Thursday, 21 August 2014

Star Trek 11 - James Blish


Title: Star Trek 11
Author: James Blish
Published: 1975
Chronological Period: 2266 - 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 11” by James Blish is another of his collections of Original Series scripts adapted into short story form. The seven stories included in this collection are all from season one and are as follows:

What Are Little Girls Made of?
The Squire of Gothos
Wink Of an Eye
Bread and Circuses
Day of the Dove
Plato's Stepchildren

As seems to be the norm with Blish’s adaptations, they tend to succeed or fail to the same extent as the episodes themselves did. For example “The Squire of Gothos” was an episode I really enjoyed on the TV screen and I also found myself enjoying it here in this collection. Whereas “Bread and Circuses” rather silly Roman theme irritated me when I saw I first saw it and I quickly found myself feeling the exact same irritation here.

I won’t really go anymore into the various stories as most of you will know them anyway but my enjoyment of this collection was rather mixed. This probably shouldn’t be a surprise as several of these stories were taken from the rather weak third season. One positive is that Blish does capture all the episodes very well and I could easily visualise them all. Although this wasn’t really a surprise to me as his adaptations have always been competent and as this was his 11th collection he was fairly experienced at writing up the episodes and characters.

Overall, I do find myself repeating myself a lot when reviewing Blish’s collections but what is true for one of them is pretty much true for them all. Quite simply this novel was another competent attempt at capturing the Star Trek episodes that should appeal to anyone wanting to enjoy a quick and painless reminder of the Original series stories.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Star Trek: Shadow Lord - Laurence Yep



Title: Shadow Lord
Author: Laurence Yep
Published: 1985
Formats: Hardback/Paperback
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Shadow Lord” by Laurence Yep is a book which had me in two minds regarding how much I liked it. Basically, as a stand-alone sword and sorcery styled fantasy book it worked quite well but as a Star Trek novel it fails on several levels. The book was obviously not meant to be set within the Star Trek Universe and I can only assume that the author knew the Star Trek publishers were accepting submissions and therefore tried to get his story to fit.

Anyway, the plot itself is based around Prince Vikram who is being taken home to his native world of Angira by the Enterprise. Vikram has spent a fair amount of his youth living on Earth and is now meant to be bringing his knowledge of the Federation back to Angira to help his people. When Spock and Sulu escort him down to the planet they soon get caught up in a revolution led by conservative factions who dislike the way that Vikram’s father has been damaging their ancient traditions with his modernising programme. Vikram is soon the only royal left living and alongside the two Enterprise crewmembers he must fight by the sword in order to survive.

So my first issue with the story is in regards to the planet Angira itself which appears to be only just now entering the industrial age. As I read the book I couldn’t understand why the Federation would be involved in this planet at all, the population were being badly treated and the technology seemed obviously to be pre-warp. Surely the Prime Directive would have ensured that the Federation wasn’t allowed to get involved at all? This issue is further enhanced by some of the contradictions in regards to how the planet’s culture is treated. At one point Sulu is worried about the effect that his taking command of the Prince’s military forces could have but no one seems to mind that Spock was planning to modernise the planet’s star charts and that Vikram was going to share his knowledge of the Federation which could surely have more profound ramifications.

The next issue in regards to the characters as it appears that Yep didn’t even bother trying to learn about them. Spock in particular is terribly portrayed; he smiles, holds hands and basically doesn’t conform to the Spock we all know and love. Quite simply the characterisations shown in this novel are probably some of the worst I have seen to date. However, the secondary characters are a different thing entirely; free to do what he wanted in this regard, Yep has crafted some interesting and well developed characters. It is just a shame that they are overshadowed by the way in which he has failed to correctly capture the Enterprise crew.

Don’t get me wrong the story itself is actually quite fun and elements such as the sword fighting sequences and military engagements were enjoyable and interesting to follow. However, as a Star Trek novel it fails quite badly with the terrible characterisations and lack of Prime Directive being two of the most obvious issues. To summarise, I think this story would have worked well as a stand-alone fantasy novel but it all feels completely out of place as a Star Trek adventure.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: Past Prologue (The Janus Gate Book 3) - L.A. Graf


Title: Past Prologue (The Janus Gate Book 3)
Author: L.A. Graf
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Past Prologue” by L.A. Graf is the third and final book in “The Janus Gate” trilogy, a series of novels set during the Star Trek Original Series. Kirk is stranded in his past and is trying to find his younger self who is missing in the chaos of a civil war. He is helped by his own father but neither of them realises that 14 year old Kirk is now in the future. In this future Sulu and Chekov have to work with older versions of themselves to try and find a way to reactivate the Janus Gate to ensure that everyone is sent back to their correct timelines. Of course, nothing is ever easy for the crew of the Enterprise and they are being forced to do this whilst an alien race attempts to seal the Janus Gate away for good.

I will start by mentioning that this book continues the tradition of this series in that it has a back cover synopsis that doesn’t match what actually occurs in the book. I am quite weary of mentioning this when it comes to “The Janus Gate” as the publishers have been quite consistent in getting it wrong. Whilst any reader has probably already read the previous two books so knows the story and can skip the synopsis anyway it just doesn’t give me a good impression of the publisher.

The story that we do get is an enjoyable adventure told at a much faster pace than the previous novel and full of action which kept me entertained right through to the ending. Of course this increased pacing and more action focussed narrative meant that there was less time spent on character development. Whilst this did ensure the excitement levels were kept high it meant we missed the chance to see something really interesting between the two Sulus and Chekovs.

A final negative aspect of the novel for me was in relation to the ending. Basically Graf inserts a reset switch type scenario to solve all the paradoxes and fit in with the TV series which never mentions what is seen here. The crew get to continue their journey with no memories of the event and act as if nothing happened. I understand why it was done and was actually expecting it but I still can’t find myself liking that form of ending.

Overall, this was an enjoyable final chapter in what has been a rather fun adventure. This story is much more focussed on the action that we have seen in the previous novels which does reduce the amount of character development that occurs. If you read the first two books in this trilogy then you quite simply have to read book three so you can see how everything Graf has put together in the previous novels finally comes to together in an entertaining conclusion.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: Future Imperfect (The Janus Gate Book 2) - L.A. Graf


Title: Future Imperfect (The Janus Gate Book 2)
Author: L.A. Graf
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Future Imperfect” by L.A. Graf is the second book in “The Janus Gate” trilogy, a series of novels set during the Star Trek Original Series. The novel picks up from the cliff-hanger ending of the previous book with Lieutenant Sulu finding himself swapped in time with an older version of himself from a future where the Federation is at war with the Gorn. Meanwhile, Captain Kirk has been sent back in time to a critical point in his life with his teenage self now stranded in the present day on Tlaoli-4 with the crew of the Enterprise.

As with the previous novel the synopsis on the back cover didn’t actually match the story itself which was a bit irritating as there was no excuse for it being wrong. I really couldn’t believe they hadn’t tried to ensure the summary was correct this time after it being so wrong on “Present Tense”. In the end it probably doesn’t matter as most people will be reading this book because they read the first novel and they probably didn’t even bother checking the synopsis.

In regards to the writing itself, I felt that this book was better than “Present Tense” with Graf using the set-up from the previous novel expertly to ensure the reader can quickly get engrossed in an exciting adventure. The previous novel could feel a bit slow at times but this wasn’t an issue here as all the initial plot building and character introduction had already been dealt with. Although of course this means that the book doesn’t really have a beginning at all so it really is a no go for anyone who hasn’t read “Present Tense”.

Whilst the story continues to feel like standard Star Trek fare I still found it fun and enjoyed reading following the interplay between Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. Graf has done such a good job with these characters that I really didn’t mind the very minimal amount of time given to Kirk, Spock and McCoy. One thing that I did really like in the story is the alternate future that Graf has managed to construct. It is well thought and uses established characters, episode plots and aliens in a rather interesting way.

Overall this series continues to be an enjoyable enough read that showcases some of the more “minor” Star Trek characters. If you have read the first novel in the series and enjoyed it then you should pick up this sequel as it ramps up the pacing and action to provide a fun read.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: Present Tense (The Janus Gate Book 1) - L.A. Graf



Title: Present Tense (The Janus Gate Book 1)
Author: L.A. Graf
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Present Tense” by L.A. Graf is the first book in a trilogy of Star Trek Original Series novels entitled “The Janus Gate”. The story follows on from the events seen in the episode “The Naked Time” with their escape from the planet Psi-2000 resulting in them being flung several days back in time. In order to limit the contamination of the time line the Enterprise travels to an uninhabited world for an early rendezvous with a geological team that had dispatched prior to the events of the episode. However, upon arrival then soon discover that one of the survey teams are missing and something is draining away power from their equipment and has potentially caused previous older starships to crash. And so Kirk heads down to the planet alongside a new recruit named Chekov in order to help find the missing team and investigate the strange power drain.

To be honest I found this book to be a bit of a major surprise because the synopsis I read on the back cover bore no resemblance to what actually took place. I can only assume that at some point in the editing process half the plot was thrown out but somebody forgot to change the associated summary. Whilst it didn’t bother me too much there was still a mild sense of irritation present due to the fact that it felt like I had been mis-sold something.

The plot itself wasn’t anything new or different and it felt much like many other Star Trek stories but there was still enough adventure and fun involved to keep me engaged. As this is the first book in a series there is a fair amount of set up involved which did at times cause the pacing to suffer a little. However, there was still enough going on to ensure that I didn’t just skim over large sections of the novel. Quite simply, the plot itself is probably best described as an average but entertaining enough Star Trek adventure.

What I did really appreciate with the novel is in the fact that Graf has written a story which looks beyond the three main characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. A fair amount of the story is focussed on the “minor” crew such as Chekov, Uhura and Sulu which I enjoyed seeing. These characters are so often shunted off to the side but in this novel Graf has put them right in the centre of the action. She has also tried to enhance their personas so that whilst they do still feel like the characters we saw on the screen, they also felt a little bit more like complete individuals.

Overall, the plot in “Present Tense” felt like one we have seen many times before in Star Trek novels but it was still a fun, light read with the real plus point being its attempt at showcasing the “minor” crew. As it is a first novel in a series it can be a little slow in places but the mysteries introduced here have intrigued me and I am looking forward to seeing their resolutions.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: Seasons of Light and Darkness - Michael A. Martin



Title: Seasons of Light and Darkness
Author: Michael A. Martin
Published: 2014
Chronological Period: 2254 & 2264 (Framing Story: 2285)

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Seasons of Light and Darkness” by Michael A. Martin is an Original Series novella which focuses on part of Dr. McCoy’s life before he joined the Enterprise that was mentioned in the TV episode, “Friday's Child”. This period of his life is when he spent time on the planet Capella IV as part of time sent there to look at accessing a highly valued mineral. Whilst there he discovers that the natives have a rather warrior like ideology where people live and die by their own wits and it is wrong to interfere in that with medicine or other sciences. McCoy of course doesn’t appreciate this view point and must try to walk the line between his oath to Starfleet in regards to respecting other cultures and his oaths as a Doctor to try and save lives.

In addition to this main storyline there is also a framing story set in 2285 which focuses on McCoy trying to relate his own experiences to that of Kirk who was suffering from his time as a desk bound Admiral. This was actually one of things I didn’t really get with the novella to be honest. I saw the link between the two points but the story he tells just didn’t feel like something that McCoy would have only finally revealed at that point.

In regards to the Capella part of the story, well it was fun to follow and I found the titbits about Capellan culture rather interesting to follow. In addition McCoy felt in character and I appreciated that this novella was being used as a character piece rather than just trying to be a short version of standard Star Trek novels. Although I do have to say that whilst I did enjoy reading it I am not sure if really revealed anything new about the character.

Overall, this is a okay novella that acts an interesting character piece on McCoy. I do think the framing story didn’t work as well as it could have done and I am not sure if we really learned that much new about McCoy but I still enjoyed it and appreciated the way in which it reminded me of DeForest Kelly who created this great character.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Star Trek 1 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 1
Author: James Blish
Published: 1967
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 1” by James Blish was the first Star Trek novel ever released and is a collection of Original Series scripts adapted into short story form rather than being an original piece of work. The seven stories included in this collection are all from season one and are as follows:

Charlie's Law (Charlie X)
Dagger of the Mind
The Unreal McCoy (The Man Trap)
Balance of Terror
The Naked Time
Miri
The Conscience of the King

Reading this collection was an interesting experience for me as I was looking forward to reading the stories and refreshing my memories of the original episodes involved, especially as I felt these most of these were good episodes. To be honest, whilst the book did succeed in reminding me of the stories there were a few issues that affected my overall enjoyment of the collection.

For example, my favourite episode in this collection, “Balance of Terror” just feels downright flat and uninspiring. The novelization is badly missing the Romulan Commander’s point of view which really added to the story. In addition I just didn’t like how the entire crew, even Kirk to an extent decided they were going to distrust Spock. Basically my favourite episode on TV turned out to be least favourite in this collection. To be fair to Blish he was constrained by the short story length and he was working with the shooting scripts which at times varied quite a bit from what we finally see on the screen. Therefore I do understand why there would be some issues but readers should still be aware that there are some differences, some of which do weaken the stories.

However, it isn’t all bad and there are two stories in particular where I think Blish has actually added some really good elements. The first of these is within “The Unreal McCoy” (AKA The Man Trap) where Kirk knows realises that there is no way his officer would have eaten a strange alien root. In the actual episode everyone just seems to assume the redshirt is an idiot and doesn’t worry about it. The second was “Miri” which has been enhanced by the removal of silly sections like the planet being an “exact duplicate of Earth” and enhanced by some supplemental information on the virus itself. Whilst it could get a little bit dry at times it helped to ensure that things made a bit more sense and it would therefore have been nice for some of this explanation to have made it over into the episode.

Overall, this was a competent attempt at capturing the Star Trek episodes at a time when VCRs and DVDs weren't around. Some of the stories are enhanced and some are weakened by the adaptations but they were all readable in their own way and still highlight the fun of the Star Trek series. On a personal point, one thing this collection did highlight to me is how much the actors themselves really helped develop and enhance both the character interactions and stories.