Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Romulan Way

Star Trek #35: The Romulan Way by Diane Duane and Peter Morwood
Rihannsu #2
Published August 1987
Read: November 16th, 2011

Previous book (Rihannsu): My Enemy, My Ally
Next book (Rihannsu): Swordhunt

Previous book (The Original Series): Dreams of the Raven
Next book (The Original Series): How Much for Just the Planet?

Spoilers ahead for The Romulan Way and the Rihannsu saga!

From the back cover:
They are a race of warriors, a noble people to whom honor is all.  They are cousin to the Vulcan, ally to the Klingon, and Starfleet's most feared and cunning adversary.  They are the Romulans - and for eight years, Federation agent Terise LoBrutto has hidden in their midst. 
Now the presence of a captured Starfleet officer forces her to make a fateful choice - between exposure and escape; between maintaining her cover - and saving the life of Dr. Leonard McCoy.
Here, in a startlingly different adventure, is the truth behind one of the most fascinating alien races ever created in Star Trek:
The Romulans.

About the Novel:

The Romulan Way is the second novel in Diane Duane's Rihannsu mini-series.  Dr. McCoy is apprehended aboard a transport craft by the Romulan military and sent to the home of a Romulan noble to await trial and execution.  The head of the serving staff, Arrhae, is actually a Federation deep-cover operative, Lt. Commander Terise LoBrutto, who has been living on Romulus gathering sociological information about the Romulans.  It turns out that McCoy's capture was not accidental, and he has specifically sought out this operative on behalf of Starfleet Intelligence to determine why she has not filed a report in nearly two years.  The fear at Starfleet is that Terise has become too enamoured with Romulan society and is beginning to forget who she is and where she is from.  McCoy has a pre-arranged rescue planned -- will Terise go with him, or will she choose to remain behind?

The novel also tells us of the history of the Romulan people since the "sundering" -- the division of the Romulans and the Vulcans two thousand years ago.  Every second chapter gives us a little more of the history, including Diane Duane's take on The Romulan War between Earth and the Romulan Star Empire.

My Thoughts:

The Romulan Way was initially published as a stand-alone novel, with some elements that could qualify it as a sequel to My Enemy, My Ally.  With the publication of Swordhunt and Honor Blade in 2000, My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way were re-branded as books one and two of the Rihannsu saga.  A fifth book, The Empty Chair, was published in 2006.

In the tradition of John M. Ford's Klingon novel, The Final Reflection, The Romulan Way seems to be a definitive telling of the history and customs of the Romulan people.  We learn much about Romulan ideology (like we did in My Enemy, My Ally), and also a great deal about the history of the Romulan people, who call themselves the Rihannsu.  Of course, a lot of this information has since been contradicted by what has become known as "canon" Star Trek; for example, events such as the Earth/Romulan War, the date the Federation was established as a political entity, and first contact with the Vulcans are all presented much differently in The Romulan Way than in televised Trek.  This is obviously completely forgivable as this novel was published years before Star Trek: First Contact or the television series Star Trek: Enterprise were produced.  Another small issue is with Romulus' sister planet, Remus.  Described as lush and beautiful in The Romulan Way, 2002's Star Trek Nemesis paints a much different picture.

The Romulan Way mentions that first contact with the Vulcans
was with the Federation, rather than with the post-apocalyptic
Earth as depicted in 1996's Star Trek: First Contact.

The harsh, arid surface of Remus as seen in Star Trek Nemesis.

The Romulan Way gives us a great insight into the codes of honor and "face-saving" traditions of the Romulan people.  This especially struck a chord with me, as I am currently living in South Korea teaching English.  As a Canadian, I was unprepared for how big a deal the concept of "saving face" is here.  Much like in Romulan society, it is important in Korea to remember that embarrassing someone higher in the social strata than you should be avoided at all costs (in the case of Korea, that is anyone who is older than you).

We see the return of many characters from Diane Duane's previous Rihannsu novel: Ensign (now Lieutenant) Nahraht, the Horta; also, Commander Ael and the crew of the Bloodwing make another appearance.  Not as heavily featured as they were in My Enemy, My Ally, they nonetheless play a crucial role in the plot.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Romulan Way, both for the intrigue and suspense of the plot and for the anthropological exploration of Romulan society.  Of special interest was Duane's depiction of the early days of Surak's reformation on Vulcan, and what led to the exodus of the Romulans.

Final Thoughts:

Very enjoyable and a fascinating read.  The Romulan Way has made me very excited to read the remaining books in the Rihannsu saga!  A few continuity issues briefly took me out of the story, but that is, of course, due to no fault of the author.

Final rating for The Romulan Way: 9/10.
My next read:

I've started reading one of the classic hardcovers from my library: The Lost Years by J.M. Dillard, dealing with the years between the end of Captain Kirk's five-year mission and the feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the worldbuilding in this novel. Five star rating for the Romulan historical info that makes up the bulk of the novel. I also enjoyed the parts featuring the undercover human agent.

    What I didn't enjoy was the ending. Why would Starfleet plan a mission whose goal is to humiliate the Romulan government and help steal their most prized artifact when their ostensible goal was to learn more about them and hopefully foster peace and understanding?

    And, while you don't have to have read the previous book to understand most of the book, I think most readers would be somewhat lost when it comes to the final chapters if they haven't.

    5 stars for the awesome worlbuilding. 1 and a half stars for the weak ending.