Friday, 20 November 2015
Title: The Galactic Whirlpool
Author: David Gerald
Chronological Period: 2267
“The Galactic Whirlpool” was the final Star Trek novel released by Bantam books before the licence was handed over to Pocket Books. What intrigued me the most about this novel was that it was written by David Gerrold, a writer who was involved quite deeply with Star Trek and who wrote the much loved Season 2 episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles”.
The story is based around a pre-FTL vessel known as the Wanderer which is found by the Enterprise to be heading towards the galactic whirlpool, two singularities spinning about each other that are traveling through the galaxy. The crew investigate the ship and find that the crew have lost much of their technology and have reverted to a rather primitive existence. It soon becomes obvious that the in inhabitants are now divided into two warring factions who are almost fanatical in their hatred of each other. Kirk and his crew must therefore work to end the civil war and restart the engines of the Wanderer before it is to late.
The story itself isn’t that remarkable and I have probably read this type of plot many times before. However, Gerrold still managed to keep me interested by providing lots of interesting details about both Federation protocol and characters history. He really uses this novel as a chance to explain and expand the Star Trek Universe that he obviously enjoys writing about. I particularly enjoyed seeing how Gerrold’s imagined pre-warp history of Earth differs from what is now accepted as canon. This difference is understandable as the novel was written back in 1980 before the real growth in developing Star Trek’s back story but if you are a stickler for the current continuity it may irritate you.
However, at times this attention to technical detail could actually bog the story down. At multiple times in the novel when there was an important plot point developing, he feels the need to slow it down with another information dump. Considering, the plot line isn’t the most original this could at times be a bit of a hindrance to really getting emerged in the story.
His love for the characters really shines through in this novel and I think he tries to give them a sense of realism. Yes, there may be slight variations from what we would have seen on the TV series itself but I actually found that this was an improvement. What really did impress me however was that as I read the book I could hear Shatner or Nimoy speaking, Gerrold has managed to catch the mannerism of the cast in his writing and I enjoyed seeing that.
Overall, this was an interesting enough novel although at times it felt more like a fictional description of the Trek Universe rather than an exciting and engaging story.
Monday, 9 November 2015
Title: Crisis of Consciousness
Author: Dave Galanter
Chronological Period: 2267
The Book Depository
"Crisis of Consciousness" by Dave Galanter is another Star Trek novel set during the time period of the Original Series. The story follows Captain Kirk and the Enterprise as they are dispatched to transfer the ambassador of the mildly xenophobic Maabas back to his home planet after signing a treaty with the Federation. Shortly after arriving, the Enterprise is then attacked by a mysterious race known as the Kenisians who claim that they are the original inhabitants of the planet and are now demanding it back. Kirk and his crew must therefore attempt to find a way in which an agreement can be reached before war breaks out and an entire sector of space is potentially destroyed.
Without doubt, this is one of the best Original Series novels I have had the pleasure to read with an enjoyable and intriguing plot. The fast-pacing and skilful writing also helped to keep me hooked from start to finish. Whilst at its core the story is an enjoyable look at how cultures respond to the wrongs perpetrated against them in the past, this doesn’t mean that the novel is lacking in action. There are some superb battle scenes that had me thoroughly entertained with the Enterprise taking a fair bit of damage. This is Trek at its best, fun and action supported by an engaging and thoughtful storyline.
In addition, the new races that have been introduced here are wonderfully well crafted. Both the Maabas and Kenisians are complex and thoroughly interesting species with the multividual personas of the Kenisians being a real highlight of the book.
Galanter also does a great job with the main characters; Kirk, Spock and McCoy are skilfully brought to life. But he also gives the supporting characters their moments as well with Uhura and Scotty both getting the chance to shine. The main focus though is without doubt on Spock and his treatment in this novel is quite simply sublime. He is the usual resourceful and brilliant Vulcan we are used to, but at the same time we get to see his own inner doubts and conflicts about what he must do to achieve his goals. It was wonderful realising that this was Galanter trying to show us a convincing reason for what would later lead Spock to his decision to follow the path of Kolinahr.
To sum up, if you enjoy the Original Series to any extent then I really have to recommend this book to you. It is thoroughly entertaining on many levels with an interesting plot, good writing and expertly captured characters. Personally, I can’t wait to read other novels in the Trek universe that have been penned by Galanter.
Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Title: The Folded World
Author: Jeff Mariotte
Chronological Period: 2267
The Book Depository
“The Folded World” by Jeff Mariotte is a Star Trek Original Series novel set during the Enterprise’s initial 5 year mission. The plot follows the crew of the Enterprise who intercept a distress call from the U.S.S. McRaven which was heading towards the same system as the Enterprise as part of a twofold diplomatic mission. Upon reaching the McRaven, they find that has become trapped in an anomaly unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. Upon investigating the anomaly, the crew find themselves facing a world in which the usual rules of time and space do not apply.
I find myself in two minds about the plot of the book as the premise was quite interesting and I enjoyed seeing how the anomaly itself functioned and affected both the world and characters. It was fun to follow the crew as they became unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. There was also a few intriguing sub-plots such as the original diplomatic mission that the McRaven and Enterprise had been sent on that had did entertain me as I tried to work out how they all fit together.
However, there are some issues, firstly there is the fact that Mariotte seems to just utilise several un-original plot points seen in many other Trek stories. I honestly don’t know how many times I need to see Spock help save the day by mind melding with some disembodied creature or why we need to send the main characters into a deadly scenario time after time. Further to this, it was quite disappointing that there was no real attempt made to explain the anomaly in which the McRaven was trapped.
In regards to the characters, Kirk, Spock and McCoy’s are acceptable enough although at times they didn’t always feel exactly right. Simply put, I have read better, but I have also read worse so overall I could live with how Mariotte portrays them here. Mariotte does also try adding few original characters and whilst I applaud him for the attempt, the execution is rather lacking. Whilst Tikolo did have a reasonably interesting backstory, the two others, Vandella and O'Meara were one-dimensional and rather uninspiring. Then there was the “love triangle” between them all which was rather painful to read and the less said about it the better.
Overall, “The Folded World” is an average Original Series novel with a superb looking cover. It isn’t the best Original Series novel I have read this year but it also far from the worst.
Monday, 28 September 2015
Title: Across The Universe
Author: Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski
Chronological Period: 2267
“Across The Universe” is a Star Trek Original Series novel written by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski. The novel follows the discovery of a ship from the 21st Century which was on a pre-warp journey to a distant planet to start a new colony. The crew has only aged thirty years due to relativistic effects but two centuries have passed and Kirk has to inform them that their target planet now no longer exists. Starfleet do find them an alternative colony world that they can now head to, but upon arrival they find that something on the planet appears to be attacking the colony.
When I started reading the book I was curious to see if it would offer anything interesting or original in regards to the well-used premise of 21st Century humans trying to acclimatise themselves in the 23rd Century. Unfortunately, the two authors appear to have just entirely skipped over this opportunity and decided to just used the crew of the Hawking as an inefficient plot device to give the Enterprise an excuse to visit a colony world. Personally, I am sure this could have been accomplished much more efficiently with a simple emergency broadcast from the colony which would have then enabled the authors to cut this entire premise and concentrate on the core story and characters. This would probably have been a good thing to do as the core story and characters really do need some extra work. The plot is rather dull and there is really nothing that original, we have a ship from the past, a planet wide intelligence and Spock saving the day as he is able to detect, withstand, and reason with the intelligence. Honestly, I can’t remember how many times we have seen those plot points used throughout the Star Trek Universe.
Weak plots can sometimes be ignored if the characters work well but in this novel the characterisation is quite simply missing. The new characters aren’t developed in any meaningful way and the established characters just feel like cardboard cut outs. I do wonder if the authors had actually ever seen Star Trek. To me, the established characters and their interactions are a vital ingredient of what makes Star Trek work and it just doesn’t feel right when this is missing in such a glaringly obvious way.
Overall, it is probably one of the weakest Star Trek books I have ever read. The story isn’t terrible exactly; it is just that the lack of originality in the plot or good characterisation makes it all rather boring. This is then exacerbated by the inclusion of the 21st Century ship which doesn’t actually add anything worthwhile to the story. If you aren’t like me and on a missing to read every Star Trek novel then I would just skip this one.
Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Author: Mike W. Barr
Chronological Period: 2267
“Gemini” by Mike W. Barr is a pretty standard Star Trek story set during the original five year mission. The story follows the crew of the Enterprise as they are sent the planet Nador to assist in a vote that is being taken on whether the planet should join the Federation. The leaders of the planet, conjoined twins named Abon and Delor are advocates of joining the Federation but they are determined to let the people decide for themselves. However, a faction opposed to this are attempting to disrupt the vote and even threaten the lives of Abon and Delor resulting in Kirk and Co. stepping in to protect the twins and investigation the instigators.
To be honest, I can’t say it was the most enthralling of stories as the plot was quite basic and the twists and turns, whilst were reasonably interesting were quite obvious. The pacing and drama were adequate but the novel just seemed to be lacking a real feeling of excitement and tension. In addition there was a subplot involving Kirk’s nephew, Peter which seemed rather superfluous to the whole thing and I would rather have just seen it cut. I suspect it was added to try and further develop Kirk’s involvement in the story but it just didn’t really add anything to the storyline.
The best part of the novel is in regards to the treatment of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Barr captures these main characters in competent manner that is reminiscent of how they appear during the original TV series. In addition, the camaraderie and engaging banter between them all shines through very well and these sections of the novel did have me smiling.
Overall, this is a standard Original Series novel that doesn’t try to be anything spectacular. I suppose, the best way I can describe it would be that it is simply average. So, if you are looking for something original within the Trek literary Universe then you will probably want to look at other offerings.
Friday, 4 September 2015
Title: Star Trek 3
Author: James Blish
Chronological Period: 2267 - 2268
“Star Trek 3” by James Blish is the third collection of short stories which includes seven adaptations of Star Trek Original Series scripts.
"The Trouble with Tribbles"
"The Last Gunfight" (an adaptation of "Spectre of the Gun")
"The Doomsday Machine"
I have to admit that it is getting quite hard for me to review these collections without sounding like I am just repeating what I have said before but in the end what is true for one appears to be true for others. Basically, the level to which they entertain a reader is proportionate to how enjoyable the original episodes were. Luckily this collection contains a few decent episodes which meant that reading it was an enjoyable enough diversion for an afternoon.
As always there are a few changes to the stories as Blish tended to work with earlier scripts that were different to the final product and trying to spot these differences can be quite an entertaining experience. They don’t tend to overly affect the impact of the episode but it was quite nice to see the stories being told in a different way.
A slight negative is that the dramatic impact and tension was lost in several of the stories. For example, “The Doomsday Machine” was put across in a rather stale manner and the dramatic impact Kirk’s death in “Amok Time” was lost a little as the story was told from his viewpoint. It wasn’t a major issue but as these were some of the more enjoyable episodes used in the collection it was a shame to see them put across in a manner which wasn’t as strong as it could be.
Overall, Blish continues to do a competent job at adapting the various episodes but outside of nostalgic Star Trek fans I doubt they are going to appeal to many people.
Saturday, 8 August 2015
Title: The Disinherited
Author: Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman & Robert Greenberger
Chronological Period: 2267
“The Disinherited” is a Star Trek Original Series novel written by three authors, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman & Robert Greenberger. It contains two parallel stories, the first of which follows Kirk and the Enterprise who are trying to pursue a group of raiders who have been viciously attacking Federation colonies. The second plotline is in relation to Uhura who has been temporarily assigned to another ship, the USS Lexington. Her role is to serve as an interpreter for the inhabitants of Rithra who have asked the Federation for assistance in protecting their procreation centre from a volcano.
The two plotlines enabled the novel to provide some entertainment on multiple levels. The Enterprise segments had plenty of entertaining action with Kirk taking centre stage, masterfully commanding the Enterprise through various incidents. Whereas the story on Rithra enabled the authors to really explore and develop Uhura’s character beyond just her expertise at linguistics. Basically, it enables readers to experience a story which tries to capture the feeling of series with some Kirk centric adventure, but also learn something new about one of the less developed characters which to me is an important part of Trek literature.
This interesting dual narrative is also supplemented by some great retcon work in regards to Chekov. We get to see the angst and nerves that he may have faced when he took on the role as Navigator and became a bridge officer. I really enjoyed getting a chance to see how he deals with his new more prominent position.
Whilst the action and adventure were fun to follow, it was the characters that really impressed me. As I have mentioned already, Uhura and Chekov get some great exposure here but what I also liked is that both of them and the others all felt true to the characters we know and love. The authors had a great grasp on the characters and it shines through here in this novel.
My only other comment on the book is to highlight that whilst the book is written by three different authors it didn’t feel like it. The writing flowed nicely between the chapters without any issue and at no point did it feel disjointed. I do not know how they did it but all I can say, is well done.
Overall, this was an enjoyable TOS novel that provides the reader with the best of both worlds. A fun Trek adventure in the standard mould supplemented by some great character work that really helps to enhance the overall Trek Universe. If you are one of those Trek fiction readers who only read a limited number of TOS novels then I recommend you consider this one.