Monday 28 September 2015

Star Trek: Across The Universe - Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski

Title: Across The Universe
Author: Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski
Published: 1999
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon UK

“Across The Universe” is a Star Trek Original Series novel written by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski. The novel follows the discovery of a ship from the 21st Century which was on a pre-warp journey to a distant planet to start a new colony. The crew has only aged thirty years due to relativistic effects but two centuries have passed and Kirk has to inform them that their target planet now no longer exists. Starfleet do find them an alternative colony world that they can now head to, but upon arrival they find that something on the planet appears to be attacking the colony.

When I started reading the book I was curious to see if it would offer anything interesting or original in regards to the well-used premise of 21st Century humans trying to acclimatise themselves in the 23rd Century. Unfortunately, the two authors appear to have just entirely skipped over this opportunity and decided to just used the crew of the Hawking as an inefficient plot device to give the Enterprise an excuse to visit a colony world. Personally, I am sure this could have been accomplished much more efficiently with a simple emergency broadcast from the colony which would have then enabled the authors to cut this entire premise and concentrate on the core story and characters. This would probably have been a good thing to do as the core story and characters really do need some extra work. The plot is rather dull and there is really nothing that original, we have a ship from the past, a planet wide intelligence and Spock saving the day as he is able to detect, withstand, and reason with the intelligence. Honestly, I can’t remember how many times we have seen those plot points used throughout the Star Trek Universe.

Weak plots can sometimes be ignored if the characters work well but in this novel the characterisation is quite simply missing. The new characters aren’t developed in any meaningful way and the established characters just feel like cardboard cut outs. I do wonder if the authors had actually ever seen Star Trek. To me, the established characters and their interactions are a vital ingredient of what makes Star Trek work and it just doesn’t feel right when this is missing in such a glaringly obvious way.

Overall, it is probably one of the weakest Star Trek books I have ever read. The story isn’t terrible exactly; it is just that the lack of originality in the plot or good characterisation makes it all rather boring. This is then exacerbated by the inclusion of the 21st Century ship which doesn’t actually add anything worthwhile to the story. If you aren’t like me and on a missing to read every Star Trek novel then I would just skip this one.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Gemini - Mike W. Barr

Title: Gemini
Author: Mike W. Barr
Published: 2003
Chronological Period: 2267

Available at:
Amazon UK

“Gemini” by Mike W. Barr is a pretty standard Star Trek story set during the original five year mission. The story follows the crew of the Enterprise as they are sent the planet Nador to assist in a vote that is being taken on whether the planet should join the Federation. The leaders of the planet, conjoined twins named Abon and Delor are advocates of joining the Federation but they are determined to let the people decide for themselves. However, a faction opposed to this are attempting to disrupt the vote and even threaten the lives of Abon and Delor resulting in Kirk and Co. stepping in to protect the twins and investigation the instigators.

To be honest, I can’t say it was the most enthralling of stories as the plot was quite basic and the twists and turns, whilst were reasonably interesting were quite obvious. The pacing and drama were adequate but the novel just seemed to be lacking a real feeling of excitement and tension. In addition there was a subplot involving Kirk’s nephew, Peter which seemed rather superfluous to the whole thing and I would rather have just seen it cut. I suspect it was added to try and further develop Kirk’s involvement in the story but it just didn’t really add anything to the storyline.

The best part of the novel is in regards to the treatment of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Barr captures these main characters in competent manner that is reminiscent of how they appear during the original TV series. In addition, the camaraderie and engaging banter between them all shines through very well and these sections of the novel did have me smiling.

Overall, this is a standard Original Series novel that doesn’t try to be anything spectacular. I suppose, the best way I can describe it would be that it is simply average. So, if you are looking for something original within the Trek literary Universe then you will probably want to look at other offerings.

Friday 4 September 2015

Star Trek 3 - James Blish

Title: Star Trek 3
Author: James Blish
Published: 1969
Chronological Period: 2267 - 2268

Available at:
Amazon UK

“Star Trek 3” by James Blish is the third collection of short stories which includes seven adaptations of Star Trek Original Series scripts.

"The Trouble with Tribbles"
"The Last Gunfight" (an adaptation of "Spectre of the Gun")
"The Doomsday Machine"
"Assignment: Earth"
"Mirror, Mirror"
"Friday's Child”
"Amok Time"

I have to admit that it is getting quite hard for me to review these collections without sounding like I am just repeating what I have said before but in the end what is true for one appears to be true for others. Basically, the level to which they entertain a reader is proportionate to how enjoyable the original episodes were. Luckily this collection contains a few decent episodes which meant that reading it was an enjoyable enough diversion for an afternoon.

As always there are a few changes to the stories as Blish tended to work with earlier scripts that were different to the final product and trying to spot these differences can be quite an entertaining experience. They don’t tend to overly affect the impact of the episode but it was quite nice to see the stories being told in a different way.

A slight negative is that the dramatic impact and tension was lost in several of the stories. For example, “The Doomsday Machine” was put across in a rather stale manner and the dramatic impact Kirk’s death in “Amok Time” was lost a little as the story was told from his viewpoint. It wasn’t a major issue but as these were some of the more enjoyable episodes used in the collection it was a shame to see them put across in a manner which wasn’t as strong as it could be.

Overall, Blish continues to do a competent job at adapting the various episodes but outside of nostalgic Star Trek fans I doubt they are going to appeal to many people.