[Retro-Review] Star Trek: Articles of the Federation (2005)

The premise of Keith R. A. DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation is deceptively simple: it covers the first year of Nan Bacco’s presidency of the United Federation of Planets. There are the usual trials and tribulations, there are some old ghosts that don’t want to stay dead, and we see a few famous Star Trek characters take the stage. Yes, it feels very much like The West Wing. But no, it’s not a rip-off of that show. While not perfect, DeCandido’s solid writing keeps Articles of the Federation interesting, moving at a quick pace and never drags at nearly four-hundred pages.

The Good: The formula of a bastard child between Star Trek and The West Wing works surprisingly well. This is probably the novel’s greatest strength and weakness. For the Star Trek books, Articles of the Federation is a different style of storytelling, not falling under one specific range but rather encompassing various elements of the whole universe. However, some will complain that it is too much like The West Wing. Seeing as how this book purposely takes that approach, it should not be a factor in how one feels about it.

DeCandido is writer of no small strength, bringing Bacco and her staff to life in rich detail. He pulls no punches in showing the flaws of these characters. Bacco does not come off as very likable, but is dedicated to the ideals of the Federation and the Presidency. The subtle character touches, such as Bacco’s love of baseball and Fred’s agonizing over adjectives, draw the reader in quickly, and keeps them there. The introductory chapters to each of the six parts were inspired. Giving various perspectives on Bacco’s presidency through people viewing Illuminating the City of Light was an ingenious approach, and makes the shift forward in time comfortable. Also, DeCandido deftly fits plot points to cover the course of Bacco’s first year, using the high-level concept of the novel to full use. An example of this is learning about the Io‘s first contact discovery early on, then subsequent disastrous meeting with the delegation from Trinni/ek and fallout. These events play out over the course of months, and make interesting reading.

The Bad: While real and engaging, the main characters do not come across as terribly likable. To some, that may be off-putting; to others, not so much. The Tzelnira plotline was oddly paced- it appeared early in the book, vanishes for a large chunk, and re-appears to a rapid conclusion. The decision and outcome Dr. Emmanuelli faces as a result is a mixed-bag, with the revelation at the end of chapter twenty-seven feeling flat.

The Ugly: The Trinni/ek delegation’s mental state after first meeting President Bacco. Talk about first impressions…

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Conclusion: Articles of the Federation gives us a Star Trek novel that breaks away from the tried-and-true formulas of the franchise. In this, DeCandido succeeds marvelously. DeCandido has a sharp writing style that balances humor and drama like few other authors in Star Trek. Articles of the Federation is full of complex characters and agendas. In a book where the action takes place in meeting rooms as opposed to a starship, it would be easy for a collective chorus of snoring to arise. Instead, DeCandido gives the reader something to ponder, characters to argue over, and a road map for the next year of Trek chronology. Well done.

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