Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Q-Squared

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Q-Squared by Peter David
Published August 1995
Read May 16th 2017


Previous book (The Next Generation - Hardcover): All Good Things...

Next book (The Next Generation - Hardcover): Star Trek: Generations
Next book (The Next Generation - Published order): #31: Foreign Foes


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Q-Squared!

From the back cover:
In all of his travels Captain Jean-Luc Picard has never faced an opponent more powerful that Q, a being from another continuum that Picard encountered on his very first mission as Captain of the Starship Enterprise. In the years since, Q has returned again and again to harass Picard and his crew. Sometimes dangerous, sometimes merely obnoxious, Q has always been mysterious and seemingly all-powerful. 

But this time, when Q appears, he comes to Picard for help. Apparently another member of the Q continuum has tapped into an awesome power source that makes this being more powerful than the combined might of the entire Q continuum. This renegade Q is named Trelane -- also known as the Squire of Gothos, who Captain Kirk and his crew first encountered over one hundred years ago. Q explains that, armed with this incredible power, Trelane has become unspeakably dangerous. 

Now Picard must get involved in an awesome struggle between super beings. And this time the stakes are not just Picard's ship, or the galaxy, or even the universe -- this time the stakes are all of creation...

My thoughts:

I first read Q-Squared nearly twenty-three years ago, back when it was first published. I don't think it was the first Star Trek novel I ever read, but it was certainly the most well-loved. A gift from my aunt and uncle, Q-Squared became one of those novels that I would return to multiple times, re-reading every few years or so. My most recent re-read was last year for episode 190 of the Literary Treks podcast, and I was curious as to whether or not I would love the book as much as I did at the age of thirteen.

As it turns out, I need not have worried.

Q-Squared brings together the characters of Q and Trelane, the seemingly-omnipotent man-child from the TOS episode "The Squire of Gothos." Trelane was pretty obviously the inspiration for the creation of the Q character, so it makes sense to bring them together here. Trelane is just as out-of-control as he was in that classic episode, and Q is tasked with riding herd on him. However, it soon becomes apparent that Q is in over his head, and Trelane eventually amasses enough power to be a real threat to Q, as well as to the rest of the universe.

Q-Squared brings William Campbell's Trelane to the 24th century.

I think I loved the book so much as a kid because it hit all the right notes for me. I fell in love with Peter David's writing style, with his whimsical moments balanced perfectly against the deadly seriousness of the peril in the story. It is a very difficult balance to achieve, and Peter David managed to somehow strike just the right tone, with such disparate story elements as the extreme trauma experienced by William Riker of a parallel universe, tortured for decades at the hands of the Romulans, and some ridiculous over-the-top Q shenanigans such as the cast of Winnie the Pooh coming to life in the schoolroom of the Enterprise-D.

There are a few things that don't jive with a strict interpretation of canon Star Trek, but longtime readers of this site will know that I am pretty easy-going when it comes to those sorts of things. We all know that Star Trek novels are considered "non-canon," which means that at any given moment, a "canon" source (anything on television or in a film) can come along and wipe out from the continuity anything that the novels have established. Therefore, I didn't lose a lot of sleep when Voyager established that the Q don't tend to have children in the traditional sense, thereby making Q-Sqaured's assertion that Trelane is a Q child invalid. To me, a good story is a good story, whether or not it fits in with established continuity. And Q-Squared is certainly a good story.

Q finds himself in over his head in trying to deal with Trelane and asks Captain Picard for help.

As a young Star Trek fan, I distinctly remember seeing "The Squire of Gothos" very early in my life. Much like Q-Squared, I'm fairly certain it wasn't my first, but it was very close to it. The idea of a seemingly-omnipotent being really fascinated me, and the twist that he is just a child was really compelling and a great ending. This is a theme that Star Trek visits often: the idea of unlimited power in the hands of someone or something who is ultimately immature or child-like. Along with "The Squire of Gothos," I would contend that "Charlie X" and even the character of Q himself play with the idea of immaturity and omnipotence coupled together. Q-Squared continues this exploration quite expertly, giving Trelane ultimate power. His tantrum at the end of the novel when things ultimately don't go his way shows that he is still the immature and out-of-control youth we met in "The Squire of Gothos."

Final thoughts:

Q-Squared, in addition to being simply a damn good book, is incredibly funny as well, which should come as no surprise given who the author is. There are numerous character moments that are laugh-out-loud funny, while at the same time remaining a poignant and fascinating exploration of Q, Trelane, our TNG heroes, as well as numerous alternate universes. I remember as a young man being fascinated with all of the various universes (labelled as "tracks" in the novel) coming together and intermingling in this novel. A fun exploration of TNG and an interesting pairing of Q and Trelane make this one an absolute favorite that I will likely continue to return to for years to come.

More about Q-Squared:


Also by Peter David:

My next read:

Next review: My video review of The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. Look for that one soon!