The Needs of the Many is the first Star Trek novel I’ve read. I’m not really a Trekkie, but I do like reading up on fictional history. I heard that not only did The Needs of the Many cover the space between Nemesis and Star Trek Online, but that it was also written in the journalistic style of World War Z. Despite my initial enthusiasm, I was a disappointed to find that TNoftM was lacking in both content and style.
The book’s foreword, written by one Benjamin Sisko, explains that this was a multi-decade effort written to preserve the history of the decades-long “Undine War” as lived by every day people. Dated 2423. the foreword gives no real indication as to when and how the war ended, simply that it came to a close “a number of years ago.”
The book itself is divided into nine thematic sections, each including an interclary excerpt from newscast or missive, as well as one to three interviews. The interviewees are an interesting cross-section of human existence, with many supporting characters from the television series – like the genetically engineered Jack, or the DTI operatives that questioned Sisko in the Trials and Tribble-ations.
For those looking for them, there are many little jewels spread throughout the book. DTI Agent Dulmer, who may or may not be suffering from temporal psychosis, discusses alternate histories he remembers – one of which is the timeline of the Destiny novels. Vic Fontaine makes an appearance, as does Bruce Maddox.
One of my favorite themes of the book is how the existential threat the Undine posed to human existence – their ability to exactly take human form, down to the genetic level questioned what it means to be you – has inspired artificial rights advocates. In particular, the interviews with Maddox and LaForge, focusing on Data’s resurrection, were extremely well written.
A major issue I had with the book was that the interviews are arranged in thematic order, with no sense of chronology at all. It’s also not completely clear where these interviews fit into the history of the Undine War. Context clues date some – like the interview with Geordi LaForge – as early 2397, while others – like the interview with Lucsly and Dulmer – might occur after 2409. Most seem to fall in the years right before 2409.
These interviews, occurring as they do before the game, seem to imply that the Undine War has been going on since the 2380s, and that it has recently wrapped up – or at least, entered a quieter period. For instance, LaForge and Data’s efforts in the late 2380s/early 2390s to seal a fluidic rift in Klingon space are cited as being instrumental in preserving Federation-Klingon peace. Furthermore, the beginning of hostilities with the Klingons is almost completely absent – Jake even interviews an inactive General Worf, who happily chats with him.
Stylistically, the book is unsubtle and written with a wordy but repetitive vocabulary. Jake Sisko-as-narrator opens and concludes each interview with ruminations on the interviewee and society and general; these quickly grow quite repetitive, as Sisko always focuses on what was “lost” in the Long War: a sense of security and the Federation’s idealism. Furthermore, interviewees often use interesting turns of phrase, like “sadder but wiser,” “bearding an enemy,” and “apparatchik.” This which would be fine, except that different interviewees use the same strange words. In my opinion, this really hurts the creation of a unique voice for each character.
The worst misstep of the book game in an interview with a Presidential aide Nanietta Bacco, who discussed the Federation President Min Zife’s “eight-year reign of error,” a term which included such missteps as debate concerning the definition of enemy combatants and the drafting of rejected conscription legislation. Sound familiar? The overt political commentary was a little disappointing – I don’t enjoy [I]Star Trek[/I] for what it can tell me about the modern world.
On the whole, I was disappointed. I really wanted something like World War Z – a historical, chronological account of an interesting period in the Star Trek universe. Instead, I got chronologically-disorganized ruminations on sacrifice and loss – which would have been acceptable, if they were well done. They weren’t. Michael Martin relied too much on Jake Sisko-as-speaker, repeating too much and hindering the development of the interviewees’ personalities.
I’ll be much, much more interested in Christine Thompson and Co.’s continuation of the Path to 2409. As it is, I think Martin took their notes and did an alright, but not very consistent or thoughtful, adaptation of them.
Originally posted here.