Book Report: My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane (1984)

Well, I hadn’t been in much mood to read for a number of days, which explains why it’s taken my 10 days to complete another book not written by Tolstoy or Hugo. Instead, to get myself back into the game, I picked up one of the Star Trek novels I bought at some time in the past en masse; the others include the novelizations of the first few movies.

Now, I’m not the Star Trek book guy, so this was my first dose of that part of the canon (the Blish short stories based on the series episodes are a different thing entirely; see also Star Trek 5, Star Trek 6, and Star Trek 10 among others).

The book was written after the first and second series (I count TAS!) had ended, the first two films were released, and appeared about the same time as the third movie; ergo, it’s historical in its canon. Since it’s a book and has no special effects budget, we get a lot of alien races serving on Federation starships and some descriptions of them. We also get insight into the Romulan way (a sequel to this book, I assume, is called that).

But the main thrust of the book is like a television episode with a lot of exposition. The first half of the book details the plot: a Romulan commander, exiled for unpopular views, is set to die in a mission that will foment a Klingon-Federation War. She learns of the existence of a secret Romulan plan to give Romulans the same mentalist abilities that Vulcans have and knows that this will destroy not only the Federation, but the soul of the Romulan empire. She convinces Kirk, on patrol in the Neutral Zone, to act as though she’s taken the Enterprise prisoner so they can go to the research facility and destroy it to save the universe.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, but in the last 80 pages, they do. It reads like a filmography and relies on the normal tricks of the showm pseudo deus ex machina and timely reversals, to climax and then a film-friendly denoument.

I mean, it’s not a bad book, but it’s not high art; one wonders if the authors of these books write these like movies in hopes of getting the extra dough out of having a movie adapted from it or if that’s just the way they imagine the stories. Or maybe I’m generalizing based on a single data point.

I’ll read the rest of what I’ve got and won’t purposefully avoid the series, but jeez, lots of tentacles and an awful lot of characters laughing uproariously at only partially humorous lines don’t compel me to read more right away.

Books mentioned in this review:


8 thoughts on “Book Report: My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane (1984)

  1. …I mean, it’s not a bad book, but it’s not high art…

    Nope. But no one expects it to be. Certainly not the writer. Especially, not for what the writer usually gets paid. (wry look)

    …one wonders if the authors of these books write these like movies in hopes of getting the extra dough out of having a movie adapted from it… Or maybe I’m generalizing based on a single data point.

    Yeah, I’d say you are. But you wouldn’t be the first.

    If you look at the copyright notice in a Trek novel, you’ll see that it’s not in the writer’s name: it’s in Paramount’s. A Star Trek novel is a “work for hire”: the writer does the work for a flat fee and a negotiated royalty (if they’re lucky), but otherwise retains no rights in the work. So a Trek novel could be made into any number of movies and the writer would never, ever see a dime.

    However, another factor is at work here. There is an inescapable pecking order in the mass media. Movies beat TV: TV beats music: music beats print. (And this goes on down through several more layers, but never mind that right now.) A writer for a Trek film gets a big, fat payment for the script… and therefore sets out to prove himself / herself absolutely unique and irreplaceable. The very last thing any newly hired Trek screen scenarist would do is go to a novel, or propose going to one, for a storyline. To Paramount, the novels are a marketing object, nothing more — like plastic phasers or character action figures. No one in the “upper” creative echelons would ever seriously consider one as a source of story.

    …or if that’s just the way they imagine the stories.

    Could be. :)

  2. Thanks for leaving off “snarky bloggers with unsold manuscripts lying about” from the pecking order; I’d hate to see how far down we fall.

    It must be gratifying to see, 23 years after publication, that people are still reading and commenting on the work.

    Thanks for the insight into the work-for-hire process within the commercial property world, too. Some of my favorite authors are dedicated professionals and not dilettantes who write a couple of books that appeal to Oprah and academics.

    That said, I’ve mentioned in other posts that I have a couple of Star Trek books on my to-read shelves, mostly movie adaptations and a Shatner-named effort. I won’t dodge your books in the future if I can find them available very cheaply (no knock on you, but I tend to do book fairs and garage sales for my reading).

  3. Thanks for leaving off “snarky bloggers with unsold manuscripts lying about” from the pecking order; I’d hate to see how far down we fall.

    (chuckle) I too descend into snark occasionally, so I have no stones to throw in that regard. As for unsold manuscripts, that’s where we all start. But some of us get lucky, or wear down the system by sheer persistence.

    I won’t dodge your books in the future if I can find them available very cheaply (no knock on you, but I tend to do book fairs and garage sales for my reading).

    And why wouldn’t you? My idea of Heaven is to be turned loose in Used Book City (Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh borders: fourteen used bookstores in one town, one of them occupying all of Hay Castle…) with a bottomless checkbook. Last time P. and I went through there we damn near broke the suspension on the Volvo on the way home, it was so overloaded with books. :)

  4. Okay, I have a couple of questions for you:

    1. How much direction did you get on My Enemy, My Ally as far as the socio-political story behind the Romulans and so on, and how much of it was pretty much your invention? In 1984, how much canon was there to guide you?

    2. So how big is your library, then? I have some 1200 books cataloged and probably that many uncataloged; my wife has about 1600, I estimate, so we’re at about 3500-4000 volumes, but we’re young and have really been hitting the book fairs and whatnot this last year, as my Good Book Hunting posts attest. Although I’m on a pace to read about 115-120 books this year, I’ve too easily acquired that many this year in unfortunately broad spectra of genres and subject matter.

  5. …How much direction did you get on My Enemy, My Ally as far as the socio-political story behind the Romulans and so on, and how much of it was pretty much your invention? In 1984, how much canon was there to guide you?

    Not a whole lot. The original-series episodes with Romulans in them: that was it.

    As regards direction, there wasn’t any (except the inferred requirement that I source whatever I invented as logically as I could from canon, and that was what I was interested in doing anyway). Originally I came to Pocket with the suggestion that they/I do a Romulan dictionary to companion the Klingon one. The response was that at that point the Klingon one wasn’t selling particularly well: but if I wanted to do a Romulan-based novel, that would be welcome. I said, “Can I invent the culture?” and the answer was “Sure, knock yourself out.” So I did. The question I asked myself while doing so was one that psychiatric nurses (as I had been until I started writing full time) frequently ask themselves about their patients in the attempt to figure out what makes them tick — but tweaked a little to suit the situation: “How do you raise a species so that it turns out like this?” And I spent the rest of the book (and to a lesser extent half of The Romulan Way) answering the question.

    As regards the sociopolitical stuff — all that was my invention, and if it serves the story and the characters, well… :) I’m not primarily a political animal, but I do keep my eyes open, this being (I think) the best way to avoid falling in a hole.

    So how big is your library, then?

    Oh God. Our house is very small, so about three quarters of the collection is in storage. Between my husband and myself, the unified collection probably totals about 8000 volumes and change. It’s been so long since we took a count… We both have libraries with extensive sections in legend and mythology and comparative religion and so forth…the usual reference books, a whole lot of them, widely-ranging…history, politics, sociology… and then the libraries start to diversify. I have a lot of medical and nursing books, gardening stuff, bio: he has a lot of weapons info, militaria, etc (he collects swords and consults on militaria for museums and so forth, besides wanting the references for his own writing). And then there’s the fiction. And then there are the fifteen hundred cookbooks, some of which feed material to our food site at European Cuisines.

    I really have to make a start on cataloguing all this. It would also help to have a bigger house. :)

  6. My wife and I moved to a larger house a year ago, and we got a couple more bookshelves; however, the library began to expand quickly once we did. We go to book fairs and sales almost weekly, so it’s not uncommon for me to come home with 30-40 books on a weekend; considering that I’m only on a pace for 120 books read this year, I am quite getting ahead of myself.

    So how voraciously do you read? And what do you read for pleasure? I’ve found that I’ve gone through a cycle, almost, over the last two years; I read about 75% nonfiction last year and about 75% fiction this year. I have also determined that I don’t have enough reference material here for practical matters and science–I read Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold earlier this year, and that might have impacted my thinking as well as realizing that I couldn’t identify many trees by their leaves for my son and realizing that I don’t have any reference material to, well, refer to here. Most of my nonfiction runs to history, philosophy, political science, and higher order things, but not the things that impress children.

  7. Brian failed to mention our son, who’s 17 months, already has two bookshelves (filled). So add another couple hundred books; children’s books are quite thin!

    hln

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