Saturday, 16 November 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Starfleet Academy 02: Line of Fire

The events of the cover takes place
during the last ten pages of the book.
Don't worry, you're only about halfway
 done the story. Wait, what?

In Starfleet Academy: Line of Fire, Peter David continues to tell the story of Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation, during his years at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. The first novel served as an introduction to a young Worf and the friends he made at the Academy. It also focused on Worf’s first real interaction with people who didn’t accept him or trust him because of his Klingon heritage. The second novel expands on this and also adds another staple element of Worf’s character in TNG, how he seems himself not fully as a Klingon and no fully Terran, either.

We learn at the beginning of Line of Fire that Worf’s study group, comprising of Terrans Mark McHenry and Tania Tobia, Vulcan Soleta and Brikarian Zak Kebron, has become one of the Academy’s best group of students. Professors and other students have even started to call them the “Dream Team”. As such it’s not surprising that all five cadets are chosen to accompany one of their teachers on a negotiation mission on Dantar IV. Danta IV is a colony with a population that is equally divided between Terrans and Klingons. It’s a little too obvious a situation in which to spotlight Worf’s dual heritage but a direct approach isn’t always a bad thing.

The cadets travel to Dantar aboard the Repulse which we first encountered in season two, episode one of TNG. David writes a nice scenes in which Worf and Captain Taggert talk about Taggert’s crew being surprised at Worf’s appearance. Some of the crew members even do a double-take when seeing the young Klingon in a Starfleet uniform aboard their ship. Worf mentions his disappointment at the reaction of members of Starfleet. He didn’t expect shock and surprised from people who had been trained at the Academy and have likely seen many stranger things than he. Taggert’s reply is that just because you’ve gone through Starfleet training doesn’t mean you’ve been ride of the capability of being surprised. Starfleet, like many other large organizations, no matter how well organized, will always be made up of individuals who have their own beliefs and prejudices. Worf will have to learn to cope with people’s reaction to him.

It's really hot and bright on Dantar IV. It's not all bad, you get to wear
these awesome shades.

Worf gets another taste of this once they arrive on Dantar IV. So far he’s experience the reaction of his adoptive family and cadets at the Academy. He’s not in the middle of a negotiation between colonists comprised of people from both his heritage. Worf embodies nature vs. nurture, the constant struggle between his Klingon genes and his human upbringing. On Dantar his inner conflict is externalized. David also throws in a romantic interest by having K’Ehleyr be one of the Klingon negotiators. It’s so strange to me that both groups have chosen young individuals to take part and, at times, lead the negotiations.

I understand that the individuals in this novel are teens, young adults actually. They deal with everything seemingly without ease. There are scientists and other professionals in the colony but they’re unable to deal with some relatively simple tasks. I’ve always considered colonists to be strong, independent and resourceful individuals. Their job requires that they regularly deal with difficult decisions forcing them to apply problem solving skills daily. Why then are they incapable of taking care of themselves and their petty squabbles? I feel like David didn’t take the time to address this while plotting the book because of he intended audience. I also think he did this in order to avoid writing a book about the day to day lessons in Starfleet. It would probably have been a bore for David and the readers if every chapter was about the Dream Team attending class and studying.

Just like my review, the second Starfleet Academy book ends upbruptly. An unidentified ship attacks the colony and everybody evacuates except for the Dream Team, K’Ehleyr and a couple more Klingons. It’s not really a cliffhanger. The book simply ends and immediately picks up with the third book. 

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