#130: The Patrian Transgression (TOS #69)

This week, when the Enterprise aids a non-Federation planet with its rebellion problem, Kirk finally gets to work with a diplomat he likes. But when he’s pushed into leading the way, he’s more than a little uncomfortable with the ace the cops have up their psychic sleeve. Which senior officer would you not want to catch en flagrante? Could you eat rat meat if it tasted like steak? And what’s the latest on future sports popularity? All this and more in The Patrian Transgression, the book whose title sounds like a Big Bang Theory episode.

The Patrian Transgression
Author: Simon Hawke
Pages: 278
Published: April 1994
Timeline: Mid-season 3-ish
Prerequisites: None

Although not a member of the Federation, the planet Patria requests their aid in quelling a rebellion movement that’s gained a major advantage—viz., a loot drop of Klingon disruptors. The Enterprise is assigned to a support role; in charge is Robert Jordan, the famous author of the Wheel of Time saga who appears to have overcome the significant handicap of, uh, being dead to offer the Federation his services as a diplomatic envoy. Truly, a man of many talents. Jordan is accompanied by his undersecretary Kim Li Wing, whose Asianness and hotness are duly noted in both prose and dialogue.

Kirk used to be friends with Jordan back at the Academy, and looks forward to working with a diplomat he doesn’t hate for a change. So there you have it: a cushy mission with an agreeable partner, no problems whatsoever. The End! Oh wait, record scratch, that isn’t how stories work. Almost immediately, Kirk gets a fat lot of nothing from Jordan, who seems content to pass the buck and leave Jim’s neck on the block if things go sideways. Patria’s prime minister leaves him in much the same bind. In the immortal words of Ned Flanders’s mother, they’ve tried nothin’ and they’re all out of ideas. Kirk emphasizes that he’s cool with hanging back and providing impartial counsel, but the prime minister dumps the entire situation in his lap and says, essentially (I’m paraphrasing somewhat), “You have my blessing. Deuces!”

The party is partnered with a beat cop named Joh Iano, who takes them down to the mean streets to watch live Patrian Gladiators in a bar. The reigning champ, Zor Kalo, challenges Kirk to a spontaneous exhibition match and tells him amid the melee to not trust the police, that the underground has no contact with the Klingons and the Federation is being lied to about the disruptors, and that Iano is a telepath. Iano immediately proceeds to shoot a guy who “was thinking about” committing a murder, and the crew learns a few hard lessons about Patria—namely, that ideation and intent are punished as harshly as actual deeds, and that telepaths on Patria are made, not born, volunteering for an elite squad called the Mindcrime Unit. The cops and government want the rebels quashed, while the rebels demand nothing less than the resignation of everyone on the Patrian Council and the total dismantling of the Mindcrime Unit. The whole mess has Kirk and his crew walking on eggshells to avoid violating the Prime Directive in several ways, some of which are genuinely surprising.

The last time we checked in with Simon Hawke was for his debut, the TNG novel The Romulan Prize. Although I reviewed that one less than five months ago, I remember virtually nothing about it, except that I mildly enjoyed it overall, with the Romulan antagonist being a particular high point. I think I’ll find The Patrian Transgression a bit more memorable. In its careful consideration of all the possible ramifications of the Prime Directive, it reminded me of another TNG novel I enjoyed quite a lot, Terry Mancour’s Spartacus. That level of insight is imparted to the characters as well. Many of the featured Patrians have a good bead on the planet’s situation, and although the nature of it is complex, their articulate assessments make it easy to follow.

Expectations are capably subverted whenever longstanding Trek tropes come into play. As soon as you hear the rebels have Klingon disruptors, your first thought is bound to be Gee, I wonder who supplied those. Yet you realize there has to be more to it as you get deeper and deeper into the story without meeting a single Klingon. Relatedly, there is somewhat of a minor whodunit element centered around the question of who has a vested interest in keeping this dynamic going, but Hawke made it almost completely unguessable by baking the key to the answer into the structure of Patrian society itself. This was either going to be very clever or very irritating, and thankfully, it turned out to be the former. And it’s rare enough for McCoy to be the one who gets the one-episode stand, but his fling with Secretary Wing is marked by such a mature understanding of consent and work/life balance that, astoundingly, it counteracts almost all the innate yuckiness of an old wrinkled codger hooking up with a P.Y.T. The only real remaining flaw in that part, then, is that it takes McCoy out of the action at moments when his character beats and talents might be appreciated, though it does make for an amusing scene where Kirk knocks on his door during what is clearly mid–fun-times.

Despite its gift for interesting subversions, I’d hesitate to call The Patrian Transgression top-shelf material. I had quite a bit of fun reading it, but it never really blew my mind. I’d say it falls squarely in the topmost sub-tier of solid competence, where it should still be one you add to your reading list if you want a comprehensive picture of the strengths of Trek literature. The Prime Directive is dicey even in theory, and not all authors (or screenwriters) handle it properly. But Hawke is certainly one who can posit nifty ideas and then tease them out to fascinating conclusions.

MVP & LVP

  • My MVP this week is one of the Patrians, Anjor, who welcomes the Federation delegation with a bang, knocking their socks off with a whiskey of his own creation (which he names after Scotty) and a steak that tastes like beef but comes from a giant indigenous rodent. Talk about missing a calling. Why is this guy even in the military? If he can get people to eat rat steaks, he should be filming his own Food Network show, not getting into unwinnable firefights with the Orions. Runner-up to Kirk, who assumes command of the mission by citing a completely made-up regulation, a totally baller move I would never have the guts to try.
  • For LVP this week, I’m giving it to McCoy. Yes, his hookup with Secretary Wing is, against all odds, tastefully executed and somehow not nearly as gross as it should be. Still: is this really a good time? The Patrian situation is extremely volatile. He could be needed at any time to tend to injured innocent parties. Imagine how hard he’d have gotten read the riot act if he’d been doing the space nasty while civilians were getting mowed down. Perhaps get your rocks off during a less … urgent mission, sir? Oh no, I just imagined how that hotel room smells, brb while I barf up literally all of my vital organs.1

Nuggets & Stray Bits

  • Given that this is numbered TOS novel #69, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not take the time to say this: Nice.
  • Cover Art Corner: Looks like we’ve got some reused assets! That’s the same picture of Kirk that appears on the box art for Star Trek: Judgment Rites, making him the second box-art star from that game to make an identical appearance on a book cover.2 Also, the Patrian shown here looks like a reptilian re-imagining of Ruk from “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, which caused me to read every Patrian character’s dialogue in Ted Cassidy’s voice.
  • “It was a cacophony of sights and smells and sounds, reminiscent of some of the Federation’s wildest and most wide-open cities, such as Bangkok, Bradbury City, New York, and Elysium.” — Bradbury City is a cool name, but it got me thinking: how often are new cities actually founded? I feel like there have been no new cities in my lifetime, although that can’t possibly be true. There have definitely been new countries; I think Chechnya happened not that long ago in the big scheme of things. Also, South Sudan? Clearly, geography is not my strong suit. Although now that I reread that sentence, it doesn’t necessarily say Bradbury City is on Earth—just in the Federation. (p. 80)
  • Spock talks about several Terran blood sports, including kumite, and mentions that boxing remains popular. So if you’re keeping score at home: punching people in the face is still hot in the 23rd century, while hitting a ball with a stick is not. (p. 82)
  • So we’ve looked today at The Patrian Transgression, but YOU would be committing a Patreon transgression if you didn’t support this site on Patreon, by giving just one dollar a month to help me purchase the books and keep the site going! There. I believe that’s what is known as a [puts on bifocals, checks notes] “call to action”. Very subtle, I thought.

Final Recommendation

I recommend The Patrian Transgression. This is the kind of book where you can tell the author gave a great deal of thought to a very intricate situation, and the effort paid off. Some expectations regarding common Trek tropes are nimbly subverted, and the book overall shows an above-average competence. It probably won’t change your life like Anjor’s rodent steak, but it’s definitely well worth reading.

NEXT TIME: Jake and Nog bum a ride to Bajor in Stowaways

Previous

#129: The Star Ghost (DS9-YA #1)

Next

#131: Stowaways (DS9-YA #2)

7 Comments

  1. Adam Goss

    Dude, can ya tone down the talk of how “nasty” McCoy’s age is? The character/actor was in his upper 40s and there are PLENTY of relationships with men in that age range and a younger woman. I never thought I’d use the “a” word, but you’re being kind of ageist here.

    • Adam

      Yep. I’m 47 and my wife is 29. She was actually a former student of mine (who didn’t come on too strong, but made it clear she would like to grab a drink sometime). Believe me when I say single men in their 40s get flirted with quite a bit by P.Y.T.s in their 20s. …that is, if the men are at least somewhat decent looking, fairly fit, and have fun personalities. And “wrinkly” crow’s feet has never seemed to matter.

      I’m honestly not trying to brag, but I’ve had at least one female student come onto me every year that I’ve been teaching at the university level … and that’s been about 9 years. (I just got married this year.) While I’d never hooked up with a former student until now, I have absolutely dated younger grad students in their 20s. And I’ve never gotten odd stares or faced any kind of judgments.

      But, yet again, I’m not surprised at Jess’s puritanical living-in-an-echo-chamber Leftist leanings. What does surprise me, however, is the fact he begs for money while making such accusatory, judgmental claims against the very people who would like to simply enjoy his reviews without all of the continuous uninformed political baggage. Well, good luck with that.

      • jess

        @the non-Goss Adam: You always accuse me of being in some leftist echo chamber, but it sure sounds an awful lot like you’d much prefer a site closer to how you lean politically. In which case I have to ask, why do you keep coming here? Is your love of Star Trek enough to override the fact that every other review I write manages to get your dander up somehow? Do you think you occupy some kind of moral high ground because giving your clicks to a website whose author you disagree with on fundamental philosophical grounds allows you to say you’re not doing the thing you accuse me of? Regardless, the echo chamber accusation is instantly disproven by the fact that I choose not to put you on post approval. But whatever.

        That bit where I “beg for money” is cute too. I almost never bring up the Patreon. This once, I spotted some potential for wordplay and took an opportunity to riff on it. Nothing more complicated than that. No one is forced to contribute. And even if no one gave, I’d find a way to fund it because I love doing it that much. But thanks for your judgment.

        I’ve told you this multiple times: I am who I am, warts and all. And while I’ll listen to good-faith criticisms like what the other Adam put out there and take them to heart, I’ll be damned if I kowtow to anyone who thinks it’s okay to call me names. If that goes on much longer, I will gladly show you the door.

        • Adam

          “You always accuse me of being in some leftist echo chamber, but it sure sounds an awful lot like you’d much prefer a site closer to how you lean politically.”

          Nope. But reading about how the “male gaze” is problematic, McCoy’s age is gross, thinking about sex is gross, Trump supporters are delusional, Romulans using wrong pronouns for Data is so “un-woke”…? It gets real old, real fast. At first, I just rode it out because I figured, “hey, humor.” But then it got to be “oh wait, this is this guy’s real deal.”

          Now I don’t mind listening to people from the other side of the aisle (although, to be fair, I’ve always considered myself more of a moderate with slight right leanings), but it’s definitely not cool when you feel like you’re really not welcome … you know, for holding the wrong opinions.

          Note this is the first time I mentioned you seem to be living in an echo chamber. I only pointed it out because it seems your objectivity and ability to see both sides of an issue are sparse; these reviews – when mixed with social/political commentary – are laced with talking points from one side only. There’s never even the caveat of “you do have to take it into consideration that this was written in 19xx” or “I’m sure others might have a differing view, but in this reviewer’s opinion…”

          Again, if you wished to engage outside of this proposed bubble, you might have responded to even one of my many good-faith criticisms in the past. Yet this doesn’t ever seem to happen … that is, until I leave negative feedback.

          “Why do you keep coming here? Is your love of Star Trek enough to override the fact that every other review I write manages to get your dander up somehow? Do you think you occupy some kind of moral high ground because giving your clicks to a website whose author you disagree with on fundamental philosophical grounds allows you to say you’re not doing the thing you accuse me of?”

          Yeah, I keep coming back because I love Star Trek. And I love Star Trek novels. And I’ve been reading them since I was 12 years old (back in 1984). And, for the most part, I really quite like your reviews. Guess all that praise I’ve heaped upon you must have passed you right by…

          Any reviewer needs to know his/her readers are not always going to agree with his/her points and opinions. Yet you seem extremely defensive this time – the first time I’ve actively attacked what I deem to be callous behavior that comes across as off-putting and offensive.

          Again, I’d just ask that you please tone down the virtue signaling and, especially, the attacks. Often, your posturing really gets in the way of what I know would be a much better review.

          “Regardless, the echo chamber accusation is instantly disproven by the fact that I choose not to put you on post approval. But whatever.”

          And yet, you end your reply with “I will gladly show you the door” because I called you names? You mean, the snarky, yet accurate description of your Left leanings that permeate your blog? As well as your judgmental attitudes toward sex, thoughts of sex, and age differences between two consenting adults considering engaging in sex? I am honestly not sure where the “name calling” has come in here. Would you honestly not describe yourself as somewhat “puritanical” and “Left leaning?”

          If it’s the echo chamber remark, then I guess I get it. It was definitely snark on my part, but built upon – once more – a pattern of behavior and what some might deem writing tics. You tend to lean on the “wokeness,” whether it’s gag or not, in order to make sure your audience smells the spoiled milk in every other book. And, you know, no responses to prior good-faith criticisms. And, hey, no objectivity.

          Also, I would point you toward your review for “Descent.” Your remarks on those who voted – or will vote – for the current Commander-in-Chief read as really ill-informed attacks. You would think someone who puts as much thought into these Star Trek reviews would put a bit more thought into the real reasons half of the American population (and probably a majority there in Texas) think differently than you.

          I’ll admit I probably deserve to be called out on the “begging for money” bit.

    • jess

      Okay, I’ll cop to that; it is one of the “isms” I’m more prone to. McCoy always reads much older to me, like around 60. But I guess if he’s 137 in “Encounter in Farpoint”, and TNG takes place ~95 years after TOS, then he’s roughly early-40s during the 5YM? So it isn’t totally the May-December thing the snide jokes made it out to be. But I’ll make a note of it and do better.

      • Adam Goss

        McCoy as being that older is certainly true for the movies.

        • Adam

          Yes, but it doesn’t seem Kirk and McCoy are really that sexually active by the time of the films.

          Chris Claremont made a subtle insinuation that Gillian Taylor and Kirk were, let’s say, boyfriend and girlfriend in his graphic novel “Debt of Honor.” And Shatner, himself, definitely injected sex into his Shatnerverse novels. But, yeah, I kinda see Kirk and Bones as being less likely to engage in casual dalliances in their 50s and 60s and 70s or however old McCoy was at that point… Ha.

Leave a Reply to Adam Goss Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén