Friday, 12 January 2018

Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours - David Mack



Title: Desperate Hours
Author: David Mack
Published: 2017
Chronological Period: 2255

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Desperate Hours” by David Mack is the first novel written as a tie-in to the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series. The story is set a year prior to the event’s which occurred during the Star Trek: Discovery pilot episode and follows the crew of the USS Shenzhou who have to assist the people of a colony who have awoken some rather dangerous technology which was hidden in the ocean. This mission is further complicated when the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike also arrives with orders to destroy this technology no matter the cost.

The plot is quite standard for Star Trek in that it explores the moral dilemma of duty versus ethics. One thing to note is that there is plenty of action present to keep the pace moving but unfortunately there is no tension involved as the reader knows there is no real threat to characters. Therefore some elements of action, especially those involving Burnham and Spock on the alien spacecraft did begin to feel a bit repetitive at times.

One thing Mack has done well however is capture the characters from the new series quite well. Despite the lack of data so far available, the characters did seem to fit with what has been shown on the TV screen so far. In addition, the background provided into Burnham and Saru was very interesting to follow and has helped me actually appreciate both characters much better. It is this type of thing I like in my Trek novels, the chance to actually expand and enhance what we know from the series.

The bit I am particularly intrigued about from the book however is the relationship between Spock and Burnham. Some of the interactions between the two of them were quite interesting to see and it was nice seeing Spock and Burnham both realise through each other that the relationships with Amanda and Sarek were more complicated than they had first assumed. I am curious to see if anything shown here is expanded upon in future novels or alluded to on the TV Series.

Overall, this was a very competent first tie-in novel for the new series although the plot itself was pretty standard stuff. The main reason to read this book is to enhance your understanding of the characters and learn more about the relationships between them all.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference - Christopher L. Bennett



Title: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Published: 2017
Chronological Period: 2166

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Patterns of Interference” by Christopher L. Bennett is the fifth novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. This book was probably the weakest in this series which is a shame as up until now I had been finding the series to be incredibly enjoyable.

The novel is set in the first few months of 2166 as the federation continues to deal with multiple issues. The main plot point however is in relation to the planet Sauria and the dictator, Maltuvis who is determined to undermine the Federation in order to cement his own power. Into this dangerous situation comes Tucker who is determined to undermine Maltuvis's authority in a manner which could also bring down Section 31 as well. This is supported by various other plotlines such as Hoshi and the crew of the Endeavor on the world Birnam who are dealing with what could be a sentient race of Dryads. In addition, we also get to see the growth in relationship between Malcolm Reed & Caroline Paris

I suppose the reason why this book disappointed me in comparison to the earlier books is that it simply felt like a filler and it feels like Bennett is sometimes struggling to give some characters interesting things to do. I worry that the series appears to be turning into “The Adventures of Trip” rather than properly progressing all the characters and delving into some of the open plot points from the series.

What Bennett does do well is that he once again showcases his understanding of the characters in the Enterprise universe and his skill at bringing them to the page. I just didn’t feel as entertained as I had with the previous entries in the series although this doesn’t make “Patterns of Interference” a bad book, it just makes it an average book.

Overall, this is still a reasonably solid Trek novel but it just didn’t capture my attention to the same extent as the previous novels. I am hoping that in the next book we will see some of these plots get closed down and maybe give less page time to Trip!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Star Trek 12 - James Blish & J.A. Lawrence



Title: Star Trek 12
Author: James Blish & J.A. Lawrence
Published: 1977
Chronological Period: 2266 - 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 12” was the final collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations written by James Blish as he passed away whilst writing it. The collection was therefore completed by his wife, J.A. Lawrence who would go on to adapt the only remaining episodes in "Mudd's Angels". The five episodes included in this collection are cover all three seasons and are as follows:

Patterns of Force (Season 2)
The Gamesters of Triskelion (Season 2)
And the Children Shall Lead (Season 3)
The Corbomite Maneuver (Season 1)
Shore Leave (Season 1)

So I am at the point where I just want to copy my reviews from previous Blish novelisations as most of the commentary is the same. Basically, if you enjoyed the TV episode then you will enjoy the novelisation and if you didn't like the episode then you won't like the novelisation. Blish and Lawrence are competent in their job of converting the episodes into written form but they don't really add anything new to change the underlying strengths or weaknesses of the individual stories.

As I suspect most people considering this book will have seen these episodes already I won't bother summarising them here. The writing itself is good but I would only really recommend this collection to a Trek lit completionist at it doesn't offer anything new and if you don't know the stories then you would be better off actually watching the TV show episodes.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Star Trek: Double, Double - Michael Jan Friedman



Title: Double, Double
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Published: 1989
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Double, Double” was Michael Jan Friedman’s first ever Star Trek novel and acts as a sequel to the Original Series episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. The story is based on the premise that Kirk has decides to gloss over the events which occurred on Exo III and doesn’t carry out a full investigation in order to protect Nurse Chapel. However, another android returns to the planet and when it finds its creator dead, it decides to continue his work. The android finds the template of Kirk still in the machine and creates another android using it. This android Kirk is full of confidence and ventures forth to takeover a starship and then to control the galaxy.

This is one of the better written Trek novels with a well-paced story and a decent amount of detail. In addition, the story itself was rather engaging with Friedman doing an excellent job of continuing the established story from the TV series. The characters are also handled well although I did have an initial issue with Kirk which is detailed below.

Basically, the issue with Kirk I had was due to him not telling Starfleet everything that happened on Exo III. The reason given that he is protecting Nurse Chapel just seemed very inconsistent and flimsy. I found it hard to believe that Kirk would risk not telling Starfleet about everything considering the risk posed by the machine. It doesn’t spoil the overall telling of the story but me feeling rather incredulous at the set up wasn’t the best way to start a novel.

Overall, I did enjoy the novel although I will admit that I do have a soft spot for stories which continue threads started via the original show so maybe I would have enjoyed it even if it was terrible! Thankfully it isn’t and despite the weak initial premise, the writing and pacing are more than adequate and the story is entertaining.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Star Trek 7 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 7
Author: James Blish
Published: 1972
Chronological Period: 2267 - 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 7” by James Blish is the seventh collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations. The six episodes included in this collection are from both Season Two and Season Three and are as follows:

Who Mourns for Adonais? (Season 2)
The Changeling (Season 2)
The Paradise (Season 3)
Metamorphosis (Season 2)
The Deadly Years (Season 2)
Elaan of Troyius (Season 3)

Unsurprisingly, I found that the stories based around the Season 2 episodes were better than the ones from Season 3. This is because the standard of Blish’s adaptations tend to scale in relation to source material which began to deteriorate by Season 3. Other than that, it is all very by the book with Blish continuing his competent work in converting the scripts into short stories.

The stories included in this collection are on the average side in comparison with some other episodes from the Original Series but there are a couple of interesting inclusions that I want to highlight. Firstly, there is the story “Metamorphosis” which introduces the character Zefram Cochrane into Trek Lore. Secondly there is “The Changeling” which is basically the basis for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Overall, there isn’t much else for me to say unless I wanted to summarise all the stories which I think is probably a waste of time as most people who are thinking of reading this collection will know them anyway. The writing itself is competent although the stories themselves aren’t anything that special, but this isn’t the fault of Blish. I probably would only recommend this collection to a completionist which is probably what I will be doing for all my future reviews of these collections.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Star Trek: Uhura's Song - Janet Kagan



Title: Uhura's Song
Author: Janet Kagan
Published: 1985
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"Uhura's Song" by Janet Kagan is an Original Series novel set on the planet Eeiauo where the Enteprise is attempting to help the planet’s feline inhabitants battle a plague. Things soon become worse however when the disease jumps the species barrier and begins to spread to other planets. Before long it becomes clear that a song Uhura learnt from an Eeiauoan diplomat in her early career may hold the secrets needed to stopping the disease as it hints at a cure in the Eeiauoan past. The Enterprise’s crew therefore work hard to try and unravel the truths hidden in the song.

Kagan’s writing and pacing are spot on and I have to say that the standard is much higher than quite a few other Trek novels I have read. Her excellent writing is supplemented by the creation of a wonderfully complicated new alien culture. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the cultural differences affected how the Federation and the Eeiauoans interacted with each other. The ability to properly develop a one off alien species is without doubt one of the real advantages that the novels can have over the TV series and this is a prime example.

It was also great to see Uhura use her linguistic skills and emotional intellect to make a significant impact on the outcome of the story. I suppose, the title of the book should have given away her importance but it was still good to see her get some proper character development. Her interactions with Spock were particularly wonderful to see and really helped showcase her character.

Whilst it was good to see Uhura get an important role in the story, she was overshadowed by another character which annoyed me. Namely the far too perfect, Dr. Evan Wilson. Seriously… she is beautiful and feisty enough to entice Kirk, smart and intellectual so she can challenge Spock, able to compete with Sulu at swordplay and is a wizard with the computer. It was all too much for me, especially when I am not sure was even needed as everything she did could have been handled by various different crew members.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel and much better than the previous two Trek novels I read by Robert E. Vardeman. It really was a pleasure to read this and if it wasn’t for my annoyance with Dr. Evan Wilson it probably would have been up there as one of my favourite Trek novels to date. In the end though, I would advise any Trek fan to go give this book a read, just for the joy of seeing Uhura in all her glory.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Star Trek: Mutiny on the Enterprise - Robert E. Vardeman



Title: Mutiny on the Enterprise
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Published: 1983
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Mutiny on the Enterprise” by Robert E. Vardeman is one of the early Star Trek Original Series novels published by Pocket Books. The story follows the Enterprise which is sent on a mission to deliver a diplomatic team in the hope of halting hostilities between two worlds despite being long overdue a break for some maintenance actions. However, when Kirk rescues a stranded space-traveller called Lorelei on the way, he gets more than he bargained for as she appears to cast a spell of pacifism over the crew, risking both the mission and Kirk’s control of the Enterprise.

As with Vardeman’s other early Trek novel, “The Klingon Gambit” this book really wasn’t one of my favourites. Basically, the main characters don’t feel right and the story is at times overly complicated with far too much going on. The only passing marks the novel gets is that the premise of the story itself is quite interesting and Vardeman’s writing is acceptable enough but this wasn’t enough to make this an enjoyable read.

Another issue I had with the story is the way in which Lorelei is attempting to stop the Enterprise’s mission on the premise of pacifism. In my head, it was quite clear that if the Enterprise did not get involved there would be a war so whilst I appreciate there was the chance that violence could result from the Enterprise getting involved; it seemed there was more chance of this happening if the mission was abandoned. Therefore, sabotaging the mission to me was a form of passive aggression and therefore not pacifist.

Overall, this is a rather weak Star Trek novel which an interesting premise which is badly executed in a clumsy and overly contrived way. I would only recommend this novel for those of you out there like me who want to read every Trek novel.