Sunday, 6 October 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Starfleet Academy 01: Worf’s First Adventure

Tania Tobias and Worf by Catherine Huerta.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Starfleet Academy is a series of fourteen books that take place at the United Federation of Planet’s Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. The first three books were written by Peter David and follows the story of Worf Rozhenko’s and many other cadet’s first few months at the Academy. Worf is the first Klingon to ever be admitted to the academy and he will grow up to be one of the most beloved characters of the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. I think it’s great that Worf is the star of these first few books because he’s one of my favourite characters for TNG but also because Peter David writes Worf really well.

My interest in these Starfleet Academy books has to do mostly with Peter David. I like his writing style and I’ve rather enjoyed the first two of his Star Trek: The Next Generation novels so I figured I’d give these a try as well. I’m also interested in reading his Star Trek: New Frontier series but I’ve read online that some characters from his previous Star Trek books appear in the series. Some of the characters that were introduced in Worf’s First Adventure are regular characters in New Frontier. It seemed like required reading before taking on David’s popular novel series.  

There are a few references to episodes of TNG. The book was published in 1993 and it mostly references events of the first three seasons of the television series. The book offers some nice backstory for Worf some of which we’ve seen before in Strike Zone and in A Rock and a Hard Place. Not all of the things David introduces remained canon. His adoptive brother’s name is a good example of information that is no longer accurate with the television series. In the book, he is named Simon but we find out in an episode of the seventh season of TNG that Worf’s brother’s name is Nikolai (which makes more sense, because Worf’s adoptive family lives in Russia).

David does a good job showing the reader why it’s important for Worf to succeed at the Academy because he’s the first Klingon to ever be admitted. There is a diplomatic importance to his success. It puts a lot of pressure on Worf and he doesn’t really have it easy in San Fran. He doesn’t really have it too difficult though. Despite his Klingon heritage he quickly made friends during the shuttlecraft ride that first brought him to the academy and he stays friends with them throughout the novel. They even formed a study group together. There is some conflict between Worf and a Brikarian but they by the end of the novel, they’ve become friends due to both being members of alien species that aren’t well represented at the Academy. Alien minorities have to stick together against the mutual threat of racial intolerance. It’s just a little strange that Worf so easily forgets that Zak Kebron, the Brikarian, is the one who antagonised Worf more than any other cadet.
Worf and Geordi La Forge in one of the
many pencil drawings by James Fry.
My primary complaint for this young adult novel is that it’s a young adult novel. The cadets are all in their late teens; I believe it’s mentioned that Worf is 18, so really, they’re young adults and a more mature story could easily have been told. I think the decision to market this series to young adults is a good idea but by doing so it took away some of the storytelling potential. David’s writing style doesn’t pander to younger minds, but his trademark humour is nearly absent and the more serious themes and interesting moral dilemmas of his other Star Trek novels is also absent.

A series of shorter novels designed to be sold to younger readers is an interesting idea but despite not seeing signs of intentional dumbing down of Star Trek for consumption by younger readers, there is nothing here to really spark the interest of non-Trekkies or to challenge younger minds. It’s a short book, which is fine, but it feels slight. I understand that not all young adult fiction is 500+ pages novels like Harry Potter but it doesn’t have to be 120 page novellas about going to space school where nothing really happens other than some mild bullying amongst alien cadets. I did enjoy the pencil drawings. I’d like to see that incorporated in other Star Trek novels, especially because a lot of characters and settings never had the opportunity to make it to the small screen and it would be nice to see visual representations of many of the novel-only characters.

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