Science Fiction Round 68: The False Federation
I read a Star Trek novel recently.
These are my equivalent of the fluffy romance novel: they’re not too heavy or too hard-hitting, and I can whip through one pretty quickly.
Many are quite mediocre, and The Shocks of Adversity was no exception to this rule. However, it did provide some good food for thought.
I’ll provide spoilers here, but the book is largely spoiled by the blurb… and the plot is not terribly surprising.
Where Did That Title Come From?
The basic premise of the story is largely spoiled in the back-of-the-book blurb, so I don’t feel too bad about explaining it here.
Roughly speaking, the (Original Series) Enterprise gets itself into trouble, but is aided by a ship from the Goeg Domain, which initially sounds similar to the Federation. It’s an alliance of many worlds together, with great ideals. However, it turns out that the Domain is dominated by the leonine Goeg, and other species are second-class citizens. The rebel group blamed for damaging the Enterprise mistook them for dangerous Goeg allies attacking their base, and the Goeg are largely merciless in chasing them down.
Until the Domain orders their ship to commit an atrocity. Then the ship that aided the Enterprise mutinies against their government, which is not so much like the Federation as a flawed reflection of it.
This whole setup makes me wonder — why “Shocks of Adversity”? Where does that title come from? Sure, there’s some adversity in the book, and some culture shock between the Federation and Domain, but… somehow, the title doesn’t really seem to suit the story.
The False Federation
The most interesting part of the story was the compare-and-contrast between the Federation and the Goeg Domain. The former is pluralistic, albeit with some difficulty in integrating Starfleet; the latter is dominated by the Goeg, who allow other species into their ships, but only in lesser roles. The former is egalitarian; the latter is authoritarian, even totalitarian, and horrifyingly speciesist in some regards. The people on the Domain ship that the Enterprise meets learn something from this contrast — and rebel against the Domain.
One point that bothers me is the fact that Kirk and company don’t seem to realize that the Goeg is not so like the Federation at all — even though it is trivial to see coming. In the initial incident, the Goeg actually fire on the Enterprise landing part with no provocation (while hunting members of the resistance movement). They use lethal weapons. The Enterprise team, following standard procedure, only uses weapons on stun.
When the landing party is trapped and surrenders, the Goeg commander agrees to render aid and cease hostilities in part because he recognizes that the Starfleet people were using nonlethal weapons — the worst any of his people ended up with is a concussion. This clearly shows the Starfleet crew is unlikely to try to do something aggressively dangerous.
In contrast, one of the redshirts nearly dies from blood loss, and spends a good chunk of the book recovering in sickbay.
What should Kirk and company think of this? The Goeg Domain people use lethal weapons, and are twitchy about it — shooting, corralling, and nearly killing their targets without even verifying who they are.
Those aren’t the actions of a thoughtful, reasonable, non-evil regime. It makes me think of one quote from Star Trek: Insurrection: “Why are we working with these people?”