Friday, March 5, 2010

Star Trek--TOS 29: Dreadnought! (Carey, Diane)

Rating: 2
Year: 1986
Genre: Sci-Fi/Star Trek
Read again? Oh, no.

This was a painful read, coming on the heels of Roger Zelazny's "Amber" books and J.M. Dillard's "Star Trek: The Lost Years." Those were all good books.

This one wasn't.

"Dreadnought!" is Diane Carey's first Trek novel. At first I thought the clumsy sentence construction, strange word choices ["fifteen hundred hours in the afternoon"], and bad dialog were intentional, given the book's first person narrative. But the deeper I went, the more it felt like a piece of ego-trip fan fiction starring Diane Carey as the heroine, right down to Boris Vallejo's cover art on the book: a James Bond-ish couple who are supposedly Carey and husband/collaborator Greg Brodeur.

It seems that many others feel the same way; there's even a term for such a character: "Mary Sue."

A Mary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader. Perhaps the single underlying feature of all characters described as "Mary Sues" is that they are too ostentatious for the audience's taste, or that the author seems to favor the character too highly. The author may seem to push how exceptional and wonderful the "Mary Sue" character is on his or her audience, sometimes leading the audience to dislike or even resent the character fairly quickly; such a character could be described as an "author's pet".

The main character could certainly be called an "author's pet." We're given Lieutenant Piper of Proxima Centauri. As the story opens, she's in the center seat of the USS Liberty, taking the Kobayshi Maru simulation, and she very nearly beats the no-win scenario. Captain James Kirk is watching and gets her assigned to the Enterprise.

Piper--just Piper--gets aboard and soon finds out that Enterprise is shipping out to investigate the theft of a dreadnought-class battleship prototype, the Star Empire. The Space Terrorists who took the ship left a message requesting that Piper be present at an arranged rendezvous with the stolen ship. Her bio-readings will be the key to talking to the thieves.

No, there's no big investigation. No, she's not immediately named a Person of Interest and implicated in the theft. Hell, LIEUTENANT Piper's not even required to wear a proper uniform! That outfit on the Farah Fawcett-haired chick on the cover is what Piper wears for the entire story. Author's pet.

Characterization is spare. Spock is mysterious, perks his eyebrow, and argues with McCoy; Kirk is sexy, commanding; McCoy is a wiseass who argues with the Vulcan. There's little military bearing or professionalism in any Starfleet officer we encounter. Too casual and familiar.

As the plot limps along, we find that Vice Admiral Vaughn Rittenhouse was the head of the Dreadnought project and that he commissioned the ship with nefarious intent: to subjugate the Federation's enemies (and its own people if need be) and force everyone to live happily together (hence the clever name of the ship). He's installed lackeys at many levels of Starfleet, from ship captains to high-level officials, intent on pulling a military coup.

The people who stole the ship did so to block Rittenhouse and bring attention to the crisis. Kirk seems to have figured out that something was up; he wanted Piper as a tool for digging into things because he recognized her obvious abilities, I suppose--but Piper's played as naiive, damn near ignorant of starship or Fleet operations...makes me wonder why she went to the Academy if she couldn't remember any of that stuff.

The story had some potential; in a seasoned writer's hands this could have been a much better story--especially if we lost the ego tripping.

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