Saturday, 4 June 2016
Author: David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Chronological Period: 2259 - 2268
The Book Depository
“Declassified” is a collection of four novellas that form part of the Star Trek: Vanguard series. As with most stories set in this series the novellas are based around the crew of the Vanguard Starbase which is located in the Taurus Reach, a highly contested region of space.
The first story in the collection is “Almost Tomorrow” by Dayton Ward which takes place prior to the events witnessed in the prequel novella, “Harbinger”. The main aim of this novella appears to be in providing the reader with some backstory regarding the relationship between Vanguard’s Commander, Deigo Reyes and it’s JAG Officer, Rana Desai, and the one between T’Prynn, the station’s Vulcan security chief, and Anna Sandesjo, a Klingon agent and member of the ambassadorial delegation.
Personally, this was probably my least favourite story in the collection as it was all rather slow paced, and to be honest it was lacking in any real excitement. I also have to say that I have never really felt any desire to learn more about the two relationships it focused on. Yes, the way in which Sten’s influence on T’Prynn affected the level of relationship she entered into was interesting to see but outside of that, I don’t really think that anything here was actually necessary.
Next up in the collection is “Hard News” by Kevin Dilmore which takes place just after the events in “Reap the Whirlwind” and details the motivations as to why Tim Pennington decides to join T'Prynn on her journey to Vulcan. I was quite appreciative of this story as whilst it doesn’t really advance the overall Vanguard plot, it does provide the reader with some much needed detail as to why Pennington travels to Vulcan.
The third novella is "The Ruins of Noble Men" by Marco Palmieri and it is my favourite story in the collection. It takes place after the events of the previous novel, “Precipice” and follows two plotlines. The first of these is in regards to exploring how Reyes first met the Klingon, Gorkon when he was Captain of the USS Dauntless several years past. It explores how Reyes came to learn more about the Klingon mind-set and motivations and provides some backstory to explain why Gorkon decides to use Reyes for his own purposes in the future. I enjoyed that we also get to learn a bit more about the bonds between Reyes, Fisher and Gannon, the captain of the USS Bombay who dies in the prequel novella, “Harbinger”.
The 2nd element of this novella follows Desai and the Chief Medical Officer Ezekiel Fisher as they investigate the mysterious death of a Starfleet Officer who was trying to persuade some colonists to relocate. This sub-plot intrigued me on two levels, first up; I loved seeing Fisher and Desai actually out and about in the world as normally these two tend to be stuck on the Starbase. Further to this, it was also nice to see an author further explore some of the paranoia that people do have to Starfleet and what they may use research and scientific progress to do.
The final novella in the collection is David Mack's "The Stars Look Down" in which we follow Quinn and Bridy Mac on a mission to explore the re-emergence of the Jinoteur wave pattern. This is probably the story with the fastest pacing and it is full on fun and adventure but it suffers from some of the same issues I had with the previous novel, “Precipice”. Namely, we get to see lots more of the Super-heroic Quinn with his improbable skillset that just seems far too fanciful to be believed. I have to admit, that the irritation and incredulity of the plotline meant that the ending didn’t have as powerful an effect on me as it probably should have. On the positive front, the story does advance the overall Vanguard plot and I was still left looking forward to see what is going to happen in the next full length novel.
Overall, I do continue to enjoy the Vanguard Series although this collection was a little bit hit and miss for me. Everything was well written but some of the stories either seemed a bit dry and unneeded or required just too much suspension of disbelief to really appreciate. If you are a fan of the series, then you will enjoy “Declassified”, but I think it is probably the weakest book in the Vanguard series to date.
Thursday, 19 May 2016
Title: The Case of the Colonist's Corpse
Author: Bob Ingersoll & Tony Isabella
Chronological Period: 2267
"The Case of the Colonist's Corpse" by Bob Ingersoll and Tony Isabella is an interesting departure from standard Star Trek literature. There is only a brief cameo from the Enterprise and its crew with the majority of the novel being devoted to telling a mystery/courtroom drama story set on a colony world with a story centres around Sam Cogley, the lawer who defended Captain Kirk in the TV episode “Court Martial”.
The events of the novel take place on Aneher II, a planet whose ownership is being contested by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty whichever government is deemed to have best developed their portion of the planet will be awarded the planet and both groups are therefore trying to prove their abilities. The uneasy peace between the two groups is shattered however by the murder of the Federation Administrator, Daniel Latham, seemingly killed by the Klingon Commander Mak'Tor. In order to provide a fair trial, Sam Cogley volunteers to defend Mak’Tor and must face off against his previous foe in the courtroom, prosecutor Areel Shaw.
The plot follows a classic mystery template with the reader knowing who is dead and who is going to be accused right from the earliest moments. They also know that the accused is obviously innocent and the fun lies in trying to pick the real culprit out a list of suspects who all have clear reasons for wanting to kill the victim. If you have ever read Perry Mason mystery novel then you will have a good idea what type of novel this is as it is very similar in style.
In regards to the writing itself, on the whole it felt quite simplistic but I don’t think that this distracted from the simple fun of seeing the Trek Universe explored in such an original and enjoyable way. However, this decision to concentrate on a small and little explored element of the Trek Universe instead of just re-hashing the standard Trek formula does result in one issue which may disappoint some readers. Basically, there is very little time put aside for the traditional characters of The Original Series. Personally, I didn’t mind this but I know there are some readers of Trek lit who mainly read these novels because of the Enterprise and its crew.
Overall, this was an enjoyable novel which provides readers with a Trek novel that doesn’t follow the traditional template. The fusion of Star Trek and Courtroom drama is an interesting one that had me entertained although I suspect the Science-Fiction elements may put off regular readers of the Mystery genre. In addition, any Star Trek fan who regular reads Trek books due to the Enterprise crew will also probably have some issues.
Friday, 22 April 2016
Title:Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Chronological Period: 2165
The Book Depository
"Live by the Code" by Christopher L. Bennett is the fourth novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. The series has been a thoroughly enjoyable one, right from the start so I was looking forward to getting my hands on this book.
The story is set in the second half of 2165 and is mainly focussed around 3 narratives although there are also several other side plots and referenced made in relation to stories initiated in the earlier novels. The first of the main narratives takes a look at Starfleet’s attempts to shut down Ware technology. This seemingly benevolent act soon results in devastating impacts across a group of races who call themselves the Partnership and Starfleet find themselves facing the fact that they maybe don’t always know best. Secondly, we get to see what is occurring within the Klingon Empire now that Chancellor M'Rek has died and others are vying to replace him. The final main narrative of the novel follows Doctor Phlox and his daughter, Vaneel who is marrying an Antaran, an alien race who until recently had been enemies of the Denobulans. The wedding has been met with anger from some hate groups, one of which includes Phlox’s own son, Mettus.
Once again Bennett writes with his usual expert skill and weaves the various different plot lines into an entertaining and enjoyable story. I never once found myself confused or lost as the novel progressed which is rather impressive considering the vast array of characters and plots involved. In regards to the main narratives themselves, I found two of them to be thoroughly engrossing whilst the third was a little bit dull.
I really enjoyed watching Starfleet try and understand the mistake they had made in how they were dealing with the Ware. It was one of the things I really liked about the Enterprise series as a whole; we get to see the mistakes being made by these earlier explorers and watch them try to learn from the experiences. In addition, the origin story of the Ware itself was clever and unexpected, with it making an interesting point about corporate power and the increased automation of society.
The elements of the story set within the Klingon Empire were also fun to follow and I loved seeing how those who had suffered from the Qu’Vat virus were trying to survive in an Empire that treats them as less than they are. The section that I found a bit dull was the wedding on Denobula, don’t get me wrong it was really interesting seeing Phlox’s complex family tree but the plot itself seemed rather unoriginal and I just found it rather slow compared to the rest of the novel.
Overall, this is another well-written and entertaining novel in the Rise of the Federation series. The ending was darker than what we normally see in the Star Trek universe which I appreciated as it shows that Starfleet don’t always get the best results when they get involved in events. As always, I now look forward to the next book in this thoroughly enjoyable series of novels.
Saturday, 9 April 2016
Author: David Mack
Chronological Period: 2267
“Precipice” by David Mack is the 5th novel in the Star Trek Vanguard series. As always with the Vanguard novels there are a several plotlines to follow but they all focus in some way around the Taurus Reach and the various interactions between the Federation, Klingons, Tholians and Shedai.
On the whole, this is another enjoyable episode in the Vanguard series of novels. Mack’s writing is competent and the pacing is much improved from what I noted in the previous novel, “Open Secrets”. In addition, Mack expertly manages the now quite considerable number of plotlines so that I never once found myself getting lost or confused. One minor issue I do have is that I feel the progression of the overall story is now being limited by the sheer number of plotlines involved. Don’t get me wrong, we do still get some forward movement but the series just seems to be losing momentum as the plotlines increase in both quantity and complexity.
One thing, I am split on in regards to this novel is Cervantes Quinn. I have always enjoyed this loveable rogue so it was nice to see him take a more prominent role in this novel but the evolution of his character seemed a bit far-fetched. I can just about accept his recruitment into Starfleet as in the previous books we have seen him slowly begin to act in a more responsible manner but that doesn’t explain how he also appears to have become some sort of super-agent.
Overall, this is a novel which does a good job at continuing the Vanguard saga. The overall forward momentum of the series is suffering a little due to the quantity of plotlines involved but there is still enough progression here to ensure that readers of the series won’t be disappointed.
Sunday, 13 March 2016
Title: Twilight's End
Author: Jerry Oltion
Chronological Period: 2267
“Twilight's End” by Jerry Oltion is a Star Trek Original Series adventure in which the Enterprise comes to the aid of a tidally locked world whose inhabitants occupy a single thin strip of land. The ever increasing population has destroyed what fragile biosphere there was, and is now attempting to save their home by implementing an audacious plan to start the planet spinning by using a vast array of impulse engines spread across the planet.
I have to admit that I found the plot to be rather silly, the thought of using 30,000 engines to spin a planet just seemed a bit absurd to me. Oltion does at least try and put some scientific thought into what happens but in the end it feels like this is just another example for the magical technology of Star Trek being used to save the day even if the entire premise is nuts! Luckily, Oltion tries to use amusing commentaries and interactions between the main characters to lighten the overall tone of the novel so the silliness isn’t difficult to ignore.
One thing that Oltion has captured well, are the crew of the Enterprise. The characterisations are pretty much spot on and everyone seemed to act in a manner that I would have expected. In addition, the regular characters are supported by some interesting new characters from the planet itself. I can’t complain at all about that aspect of the novel.
My final note on the book is that there was an undertone to the plot which reminded me of the global warming arguments that were popular in the period that the novel was written. The discussions on ecological damage being done to the world and how we should react were of course the same discussions which were happening in the real world and to be honest still are.
Overall, this is an interesting enough Trek novel even if it does feel a little bit silly. Oltion’s writing is competent enough and it was interesting seeing him try to explain some of the science in a manner we don’t always get with Trek novels. If you are a fan of the more comic/silly Trek episodes then I suspect you may enjoy this one.
Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Title: Mission to Horatius
Author: Mack Reynolds
Chronological Period: 2267
“Mission to Horatius” by Mack Reynolds is a rather important book in the history of Trek Lit as it was the first original novel ever written. The target audience admittedly was children rather than adults but at least it showed there was a market there for different Trek stories if people were willing to exploit it.
The plot follows the crew of the Enterprise as it is called upon to respond to a distress call, even though the ship’s crew are already suffering some negative effects from the length of time they have been out in space. The system in question has three habitable planets, populated by people whose beliefs resulted in them leaving the Federation to set up their own colonies. The crew explore these three very different planets and uncover the reason for the distress call.
In all honesty, the novel was rather disappointing as the plot was paper thin. There was so much that Reynolds could have delved into as the plotline progressed but the reader is left with the bare bones of a story. It felt like I was just reading an initial outline that had never been edited or expanded upon. Maybe this is what children’s books were like in the late 60’s, but compared to modern day literature it was very weak.
This lack of depth continues with the characters as well as the character development is pretty much non-existent I think that some of the characters are named in the story just to ensure they appeared at some point. Most of them don’t actually add anything to the story and when they do, some of the time what we see doesn’t really fit with the personas we know about from the TV series.
Overall, this is a rather poor novel that is probably only saved by the fact it is historically important to Trek Lit. Some of the problem with it probably due to the fact that it is aimed at children so the plot is intentionally kept on the lighter side, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that some of the characters were all over the place compared to what would have been seen in the TV series. Without doubt this novel really highlights how far we have come since those earlier days and maybe that is actually a good enough reason for Star Trek fans to read it.
Thursday, 28 January 2016
Title: The IDIC Epidemic
Author: Jean Lorrah
Chronological Period: 2267
“The IDIC Epidemic” by Jean Lorrah is a Star Trek Original Series novel which is more or less a sequel to Lorrah's other novel, “The Vulcan Academy Murders”. The story picks up a few days after the events of the previous novel with the Enterprise preparing to transport Spock’s parents, including a now recovered Amanda to a diplomatic event. However, the Enterprise is diverted to the planet Nissus, a scientific colony where multiple species live and work together due to the outbreak of deadly plague that only Klingon’s appear to be immune to. Soon McCoy and several other Doctor’s who have travelled on the Enterprise from Vulcan find themselves in a desperate race to find a cure before it is too late.
It is an interesting enough read as Lorrah uses the novel to explore inter-racial relationships and how co-operation between disparate groups can be used for good. It is a clear attempt at showcasing IDIC, one of the core ideals of Star Trek and as such from a philosophical standpoint it is highly entertaining. It was great getting to see the opinions and views from multiple different species rather than just focusing on humans. However, I would note that it was probably one of the slowest paced Star Trek novels I had read recently as the amount of action and adventure present is rather limited.
One thing that may disappoint some readers is that the novel rarely focuses on the main characters we all know and love from the TV series. Yes, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are present but the real drive of the novel is around the new and original characters that Lorrah has introduced. Those characters are all very interesting, reasonably developed with intriguing cultures and complex relationships but to those readers who love Trek because of the characters they know, it may feel a little bit disappointing that we see so little of them. Personally, I enjoyed meeting the new characters and especially found myself really loving the Klingon character, Korsal Katasai who Lorrah has developed well and presented him and his family in such a way that I found myself quickly caring about what happened to him.
Overall, this was an interesting look at one of Trek’s main ideals that was entertaining enough if lacking a little on the action front. The characters introduced in the novel are well developed and really help drive home the philosophical points of the story although this does happen at the expense of the usual characters we know. If you aren’t interesting in anything outside the core characters then you may want to give this a miss but for any other Trek fans it should be an enjoyable read.