Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 2012: Haynes "Klingon Bird-of-Prey Owners' Workshop Manual"

The Bird-of-Prey is the classic Klingon starship—a tough raiding and scouting vessel that has served at the heart of the Klingon Defense Force for more than a hundred years. Life on board is harsh and brutal, with any sign of weakness leading to a challenge to the death. The ship itself is stripped back and lean, with everything designed for a single purpose—war. 

This Haynes Manual traces the origins of a Bird-of-Prey from the moment it is commissioned by one of the Great Houses and constructed at the shipyards of the Klingon Naval Academy. It then proceeds to examine General Martok’s famous ship the I.K.S. Rotarran in unprecedented detail. 

Featuring a stunning cutaway drawing and, for the first time ever, detailed deck plans and incredible new computer-generated artwork, the Haynes Bird-of-Prey Manual is a technical tour of the ship’s systems, from the bridge and engineering rooms to the disruptors, torpedo launcher, and the all-important cloaking device. In addition, the Manual provides a unique insight into life on board a Klingon ship and the Rotarran’s glorious history in the Dominion War.

by Rick Sternbach and Ben Robinson
Hardcover - 119 pages (full color)
Haynes and Gallery Books - November 2012 - $28.00
Two years after Haynes' release of its first Star Trek themed book, dedicated to the various incarnations of the USS Enterprise, the publisher of automotive self-help books is back with another stab at an iconic Star Trek vessel, this time the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. In my review of the Enterprise manual, I stated: "... the Haynes manual glosses over the technical material in the guise of a historical recollection of what made each vessel unique... The “U.S.S. Enterprise Owners’ Workshop Manual” feels more like a middle-school history book written ten to fifteen years after the conclusion of the Next Generation movies". Having taken a few moments to look back at the Enterprise manual, I stand by that criticism and can tell you that the latest Haynes offering is a vastly superior offering for fans of Star Trek technical goodness.
Hope somebody loaned Riker a copy of this book.

After a foreword written by J.G. Hertzler (under the makeup of General Martok), the book is broken down into several sections: Commissioning a Bird-of-Prey, background on the I.K.S. Rotarran (Martok's ship from DS9), Weapons and Defensive Systems, Propulsion and Navigation, Ship's Systems, Life on Board, and a Fleet Comparison. Each section dedicates just enough space to basic and, sometimes, more advanced information on the bird-of-prey, that it feels like the kind of book (er, file?) that might have been given to Commander Riker before he took his posting as XO through the officer exchange program.
The commissioning section dedicates a surprisingly hefty amount of space to the odds and ends of Klingon fleet management, starship construction processes, and how the political and feudal lines of the Empire manage to intertwine in the development and deployment of new Klingon vessels. To be honest, this section alone makes the manual more than worth its asking price.
Quite possibly the best section of the book begins here.
The system breakdowns featured in the book are interesting and are far more engagingly written than we saw in 2010's effort, quite possibly because Klingon cultural, philosophical, and biological background is weaved into the ethics of starship design. While occasionally bordering on the repetitive, Sternbach and Robinson make it clear that design redundancy is one outstanding feature of Klingon design, and it is borrowed directly from the resiliency of Klingon physiology.
High quality original artwork and well written information combine
to make this manual superior to Haynes' 2010 effort.
Compiling together much of what we have observed in televised Star Trek, the Life on Board section serves to give a unified feeling to what we have observed on film, and gives equally logical and expansive detail on the way that ships, at least of the Bird-of-Prey type, are staffed.
The fleet comparisons are interesting - devoting a page each to several different Klingon ships that have been glimpsed on-screen, from Enterprise through Deep Space Nine. There is nothing terribly spectacular in the section - though the section dedicated to discussing the Negh'Var class provides some interesting exploration of the leadership styles and personal practices of Gowron and Martok.
Ships of the Star Fleet was, quite possibly,
the high-water mark of Star Trek technical work.
This manual happily captures much of its spirit.
The central portion - dedicated to a deck by deck breakdown of the typical Bird-of-Prey is well done, and stands in the tradition of nearly any strong blueprint of a starship. It reminds me most directly of the deck and system displays of the Belknap-class striker cruiser from the early 1990's edition of "Ships of the Star Fleet" published by Mastercom Data Center. Those of us who were heavily involved in Trek technical stuff back in those days were often held in awe by the work of the team that put together that series, and it is absolutely a joy to behold something that feels like a bit of a hearkening back to that era.
There are a few minor issues with the manual - and those who have read my review on the Enterprise manual will probably recognize them immediately. While much of the artwork is new and amazing, the screencaps - which are of varying quality - continue to detract from the sense of immersion that one wishes to have when reading a genuine technical manual. Even the great ones, such as the nice photo of the refit Enterprise and Kruge's vessel squaring off over Genesis detract somewhat from the feeling of realism when one remembers that nobody else was present to image the events.
So, while the issue of screen-grab imagery remains a sore point in this outing, everything else about the Haynes Bird-of-Prey effort is absolutely astounding... a far more satisfying book than its predecessor, and definitely worth the price of purchase.

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