When Q comes on the TV, I groan and think oh great this one is a Q episode… Can Keith R.A. DeCandido do the near-impossible and write a decent Q novel?
Seasoned Trek author Keith R.A. DeCandido penned Q&A shortly after writing the standalone novel Articles Of The Federation. DeCandido was approached by Pocketbooks editor Margaret Clark to write a post-nemesis novel. DeCandido pitched the idea of taking a little break from the Borg (crazy right) and explore the reason why Q was always so interested in humanity and Picard in particular.
Interestingly, DeCandido also did some freelance editing at Pocketbooks, so he would have been kept in the loop regarding the post Nemesis litverse.
After writing the book, he made a few changes so it fits in with the previous novel Resistance.
The mysterious They/Them beings, even more powerful than the Q, are whipping a fresh batch of universes up every time a universe fails to entertain them.
Meanwhile, Picard and his crew finally leave the dregs of Romulan politics at the bottom of the glass and take their space-Uber Enterprise out to Gorsach IX. Turns out the planet resembles is all symmetrical lines and perfect symmetry.
Of course, Q shows up and starts nattering away, doing quirky Q things and generally being a pest. Worf suggests that they ignore Q, as one might ignore a petulant child or a door-to-door salesman.
T’Lana is impressed that Worf keeps his phaser holstered every time Q calls him “micro brain”.
A bunch of quantum fissures fizzle and pop into the world, and suddenly there are Enterprises everywhere. Picard is absconded off and put in front of Them/They. Q reveals that his true intentions all this time was to manoeuvre humanity into proving their shared universe shouldn’t end up in Them/They’s compost heap.
Picard has a laugh and the world is saved.
The first thing I noticed about Q&A was just how good DeCandido is at writing what I think of as Star Trek’s “soap opera scenes.” You know, the scenes where Troi and Riker take a bubble bath or Geordi bombs out with a girl on the holodeck. I really enjoyed the scene with Picard & Crusher eating breakfast in bed (croissants and coffee, oui oui). It was a cleverly crafted scene that showed Picard’s progress as a character, without it feeling out of character. And of course, as soon as the Starfleet uniform goes on, Picard’s smile turns flat as a ruler.
DeCandido also did a great job with the new characters. Unlike the previous novel Resistance, I felt that T’Lana was finally growing on me. Similarly, we got to see a different side of Leybenzon; an ass at work but an alright guy once the drinks are flowing. La Forge is having some trouble adjusting to the new crew but softens his stance towards Leybenzon and Kadohata.
DeCandido’s grasp of the characters is near perfect; he can show us another side of a beloved character like Picard without feeling like we’re seeing someone else on the page
The only other DeCandido book I’ve read is Articles Of The Federation, which I felt was well written but a bit aimless. This book actually had a very simple storyline. But it was done well and goes to show a simple story can be very effective. It was well-paced and always grounded in a solid through-line. As stated above, DeCandido’s grasp of the characters is near perfect; he can show us another side of a beloved character like Picard without feeling like we’re seeing someone else on the page.
The book does have a couple of downsides though. Quite a few scenes are featuring semi-random characters all stumbling across the quantum fissure. Each scene is well written and interesting enough, but it does feel like they’re a bit of filler. Rather than advancing the plot, you realise pretty quickly they are all finding the same phenomena and ending up facing the same consequences.
Also, the book is littered with an abundance of Q easter eggs. If you aren’t familiar with Star Trek: Voyager and the role Q played, it would be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Easter eggs are great when they are a neat bonus, but they can be a bit annoying if you just don’t get the references.
DeCandido also dreamed big with this book, essentially tieing all the Q stories together and giving them a single, specific purpose. It was a big, gutsy move. Did it work? Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if the stakes were lower. The book could have been just as enjoyable if the universe weren’t about to end or if Q was not in fact executing a grand plan. I didn’t mind the “bigness” of the story, but I don’t think it necessarily added a lot.
Q&A received mostly positive reviews online. It holds a respectable 3.80 on Goodreads (which is a bit low I think). Trek Movie said, “this novel should have been the first Next Generation relaunch novel.” Sci-Fi Crows Nest said, “Don’t worry too much about the main plot with its lack of drama, just enjoy life on the Enterprise.” In a glowing review, TrekLit stated, “Q & A exceeded my expectations.” However Sci-Fi Online gave it a negative review, “All in all a disappointing book that just confirms that this is how the Universe ends - not with a bang, but with a whimper.”
Book sales were low, which is a shame considering what a fun read it was.
The final verdict
All in all, Q&A was a fun outing, and probably my favourite post-Nemesis Trek book so far. It was well balanced, full of great scenes and had an interesting story. At times it did feel a bit “padded out” and not everyone will love the ending. But for me, it was a fun read and I really see why DeCandido is such a popular Trek author.