Monday, 8 June 2015

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic - Christopher L. Bennett


Title: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Published: 2015
Chronological Period: 2165

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“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

Star Trek: First Strike (Invasion! Book 1) - Diane Carey


Title: First Strike (Invasion! Book 1)
Author: Diane Carey
Published:1996
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“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.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Star Trek: Ishmael - Barbara Hambly


Title: Ishmael
Author: Barbara Hambly
Published:1985
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Ishmael” by Barbara Hambly is a Star Trek novel that mainly follows the antics of Spock who is transported back to Earth in the 1800’s where he is found by a local of Seattle, Washington called Aaron Stemple. Unfortunately Spock has lost his memory and therefore Stemple, realising that this man is an alien decides to take him under his wing and introduces him to the community as his nephew, Ishmael. Spock is soon caught up in a rather peculiar scheme to find marriageable lads for a group of hopeful brides who were transported to the area from the Eastern United States.

One thing I didn’t realise when I first read this book is that the story about Aaron Stemple and the marriage scheme is actually taken from another TV series called “Here Comes the Brides”. Basically, this book is a crossover novel created to link these two distinct shows and I can only assume that Hambly must have been a fan of both. However, Hambly doesn’t stop with just this core crossover element, she also introduces characters from other TV series such as “Bonanza” and “Have Gun-Will Travel”. It is all a little bit silly but surprisingly enough, it was actually very entertaining to follow. This is mainly due to the fact that whilst it sounds like something you would normally see poorly written on a fan fiction website, it is actually an incredibly well written novel with all the right plotting elements and pacing to keep it an enjoyable and fund read.

In addition, I found the characters to be well-written and interesting to follow although outside of the Star Trek characters I wouldn’t know if they were portrayed in a manner similar to the way they were on their relevant TV shows. In regards to the Trek characters, well they did come across as I would expect and even Spock with his memory loss acted and behaved in a way I would expect as his core personality shone through.

Overall this is a fun story which I am sure would appeal hugely to fans who enjoyed both “Star Trek” and “Here Comes the Brides”. Most of the time it doesn’t feel much like a Trek novel as it is set in the 1800’s and Spock doesn’t know who he is but it was actually quite nice to read something which felt a little bit different. It isn’t something that I would probably want to read a lot of but it was still a fun little diversion from the norm that made me smile a lot.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Star Trek: Provenance Of Shadows (Crucible Book 1) - David R. George III


Title: Provenance Of Shadows (Crucible Book 1)
Author: David R. George III
Published: 2006
Chronological Period: 1930 - 1955 / 2267 - 2366

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
Provenance of Shadows by David R. George III is the 1st book in the Crucible trilogy of Star Trek novels which were written as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations. The story starts off after the events that occur in the Star Trek original series first season episode, The City on the Edge of Forever. From that point on we get to follow two stories from McCoy’s perspective. The first of these is where we see what happened to McCoy in the 1930’s on the assumption that Kirk and Spock didn’t manage to rescue him from the Guardian of Forever. The other story follows McCoy’s life after his rescue right up until his death.

This novel is without doubt a character piece, it tries to explore the reason why McCoy is the man he is. McCoy has always been a fascinating character and George has done a great job in bringing him to life in a manner that fits in with what we know of him. We do get to learn some interesting facts about him and whilst some of the psychological elements seem a bit melodramatic it was still thoroughly interesting.

However, there are a few issues with this characters driven approach. Basically, George has spent so much time exploring McCoy and padding out the story that the pacing is incredibly slow. Everything seems to be overly drawn out and because George decided to use the TV show as the basis for the overall plot points, most of what we see in the novel in terms of events is already known to us. This means, that there is no suspense or real excitement in the novel beyond what you may feel in regards to the exploration of McCoy’s psyche.

The 1930’s period does give George much more leeway and he has tried to add in some original events. However, even here the pacing seems rather slow and there is still a basic lack of surprise as we already know from the TV episode that the events around WWII are altered by McCoy’s presence. This part of the story however, really strives to explore the human condition via McCoy’s interaction with the other characters in this time period and I really enjoyed following this.

Overall, this is an interesting novel which tries to explore and explain McCoy the character. It does have some pacing issues and beyond the character exploration it doesn’t have the most exciting or entertaining of plot lines. However, if you are a fan of McCoy you would be mad to miss out on this novel which is almost a shrine to the man and his time within the Star Trek Universe.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Star Trek 2 - James Blish


Title: Star Trek 2
Author: James Blish
Published: 1968
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 2” by James Blish was the 2nd in his series of short story collections which brings together adaptations of Star Trek Original Series scripts. The eight stories included in this collection are all from season one and are as follows:

Arena
A Taste of Armageddon
Tomorrow Is Yesterday
Errand of Mercy
Court Martial
Operation--Annihilate!
The City on the Edge of Forever
Space Seed

This is actually quite a decent set of stories, which include the introduction of Khan, the Guardian of Forever and the Klingon-Federation peace treaty. It has probably been my favourite Blish collection so far but this just reinforces my belief that these books largely succeed or fail based on the quality of the episodes themselves.

On the whole, the stories are similar to the episode with minor differences that mainly occur I suspect due the fact that Blish tended to be writing from earlier versions of the scripts. It was “Operation-Annihilate!” which had the largest collection of differences with an altered ending involving the destruction of the creatures’ home planet rather than the blinding of Spock that we originally saw. Unfortunately, this version has had some important elements cut as well as Kirk’s brother and family were no longer included in the story which I felt reduced the drama.

Overall, Blish has done another competent job at adapting the various episodes and anyone looking for a bit of nostalgia probably won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Star Trek: Sacrifices of War (Errand of Fury Book 3) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Sacrifices of War (Errand of Fury Book 3)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Published: 2008
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Sacrifices of War" is the final novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Fury” Trilogy, which in itself was a sequel to his earlier “Errand of Vengeance” Trilogy. In this novel, we see that time has finally run out and both the Federation & Klingon Empire are truly teetering on the brink of war. The story is split into two parts with the first section following a Kirk led mission to destroy a Klingon weapon stash to ensure it cannot be used against the Federation. In addition, we get to see some more about Lieutenant Leslie Parrish who is traveling back to Earth aboard a cargo ship which is soon attacked by a Klingon raider. The final element of the novel is a novelization of the “Errand of Mercy” TV episode in which war finally breaks out and Kirk must try and persuade the peaceful Organians to try and resist the Klingon Empire’s advances.

To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed in this novel, it felt very schizophrenic with the first half of the novel continuing to utilise Ryan’s original ‘lower deck’ characters, before then abandoning them with a faithful adaptation of the “Errand of Mercy” episode. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very competent and well written novelization but I think I would have preferred to have seen that story told from an original point of view as it was this fresh look at the Original Series that had kept me entertained throughout the previous five novels.

My favourite bit of the novel had to be in relation to the story around Leslie Parrish and her time spent trying to fight off a Klingon attack on the cargo ship Antares. In this section, we get to see her trying to contend with a civilian crew, dated equipment and her own pregnancy, whilst trying to get everyone to safety. I particularly loved seeing how she manages to persuade some of Antares’ crew assist her in killing Klingon’s resulting in an opportunity to explore the morality of the individual involved. It was very unexpected and interesting to see as normally the characters just dispatch enemies such as the Klingon’s without much thought or remorse.

Overall, this was probably an average conclusion to Ryan’s series, let down in my opinion by the decision to tack on a novelization of “Errand of Mercy” at the end. If Ryan had continued to concentrate on his original characters we may have gotten some new insights into what occurred at the time but unfortunately we just get to see something we already know. For anyone who has read the previous novels, it is really a no brainer about reading this to conclude the series but it is probably my least favourite of the six.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Star Trek: Demands of Honor (Errand of Fury Book 2) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Demands of Honor (Errand of Fury Book 2)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Published: 2007
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Demands of Honor" is the second novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Fury” trilogy which continues to explore the build up to a Klingon-Federation War briefly ignited in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”. In this novel we get to see Kirk and the Enterprise being sent back to System 7348, a world inside Federation Space that is home to a lost Klingon colony. Their aim is to oversee a diplomatic mission from the Klingon Empire who are determined to reach out to their newly discovered brothers in the hope of claiming a key system inside Federation space and gaining access to the Dilithium present there.

I particularly enjoyed this middle book in the trilogy as we got to discover more about the Klingons living in System 7348. The primitive culture created by Ryan is very well written and there is action a plenty as would be expected when Klingons are involved. There is also a sense of danger because this society is new to Star Trek lore and therefore I had no idea if some of these wonderful characters may actually perish in amongst the action. It is actually quite nice to read a Star Trek novel where there is a real sense of not knowing in regards to characters that are actually reasonably prominent.

The “lower deck” characters from the previous novels continue to be the main focus of the novel however and I have now grown to like Michael Fuller, the new “redshirt” character introduced in the previous novel. His drive, motivation and background have now been built up to the point that I found myself really engaging in his journey which is full of twists, turns and a few heartfelt surprises.

One thing I did note is that the main crew members felt even more pushed into the background with this novel. They are there and get some important roles in the story but I found they were even less prominent than they have been in Ryan’s other novels of this series.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel which captures more of the feeling from the previous trilogy that its predecessor “Seeds of Rage” did. If you have read the previous novels you will not be disappointed and I am anticipating Ryan’s final novel in the series with great hope.