Book: The Final Reflection by John M. Ford

Excellent science-fiction novel with thoroughly-imagined alien culture

John M. Ford
The Final Reflection (Star Trek no. 16)
Pocket Books, 1984
ISBN: 0-671-47388-3
Out of print; inexpensive used copies seem readily available as of this writing
253 pages

I've said that I think that John M. Ford is a genius. And, uncharitably, I've since then whined that the books he has written weren't exactly what I wanted to read (1, 2, 3). Well, The Final Reflection is one I was really glad to read.

To begin with, you can ignore the fact that it's a Star Trek novel. Captain Kirk and the Enterprise figure only in the frame around the narrative. The main part is a book, a sort of non-fiction novel, set 40 or so years before the time of the Enterprise. There are plenty of Klingons in it, but they're probably not the Klingons you're expecting. There's even what may be a suggestion at the end that Star Trek in general has dealt with Klingons in a less than subtle manner.

The book within the book is also called The Final Reflection and it's a story about a Klingon named Vrenn (and later Krenn). When we meet him, he has a very interesting but low-status job. He gets the attention of a Klingon admiral who more or less adopts him. Before long, he joins the Klingon navy and distinguishes himself. Then he gets assigned a diplomatic mission. The ship he commands is to go to Federation space and bring a Federation ambassador back to the Klingon homeworld, Klinzhai. The ambassador, Dr. Emanuel Tagore, turns out to be a pretty interesting person. Though he's about as much unlike a Klingon as he could be, he eventually wins Krenn's respect.

Not surprisingly, not all Klingons like the idea of diplomacy with humans. And there's worse than that.

As usual with Mr Ford's books, there's a lot here, but unlike some there's not so much implied but not narrated that it's hard to read it for pleasure. The most interesting thing about the novel is that the Klingons are interesting, three-dimensional characters. And they're set against a background of a thoroughly-imagined culture. For example, I was impressed that J.K. Rowling invented a game for the characters to play in her novels. Mr Ford invents a more subtle one and works it into the events of the novel in interesting ways. Mr Ford has put an enormous amount of imagination into this book.

And, as usual, Mr Ford's plotting is subtle and his characters are memorable. The Final Reflection deserves to be a famous science fiction novel rather than languishing out of print.

There are a couple of editing errors in the book. There's an extraneous hyphen in "Romulan" (p. 72), extra hyphens in "half a dozen" (p. 100), a few extraneous characters inserted before "was" (p. 127), and an "as" missing between "courteous" and "described" (p. 198).

Posted: Sat - April 30, 2005 at 07:25   Main   Category: