Saturday, 28 December 2013

Star Trek: Vanguard: Harbinger - David Mack



Title: Harbinger
Author: David Mack
Published: 2005
Chronological Period: 2263 - 2265

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Harbinger” by David Mack is the first novel in the Vanguard series, a collection of novels set in the Star Trek Universe around the same time period as the Original Series. This series of novels does not utilise Enterprise or its regular crew beyond the odd cameo, instead it uses a whole new cast of characters and is set on Starbase 47 aka Vanguard.

Anyway, the events of this novel take placed just after the TOS Episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and features the Enterprise heading to Starbase 47 for repairs following the events contained in that episode. However the Commander of Vanguard and his crew have more to worry about than just assisting with the repair of the Enterprise as they have colonists to support, ships to prepare and two other spacefaring Empires right on their doorstep who may not appreciate the Federation’s presence.

I am going to come right and say that the most difficult aspect of reading this book was trying to appreciate all the new characters. As this is a whole new crew I didn’t know anything about any of them and it took me a bit of time to get them all straight in my head which did lead to some confusion. Also, the limited time given to each of them means you can’t fully appreciate who they really are yet. In the end however, I realised that I had just had to treat this as the pilot episode, it is mainly here to introduce you to these new characters and at least give you some basic appreciation for who they are. I fully expect future novels to enhance the characters and give them greater depth.

Despite the negatives highlighted above in regards to the large ensemble cast I have to say that Mack has created a group of characters who feel realistic with their flaws and imperfections quite clearly showcased. In addition, I appreciated their variety as we get to see civilian points of view in addition to Starfleet and even the Starfleet crew are varied with a legal officer included for example which felt rather different. I basically found myself warming to most of the characters quite quickly and I particularly enjoyed following the antics of Cervantes Quinn a trader/smuggler who despite his criminal leanings, had elements of compassion within his persona. A final thing that struck me as the various characters were introduced is that Mack has realised there is a multitude of ethnicities within humanity itself and has tried to include a nice prominent mix within the novel which was nice to see.

In regards to the story itself, well of course people are going to compare this with DS9 or Babylon 5 as the similarities are quite obvious. I really did feel the influence of these shows quite strongly with the frontier space station, flawed characters and an overall mystery which could result in various spacefaring empires going to war. The only issue is that the book itself doesn’t really contain a standalone story, there was lots of set up with some good plot twists and action sequences but there was no real heart to the novel itself. It wasn’t a big problem for me as I am jumping straight into the next novel but as a standalone book “Harbinger” itself didn’t really leave me feeling that satisfied.

Overall, this book has the feeling of being a setup for the series in that it introduces the characters and gives us a taster of some overall mystery that is going to be uncovered as the reader progresses through the other novels. It was without doubt a nice introduction but I do wish that there had been at least some sort of decent standalone plot element as there was no real satisfying conclusion to the novel itself. In the end, this initial glimpse of the characters and the overall story arc were more than enough to get me hooked on the series which is without doubt its aim, so on that front it is a success.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Star Trek Memories - William Shatner & Chris Kreski



Title: Star Trek Memories
Author: William Shatner & Chris Kreski
Published: 1994

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek Memories” written by William Shatner and Chris Kreski is not really an autobiography but is actually a recollection of the Original Series itself. It is written chronologically taking the reader from the initial creation of the series right through to its cancellation.

Shatner basically covers the three seasons of “Star Trek” detailing what he remembers about the episodes, guest stars and other escapades that occurred throughout the Original Series production run. However he doesn’t just rely on his own memories as he supports them via commentary gleaned from interviews he held with other cast and crew members. I liked this as it enabled him to provide some added details that he may have been unable to provide if he had just relied on his own memories.

Don’t let this fool you however; the book still does have a Shatner slant which can bother some people as the guy does have an ego and can be a bit of a ham, all of which does come across at times. Personally, I like Shatner’s sense of humour so I found myself enjoying his commentary and the manner in which he recollects the various events despite his ego. In fact, I was actually quite impressed by some of Shatner’s honesty in that he does admit early on that he was at times blinded by his own thoughts and didn’t really appreciate how his actions affected his crew mates.

One minor issue I did have with these memoirs is that there is a lot of time dedicated to the first season but as we move onto the second and then the third the amount of detail reduces. In fact, I think more time was spent detailing the campaign to save Star Trek for a third season than was actually spent going over the events of the season’s production. Whilst I understand he maybe wanted to concentrate more on the good than the bad, it did make the book feel a little bit lopsided.

A final point I wish to make is that whilst Shatner describes various events, technical details and production issues he doesn’t really capture the relationships between everyone. I felt that this was a shame as I knew a fair few of the known facts already and had been looking for a bit more about how the various cast and crew members interacted.

Overall, I found this to be a decent look back at the history of the television show which includes a look at the cast, crew and even some of the technical aspects. Yes it would have been nice to get a little bit of a deeper look at the relationships between people but in the end I suspect Shatner’s own strong viewpoints may have skewed this anyway.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Star Trek: S.C.E. #64: Distant Early Warning (What's Past Book 4) - Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore



Title: S.C.E. #64: Distant Early Warning (What's Past Book 4)
Author: Dayton Ward
Published: 2006
Chronological Period: 2265

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
So “Distant Early Warning” by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore is my first experience of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers Ebook series and I would it to be a rather interesting if rather quick experience. Whilst the majority of these books focus on the 24th Century, this book takes a look at the crew of the USS Lovell in the 23rd Century and appears to be a prequel to the Vanguard series of novels which I am about to start reading.

The year is 2265 and Starfleet has fast-tracked the construction of Starbase 47, also known as Vanguard although the reason for such a rush to get it built is being kept secret by Starfleet Command. Unfortunately, there are various technical problems plaguing the Starbase and so the USS Lovell is called in with its Starfleet Corps of Engineers team ready to help. However, it soon becomes obvious that this isn’t just teething troubles and there appears to be something much more mysterious causing the issues.

The first thing that did impress me about this story is that even though I haven’t read any SCE or Vanguard novels I found it to be accessible and understandable. With such a large collection of new characters and a limited page count I was pleasantly surprised by this as I was worried that I would struggle to follow it. The fact that the authors didn’t try and link the story into the regular 24th Century SCE crew also helped to ensure the ebook was fully concentrating on the plot and the characters of the 23rd Century.

The story itself was entertaining and attention grabbing although some elements of the plotting didn’t completely work for me. Basically, I was a little bit disappointed that the two main plot lines seemed to have no relevance to each other. I just didn’t understand why the authors felt the need to try and cram both elements into novella like this when there was no actual link between them. I suppose having both plot lines did keep the action and excitement levels up but I think I would rather have seen a bit more exploration of the characters.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novella that has given me a decent introduction to both the crew of the USS Lovell and Vanguard. The story itself had a fair amount of action alongside some intriguing mystery which helped to ensure that I completed it in no time at all. Now, I am just looking forward to picking up the first book in the Vanguard series and finding out more about the mysteries of the Taurus Reach.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Star Trek 8 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 8
Author: James Blish
Published: 1972
Chronological Period: 2265 - 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 8” by James Blish was the eighth collection of Original Series Star Trek series scripts adapted into short story form. One thing to note is that neither the various collections nor the stories contained are in any sort of chronological order so it has been an interesting experience for me in trying to decide what order I should read them as part of my chronological reading challenge.

This collection includes adaptations of the following episodes:

  • Spock's Brain (3rd Season)
  • The Enemy Within (1st Season)
  • Catspaw (2nd Season)
  • Where No Man Has Gone Before (1st Season)
  • Wolf in the Fold (2nd Season)
  • For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (3rd Season)

  • As you can see this collection contains 2 stories from each of the 3 original series seasons but I have ended up reading this collection as part of the 2265 period due to the inclusion of the pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” which is referenced in several other books from this period.

    In all honesty the stories themselves are probably only as good or as bad as they were when shown on the TV screen. There are some really enjoyable stories in this collection such as “Where No Man Has Gone Before” or “Wolf in the Fold” but there are also some real stinkers such as “Spock’s Brain” and “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.

    One thing I noted is that the novelizations are very straight forward and workmanlike with hardly any added material. In addition Blish has been quite extreme in the way he has rigidly stuck to the scripts which results in very little insight into the characters beyond what is shown in the action and dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, the stories do capture what happened on the screen very well but dedicated fans of the show are unlikely to find anything in the stories to be engaging or suspenseful as there is quite simply nothing new. However, if you are someone who came to love Star Trek via the more modern series and have never really watched the Original Series this this collection does offer an enjoyable diversion and a nice way to quickly experience these classic stories.

    Overall, these are very competent adaptions of some Original Series episodes although they are lacking anything new or insightful. I can imagine these were superb back in the days before DVD’s enabling people to watch episodes as many times as they wished but these days I don’t think they mean as much beyond offering a quick way for someone to explore the original episodes without sitting down and watching them.

    Sunday, 24 November 2013

    Star Trek: Things Fall Apart (Mere Anarchy Book 1) - Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore



    Title: Things Fall Apart (Mere Anarchy Book 1)
    Author: Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
    Published: 2006
    Chronological Period: 2265

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Things Fall Apart” by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore is the first book in a six part Star Trek mini series entitled “Mere Anarchy”. The interesting thing about this series is that the stories were originally released only in ebook format only which seems to have resulted in a shorter length in comparison to other Trek novels.

    In this story the readers are introduced to the inhabitants of the planet Mestiko who have been under observation by a small team of Starfleet cultural specialists. However, the future is not looking good for the planet as a rogue pulsar has been detected approaching their star system. The lethal radiation given off by the pulsar is expected to destroy all life on Mestiko. The Federation must therefore decide if it is willing to step in and try to assist when it is limited by the strict definitions of the Prime Directive.

    I actually found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the series as it expertly sets the stage for future instalments. I liked how the authors have split the narrative between Mestiko’s inhabitants and the crew of the Enterprise. This ensures that as well as getting to see the familiar crew, the readers are able to identify and understand the people on the planet who I suspect we will see more of in the future stories.

    One thing I really noticed about this story is that it really did seem to capture the feel of the original series era. I could easily envision this as the same crew witnessed in the episode of “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. I don’t think it offered any new insights into the crew but with the short length of this story I don’t think there was much opportunity and I was more than happy just to witness the crew acting in the manner I expected.

    Overall this was a very engaging and enjoyable introduction to the “Mere Anarchy” series that sets the scene admirably and leaves the reader looking forward to the next instalment.

    Note: Whilst this story was originally released in ebook format only, a collection of all the Mere Anarchy stories is available in a paperback edition.

    Sunday, 17 November 2013

    Star Trek: Enterprise (My Brother's Keeper Book 3) - Michael Jan Friedman



    Title: Enterprise (My Brother's Keeper Book 3)
    Author: Michael Jan Friedman
    Published: 1999
    Chronological Period 2265

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Enterprise” is the final book in the “My Brother’s Keeper” trilogy by by Michael Jan Friedman which explores the friendship between James T. Kirk and Gary Mitchell. As with the previous two novels in the series, it utilises a framing story set after the events of the TV episode entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before" in which Gary Mitchell dies.

    The framing story is based around following Kirk’s journey back to Earth where he meets Gary’s parents and decides to tell them the truth about what happened to their son. However, whilst there he ends up thinking over one of his first adventures as captain of the Enterprise in which Gary continues to help shape his career. This flashback follows Kirk and his crew as they finally unravel a mystery that had been building through both the previous novels. What they find is a secret that both the Klingon’s and Federation have kept hidden and will result in Kirk having to work with a Klingon commander named Kang if he is to save the Enterprise.

    I initially struggled to get into this book as once again Friedman decided to use a portion of the novel to describe Mitchell’s death. I can’t imagine anyone reading without having picked up the previous novels in the series so don’t understand why he felt the need to subject me to another re-telling of the same story. It doesn’t help that the best telling of Mitchell’s death was in the first novel anyway.

    However, once we get past this the novel is actually quite an enjoyable read and I was happy to finally see the conclusion to the mystery that had been progressing in the other novels. There is plenty of action and fun throughout, but in addition there is some character development in regards to Kirk as he tries to learn about accepting everyone’s opinion, not just people he may have known closely in the past so that he can be a great captain.

    Another nice little element to story is Friedman’s attempt at trying to explain the physical differences between Klingons in the Original Series and in the Next Generation. This book of course was written prior to the “Enterprise” TV series which gives a different reasoning, but I think that I actually prefer this version.

    Overall, this was an enjoyable and entertaining conclusion to the trilogy and I probably found the core story to be the best out of all three novels. There is plenty of action, adventure and excitement packed into this novel in addition to its attempt at exploring Kirk’s growth into a good captain.

    Sunday, 10 November 2013

    Star Trek: Enterprise The First Adventure - Vonda N. McIntyre



    Title: Enterprise The First Adventure
    Author: Vonda N. McIntyre
    Published: 1986
    Chronological Period: 2264

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Enterprise: The First Adventure” by Vonda N. McIntyre is a Star Trek novel that charts the first voyage of the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Kirk. The interesting aspect of this novel to me was that it was written in 1986 and appears to have been one of the first official attempts at trying to capture an event in the Star Trek Universe that was outside the period of the series or movies that had been released up to that point. Considering the wealth of novels we now have that add and refine the Trek Universe I was looking forward to seeing one of the initial attempts at providing additional detail to both the universe and the characters via a novel.

    The story itself follows Kirk as he begins to form relationships with the various crew members such as Scotty, Spock and Sulu. When Kirk finds out that his first mission as Captain of the Enterprise is to transport a group of travelling entertainers to various starbases he isn’t best pleased as he had been hoping for a chance to go and explore. Of course, this seemingly easy mission doesn’t go as planned and before long Kirk is faced with a first contact situation on the edge of Klingon territory all the while trying to keep the travelling entertainers and their flying horse under control.

    Yes, I did mention a flying horse above and it is as ridiculous as it sounds. The entire travelling circus element was just not very interesting and I soon got bored reading about different ways in which Kirk and the crew did things to help out the horse. Considering at least half the novel was based around this it really did spoil my overall enjoyment of the novel. It did get better towards the final part of the novel when the first contact situation occurred and there was some action and an interesting encounter with the Klingons but to be honest the continued involvement of the flying horse was a constant irritant for me.

    What McIntyre does do well though in my opinion is try and delve into the relationships between the various crew members. I particularly enjoyed seeing the way in which Spock and Kirk interacted with each other. There is a real feeling of testing the waters between the two of them that I could easily visualise as developing into the friendship I know will occur. It was also good to see that the other crew member didn’t instantly fall in love with Kirk and vice-versa. Every character had their own hang-up or issue and McIntyre tried to ensure that these were dealt with in a manner which could explain the way in which the various relationships mature in the future.

    Overall, the plot itself was probably rather weak and I still can’t imagine what possessed McIntyre to include a flying horse in it. However, it is an interesting attempt at trying to capture Kirk’s initial time aboard the Enterprise and his interactions between the crew. It was also interesting to review the first real attempt at some meaningful expansion of the Trek Universe via novels. Basically, if you aren’t interested in the historical significance of the novel or its attempt at exploring an earlier period of Trek lore than I probably wouldn’t bother picking it up as the story itself isn’t really worth it.

    Friday, 1 November 2013

    Star Trek: Inception - S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison



    Title: Inception
    Author: S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison
    Published: 2010
    Chronological Period: 2261

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Inception” by S.D. Perry and Britta Dennison is a Star Trek novel that I wasn’t sure about due to the focus seemingly being on the previous romantic liaisons of both Kirk and Spock. I suppose, I am just not the biggest fan of romance novels, especially when the outcome of the relationships are known anyway due to what we have seen on TV & film.

    Anyway, the plot itself is set in a time when Kirk is courting Carol Marcus and Spock has just met a young woman named Leila Kalomi. Both of these women are working on a scientific project on Mars which appears to be an early stage of the Genesis project. However, things get out of hand when some environmental groups decide they don’t appreciate the scientific work being conducted on Mars. Carol and Lelia soon require the assistance of the men they have fallen in love with to help them avert a potential disaster.

    The first observation I had with the novel was that writing is very competent and well-structured which ensured I found the book very easy to read and finish. In addition, I felt that the authors had captured the voices of Kirk and Spock to the point that I could easily imagine the delivery of various lines being made by the actors who portrayed them. It was also quite interesting to witness some sort of attempt at exploring the relationship between Kirk and Marcus.

    However, there are quite a few niggles I had with the book, the main one being that it wasn’t that exciting. The environmental plot just didn’t really keep me excited or interested as it seemed to be secondary to the overall romantic elements of the plot. This wouldn’t have been an issue if the romantic elements of the story had been deep, complex and really explored how the characters felt about each other.

    Unfortunately the relationships between the four main characters felt like something I would see in a school playground. The readers gets subjected to various levels of angst as Carol worries about how to tell Kirk her big news while Leila pines for Spock Leila in particular was a rather irritating character due to her childish reactions and the level of desperation that results. In simple terms, the romantic elements of the story are something I could easily expect to see in a book set in a High School and aimed at 14 years olds.

    Of course, the final issue with this book is that the reader already knows where these relationships are going. This results in a severe lack of suspense as you progress through the novel. Whilst this knowledge of what is going to occur in the future isn’t something new for Star Trek novels, I think "Inception" is affected more by the fact that such a large percentage of the book is dedicated to the characters' relationships.

    Overall, this book will never go down as a favourite of mine but at the same time I don’t understand some of the scathing comments I have seen around the internet. Yes it isn’t the most exciting story and the romantic elements are rather juvenile but it was still interesting to see someone try and tackle this period and it was a very easy book to read due to the author’s competent writing skills. To be honest, if there are any Star Trek fans out there who also like Young Adult styled High School romance then they will probably love this book.

    Sunday, 27 October 2013

    Star Trek: Into Darkness - Alan Dean Foster



    Title: Into Darkness
    Author: Alan Dean Foster
    Published: 2013
    Chronological Period: 2259

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Into Darkness” by Alan Dean Foster is a novelisation of the recently released Star Trek movie of the same name. I suspect most people reading this review will have seen the movie, but for those that don’t know the plot basically follows Kirk and his crew as they attempt to hunt down a man known as John Harrison who has committed an act of terrorism in London. Their hunt takes them from Earth to the Klingon home world and unearths a secret that some in Starfleet would rather be kept hidden.

    As with the Foster’s novelisation of the previous movie the writing is competent enough and adequately captures the events seen on the screen without overloading the reader (who will normally have already seen the movie) with unneeded extensive descriptive details. I don’t feel I can really say much on the plot as Foster didn’t really have much of a say in it but the action, fast pace and fun are still there for the reader to enjoy.

    However, there is very little new here and I can’t really identify any definitive reason why you should read this if you have already seen the movie. Yes, some of the conversations are expanded in a manner that better explains some aspects of the story such as transwarp transporting, the reason behind the abandoned sector of Qo’nos and how one volcano could seemingly be a threat to an entire species, but overall this is mainly just window dressing.

    To be honest, the nature of novelizations does sometimes make it difficult to review books like this because whilst it is a well written and enjoyable story, it didn’t really inspire me to keep reading and I therefore found it very easy to put it down and do something else. There is another review on TrekLit Reviews by Dan Gunther that I think really captures the issues and potential positives with novelisations and would advise that people go give it a read.

    Overall, “Into Darkness” is another competent movie novelisation by an expert in the field. Everything is captured well and there are at least a few sections of extended dialogue that helps refine the readers understanding of why certain things happened. However, I am not sure there is enough new here to make it a must buy for those who have already seen the movie. I suppose Foster will have been forced to work within the guidelines he had been set but I would have loved to see some additional elements to try and enhance the experience.

    Thursday, 24 October 2013

    Star Trek - Alan Dean Foster



    Title: Star Trek
    Author: Alan Dean Foster
    Published: 2009
    Chronological Period: 2230 - 2258

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Star Trek” by Alan Dean Foster is a novelisation of the enjoyable and action packed 2009 JJ Abrams Star Trek movie. For those of you who aren’t aware the story follows a young James Kirk who, after a chance meeting with a man named Captain Pike, decides to join up with Starfleet. Whilst at the Academy, an emergency at Vulcan forces the various cadets to be called up to work on various starships. And so Kirk is called into an adventure that leads him to face off with an enemy that was involved in the death of his father on the very day he was born.

    I am happy to say that in the written form this story is just as entertaining and action packed as it was when I watched the movie. However, if you have seen the movie already then the overall story won’t offer you any surprises. That isn’t to say that Foster hasn’t added anything to the story because he has. There are a several little enhancements that flesh out and compliment the story such as in regards to the Spock/Uhura moments and in how the rest of Nero’s crew react to the decision to try and destroy Earth.

    Some of the issues that I do have with the book however are with the overall plotline which was present in the movie itself. The story was exciting and enjoyable but some of the plot points were just rather weak. Even now, a few years later I still find it hard to come to grips with the face that Kirk seems to be propelled from cadet to captain due to one single mission.

    Foster is an experienced writer when it comes to novelisations, in fact he was involved in converting the Star Trek animated series to book. As I have come to expect from him, the writing as competent and he captures the events of the movie very well. I do think that he maybe tried a little bit too hard at times though as some of the additions to dialogue seemed to make it feel a bit clunkier that it did in the movie and actually spoils some of the impact.

    Overall this is a competent novelisation of an enjoyable Star Trek movie. Alan Dean Foster has captured all the various scenes well and has also fleshed out some areas which does enhance the storyline. Personally, I preferred the movie experience due to the less clunky dialogue but I still think most Star Trek fans will enjoy reading this book to see some of the more positive enhancements included by Foster.

    Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    I am Spock - Leonard Nimoy



    Title: I am Spock
    Author: Leonard Nimoy
    Published: 1995


    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “I am Spock” is an autobiography written by Leonard Nimoy, an actor who is still best known for his portrayal of Spock on Star Trek. It was actually his second autobiography created to showcase a few more stories from his career in addition to trying to dispel the rumour that he hated playing Spock which had been initiated due to the title of his first book, “I am not Spock”.

    I have never read that first book but it is made very clear here that he loved playing Spock and feels that whilst he has influenced that character, it in turn has influenced him. In fact there are quite a few internal dialogues contained within the book between Nimoy and Spock which are a nice touch and showcase that whilst they are different, there is a form of love between them.

    In regards to the writing itself, it was clever, informative, humorous and entertaining. I really did enjoy it from start to finish but as someone who is interested in Star Trek I suspect I was always going to. As is regular with an autobiography from an actor there is a slight element of self-importance prevalent within the book that needs to be accepted and understood. However, I didn’t find it excessive and I actually enjoyed getting to find about how own thoughts and opinions.

    You shouldn’t believe that this book is all about Star Trek however as there is much more to Nimoy than this. He is a talented actor and director in his own right and he tries to cover other aspects of his life in this book. It was particularly interesting to follow the stories about his interactions and involvement with other people and projects in Hollywood. The only thing missing in my opinion would be something about his amazing pop song “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” but I suppose we can’t have everything!

    One thing to note about the book is that it was written quite a while ago now round about the time he first appeared in The Next Generation. It therefore doesn’t include his appearances in the new movies, Fringe or anything else in his recent resurgence into the acting world. Personally, this is something I would love to see in the future as I really am curious to read about his more recent escapades and his thoughts on how Trek etc. has progressed.

    Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable book that does let the reader learn a little by more about Nimoy and his own thoughts. It can feel a bit one sided in its narrative but as long you accept that this is being told just from one person’s viewpoint it shouldn’t bother you. For any Trek fan this would be an enjoyable read and personally I am now considering picking “I am not Spock” in an attempt to read some of Nimoy’s earlier musings.

    Sunday, 20 October 2013

    Star Trek: Constitution (My Brother's Keeper Book 2) - Michael Jan Friedman



    Title: Constitution (My Brother's Keeper Book 2)
    Author: Michael Jan Friedman
    Published: 1998
    Chronological Period:  2256 (Framing Story: 2265)

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Constitution” by Michael Jan Friedman is the second novel in the “My Brother’s Keeper” trilogy. The novel continues the exploration of Kirk & Gary Mitchell’s history as started in the first novel “Republic” which I previously reviewed here. As with the previous novel, it utilises a framing story set after the events of the TV episode entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before" in which Gary Mitchell dies.

    The framing story itself mainly covers Kirk’s continued struggle to come to terms with what has happened to his friend, which is not helped by a rather gruelling debriefing. Upon his return to the Enterprise however, he ends up thinking about his past and a previous adventure with Mitchell. This flashback element of the novel enables the reader to initially witness Kirk as he joins the crew of the USS Constitution as its 2nd Officer whilst trying to come to terms with a disaster on the USS Farragut which left over 200 crewmembers dead. The full facts about the Farragut tragedy had been hidden however so Mitchell, an officer on the Constitution can’t understand why his friend seems to be a shadow of his former self. However, when the Captain and 1st Officer are trapped on a planet being attacked by mysterious space borne objects, Kirk must come to terms with his guilt and lead the crew of the Constitution against this new menace.

    To be honest, my first observation as I read the novel was that the framing story was much weaker than the one in “Republic”. This was mainly because a large part of it was taken up repeating story of Mitchell’s demise again and then when it came to the flashback portion, there was no real reason given for Kirk’s reminiscence. Luckily the main core of the story itself which followed Kirk and Mitchell’s past was much better. It was exciting, gripping and tried to delve into the emotions of a man struggling with guilt and fear. It probably didn’t highlight as much about Kirk and Mitchell’s relationship as the previous novel did and the plot wasn’t that original but it was still enjoyable to follow.

    The writing itself was competent enough and it flowed well on the whole but I have to admit there was a few grammatical issues and one confusing section of the novel when the USS Farragut was incorrectly referred to as the USS Republic which of course, didn’t make sense. It probably wasn’t a huge issue once I realised it was just an error but it did cause the story to stutter as I had to adjust. To be honest, I really would have expected something like this to have been picked up in the editing process.

    One improvement I noted over the previous novel is that Friedman has toned down Mitchell’s psychic like abilities to being almost non-existent. In “Republic” he had been using his “intuition” to solve every problem that he faced, but in “Constitution” issues were dealt with via more realistic abilities and intellect. Yes Mitchell was still the same individual seen in the previous novel but he felt more like a real life person this time rather that some sort of fantastical psychic.

    Overall, this was another interesting look into Kirk and Mitchell’s history although this wasn’t as deep as what was seen in ”Republic”. If you have already ready the first book in this trilogy then I would advise you to pick it up as it does try and continue Kirk and Mitchell’s relationship but also includes a more exciting and enjoyable core story.

    Thursday, 17 October 2013

    Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game - Alan Gratz



    Title: The Assassination Game
    Author: Alan Gratz
    Published: 2012
    Chronological Period: 2256

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “The Assassination Game” by Alan Gratz is the fourth book in the Young Adult Starfleet Academy series set in the continuity of the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie. The novel’s title is a reference to a game played by some of the cadets in which they try and “assassinate” various other cadets via the use of Starfleet sporks. However, the game soon takes a backseat when someone attempts to assassinate various dignitaries for real during a medical conference. All evidence points to a hated alien species known as the Varkolak but Kirk who is acting as an escort to the leader of the Varkolak delegation doesn’t believe it and begins to investigate himself.

    As with the other books in the series the story is rather predictable and I worked out who the “bad guy” was very quickly. This is made even worse due to the fact that out of the four books released so far in the series, some of the people involved in the various troubles that occur during the novels have been women that either Kirk or McCoy are interested in. Despite this I still found myself entertained as the story is fast paced, action packed and at times quite funny.

    What I really do appreciate in this series is that they do try and provide some type of continuation between them even though there are different authors involved. It is nice to see some of the various minor characters popping up here and there to show at least a little bit of linkage between the novels in the series. In addition, Gratz has continued the good work seen in the previous novels in regards to the characters. They are all well-written and I could once again easily envision these characters being the same ones as seen in the Abrams movie.

    One aspect to the story that made me either smile or groan was in regards to the various homages to other aspects of the Trek universe. Some of them were used brilliantly but others just irritated me and there is even one part of the novel that seems to be a blatant word for word copy of events that happened in the TOS episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Sometimes I think the elements of homage within a Star Trek novel can be too much and this was definitely a prime example of this.

    Overall this is an enjoyable novel that has been written by a fan of Star Trek who really knows his stuff. It isn’t the most complex of plots but this seems to quite standard for Young Adult Star Trek novels and seems to have been competently written.

    Monday, 14 October 2013

    Starfleet Academy: The Gemini Agent - Rick Barba



    Title: The Gemini Agent
    Author: Rick Barba
    Published: 2011
    Chronological Period: 2254

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “The Gemini Agent” is Rick Barba’s 2nd novel set within JJ Abrams’ alternative version of Star Trek. The plot once again is mainly set within Starfleet Academy itself as the cadets begin their preparations for the Zeta mission, an opportunity for them to go out into space on a starship and take on various officer roles in a fictional assignment. Kirk, as expected is hoping to take on a captain’s role, but his chances are dealt a blow when he suffers from a health scare involving blacking out for several hours. Before long Kirk is accused of committing various inappropriate and illegal acts during the blackout period and his very place at the Academy becomes under threat. So together with McCoy, Uhura and the usual gang of friends he tries to find a way to prove his innocence.

    As with the other Starfleet Academy novels this book is aimed at the Young Adult market so the plot does move along at quite a fast pace and isn’t the most complex of plot lines. It was very obvious who the “villain” is and therefore there wasn’t any real sense of surprise or curiosity as I read the book. I still found it to be a fun and enjoyable adventure but it was probably the most simplistic mystery story out of all the books in this series so far.

    The characters came across in a manner that did tie in with how they appeared within the movie which is one of the continually good aspects of this series. In addition, I appreciated how Barba has tried to use the book to further develop the characters beyond what we have seen on the screen and in other books. For example, whilst the interactions between Spock and Uhura weren’t critical to the plotline they did enable Barba to show the way in which their relationship was continuing to grow and develop.

    Overall, this was another solidly enjoyable Star Trek novel aimed at the teenage fans of the JJ Abrams movie. Whilst it was rather an obvious plot, fans of the series will probably appreciate the way in which the book focused on developing the characters and their various relationships.

    Sunday, 13 October 2013

    Starfleet Academy: The Delta Anomaly - Rick Barba



    Title: The Delta Anomaly
    Author: Rick Barba
    Published: 2010
    Chronological Period: 2254

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “The Delta Anomaly” by Rick Barba was the first novel released in the Starfleet Academy series of novels which are set in the JJ Abrams’ alternative version of Star Trek. However, it actually takes place after the events that occurred in the 2nd novel to be released which was entitled “The Edge” and therefore I read that book first.

    The main plotline is based around the investigation of a rather strange serial killer who seems able to kill people without leaving a single mark on the bodies. Kirk, McCoy and Uhura get dragged into the investigation when one of Uhura’s friends is attacked and Kirk manages to step in an save her. Of course, before long the cadet’s themselves are at risk when the killer appears to make a move on them.

    In addition, the book also delves into some of activities and tests that the cadets are undertaking as well as taking an interesting look at the growing relationship between Uhura and Spock. If you think this all sounds a little bit busy for such a short book, I can confirm that you would be right. Barba has crammed a lot into the book which results in a breakneck pace with actions and thrills aplenty. However, I did find that this attempt to include a lot in the book meant that at times both the details were lacking and it could feel a little bit rushed.

    I am happy to say that the main characters did feel correct compared to how they have been portrayed recently on the screen. What I really liked though was seeing how beneath Kirk’s youthful and rebellious exterior lies a good man with the potential to be a great leader. This was visible in the other characters as well to an extent, but it was Kirk whose potential you could really see.

    One thing I would like to note is that whilst this book is set after “The Edge” there isn’t any particular advantage in reading that book first as the stories are pretty much self-contained so don’t worry if you read this one first. However, there are a few inconsistencies I noticed when reading this book that may have occurred due to the books being written out of order. For example, in “The Delta Anomaly” there is a Doctor present at the Academy as an instructor who I believe would have been thrown out following certain events that occurred during “The Edge”. There are few other little niggles like this that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel but were noticeable.

    Overall, this was a solidly enjoyable Star Trek novel that shoul appeal to any teens out there who enjoyed the JJ Abrams movie. It could be a little bit light on details and rushed at times, but the fast pace and thrill packed storyline should more than appeal to the books intended audience.

    Friday, 11 October 2013

    Starfleet Academy: The Edge - Rudy Josephs



    Title: The Edge
    Author: Rudy Josephs
    Published: 2010
    Chronological Period: 2254

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “The Edge” by Rudy Josephs is actually the first Star Trek novel I have read that is set in Star Trek’s “Abramaverse”. As this is a Starfleet Academy book it is targeted at the Young Adult audience just like the earlier Academy novels that were set in the Prime universe. However, I do feel that this book was of a higher standard than the Prime Universe series of novels. I suspect that this is because YA novels have come on quite a way in recent years and there is a huge variety in terms of content to the point that the quality of both plot and style needs to be at a level that people are willing to actually pick up a book out of the large selection available.

    The story itself follows the first few months of Kirk, McCoy & Uhura’s time at the Academy which doesn’t start off to well when a fellow cadet is found dead in his dorm room. Before long, other Cadet’s begin to show strange symptoms and it becomes clear that someone has been offering gene therapy and micro surgery to give cadet’s an extra edge during their time at the Academy. Whilst Star Fleet conducts its own investigation with the assistance of Commander Spock, Kirk and McCoy get dragged in themselves as they attempt to ensure that no one else suffers or turns up dead.

    As I said earlier, I actually found this book to be of a higher standard that the other YA Star Trek novels I have read. The plot itself has a decent level of complexity and intrigue that will ensure most people are entertained even if it still isn’t as deep as an experience adult reader would have preferred. An interesting element of this novel is that it was actually quite slow paced, which was quite surprising to me when I compared it to the action packed fast paced movie that it is based around. Personally, I wasn’t bothered to much by this though as Josephs used the slower pace to actually explore the characters and the way they interact with each other and the academy life itself.

    In regards to the characters, I found that I could easily envisage them as being the same to those I saw on the movie screen. Uhura is the best example of this as she comes across strongly like the Zoe Saldana version rather than Nichelle Nichols’s take on the character. For a big fan of Star Trek I really appreciated being able to read the book and feel like I was specifically reading about the alternate Universe.

    One minor comment I do have with the book is in regards to my own knowledge of Star Trek canon. In a lot of the other books and TV episodes I have seen, people from Earth tend to show a real fear and hatred of genetic engineering due to events that occurred in the past such as the Eugenics Wars. However, in this book I felt that many people were very nonchalant and glib about the gene therapy that was going on. This isn’t a major issue and it probably won’t matter to someone who isn’t a big fan of Star Trek but it insured that the book felt a little bit wrong to me.

    Overall, this was an enjoyable Star Trek YA novel that does a good job in capturing the feeling of the characters people witnessed in the “Abramaverse” version of Star Trek. The plot itself is a little slow paced at times but there should be enough there to keep most fans entertained.

    Monday, 7 October 2013

    Star Trek: Where Sea Meets Sky (The Captain's Table Book 6) - Jerry Oltion



    Title: Where Sea Meets Sky (The Captain's Table Book 6)
    Author: Jerry Oltion
    Published: 1998
    Chronological Period: 2254 (Framing Story: 2266)

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Where Sea Meets Sky” by Jerry Oltion is the sixth novel in The Captain’s Table series of Star Trek novels. However, as the story chronologically takes place prior to the other novels in the series I am reading it first which does produce one minor issue I will discuss later on in the review. For those of you who don’t know the premise behind The Captain’s Table series is that there is mystical bar that captains of all races and times can enter and enjoy socialising and reminiscing with each other.

    This novel in the series is based around Captain Pike visiting the bar and discussing a previous adventure of his whilst he was captain of the Enterprise. The story he recounts follows the Enterprise investigating why a species of warp capable creatures that are utilised by an alien race known as the Aronnians as a form of interstellar blimp have not returned from their annual migration. The investigation explores the relationship between these “space whales” and the various star systems they inhabit.

    Don’t be fooled by the synopsis above as the story is not as cerebral as it may imply. There is actually a fair amount of action and an incredibly fast pace that results in the reader being whisked around the galaxy from one dangerous scenario to the next. However, whilst I found Oltion’s writing to be competent, the plot itself felt a little ridiculous at times. I just couldn’t take these “space whales” seriously and some of the events that occur were just plain silly. I am still incredulous about some of the crew riding one of the creatures at warp in just their space suits and don’t even get me started on the killer eggs from space.

    One aspect of the plot I enjoyed however was the framing story which followed Pike as he engaged with captains from other time periods within the bar. It was specifically interesting watching his interactions with a Klingon female from a future time period that dropped hints at what was awaiting both Pike and the Federation. The only slight issue I have with the framing story is that it just doesn’t gel with me as really belonging to the Star Trek universe. I am sure there must be some regulation that these Starfleet captains are breaking by talking to people from other timelines, especially those from earlier in Earth’s own history.

    As with other stories covering this time period, the real plus point of this novel is being able to witness some of the escapades of Pike and his crew. Whilst, I am not sure we learn anything new from this novel in regards to the way in which the crew works together, I did find that Oltion seemed to capture the individual characters well and they came across as I have previously envisioned them.

    My final point is in regards to the final twenty or so pages that didn’t make any sense to me. It turns out that these pages are linking this story to the first story in the series to try and create a complete loop. To be honest it doesn’t actually matter a jot to this specific story so you can read this book without reading the others but if you do then you should probably just skip the final pages.

    Overall, I can’t say this was a favourite of mine due to me finding the storyline to be rather silly. However, if you can ignore that or you think I am being overly picky then you will probably find this novel to be a fun and fast paced story full of action and adventure that explores a period of Star Trek rarely seen.

    Saturday, 5 October 2013

    Star Trek: Vulcan's Glory - D.C. Fontana



    Title: Vulcan's Glory
    Author: D.C. Fontana
    Published: 1989
    Chronological Period: 2252

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Vulcan’s Glory” by D.C. Fontana is the latest novel in my attempt to read all the Star Trek novels in chronological order. This story follows both Spock & Scotty’s first ever voyage on the Enterprise which at the time is under the command of Christopher Pike as seen in the original Star Trek pilot episode, “The Cage”.

    At its heart the story is a murder mystery surrounding the search for a Vulcan relic known as the Vulcan’s Glory. However, there are other elements to the plot including a look into Spock’s relationship with his family, an attempt by Captain Pike to help with the development of trade routes on a planet recovering from previous disasters and a rather amusing attempt by Scotty to set up a whisky still in the engine room.

    The story really was quite an interesting adventure as I enjoyed reading some more about the crew of Pike’s Enterprise. I found the personalities of the crew were nicely handled and it was good to see something written about them by Fontana who is one of the original Star Trek writers. My favourite concept though within the story was the way in which Fontana delves into the more “hypocritical” side of Vulcan lives. For example, elements of their “hidden” emotions are explored and it becomes quite clear that the various rituals and family commitments they are beholden to do not always fall within the realms of logic.

    An issue I did have with the book is that Fontana has actually tried to put too much plot into it. There are far too many storylines going on and whilst some of them are delved into other portions were skimmed over and it all just feels a bit disjointed. It is almost as if Fontana had an idea to explore this period across multiple novels but was worried she may only get one attempt about the Christopher Pike era so just tried to cram it all in.

    My final note on the story is that it really does help to be quite knowledgeable on various Star Trek TV episodes. The reason is that there are various plot points left dangling in the book that are not resolved until various episodes on TV. Therefore it could leave the more casual watchers of Star Trek a bit disappointed if they were expecting closure on some of the plot points initiated in this book and haven’t seen the relevant episode.

    Overall, I did enjoy this look at the lives of Pike and his crew as they travelled the galaxy prior to Kirk’s captaincy. There are lots of interesting plot points within the novel but I think it would have worked better had these been spread across multiple novels rather than having them all competing for attention in just one. Personally, I am a little sad we didn’t see more of this crew on TV or in novels as I think there are a lot of interesting concepts and ideas that could be further explored.

    Thursday, 3 October 2013

    Star Trek: The Children of Kings - David Stern



    Title: The Children of Kings
    Author: David Stern
    Published: 2010
    Chronological Period: 2251

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “The Children of Kings” by Dave Stern is the latest book in my challenge to try and read all the Star Trek novels in chronological order. To be honest, I am not that sure if I read this novel in exactly the correct place as it more or less lives in its own continuity. Either way though, the story does offer the reader a rare insight into Pike’s era as Captain of the Enterprise.

    The story follows Captain Pike and his crew as they investigate a remote Federation base that appears to have been attacked and destroyed by Klingons. Whilst most of the crew are quick to condemn the Klingons, a few of them suspect there is something else afoot and begin to question some of the findings. Things get even worse however when they pick up a distress call from an Orion ship and their attempt to assist results in several of the crew being captured and the apparent death of Pike himself. Before long, tensions begin to escalate and the risk of war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire is a real possibility.

    I found the whole novel to be an enjoyable adventure that really did capture the cowboy diplomacy style of Star Trek’s original series. Yes this did mean at times the story was a little formulaic, but it was still fun to follow and I really appreciated the chance to learn a little more about the Orion’s culture and some characters that we know little about. One weak point in the story though was the lack of real tension. The reader always knows that Pike can’t really be dead and any potential surprises are lost by the fact you get to follow both the crew on board the Enterprise and those that have been captured.

    As I mentioned earlier in the review, the book does appear to be in its own continuity which did at times cause a little bit of confusion as I read it. There are various inconsistencies with canon and for some reason the author’s note stating that the story is set as prequel to the 2009 JJ Abrams movie doesn’t appear until the end of the novel. Even with this clarification, I was still a little perplexed when I put the book down as during the move it is stated that we were witnessing the maiden voyage of the Enterprise so couldn’t understand how I was seeing earlier voyages. However, since finishing this book I have started to read the graphic novel series that serves as a prequel to the 2nd JJ Abrams movie and those stories contain information that there was a previous ship called the Enterprise previously captained by Robert April so I have just assumed that this story was set on that ship.

    It is just unfortunate that the author’s note about which universe the book is set appears at the beginning of the story as it could have stopped some of the confusion about things that didn’t fit right with standard canon. Also, it would have been nice to see a form of clarification that this wasn’t the same Enterprise as seen in the movie assuming that I am right in my belief that it didn’t. In addition, the cover itself appears to show the prime universe Pike & Spock which really doesn’t help with a reader trying to understand the overall setting.

    Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable Star Trek adventure although I can imagine that some of the canon inconsistencies could irritate some readers even with the caveat that the story is set in the JJ Abrams universe.

    Tuesday, 1 October 2013

    Star Trek: Republic (My Brother's Keeper Book 1) - Michael Jan Friedman



    Title: Republic (My Brother's Keeper Book 1)
    Author: Michael Jan Friedman
    Published: 1998
    Chronological Period: 2251 (Framing Story: 2265)

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Republic” by Michael Jan Friedman is an interesting Star Trek novel that forms the first part in the “My Brother’s Keeper” trilogy. This trilogy explores the relationship between Kirk and Gary Mitchell, a character that died during the second pilot episode of Star Trek entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

    The plot of this first book in the series starts with a framing story which details the final events of "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Then upon Mitchell’s death the reader get to explore some of the psychological impact of the tragedy upon Kirk who opens up to Spock and relates the story of how he and Mitchell first met back in the Academy. The novel then follows Kirk and Mitchell through the birth of their friendship and the first real adventure together aboard the USS Republic when it is diverted to a planet so Starfleet may provide support in securing a peace deal between two long warring factions.

    The core story was entertaining and interesting as the reader gets to witness the development of Kirk & Mitchell’s friendship and how they rub off on each other in various ways. However, the USS Republic planeside portion of the story felt a little bit stale at times as it was neither very original nor that interesting in my opinion. It just felt like Friedman had inserted this section of the story into the book so there would be some sort of action etc. rather than it all just being about the character interactions.

    As an additional note, I found the treatment of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to be excellent. I have not yet read James Blish’s originally novelizations of the TV series episodes but it would have to be something really special to better what Freidman has done with the framing story in this novel. It captures elements of the TV show well but also adds to and enhances the aftermath in a well thought out manner that ensures people who have seen the show will actually read something a little bit more in-depth.

    However, whilst I did enjoy learning some more about Kirk and Mitchell’s history, the characters just felt a little bit off to me at times. I found it hard to believe that Kirk was such a failure with the ladies as we witness here, nor could I believe that Mitchell would suddenly decide randomly to take on a mission to “loosen” up Kirk. In addition, Mitchell’s psychic abilities seemed a little bit too developed and the way in which he used them to solve every problem without an issue seemed a bit too far-fetched for me. Luckily, none of this was a major issue as their core personalities were pretty much as I would have imagined them at that time.

    Overall this was an interesting and enjoyable look at the relationship between Kirk and Mitchell and how it was formed. The overall storyline isn’t anything special, but the real plus points in the novel are in relation to the characters themselves and how they develop through knowing each other. After reading the book, I am more than curious to know how different the TV series could have been had Mitchell not been killed off as he is a rather interesting character. Either way, I am now looking forward to the next book in the series so Kirk and Mitchell’s enjoyable relationship can be explored even further.

    Sunday, 29 September 2013

    Star Trek: Starfleet Academy: Cadet Kirk - Diane Carey



    Title: Cadet Kirk
    Author: Diane Carey
    Published: 1996
    Chronological Period: 2251

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    "Cadet Kirk" by Diane Cary is the 3rd and final book in the 1996 Star Trek Starfleet Academy series of novels that charted the earlier escapades of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the prime Trek Universe. The plot is based around a shuttle flight in which Kirk had been expecting to fly the famous scientist, Richard Daystrom to another planet. However, due to a change in plans he is left transporting two rather unknown young officers named Spock & McCoy. During their journey, they are caught in a tractor beam and pulled down into a small outpost by pirates who had been hoping to capture Daystrom. So Kirk, Spock and McCoy must work together so that they can escape the pirates and ensure that Daystrom doesn’t fall into the same trap.

    As seems to be the norm with this series of young adult Trek lit, the plot is very basic with little in the way complications or surprises. The beginning of the book was also rather slow which did make we wonder how easily a young reader would stick with it. However, once you get past the initial section of the book the pace picks up and there are some fun and entertaining action scenes. By the end of the book I found that I had rather enjoyed the overall experience even if it all was a little bit predictable. My enjoyment was probably helped by the story being told from McCoy’s point of view as I do like getting to witness his rather bleak and sarcastic views.

    The real positive in the novel though was in getting to watch Kirk, Spock and McCoy gradually grow to respect each other. Initially, they were very formal and unsure of each other, but by the end they were working together as a team that showed the first hints of what they would become in the future.

    One aspect that had me a little unsure about the novel was the way in which McCoy and Kirk didn’t appear to know each other initially as this was at odds with what occurred in the previous book, “Aftershock”. It is explained later on in the story that they just didn’t recognise each other but based on what had previously happened, I was surprised that McCoy at least didn’t remember Kirk much more easily. It felt to me that Carey wanted her book to be based around Kirk not knowing either Spock or McCoy and she just threw in the failure to remember each other as a way to ensure the books in the series would still technically be linked to each other.

    Overall, I was a little bit split in regards to this book as whilst I enjoyed the fact that this book was more action orientated compared to the other books in the series, I also felt that the start was rather slow and I didn’t like the cheap feeling plot point regarding McCoy and Kirk not remembering each other. In the end this is really just an average novel, but if you are interested in trying to read a little bit more about how these three starfleet officers met then you will probably get some enjoyment out of it.

    Friday, 27 September 2013

    Star Trek: Starfleet Academy: Aftershock - John Vornholt



    Title: Aftershock
    Author: John Vornholt
    Published: 1996
    Chronological Period: 2250

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    "Aftershock" by John Vornholt is the 2nd book in the 1996 Star Trek Starfleet Academy series of novels that charted the earlier escapades of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the prime Trek Universe. The plot follows McCoy as he ends up doing a form of community service after an unofficial football game with some freshman cadets leads to McCoy and a young cadet named Kirk having an accident with a security shield. McCoy is more or less forced into volunteering for the Disaster Relief Service Club when he teams up with a Vulcan named Spock and a young woman named Lisa. Together they travel to the planet Playamar which has suffered a massive earthquake and attempt to rescue and save the lives of colonists there. Very soon though, Spock begins to suspect that something is not quite right in regards to the earthquake and aftershocks that follow and very soon the team begin to investigate.

    As with the previous Starfleet Academy book I read, this novel is heavily geared towards the younger reader with a simple plot that is easy to follow and fairly standard for a Star Trek story. It was still interesting enough for me to enjoy as an adult but it didn’t keep me riveted as some other Star Trek novels have. The aspect of the novel I really enjoyed however was the portrayal of McCoy which Vornholt seems to have captured quite well. His sarcastic and bickering nature is still there for all to see, but there is also an undercurrent of youthful inexperience and insecurity which was interesting to observe.

    There are some illustrations throughout the novel created by Todd Cameron Hamilton that didn’t really impress me much. Don’t get me wrong, several of them seemed to capture a young McCoy and Spock quite well but some of them looked didn’t look great. I even asked my wife about one of them and her initial comment was simply that it looked quite poor. However, ultimately these illustrations don’t really affect the enjoyment of the novel and I just started to ignore them as I progressed through the story.

    Overall, this is an incredibly quick and easy read that explores a little bit about McCoy’s experiences as a younger man. It probably isn’t complex or deep enough for most adults to thoroughly enjoy but I think it should please any young fan of Star Trek. Therefore, unless you are a Trek novel completionist or you want to try and introduce a child to the world of Trek literature I can’t say there is any real reason you should go out of your way to try and track down this out of print novel.

    Sunday, 22 September 2013

    Star Trek: Academy: Collision Course - William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens



    Title: Collision Course
    Author: William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
    Published: 2007
    Chronological Period: 2249

    Available at:
    Amazon
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Collision Course” is a rather enjoyable Star Trek novel written by William Shatner with some assistance Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. It follows the antics of teenage Kirk and Spock as they undertake a form of adolescent rebellion in their own individual ways. Through accidental happenstance, both Kirk and Spock “bump” into each other and find that their behaviour has embroiled them in a dangerous plot involving espionage, theft and murder. This plot results in both Spock and Kirk to considering joining Starfleet in an attempt to resolve their own problems and issues.

    As I am sure people can expect from a book involving Shatner, it is very Kirkcentric and I am sure some people could argue that Kirk seems to be a little bit too perfect in how he responds to the various situations he faces. However, in the end, Kirk is meant to be someone who became a Starfleet captain at the age of 30 and seemed to solve everything thrown at him, therefore it should be expected that he was going to be more than just some gung-ho rebellious kid.

    I found the story itself to be entertaining, skilfully written, well-paced and action packed to the point that I struggled to put it down at the end of each night. I also quite liked the little references to other aspects of Star Trek’s on-screen universe such as the various academy buildings being named after crew from the Enterprise TV Series. One element I really enjoyed though was the intriguing characterisations of young Kirk and Spock alongside the interesting interactions that occur between themselves and others. I specifically appreciated the sections of the novel dedicated to Spock and his parents that really seemed to bring out the best in all the characters.

    The one issue I did have with the novel was that some of the events that occur throughout the novel seem a little bit unbelievable; in particular there is something that happens in the orbit of Neptune near the end of the novel that left me incredulous. I understand that people have to suspend their disbelief when reading Science Fiction but some parts of this novel just went that little bit too far in my opinion.

    Another aspect that some people may dislike about the novel is that the story doesn’t really fit in with any of the other novels written around Kirk’s youth, such as Diane Carey’s prequel novels and the Star Trek Academy series from the 1990’s. Inconsistencies between Star Trek literature is nothing new but I just felt that I should warn people about. However, whilst it may sit outside the continuity of other novels covering the same period I must clarify that I didn’t notice anything in the novel that would contradict any on-screen canon.

    Overall I enjoyed this fun and engaging look at the teenage years of Kirk and Spock even if it could be a little bit jarring in relation the differences between this and other novels covering the same period. To be honest I am little bit disappointed that the promised sequel never appeared and I can only assume this was due to poor sales or due to the fact that JJ Abram’s alternative Star Trek universe debuted so soon after its release. Perhaps one day Shatner will get a chance to continue this series but either way if you want to see an entertaining attempt at developing the characters of Kirk and Spock then you should give this book a try.

    Saturday, 21 September 2013

    Star Trek: Best Destiny - Diane Carey




    Title: Best Destiny
    Author: Diane Carey
    Published: 1993
    Chronological Period: 2249 (Framing Story: 2293)

    Available at:
    Amazon
    Amazon UK

    Review:
    “Best Destiny” by Diane Carey is more or less a sequel to “Final Frontier”, another of Carey’s novels which I previously reviewed. Whilst there is a basic framing story based around an attempt to rescue another Starfleet ship by the soon to be retired James T. Kirk, the main portion of the story follows the antics of a young 16 year old Jimmy Kirk. As a teenager Kirk has a lot of pent up anger against his father and seems destined to for a life of gangs and crime. However, Kirk’s father decides to make one final attempt at “rescuing” his son and takes him on a voyage aboard the Enterprise which is currently under the command of Captain Robert April.

    This supposedly safe journey to an archaeological dig on the planet Faramond soon turns out to be anything but safe. Whilst journeying to the planet aboard a shuttlecraft Captain April and those alongside him which includes the Kirks find themselves under attack by an unknown assailant and end up fighting for their lives. As the crew tries to survive, the young Kirk learns the meaning of teamwork, discipline and finally begins to understand his father.

    Carey, really has done another brilliant job in capturing some of the earlier aspects of Kirk’s saga and I found that this book compliments “Final Frontier” superbly. The novel has action and tension aplenty but the primary focus of the novel is an interesting character study that examines Kirk’s change from a teenage tearaway into the young adult who would later become a legendary hero. The change that Kirk has undertaken is masterfully highlighted in the framing story where we see him face off against a foe from his youth who failed to learn from his past mistakes.

    As always with Trek novels it does help to know the characters already but I actually think this is one of those novels that could have worked easily outside of the Trek Universe. Therefore as long as you know the basics about the main characters then you should be more than able to read and enjoy the book. Carey also keeps the technobabble limited and when she does include it there are some good explanations due to Kirk being young and new to space and therefore needs it explained himself. Therefore no one should get lose trying to understand what various technologies re being used for.

    Overall, this is another enjoyable book from Carey that takes a look at the earlier years of Kirk’s life and I found it highly interesting to see why Kirk became the type of person he did. It really is a must read for all fans of Star Trek and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a real showcase of what Star Trek literature can and should be.