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.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Star Trek 4 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 4
Author: James Blish
Published: 1971
Chronological Period: 2267 - 2269

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 4” by James Blish is his fourth collection of Star Trek Original Series scripts adaptations. There are six adaptations included in this collection with two taken from each of Star Trek’s three seasons as follows:

All Our Yesterdays (Season 3)
The Devil in the Dark (Season 1)
Journey to Babel (Season 2)
The Menagerie (Season 1)
The Enterprise Incident (Season 3)
A Piece of the Action (Season 2)

The episodes in this collection are all rather enjoyable and fun, including the two stories taken from season 3 which were probably the best ones available from that season. It probably isn’t as enjoyable as “Star Trek 3” was but considering that book contained four episodes that were nominated for Hugo awards and this one only contained one it shouldn’t be that surprising.

In regards to the writing itself, Blish continues to do a competent job at converting the episodes into short story form although as always there is very little elaboration over what has been shown on TV. In fact, in regards to “The Megangerie”, Blish just removes the entire framing story and sticks with what is basically “The Cage”. He does at least explain why he does it, although as a modern reader used to reading many stories that include multiple viewpoints, different time periods and framing stories I can’t say I agree with his reasoning. Then again, as this was a short story, perhaps it was the right thing to have done.

Overall, this is another competent and enjoyable collection of Star Trek episode adaptations. It is probably only something a Trek fan would enjoy but I do like having the ability just to quickly delve into the stories of The Original Series without having to sit down and watch a full 40 minute episode.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Star Trek: The Galactic Whirlpool - David Gerald



Title: The Galactic Whirlpool
Author: David Gerald
Published: 1980
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Galactic Whirlpool” was the final Star Trek novel released by Bantam books before the licence was handed over to Pocket Books. What intrigued me the most about this novel was that it was written by David Gerrold, a writer who was involved quite deeply with Star Trek and who wrote the much loved Season 2 episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles”.

The story is based around a pre-FTL vessel known as the Wanderer which is found by the Enterprise to be heading towards the galactic whirlpool, two singularities spinning about each other that are traveling through the galaxy. The crew investigate the ship and find that the crew have lost much of their technology and have reverted to a rather primitive existence. It soon becomes obvious that the in inhabitants are now divided into two warring factions who are almost fanatical in their hatred of each other. Kirk and his crew must therefore work to end the civil war and restart the engines of the Wanderer before it is to late.

The story itself isn’t that remarkable and I have probably read this type of plot many times before. However, Gerrold still managed to keep me interested by providing lots of interesting details about both Federation protocol and characters history. He really uses this novel as a chance to explain and expand the Star Trek Universe that he obviously enjoys writing about. I particularly enjoyed seeing how Gerrold’s imagined pre-warp history of Earth differs from what is now accepted as canon. This difference is understandable as the novel was written back in 1980 before the real growth in developing Star Trek’s back story but if you are a stickler for the current continuity it may irritate you.

However, at times this attention to technical detail could actually bog the story down. At multiple times in the novel when there was an important plot point developing, he feels the need to slow it down with another information dump. Considering, the plot line isn’t the most original this could at times be a bit of a hindrance to really getting emerged in the story.

His love for the characters really shines through in this novel and I think he tries to give them a sense of realism. Yes, there may be slight variations from what we would have seen on the TV series itself but I actually found that this was an improvement. What really did impress me however was that as I read the book I could hear Shatner or Nimoy speaking, Gerrold has managed to catch the mannerism of the cast in his writing and I enjoyed seeing that.

Overall, this was an interesting enough novel although at times it felt more like a fictional description of the Trek Universe rather than an exciting and engaging story.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Star Trek: The Original Series: Crisis of Consciousness - Dave Galanter



Title: Crisis of Consciousness
Author: Dave Galanter
Published: 2015
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Crisis of Consciousness" by Dave Galanter is another Star Trek novel set during the time period of the Original Series. The story follows Captain Kirk and the Enterprise as they are dispatched to transfer the ambassador of the mildly xenophobic Maabas back to his home planet after signing a treaty with the Federation. Shortly after arriving, the Enterprise is then attacked by a mysterious race known as the Kenisians who claim that they are the original inhabitants of the planet and are now demanding it back. Kirk and his crew must therefore attempt to find a way in which an agreement can be reached before war breaks out and an entire sector of space is potentially destroyed.

Without doubt, this is one of the best Original Series novels I have had the pleasure to read with an enjoyable and intriguing plot. The fast-pacing and skilful writing also helped to keep me hooked from start to finish. Whilst at its core the story is an enjoyable look at how cultures respond to the wrongs perpetrated against them in the past, this doesn’t mean that the novel is lacking in action. There are some superb battle scenes that had me thoroughly entertained with the Enterprise taking a fair bit of damage. This is Trek at its best, fun and action supported by an engaging and thoughtful storyline.

In addition, the new races that have been introduced here are wonderfully well crafted. Both the Maabas and Kenisians are complex and thoroughly interesting species with the multividual personas of the Kenisians being a real highlight of the book.

Galanter also does a great job with the main characters; Kirk, Spock and McCoy are skilfully brought to life. But he also gives the supporting characters their moments as well with Uhura and Scotty both getting the chance to shine. The main focus though is without doubt on Spock and his treatment in this novel is quite simply sublime. He is the usual resourceful and brilliant Vulcan we are used to, but at the same time we get to see his own inner doubts and conflicts about what he must do to achieve his goals. It was wonderful realising that this was Galanter trying to show us a convincing reason for what would later lead Spock to his decision to follow the path of Kolinahr.

To sum up, if you enjoy the Original Series to any extent then I really have to recommend this book to you. It is thoroughly entertaining on many levels with an interesting plot, good writing and expertly captured characters. Personally, I can’t wait to read other novels in the Trek universe that have been penned by Galanter.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World - Jeff Mariotte



Title: The Folded World
Author: Jeff Mariotte
Published: 2013
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Folded World” by Jeff Mariotte is a Star Trek Original Series novel set during the Enterprise’s initial 5 year mission. The plot follows the crew of the Enterprise who intercept a distress call from the U.S.S. McRaven which was heading towards the same system as the Enterprise as part of a twofold diplomatic mission. Upon reaching the McRaven, they find that has become trapped in an anomaly unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. Upon investigating the anomaly, the crew find themselves facing a world in which the usual rules of time and space do not apply.

I find myself in two minds about the plot of the book as the premise was quite interesting and I enjoyed seeing how the anomaly itself functioned and affected both the world and characters. It was fun to follow the crew as they became unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. There was also a few intriguing sub-plots such as the original diplomatic mission that the McRaven and Enterprise had been sent on that had did entertain me as I tried to work out how they all fit together.

However, there are some issues, firstly there is the fact that Mariotte seems to just utilise several un-original plot points seen in many other Trek stories. I honestly don’t know how many times I need to see Spock help save the day by mind melding with some disembodied creature or why we need to send the main characters into a deadly scenario time after time. Further to this, it was quite disappointing that there was no real attempt made to explain the anomaly in which the McRaven was trapped.

In regards to the characters, Kirk, Spock and McCoy’s are acceptable enough although at times they didn’t always feel exactly right. Simply put, I have read better, but I have also read worse so overall I could live with how Mariotte portrays them here. Mariotte does also try adding few original characters and whilst I applaud him for the attempt, the execution is rather lacking. Whilst Tikolo did have a reasonably interesting backstory, the two others, Vandella and O'Meara were one-dimensional and rather uninspiring. Then there was the “love triangle” between them all which was rather painful to read and the less said about it the better.

Overall, “The Folded World” is an average Original Series novel with a superb looking cover. It isn’t the best Original Series novel I have read this year but it also far from the worst.