Saturday 28 December 2013

Star Trek: Vanguard: Harbinger - David Mack

Title: Harbinger
Author: David Mack
Published: 2005
Chronological Period: 2265 (Prologue: 2263)

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“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:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“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 UK

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.