Afterward, if you find yourself in a position to tell anyone about me, exaggerate nothing. Don’t make me bigger than life.
But, General, you are bigger than life.
I’m not a general.
All right, Chancellor.
Than what are you?
Just a Klingon. Just a man.
-Martok and Pharh
Of the various alien species that have populated the universe of Star Trek, none have evoked the same fascination with the fans as the Klingons. In the original series, they were the enemy, wishing nothing more than to conquer the United Federation of Planets. By the time of the Next Generation, time had made them allies; we were exposed to their culture, their sense of honor and their love of battle to prove that honor. They briefly became enemies again during Deep Space Nine, but the rift between allies was healed when the Dominion made their bid for the Alpha Quadrant. It was that series which introduced General Martok-a character who started out as a minor one kicking off the temporary tiff between allies, but evolved into a Klingon unlike the others in Star Trek. Where Worf was a Klingon raised by humans in the Klingon fashion and applied Federation morality to his Klingon side, and where most of the other Klingons were all “battle, glory, and honor” (or were underhanded weasels), Martok turned out to be quite different-a Klingon who loved the same things as most, but allowed his reasoning to rule his instincts. By the time the series ended, Martok had ended up named as Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.
Which is where The Left Hand of Destiny begins.
Martok is aboard his flagship, arriving at Qo’noS, to be officially acknowledged as Chancellor at the Great Hall by the members of the Klingon High Council. While Martok has some reservations, he seems to be in much more improved morale…right up to the moment the Great Hall is wiped out, with all the council members in it. A Klingon named Morjod takes credit for it-and speaking as a “freedom fighter”, declares that the Klingons have lost their way, become a servitor race to the Federation, and vows to lead the Klingons back to greatness (read: conquerors). He has creatures from Klingon myth at his side; and he has a handy scapegoat for all the problems of the Klingon Empire-Worf! And, naturally, since you need to get rid of a Chancellor to become a Chancellor….!
As Martok tries to get a handle on events, on the surface, Worf’s son-Alexander-is dealing with the fallout of the attack on the Hall; unsurprisingly, he feels as if he’s got a target on his back, being the big traitor’s son and everything. Alexander also makes the acquaintance of a rather interesting Ferengi named Pharh, who is as unique an individual as Rom and Nog from DS9. In the meantime, Martok’s wife, Sirella, is also in dire straits, as she recognizes that her home and family are likely to come under attack as well. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Morjod isn’t exactly alone, and a major motivation for the coming events has everything to do with her and Martok. And there’s a mysterious Klingon wandering around the edges, who isn’t happy about this turn of events one little bit.
For the most part, I’ve been impressed with books with former Trek actors as at least co-writers. A Stitch in Time was a great book, and I had liked the early Shatner books (before they started looking the same). This one is no exception, written in part by the actor who had played Martok. It also helps that Lang had previously impressed the hell outta me with Immortal Coil. As a team, Hertzler and Lang have put together a fine start to this two-part story. I could draw some comparisons with some older, more famous stories-parts of the book had a King Arthur kind of feel to it (and not the action sequences); others put me in mind of Robin Hood (especially the last action sequence!). I also loved a couple minor homages to one of the best (if not the best) Klingon books written (before Next Generation came along and revamped everything; kai the authors!).
New characters in the book stand out as well, both major and minor. Pharh, as I’ve already mentioned, is a unique Ferengi-he actually wants to see the universe and keep as much of space between himself and his family as possible. He also manages to rub shoulders with just about every major player in the story (at least the ones on the side of the angels). Morjod starts out looking like a fairly charismatic Klingon (perhaps more than he should be), but later sections show that there is more to his story than is apparent to the Klingons in the Empire. And then there’s Darok, gin’tak of the House of Martok; he’s a fairly minor character so far, but I absolutely loved his opinions about his mother, and just what her position in Sto-Vo-Kor (the Klingon afterlife) must be.
I can’t wrap the review of Book One without mentioning the main character-and that’s Martok. Martok was more or less pushed into taking the title of Chancellor, and he’s still uncertain as to whether or not it really suits him. It’s something that weighs on him as he infiltrates the Emperor’s Palace, and prompts him to make a telling set of statements at the end of Book One (which I won’t go into, because I think it has a much greater impact when read for the first time). The book closes at a turning point for Martok, and I am eagerly looking forward to see just where the story goes from here in Book Two.
And to think: when the books were first announced, I was saying “oh, no, not another Klingon book”. Thanks for proving me wrong, guys.