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.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Star Trek: The Klingon Gambit - Robert E. Vardeman





Title: The Klingon Gambit
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Published: 1981
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Klingon Gambit” by Robert E. Vardeman is an Original Series Star Trek novel which is set firmly during the first 5 year mission period. The story follows the Enterprise as it is ordered to Alnath II where a Klingon ship is suspected of murdering the crew of a Vulcan science ship. Meanwhile an Archaeological team down on the planet refuse to leave despite the continued threat of the Klingons. Before long both the crews of the Enterprise and Klingons being to act irrationally and the risk of a major interstellar incident looms.

The first thing I noted was how short this novel is, at only around 160 pages long it isn’t the most in-depth or extravagant story. It feels more like one of the Bantam Star Trek novels which isn’t surprising when you realise that this was only the third Star Trek story released by Pocket Books. The issue with the short length however means that the book doesn’t always flow very well and issues with the passage of time abound. An example of this is that when Kirk asks for a Security Team to be assembled it seems to happen almost instantly. The author is basically racing through the story and not thinking about how to show at least some level of passing time.

Another problem with the book is that the characters are all over the place. I will admit that part of this is due to the interference of an outside force but the various out-of-character actions are still rather irritating. Unless, the plot of a Trek novel is clever, well-crafted and paced correctly, I think removing that ability to understand and appreciate the characters we all know well diminishes the book. In the case of “The Klingon Gambit” I didn’t think the story was good enough and therefore losing the characters I know reduced my enjoyment quite substantially.

The next issue I had with the novel relates to the time in which it was written. The Klingon’s themselves are missing a lot of the nuances and enhancements which were introduced in later series and novels. They are basically all brutes, who only operate for their on self-gain and are clearly just bad! In addition to this issue, some of the writing itself feels rather racist, sexist and xenophobic. It isn’t always the most comfortable of reads for a modern reader but as long as you can understand the context of when it was written, it can be ignored.

My review has been very negative so far and in simple terms I have to say that this wasn’t a very good Trek novel. However, in an attempt to highlight some positives I will say that there is a decent idea within the plot which I did find interesting at times and I still managed to finish it. Unless you are desperate to read every Trek novel I wouldn’t necessarily bother with this one.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Star Trek: The Rings of Tautee - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: The Rings of Tautee
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published: 1996
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Rings of Tautee” is an original series Star Trek novel written by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The story follows the crew of the USS Enterprise as it investigates a Solar System which appears to be disintegrating. Whilst the crew suspect this may be a new Klingon super weapon they are also focused on a pre-warp civilisation which will soon be wiped out. The Prime Directive limits their ability to assist this alien race, but if they don’t do something then this species and potentially the entire galaxy will be destroyed by an ever increasing wave of destruction.

This is a reasonably interesting novel which does a good job in its characterisations of the various original series characters. Considering the authors involved, I am not surprised by this as they are experienced Trek writers so know the characters well. The plot itself is entertaining enough and there are a few engaging emotional moments included, mainly related to the Tauteeans themselves.. However, I have to admit there were a few times that I rolled my eyes in disbelief at the number of issues which kept coming along.

My biggest issue though, was in regards to the way in which the novel interprets the Prime Directive. I have always hated the way in which Star Trek sometimes uses the Prime Directive as an excuse for not helping a doomed civilisation which is how it has been depicted here. In my mind, the Prime Directive should be used to ensure the Federation does not influence the growth or development of a civilisation. It shouldn’t be an excuse to stand back and allow an alien species to go extinct. As I said, Star Trek has used the Prime Directive in this way before but it always annoys me as it never feels right to me and I can’t believe that this really would be the aim.

Overall, this was an interesting enough story although nothing out right special. The application of the Prime Directive irritated me a bit but I could probably say the same about many other novels and episodes. It stands quite firmly in that middle of the road area of Star Trek novels so most readers should find it reasonably enjoyable.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Star Trek: Purgatory's Key (Legacies Book 3) - Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore



Title: Purgatory's Key
Author: Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published: 2016
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Purgatory's Key" by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore is the final book in the “Legacies” trilogy of novels which were written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. It picks up directly from the events that occurred at the end of the previous novel, Best Defense” with the Enterprise heading to the planet Usilde to see if they can actually rescue the various people now trapped in an alternate universe. Of course with the Klingon’s already holding the planet, it is not going to be an easy task. Meanwhile, in the alternate universe, Captain Una along with the recently arrived Sarek, Joanna McCoy & the Klingon Gorkon are trying to work out themselves if there is any chance to get home.

The authors have crafted a well-written novel that wraps up all the various loose ends. The writing is competent and the plot itself is enjoyable enough with some entertaining action sequences interspersed amongst the other more cerebral sections of the novel. In addition, the various main characters acted exactly as I would have expected, but considering the Treklit experience of the authors involved this didn’t surprise me.

However, the story did have various issues which detracted from my overall enjoyment. I suspect most of them however were related to the quantity of plot lines the authors had to get completed. Basically, we just seemed to skim the surface of the various story elements and there was pretty much zero development of the characters. The authors just didn’t seem to have the time to get deeper down into the plot lines and characters. This lack of depth was really highlighted to me in relation to the strange intermediate “ether” realm that existed between the two Universes. I have to admit that I got a little bit confused here as I couldn’t understand why or how this strange realm existed or how it actually worked. It almost felt more like Fantasy than Science-Fiction although I know the differences between these two genre can be rather blurred.

Overall, this is a competent enough conclusion to the series and if you have read the other novels then you will at least get some closure by reading "Purgatory's Key". I think in the end the best way to describe this book and the series as a whole is that they are reasonably enjoyable standard Star Trek novels. They aren’t bad but I just don’t think they lived up the 50th Anniversary hype.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Star Trek: Best Defense (Legacies Book 2) - David Mack



Title: Best Defense
Author: David Mack
Published: 2016
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Best Defense” is the second book in the “Legacies” series of novels which are being written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The story picks up several weeks after the previous book ended with the reveal that Captain Kirk's yeoman was a Romulan spy who had now stolen and alien artefact known as the Transfer Key. Whilst the crew of the Enterprise are trying to deal with this situation, Ambassador Sarek reaches out to the Enterprise to come to his aid in the peace talks which are taking place between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. If these peace talks fail that the Klingon Empire and Federation may both be doomed and therefore Kirk has no choice but to try and help Ambassador Sarek. In parallel to this, the reader also gets to follow Captain Una who is now in the Jatohr universe where she is determined to find her lost colleagues.

David Mack has done a decent job in building on the elements introduced in the first book, creating a fast paced adventure which nicely balances elements of intrigue, diplomacy and action. I quite simply struggled to put the book down and would probably say that I enjoyed it more than the first novel, “Captain to Captain”. There is also some decent progress being made in the storyline which was nice to see as 2nd novels in a trilogy can sometimes fall into the trap of being nothing more than filler which thankfully isn’t the case here.

The only real issue I have is in relation to the sections of the novel dedicated to Captain Una. Whilst in the previous novel I was surprised at how central she was to the story, this time it feels like she has been shunted off to the side with her sequences in the Jatohr universe coming across as being rather dull. I actually think that Mack has reduced her role a little bit too much and some more expansion of what was going on the Jatohr universe may have actually made these sequences more entertaining.

Overall this was a very satisfying and entertaining story which follows on neatly from the events seen in “Captain to Captain”. There may be a little bit too much included in the novel which does limit some sections such as those set in the Jatohr universe but this is a minor quibble. If you read the first book, then I really do recommend you pick up this novel as well. For myself, I am now looking forward to getting stuck into the finale of this entertaining trilogy.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Star Trek: Captain to Captain (Legacies Book 1) - Greg Cox



Title: Captain to Captain
Author: Greg Cox
Published: 2016
Chronological Period: 2249 & 2267

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Captain To Captain” is the first book in the “Legacies” series of novels which are being written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The novel is split across two time periods, in 2267 Captain Una (aka Number One from the pilot episode The Cage) visits the Enterprise on a supposedly social call, but soon steals an artefact known as “The Key” in order to complete a personal mission. The reason for this mission is explained by a flashback to 2249 in which the Enterprise, under the command of Captain Robert April discovers a race of creatures known as the Jatohr who have come from an alternate universe via the Key technology. Una and her away team are forced to find a way to deal with the Jatohr before they can use their technology against the Federation and the entire Universe.

The story is well written and nicely paced with overall drama of the story being complemented by a few entertaining action scenes. What I liked about the 2249 period is that beyond Una and Captain April themselves I had no idea who would live or die from the Enterprise’s crew which added to the drama. I also felt that Cox has done well in capturing the characters and in particular I found the adjustment of Number One's name to "Una" to be quite plausible.

One thing which was a bit surprising to me is that so much of the book was focused on Una (Number One) rather than the regular main characters. Whilst I was more than happy to learn a bit more about that enigmatic character, it wasn’t really what I would have expected from a book celebrating 50 years of Star Trek. Yes, many Trek fans will probably like this exploration of character that was cast aside after the first pilot episode, but for the more casual fans I suspect it would have better to create a story that gave more of a central role to Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

The ending itself was also a little bit disappointing as it didn’t really close any of the open plot points. I understand it is a series but the new twist revealed at the end would have been enough of a cliff-hanger to keep people wanting to read more. Instead I am a bit annoyed that there are new plot lines being brought into the story even when we still have plenty of others ones left open.

Overall, despite my minor issues, this was still an enjoyable and entertaining Star Trek novel. From my point of view, I enjoyed learning more about Number One although I do understand that for some fans the side-lining of Kirk et al won’t be popular. The lack of closure evident at the ending was irritating but the additional twist revealed has nicely set up the next novel in the series “Best Defense”.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Star Trek: Treaty's Law (Day of Honor Book 4) - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: Treaty's Law
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published: 1997
Chronological Period: 2268 (Framing Story: 2288)

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Treaty’s Law” by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch is the fourth book in the “Day of Honor” series, a collection of Klingon focussed cross-over Star Trek novels. Whilst it is the fourth book in the series, it is actually the first book chronologically and involves a standalone plot so there was no issue in regards to reading it out of series order.

The story is set during The Original series period on the planet Signi Beta, a planet ideal for farming which both the Klingons and Federation wish to claim. The Klingon’s have a stronger claim but Kirk really doesn’t want to lose it, especially when his old adversary, Commander Kor is involved. However, when the Klingon Colony is attacked by powerful, unknown aliens, it is up to the crew of the Enterprise to work alongside the Klingons in order to survive.

The story was well written and fast paced with a fair amount of action. It reminded me a bit of the usual Kirk centric action plots you would see on the TV series. This feeling I had was enhanced by the characters who are well captured and easily match what we know of them from the TV series. However, the authors also added in a few new characters such as the Klingon Kerdoch. He was a well-rounded character who was used well to add different views into the story without eclipsing the regular characters. In a way he reminded me of the usual “Guest Stars” you would have seen during the TV series, who have prominent roles but are used alongside the regular cast rather than instead of.

One disappointing aspect of the novel is in regards to Kor. He basically spends most of the novel injured and doesn’t really say that much. Therefore there is very little of the enjoyable verbal sparring that you would normally get to see between him and Kirk. It wasn’t a huge issue, but I would have enjoyed seeing a little bit more of him, especially considering he is quite prominent on the cover.

Overall this is an enjoyable original series novel although I don’t think it adds that much to my knowledge of Klingons. Still, if you are interested in Klingons you may as well still pick it up for a read as there are the odd interesting elements present. Like in regards to the non-warrior aspects of Klingon culture.