Friday 30 May 2014

Star Trek 1 - James Blish

Title: Star Trek 1
Author: James Blish
Published: 1967
Chronological Period: 2266

Available at:
Amazon UK

“Star Trek 1” by James Blish was the first Star Trek novel ever released and is a collection of Original Series scripts adapted into short story form rather than being an original piece of work. The seven stories included in this collection are all from season one and are as follows:

Charlie's Law (Charlie X)
Dagger of the Mind
The Unreal McCoy (The Man Trap)
Balance of Terror
The Naked Time
The Conscience of the King

Reading this collection was an interesting experience for me as I was looking forward to reading the stories and refreshing my memories of the original episodes involved, especially as I felt these most of these were good episodes. To be honest, whilst the book did succeed in reminding me of the stories there were a few issues that affected my overall enjoyment of the collection.

For example, my favourite episode in this collection, “Balance of Terror” just feels downright flat and uninspiring. The novelization is badly missing the Romulan Commander’s point of view which really added to the story. In addition I just didn’t like how the entire crew, even Kirk to an extent decided they were going to distrust Spock. Basically my favourite episode on TV turned out to be least favourite in this collection. To be fair to Blish he was constrained by the short story length and he was working with the shooting scripts which at times varied quite a bit from what we finally see on the screen. Therefore I do understand why there would be some issues but readers should still be aware that there are some differences, some of which do weaken the stories.

However, it isn’t all bad and there are two stories in particular where I think Blish has actually added some really good elements. The first of these is within “The Unreal McCoy” (AKA The Man Trap) where Kirk knows realises that there is no way his officer would have eaten a strange alien root. In the actual episode everyone just seems to assume the redshirt is an idiot and doesn’t worry about it. The second was “Miri” which has been enhanced by the removal of silly sections like the planet being an “exact duplicate of Earth” and enhanced by some supplemental information on the virus itself. Whilst it could get a little bit dry at times it helped to ensure that things made a bit more sense and it would therefore have been nice for some of this explanation to have made it over into the episode.

Overall, this was a competent attempt at capturing the Star Trek episodes at a time when VCRs and DVDs weren't around. Some of the stories are enhanced and some are weakened by the adaptations but they were all readable in their own way and still highlight the fun of the Star Trek series. On a personal point, one thing this collection did highlight to me is how much the actors themselves really helped develop and enhance both the character interactions and stories.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel - Christopher L. Bennett

Title: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Published: 2014
Chronological Period: 2163 - 2164

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Tower of Babel” by Christopher L. Bennett is the second novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. I thoroughly enjoyed Bennett’s previous novel in the series and therefore I had been looking forward to this from the moment I heard about the release date.

The story picks up where “A Choice of Futures” finished off with the fledgling Federation still trying to understand what it really wants to be in the galaxy. This is highlighted by a presidential election which is being fought between two factions who have very different views on what the Federation’s future should entail. With this election in the background, Admiral Archer is undertaking negotiations to bring the Rigel system into the Federation although his attempts are being hampered by an alliance of criminals including Orions and Malurians who are determined to ensure the Federation fails.

Without doubt this is one of the busiest Star Trek books I have read in a while, there really is a lot going on and my summary above only briefly touches on it all. There are multiple plotlines on the go and Bennett has managed to find a role for pretty much every main character from the series which was nice to see. I was quite impressed that I didn’t actually feel lost at all even with so much going on, Bennett manages to blend all the pieces together into a well-paced, coherent and entertaining story. The only minor downside in utilising a wide array of characters and plotlines is that the novel felt like it was missing a powerful central plot that would have made me really care. Don’t get me wrong, it was still fun and entertaining but it just didn’t draw me in as much as other books have.

This was only a minor fault to be honest and it was easily overshadowed by some other elements of the novel such as the way in which Bennett has tried to create some depth to the villains. So often we get treated to a one dimensional villain but in this book we get some rounded characters whose motives and actions can be understood on some level if not necessarily agreed with. In addition, he has continued to flesh out some of the other minor characters such as Sam Kirk and Valeria Williams so that they interest me almost as much as the regular crew from the TV series.

One interesting observation I had about this book and in “A Choice of Futures” was the way in which various aspects of the plot relate to episodes of both the Enterprise and Original series. What I liked about this is that it was done in a manner which adds to the story and feels completely natural. I know some people don’t like “continuity porn” and I admit in the past I have seen links to various TV episodes that look forced and very much in your face, but with this series of novels Bennett has managed to seamlessly blend the various continuity points into the plot so this it should still make sense and be enjoyable for people who don’t know every TV episode.

Overall, “Tower of Babel” was another enjoyable novel in the Rise of the Federation series and it is always nice to return to this neglected era of Star Trek history. Bennett has done a good job in keeping the light burning for the Enterprise series and I am looking forward to seeing where we go next.