Friday 5 November 2021

Star Trek: Discovery: Dead Endless - Dave Galanter

Title: Dead Endless
Author: Dave Galanter
Published: 2019
Chronological Period: 2258

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"Dead Endless" by Dave Galanter is a Discovery novel which tells the story of what happened to Hugh Culber when he was trapped in the mycelial network after his death at the end of Season One. What makes this even more interesting however is that the novel is primarily set in an alternate universe and not either of the ones we are used to from the TV show. In this Universe, the Battle of the Binary Stars never took place and Burnham is captain of the Discovery and the story follows her and the crew as they responds to a startling distress call originating from within the mycelial network. However, upon arriving in the network they soon find themselves trapped when their mycelial fuel mysteriously goes missing. The crew are soon in a race again time to find some way to escape before they all perish.

When I first started reading the book, I didn't realise it was set in an alternate universe and you begin to wonder if Galanter paid any attention whatsoever to the TV series. There was so much different going on that I was quite perplexed but once it became clear that this wasn't set in the prime universe it all began to make a little bit more sense. I really hope no one else just put the book down before this became apparent as this really is a superbly enjoyable and engaging novel. Despite Culber being the only character present from the prime univerrse, the rest of the crew are pretty much the same as those from the show, they have just had their lives changed by there being no war with the Klingons. This meant that I was easily able to understand the way they were acting based on my knowledge of them already, espcially when Galanter has captured them all perfectly, especially Stamets and Culber who are the prime focus for the novel.

Ultimatly, this novel is about the relationship between Stamets and Culber and it does a great job in exploring this, even if the Stamets we are seeing isn't the one we are used to. Whilst this Stamets get to realise what he is missing, Culber get opportunity to rekindle a relationship he thought was lost. Although Galanter doesn't shy away from the complicated questions raised in relation to this being a strange and conflicted experience as he is beginning a romance with a man who is and yet isn't his partner. It is handled expertly and I really appreciated how the complicated and messy feelings around love and relationships was explored in such a novel manner.

Overall, this has to be one of my favourite Discovery novels, Galanter has used the novel to show us something we didn't see on the screen but has done it in a manner which doesn't impact canon at all. The use of the alternative universe to ensure he didn't uspet what was shown on the TV show was a very clever trick even if this was a bit confusing at first. I quite like Hugh Culber as a character so I was glad I got the chance to see what he went through and get more of an understanding of his relationship with Stamets.

Friday 20 August 2021

Star Trek: The Unsettling Stars - Alan Dean Foster

Title: The Unsettling Stars
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Published: 2020
Chronological Period: 2258

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In “The Unsettling Stars” Alan Dean Foster takes us back to the Kelvin Universe to a point in time soon after the events of the 2009 film with Captain Kirk and his crew dealing with their new responsibilities. The plot revolves around an encounter with a refugee ship from a previously unknown race known as the Perenoreans whom they rescue from an attack by three alien warships. Whilst Spock attempts to locate a potential planet for them to settle on the Enterprise crew soon finds the Perenoreans eager to help out in any way they can in order to repay them for their assistance. Once a potential system is located and agreement is reached with the species already living there the Perenoreans are just as eager to assist their new host species as they were the crew. But the Perenoreans’ determination to help their rescuers eventually leads to a conflict of cultures and a genuine threat to not only the Enterprise and their host planet’s culture, but to the entire Federation.

I was looking forward to this as I have always enjoyed the works of Alan Dean Foster, both his movie novelizations and his own original novels. I was also intrigued to see another novel in the Kelvin Universe, especially as I knew that this novel was one of many that were commissioned over a decade ago that I had never expected to see. Unfortunately, it ended up feeling just like a typical TOS styled novel. To be fair to Foster, he was limited in that outside of Kirk and Spock, there wasn’t really any real development of the other characters in the movie so the supporting crew feel a bit flat as Foster has clearly tried to stick within the limits of what was seen on the screen. It also didn’t really feel like it mattered if the plot was set in the Kelvin Universe or the Prime. Yes, we get a few throwbacks to what happened in the movie such as Vulcan being destroyed or how Kirk deals with being thrust into a Captain’s role so quickly but I don’t really think it added anything to make this feel that different from  what we see in Prime Universe novels.

I would like to add though that some of the basic premises of the novel were quite interesting. The use of a non-violent alien threat and the idea of slavery through advanced technology in particular had me intrigued and showed why the Prime Directive is such as important aspect of the Federation. I also appreciated that this novel was much more of a cerebral adventure that most of the onscreen events seen in the Kelvin Universe but maybe this was in part why it didn’t feel like it was particularly important that the plot was set in that Universe.

Overall, this was a reasonable Trek novel and Foster is still a competent and decent writer, but it just didn’t feel like it was anything special. I also don’t feel that it really mattered that this novel was set in the Kelvin Universe which is a shame but maybe I am looking for something that doesn’t exist. In the end, the Trek characters whilst shaped slightly differently by what happened in the Kelvin Universe are still fundamentally going to end up being similar on some level to how they turned out in the Prime Universe.

Friday 30 July 2021

Star Trek: Discovery: Die Standing - John Jackson Miller

Title: Die Standing
Author: John Jackson Miller
Published: 2020
Chronological Period: 2257 (Overture: 2233 / 2255)

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“Die Standing” by John Jackson Miller is a Star Trek Discovery novel which picks up just after the ending of the show’s first season. The novel follows the exploits of Emperor Philippa Georgiou, former ruler of the Terran Empire, from the mirror universe who has been stranded in the prime universe. In particular it showcases the various events which transpired from her being trapped on the Klingon home world of Qo’noS to her joining the ranks of Section 31. Her initial test run with Section 31 is chaotic as she uses it as an opportunity to escape, but due to an issue on the USS Farragut she gets a second chance on a mission to investigate a possible biological weapon, that will lead her to a pocket of the galaxy surrounded by mystery, where a trio of very different alien species trade internally via the help of a rather flamboyant human, who had a relationship with the now deceased prime Universe’s Captain Georgiou.

This was another enjoyable Discovery novel from Miller who manages to weave together a rather complicated and entertaining plot which pulls on events and characters from the Original Series, Discovery and DS9. What was interesting to me was that using an "anti-hero" protagonist like Phillipa Georgiou gave the novel a much darker vibe than Trek literature is normally known for and whilst some people may dislike this, I found it refreshingly different. My one word of caution about the novel’s plot however is that having a sound understanding of Star Trek’s various shows is required to fully appreciating the story and character work included within the novel. Yes, you can enjoy the novel without this as Miller makes sure that all the key elements are explained in sufficient detail to follow and enjoy the story, but when he starts throwing in the characters of Emony Dax and Sean Finnegan or shout outs to the USS Farragut incident then you know that this novel is most suitable for established Star Trek fans.

I have already touched on the novel’s protagonist being Phillipa Georgiou but I want to highlight how good a job Miller has done in capturing her and the arrogant, cunning and sarcastic personality seen on the show. It is important to note that Miller has done more than this, he has also tried to delve deeper into the character. The reader really gets to see how self-serving and twisted her motives and thought process actually are, but we also get to see some of her own self-examination as the story progresses. This helps in making Georgiou a much more compelling and intriguing character, taking her beyond a character that is just being seen as simply evil and ruthless.

Overall, this is another well written and entertaining novel from John Jackson Miller which features some interesting character-based elements, primarily focussed around the Mirror Universe version of  Georgiou. It is a wonderful piece of fiction which nicely ties up her story between Season One and Season Two of Discovery and leave's the reader hoping there might be more stories out there in the future showing her time in Section 31.

Monday 26 July 2021

Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War - John Jackson Miller

Title: The Enterprise War 
Author: John Jackson Miller
Published: 2019
Chronological Period: 2256 - 2257 (Prologue: 2236)

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"The Enterprise War" by John Jackson Miller is Star Trek Discovery novel that pretty much has nothing to do with the USS Discovery itself. It provides the reader with an insight into the Starship Enterprise was up to during the Klingon War that occurred during the show's first season. The Enterprise has been sent to a remote nebula where travel is difficult and various other ships have vanished without a trace over the years. Despite war breaking out with the Klingons, Starfleet order the Enterprise to remain and continue exploring the nebula. Before long the Enterprise soon discovers there is a multi-generational war ongoing within the nebula which may turn out to be more dangerous than the one Starfleet is keeping them out of.

This was a fun book that started pretty slowly but once you have read through the first 100 pages or so it picks up quickly. John Jackson Miller has a writing style which was easy to read, intricate and has pulled together and interesting plot which includes a good mix of action, mystery and character interaction. The characters are realistically portrayed with flaws and doubts clearly visible to the reader which made it all the more enthralling to see them push past these issues in order to do their duty.

Personally speaking, it was nice to get an explanation of where the Enterprise was during the Klingon War although to be honest I am not sure I believe that Starfleet would have left the Enterprise out there exploring the nebula. In addition, the climax of the novel also gives a nice segue into season 2 of Discovery and shows how Spock ends up in the state that gets him committed to the mental facility. 

Overall this is a great read for all Star Trek fans and it shows that Pike's time on the Enterprise provides a lot of scope for some potential entertaining and engaging stories. It has made me look forward to seeing the new "Strange New Worlds" TV series even more now and hopefully we will get novels released in the future which give us more Pike Enterprise stories in line with this.

Thursday 22 July 2021

Star Trek: Discovery: The Way To The Stars - Una McCormack

Title: The Way To The Stars
Author: Una McCormack
Published: 2019
Chronological Period: 2249 - 2250 (Framing Story: 2257)

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The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack is Star Trek Discovery novel which includes a brief framing story set in 2257 as Sylvia Tilly prepares to enter the Command Training Programme.  The main element of the novel however is a coming-of-age story which takes the reader back to 2249 as Tilly turns sixteen and tries to deal with growing up and finding her way in life whilst also navigating the pressures faced from her powerful, domineering and successful mother. 

I have to say that at times the novel felt like something you would find on your bookstores YA shelves which probably isn’t surprising as most YA novels tend to focus as this one does on characters in their late teens undertaking some form of personal growth as they transition into adulthood. However, don’t let this put you off if your usual view on a YA book is to assume it will be to juvenile for an adult reader as McCormack writing is of a high standard. In addition, her character portrayal of Tilly was top notch and the way she interreacted and acted felt 100% on the button. The story is set mainly from Tilly’s point of view which really helps the reader emphasise with her and understand why the wishes of others have in part driven her to be the way she is.

One warning I want to give to anyone who plans to pick this up is that it is very much a character-driven story with a light hearted plot and relatively low stakes. Don’t pick this up looking for a pulpy star trek action adventure as you will be disappointed. In fact, the parts of the book where McCormack tried to include a bit of danger and action felt rushed and a bit out of place to me.

Overall, this novel works in relation to it being a good quality coming-of-age story that whilst being best suited for a YA audience, it is written to such a high standard that adults should find it enjoyable as well. If you a fan of the character Tilly then I think you will love this book as McCormack has captured her expertly and this book is without doubt an excellent tribute to her.

Friday 26 February 2021

Star Trek 10 - James Blish

Title: Star Trek 10
Author: James Blish
Published: 1974
Chronological Period: 2266 - 2268

“Star Trek 10” is the tenth collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations written by James Blish. The six episodes included in this collection are cover all three seasons and are as follows:

The Alternative Factor (Season 1)
The Empath (Season 3)
The Galileo Seven (Season 1)
Is There in Truth No Beauty? (Season 3)
A Private Little War (Season 2)
The Omega Glory (Season 2)

As always with these novelizations, Blish has done a more than competent job in converting the episodes into this form but there isn’t really anything new or additional. This book contains stories from all three seasons and the quality of the stories drops of as the seasons progressed. Basically, if you have seen and enjoyed the relevant episode then you will more than likely enjoy the novelization included in this collection.

Overall, there isn’t much else for me to say except that if you have never seen the episodes before then the stories should still entertain you. However, there are a lot better Star Trek novels out there from the original series period so unless you are a completionist I wouldn’t bother. The only other people I could recommend this to are those who have seen and loved the episodes included here.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Star Trek: Discovery: Fear Itself - David Mack

Title: Fear Itself
Author: James Swallow
Published: 2018
Chronological Period: 2252

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“Fear Itself” by James Swallow is a Star Trek Discovery novel set several years before the events of the television series. Whilst the USS Shenzhou is investigating damage to an observation buoy, they discover an alien ship that has experienced critical damage. The crew attempts to assist the vessel with Lieutenant Saru joining the away team and uncovers an intriguing mystery, one which Saru just can’t leave alone. In addition, over hanging these events are the Tholians whose presence nearby threatens to endanger everyone.

Whilst the Discovery series has moved on from when this book was written and we now know a lot more about Saru’s past and his character it was still an enjoyable insight on his earlier years in Starfleet. Seeing Saru overcome his natural Kelpian tendencies was an interesting read and provided the reader with a greater understanding of how Saru made it to command rank. Swallow also uses this novel to further explore the relationship between Saru and Burnham with the type if bickering between them as seen on Season One of the series being fully on show here. I think this was very well done and really added some layers to their relationship.

On the whole Swallow has done a great job in nailing the characters, or at least nailing them in line with how they appeared in Season One. When I was reading the novel I could clearly see the same characters I was seeing on the tv screen. I particularly loved seeing more of the prime version of Captain Phillipa Georgiou who showed all the qualities we glimpsed in her short time on screen.

Overall this was an enjoyable Star Trek novel that captured the characters perfectly and did a great job in proving some more depth and layers to them. Whilst I haven’t delved too much into the story itself it is focused on immigration and refugees and how a species is reacting to this. It is something which of course has been touched on before by Star Trek but Swallow has done a good job in presenting it here in an entertaining and engaging manner, helped by using it to show Saru’s growth.