Book Review: ‘Articles of the Federation’ by Keith R.A. DeCandido

February 1, 2022 at 8:03 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | 1 Comment
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Articles of the Federation is a Star Trek novel following the politics of President Nanietta Bacco. It was written by Keith R. A. DeCandido and released in June of 2005.

If you’ve ever read a review of this book, you’ll know that everyone equates this book with The West Wing. The West Wing is hands down my favorite television series of all time. This got my attention, as I am a HUGE West Wing fan (we call ourselves Wingnuts I believe?), and may or may not have watched the series all the way through 20+ times. So when I got this book, I wondered how accurate those reviews were.

They were all right. This is The West Wing in Star Trek. There were entire plotlines that I knew exactly which episodes they came from. There were even scenes where I knew which West Wing scene they came from. There were literally lines of dialogue that I knew where he borrowed them from (I told you, I’m a huge West Wing fan). Some people might view this as cheap, but I thought it was brilliant! To the casual fan, Keith is able to tell great stories. To the superfans, he is able to make amazing references.

As mentioned above, this is a big political book. If you don’t like politics in Star Trek, this may not be the book for you. Keith tells a wide variety of stories in this book, everything from First Contact stories to refugee stories to espionage/assassination stories to major council meetings. Trust me, this book is completely full of plotlines weaving in and out of each other. It is amazing that the book had such a manageable page count. 

President Bacco’s staff is structured very similarly to President Bartlet’s staff from The West Wing, which allows the author to spend very little time with exposition and go right into the stories themselves. This allows for an incredibly fast pace and a familiarity to the characters, even though many of them are original to this book.

If you’re a hardcore Trek fan, there is also plenty of references for you. I could barely keep up with all of the connections to Trek-Lit and to the greater Star Trek universe. I have just read Immortal Coil and there is the tiniest of references to that book on one of the pages here. DeCandido did his homework, both in universe and out of the universe.

I do have a few minor quibbles with the book. My largest issue is the tone and aggressive dialogue of the characters. It is totally understandable why DeCandido would choose to go in this direction, as he was inevitably trying to strike the lightning-in-a-bottle that Aaron Sorkin did. Unfortunately, some of the characters, particularly President Bacco and Jorel, sound rude, mean spirited, and downright cruel to their fellow politicians and even their own staff. Bacco threatens to “rip this podium out of the floor and beat you both to death with it” (Page 328 of the First Edition Paperback Version). That is only one of several such insults and threats that Bacco and Jorel make in this book. While witty, I bristled at this, because this is absolutely not how civilized people, in Star Trek or otherwise, talk to each other. I know which scenes in The West Wing DeCandido was trying to emulate, particularly with the character of Josh Lyman, but unfortunately it sounds childish in a universe where we are supposed to have evolved. I know I spent so long on that minor issue, but it did bother me.

Another issue I have with the book is not at all with the writing, but rather the marketing. If the Star Trek label was taken off, the audience would not even know that this was a Star Trek book at first glance. That made it hard to market to Star Trek fans. At the same time, the title is not one to inspire casual fiction readers to pick up, as it sounds like something one would read in a history class. Finally, the cover of this book does not convey the tone of the book well at all. One can discern from the cover that the woman in focus is a politician, but little is known about her. Her face is turned away from the picture and the room does not do enough to convey the necessary information. This would have been a hard book to sell anyway, and I believe that Simon and Shuster’s Pocket Division made several errors that handicapped the book’s sales. That cannot be blamed on Keith DeCandido’s writing style. 

If I can heap on more praise, this book deals with many political themes, as one might expect, but they aren’t as pointed or obvious as other authors in the Trek universe. The questions dealt with here have tons of nuance, and while it is obvious where the author’s political leanings lie, DeCandido is able to deftly present both sides of the argument. A true feat especially given the subject matter.

The largest compliment that I can give this book is that it made me want to revisit Star Trek episodes and The West Wing. It also made me wish that we had not only more books like this in the Star Trek universe, but also more books like this as regular political novels, not just action thrillers with a political overtone. 

Overall, I believe that this is one of the best Star Trek novels ever written, and certainly is up there as one of my favorites. Keith R. A. DeCandido certainly is proving himself to become one of my favorite Trek authors, a placement that is already highly competitive. I give Articles of the Federation a 5 out of 5. Awesome job Mr. DeCandido.

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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  1. […] There’s a very glowing review of my 2005 Star Trek novel Articles of the Federation over on Ro…, which was a great way to kick off my Tuesday….. […]

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