I devour a lot of romance novels. Most are urban/paranormal with strong female characters kicking butt and taking names against all manner of hell beast. In this case, the main male character supposedly speaks fluent Klingon. My interest was beyond piqued.
Not only am I romance novel devouring super geek, I’m a romance novel devouring super geek with a pretty singular skill set… and that skill set includes solid Klingon pronunciation as well as basic Klingon grammar skills and the knowledge to find what I need to make sentences that mostly make sense. This book was basically made for me and I was rooting for it like a lifelong Cubs fan keeps thinking “this is the year”**.
So here’s the description:
Faced with compliance of a ridiculous new Arizona law, by-the-book mental health care facility administrator Allyson Cunningham must find an interpreter who speaks a made-for-TV language. Prime candidate Donovan Marshall has the language skills she so desperately needs, but shows a disturbing disregard for all rules and restrictions. While Allyson struggles to secure another perfect rating for her facility, convince Donovan to conform and control her inappropriate attraction to an employee, Donovan makes it his prime directive to persuade starchy Ally it doesn’t hurt to break a few rules.
And that’s basically the book in a nutshell. Overall, it’s a just fine, nice romance story full of all the tropes you expect from a just fine, nice romance story. 30-year-old virgin getting deflowered by a Klingon speaking super nerd. Happy ending ala Harlequin. That’s all fine but my familiarity with the language put me in an awkward position as a reader.
First, there is author’s claim that there are “thousands” of people who speak Klingon. I have yet to meet any fluent Klingon speaker who would make that claim, even to impress a girl (and I do know a few). There are barely 50 people world-wide who speak Klingon fluently. It falls more in the 30-50 range. There are certainly lots more people who, like me, can parse sentences together with a copy of the Klingon Dictionary and are armed with enough grammar knowledge to do it kind of correctly but that’s still more like hundreds, not thousands. There is no way a hospital would ever need to staff a full-time translator for Klingon. They wouldn’t even need part-time. They’d need a reliable contractor at best.
My other issue stems from the lack of Klingon in the book. The main character and three side characters are supposedly fluent in the language and yet not even the most common phrases are uttered at the convention. In somewhere near the next to last chapter, we are finally given 2 small sentences and they are a complete grammatical nightmare. The spelling is wrong (capitalization matters), the sentence structure is a mess (Klingon is object-verb-subject), and the verb is missing a prefix (denotes who is doing what to whom). Despite mentioning the Klingon Language Institute, it is clear the author chose to not consult anyone on the language.
Ms. Hittle’s decision to go it alone with Klingon caused her to miss out on expanding her main character and side characters into more fully realized people. She also missed out on the inherent comedy in the language that could have then been shared with the other characters (and the readers). Klingon is a very pun-filled language that could have made for more amusing moments. Examples include<‘Iw> (pronounced “ew”) which means blood and <tIq> (pronounced “tick” like a ‘ticker’) means heart and those barely scratch the surface.
In a brief Twitter exchange with the author, it quickly became clear that she had a meet-cute idea and ran with it….
@jenusellis would you believe it just now crossed my mind that I should have run it past the folks at KLI? Hindsight and all…
— Arlene Hittle (@ArleneHittle) May 11, 2015
There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a good idea but executing that idea with great research in this modern era of eBooks is key. It’s a tight-knit but open-armed community when it comes to the Klingon language. The folks who are into it really are helpful if there’s a genuine effort being made. I actually don’t doubt the author’s sincerity to want to write a good story but, sadly, Arlene Hittle’s Breaking All The Rules takes an awesome nerdy meet-cute and fails to fully realize its promise or premise.
Want to embrace your inner warrior and learn a little Klingon? Start with the Klingon Word of the Day on Twitter! Want to take it a step further with pronunciation? Lieven Lietar provides a fantastic language lesson! Really want to dive in? Join the Klingon Language Institute for a modest fee and dive into the lessons!
Was I too hard on the author and should stop being such a nerd? Tell me in the comments!
**I’m a lifelong White Sox fan. Not sorry ’bout it.