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.
Friday, 17 July 2015
Title: The Centre Cannot Hold (Mere Anarchy Book 2)
Author: Mike W. Barr
Chronological Period: 2267
“The Centre Cannot Hold” by Mike W. Barr is the second book in a six part Star Trek mini-series entitled “Mere Anarchy”. It is set a few years after the disaster seen in the previous novel which badly affected the planet Mestiko. The Enterprise has returned with a plan to help restore the planet’s atmosphere but the Klingon Empire has also now taken an interest in the planet and has offered to help. Kirk soon finds himself once again pitted against Klingon commander Kor, with the future of Mestiko at stake.
This was another enjoyable but short novel in the “Mere Anarchy” series. To be honest, it is probably best described as a novella although the pricing doesn’t seem to acknowledge this. The price I paid for the ebook was rather obscene when you consider the length and I would therefore advise people to look at the various options available to them in regards to reading this series. In particular they should consider buying the book which combines all the individual stories together as this is much better value.
The style and feeling I got reading it was very similar to what I encountered in the previous novel in the series which is quite interesting considering they were written by different people. Simply put, it is well-written and does feel like it would fit in well as an episode in the original series. In addition, the short length means we don’t gain anything new in regards to our understanding of the Trek Universe and its characters but it is a fun read none the less.
Overall, the “Mere Anarchy” series continues to entertain me and if you have read the previous novella you really need to pick this one up as well or just buy the combined edition.
Monday, 8 June 2015
Title: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Chronological Period: 2165
The Book Depository
“Uncertain Logic” by Christopher L. Bennett is the third novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. I have been thoroughly enjoying this series of novels and wasn’t surprised when I found myself appreciating this novel just as much as the others.
The story follows three simultaneous narratives, the first of which follows Archer and T’Pol as they work with the leaders of Vulcan after a shocking revelation is made about some of the planet’s new beliefs which could lead to a civil war. Then there is the crew of the USS Pioneer, captained by Malcolm Reed who are exploring an area of space dominated by some highly-advanced automated technology called the “Ware” which was first seen in the episode “Dead Stop.” The final story is that of the USS Essex (From TNG's "Power Play") which travels to the planet Delta IV where the locals turn out to be extremely hazardous to the ship’s crew
As I have come to expect with Bennett, the stories are all told exceedingly well and his skill at taking some rather disparate elements of continuity and moulding them into a cohesive story is nicely showcased again. My favourite storyline of the three had to be the Vulcan one which explores the Vulcan people and the rift that is forming in their civilisation. The way in which we see various Vulcan’s interpret and apply logic in their own unique ways made them feel like a real people, with individual ideas and opinions. The view that can sometimes be had of them being a rather homogeneous society when it comes to logic is well and truly shown up for the fallacy it is and I loved seeing that. Quite simply, I actually feel like I have a greater understanding of the common Vulcan citizen than I have before and I really appreciate this.
If I was going take any issue with the novel then it is probably that I think three storylines is maybe a little bit too much, especially when none of them are really connected with each other. The best way I can find to describe the book is that it felt more like an anthology of novella’s than a single novel. This was compounded by the fact that whilst I appreciated getting to see humanities first real contact with the Deltans and the introduction of the USS Essex, I honestly wasn’t that interested in what eventually turned into another Orion Pirate storyline. Compared to the incredibly engaging and interesting Vulcan storyline it just felt rather weak and un-needed.
Overall, this is another entertaining novel in the Rise of the Federation series. Bennett’s writing as always is top notch and I enjoy the way in which he manages to continue the story of Star Trek Enterprise and build on some of the smaller elements in Star Trek continuity. Yes it doesn’t feel like a single novel, but the Vulcan storyline alone is enough to mitigate this as I just treat the additional two stories as a bonus to be enjoyed beyond this core element.
Monday, 20 April 2015
Title: First Strike (Invasion! Book 1)
Author: Diane Carey
Chronological Period: 2267
“First Strike" by Diane Carey is the first novel in a series of four novels which span the multiple different lines of Star Trek fiction from the Original Series to Voyager. The novel starts with a Klingon battlegroup encountering a ship full of creatures that appear to resemble the demons of Klingon folklore. So upset by what he sees, the Klingon General decides to contact Starfleet for help in addition to his own High Command. Starfleet sends Kirk who is determined to try and understand these visitors rather than just destroy them as the Klingons wish.
Whilst the book is part of a series it still works very well as a standalone novel. The ending does hint at the sequel to come but it still provides a satisfying enough conclusion that there is no need to read the next book unless you really want to. I particularly appreciated this as I am reading all the Star Trek books in Chronological order and therefore won’t get to the sequel for quite a while.
It is also a thoroughly enjoyable story with a structure and pace that keeps the reader entertained right until the end. In addition the plot explores several interesting points with a particular plus point for me being the premise that our myths are based on vaguely remembered facts that have left us with some ingrained prejudices. The attempt to overcome those prejudices then compliments the conflict between scientific thought and religious zeal that is also present within the novel.
The characters are all well-written with the main focus being on Kirk, McCoy and Spock. However, what we do see of the other characters is more than adequate and Carey has tried to develop the Furies beyond just being a token alien-of-the-week which was nice to see. One particular thing I noted was that Kirk is well portrayed, we get to see in all his glory as both a leader and a friend, but also as someone who is still in the end just a human with all the flaws and weaknesses that this can entail.
Overall, the plot is interesting, the characters come across in the manner we would expect and the pacing feels right. Basically, it is an enjoyable Star Trek story which works well as both a standalone novel and as an entry into the overall “Invasion!” series.