Friday, September 26, 2008

Star Trek - The Forgotten War

The novel Star Trek - The Forgotten War by William R. Forstchen is a decent read. The plot of the book is somewhat interesting but one I have seen before. The Federation is making new contact with an alien species, Tarn, after a long period of time with no contact. Supposedly there was a short war between the Federation and the Tarn 204 years ago. A neutral zone was established and just recently both sides have been given permission to explore the neutral zone. While the starship Enterprise explores the area they find the wreck of a Federation vessel. Of course, being who they are, they explore it and eventually find out that the people had managed to escape to a nearby planet. On this planet they find that the war between the Federation and the Tarn is far from over. It still going on. Though the sides have technologically regressed (they started out with little technology and had to rebuild in a difficult situation) to between World War 1 and World War 2 weaponry. The crew of the Enterprise now have to figure out how to stop a war that has been going on for centuries, without accidentally starting an interstellar war.

There were a few plot holes in the story but they don't really take much away from the story. Going by the Star Trek canon universe there were some things that didn't fit. One thing, for example, is that this forgotten war occurred 204 years ago but makes references to things in the Star Trek universe that happened a hundred years earlier by Star Trek Timeline (mainly the Captain of the wrecked ship, Captain Lucien Murat, being a contemporary of Christopher Pike). Though there were internal plot holes/incongruities as well - for example, characters rank were listed differently in different chapters.

The aliens in this book, called the Tarn, are clearly based, at least in part, on the Japanese. While not entirely based on Japanese culture there are some things that point to them being based on it. The author tells us about how a circle (term used for clan) regained honor. It wasn't an exact retelling, 30 instead of 47, and some other details changed but it was clearly based on the 47 Ronin. The aliens had Kamikazi pilots called Tacig - The Chosen Ones of Glory. The committing of ritual suicide to clear one's honor is used by the Tarn and mentioned several times. That is most likely based on Japanese seppuku. Et cetera, Et cetera.

Some things didn't really make sense, at least to me, and took away from the story/lessened the quality of the book. The slow build up of weapons technology, 200 some years, actually makes sense to me. They start out with access to and knowledge of technology that is in advance to current technology. This would give them an advantage and allow them to build up at an accelerated rate. There are other factors like resources and practical knowledge. How many of them actually know the steps to recreating it. A person can use a gun/television/microwave doesn't mean that they know how to build it or even how it works. The thing that bothered me though is something that occurs later in the book. We are shown that the Captain from the ship had been been kept in stasis, meaning they had a power source and access to higher technology. Given the existence of higher technology from the get go, the technology, particularly weapons technology since they were fighting a war, should have built up at a much faster rate. The whole stasis thing should not have been in the book to begin with since besides that point it just didn't make any real sense.

While engrossed in a story you often have to take at face value many things you wouldn't believe in real life. This is called a willing suspension of disbelief. We do it all the time for a lot of things, but some things, even in story, are just too much beyond belief to accept. The thing that happened in this story that I found too unrealistic is that a starship with a crew of thousands of people only has one transporter pad. Weird isn't it what we would accept and what we wouldn't. I have no problem accepting human like aliens, interplanetary travel, transporters, et cetera but a little thing like only one transporter on such a big ship is too illogical for me to accept and distracts me from the story.

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