Friday, August 2, 2019

Q & A

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published October 2007
Read July 2nd 2019

Previous book (The Next Generation): Resistance
Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity: Titan: Orion's Hounds

Next book (The Next Generation): Before Dishonor
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Titan: Sword of Damocles

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for Q & A

From the back cover:
Nearly two decades ago, Jean-Luc Picard took command of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D. The captain knew it was an honor without equal. His new command bore the name of Enterprise. The people who had commanded other like-named starships had gone down in Starfleet's annals. Some officers would be intimidated, but they would not have been given command of Enterprise

On her first mission, the Enterprise was sent to Farpoint Station. A simple, straightforward investigation. Perfect for a crew that had never served together. Then there was Q. An omnipotent lifeform that seemed bent on placing obstacle after obstacle in the ship's -- and in particular in Picard's -- way. And it hadn't ended with that first mission. When he was least expected, Q would appear. Pushing, prodding, testing. At times needling captain and crew with seemingly silly, pointless, and maddening trifles. Then it would turn all too serious, and the survival of Picard's crew was in Q's hands. 

Why was it today that Picard was remembering the day he took command of the Enterprise-D? Now he commanded a new ship, the Enterprise-E. His crew was different. There was nothing about Gorsach that in the least resembled Farpoint. But Picard couldn't shake the feeling that something all too familiar was going on. All too awful. All too Q.

My thoughts:

The post-Nemesis voyages of the Enterprise continue! In this novel, Picard is assigned to explore the planet Gorsach IX, a strange, seemingly artificial world with an odd symmetry to everything on the surface. Complicating matters is the appearance of Q, Picard's nemesis from the very earliest days of his captaincy of the Enterprise-D. It seems that Gorsach IX is much more than it appears, with the fate of the entire universe resting on Picard passing the latest of Q's tests.

Q's ultimate goals finally come to light in Q & A.

In my time reading Star Trek novels, I've likened Q to the Borg: both are elements of Star Trek lore that can be a little overdone. Many novels and comics have gone to the Q well, to the point that the stories get watered down and a visit from Q is no more exceptional than a trip to a nebula or another "planet of the week." So, years ago, it was with a bit of reluctance that I picked up Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido. After Q popping up in numerous novels, I dreaded yet another story that would use the character in a way that seemed less than warranted.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the story that Mr. DeCandido crafted. While the whole "fate of the entire universe" might feel a little over-the-top and overdone, DeCandido really makes it work here. In Q & A, he has woven together all of Q's canon appearances in TNG into one cohesive narrative, providing a reason for each and every action the supposedly-omnipotent being has performed, even if that reason was simply wanting to see how Picard looks in tights (referencing the escapade in Sherwood Forest in "Qpid").

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was the continued integration of the new crewmembers with the cast of characters we are already familiar with. Part of this involved Geordi coming to terms with Data's replacement, Commander Kadohata. There were some lovely scenes where Geordi becomes introspective and examines the reasons behind his feelings. He even seeks professional advice from the Enterprise's new Vulcan counselor, T'Lana (introduced in Resistance). I appreciate the illustration of how professional therapists can be useful in our day-to-day lives. Mental health is just another aspect of physical health and should not be ignored!

Leybenzon, another of the new characters, gets some attention in the novel as well. In his role as the Enterprise's new security chief, Leybenzon finds himself in a position unfamiliar to him: as an officer having to lead other officers. We are told that he started out as a non-commissioned officer, having earned a battlefield commission during the Dominion War. He still considers himself one of the "grunts," and found his career propelled in an unexpected direction when he takes the offer of the security chief position on the Enterprise. Save for Chief O'Brien, non-coms are rarely seen in Trek, and I appreciated this perspective, different from the ones we are used to.

Worf has come a long way since his earliest days aboard the Enterprise-D.

Another character who has come a long way in his Starfleet career is Worf, currently serving as first officer of the Enterprise. Throughout TNG, Worf was characterized as being quick to fight, and often rushing headlong into combat without giving adequate thought to the consequences. Now, after having served for many years in Starfleet and even a stint as ambassador, we see a more mature and thoughtful Worf. When Q appears, it is Worf who suggests the tactic of ignoring him completely, much to the surprise of Counselor T'Lana who believed she had the Klingon pegged as a hothead. The fact that he has become much more cool-headed has shown that he makes a very good first officer. Also, the experience he had traversing quantum realities in the TNG episode "Parallels" comes into play in this novel, as the Enterprise faces a similar situation at the climax. It turns out, of course, that Q was responsible for the events of that episode, knowing that the knowledge Worf gained would come in handy at this juncture.

The episode that really ties everything together is "All Good Things...," the incredibly great finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that episode, Picard learned what he needed to navigate the strange, multiverse-jumping finale of this novel. The conclusion of the plot in Q & A is equal parts silly and poignant, and perfectly keeping with the tone that Q has set for Picard in the past. I truly enjoyed how things played out, and I felt it was the perfect culmination to Q's shenanigans.

Final thoughts:

Q & A exceeded my expectations. In a literary universe that at times seems inundated with Q's misadventures, I was glad that this novel didn't feel like more of the same. It really did feel like the "ultimate" Q story, with meaning retroactively applied to all of Q's previous canon visits. The concept of Q is a dangerous one and very easy to overuse, but Keith DeCandido has the writing skill to make this feel fresh and unique. One of my favorite novels in the post-Nemesis continuity, Q & A was a lot of fun to revisit. Highly recommended for any fan of Q!

More about Q & A:

Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

My next read:

The sequel to the classic novel The Vulcan Academy Murders - by Jean Lorrah: The IDIC Epidemic.


  1. Too bad they didn't go with the alternate cover:

  2. Damn. I just now realized that I linked the wrong pic. I'm an idiot. Ignore me.