Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One by J.G. Hertzler & Jeffrey Lang
Published April 2003
Read October 14th 2014

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Rising Son

Next book (Deep Space Nine): The Left Hand of Destiny, Book Two

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Spoilers ahead for The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One!

From the back cover:
"The Klingon Empire is dying...and I think it deserves to die." 
With those words, Lieutenant Ezri Dax propelled Lieutenant Commander Worf to the most fateful decision of his life -- to vanquish Klingon leader Gowron in honorable combat and install in his place a low-born, one-eyed soldier of the empire who might lead their people back to the path of honor.
Under the weighty mantle of chancellor, General Martok led the forces of the empire to victory in the final Allied assault against the Dominion. Now, with Worf at his side as the newly appointed Federation ambassador to Qo'noS, Martok at last is coming home, bringing with him the hope of a bright new future for his people.
But the new chancellor's triumphant return to the Klingon homeworld is met by treachery and upheaval. As the demons of the general's past rise up, so too does a usurper to the Imperial Throne, one who knows exactly how to crush Martok and all who stand with him -- and who won't be satisfied until they are ashes under the foundation of a new Klingon Empire.

My thoughts:

J.G. Hertzler brought a wonderful presence to the screen as Klingon General Martok, and that presence carries over into this novel, co-written by Hertzler and author Jeffrey Lang.

One of the many highlights of Deep Space Nine for me was the panoply of supporting characters, many more recurring guest characters than any other Star Trek series. We had many memorable "baddies" such as Dukat, Damar, Weyoun, and Brunt, while at the same time a whole host of "good" characters such as Rom, Nog, Leeta, and Shakaar, to name but a few. However, one of my favorite in this category was the remarkable Klingon General Martok, played perfectly by actor J.G. Hertzler. How fitting, then, that we get a pair of novels that explore the depths of this character, co-written by the actor himself?

The Left Hand of Destiny is a bit of an outlier in the Deep Space Nine "relaunch." In this duology, we take a break from the goings-on in the Bajoran system and flashback to a point just after the television series ended. Newly elevated Chancellor Martok returns to the Klingon homeworld with his flagship, the Negh'var, victorious at the end of the Dominion War. However, upon his return (with Ambassador Worf at his side), the Chancellor is witness to a scene of horrible destruction: a usurper named Morjod has destroyed the Great Hall of the Klingon Empire and declared himself Emperor. Now, Martok must fight to save his Empire and his family from a madman and a mysterious woman from Martok's past named Gothmara.

In many ways, this first book has a very "Shakespearean" tone, like many good Klingon stories. In particular, the DS9 episode "Blood Oath" often made me think of Shakespeare-like stage directions in the way the action and dialog were presented. I got very much the same feeling while reading this novel. I felt as though that tone shifted somewhat into something else in the second book, but I'll address that in my review dedicated to book two.

After all, Shakespeare is best when read in the original Klingon!
(Image by Patrick Faricy, from A Very Klingon Khristmas by Paul Ruditis)

While there certainly is a lot of plot in the pages of the this novel, the story feels primarily character-driven. The characters in The Left Hand of Destiny are the best part of the book. Figures such as Martok and his wife Sirella seem larger than life at times, so other characters are needed to "ground" the story somewhat. A couple of characters that serve this purpose are Worf's son, Alexander, as well as a great Ferengi character named Pharh. I cannot overstate what a wonderful character Pharh is; his experiences bring a wonderful perspective to this grand story of the rise and fall of empires.

Final thoughts:

When I first read the DS9 relaunch novels back in the early 2000s, I recall The Left Hand of Destiny as one of the highlights. Upon re-reading, the story did not disappoint. This epic, sweeping tale of the challenges faced by Chancellor Martok shortly after the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a wonderful adventure, full of incredible action, great character moments, and the sort of grand storytelling one might expect in a cinematic Shakespearean drama. The story itself is incredibly well-written, and the insights into Martok's character provided by J.G. Hertzler make you realize that this actor truly understood the heart of the character.

Look forward to my review of the second part in a couple of weeks. The characters in this novel will do great deeds in the coming days, worthy of story and song!

My next read:

My next review will be for the third and final chapter in the Terok Nor trilogy: Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison.

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