One thing I really enjoy is buying a book hoping I get an okay read and finding a good one. Such is the case in The Final Reflection.
Under normal circumstances I’ve found books based ob television series or movies to be bland at best, money grubbing ripoffs at worst. This book broke that mold.
I believe it was because none of the original Star Trek™ characters were in it. Well, McCoy’s grandfather mentions changing his diapers and Spock, age seven, played chess with the main character.
As you may have guessed the novel was set sometime before the original Star Trek™ series. Oh, and almost all the main characters were Klingons.
The book really couldn’t be considered canon now, as it was written several years before The Next Generation™, but that doesn’t matter as it is such a good story.
It starts with the main character who lives in what is known as a Lineless house. Essentially it is an orphanage, which I gather happens a lot in Klingon society. He and his roommates are about to participate in a game know as klin zha kinta, the game with live pieces. Klin zha is the Klingon chess played on a triangular board, pyramidal in klin zha kinta, and in this form pieces do not capture spaces. They fight for them. The winner takes the space. Each player is armed and armoured according to the piece they play. The Blockader is heavily armoured but bare handed. The Swift is lightly armoured. The Lancer has a staff with a charged end that can also put up a shield. It makes the opening chapter exciting and does an excellent job of filling us in on Klingon culture.
After the game the main character, Vrenn by name, is adopted by the Klingon who controlled him during the game: Thought Admiral Kethas eptai-Khemara. Thought Admirals are the strategists of the Klingon Navy, and regarded as not quite sane by other Klingons. In many ways, in the way the author describes them, Klingons aren’t great with strategy as they tend to be straight forward and less than subtle. The eptai-Khemara is regarded as the best.
The story revolves around Vrenn’s being raised by Kethas, his adventures in the Navy and eventually his travelling to Earth to pick up the Federation’s first ambassador to the Klingon Empire.
This was, for me, one of the most charming points of the book as the ambassador was a pacifist. Despite this Krenn and he became very good friends for despite their differences they had very similar beliefs and both were, despite their positions, somewhat outsiders in their respective societies. Oh, and both were gamers. Krenn (Klingons change names when they obtain command rank) taught the ambassador klin zha. The ambassador taught Krenn poker.
Games, especially klin zha play a large role in this book. Being a gamer as long as I can remember makes this a big deal for me. The title of the book comes from a particular form of klin zha known as The Reflective Game. This version is played with only one set of pieces. So any move to your advantage is to your opponent’s advantage and vice versa. In the book it is obviously meant as a metaphor for life and the power games that exist in it.
As you can guess from the way I’ve gone on I really enjoyed this book. It was the first one where the Klingons were more than the bad guys, and it did an excellent job of making people out of them. I got to like and admire the main character. Also there was an incident in the book that showed The Federation was not the absolute paragon of virtue it’s always been portrayed as. I like a world that are not simply good versus evil conflicts.
If you want a good read that will surprise you with its depth, try The Final Reflection.