Monday, October 27, 2008

Klingon Empire: a continuation and a new beginning?

Earlier this year, Keith R.A. DeCandido's I.K.S. Gorkon returned, this time under the banner of Klingon Empire. Tthe series premise was changed to provide a more expansive view of Klingon life, instead of focusing on the kind of characters we're already used to seeing on TV: the crew of a military vessel. It's a good idea, and one that benefits from the fact that it isn't starting from scratch; we've had a few books to get to know the Gorkon crew, and in this book we follow them off the ship as it undergoes repairs and maintenance and get glimpses of the Empire as crew members make use of their downtime in different ways.

I haven't always been a big fan of the Klingons, but that's probably due to the lazy stereotypical way Klingons are sometimes written. The Gorkon crew, though, are individuals, each with his or her own distinct personality. And I really liked the way Klingon Empire: A Burning House broadened the canvas to let us see more of nonmilitary life on Klingon worlds, while still featuring the Gorkon characters I'd come to really like over the course of the previous books.

Too often Star Trek gives us just a narrow slice of each of its cultures. You can't have a functional society where everyone is a warrior and no one does all the other jobs. For that matter, you can't have a functional military where everyone's a gung ho frontline fighter who can't wait to die gloriously. Star Trek on TV tends to show us those kinds of characters because they're the ones people in Starfleet are more likely to meet. We don't see the opera singers and composers, the farmers, and all the other people who make Klingon society a society instead of an army. But in Burning House we do. We see how Klingons on colony worlds actually get along with the subjugated locals. We see how people live in the slums of the poorer cities. And, yeah, we see what goes into the making of one of those epic operas.

Though this is a new beginning for the series, nothing's been announced about future Klingon Empire novels yet. I don't know how well A Burning House sold. I haven't noticed any announcements about any new books, though.

If anyone's resisted buying it because they don't like the usual Klingon cliches, they're missing the point of this series completely. This is really good stuff, fun and thoughtful. So buy it already. I want more.


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