The Borg are back… again. And they’re hungry. They’re eating starships. They’re eating planets. They’re back for revenge. And now only Seven of Nine can stop them, with a little help from her friends.
Peter David is practically Trek Lit royalty. He penned the well-loved and respected standalone TNG novels Vendetta and Imzadi amongst many others. In fact, he was such a popular writer, Pocket Books editor John Ordover gave him the honour of creating and writing an entire literary spin-off series New Frontier, which numbers an impressive 21 entries.
And so Peter David was tasked with writing an entry into this new relaunch timeline that would continue on the Borg story from Resistance. This would be the last TNG novel David would write (although he wrote a handful of New Frontier novels after this one).
Janeway is off to inspect the Borg ship that Picard, erm, disabled in an earlier novel. Despite the fact that the Borg Queen is deceased, it turns out the ship was just playing dead. And when it awakens, it assimilates Janeway.
Seven of Nine’s spider-sense tells her Janeway is in trouble. Ruh-roh. So she grabs her hidden stash of gold-pressed latinum and rushes off in a ship owned by some dude called Grim Vargo, a character lifted straight out of Firefly.
At some point, Picard gets wind of the situation and tries to help Seven out. They defy Starfleet orders yet again, (Picard Y U so naughty?) and concoct a hair-brained scheme to nab the doomsday machine and turn that bad boy loose on the Borg ship. All the least likable characters on the Enterprise mutiny. Meanwhile, the Borg ship now absorbs rather than assimilates. It eats Pluto. But Seven and the Doomsday machine start getting along just swell, so it puts the Borg ship down, but not before Janeway is nixed.
Lady Q bookends the novel, both causing Janeway to enter the Borg ship and also taking her off into the, ahem, afterlife. As it were. Because she is totally really dead.
Oh and Spock is there for some reason..?
Okay, let’s not mince words here. This book is an absolute clunker. Out of all the Trek books I have read so far, this is the first novel I’ve read that was simply poorly written. While I disliked Resistance for its story and depiction of certain characters, it was not a badly written book. It just makes some creative mistakes.
Before Dishonour is waffly and tediously over-the-top. Some of the dialogue has to be read to be believed such a thing could survive the editorial process. I understand David is known to write lighter, more comedy focused Trek. And I have no problem with Trek comedies. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is my favourite Trek movie.
However, this book is just plain silly in parts. I didn’t enjoy the character of Grim Vargo, who felt like a Firefly rip-off shunted into the Star Trek universe. I also didn’t particularly appreciate how the first third of the novel focuses on Seven of Nine, despite this being a TNG novel.
This book undoes a lot of the good work set up in DeCandido's preceding Q&A novel
I can’t entirely blame David though. It’s obvious that many seasoned Trek writers struggled with the new relaunch style of individual books all set within a larger, multi-book arc.
And then there is the ending, featuring Lady Q and Janeway walking off into something like the afterlife. Apparently, a lot of fans were pretty cheesed off that they killed Janeway… which is weird because although yes, technically she dies at the end of the book, it’s quite obvious that she will be resurrected at some point by the Q or something like that. However, I do agree that it seemed weird to kill off a prominent canon character like Janeway in a TNG novel rather than a Voyager novel.
Also, bizarrely enough, there is a rumour that David was initially told to kill Janeway off in the novel. Like completely dead forever. But then when focus groups reacted badly to this decision, they backtracked. This might explain the awkward inclusion of Lady Q. However this is just a rumour and I haven’t found any solid evidence to confirm this.
Unfortunately in regards to the new Enterprise crew such as Kadohata, Leybenzon, and T’Lana, this book undoes a lot of the good work set up in DeCandido’s preceding Q&A novel. They become very unlikeable (again) in this book. I have a feeling David was directed to continue the “new guys don’t fit in” story set up in Resistance.
However, there were a couple of redeeming parts. Firstly, the comedy does occasionally land with some offbeat zeal. The scene where Worf was ordered to assume command of the Enterprise, to which he responded with something like, “I cannot, my foot is asleep” was a genuine laugh out loud moment for me. Secondly, the story did start to hit its stride in the final act. Seven bonding with the doomsday machine was well done. An exciting array of short, sharp chapters kept the story’s tempo high and pulsing towards the end.
Before Dishonor received mostly negative reviews online. In a short but scathing review, StarTrek.com described it as, “[…] one of the weakest Star Trek novels of recent time.” While Trek Lit said, “For me, Before Dishonor greatly misses the mark.” Games Radar said in a somewhat more positive review, “Any space opera that features the line The bastards ate Pluto! must be doing something right. [… but] as it is, there’s too much stodge to get through before the fine cuisine.” However Sci-Fi Online gave it a positive review stating, “The book’s 400 pages contain some padding, but on the whole, this is a very exciting read.”
Book sales were above average, perhaps due to Peter David’s popularity as a Trek author.
The final verdict
I’m not ready to give up on Peter David. I will hopefully one day give his New Frontier series a go. However, Before Dishonor is simply a poorly executed book. It muddles an over-the-top storyline that struggles to find congruency with the larger, multi-book arc. Thankfully it delivered a decent third act and a few laughs, which saved it from a one-star rating.