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The Art Of The Impossible

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at September 30, 2003 - 11:01 AM GMT

Title: Star Trek: The Lost Era, The Art of the Impossible
Author: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Publication Date: October 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-6406-0

The third Lost Era novel, The Art of the Impossible by Keith R.A. DeCandido tackles the eighteen-year period between 2328 and 2346. With broad strokes that paint a clear picture of the political climate of the period, the novel details the Betreka Nebula 'Incident', an event which sparked a showdown between the Cardassians and Klingons. This novel has it all: a riveting plot, incredibly vivid and interesting characters, plenty of action and enough continuity to delight even the most persnickety fan. The story also has broad appeal, tying together events and characters from every aspect of the Star Trek universe: the series, the movies, comics and novels.

With an inherent sense of superiority and a desperate need for resources it is a time of expansion for the Cardassian Union. The story begins in 2328, the same year that Cardassia formally annexes Bajor. When sensors draw the Cardassian vessel Sontok to the unpopulated and unclaimed world of Raknal V near the Betreka Nebula, they discover not only much needed minerals, but also the wreckage of a very old Klingon ship. Unbeknownst to the commander of the Sontok, Gul Monor, their explorations of this area of space have been shadowed by a cloaked Klingon bird-of-prey, the I.K.S. Wo'bortas.

When the Klingons realize that the wreckage is actually that of the long lost and historically significant Ch'gran, they summon reinforcements and soon a pitched battle for control of the planet ensues. Since neither the Klingon Empire or the Cardassian Union is in a position to wage war with the other, they agree to submit to an agreement brokered by Federation Ambassador Curzon Dax. It is a tenuous agreement at best and not without its opponents, not only within the governments of the Empire and the Union, but also within the Federation itself. And so begins a delicate and shadowy period of manipulation, espionage and ever-growing tensions across two quadrants that culminates in 2346 with the Romulan attack on Khitomer.

It takes a master storyteller to turn a thirty-second conversation in the Deep Space Nine episode "The Way of the Warrior" into a novel with this much scope, imagination and detail. Keith DeCandido has been delighting Star Trek readers with his writing since he burst onto the scene with Diplomatic Implausibility in 2001, but with The Art of the Impossible, he has really outdone himself. In this novel DeCandido not only succeeds in telling a notable story but he also allows the reader a glimpse inside the hearts and minds of the characters and their cultures. Divided into three parts, The Art of the Impossible tells the story from multiple points of view and takes the reader into the worlds of the Klingons, the Cardassians and even the Romulans of that period.

The cast of characters is enormous and includes several characters that were little more than names in various episodes or novels before this. In The Art of the Impossible they become fully-realised people with distinct personalities and histories. The more recognisable characters get special treatment as well: Enabran Tain, newly appointed head of the Obsidian Order; Lieutenant Ian Troi, a newlywed with a bright future in front of him who serves with Commander Rachel Garrett on the U.S.S. Carthage; Federation Ambassador Curzon Dax, a smug but somehow likable man whose unique settlement of the dispute over Raknal V is opposed by special ops agent Elias Vaughn. Readers will also recognize K'Mpec, a rising star in the Klingon Empire, and for the first time we get to meet Worf's parents, Mogh and Kassin.

DeCandido also creates convincing original characters. Two who particularly stand out are Gul Monor and his Klingon counterpart, Captain Qaolin. These are the two guys who started it all. Two career military officers caught up in events beyond their control and comprehension. As the years go by their personal confrontations and fortunes anchor the more far-reaching events orchestrated by grander personas.

The Art of the Impossible is a tremendously impressive and enlightening achievement in storytelling. This book does more than just fill in a bit more of the history of the Star Trek universe (although it does that in spades): it illustrates the 'whys' behind that history with flair, style and more than a few surprises.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.

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