I was going to include this at the end rather than the beginning, which is what I've done in the previous installments, but I figured why break with tradition, and the long list always seems to impress, and this one's long indeed, so here goes, what I read in August:
- Star Trek Online - The Needs of the Many by Michael A. Martin
- The Best American Comics 2007 edited by Chris Ware
- Absolute Death by Neil Gaiman and various
- CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh
- Azlander: Second Nature by Gabriel Brunsdon
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
- Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison and Paul Chadwick
- Doom Patrol: The Painting That Ate Paris by Grant Morrison and various
- Doom Patrol: Down Paradise Way by Grant Morrison and various
- Star Trek: Enterprise - The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin
- Bayou Vol. 1 by Jeremy Love
- Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley
- Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley
- Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley
- Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and various
- The New Avengers Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Prophecy and Change edited by Marco Palmieri
- Hellblazer: Rare Cuts by various
- Gone to Amerikay by Derek McCulloch
- Batman: No Man's Land Vol. 4 by Greg Rucka and various
- Captain America and Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes by Ed Brubaker and various
- Manifesto by Anonymous
- Zulu by Caryl Ferey
- Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
I've said before that when I hit the Star Trek books, I'd talk about Star Trek books, and so here we are, I've finished that set, and I'm ready to talk.
I've fallen in love. Not with Star Trek books in general, but Una McCormack. She saved Star Trek books for me. Chances are if you know much about Star Trek books at all, you still won't know the name Una McCormack off the top of your head. She's not one of the marquee names, even though she should be. She's awesome, she really is.
The Never-Ending Sacrifice begins almost like any other Star Trek book. But it builds. And builds. It becomes unlike any other Star Trek book quickly enough. It becomes simply a work of great literature. The story is all about a Cardassian youth seen in a single episode from the second season of Deep Space Nine, appropriately entitled "Cardassians" (the really notable thing about the episode itself is that it's the first time we see the inimitable Garak since his first appearance, although it's not until later in that season that he becomes a true icon, in "The Wire").
This youth had become an orphan, and became stuck between worlds when he ended up being adopted by Bajorans. The nefarious Gul Dukat uses him in a political ploy, sending him back to his Cardassian father, which mirrors a Next Generation episode that features the actor who was once in St. Elsewhere and would later become Dr. Quinn's son. Anyway, McCormack brushes on the events of this episode, but really enters pretty quickly into her own story.
It's a lot about Cardassian politics at first, but mostly it's about damaged individuals, and being caught in the swoop of big events. It's a true epic, completely breathtaking by the end. It's brilliant.
And it ended up finally making clear to me that problem I always had with Star Trek books. Most Star Trek books are written from a sense that really has nothing to do with Star Trek itself. Star Trek, in its filmed incarnations, has always been an expansive look at the human condition. Sure, there are a lot of wacky things that happen, and the term "technobabble" became especially informative at one point, but in the end, it was never about the starships, the gadgets, the aliens, any of that. It was about trying survive in a universe that often seems to make it as hard as it can. A world very much familiar to Star Trek viewers.
It was never "just" science fiction and space conflicts. But that seems to be what most Star Trek books are about. They try to ape certain aspects of the filmed experience. Some of the books even read as if they want desperately to be a movie or an episode. But even those never seem to get the point. Even the Dominion War wasn't just about having a war for a couple of seasons. For pete's sake, they played baseball on the holosuite during that arc!
What I mean to say is, McCormack brought an old world perspective to her book. Star Trek was always a new world's perspective on the old world. Most Star Trek books are strictly new world. They lack any real substance (and sometimes are written fairly poorly besides). They aren't really Star Trek at all, even if all the trappings are there. In McCormack's hands, you don't even need to know too much about Cardassians or Deep Space Nine to see the outstanding appeal of her prose.
(And by the way, by complete happenstance, Prophecy and Change features her very first professional work. I didn't plan that or add it in retroactively.)
After Never-Ending Sacrifice, I also got to enjoy Zulu, which was equally delightful. I wish all books were as good as these, I really do.