Saturday 31 August 2013

Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh Vol 1 - Greg Cox

Title: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh Vol 1
Author: Greg Cox
Published: 2001
Chronological Period: 1974 - 1989 (Framing Story: 2270)

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh Volume 1" by Greg Cox is the latest book in my Star Trek Reading Challenge. Whilst the framing story is set in the 2260s, the main plotline is actually set in the 1970s and 1980s and therefore should probably have been read prior to the novels I had been reading. There is an argument in regards to if you should use the framing story or the main plotline period when trying to read novels in some sort of chronological order but I try to stick with using the main plotline, especially in a Universe like the Star Trek one which I already know a fair about. Anyway, I have now realised my little mistake in not reading this previously and I have now finished it and will read Volume 2 before continuing any further with the books set in the later time periods.

The story itself starts with a framing story in which Kirk and his crew are heading to a colony that has been practicing genetic engineering on humans. This inspires the captain to research the historical records from the late 20th century which was when a group of genetically engineered super-humans attempted to take over the planet. The book then moves onto the main story which follows the exploits of Gary Seven and his colleagues, Roberta Lincoln and Isis in the late twentieth century as they try to ensure that humanity doesn't destroy itself. Together they begin an investigation into some missing scientists which leads them to a secret group known as the Chrysalis Project who have managed to create several genetically engineered children, one of whom is the infamous Khan Noonian Singh. Gary Seven and his team therefore begin to keep tabs on the super-human children over the following years with a specific interest in the charismatic Khan in the hope that none of them use their intellect and strength to threaten humanity's future.

I found the novel to be interesting read that explores some of the back-story to one of Star Trek's most infamous characters and builds up a little bit more information about his history. Cox writes the novel with an obvious love for Star Trek and its lore as he includes various characters from other Trek stories within this novel and I did quite enjoy seeing the odd cameo in the novel. However, I do feel that Cox perhaps overdid it a little bit as by the end of the book I was finding it a little bit ridiculous the way in which everything happening seemed to involve some sort of meeting with another characters from the Trek Universe. Some people will love these constant references but I just found there was a little bit to much of it.

Cox also goes a little bit further than just using elements from other Star Trek stories in the novel; he also uses real life events from history as well. It was at times quite interesting to view the manner in which he linked these various real life events such as the Bhopal Disaster into the story in a manner which gave them an enhanced effect and reason for occuring beyond the real thing. In a way though, I think this was a little bit of a missed opportunity as personally I would rather have seen how things had gone differently because of Kahn being around instead of how his and other actions were hidden etc.

The main issue I did have with the novel though was that I found the story to be a little bit slow at times. It takes quite a while to even get to Kahn's introduction and even then he is just a toddler so other readers shouldn't expect an action packed novel full of battles and destruction. In addition, I think the concentration on Gary Seven in the story kind of ruined the entire premise of the novel. It mainly felt like a spy novel following his team's exploits than being about Kahn and his super-human colleagues.

Overall, I did enjoy the novel and it was nice to get some more information on Kahn and how he became the person he did. I doubt however that the book will really appeal to anyone not already aware of the Star Trek universe as there is so many elements that will appear random and pointless to the reader unless you understand the links to other stories. This is a shame really as the entire Eugenics War premise would be an interesting topic for any Alternate History novel and could have also appealed to non Star Trek fans if the novel had been aimed slightly differently.

Friday 30 August 2013

Star Trek: The Original Series: From History's Shadow - Dayton Ward

Title: From History's Shadow
Author: Dayton Ward
Published: 2013
Chronological Period: 1947 - 1996 (Framing Story: 2268)

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Whilst "From History's Shadow" by Dayton Ward is advertised as a Star Trek: The Original Series novel, the novel doesn’t really spend that much time following the crew of the USS Enterprise in the 23rd Century. Instead it focuses on a U.S. Air Force Captain James Wainwright (originally introduced in the DS9 episode: "Little Green Men") and his involvement with the attempts by the US government to investigate UFOs and alien encounters during the latter half of the 20th Century. Don’t get me wrong, we do get to spend time with Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew but Ward’s real focus has been on trying to explore the Star Trek Universe’s 20th Century.

One thing I really liked about this novel was that it tried to take a serious look at how things would appear from the viewpoint of the contemporary people who are encountering aliens from the future etc. I have always found that the various TV episodes that cover this type of encounter tend more to focus on providing light relief as the viewer gets to laugh at the silly contemporary people worrying about things. However, in this novel due to its focus on Wainwright we actually get to see and understand why people would feel the way they do. None of it seems that silly when you look at it from their viewpoint and this is something that I think Ward has captured well.

Another element of the novel I quite enjoyed was the way in which Ward has managed to link various elements of Trek lore together into a complex and interesting plot. I couldn’t help but smile as I recognised elements taken from various TV episodes that spanned multiple different Star Trek series. Ward doesn’t stop there however; he also tries to merge in real historical events to further enhance the narrative and detail behind it. The overall style was very reminiscent of Greg Cox’s “The Eugenics Wars” series and Ward does state in the acknowledgements that this was intentional. To be honest when I read Cox’s novels I wasn’t particularly fond of his attempt to shoe horn the Eugenics war into our own history. However as "From History's Shadow" is mainly based around government secrets etc. I feel that the link between real events and Trek lore works a lot better in this case.

Unfortunately I do think that this attempt to cram lots of links and detail into the novel did lead to its one flaw. Basically, I felt that it got a little bit too complicated towards the end and if you were not fully knowledgeable on Trek lore then some elements of the story could feel a bit undeveloped due to Ward’s reliance on the reader knowing what had happened on the relevant TV episode. Towards the end of the novel I actually found myself getting rather confused as the jumping around increased and the time travel elements of the story became a major element on the plot. I still enjoyed it myself as I was more than happy to try and work it out in my head but I can easily appreciate how some people may not enjoy trying to wade through the complexity.

In summary I felt that “From History’s Shadow” was a fun and well written book which takes the reader on a journey through our own history as depicted in Star Trek lore. Ward has done a superb job at splicing together multiple Trek episodes into a coherent and interesting story. The only flaw I can really think is that maybe there was too much here, it may have worked better if Wainwright’s story had been spread over more than one novel which would have enabled Ward to actually expand some elements further.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Quotable Star Trek - Jill Sherwin

Title: Quotable Star Trek
Author: Jill Sherwin
Published: 1999

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Quotable Star Trek” by Jill Sherwin is an interesting reference book that should appeal to many fans of Star Trek. It is basically a collection of quotes taken from various Trek TV shows and movies produced over the years.

The book quite simply details some of the wonderful words of wisdom, thought and hope that have been present within the Star Trek universe from the beginning. Reading over this collection of dialogue really did highlight some of the subtle and not so subtle ways in which the various writers tried to portray the message of having hope in our future and ourselves as a species. It was enjoyable seeing some of these truly memorable quotes contained and I also appreciated the way it helped me remember some that I had actually forgotten.

As this is a form of reference book I wouldn’t say this is something you just want to read from start to finish. It is a book that you should just pick out a section and immerse yourself in it for a while or read some interesting quotes out to anyone who may want to listen. Sherwin has assisted in trying to allow the reader to do this by splitting the quotes into various chapters dedicated to elements such as love, religion, war and freedom. Therefore you can pick and choose which chapters to read depending on how you feel.

Whilst some of these quotes do work wonderfully when read standalone a fair amount of them are enhanced by an understanding of the scenes in which they were set. Sherwin does try to assist the reader by including commentary with some of the quotes but I still think that it is only going to be fans that have seen the specific scenes who will really appreciate the quotes utilised.

In summary as someone who fondly remembers hearing some of the dialogue used throughout Star Trek I found reading this collection to be an enjoyable experience that helped to refresh my memory. It really something that only a Star Trek fan is going to appreciate although I do think I may enjoy reading some of the more profound quotes out to my wife to show her that Star Trek isn’t as geeky as she likes to pretend.

Finally, I just want to note that as this book was originally written in 1999 there is nothing from the Star Trek universes created since then such as the “Enterprise” TV series or the JJ Abrams movie.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Welcome to the Adventure

About a year and a half ago I decided to start a reading challenge on my blog; An Eclectic Bookshelf that would involve me reading every Star Trek book in Chronological order.

It has actually become very popular and I now get more visits to my Star Trek reviews that anything else on that site. For that reason I decided to give the challenge its own home so that people interested in just following my Star Trek adventure could do so without the distractions of my other book reviews.

So welcome to the home of my Star Trek reading challenge, feel free to discuss, argue or comment as you see fit.

Over the next few months I will mainly be re-posting my original reviews here so it will be a complete collection but I hope to catch up with my live posts very soon.