While looking back 30 years into the past for my 1984 movie retrospective Setting the Way-Back Machine, I came to realize that this is not only the 30th anniversary of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but also one of the finest Star Trek novels I have ever read. So for this post, I'm going to introduce you (or re-introduce for some) to the John M. Ford novel The Final Reflection.
The story follows a Klingon Captain named Krenn, who starts out as an orphan child with no House to speak of. Krenn and other orphans are used as playing pieces in high-stakes live chess games played by the Klingon elite. Impressed by his performance, an Admiral adopts Krenn and proceeds to set him on the path to command, which he rises to quickly. On one particular mission, where he ferries a human Federation envoy to the first Babel conference, he learns a lesson in peace, and discovers a Klingon plot to bring the Empire and the Federation into a war that could destroy both. Krenn must then decide which is more important, total, unquestioning devotion to the Empire, or turning against the Empire in order to save it.
Written long before The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise were ever conceived, The Final Reflection offers a fascinating inside look at the (arguably) most fascinating alien race in Star Trek lore, a look that is different from anything we have come to know from those shows. The characters are believable, likable, and as honorable as any Klingon we have seen. The battle scenes (and there are quite a few) are well-written and tense, and the pace of the novel is swift, with some surprising bits of humor that comes from the characters interactions, and not at their expense.
The beauty of this novel, despite the fact that it is totally non-canon from a modern Star Trek point-of-view, is that it stands out as a well-written science fiction novel overall. All author John M. Ford would have had to do was change some names of characters and races, and removed the Kirk-centric prologue and epilogue, and he would have had a wonderful, original sci-fi work that easily could have generated further adventures of Captain Krenn and crew.
Though I still have my original paperback from years back, and there are still some copies floating around, I was delighted to find that this fine work is still available as an e-book from Amazon (I have provided the link below.). If you ever get the chance, and are not too much of a Trek purist and can overlook the discrepancies that several seasons of television and movies provide, I highly recommend taking a look at this fascinating bit of little-known Klingon history.