data still haunts Picard. He reads the historical records of Kirk’s successful search for Spock. He then gets Geordie and the rest of the crew on the idea of searching for Data. And, of course, they find him. Of course, they have to throw in some details (I’m not a writer). Perhaps they have to use B4’s body or whatever. Perhaps Geordie locates a homing device for other positronic devices inside B4…

As for Brent Spiner’s aging? Data simply runs an “aging” routine to feel more a part of his aging friends and colleagues. I believe this was mentioned in a movie or a TV episode. And there you have it, wa-la, Data is back.

Johnnie F

#24 – Good idea, however, I think it will take fans “haunting” the stupid writers for taking Data out in the first place and getting them to write him back in. As much as Brent Spiner seems to enjoy doing conventions and such, I don’t think it would be hard to get him back in the role. A good book writer could certainly bring Data back, but it would probably take a movie.

NZorak

#25
I’d love to see a Titan movie that brings back Data.

And yes, since Data is a machine, there are many more ways to bring him back than a living being. This being Trek, there’s no shortage of ways to bring back living beings.

RE: Brining back Data

Are there many ways to bring back Data? Sure… this is SciFi we are talking about.

There comes a point, however, when repeating the same theme becomes tiresome.

Spock’s resurrection from the dead in Star Trek III was unique and emotionally valuable.

Kirk’s resurrection from the dead in Star Trek: The Return (novel) was interesting, though questionable on the part of many.

To raise Data from the dead would be both boring and tiresome. It’s been done twice (once on screen, once in books), it takes the sting out of Data’s death, and while I will concede that it might be interesting, questionable is just the beginning of the criticisims that at least I would level at it.

Data is dead. The novels need to leave it that way. Real life, even in the 24th century, has real consequences. Death is one of them… even for an android.

Rob+

Johnnie F

Father Rob – I agree that real life has real consequences, but this is Star Trek – not real life. Real life doesn’t have transporters, handheld medical scanners, treatment for the common cold, warp drive, androids, and all the other stuff you take as “fact” which is in reality fiction and beyond questionable.

Another interesting story line would be to have Lore know about the explosion and “plant” his own head in a place that it would be found and thought to be Data’s, only no one knows for say another movie or two or book or two. That would shake things up.