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.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Star Trek: Seeds of Rage (Errand of Fury Book 1) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Seeds of Rage (Errand of Fury Book 1)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Published: 2005
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Seeds of Rage” is the first novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Fury” trilogy which is a sequel trilogy to the incredibly enjoyable “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy. As with the previous trilogy Ryan continues to explore the build up to the Klingon – Federation War that briefly occurs in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”. Of course the original star of the first trilogy, the Klingon spy Jonathan Anderson is dead but Ryan continues to explore the lives of the people he was involved with such as his brother, Karel & Enterprise security officer, Leslie Parrish.

The story itself is fast paced, exciting and action packed. In other words, it feels a lot like the final novel in the “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy. Personally, I actually preferred the slower pacing of the earlier novels in that previous trilogy as this did a better job at bringing out the suspense, political intrigue and character development. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this book but I do feel that the overall development of the people and intricate politics appears to have stalled a little.

In regards to the characters, I really appreciated that Ryan once again tries to tell the majority of the story from the view point of “lower deck” characters. So those of you who, like me, fell in love with these other characters can breathe easy knowing that you will get to see more from them. In addition, I also enjoy how Ryan still manages to take standard Trek lore and events from the various Original Series episodes and builds on it to enhance both my appreciation of the novel and what I had previous seen on the TV screen.

Overall this was a very competent and entertaining continuation of Ryan’s Klingon-Federation Cold War series. The more intricate development of the characters and some plot points do appear to have come to a halt but the main plot is still moving forward and if you like the more action orientated novel then this book should appeal. Despite my own minor issues I still enjoyed the novel and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Star Trek: The Joy Machine - James Gunn & Theodore Sturgeon



Title: The Joy Machine
Author: James Gunn & Theodore Sturgeon
Published: 1996
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Joy Machine” is a Star Trek Original Series novel written by James Gunn based on a story outline written by Theodore Sturgeon. Whilst two of Sturgeon’s outlines got converted into actual episodes, namely “Amok Time” & “Shore Leave” this one didn’t make it and therefore this novel is the only way to actually discover the story.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise who have been sent to the vacation planet Timshel to find out why the planet has quarantined itself & why two previous Federation investigative teams stopped communicating. Upon arrival, Kirk discovers that the people are under the control of a machine known as the Joy Machine which allows the residents to experience pure pleasure as payment for conducting various mundane tasks. This results in a form of severe social stagnation and the crew of the Enterprise soon realise that if this spreads beyond the planet it could spell the end for the Federation.

This plot is actually rather interesting and does feel like a classic TOS episode with it taking a look at how a perfect world for humans actually results in the loss of drive and exploration which could lead to stagnation and potentially worse. However it is probably stretched out a little bit too much in novel form and I do feel it would have worked much better as an hour long TV episode. I found myself getting a little bit bored at times as it felt a little bit padded which resulted in a rather slow pace. I actually think this may have worked better as a short story as the limited length may have helped to make it feel more like the TV episode it was originally planned to be.

The novel is also very Kirk centric which I actually didn’t mind as most of the other Star Trek novels I have read recently weren’t in this mould. If you are a lover of Kirk then I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy this but you shouldn’t expect to see much from the other characters who tend to fade into the background, especially the original ones who I found to be very underwhelming.

Overall this is a rather average Trek novel which does a good job in capturing the mood of the original series although it does feel a little bit bloated by the conversion from Episode outline to full blown novel. It was quite fun to visualise what could have been if the story had become an episode but beyond that I don’t think it was anything special. In addition the Kirk centric nature of the story could put some people off. However, if you can’t get enough everyone’s favourite Starship captain then I think you will enjoy this novel despite the minor issues I have mentioned.