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Old February 6 2011, 11:14 AM   #1
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Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Possible Spoilers Ahead.

I had bought Debtors' Planet from Half Price Books about a year and a half ago, if not longer, and I remember reading it then, but it didn't really register with me. I rediscovered it whilst cleaning my room, and figured that I should re-read it (I managed to get all those damn staff reports and minutes taken care of, and will be working on my homework during the Super Bowl).

Anyway, the plot isn't too bad. Summary: A planet, Megara, is discovered to have gone from pre-industrial level to 23rd-century technology level due to the Ferengi (who are used as something of a cat's paw) causing rapid changes to the society, for starters by helping a minor leader conquer the whole planet, then signing a "contract" with said leader, and exploiting the population. The Enterprise-D picks up an Ambassador (hey look, it's the annoying financial guy from the episode [i]The Neutral Zone!) and is assigned to figure out what's going on, and to somehow stop it.

However, once you start getting into it, a few things might throw you off (as they did me). For one thing, W.R. Thompson (the author) gets very anvilicious at times. Granted, the Ferengi are supposed to be like 20th/21st century humans. I get that. However, the "insults" that Ferengi use (surprise! They're all monetary and commercial and banking references. Like "You overdraft on the great checking account of life" or "You badly-written penalty clause") get old after a while. And, yes, we get it. Capitalism Is Bad. Greed Is Bad. The Federation Is Not Like That. The Federation Is Advanced. We Should Look Down Upon Those Who Live Like That. And, in the case of the Wesley/Shrev subplot (quickly: Wesley becomes friends with Ensign Shrev, a member of the Zhuik species. The Zhuik are ultra-polite, insectoid, and kill rude beings. Because they are more susceptible to genetic issues and the like, and because apparently their species is eternally in danger, they kill "mutants" and those with genetic problems, and rude people (because rudeness is a symptom of a genetic problem). For example, during a holodeck session, Wesley watches as Shrev kills another member of her own species because she asked for directions. When pressed, Shrev reveals that Zhuik have built-in navigation systems, and that the inability to ascertain where you are is a sign of, yeah, a genetic problem. Wesley at first is surprised, but then gets over it) the lesson is We Must Be Understanding and Accepting of Other Cultures' Mores and Rituals and The Like. None of those messages or lessons is necessarily bad. But they get hammered home on almost every other page. There are a few "Take That!" moments as well. Apparently, we 20th and 21st century humans come across as a flanderization of ourselves in the 24th century.

Next thing that threw me off is the Megarans. They talk like Yoda, first of all. It's not too bad at first, but after a while you want to go "Really?" And, for a story based around their planet going from Medieval to 23rd century, they don't really figure too highly, and certainly not as the "xenophobic killers" they are presented as in the book summary on the back cover.

We get to the ambassador now. Ralph Offenhouse (the financier from The Neutral Zone, and who has also appeared in the Khan books by Greg Cox, and in later books as Bacco's Secretary of Commerce) is a Big Deal in this book. But he comes across as weird. He's big and loud and demanding one minute, the next he's moping or thinking about his dead son. But, other than that, he's an interesting character.

There are quite a few ridiculous occurrences in the book, and here are a few:

-During a scene where Picard and Offenhouse are held captive, it turns out that the brim of the tophat that Offenhouse was wearing as part of this ridiculous outfit for a formal dinner is actually a saw, and is used to cut out the bars of the cell and help them escape. Further, he also happens to have a device that interferes with the Cardassian ship that is tracking him in the medal pinned to his chest. As Picard observed "That's hardly standard dress for modern diplomats, Mister Ambassador." Quick note: The Ambassador, who was originally from the 20th century, is far more prepared for any unforeseen occurrences than the experienced Starfleet captain.

-Wesley manages to hack into classified documents and information about the mission the Enterprise is undertaking, and no one even bothers to pretend to reprimand him. Further, Ensign Shrev does the same thing, with the same result. The two are even asked for their opinions and observations on the mission. It's treated as a casual thing, a sort of "Oh, That's Our Wesley and Friend!" moment.

-Apparently, the home planet of the Ferengi in this book is Ferengal, and "Federation Intelligence" (I shan't even say the word oxymor-) has "an insight" or something into the Ferengi financial information.

-The Cardassians are hoping to use Megara as a way to attack the Federation without the Federation attacking the Cardassians. Also, the Cardassians that are stationed on the planet are going off of a decade-old plan and playbook, and never contact their superiors or deviate at all.

-Riker's appreciation of the Klingon culture goes to ridiculous levels, such as him eating a Klingon dish that Dr. Crusher had specifically warned him was dangerous. "Bring on the second course!" he says.

-Alexander comes across a bit like Wesley, in that he's super-smart and helping Geordi create a cloaking device detector. Oh, and he's tormenting his dad by taking nightly baths.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Oy vey.
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Old February 6 2011, 05:03 PM   #2
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Valeris wrote: View Post
-Apparently, the home planet of the Ferengi in this book is Ferengal
That's because it came out about a year before the name "Ferenginar" was coined in DS9.
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Old February 6 2011, 05:47 PM   #3
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Wait, how are Wesley and Alexander on the ship at the same time?
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Old February 6 2011, 05:48 PM   #4
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Shon T'Hara wrote: View Post
Wait, how are Wesley and Alexander on the ship at the same time?
Wes is visiting.
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Old February 6 2011, 05:48 PM   #5
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

I think Wes is back on a temporary field assignment or something, like in "The Game." Though I'm going by a vague memory there. (Edit: Never mind, just beaten to it.)
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Old February 7 2011, 08:51 AM   #6
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Going out of the way to include Wesley, plus Alexander? *shudder*
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Old February 7 2011, 01:13 PM   #7
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

I've completely and totally finished the book now, and here are a few more things:

-Oh Picard, Your Prejudice Is Showing. The whole "anti-20th century" sentiment is still going strong. Spoilers still ahead, probably.

(Really quickly, because it's important to understanding Offenhouse's motivations: He was one of the people who helped supply much of the financial backing and equipment to Project Chrysalis...you know, the group responsible for creating Khan Noonien Singh and the other Augments. He's still guilty about this role, calling himself Khan's Godfather, and is even more upset about it because his son died in a key battle of the Eugenics War).

After Picard has dealt with the Ferengi (who, by the way, are most assuredly not liked by the Megarans for completely shtuping their planet and society) and the Cardassians, Ambassador Offenhouse is concerned that, if the Megarans see the Enterprise crew assisting their former overlords, the already strong anti-foreigner sentiment may spill over even more and make his job harder. At one point he orders Picard to beam the Ferengi back down to the planet (it is important to note that at this point quite a few have already been, and I quote directly, lynched, with the strong possibility of it happening again.) Picard goes all noble and stuff. He won't beam the Ferengi back down to the planet, but he also won't do an orbital strike on these shipyard facilities where the Ferengi and Cardassians have built several starships (the equivalent to Constellation-class vessels but when they were brand new) just because the Megarans might cause trouble. (Let's leave the fact that earlier he was incredibly concerned to the point of worrying about Federation security about the fact that many Megarans have been flash-imprinted with the skills and knowledge to operate those starships, and have been conditioned to act like pirates). Offenhouse puts forward that it would be "justice", considering all the damage the Ferengi have caused. Picard still says no, and so Offenhouse goes away, explaining to this Megaran female about his mistakes and all the Khan stuff.

Picard, watching him walk away, and knowing all of the backstory, says the following (direct quote):

Picard leaned back in his chair. It's too much to expect that man to serve justice, he thought sadly. Offenhouse's first impulse had been to throw away the lives of the Ferengi in the name of expediency. For all his intelligence, the ambassador was a product of the twentieth century, and justice had not been a concern of that era.
Apart from being a horribly inaccurate analysis of the situation, it wasn't even a necessary addition to the story. I mean, it's getting to the point where Picard's attitude is starting to come across as the "24th century Man's Burden".

-Shrev's whole "politeness" aspect gets really grating after awhile. There's one point where she spends a paragraph about how dishonorable it is to use a phaser...because it kills at a distance and you can't apologize or identify yourself to your opponent. (Quote: "That was the way most mammalian races fought, and their anonymous style of combat often had led to millions of anonymous dead.")

-There's a point where Picard and Offenhouse are captured, and the Enterprise crew sends Worf and an away team to rescue them. There's some fighting going on, and eventually they get beamed up. Worf is outraged and demands to be beamed back down (so he can fight and possibly kill even more bad guys than he has already...with a mace that Wesley bought for him). Picard allows it to happen, and then proceeds to get a status update, like it's no big deal that his security chief asks to beam back down in the middle of hostiles alone, with a mace.

-Riker's whole Klingon affinity rises to this obsessive fetish. He's described as "adopting the commanding slouch of a Klingon commanding officer" when confronting the head Ferengi, and makes demands and barks orders to him...like a Klingon. He's even described as making a "Klingon chuckle". And he and Worf have several "Klingon bromance" moments which are awkward (for the reader) and unnecessary.

-Alexander comes across like a mini-Wesley, helping Geordi to develop a device that detects cloaked vessels, and is often, through an offhand comment he makes, the source for a sudden bit of inspiration Geordi has. Worf is often proud of him, even though he bathes. Oh, and Alexander swings back and forth from being Klingon-like in attitude, to "being himself", like mood swings. This provides Worf with a chance to go on for a paragraph about how he has finally realized (thanks to Deanna) that Alexander...should just be Alexander.

-Near the end of the book, when Picard and Offenhosue are talking (Offenhouse is going to stay on Megara to help ensure the Ferengi help rebuild and develop the planet properly), Picard wonders why the Ferengi is so afraid of the leader of Megara, whom he helped install, and who is now the real person in charge. It turns out that at one point in the book, the Ferengi had raped her.

Yes, that's right. The Ferengi who was formerly in charge raped the leader of Megara in her own bedroom in her castle, and now has to work for her to fix the planet.

Here's the exchange that precedes and follows this revelation:

"Now, would you explain why Chudak is so terrified of the Vo?"

"He raped her," Offenhouse said, slowly calming down. "Now the little space-sleazoid is scared stiff that Gatyn plans to get even - which she does. She's going to work his fanny off for the next thirty or forty years. I'm going to enjoy watching that," he added, glancing at his injured hand. [NOTE: Chudak, the Ferengi, had bitten Offenhouse's hand when he patted the Ferengi on the head]

"Thirty or forty years?" Picard repeated, nonplussed. "It sounds as though you're keeping the Ferengi as slaves."

"Who me?" Offenhouse affected an innocent look. "Picard, Chudak's contract says that he has to industrialize Megara, an that the Vo Gatyn decides when it's done-"

"And I doubt she'll ever feel satisfied," Picard said in suspicion. [You know, because she *and* her planet were raped and all.] "You suggested this arrangement, didn't you?"

"I wish I had, but Odovil and Gatyn worked on most of it," Offenhouse said. "Don't feel sorry for Chudak, Picard. [You know, the rapist.] That contract was meant as a sham; there's justice in making the Ferengi live up to its bargain."
That's it. No "Merde, he raped her?! That's awful." Not even a "Jeez, man...". No, Picard is worried about the Ferengi being treated like slaves. You know, enlightened 24th century people and all.
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Old February 7 2011, 01:15 PM   #8
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Christopher wrote: View Post
I think Wes is back on a temporary field assignment or something, like in "The Game." Though I'm going by a vague memory there. (Edit: Never mind, just beaten to it.)
I'm not totally sure when it happens, but this is definitely after The First Duty, because the events there are a big reason as to the way Wesley acts, and the rest of the Enterprise crew acts around him.
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Old February 7 2011, 01:18 PM   #9
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Well I thought it was a very funny book.
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Old February 7 2011, 01:24 PM   #10
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Certain parts of it were (the ridiculousness of Riker acting Klingon, the movie night, etc.) but there were some parts that just failed.
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Old February 7 2011, 05:53 PM   #11
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

Why exactly is Riker going all Klingon?
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Old February 7 2011, 05:55 PM   #12
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

EJA wrote: View Post
Why exactly is Riker going all Klingon?
I'm not even sure. It's kinda random. It's like somebody pushed a button somewhere on his body and put him into Ludicrous Mode.
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Old February 7 2011, 06:50 PM   #13
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

I haven't read the book in years, but I did deliberately reference it in my Eugenics Wars books . . . .
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Old February 7 2011, 06:50 PM   #14
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

OK, because I have to ask my obligatory off-topic language question...I'm going to assume "shtup" is Yiddish? I tried Googling it once before and couldn't make it come up. I love the sound of the word and now I have to know what exactly it means! (Obviously SOME form of "f up," but in what way? )
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Old February 7 2011, 06:54 PM   #15
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Re: Debtors' Planet... *shakes head*

^It's a Yiddish word that literally means to push, but is also a slang word meaning to copulate.
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