Friday, 22 April 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code - Christopher L. Bennett


Title:Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Published: 2016
Chronological Period: 2165

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"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

Star Trek: Vanguard: Precipice - David Mack


Title: Precipice
Author: David Mack
Published: 2009
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“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

Star Trek: Twilight's End - Jerry Oltion



Title: Twilight's End
Author: Jerry Oltion
Published: 1996
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“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

Star Trek: Mission to Horatius - Mack Reynolds


Title: Mission to Horatius
Author: Mack Reynolds
Published: 1968
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“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

Star Trek: The IDIC Epidemic - Jean Lorrah


Title: The IDIC Epidemic
Author: Jean Lorrah
Published: 1988
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“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.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Star Trek: The Original Series: Child of Two Worlds - Greg Cox


Title: Child of Two Worlds
Author: Greg Cox
Published: 2015
Chronological Period: 2255

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
"Child of Two Worlds" by Greg Cox is a Star Trek novel set on the USS Enterprise during Christopher Pike’s captaincy. The premise of the story is that the crew of the Enterprise have come down with a severe case of Rigelian fever and due to their distance from the nearest Starbase, their only hope is to visit the planet Cypria V which is a source of ryetalyn, a component used in an experimental drug that may cure the disease. However, as they travel to the planet they intercept a distress call from a Cyprian vessel which results in them becoming embroiled in a Klingon – Cyprian dispute around a child that was kidnapped over a decade earlier. Pike and his crew must therefore navigate a dangerous path of trying to avoid a war with the Klingon’s whilst also ensuring that they do not upset the Cyprian’s to the point that they will withold the ryetalyn needed to cure their illness.

I was thrilled when I found out that the novel was set during Pike’s time aboard the Enterprise as I feel the opportunity to explore some of lesser developed time periods is one of the great aspects of Trek Literature. One issue of course is that this type of novel normally only appeals to the more dedicated Star Trek fan, but Spock’s presence amongst Pike’s crew does provide an element of familiarity which I think helps opens the book up to the more casual fan. Spock is therefore understandably given a reasonably prominent role in the story which is used to wonderfully explore various aspects of his young character as he learns to live and work with humans aboard the Enterprise. However, Cox also makes sure that other characters from Pike’s crew are fairly well involved and utilised such as Doctor Boyce, the enigmatic Number One and Captain Pike himself. For me this added to the intrigue and interest factor as I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about these less well known characters and liked to review in my mind the little differences that I would see between this crew and Kirk’s more familiar one.

Outside of the interesting character elements I mentioned above, the plot was entertaining in its own right, with action, adventure, and camaraderie aplenty. Cox’s writing is solid as I would expect from someone with his experience and the pacing is just about perfect to the point that I pretty much read the book in just two sittings as I couldn’t put it down. In addition, it wouldn’t be a Trek novel without a few amusing references to the regular series, including a comment about expendable ensigns, explaining the origin of an intruder control system and some foreshadowing of Spock’s future with Kirk. I actually found the references toned down compared to other Trek novels including some of Cox’s own work which I appreciated as I thought this more subtle approach wasn’t as jarring as it can be when author’s decide to just throw Trek reference’s in the reader’s face.

Overall, this was a thoroughly interesting look at Spock’s history that also provides the reader with a satisfying and entertaining central story. Cox has weaved this story into the know continuity well and I would love to read more stories set in this era as there is a very engaging crew here that I think deserve some time in the limelight.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Star Trek: The Vulcan Academy Murders - Jean Lorrah



Title: The Vulcan Academy Murders
Author: Jean Lorrah
Published: 1984
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Vulcan Academy Murders” by Jean Lorrah is a novel set in The Original Series period of Star Trek. The story takes place on the planet Vulcan as Kirk, McCoy and Spock have brought an injured crew member to the Vulcan Science Academy so that a revolutionary new form of treatment can be utilised to heal him. However, when one of the patients involved in the treatment dies, it soon become clear that there is a murderer on the loose. Kirk is therefore forced into becoming a detective and must catch the perpetrator before anyone else dies.

The book was well paced and there was quite a bit of action to keep me entertained from start to finish. There was also some interesting exploration undertaken in regards to Vulcan life which was eye opening and enjoyable to see. The only real weakness in the story itself is the actual mystery itself because it is far too easy to identify the culprit. I knew who the murdered was before passing the 50 page mark which does remove most of the intrigue and excitement from that element of the story as none of the reveals were surprising.

On the whole, the characters are nicely portrayed and I had no issue recognising Kirk, Spock & McCoy. In addition most of the new characters were interesting and varied although the antagonist of the story was a bit one-dimensional which meant it was easy for the reader to identify them as the murderer. Another strange character related issue was the relationship between Spock and Sarek. Whilst I appreciate that the two of them are closer than they had previous been due to the events of "Journey to Babel” they felt a little bit too reconciled. This was exacerbated by the fact that Sarek seemed to be a little bit more relaxed and open that I would have expected.

Overall this was a fun but predictable story that takes an interesting look at Vulcan society, ecology and culture. The weak mystery plot points were rather disappointing and I don’t think hard-core mystery readers may be rather disappointed although I suppose it might still appeal to regular Star Trek fans that only have a mild interest in the mystery genre.