Library Computer: “Klingon Empire – A Burning House” Review

Break out the Warnog and buckle up your battle armor… this week’s Library Computer takes us on a journey deep into the heart of the Klingon Empire with Keith R.A. DeCandido’s "A Burning House". Also on tap for this week: the future of Star Trek eBooks, and new details on David Mack’s forthcoming “Destiny” crossover trilogy.


Let me start with a confession. I’m not exactly what you would call a big fan of the Klingons. Oh, sure, they have their place, but I always preferred the Romulans. I find Klingons boringly predictable and am not happy about how they have managed to overtake so much of Star Trek lore. As a result, I suppose it is only natural for you, the reader, to assume that this week’s review includes a lambasting of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s “A Burning House”.

Boy would you be wrong.

DeCandido returns to his world of Klingon intrigue originated in 2001’s Next Generation work “Diplomatic Implausibility”. From there, through a series of works formerly published under the I.K.S. Gorkon moniker (“A Good Day to Die”, “Honor Bound”, “Enemy Territory”, and a crossover portion of the second book of “The Brave and the Bold” duology), he has steadily built up a foundation upon which stories from the heart of the Klingon Empire can be told from a unique, interior perspective. Certainly there are humans and Romulans here and there, but DeCandido’s focus is the Klingon story, told from a Klingon perspective. Even though I had only read two of the previous Klingon books, “A Burning House” was a simple enough to get into as DeCandido provides enough background information to bring the reader quickly up to speed with the action.

As the Chancellor-class I.K.S. Gorkon limps into Praxis Station to begin after-action repairs, the ship’s crew scatters throughout the Empire. Several foot soldiers head to the Empire’s bread-basket, while another discovers that home is not always what you perceive it to be. The ship’s doctor peddles her barbaric (Federation-taught) medicine to the chagrin of her fellow physicians, and Captain Klag finds himself in the midst of both Imperial politics and a battle for the honor of his family. As the story unfolds, one is deeply entrenched in what it means to be a Klingon. While you would probably expect a great measure of head-butting and blood-letting (and there is that!), there is another side to the Klingon Empire, a side that DeCandido brings into clear focus with each successive chapter of “A Burning House”. In the midst of this multi-layered story, DeCandido exposes the reader to extremes in Klingon culture. From the halls of the High Council to a farming community on Pheben III, he is able to bring a level of reality to Klingon culture that few writers have previously been able to channel. DeCandido forges a complete concept of Klingons in his work, one that stands in sharp contrast to the warrior mentality that most filmed and written accounts of the species reflect. We find in “A Burning House” much to pity for the residents the city of Krennla, we discover the joys (and shortcomings!) of modern Klingon opera, and we encounter a many very familiar faces; Doctor Bashir, Ezri Dax, Ambassador Worf, and one Lieutenant Rodek whose past is, literally, coming back to haunt him.

DeCandido brings his usual sense of humor to the work as well, resulting in just as many laugh-out-loud moments as a work like John M . Ford’s “How Much for Just the Planet”. Yet, with DeCandido, the laughter can come on a batleth’s edge just as easily as it does with a bottle of the finest in Klingon spirits. He exhibits an almost British restraint when it comes to the application of humor, one that suits the Klingon culture well.

Regular readers will know that I tend to view most crossover works fairly critically. “A Burning House”, while featuring crossover elements (including a visit to Deep Space Nine), doesn’t overdo it. Every character that is brought in from another series is brought in for a legitimate reason that no new character could fill. They appear for long enough to play their role in the story, and then they disappear. This level of skill also demonstrates the deep imagination that DeCandido has… several situations in the novel could have been served by just tossing in some other person who had been featured in an episode here or there, but he has elected to create new, interesting figures who populate the story. This, however, is usual for DeCandido, whose track record in previous works should speak for itself in this regard.

With “A Burning House”, Keith R.A. DeCandido has solidified his reputation as the principal authority on Klingons in the writing community today, and has transformed an annoyingly predictable and overused species into a people of great depth and breadth. And, in the end, that has to be the greatest compliment that I can pay to the words that have flowed from his pen.

"Star Trek – Klingon Empire – A Burning House" is available now from Amazon


Pocket Books has announced that their line of original Star Trek eBooks, including the Corps of Engineers series, is going on hiatus this month. The last book in the line for the time being will be the Next Generation/DS9 crossover story, “Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment”, which concludes the Slings and Arrows miniseries. The eBooks that have already been released will remain available, and compilation paperbacks will still be issued. On his blog, eBook editor Keith R.A. DeCandido also announced that tentative plans exist to release the TOS anniversary mini-series “Mere Anarchy” sometime in 2009; possibly coinciding with the release of the new feature film.

Pocket Books has released a brief synopsis for "Star Trek: Destiny: Gods of Night" , the first of the ‘big event’ cross-over trilogy coming this fall. Not a lot to go on, but here are the high points:

  • The Borg are major players, pursued by the Picard and the Enterprise E
  • Will Riker and the crew of the Titan discover a mystery world, and a Starfleet captain long assumed dead
  • Newly-promoted Captain Dax and her crew find the starship Columbia (NX-02) wrecked in the Gamma Quadrant, a ship that has been MIA for over two hundred years

As this week’s Library Computer closes up, more books have just arrived. So, in short order, I’ll be delving into James Swallow’s new Lost Era tale "Day of the Vipers". This is definitely one I have been looking forward to, as it launches the three-volume Terok Nor trilogy.


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Hey, let’s see Dan Brown try to write THIS stuff!

Romulans were always cooler.

Get Robert Ludlum to write a S31 piece haha

There is no S31…remember that…there is no S31…

If only people like Keith R.A. DeCandido or David Mack would write the new TREK movie, we would have the guarantee that it would be good.

I doubt that the people who wrote the incredibly braindead TRANSFORMERS can write a good TREK movie.

#2 Just don’t say that to a Klingon. Following the long lecture you will receive about the Roman’s lack of honor, you will be given a shorter and more abrupt lecture from a rather sharp Batleth!

Regarding the Destiny trilogy… the Borg? AGAIN? Haven’t they tapped that well dry already?

Thanks for the review!

# 8 Keith really cool book , wonderful read keep up the good work

I’ve fallen away from the Trek novels, but this Klingon story piques my interest. I’ll give it a go.

thar be some clever titles there…

Now, I can’t read or write so I dunna read tha ST novels, but I would like ta wonder why ST novelists were not tapped to create a screenplay… Oh, yeah- yer Hollywood beastie liking the enamored writers Orci and K-Man…

or, givin’ me limited knowledge, perhaps there has been a good deal of novelists writing episodes? Or is it like Ireland and Northern Ireland wherein they are dissassocied yet one feeds tha other?

arrrr… me not wanna get too geo-political in me half baked analogies…
time fur another Hooked On Phonics lesson anyway… good stuff that…

arrrr… I mean “Good day.”

#5: Just remember that the braindead Transformers movie (I could only sit through the first 70 or 80 hours of it, myself) was a Michael Bay movie. It’s very possible that the script might have been wonderful before he got hold of it …

I’m not saying it was; I’m just offering you the same life-raft I’m clinging to in hopes :)

Braindead? Well, bless your heart. What did you expect from a movie about gigantic talking transforming robots, anyway? High art? A Sundance filmgoing experience?

To use a *really* overused phrase, it is what it is, and what it is is a helluva fun movie.

IMHO, as always.

Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|

Captain Dax and Columbia NX-02 in the Gamma Quadrant? My, my… this should be interesting :-)

#11 – “Now, I can’t read or write so I dunna read tha ST novels, but I would like ta wonder why ST novelists were not tapped to create a screenplay… ”

Some of the best episodes of all of Berman-era Trek came in ENT’s fourth season, courtesy of Gar and Judith Reeves-Stevens. I can only imagine what they could come up with, given the chance to write a feature film. :)

#14 – If that part is accurate (and there seems to be some uncertainty about that, from what I’ve read), I still can’t help but wonder if it inspired, or was inspired by, the “wreck of the Columbia” scene in the Ships of the Line calendar. I’d sure love to see some of the art in those calendars borrow from some of the novels, e.g., how cool would it be to have Titan and Vanguard stuff in there, and visualizations of some of the more dramatic scenes from various books? (I think it’s an opportunity that’s being missed, myself, but ‘s just MHO.)

And, finally…

#8 – Hi, Keith! I finished A Burning House a few weeks ago, and had a great time with it. Some really fun and cool storyteling there, and a great look into other facets of the Klingon Empire than what we usually see. Bravo!

Warning for trolling

I like this Guy.
He Knows that the Romulans were way cooler than the honor bound, yet ultimately hypocritical race that is the Klingons…
they say that they always fight bravely and yet in several episodes they are seen doing things that even the tal’Shiar and Obsidian Order wouldn’t stoop to!!!!!
Oh I’m not saying the Klingons aren’t cool and i’ll probably get the book but Romulans are cooler!!!

For some reason I’ve never got around to reading a Trek book. I’ve read like every Star Wars book ever written (And some that never were) though.
I guess it’s because most of Star Wars’ canon are books while nothing outside of the shows and movies is canon in trek. Maybe I’ll read shats new book…

Are Trek books all in the same continuity?

Back for a little while
#8 glad to hear from you and like I said I’ll keep an eye out for the book!

#18 – Most of the current Trek books are being written in continuity with themselves, and often feature mentions of the goings-on of other novels. There are some exceptions:

Anything by William Shatner, while it may incorporate stuff from current novels, is absolutely in a continuity of its own.

The 2006-07 David R. George III Crucible trilogy stands alone.

Diane Duane’s “Rihaansu” series stands alone.

If I recall correctly the Sherman/Swartz Vulcan books stand alone as well. (Someone from Pocket can correct me on that if I am wrong).

The Destiny trilogy has been accompanied at times with verbage that suggests it is a unifying point for all the literary series, and that it will determine the future of all TNG/DS9 era fiction going forward. (Agan, if this statement has been over-applied, someone from Pocket can feel free to correct me).

The New Frontier novel series by Peter David has its own continuity. While it appears to follow the evolution of the literary universe as it exists now, I can’t say that for certain. I only remember the occassional reference to NF in other Trek novels. (Note: I don’t follow that series, and haven’t read an installment since about book 4. Nothing wrong with it, per-se, just not my cup of tea.)

It’s hard to pin down exactly when novel-continuity became so intertwined… some point to Dayton Ward’s “In the Name of Honor” as a starting point, but I prefer to view it from the time of the DS9 relaunch onward.

All other novels stand indepenently, unless they were a part of a series.

Hope this helps.


re: “Destiny” — I’m not especially enamored of the Borg, but I’m looking forward to seeing if, and how, the various plot points teased about the series manage to come together. Certainly, tieing together the discovery of the NX-02 and a captain long thought dead (Nexus, anyone?) would be interesting. Is the NX-02 crew still alive? Is the not-dead captain Kirk, or someone else?

We’ve always assumed the Borg are independent actors, out to conguer the galaxy for their own nefarious purposes? What if that’s not the case? What if the Borg are doing someone else’s bidding?

The “ubercontinuity” of the novels has been going on aggressively since around 2001 or so, though it goes back to the debut of “New Frontier” in 1997, really. Most of the novels are consistent with each other as much as is possible with the three exceptions (Shatner, “Rihannsu,” and “Crucible”) Father Rob made in #20.

BTW, the Sherman/Shwartz “Vulcan’s ___” books ARE part of that continuity. The Watraii incident was mentioned in “Articles of the Federation,” and the regular novel characters of President Min Zife, Christine Vale, and Koll Azernal are all in the trilogy as well.

WordPress ate my comment!

KRAD – love you. Loved Q&A, loved Time For War, Time For Peace, and I’ve been stealing tidbits from “Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed” for my RPG for ages now.

Ubercontinuity… not so much. I am increasingly hating the fact that I have to read five books in order to appreciate the one good one in the sequence. And I am falling into despair for the entire flagship ENT/TNG/DS9 relaunchs, as they appear to have come to rely much more heavily on EPIC HUGE BIG STORIES OF AWESOME to bring in readers (the Borg, the Romulan War, the P/C ‘ship getting consummated, the ‘real reason’ for Q’s obsession with JLP) rather than just telling really good stories on a modest scope. In short, it seems to me that there’s a lot more crap, and I have to read -all- of said crap in order to get to the decreasingly frequent good book.

I know it’s heresy, but I liked it better in the early ’90’s. Heck, I liked it better when Richard Arnold was in power. It almost goes without saying, but that’s something I thought I’d never say.

This rant brought to you by the above “Destiny” tidbits.

I’ll go pick up Burning House as soon as I’m done with The Violent Bear It Away. If Mr. Lyons can be persuaded to enjoy it, this Gorkon fan (who, like Mr. Lyons, does not generally enjoy Klingons much) should be thoroughly pleased with the latest Klingon novel.

#22 – KRAD, thanks for the correction, re: Vulcan’s _____. I have only listened to the abriged audio for some of the books, and have read none of the current trilogy after the first book.


#23: I disagree completely with your characterization of the plots of recent books, but whatever. I want to take issue with this statement:

“I am increasingly hating the fact that I have to read five books in order to appreciate the one good one in the sequence.”

That is categorically not true. You don’t “have” to read everything. You don’t =have= to read the entire “A Time to…” miniseries to read “Titan” or “Articles of the Federation,” for all that they both pick up threads from that miniseries. Us writer-types fill you in on what you need to know. It’s not like every book is heavily serialized, just some of the individual series (and even they aren’t =that= heavily serialized).

“an annoyingly predictable and overused species” -?? whatever.

i don’t ever get tired of klingons. if any species in trek was ever overused, it was the borg….

anyway – i quit reading trek novels sometime in the mid-nineties, and it’s exactly THIS kind of novel that’s pulling me back in. i like the fact that the novels now have an internal consistency, and i REALLY like the fact that the writers are taking some major chances with what they’re doing, a la trip’s resurrection.

i haven’t yet yet “a burning house,” – just ordered it, though. sounds fantastic.

#26 – It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose, but most episodes about Klingons usually feel like they include a lengthy diatribe about honor, some head-butting, a plethora of bloodwine, and then some death… even when they don’t.

That’s why I enjoyed this book so much. All that was there, but it was definately tempered…

In reading the sequences set in Krennla, I had the feeling of walking through a dying residential community in my own home town. The auto industry has moved out of that community, and people are leaving in droves. A once vibrant community has become a borderline slum… and even going back makes me want to just droop my shoulders and sigh.

KRAD was able to make the story real to me precisely because he was able to bring this new spin on the Empire into it… it wasn’t just one pathetic person in the midst of heroic warriors… it was a community on the brink or totally beyond it, again, depending on your POV.


#27: Thanks, Rob. The Krennla scenes were ones I put a lot into, mainly because I wanted to remind the reader that we’re still talking about a military dictatorship here, and there are still going to be parts of that sort of nation where life is really really bad…..

Also: honor is a luxury you can afford when you know where your next meal is coming from.

*sigh* I’ve annoyed my favorite Trek author. Frack. Just the kind of day I’m having.

I think you’re either underestimating the amount of work that is being put into exposition–and I understand that’s a balancing act, because most of your readers know what’s going on and find the exposition excruciating–or overestimating my intelligence, which I grant is entirely possible. I struggled with the first third of Q&A because I had skipped Resistance (and The Buried Age). Unity would have been incomprehensible without having read every single book of the agonizing Mission Gamma (and the rather pleasant Rising Son). I haven’t attempted Before Dishonor as yet, but, given my distaste for all things New Frontier-y (another point on which I am cognizant of being an -extreme- minority), I think I’ll skip that, too, and we’ll see how dizzy I am when I try to jump into “Greater Than The Sum.”

Now, this heavy linking of novels made some sense for the relaunch of DS9, which, as we all know, was a highly serialized series. But the fact that I have to wade through stories like “Death In Winter” to understand what’s happening later on on the TNG Relaunch, when TNG was -always- a show based on standalone episodes… it’s irritating. -Really- irritating.

Now, I could go off and read Titan, Gorkon, Vanguard, SNW, AotF, etc., and this is, in fact, exactly what I do (*weeps for SNW*)–all of those stories are far enough set off from novel continuity events that I have no problem with any of them (even, surprisingly enough, AotF, which you would think would kill you with continuity but didn’t). But the reason I started reading Trek books is so I could enjoy my favorite characters from the TV series in a different setting. Having to invest more and more time into books I would have, ten years ago, put down after fifty pages in order to have that experience is really, really annoying. At the very least, I would like to see S&S return to their long-ago posted writer’s guidelines and give us a few stories set between “All Good Things…” and Generations for at least a few novels a year. (See also The Sky’s The Limit.)

As for liking or hating the relaunch stories… I suppose it’s a matter of taste. Obviously I wouldn’t have any problems at all with ubercontinuity if I didn’t dislike most of the recent storylines so much. But having made my thoughts known, I shall retire to my mountain hideaway and hope you one day forgive me, KRAD, for pretty much only liking Trek novels written by you.

I’ll see ya’ll around the TrekBBS.

I’ve never really liked stories with too much Klingons. If I read a Star Trek story, I usually want it to involve the crew of the Enterprise.

#29: Nah, you haven’t annoyed me. I just disagreed with you. If I was annoyed by everyone who disagreed with me, I’d spend my entire life being annoyed, and I’m too busy for that. *laughs*

You don’t need to have read either “Death in Winter” or “Resistance” to follow “Q & A.” Really, you don’t. The first scene with Picard and Crusher tells you everything you need to know about the former, and I filled in what you needed to know from “Resistance.”

For all that TNG was standalone, the character arcs still moved forward to some extent: Troi’s growth into command roles, Data’s exploration of the human condition (particularly the activation of his dream program), Worf’s ongoing crises of faith and difficulties with the Klingon Empire, and so on.

But the books do stand on their own. Yes, “Before Dishonor” picks up on themes from “Resistance,” but that’s no different from the way “The Best of Both Worlds” picked up from “Q Who.”

And stop hiding in the mountains. There’s nothing to forgive. We’re just talkin’ here. *grin*

#30: So you don’t read any DS9 or VOY novels, then? *grin*

Anyone hoping that the Klingons as presented in the new TOS movie are more based on Fred Ford’s “The Final Reflection”/FASA as opposed to the TNG “misunderstood honorable Vikings”/ TOS Romulans)? The whole Komerex philosophy really came off as exciting and alien as opposed to a Viking rehash wtih some Roman honor concepts thrown in.

I mean watching Errand of Mercy we were confronted with a race with an honor system totally different (and in my opinion more exciting to watch!) and Fred Ford’s novel I think capitalized on that with an exciting cultural landscape and background to explain that.

I hope the TOS Klingons return as opposed to the TNG version. Alternatively if they have Romulans, I hope we get the TOS Romulans back.

#32: The author of “The Final Reflection” is the late John M. Ford. I have no idea who Fred Ford is………………….