Friday, October 1, 2010

October 2010: "U.S.S. Enterprise Owner's Workshop Manual"

With the new Haynes "Klingon Bird-of-Prey Owners' Workshop Manual" hitting store shelves now, and our review copy in hand, the Trek Lit Report thought it would be a good time to look at the last foray into the Star Trek universe, the "U.S.S. Enterprise Owners’ Workshop Manual". By the time you study this book, you’ll not only know the difference between a phase inducer and a plasma phase regulator, but you’ll know how to perform preventative and emergency maintenance on both… right?

Ben Robinson and Marcus Riley
Technical Consultant Michael Okuda
Gallery Books – November 2010
Hardcover, 160 pages (w/ color illustrations) – $27.00

Visit just about any Star Trek message board, and you will inevitably find discussions that center around the technology of the Star Trek universe. One often heard fan discussion is the bemoaning over the lack of any new Trek technical manuals. Given Haynes’ history of detail in their automotive manuals, the announcement of their collaboration with Gallery Books for a "Enterprise Workshop Manual" gave fans optimism.

Visually the new “U.S.S. Enterprise Owners’ Workshop Manual” does not disappoint. The book provides a gorgeous layout rooted in the Next Generation style and it provides page after page of glorious color. The book, presented from an in-universe perspective, dedicates seven sections to different Enterprises: NX-01 (Enterprise), NCC-1701 (original Star Trek), the refit and the A (TOS movies), B (Generations), C (TNG), D (TNG), and E (TNG movies). There are also additional sections covering various types of Star Trek technology and science (like transporters or warp theory).

An example of the fine artwork in the manual.

All the other ships get detailed illustration images, with the greatest detail for the original Enterprise , and the Enterprise D and E. Some of the more interesting illustrations are related to the ships’ subsystems. However fans of the new Star Trek movie will be disappointed that the new U.S.S. Enterprise only gets a brief mention and stock photo in a section on alternative universes. It is particularly missed on the otherwise cool size comparison chart in the Appendix.

While the new cutaway drawings created for the manual and all of the new art are of high quality, some of the choices made by the writers and editors come across feeling like filler. Take, for example, pages 110-111, where two-thirds of both pages are dedicated to four images of the saucer separation sequence of a Galaxy class starship. Also the book contains a number of screenshots from the series, and many (particularly from the early seasons of TNG) are of poor quality.

Screen shots feel out of place in a technical manual.

Unfortunately the text that accompanies the illustrations doesn’t always match in quality. While providing a moderate-level examination of topics such as impulse engine technology, faster than light propulsion, transporter operations, and deflector shield technology, the remainder of the text is spent on providing either brief summaries of the missions of the various starships Enterprise, or on giving tours of the Enterprise which readers will, ultimately, wind up taking in their minds.

Far from the in-depth information given by Michael Okuda and Rick Sternbach in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual”, and with far less interest and imagination than the Franz Joseph “Star Fleet Technical Manual”, the Haynes manual glosses over the technical material in the guise of a historical recollection of what made each vessel unique. After reading the Okuda/Sternbach manual, one had the sensation that they had just finished a Starfleet Engineering Academy primer on starship engineering and operations. The original Star Trek technical manual, while answering few questions, made fans feel like they knew the inner workings of Starfleet technology. 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.

Your mileage may vary.
Ultimately, the choice of buying this book will rest upon the reader’s main desire – are technical diagrams and gorgeous pictures of ships the priority, or is one looking for detailed information on how to discern the difference between an EPS tap and a phaser control junction? Those looking for the latter will be disappointed. The Haynes U.S.S. Enterprise Owners’ Workshop Manual is a fine addition to your Star Trek reference bookshelf, but that elusive great new Star Trek technical manual is yet to come.

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