Monday, 22 December 2014

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



Title: SeDemands 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.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Star Trek: Web of the Romulans - M.S. Murdock



Title: Web of the Romulans
Author: M.S. Murdock
Published: 1983
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Web of the Romulans” by M.S. Murdock is a Star Trek Original Series novel set early in the Enterprise’s 5 year mission and is the only Star Trek novel that Murdock wrote. The story is based around the Federation’s response to the peculiar actions of Romulan Empire which are leading some people within Starfleet command to believe that an invasion may be immanent. The Enterprise is dispatched to the Neutral Zone to monitor the situation and soon the crew find themselves face to face with a Romulan ship whose commander is willing to do anything he can to ensure the completion of his secret mission.

The main aspects of the story regarding Kirk’s face off against the Romulan commander were very reminiscent of the TV episode “Balance of Terror”. Whilst the end result of the face-off is rather different I still found that it made the book feel rather un-original due to this being the core action elements of the novel. This all exacerbated by some rather bad pacing. It takes quite a while before the book actually gets on to any of the action scenes and then when they do occur they are interrupted by the narrative jumping to some of the other slower paced sub-plots.

An additional thing that I noted is that the portrayal of women isn’t the best and I am sure some people could easily classify it as being slightly misogynist. For example, Uhura’s main role in the novel is to look “fragile” in her bathrobe and then there is the loyal centurion on the Romulan ship who it turns out may only be loyal because she actually loves her commander. Yes, I have seen much worse in other books but the portrayal of women here wasn’t the greatest and I haven’t even touched on the computer who was given a female persona and then fell in love with Kirk and started to act like a 12 year old girl.

There are of course some positives within the novel such as the very fact that it does take an interesting look at the Romulan Empirs. I found the moments spent on the intrigue within the Preator’s court or the way in which the Romulan Commander interacted with his crew to be rather enjoyable if a bit limited in scope. I do wish that Murdoch had maybe tried to spend more time exploring the political and cultural side of the Romulan Empire in more depth.

Overall, this wasn’t really the best of Star Trek. Whilst the close look at the Romulan Empire was interesting the bad pacing and rather un-original aspects of the plot let it down. If you are a fan of the Romulans then I would advise you to still give the book a read but if you are just interested in general Star Trek fare then there are much better novels out there.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Star Trek: Heart of the Sun - Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski



Title: Heart of the Sun
Author: Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski
Published: 1997
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Heart of the Sun” by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski is an Original Series Star Trek Novel that takes place early on in the 5 Year Mission. My first comment about it is that it displayed the issue I have noticed recently with cover blurbs not matching what actually happens in the novel. Whilst the blurb details that the story is about the Enterprise trying to stop an asteroid hitting a planet it is actually about the Enterprise trying to stop an asteroid which contains some mysterious technology hitting the planet’s sun which in turn may affect the planet itself. It isn’t the biggest of differences to be honest but I still hate the way that this type of thing can make Star Trek books appear rather amateurish.

Anyway, the story we do get here is pretty standard Star Trek fare and isn’t anything special although it is solid enough. It is a reasonably smart and thoughtful novel that tries to put forward some interesting points on the issues of becoming an overly insular society. The authors also do a reasonable job with the characters as on the whole they acted in the manner I would have expected them to.

However there are some issues with the plot itself, for example the reason for the Enterprise being at the planet Tyrtaeus II did feel rather derived and unlikely. I just don’t believe that in the future an entire planet’s computer database wouldn’t have a proper back up system in place to protect it against viruses etc.

The real problem with the novel though is that it could at times get rather dull, there was a lot of contemplation and investigations going on with very little action or adventure. Now, this on its own wouldn’t have been much of an issue to me as but unfortunately towards the middle of the book the authors manage to repeat the same things over and over again. I don’t know how many times I had to read about the crew trying to move the asteroid or discuss the risks of Spock heading over there but it was too many. This continuous repetition of points just slowed the plot down and left me feeling rather bored.

Overall, this is a pretty standard Star Trek story with an interesting enough premise but told in a rather inefficient and at times rather dull manner. I did enjoy some aspects of the story but now that I have finished it I suspect it will quickly fade from my memory as it just hasn’t left any lasting impression.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: River of Blood (Errand of Vengeance Book 3) - Kevin Ryan



Title: River of Blood (Errand of Vengeance Book 3)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“River of Blood” is the final novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy. The novel continues to follow the exploits of Kell aka Jon Anderson, a Klingon spy currently serving on the USS Enterprise. In particular the story is focussed on the defence of Starbase 42 against a Klingon attempt to obtain a large quantity of starship-grade dilithium crystals which are held on the planet below.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series of novels, with particular interest deriving from the development of the various “lower deck” characters. Therefore it was a little bit disappointing to see that Ryan has changed tack with this book and has pushed the character elements of the story aside in order to create one big action packed finale. This different focus does result in a fast paced and thoroughly entertaining novel but it felt like it was missing something.

Another issue related to this different focus is that Kell himself is reduced to a very minor role. It feels to me like Ryan had maybe developed the character too quickly and was left with an entire novel in which he just had to give the character some sort of ending; an ending which I have to say was pretty predictable. I did note that this does allow Kirk and the main crew to take more of an active role in the story which will I am sure appeal to some people but I was a little bit disappointed as I had really enjoyed the freshness of concentrating on Kell and the other “minor” characters.

Whilst this review does appear a bit negative I do want to clarify that I did enjoy the book, it is a fun read and the characters acted and behaved in a manner I have come to expect. In addition, it was nice to see that whilst the character elements in the novel were diminished Ryan has tried to give all them at least one important moment with Admiral Justman in particular getting an exceptional finale.

Overall, this book is a decent finale to the series with entertaining action scenes aplenty but it was probably my least favourite due to the reduction in character elements and the loss of focus on Kell’s story. The series as a whole has been a wonderful adventure for me and I have really enjoyed its focus on the secondary characters which has given it a very fresh feeling. It is a bit of a shame that this experiment was abandoned and most books have gone back to following the main three crew members but either way I am now looking forward to reading Ryan’s follow up series “Errand of Fury” which continues the story of Klingon-Federation tensions right up until the events of the TV episode “Errand of Mercy”.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: Killing Blow (Errand of Vengeance Book 2) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Killing Blow (Errand of Vengeance Book 2)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Killing Blow” is the 2nd Novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy that takes a look at the tension between the Federation and Klingon Empire which results in war as seen in the Star Trek Original series episode “Errand of Mercy”. The main focus of the novel continues to be on Kell, the Klingon infiltrator who is current disguised as a human aboard the Enterprise. Kell has come to realise that the way in which the Empire portrays Kirk and humanity as a whole is not accurate, in fact his viewpoint has changed so much that he has ended up in a relationship with a human woman called Leslie Parrish. However, despite his reservations he is still determined to complete his mission and assassinate Kirk.

When I started reading this book I wasn’t expecting much as middle novels in trilogies do tend to be weakest of the three. However, Ryan has managed to continue the overall plotline adequately whilst also giving us an interesting and enjoyable story specific to this novel. There are of course still some elements of the novel dedicated to setting things up for the finale but the inclusion of a specific mission to follow that contains a start and finish ensures that the when you finish the novel you still feel satisfied with the conclusion.

In regards to the writing, the quick pacing and action packed storyline ensures the novel feels like an episode of the TV series with us never dwelling to long on any one area. Also, the loss of red shirted personnel left, right and centre really reinforces that Original series feeling. Probably the only element that really differs strongly from one of the TV episodes is that most of the viewpoints are from people outside the regular cast. These new characters introduced in the first novel continue to grow and provide a feeling of freshness to the Star Trek Universe.

Overall this was an enjoyable continuation of the Errand of Vengeance trilogy which continues to highlight and develop the lives of the “regular” people aboard the Enterprise. In addition, Kell’s personal struggles are well portrayed and whilst we know that Kirk won’t be killed, how Kell’s journey will conclude does remain a mystery and I am eager to see how this will be resolved.