STO: “The Needs Of The Many” ReviewMay 1, 2010
Yes, I finally got through my trashy buccaneer romance novel, allowing me to move on and finish Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many. Following in the footsteps of Adventurer Historian, I’ve decided to write up my own review.
The first thing I want to say is, I did not expect that much from this book.
That said, it’s not like I ever expect much from any book based on a video game, but I do like reading them for background information. And I’ll confess, I would not have even considered checking out The Needs of the Many if I wasn’t subscribed to Star Trek Online. Before this, STO players only had The Path to 2409 (included in the book’s appendix) to rely on for the story elements behind the game, and here’s the problem — a series of events detailed impassively through a bunch of web pages just wasn’t enough for me. This ultimately led me to pick up the book.
Unlike other works of this genre, however, the story behind The Needs of the Many is told through a string of interviews, along with a handful of letters, news articles and other documents thrown in for good measure. The overall format and tone of the book has been compared to the writing style employed in World War Z, a post-apocalyptic horror novel that I have heard of but have not read. Knowing this beforehand wasn’t a problem, but it did lead me to believe I would not be as drawn to the story as I would have been if the book had been done in a more traditional style.
I could not have been more wrong. Was the book a literary masterpiece? Of course not. But that’s never the point when it comes to these kinds of books. I wanted a fun read, and I got one. “Jake Sisko” is compelling enough as a narrator, and the author has done a good job of capturing his and the other characters’ personalities through well-written dialogue. Each interview presented itself as a unique vignette, and while the main focus of the story remained on the events of the Undine War, I was not opposed to getting a look into the personal experiences and opinions of Jake and his interview subjects.
Were there moments where this made me feel like I was reading a current-day political commentary? Yes, I’ll admit it felt like the author was using Jake as a proxy to communicate his socio-political views at times, but this to me is just par for the course. It’s not like any of the Star Trek series have never been used to make strong and blunt comments on the major social issues of today.
And speaking of the TV shows, I wonder if my unfamiliarity with the Star Trek IP has affected my views on this book. After reading Adventurer Historian’s review, I thought I would be completely lost, but I was surprised to find that I wasn’t. Maybe it was because I had little idea what was going on lorewise in the first place, so the book having no sense of chronology did not affect me as much as it did AyAitch. After all, you can’t technically be lost if you have no destination to begin with. In any case, my time with The Needs of the Many took me to memory-alpha.org more times than I care to remember in order to cross-reference events and characters.
Coincidentally, I must add that the Voyager episode that came on TV today was the first part of “Scorpion”, or the popular episode that introduced Species 8472 (the Undine) to the series. Funny how life works out that way, eh?
In the end, I think the purpose of this book was more about bringing the average STO player up to speed with the events that have unfolded over the course of the “Long War”, and less about telling an actual traditional Star Trek story. So if you’re looking for something like the latter, I would pass on this. However, it’s helped me understand more about the game and its missions.
Anyway, maybe it’s the fact I know less about Star Trek than the average fan, or my low expectations to begin with, but overall I have to say I enjoyed this book. If I have to pick some memorable moments, I would say the interviews with Quark and Geordi La Forge come immediately to mind. And there was also that one snarky line about Kathryn Janeway’s hair…