Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q-in-Law

One of the enjoyable characteristics of Star Trek literature, based on my experiences thus far, is that they have relatively simple plotlines used to create interesting character moments and provide food for thought, much like some of the better episodes of the franchise. They also generally have interesting painted covers which are always nice (though you’ll notice, there exists a patter: characters heads, with or without torso, with a ship floating in space above them). Peter David also adds an additional element to his Star Trek novels: they’re hilarious. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q-in-Law appears to have been written primarily to provide plenty of laughs.

The plot, as stated above, is simple. Two rival merchant families of an alien race called the Tizarin are preparing for a wedding that will unify both families. They’d like to have the wedding on the Entreprise because of the diplomatic importance of the wedding. The Tizarin are organized in families and their social structure is somehow linked to the Fifth House of Betazed . . . meaning Lwaxana Troi will also be present at the wedding. For reasons unknown, Q also makes an appearance. Do you understand now why I said that Q-in-Law seems to be built around a single idea? That idea is to have Q and Lwaxana meet and give David plenty of opportunities to crack wise and make us laugh. Simply put, it’s an absolute delight.

The book isn’t about the jokes themselves, it’s just built to allow for plenty of humour. It also allows for David to write a great deal about love among other things. David does this by (you guessed it) using a couple run-on gags. One of the run-on gags is that the crew’s thoughts or infected with the idea of love because of the upcoming nuptuals. It starts with Geordi talking to one of the guys in Engineering about his rather sad love life. Geordi cheers him up but the result is that he is now depressed. This passes along through the ship like some horrible disease, travelling from a person seeking advice to the person who offers advice. It’s a surprisingly effective way for David to bring the reader up to speed on the emotional status of the crew. It can be difficult to place a tie-in novel within the chronology of the TV series it’s based on and it’s tricks like this one that not only provide context relevant to the story, but do so in an entertaining way. When it comes to TNG novels, unless you’re reading a book with Dr. Polaski or Tasha Yar in it, you could potentially be reading a story that is taking anywhere from season 3 to 7.

It’s slightly surprising just how many ridiculous situations David is able to create with the simple setup and the theme of love. My favourite has to be Wesley trying to cope with being given a Tizarin servant woman whose only concern seems to be Wesley and his sexual needs. I don’t want to go into any more detail because it’s just such a joy to read. David also writes about it while staying true to the tone of Star Trek. It’s a pretty impressive feat.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is filled with romantic couples and David takes complete advantage of that in Q-in-Law. He uses existing couples, like Troi and Riker, but also creates a few new ones such as the young Tizarin lovers Serah and Kerin. What’s most interesting is that David seems to be stating two things. One, all couples are different and two, all couples are valid whether they’re literally a couple, meaning two, or something else. Star Trek is about the exploration of alien life and David dabbles into the idea of alien love. What David writes about the couples established in TNG is limited to what’s shown on television. Picard and Crusher will never formally their affection for each other but they know it will always be there. Troi and Riker are both too focused on their careers and will never make the time to work on their relationship which is in perpetual limbo. They even talk about their relationship in a business-like way. They use their relationship as a tactical advantage in situations on the ship. The prime example is Riker’s proposal to Troi, which is made, not out of love, but out of duty. He hopes that by proposing to Troi he’ll distract Lwaxana from Q’s advances and rid the Enterprise of this strange power couple.

It’s with one of the new couples, Serah and Kerin the young Tizarins, that David writes the most interesting things about love, attractiveness and sexual desires. Q, for reasons unknown throughout most of the books, manipulates the young fiancées against each other. He sabotages the couple by having two separate conversations with them on a one-on-one basis. He uses different arguments for each youth to try and manipulate them not to get married. It’s interesting to see Q trying to understand the human concept of love. Serah and Kerin aren’t human by they seem to have an near identical idea of what an ideal romantic relationship should be. That’s the book biggest fault. Peter David missed the opportunity to write about alien love and alien relationships. Perhaps it would have been more difficult to do so while keeping a humorous tone but I’m disappointed there weren’t any attempts at writing about alien romance.

Despite a few missed opportunities, such as David not making any sex jokes with Worf (something he’s done in Star Trek novels before) Q-in-Law is a very good book. It’s constructed in such a way to provide as many romantic and sexual jokes as possible even one including Q transforming himself into an astonishingly beautiful woman just to prove a point and ruffle Picard's feature. David makes an interesting character out of Lwaxana Troi. He humanizes her by giving the reader a glimpse of her fears and doubts as a mother. It will forever affect how I see Lwaxana, not as the overbearing mother or the troublesome Betazed-Federation Ambassador. Q also has some very good moments of his own. His reason for being on the Enterprise is yet another one of his attempts to teach humanity a lesson. Of course, as it’s always the case with Q, the learning happens for all parties involved and it’s no different in Q-in-Law. I would definitively recommend this to any fan of TNG.

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