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:
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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:
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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:
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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.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy: Crisis on Vulcan - Brad & Barbara Strickland



Title: Crisis on Vulcan
Author: Brad & Barbara Strickland
Published: 1996
Chronological Period: 2248

Available at:
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Review:
I read "Crisis on Vulcan" as part of my Star Trek Chronological Reading Challenge and realised that it was the first Young Adult Star Trek book I have actually ever read. I think I skipped them when I was a teenager myself and just went straight onto the adult books. This was probably a shame because whilst I did enjoy it I think I would have been even more impressed had I read it when I was younger.

The plot follows a young Spock who accompanies his father, Sarek on a diplomatic mission to the planet Maranth on a diplomatic mission. However, when the pair begin their journey home aboard the USS Enterprise, the ship is attacked by a faction from Maranth who are not happy with the peace deal just brokered by Sarek. Spock happens to be on the bridge at the time and manages to help the crew facilitate an escape for the Enterprise, but in doing so he plants a seed of doubt in his own mind about his own future. Therefore we follow Spock as he tries to decide if he should continue with his plans to go the Vulcan Science Academy or if he should abandon them and actually join Starfleet Academy.

To be honest the plot itself was rather standard and full of quick fix solutions but I still found it surprisingly fascinating and enjoyable. This was because I loved seeing Spock's interactions with both his parents and the way in which Vulcan society dealt with his half-human nature. There were also some rather insightful elements for the intended YA audience as the narrative tried to highlight the internal struggles of a character growing up and seeing how their choices could radically affect their life.

I do have one little niggle with the book and that is in regards to the sub-title which is a little bit misleading. Whilst this is part of the Starfleet Academy grouping of novels there isn't actually any time spent at the academy. The story covers Spock's life prior to joining the Academy which I had no issue with but people should be aware of this before they pick up the novel.

Overall, this is a quick and easy read that uncovers a little bit about both Spock's family life and Vulcan society. I have defiantly read more complex Star Trek novels before, but it was definitely entertaining enough to please any young fan of Star Trek and I think many adults would enjoy following some of Spock's youth.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Star Trek: Final Frontier - Diane Carey



Title: Final Frontier
Author: Diane Carey
Published: 1988
Chronological Period: 2244 (Framing Story: 2267)

Available at:
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Review:
"Final Frontier" by Diane Carey focuses on James T. Kirk's father, George Kirk and his early involvement with the Enterprise under the command of Captain Robert April. April, is an explorer and diplomat but he realises there are times when he will need someone with the mind of a warrior who will fight when needed and so he asks George Kirk to be his XO even if he does it via a rather unusual method.

The Enterprise itself is the first of the Constitution class of starships and is being rushed into service prior to complete testing as it is the only ship capable of reaching a stranded transport ship in time to save the passengers. Of course, the rescue mission doesn't go as plan and soon the Enterprise and her crew find themselves stranded in enemy territory.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, this is by far my favourite Star Trek novel so far. It is an enjoyable and engaging story that was easy to read and had me hooked right from the beginning even if some of the plot points seemed a little bit contrived. I felt that it really captured the feeling of the original series in that this was a fun space adventure with no real moral ambiguity, basically the good guys always tried to do the right thing and the bad guys were easy to hate.

The feeling of fun in the story is also captured in the interaction between the various characters. There was some thoroughly enjoyable banter between these quite distinct personalities in which Carey utilised irony and the odd references to canon incredibly well. The only negative I can think of in regards to the characters is maybe in relation to the villains in the story who came across as being very simplistic in their development but there was enough there to make sure I was more than happy to see them fail.

An issue I did have was actually in regards to the framing story which follows Kirk, Spock and McCoy discussing some of the events that occurred in the TV episode "The Guardian of Forever". I think it got in the way of the main story; I basically got a little frustrated as I had to keep taking a break from the enjoyable adventure going on in the past to read a rather slow debate on what had happened in "The Guardian of Forever". In addition, if you haven't seen this episode before or can't remember much about it then this entire section will mean very little to you anyway.

Overall, this is an incredibly enjoyable journey into a time period of Star Trek that has rarely been explored. The story is fun and entertaining; the characters are interesting enough to keep you cheering them on and the various references to canon should keep many Star Trek fans happy. I highly recommend this book to any avid fan of Star Trek will love this story but will highlight the lack of familiar character that may be off putting to the more casual fan.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Star Trek: The Final Reflection (Worlds Apart Book 1) - John M. Ford



Title: The Final Reflection
Author: John M. Ford
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1984
Chronological Period: 2233 - 2243 (Framing Story: 2277)

Available at:
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Review:
“The Final Reflection” by John M. Ford is a Star Trek novel that I believe is rather unique for the genre. The reason for this is that the core story is quite simply one that could be enjoyed by any fan of Science Fiction, not just those who appreciate Star Trek.

Part of this is due to the fact that the only section of the novel which involves the regular Star Trek characters is a very minor framing story. This framing element basically details Kirk deciding to read a novel entitled “The Final Reflection” which is based on the experiences of Samuel Tagore, a Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. The core of novel is basically this story which is set several decades prior to the events of the original series and follows the life of Krenn, a captain in the Klingon Navy. However, the real aim of the story in my opinion is to use Krenn’s experiences to portray Klingon culture in a deep a meaningful manner.

I honestly don’t believe I can overstate how much I enjoyed this novel. It has a complex and thoughtful plot that kept me fully engrossed in a way I haven’t felt with many other Trek novels. Politics, diplomacy, espionage and action are woven together into an entertaining story that really made me think. In addition the portrayal of Klingon society is quite simply superb and whilst much of it has been contradicted by later TV episodes it is still a well-constructed and believable portrayal. To be honest, I actually think Ford’s portrayal of the Klingons is much more varied and interesting that what we ended up seeing on the various TV series although I did enjoy that portrayal as well.

In regards to the characters, at times it is hard to fully identify with Krenn and his Klingon companions due to Ford’s ability to portray their culture and beliefs as being alien to our own. However, despite this there is still something there that readers can respect and appreciate to the point that the will quickly find themselves supporting them. It was fascinating getting to see the viewpoint from characters that are on the “opposite” side from the Federation etc.

The only comment I can make that could possibly be portrayed as being negative is that there were several points throughout the novel at which I felt I was missing something. Ford’s story is so deep that I had to re-read some sections a few times to catch the meaning and understand everything that was going on. Personally, I quite enjoyed this challenge that I don’t normally get in Trek novels but I am sure some people may not appreciate it.

Overall, this was an excellent novel that probably is one of the finest examples of Trek literature that I have read to date. The story itself is an excellent Science Fiction piece that explores an alien culture and would have been just as enjoyable to read without the Star Trek elements. Whilst much of it has been contradicted by what has come since, I still think it is well worth reading and really highlights the missed opportunities in the late 80’s when books such as this which looked at the wider Trek Universe would no longer be approved.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures - Christopher L. Bennett



Title: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Published: 2013
Chronological Period: 2162 - 2163

Available at:
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Review:
“A Choice of Futures” by Christopher L. Bennett was a welcome return to Star Trek’s Enterprise era. I had been looking forward to reading this from the moment I heard about it as I have enjoyed most of the previous books from this era and I was one of those rare people who actually seemed to enjoy the TV series. I am happy to say this it didn’t disappoint and I really enjoyed seeing some of the early development of the Federation.

The story itself follows the former crew of the Enterprise who have moved on to other roles after the Enterprise was decommissioned following the Romulan War. The Federation has recently formed following that war and the politicians and Starfleet are still trying to understand and agree to what they want to be. So when a strange race of beings begins to attack ships seemingly at random, Admiral Archer and his former crew must try and walk the fine line between war and diplomacy and ensure the newly birthed Federation does not collapse at its first real challenge.

Whilst the synopsis above seems rather simple, there is actually a huge amount going on throughout the novel as the former Enterprise crew and other new characters are spread across various ships and locations. However, Bennett does a great juggling act which keeps the story engaging and well-paced. I didn’t find myself getting confused at all and I was impressed with the way in which this multi-threaded story allowed all the characters a chance to shine which is something that at times was missing from the TV show and other novels.

One element of the novel I was particularly impressed with were the characters themselves who Bennett has captured perfectly. The development and change that has occurred in them over the years since the period portrayed in the TV show feels natural and realistic. However, this was further enhanced by the fact that at their hearts you could still see and hear the very people they had been in the TV show. For example I loved how Shran’s mannerism and voice came across just as I would expect, but there was now an element to his actions that were more thoughtful and considered due to his experiences and relationship with Archer etc.

There was one aspect of the novel which will either appeal or displease you depending on your own views and this was in relation to the way in which Bennett manages to create many links to other novels and TV episodes. Personally, I enjoyed catching the various references to other elements of the Star Trek Universe as I think it has been done with a fair amount of skill and subtlety. However, I know “Small Universe” syndrome can drive other readers to despair so I just wanted to warn people that there are elements of this within the story.

Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable return to the crew of Star Trek: Enterprise and I really am looking forward to Bennett’s next book in the series. On a personal note as someone who has not previously read on his novel’s I was hugely impressed with the style, characterisation and pacing. This novel is a prime example of what a good Star Trek novel can and should be about and it makes me a little sad that due to my chronological reading challenge it may be a fair bit before I get to read any of his other books.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Star Trek: Starfleet Year One - Michael Jan Friedman



Title: Starfleet Year One
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Published: 2001
Chronological Period: 2161

Available at:
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Amazon UK

Review:
"Starfleet Year One" by Michael Jan Friedman is the first book I have read that sits outside recognized canon. It really should be appreciated that this book was written prior to the launch of the Enterprise TV series and takes an alternative look at the formative years of the Federation. Therefore, I tried to read and review this book on its own merits rather than trying to compare it to continuity developments that occurred later.

The plot is focused around the formation of the United Federation of Planets and the direction that its newly formed Starfleet will take. The reader gets to follows the actions of two distinct groups, the first group wants Starfleet to be dedicated to military strength whilst the other groups is pushing for exploration and science to be the prime focus. The first six captains exemplify one side or the other of this debate or the other which pushes them into competing against each other to try and ensure that Starfleet evolves along the lines they want it too.

The story itself is actually quite interesting and has a style and pacing that makes it nice and easy to read. I also enjoyed seeing an alternative look at the foundation of Star Trek and it was good to see Friedman cleverly utilize what he knew about from the TV episode "Balance of Terror" to create what was a perfectly plausible origin story of the Federation and Starfleet.

However, there are quite a few issues as well with the novel, some of this is actually linked to how light and easy the story is to read. There is no real complexity or depth to what goes on throughout many of the plotlines. For example, the formation of the Federation is conducted over a couple of pages as a few ambassadors approach various species and then some other diplomats get together in a room. I just found things like this incredibly weak and lacking in any tension or interesting development.

The other main issue resulted from the decision to focus on the six separate captains. This resulted in every one of them getting only a little bit of coverage in the novel so that there was no real characterization, development or back story generated. There were all so bland and thinly constructed beyond a basic premise such as a loner captain, an alien captain, a scientific captain and three military captains.

Overall, this is a very middle of the road Star Trek novel that I think was more focused on trying to introduce a new franchise than to actually provide an enjoyable standalone story with interesting characters. It is a shame really as Friedman's writing is not bad per say, I just think he took on way to much to cover in one novel. However, it is still a nice and easy read for anyone interested in seeing a different take on the formation of the Federation.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave The Storm - Michael A. Martin



Title: The Romulan War - To Brave The Storm
Author: Michael A. Martin
Published: 2011
Chronological Period: 2156 - 2161

Available at:
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Review:
"To Brave The Storm" by Michael A. Martin is the concluding book in the Romulan War series which started with "Beneath The Raptor's Wing". After my enjoyment of the first book in the series I was really looking forward to reading this one. This was enhanced by my knowledge that there are no new Enterprise novels expected for the foreseeable future so this could be the last new story in that franchise that I read for quite a while.

The novel chronicles the final years of the Earth-Romulan war with the main focus being on humanity's continued fight against the Romulans whilst their allies opt to sit out the war. The outnumbered Starfleet struggles to hold the line and the prospects for Earth become increasingly grimmer as the years pass. Meanwhile Trip Tucker continues to conduct espionage in Romulan territory hoping that somehow his work behind the lines will help Starfleet avoid seemingly inevitable defeat.

After finishing the novel I have to say that I do have some mixed feelings about it. The overall plot and direction were decent and I really did find myself hooked as I followed humanity's struggle for survival. In addition, it does wrap up the story of the Romulan war in a competent enough manner which was good to see, especially considering I am not sure when we will see a new Enterprise novel again. However, there was just something a little bit unsatisfying about the entire reading experience due to a rushed feeling that pervaded the entire book.

This can easily be seen in the way that the first book covered 1 year in the war whilst this one covered a full 6 years in fewer pages. This results in many of the plotlines being quickly closed down without any real fleshing out or enhancement. In addition, the narrative jumps months and event years in between chapter which spoils both the flow of the novel and the ability of the individual scenes to sink in emotionally with a reader.

It was also a big let down to see such a narrow focus on just the main characters and events considering the previous novel had done such a great job in giving a more panoramic view of the war and it how it affected everyone, including regular citizens. Then again, considering characters such as Mayweather, Sato, Phlox and Reed got hardly a mention either it probably isn't surprising that Martin didn't have room to fit in a more epic look at the war.

I also felt that the rushed nature of the novel had an effect on the characters that were focused on as well. Whilst I think the main characters were portrayed well, several of the character arcs were rather stunted. A prime example of this was towards the end of the novel in regards to Trip's return from his espionage mission. There was so much around this that could have been delved into yet we see none of it, all we get is a little epilogue in the future showing the reader that he is happily living with T'Pol.

In Summary, whilst this review may imply that I didn't really enjoy the book you shouldn't be fooled. It is an enjoyable and entertaining enough read but the rushed nature of the plot was a let down considering what I had read in "Beneath The Raptor's Wing". Perhaps things would have been so different had Martin been able to write the Romulan War over three novels instead of two but alas we will never know.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath The Raptor's Wing - Michael A. Martin



Title: The Romulan War - Beneath The Raptor's Wing
Author: Michael A. Martin
Published: 2009
Chronological Period: 2155 - 2156

Available at:
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Review:
"The Romulan War: Beneath The Raptors Wing" by Michael A. Martin follows on directly from another Star Trek novel, "Kobayashi Maru" which I previously reviewed on this blog. I have been looking forward to getting to this book for quite a while now as The Romulan War is a period of Star Trek lore that has never actually been shown on the TV screen.

The story follows the earlier parts of The Romulan War, with humanity and its allies within the coalition of planets trying to stand against the relentless progress of their Romulan foes. It covers many different aspects of the war such as the various battles themselves, the political intrigue, espionage attempts, media reporting and the lives of regular civilians. There is probably little more I can really say about the story beyond that which won't ruin some of the surprises and events that occur so I won't even try.

Once again, I find that Martin has created an enjoyable story that really mixes up the action, drama, suspense and thrills. I also really appreciated the way in which he used multiple plot lines, events and characters to really capture the scope of the war and how it was affecting different people and society as a whole. The only downside with this was that all the jumping around did affect the pace of the novel but it was all interesting enough to ensure that it didn't really cause me any issues.

There were a few nice little plot points that Martin introduced to try and explain some of the differences seen between Enterprise and The Original Series. For example, due to the Romulan weapon that enabled them to take control of other ships, Starfleet downgraded their control systems and created something much more analogue with buttons and switches rather than the digital touch screen style systems they had previously been using. There are a few other instances such as this throughout the novel and I did enjoy following his attempts to reconcile canon.

An aspect of the novel I really liked though was in regards to the development of the characters and how Martin has created repercussions for their actions. Archer, for example really appears to suffer because of what he had been forced to do in the previous novel to the point that he struggles to find a real desire to stop some his crew transferring away. In addition, Martin wasn't scared to really move the main characters on from what we saw in the TV series to the point that Travis Mayweather actually leaves the Enterprise and tries to continue his career elsewhere in Starfleet.

The biggest flaw in the novel is Martin's continued use of alien words; it probably didn't annoy me as much as it did in the previous novel but that is maybe because I have just become resigned to it. Honestly, the pace of this novel can get slow enough without also causing the reader to stumble over some alien word that means nothing to them. To be honest, I am almost dreading reading the next novel in The Romulan War series as I just know I am going to be faced with more of this.

The only other issue is in regards to the ending; as this is the first book in a two book series I just found the ending to be rather unsatisfying. I just found that whilst the plot has been developed quite nicely, nothing really gets resolved. To be honest, I am probably lucky that I read the book after its sequel is already available to read so I could pick it up quite soon after. I do feel sorry though for people who bought it at release date and then had to wait for the sequel to come along and finally provide some conclusion.

Overall, this is another enjoyable Star Trek novel that had me hooked throughout despite its length and pace. I think anyone interested in Star Trek lore and pre-federation history will love this book as it covers a period that we haven't yet seen on our TV screens.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru - Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels



Title: Kobayashi Maru
Author: Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels
Published: 2008
Chronological Period: 2155

Available at:
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Review:
"Kobayashi Maru" by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangelspicks up after the events that occurred in the previous novel, "The Good That Men Do". For anyone who doesn't know, the title is based upon the name of the infamous no-win scenario taken by potential Starfleet command applicants and it has been a part of Star Trek lore since 1982 when it was first mentioned in the movie, "The Wrath of Khan". Therefore, when I picked up this book I was really looking forward to seeing the authors' vision of how this scenario had actually originated.

However, the story is rather more ambitious in its scope than just covering this element and the main plotline follows the reaction of the newly formed Coalition of Planets when it begins to become under attack by what appears to be Klingon ships. However, the Enterprise and its crew soon uncover that the Romulans are the true enemy and must try and prove it before the Coalition is drawn into a war against the wrong species. Meanwhile, Trip continues his espionage role from within the Romulan Empire in the hope that he can help to ensure that any war will not consume Earth and its allies.

I found that this novel mixed action, suspense, drama and political intrigue to create a rather entertaining and enjoyable novel that should appeal to many Star Trek fans. I really enjoyed the way that the story looked at the bigger picture of the overall looming conflict. It just felt a bit more realistic to see other ships and crew being involved in important events rather that it all being focussed on the Enterprise.

However, some elements of this bigger picture focus does lead to rather slow pacing in stages. Therefore I was happy to see that the slower elements of the story were broken up by quicker paced sections devoted to Trip and his spying. As well as being interesting as they explored a little bit more about the secretive Romulan Empire they were also quite simply exciting and full of suspense. Although to be honest, I still sometimes find it hard to believe that someone who wears their heart on their sleeve to the extent Trip does could really be as good at spying as is portrayed in this novel and its predecessor.

In regards to my initial interest in reading about the origins of the Kobayashi Maru scenario, I have to admit I was a little bit underwhelmed. The novel's finale is actually based around the loss of the Kobayashi Maru transport ship but it felt like it was lacking in suspense and I found it all rather bland compared to what I had seen previously in the novel. It was still nice to see someone try and create an origins story but it just didn't work as well as I hoped it would.

There were a couple of others issues I did have with the book although I can't say they either of them had any large affect on my overall enjoyment. The first is in regards to the use of alien words throughout the novel. This type of thing can sometimes enrich a novel but in this case it just seemed a little bit excessive and annoying. It basically spoilt some of my understanding of the events that were occurring as most of the alien words were measurements of distance and time and I didn't know how these referenced to our own units of measurements

The second issue I had with the novel though was in regards to the manner in which several characters reacted to events. Some of them just seemed very slow in coming to an understanding about what was happening even when it was blindingly obvious to me and I am just a random project manager and not the captain of one of Earth's prized star ships. In particular I noticed this when Captain Hernandez of the Columbia seemed unable to conceive that the Romulan ability to capture alien ships could maybe explain the strange occurrence of Vulcan ships attacking them. I just found it hard to believe that some of our best and brightest could be that dense.

In summary, I found this to be an enjoyable Star Trek novel that I think will appeal to many fans although it really does feel like a middle book in a series and makes no real attempt at being readable in a stand alone manner. Whilst, there a few minor issues that I did find irritating, it didn't really affect my interest in the story as the mix of political manoeuvring, action and drama was good enough to keep me hooked. Personally, I can't wait to pick up the next novel and see where this looming conflict between the Coalition and the Romulans will head next.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Good That Men Do - Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels



Title: The Good That Men Do
Author: Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels
Published: 2007
Chronological Period: 2155 (Framing Story: 25th Century)

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
I was looking forward to getting stuck into "The Good That Men Do" for a couple of reasons. The first was that it had felt like a bit since I last read a Star Trek novel and I was beginning to miss them. However, the main reason I couldn't wait to get reading was that the plot was centred on re-writing the travesty that was the Enterprise series finale and undoing the death of Commander Tucker. I don't normally support such blatant circumvention of established canon but I was more than happy to see Mangels and Martin try to undo the mess I had seen on television.

The novel is based around the premise that Commander Tucker has been growing increasingly worried about the threat posed by the Romulans. However, Starfleet is more interested in getting the coalition of planets up and running without incident and therefore don't take either his or Captain Archer's warnings seriously. However, through his friend Lieutenant Reed, Tucker contacts a secret organization within Starfleet known as Section 31 that does take him seriously. This sets in motion a series of events that result in Tucker's death being faked so that he can carry out a clandestine mission in Romulan space.

I actually found this to be a rather enjoyable novel, with a fairly well conceived plot when you consider what it was trying to undo. Whilst it did become a little bit melodramatic at times it still did a good a job in keeping me entertained from start to finish. It was also probably one of the most action packed Star Trek novels that I have read recently which helped to create a rather fast pace. However, as with most Star Trek novels it struggled to create any real feeling of tension as the reader knows that there is no real risk to the main characters or the Enterprise itself.

A minor issue I did have with the novel is to do with the framing story, the very same issue that many people had with the Enterprise series finale. This time the framing story follows Nog and Jake Sisko from DS9 fame looking over some newly uncovered history records that imply the events people believed had occurred are possibly a lie. It is a bit less in your face as what was seen on the TV show but I still groaned a little bit as it just felt all very irrelevant and I just wish Enterprise could .be allowed to be itself without feeling the need to link it constantly with other Star Trek franchises. However, the biggest problem I saw with this framing story is that it isn't actually confirmed anywhere that the records Nog and Jake were reviewing are true. Any author in the future could potentially just reset this and say the records were false which I felt undermined the credibility of the story a little bit.

Overall, I found "The Good That Men Do" to be an entertaining read that does a good job in trying to alter the events seen in the series finale. To be honest, I got the feeling that the authors were at times even mocking the episode which did bring a smile to my face. As with most Trek literature I doubt anyone who isn't a fan already is going to find any reason to read this book. However, if you are an Enterprise fan then this book should be a definite read, especially for those of you that hated the finale.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rosetta - Dave Stern



Title: Rosetta
Author: Dave Stern
Published: 2006
Chronological Period: 2155

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Rosetta" by Dave Stern is probably the longest Enterprise novel I have read which has enabled Dave Stern to create quite an involved story with a fair few things going on. However, the rather wordy narrative does result in the book being quite slow paced and I found myself getting bogged down at a few points although it never got bad enough that I felt the need to put the book down.

The story itself is based around the actions of a mysterious race of beings known as the Antianna that have been attacking anyone that makes an attempt to enter a specific region of space they seem to be defining as their territory. When the Enterprise itself is attacked it falls upon Ensign Hoshi Sato to try and translate the complex language that these aliens appear to be utilising in order to understand why the Antianna are attacking. However, the aliens have also been attacking the Thelasian Trading Confederacy and their leader, Governor Maxim Sen is ready to go to all out war. The Enterprise is drawn into the politics of this situation and the crew offer their own assistance in the hope of averting the war by finding a way to enable some sort of understandable communications to occur.

The most interesting aspect of the story is that it was focused on Ensign Hoshi Sato, who was under-utilised during the TV series. I think that Stern has actually done a good job in his portrayal and he doesn't fall into the trap of trying to make her into something she shouldn't be. Therefore she doesn't become a great warrior or undertake complex espionage but her intellect and linguistic skills are utilised to ensure that she is quite integral to the plot. I was also quite interested in the way in which the novel tried to bring out some of her involvement in the creation of a Universal Translator which was a nice little bonus although I do think this did become a little bit lost in the overall story.

However, there were a few issues that really spoilt the overall impact of the story and my enjoyment of the ending. The first was the way the great technologically superior enemy basically just decided to vanish once they had a heart to heart chat with a member of the Enterprise crew. This entire thing just came across to me as being weak storytelling and a cheap way of ending one of the novel's major plotlines. The second issue was in relation to the way that Stern creates some interesting opportunities when he has Archer imprisoned on a ship where he discovers one of his captor's secrets. However, instead of using this, Stern just opts for Archer basically pulling out a plug which left me feeling rather let down. I just don't understand why Stern even bothered setting up something that looked like it might be quite intriguing only to just ignore it all.

Overall, it was nice to see a little bit more of Ensign Sato and I think Stern once again did a good job of capturing the various characters well. However, whilst the story itself was complex, interesting and enjoyable in parts, the slow pace and the rather weak conclusions to various events just left me feeling a bit unsatisfied by the time I reached the ending. To be honest, I think there are better Enterprise novels out there but if you are interested in gaining some more insight into Hoshi then you may as well pick this novel up.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Last Full Measure - Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels



Title: Last Full Measure
Author: Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels
Published: 2006
Chronological Period: 2153 (Framing Story: 2238)

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"Last Full Measure" by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels was the first of the so called Enterprise re-launch novels to be released which were meant to continue telling original stories set after the end of the TV series. However, I will clarify that outside the framing story, "Last Full Measure" is set firmly within the time period of the show and actually follows on quite well from the last Star Trek book I read, "The Expanse".

The central storyline is quite standard compared to most of the other stories set in Enterprise's third season. It is basically based around the Xindi council trying to deflect the Enterprise away from their home world by tricking them into following a false trail. There is nothing really original in that although I do believe that the authors did this so that they could concentrate on the interactions between the characters instead.

The main purpose of this story therefore seems to be in regards to highlighting the various tensions that exist between the MACO's and Starfleet. Whilst it was good to actually see a little bit more about the relationship between these two groups, after the first few examples of issues between them it all got a little bit repetitive. There are only so many times I am going to be interested in reading about how someone is arrogant etc. In addition it was all a little bit too obvious that this would all end up with some sort of happy respect occurring between the two groups although to be honest, this isn't anything new with either Star Trek or other novels.

However, the issues I mentioned above didn't stop me enjoying what really was still quite a fun and action packed adventure. Sometimes Star Trek can be accused of being a little bit too slow and cerebral but anyone reading this novel would have to think otherwise. There were explosions, dangerous space walks, fights and deaths throughout which ensured the book was thoroughly entertaining. The only really negative element of the story was when the novel would jump to some of Trip's thoughts about his sister and her death in the Xindi attack. I just felt that it spoiled the flow of the book and didn't really add anything beyond what I had previously seen in the TV show or in the previous Enterprise novel "The Expanse".

In regards to the characterisation, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to see the actions taken by Captain Archer in regards to obtaining the "co-operation" of a captive. I understand that he is under some severe pressure due to the threat to Earth, but it just didn't feel right to me, although in honesty it probably does tie in with the way Archer acted in Season 3 but I never really liked his characterisation then either. Other than this, I actually quite like the various characterisations throughout the novel and I loved the fact that Travis was a major character in the novel with some solid development as he has been forgotten many times in the past. The only down side is that once again a plot device is used to make sure that the main ensemble cast is reduced to a smaller number early on. It seems to be a much too common element of Star Trek stories to ensure that writers don't have to worry about dealing with all the characters and can concentrate on a few of the main characters and some of the minor ones.

My final comment is in regards to Reed's history in the city of Leicester which is mentioned in the story. I went to University in Leicester and just can't imagine it ever having a dock district as mentioned in the novel as the river Soar which flows through the city is quite small. Not really an issue in the overall story but it did make me laugh a little bit.

Overall, "Last Full Measure" was an enjoyable novel although as with "The Expanse" I think it suffers a little bit in that the overall story arc's finale is dealt with in the TV series and not in any novels. Martin & Mangels have done a good job capturing some of the various interactions between the characters and kept the story fun and fast paced. As a final note, there is also a little surprise in the framing story that hopefully points to some interesting developments in the novels to come and therefore I am now looking forward to reading the next re-launch novels.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Expanse - J.M. Dillard



Title: The Expanse
Author: J.M. Dillard
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2153

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"The Expanse" by J.M. Dillard is a novelization of two Star Trek Enterprise episodes; namely the Season 2 Finale and the Season 3 premier. There was one little quirk regarding this novelization though in that it actually included various scenes that were deleted from the episodes prior to them airing which were quite interesting to read.

The story deals with an attack on Earth by a previously unknown alien species (or actually 5 separate species that evolved on one planet) known as the Xindi. After this attack leaves millions dead, the Enteprise is recalled to Earth where the crew witness the devastation for themselves. However, thanks to information gained from a time traveller, the Enterprise is dispatched on a mission into the Delphic Expanse to try and locate the Xindi homeworld to ensure there are no further attacks.

The book follows the script of the two episodes fairly well, covering the various events exactly as was seen on screen although the reader does get to obtain a little bit more understanding of what may be going on within the character's heads and the various motivations. I particularly thought this was so in regards to T'Pol's decision to disobey the Vulcan High Command and Tucker's attempts to deal with the loss of his sister.

My biggest issue with the novel though is that it just covers the two episodes that were used to set up a major story arc that ran across the entire third series. Therefore, there is no satisfying conclusion to this novel which basically just sets up the major plot line and various goals yet doesn't actually see them through to completion. To be honest, if I hadn't been the fan of the series and therefore knew how it all ends up I would probably have been deeply disappointed.

If you ignore this aspect however, there is no doubt that this is a well written and nicely paced book. The story itself was enjoyable enough already, but the little additions made by Dillard to the story have definitely added to it. It is without doubt the best of the novelizations I have read so far within the Enterprise collection.

In conclusion, this is an enjoyable book that provides a little bit more insight into the characters beyond what a reader may have observed from the TV screen. To be honest though I am not sure if it adds enough to really make it a must buy for a fan of the show and the lack of a proper conclusion probably would irritate someone who had not actually already seen the series. I would probably just advise people to watch all of season 3 instead and only buy the book if you are a completionist.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Daedalus's Children - Dave Stern



Title: Daedalus's Children
Author: Dave Stern
Published: 2004
Chronological Period: 2153

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"Daedalus's Children" by Dave Stern follows on directly from "Daedalus" which I have previously reviewed on this blog. As this is a sequel to "Daedalus" then I must warn you that some of this review may include spoilers in relation to that novel. In all honesty though, if you haven't read the first book then reading this one would probably be pointless anyway as this novel jumps straight back into the ongoing story.

As stated above, the story follows on from "Daedalus", in which the Enterprise and her crew are trapped in a parallel Universe. Archer and the majority of his crew are prisoners of the Denari government, whilst Trip and Hoshi are working with an opposition movement to try and track down the Enterprise. However, due to previous actions that left the leader of the Denar government, General Sadir, dead, events are spiraling out of control and the threat of civil war looms. The Enterprise and her crew must now not only try and survive the ongoing crisis; they also need to find a way to return to their own Universe.

Once again, Stern fills the novel with surprises and twists alongside an entertaining and action packed plot. I also found the pacing to be perfect and I found myself really rocketing through the book as it held my attention superbly.

The aspect of this novel that I really appreciated was that unlike "Daedalus" which mainly focused on Trip, this novel centered on the entire crew. I felt that Stern really brought out the characters well and I enjoyed being able to witness events from multiple viewpoints. I did feel that some of the ways in which some of the crew members stumbled upon each other as the story progressed were a little bit too coincidental but this is a minor quibble really.

Stern's minor characters from the parallel Universe also continued to play an important part in the novel. There were superbly portrayed, the relationships between themselves and the Enterprise crew were interesting to follow and added a little bit of emotion to the story. I will admit that the number of characters can get a little bit much at times for you to follow easily. However, overall I think these characters added to the story so I wouldn't really fault the novel much for this.

In summary, this was an entertaining and enjoyable conclusion to the story initiated in "Daedalus". It is fast paced, action packed and a real page turner that anyone who enjoyed reading "Daedalus" will struggle to put down.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Daedalus - Dave Stern



Title: Daedalus
Author: Dave Stern
Published: 2003
Chronological Period: 2153

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Daedalus" by Dave Stern is the latest book in my Star Trek Reading Challenge. I was actually a little bit confused at first as I had assumed prior to reading the blurb that this book would actually be based on the "Enterprise" TV episode of the same name. However, this is not the case and both stories are entirely different from each other which wasn't an issue to me as I actually prefer an original novels to a novelization of an episode.

The story itself mainly follows the antics of Commander Tucker after an investigation into an anomaly leaves the Enterprise crippled before then being attacked and captured by an alien species known as the Denar. Tucker manages to escape alongside Ensign Sato and they are then both rescued by a group calling themselves the Guild who are at war with the very people who attacked the Enterprise. The Guild request Trip's assistance in the form of technological help in return for them helping him find and rescue the Enterprise and its crew. Trip of course is a bit wary about helping too much after previous experiences in influencing less advanced species, but when a further discovery related to his past results in his world being turned upside down, it becomes harder for him to refuse to help.

The first thing I need to say is that this is probably the best Enterprise novel I have read so far although there hasn't been much competition. I found the plot to be simple but interesting, the characters were engaging and there was enough action and plot twists to keep me entertained from start to finish. Now, it isn't what someone would call a classic Science Fiction novel by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it will be a fun read for anyone who was a fan of the show.

In regards to the characters, this book is pretty much all about Trip. The bulk of the storyline is basically built around him although Hoshi is around as well, but her role is hugely limited as well, which I found rather reminiscent of the TV series. That is really about it though in regards to the other crewmembers, a few odd appearances but nothing else, Stern spends more time developing and showcasing his own original Denari characters instead. Personally, I quite enjoyed seeing the development of some interesting and original characters, but it would have also been nice to see a little bit more from the other Enterprise crewmembers in regards to their own predicament.

I have to say that the ending itself was a little bit of a let down due to its cliff hanger nature. There is no real closure when you complete the novel, you basically have to read the sequel "Daedalus's Children" to find out what happens. It annoyed me a little as "Daedalus" wasn't the longest of novels I have read in the Star Trek Universe and it felt to me like the book was split into two parts as a money making idea to fleece the fans some more.

In summary this is a very enjoyable Enterprise novel that had me hooked to the point that I just abandoned my reading list and picked up the sequel as soon as I finished. I will add that as with many other Star Trek books I have read, this book is unlikely to really appeal to someone who isn't normally interested in the show, but any fans should hopefully find something to pique their interest.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Surak's Soul - J.M. Dillard



Title: Surak's Soul
Author: J.M. Dillard
Published: 2003
Chronological Period: 2152

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"Surak's Soul" by J.M. Dillard is the latest book in my ongoing saga to read every Star Trek book in chronological order as per my Star Trek Reading Challenge. Whilst it is a reasonably well written original Star Trek story, the overall plot isn't that complex, deep or really anything we haven't seen before. It actually reminded me of the type of plot we would have seen on the original series. In fact, I could easily visualise the talking alien energy life form, present within the story, in Technicolor glory like we would have seen on the TV show! It also wasn't helped by the fact that, as with the previous Star Trek books I have read during this challenge, I was able to figure out what had happened very quickly thereby destroying any suspense that may have been built up.

Anyway, in regards to the story, it follows the Enterprise responding to a distress signal that leads them to a civilization on the brink of extinction due to a mysterious illness. As the crew explores the planet, T'Pol is forced to kill the last remaining survivor to ensure the survival of Hoshi. This leads to a type of identity crisis for T'Pol as she begins to suspect that spending her time with humans was leading her to go against the teachings of Surak regarding non-violence.

As T'Pol tries to get to grips with her thoughts and choices, the Enterprise remains to investigate what happened to the planet's inhabitants. As the investigation progresses, a mysterious energy based life form known as the Wanderer turns up and offers to assist, which is greatly appreciated by the crew. Especially when they also begin to fall foul of the same illness that claimed the inhabitants on the planet below.

My biggest disappointment with the story though was actually the very little attention actually given to T'Pol and her inner struggle to come to terms with what she did and if is really against Surak's teachings. She just seems to meditate once and then decide that she is going to give up all violence, even if it would save a member of the crew. It was a big let down as the book synopsis had left me thinking it would be a good character driven story exploring T'Pol's character and the guilt she was suffering which it really wasn't.

The little bit that did focus on T'Pol's thoughts was something that I did actually enjoy and it was quite nice to see her comparisons between Surak & Gandhi. However, besides this comparison there is nothing really in this book about Surak at all. It really appears to me that, with this and what I highlighted in the last paragraph, this book should be 'done' for false advertising! Or maybe it was my own fault for reading too much into the title and synopsis.

Now that I have got my disappointments out of the way I will talk about some of the merits. The story does move at a good pace and whilst the story isn't anything special it is entertaining enough. I also think that the author's characterizations were probably the best I have seen so far in an Enterprise novel although I would expect this to be the case as it is currently the latest one that I have read.

Overall "Surak's Soul" was another reasonable Star Trek Enterprise novel that won't win any awards but kept me entertained enough. It was especially nice to see an author really capture the characters form the show well. It is a shame that the book didn't really live up to what I was expecting in regards to really going into T'Pol's soul searching or give us some more information on Surak as I think that I would have really loved the book had this been the case.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Shockwave - Paul Ruditis



Title: Shockwave
Author: Paul Ruditis
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2152

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Shockwave" by Paul Ruditis is the latest book in my Star Trek Reading Challenge and it is a novelization of two Star Trek episodes; namely the Season 1 Finale and the Season 2 premier. I have to admit that I found Shockwave to be one of the better stories in the initial few seasons of the show so I was looking forward to refreshing my memory with this novel.

The basic premise of the story is that the Enterprise manages to vaporise several thousand people in a major accident whilst visiting a planet. Then, as the Enterprise prepares to be recalled back to Earth, Captain Archer is visited by a time traveller who explains that history had never recorded this incident and it is all part of the temporal cold war that was previously mentioned in the first Enterprise novel; Broken Bow. Thus begins an adventure through time, ranging from several months back to thousands of years in the future as the crew tries to unravel what has occurred and why.

The first thing I have to comment on is that it does stick very closely to the TV show and there isn't really anything new added in terms of the story or characters that you couldn't have gained by watching the show, but to be honest that is not a new issue when it comes to novelizations. I did note that various flashbacks to earlier episodes in season 1 have been added to the story. It is a nice way of ensuring that people who haven't seen the show will still understand aspects of the story. I actually appreciated it myself as it was many years ago that I watched the show and can only vaguely remember some of the episodes.

Paul Ruditis, has written the story well enough with his descriptions really bringing you into the centre of the story and the plot is well paced. Basically, I found the novel to be just as entertaining and interesting as I remembered the episodes were.

In summary, this book is a very faithful adaptation of a very enjoyable double episode. However, in a way this is its flaw as I still believe Star Trek books mainly appeal to those who have watched the TV show. Therefore, most people who pick this up will already know the story and it doesn't really add anything new to the experience. So, if you have already seen the Shockwave episodes, the only real reason to pick this up is to re-immerse yourself in this enjoyable story in another form which is perfectly reasonable. If you haven't seen the TV series then I think you will find this a fun and light Sci-Fi adventure book, although I would advise that you read Broken Arrow first as it does give some background and set-up for the overall plot.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: What Price Honor? - Dave Stern



Title: What Price Honor?
Author: Dave Stern
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2152

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
What Price Honor? by Dave Stern is the latest book in my Star Trek Reading Challenge and whilst it was not a novelization of an episode, it did feel like it could easily have been pulled from a mid-season episode from any of the Star Trek series.

The story is set around Armoury Officer Malcolm Reed who has recently killed Ensign Alana Hart when he tried to stop her attempts to sabotage the Enterprise. Malcolm is now riddled with guilt over what has happened and is trying to uncover why the Ensign acted in the manner she did. It soon transpires that an ongoing conflict between two civilisations may actually be linked to Ensign Hart's actions which results in the Enterprise and its crew getting dragged deeper and deeper into the conflict.

Fundamentally this novel is a rather conventional 'whodunit' Star Trek storyline and I managed to correctly guess within the first few chapters what had actually happened. It got so obvious at times that I wanted to slap the characters around because they were being that blind to the clues. Perhaps I have just seen too many Star Trek episodes before but it would have been nicer if the mystery had been a bit deeper and less obvious. In addition it really wasn't the easiest of stories to follow at times as a lot of the plot is brought out via various slightly muddled flashbacks. The reader therefore really needs to concentrate to ensure they understand when and what they are reading about.

What I did like is that the novel was focused on Malcolm Reed who was criminally underutilised in the TV series. I was happy to see some expansion of his character, in particular his relationship with Ensign Hart really helped to humanise him more and show that there was more to him that the strict and proper officer he could come across like.

A final comment I want to make is that I got a little bit confused at the beginning of the story as the dates referenced seemed to have put it prior to the actual launch of the Enterprise whilst the narrative states that it was a year into the exploration mission. This was a little bit annoying to see as it is such a basic error, especially considering I managed to find the fictional launch date for the Enterprise myself without any real difficulty. Star Trek fans can be quite particular about various "facts" and I think this type of thing may irritate quite a few of them.

In Summary this wasn't the best Star Trek novel in the world but it also wasn't the worst. I suspect if you are a fan of Malcolm Reed you may enjoy this book but anyone else may just get a little bit frustrated by the rather basic mystery plot.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: By The Book - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: By The Book
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2151

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
By The Book is actually the first original novel that was written for the Enterprise series, so I was looking forward to reading this as it would be something new.

The story itself is actually fairly standard for the Star Trek Universe, but it was still reasonably enjoyable. The Enterprise and its crew encounter a new planet which seems to have two distinct species. Unfortunately Captain Archer blows first contact with one of the species due to his enthusiasm and lack of patience. Things then go downhill from that point and when a crew member is incapacitated during contact with the planet's 2nd species it seems like humanity's attempts at peaceful communications with these two races may be doomed before they really have begun.

The first comment I am going to have to make about this story is that alongside the first contact plotline there is a sub-plot going on which follows a selection of crew member that are playing a table top role play game. I have to admit that this sub-plot did at times distract from the main storyline and it almost felt like the authors were rushing through some sections of the story so they could get back to talking about the game. It didn't bother me hugely but I just found it hard to get excited or overly interested in some characters in a fictional universe pretending to be some other characters in another fictional universe. The role play game plot did dovetail with the main first contact storyline if you really delved into it and grasped that both the game and what they were going through on the planet were making the same point in regards to not just jumping into things but I don't think it was really required. I may have accepted the need for the game more if it really enhanced some of the characters but it is mainly secondary characters playing the game and none of them are really expanded upon anyway.

Outside the role play game I did fine the story to be quite interesting and enjoyable but it was definitely a cerebral story with very little action or suspense involved. A large portion of the story covered the crew trying to understand the two species on the planet below and what protocols and structures they should be following in regards to both first contact and the running of the ship itself. This does means the story can move along quite slowly which does make it quite hard to get into. However, once the story was in full flow, I did find the debates and discourse between the various characters to be rather thought provoking and engaging.

The biggest issue though with the novel though is probably the characters; some of them seem to act in very strange ways that don't really match what I know of them from the TV series. This is probably understandable though, as when the book was written the TV series itself hadn't had enough time to produce any real character development to assist the authors. I did feel that the characterization was at least slightly better than the previous novel, Broken Bow. Therefore, I am expecting that as these books progress the ability of the authors to capture the characters will improve.

In addition to that I also felt that some characters were mentioned at various times to make sure that they would be in the book. The main one I am thinking about here is Trip; he just seemed to spend the entire novel hanging around the bridge for no real reason. It just got a little bit irritating constantly seeing pointless narrative about Trip standing there or making some inane comment.

In summary, no matter the issues I have detailed above, I did actually find the book to be a reasonably enjoyable afternoon read. The small issues with the how the characters acted compared with what a reader may have seen on the TV show was understandable and it didn't really affect my enjoyment of the book anyway. If you don't normally read Star Trek then the characterization aspects won't mean a thing to you anyway, so if you want to try out a first contact storyline in an established Universe then consider this but be aware that this book is more about the ideas and thoughts than the action. For Star Trek fans, I believe that if you enjoy the more thoughtful and slow paced stories then you will probably enjoy this book as long as you take into account when this book was written.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Broken Bow - Diane Carey



Title: Broken Bow
Author: Diane Carey
Published: 2001
Chronological Period: 2151

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
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Review:
Anyway, the first book in the Star Trek: Enterprise novel series I read was Broken Bow by Diane Carey which is actually a novelization of the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot episode of the same name.

The story itself is set 150 years from now and humanity has basically made contact with a few other races but they haven't ventured out much into the Universe yet. However, the newly formed Starfleet is getting it's latest high speed ship ready to head out and explore the cosmos, even though their allies and more advanced mentors, the Vulcans don't believe they are mature enough. When two alien species start a fight on Earth, the crew of this new ship are drawn into an adventure involving time travel, genetic engineering and political intrigue.

I have to be honest here and say that I was a little bit disappointed in this novel. I felt that this was a good opportunity to try and enhance what was a rather average episode but instead it is just a basic retelling of the pilot without anything original in terms of characters or some storyline enhancement. It is a shame really as an improved story could also have been used to try and draw new people into this series.

The main issue I did have with the story though were the characters, I am aware that they do improve and grow to be quite likeable as the series progresses but at this stage I didn't really like them. I just felt they were all quite weakly developed and rather petty to be honest. The bickering, talking behind backs and basic childishness that goes on is all rather pathetic and I found it irritating. I understand there is obviously some issues that humanity has regarding aliens and the way they have been treated but I believe they would have been a bit more professional than what we see here.

After all this you would probably expect me to say that I disliked the entire novel but that isn't actually true. The story itself wasn't that bad and had an enjoyable mix of adventure and political intrigue. There also isn't any real techno-babble here and it does feel a bit more down to earth feel than some of the other Star Trek series set in future years. If you have never seen the TV series then it is perfectly adequate introduction to the universe and the characters.

In summary, I have to say that this book was a mildly interesting sci-fi adventure that does at least ensure the reader is introduced to all the new characters that will be involved in the Star Trek Enterprise series. I felt that it didn't really add anything new the Star Trek universe and an average TV episode has just become an average novel. Basically if you want to read every Star Trek book then go ahead and read this, but to be honest if you have seen the TV episode already then I wouldn't bother picking this up.