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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Star Trek diplomatic novel...and it's good!, 13 April 2005
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lost Era: The Art of the Impossible (Star Trek) (Mass Market Paperback)
Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the masters of Star Trek books. Whenever I see one written by him, I know it's going to be at least entertaining, even if there may be too many Trek continuity references for my taste. The Art of the Impossible, the third in the "Lost Era" series of Trek books, by definition uses a lot of these references, but here it can mostly be excused, as that's the whole point of the series. DeCandido tries to explain many of the minor references to past events that were made in the television series, making the Trek universe into a more cohesive whole. At times seeming like a mish-mash of Trek continuity, overall DeCandido succeeds in writing a great book.
It's about 35 years before the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the Cardassian Empire is in the process of expanding its borders. This has both the Federation and the Klingon Empire a little concerned, the Klingons even more so when the Cardassians stumble upon a planet with an ancient Klingon wreck on it. The Klingons think this is an ancient relic of their first spaceflight, and demand that the planet be given to them. The Cardassians dispute this, and Federation diplomat Curzon Dax hatches a plan that would allow both empires to peacefully compete for ownership of the planet. Over the next 18 years, galactic politics cause tension among all the empires, with this planet always remaining in the background. The Romulans, hiding behind their borders after the Tomed Incident (see Serpents Among the Ruins), are still hatching plots and getting involved in a clandestine manner. The results of all this will cause huge changes in the Klingon Empire, as well as for the Federation-Klingon alliance.
This is one Star Trek that I cannot really recommend for anybody other than a Trek fan. While it would be mostly understandable to the Trek neophyte, I can't see that it would be that interesting. The Art of the Impossible covers the eighteen-year tensions between the Klingons and Cardassians that was referred to by Garak in a Deep Space Nine episode. As a fan of Klingons, it was enjoyable seeing the inner workings of the Empire at a time before The Next Generation. Many councilors are questioning the alliance between the Klingons and the Federation, feeling that it is making the Empire weak. We see the inner workings of the Cardassian Empire as well, seeing for the first time (at least chronologically) how the military, government, and Obsidian Order (the Cardassian secret intelligence) work together, or sometimes not together. All of this is probably fascinating for the Trek fan, but probably not that much to an outsider.
That isn't to say that DeCandido doesn't try. It is an extremely well-written book. The various characterizations, both of people we have seen (like Colonel Worf, from Star Trek VI) and original characters. Elias Vaughn, of Starfleet Intelligence, gets revealed even more, and is probably the best character in the book. I also loved the tension between the diplomat Dax and the Intelligence agent Vaughn. They really do despise each other and what they stand for, but are able to work together when they must to further the goals of the Federation. Dax is even able to admit making a mistake, which is nice to see. DeCandido even gives us interesting people who we know won't live for very long, such as Mogh and his wife (these are the parents of Worf, from the television series, which revealed that they died in a Romulan attack). I can't think of any character in The Art of the Impossible who seemed like a waste of space or time. Characterization is one of DeCandido's strong points, and again it shines through.
However, my head hurt bouncing from all the different situations, most of which were referred to in the television series in at least some fashion. We see the Khitomer attack. We get to meet Deanna Troi's father and hear more detail on how her mother did everything she could to erase the existence of her sister who died when Deanna was very little. We see Rachel Garrett, captain of the Enterprise C in the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise," before she became captain. We see the formation of the Klingon High Council that ultimately we become familiar with in various other Next Generation episodes. It just became a little too much, and with all of this other continuity, I found the inclusion of Colonel Worf to be pointless.
Given what he had to work with, DeCandido did a wonderful job with it. It's a testament to his writing that I found the book enjoyable despite the "kitchen sink" feel to the book. With Trek's already established history, DeCandido had a lot of ground to cover, and he does it really well. He succeeds in giving us characters that we like to read about, with events that go by quickly. The book is very readable and will keep you hooked. I finished it very quickly.
Just to let you know, while there is some action in the book, the drama comes mostly from the politics involved and how these politics interact with the characters. This is a thinking-man's Trek book, and if you find the give-and-take of the diplomatic realm boring, then you also may not like this book. Written properly, as DeCandido has done, the cut and thrust of diplomacy can be as interesting as any gunfight. Decandido has truly performed "the art of the impossible" with this book, tying together all of the disparate elements of Trek history into a wonderful tapestry. Just watch your head.
David Roy
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The Lost Era: The Art of the Impossible (Star Trek)
The Lost Era: The Art of the Impossible (Star Trek) by Keith R. A. DeCandido (Mass Market Paperback - 3 Nov. 2003)
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