Tales From the Captain's Table Paperback – Jun 14 2005
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About the Author
Keith R.A. DeCandido was born and raised in New York City to a family of librarians. He has written over two dozen novels, as well as short stories, nonfiction, eBooks, and comic books, most of them in various media universes, among them Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Marvel Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, Resident Evil, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Farscape, Xena, and Doctor Who. His original novel Dragon Precinct was published in 2004, and he's also edited several anthologies, among them the award-nominated Imaginings and two Star Trek anthologies. Keith is also a musician, having played percussion for the bands the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players, the Boogie Knights, and the Randy Bandits, as well as several solo acts. In what he laughingly calls his spare time, Keith follows the New York Yankees and practices kenshikai karate. He still lives in New York City with his girlfriend and two insane cats.
Top Customer Reviews
Jonathan Archer of the Starship Enterprise', as told by Louisa Swann: this was easily my least favorite. It's a James Bond rip-off staring a clone of his beagle. Yes, the beagle was supposed to be James Bond. I'm not kidding. If it was meant to be humor, it failed. If it was meant to be serious, it failed at that too.
Chakotay of the U.S.S. Voyager', as told by Christie Golden: I quite liked this story. It was about a teenager's dilemma in following in his father's traditional footsteps, or breaking out on his own. A tired cliche, but nicely told.
David Gold of the U.S.S. da Vinci, as told by John J. Ordover: Was almost an Aesop's fable tale of revenge. An officer is murdered in a gambling den, only to be brought back from death by a timely transport to a medical facility. He seeks out revenge on his three killers, but all have changed over time (in different ways). Is justice blind, or should one consider context and the possibility of change? I quite liked this story.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I thought there were some good stories, then some stories that really pulled this anthology down. "Pain Management" featuring Elizabeth Shelby, "The Officer's Club" featuring Kira Nerys, and "Iron and Sacrifice" featuring Demora Sulu were the best this book had to offer. The authors of these stories not only took on something that explained part of the respective series and events, but they added depth to these characters. They were great stories, great writing, really kept me flipping through the pages.
There were others that sort of dragged on for me, those being the "An Easy Fast" and the Klingon tale. They were good, but they could have been better. Their best moments came at the end when the moral was revealed. The same can be said of Picard's post-Stargazer story, "Darkness." Great beginning, touched a little on the Stargazer book series and it's characters after everything is over. The story, due to it's shortness, was a bit bungled and the situation seemed out of place. Yet, the ending was great.
What made this a rather average book though were the "Tales" that shouldn't have been included. Comedy is nice, humor is great, but over-the-top ... no. The worst story by far was the Archer tale. Perhaps someone thought it was cute to spawn an obviously fake, children-humor tale about Archer and Porthos, but it plain fell on it's face. I didn't find it funny and thought the start of the tale, with Archer and Shran speaking and such was great. The writing and quality from there was simply lost. The next offender was the Riker/Troi honeymoon tale. Again, why so much humor? A little mixed in is great but this didn't feel like Star Trek at all. The characterization was way off, the idea of Riker and Troi involving so many people in their honeymoon activities and the focus being on another character so much ... no, we didn't need this. What Riker got out of the adventure left me rather baffled. The Chakotay tale had some good moments but if you've read Christie Golden's work, you've basically got enough Chakotay to last you a lifetime.
Perhaps the anthology format hurt the "Captain's Table." I agree, it needed a follow-up to account for the changes in Trek since 1997. I think individual novels for some of these characters, where stories could have been developed more and better plots chosen for some would have been better. I'm not sure if I would recommend it but there are some stories worth reading. It doesn't feel like all the authors were on the same page as to what this concept was supposed to be about. It wasn't, back in 1997, about comedy and stories that may or may not be true. I was sort of disapointed. I hope if there's another anthology, we'll have fewer captains and longer, more developed, stories.
Fortunately, the collection picked up at that point. Kira's story was from the Occupation, a tale of espionage and double agents. It is well written, but the emotional level is a bit shallow. The real impact for me was the incredible difference between the physical state of Kira here and after the Occupation. It is a well chosen point of shock for the reader. I did not bother to read Archer's story, as NX-01 stories in any form have no interest for me. That might have been a mistake, as the collection could have done with a big humour infusion, and I suspect that story tried to provide it. Demora Sulu's story is actually three stories, the bar story, the story told in the bar, and the third story, told in the story told in the bar. It needed to be well written to be good, and it is. The bar story and the third story were good in general. However, the bar story relates how Demora modified the second story, about caring for her dying grandmother, to achieve her goal in coming to the bar. The story reflects that attitude, that is, it feels like she was manipulating her grandmother to get the result she wanted from providing the care, and any benefit to her grandmother was good but unimportant. Demora in general comes across as coldly manipulative, and no matter how good the writing, she is just not a pleasant character to read about. Which makes for quite a contrast to Chakotay's story, involving her and showing how he managed to get into Starfleet Academy. It is also light hearted and upbeat, making a welcome if shallow change from the preceding stories. The final story, David Gold's, finalises that trend, and is more like Riker's story than any of the others. It actually involves the bar patrons in the telling of the story, which is a feature I really liked about the Captain's Table books and was wasted by most of the stories in this collection. His and Riker's stories I found to be the most enjoyable of the book.
I am not sure I can recommend for or against this. Several of the stories are reasonably entertaining, but I found several very depressing, and the overall quality of the writing is not particularly high. The most I can say is that this anthology is below the standard of previous Trek anthologies I have read, and considerably below the entertainment level of the Captain's Table books.
The biggest problem I had with recent anthologies like Prophecy and Change and Tales of the Dominion War was that many of the stories themselves felt inconsequential. That problem is completely remedied in Tales of the Captain's Table because the stories told deal with far more important moments in the lives of the new batch of captains. Others document events previously mentioned in earlier books. Some thoughts on the individual stories:
Riker: Hokey to the extreme, this tale of the honeymoon of Will Riker and Deanna Troi is tolerable because of the dubious credibility cast upon it. I'm sure there was a honeymoon of some sort, just maybe not this one involving pirates and mistaken identity. It's kind of a good bad story if you know what I mean. This is the kind of story you'd see in a bad episode of any given Trek series, but with the tongue firmly planted in cheek, it makes it fun. Riker is going to be a regular at the bar I think.
Picard: I ended up quite turned off by the Stargazer series by Michael Jan Friedman, so this short story by him was a nice surprise in the way it engaged me. I hadn't realized how much time had passed between the loss of the Stargazer and Picard getting command of the Enterprise. Picard's mindset is pretty dark and I rather liked seeing him during this time.
Klag: A surprisingly emotional tale about Klingon family. It gives further depth to M'Raq, who is often mentioned but not much beyond his capture and subsequent dishonor. I noticed Klag reflecting on his father's twilight years in a more gentle light. The twist ended the segment wonderfully.
Shelby: We start to get a little insight into the Selelvian/Tholian War with this tale. Apparently, the Selelvians are able to get the Tholians and Orions on their side. I guess all these villain species are just lining up to take a whack at the Federation for the hell of it. This seems to be developing into a similarly sized conflict like with the Cardassians and Tzenkethi. The story packs a wallop because there's a certain grandioseness to every action the characters take out of loyalty and friendship. And frankly, it's nice to take a break from Calhoun every once in a while.
Kira: Honestly, I didn't remember that Kira ever had a brother. Still, this proves to be a great little tale of espionage during the Bajoran Occupation. It was interesting to see the contrast between the way Kira's cell does things as opposed to Plin's. Kira undergoes several shifts in her opinion of her brother and end on the right one.
Archer: If looked at in the right light, you could see this tale as a blistering commentary on how for the majority of its run, the writers and producers were making Enterprise up as they went along. The result is something akin to what Porthos leaves behind after eating cheese. I sort of chuckled at the arbitrary nature of the tale because of the improvisation, but that didn't make it a really memorable. I'm saddened we didn't get something about "Airlock" Archer instead. Certainly the weakest of the stories.
Sulu: Three stories in one and David R. George 3 provides a nice variety as a result. There's family drama, action thriller and spy thriller. There's something for everyone. Sulu's reasoning for staying at her distant grandmother's side makes the situation sympathetic and kept me from wondering why Demora didn't lash out verbally at the morose matriarch. The framing story continues a trend I've noticed lately as we get a little bit more about the Tzenkethi Coalition on top of what we got in Articles of the Federation. I can see these books priming the audience for more Tzenkethi in the future.
Chakotay: A nice dramatization of a story told by the former Maquis captain in an early Voyager episode. No large black cats jumped out of anyone's head in the making of this short story. Rampant spiritual hokiness is kept down to a merciful minimum. Perhaps there's more depth to the characterization because it's told from his point of view instead of what we've gotten in the relaunch. We also understand Sulu's hesitation about Chakotay. The resolution is a bit pat.
Gold: A tale of revenge certainly wasn't what I was expecting when it came to David Gold and that makes for a surprising little three-part morality tale. Left for dead as a younger man, Gold seeks out those who wronged him and the results are intriguing. The heart is in the growth of Gold over the years regarding his quest.
Tales of the Captain's Table gets a very hearty recommendation and will most likely end up as one of the top Trek books of the year in my opinion. There's a little bit for everyone and stories carry more weight, giving the reader moments only read about or heard about elsewhere. There is just more reason to care. Even with the Archer story, I'm feeling generous.
Probably my favourite story in the bunch is "The Officer's Club" by Heather Jarman.
I've criticized Jarman in the past for her two novels, but I greatly enjoyed her last short story (in Tales of the Dominion War), but this one was even better. It's a story of Kira's time in the resistance, where she has to infiltrate an officer's club run by collaborators, apparently including her brother, in order to kidnap one of the Cardassians' greatest communications techs in order to stop the upgrading of communications in the Bajoran sector. What she discovers there is not what she expected, as apparently the club is a front for another resistance cell. Or is it? Who can Kira trust? And is her brother the collaborator she thought he was? Kira will have to sacrifice a lot in order finish her mission, and she will not remain unaffected by it. This story is even better than the previous Jarman story I mention above. It has a completely believable Kira, who hasn't been completely hardened by the circumstances of her life yet, though she's well on her way. It has betrayal, intrigue, and wonderful characters all the way around. It's the longest story yet (though it's not the longest in the book), so Jarman has space to create these characters, manipulate them, and make us care for them. There are also enough twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the very end what the truth really is. This is probably my favourite story in the book.
Another good one is "Pain Management" by Peter David. Shelby is one of my favourite New Frontier characters (what I've read of it, anyway), so I was looking forward to this story. Here, the Trident is in for refit and repairs after being damaged in a massive ambush during the Selelvian/Tholian war. At the starbase, Soleta, science officer of the Exalibur (Shelby's former ship, captained by Shelby's husband) happens to be there for a conference and offers her a ride back to Excalibur to see her husband while the Trident is being repaired. On the way, they are shot down by an Orion ship and crash land. Surrounded by Orions in a cave, Soleta does what she has to do to take them out, knowing that either she will die, or her horrible secret (she's half-Romulan) will be revealed. Shelby must choose between an oath to a friend, and loyalty to that very same friend. And she's not happy about it. This story is also quite good, filling in a little bit of backstory on both Shelby and Soleta, detailing how Soleta's heritage came to be known. There's a little bit of that old "Peter denying Jesus" feel at the end, where Shelby has to choose whether to deny knowing about Soleta's secret in order to save her own career. The action is well done, and David's characteristic humour is there for all to see. He manages to make Soleta both very Vulcan and yet very sardonic at the same time. At times tense, at times heart-wrenching, this story is one of the good ones.
Which brings me to my least favourite. "Darkness" by Michael Jan Friedman. Picard is asked to provide his own tale, and he tells the story of what happened just after he had lost his own ship, the Stargazer. He is very depressed after the inquiry into the loss of the ship, as even though he was acquitted of any wrong-doing, he still feels responsible. He's on a journey to see an old friend, to see if she can offer any solace and advice to him on where to go from here. On the way to her planet, he passes through an ion storm that ends up messing with his engines, forcing him to ditch his ship. The population of the planet he lands on is being subjugated by the Skillig, ruthless raiders, and he ends up getting involved with them. Helping them and discovering a forgotten portion of his past brings him to a decision point about his present and future. As with many of Friedman's stories, I found this one kind of forgettable, though it is well-told. The twist at the end is well done, but otherwise it felt much the same as other stories I've read. There's not really a lot different here. To show how forgettable the story was: most of these min-reviews, I've had to look at the story again to get a detail or a name right. This story, I had to look at the story again to remember what happened in the story. That's not a good sign.
As with most anthologies, the quality of the stories varies. I can say, however, that they are all enjoyable, even the ones from authors I have questioned before. DeCandido does a wonderful job tying all of the stories together, almost giving them a sequence as one captain leaves and another comes to the bar. With a mixture of tall tales, tales of "dubious credibility," and a couple of stories that fill in a hole or two in the respective series, Tales from the Captain's Table is definitely a must read for any Trek fan. Who knows? You may find a series that you like and decide to go read it.
Being a TOS and Enterprise fans, those are the two I bought the anthology for. The other stories were all entertaining as well, and like I said, can be enjoyed by even non Trek fans. Enjoy!
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