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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual
Herman Zimmerman, Rick Sternbach, Doug Drexler
Pocket Books, 178 pages

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual
Herman Zimmerman, Rick Sternbach, Doug Drexler
Herman Zimmerman is the production designer of record for the Star Trek properties which puts together both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine TV series. He was the production designer on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek: Generations, and Star Trek: First Contact. Rick Sternbach was a technical advisor for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Doug Drexler is an illustrator, collaborating on this book and a number of other Star Trek technical manuals.

Rick Sternbach Website

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A review by Greg L. Johnson

Star Trek is now one of the defining elements of the science fiction universe. Trek fans make up a sizeable, highly visible part of fandom. For many casual observers, Star Trek and several other movies and television shows are what they mean when they think of "science fiction". Myself, I think that when compared to written SF, Star Trek is most like the science fiction of the 40s and 50s, especially in terms of characterization and level of sophistication of the science and technology. This is not all bad, I think the original series had a couple outstanding episodes and several good ones. I think the Next Generation had a couple very good seasons and several other excellent episodes. I think Deep Space Nine is, from beginning to approaching end, the most consistently good of all the Treks. I'd take a shot at Voyager, but I don't know anyone who watches it.

The Deep Space Nine Technical Manual is one of those kinds of works that hang around the edges of science fiction, forcing us to make decisions about whether or not they fit in. It's not fiction, yet it is definitely a work of the imagination, an imagination that portrays itself as the "real" facts behind a space station that is itself part of a fictional universe. An armchair psychiatrist might see the whole thing as an obsessive withdrawal from reality. A literary critic might dismiss it as simply irrelevant to a tradition that values the use of imagination to create human personalities over the creation of imaginary landscapes.

Which means they miss out on all the fun. It's the same kind of enjoyment that is to be had from reading the appendices after finishing the Lord of the Rings. It's not necessary to read the behind the scenes minutia to enjoy either the Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek, but there is a certain fascination in discovering the details of a well-imagined world. The amount of work in evidence suggests that creating a detailed, believable world takes every bit as much effort as creating a well-rounded, realistic character.

Writers working in the Star Trek universe, whether pros submitting novels or fans exchanging stories, will find much useful information in the technical manual. Explanations of waste management techniques appear alongside detailed drawings of Bajoran, Klingon, and Dominion vessels, along with occasional notes like the observation that in Deep Space Nine's original orbit, the Commander's Office was always situated so as to be looking towards Cardassia. There are story ideas hidden among the nuts and bolts of the manual's entries.

There aren't a lot of well developed standards for judging a work like the Deep Space Nine Technical Manual. The graphics are good and the whole package stays true to the Star Trek mythos. Indeed, much of the manual is written in the style of a report on how DS9 was re-furbished when the Federation took over from Cardassia. The result is to let you see how Federation technology actually works in practice, it's not just a recitation of specifications of weapons and control systems. It's clear the Technical Manual is far too detailed to have been written just for a paycheck, this is a project of people who love what they're doing. That's as good a reason as any to read, use, and enjoy this book.

Copyright © 1999 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson is still wondering what he did with that copy of Galaxy containing Benny Russell's last story. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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