I have really enjoyed all of the Star Trek novels written by David R. George III. Just a few weeks ago, I heaped enormous praise upon his “Lost Era” novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, that depicted “The Tomed Incident” and a story of the Enterprise B. I also really loved his recent two-part Deep Space Nine-centric “Typhon Pact” duology, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn. So I was eager to read Mr. George’s new novel, an adventure set during the original five-year mission of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise.
Allegiance in Exile is a very interesting, unusually structured Star Trek novel. The book doesn’t just depict one adventure. Instead, it is set over the course of the entire fifth and final year of the five-year mission. I really enjoyed that approach, as it allows Mr. George to tell a more expansive story than I had expected.
On the other hand, I had a hard time shaking the continuity implications of this novel taking up the full final year of the five-year mission. Even before reading this book, I always found it hard to imagine that the events of all of the 79 original Star Trek episodes could have happened during the span of the five-year mission. The Enterprise crew would have been on a new adventure in an entirely new and different region of space practically every week! Wouldn’t there have been travel-time between adventures, not to mention time to prep for each new mission, and to repair the ship after each time they ran into trouble? And that’s just thinking about the 79 aired original Star Trek episodes, not to mention all of the other books and comic books that depicted countless additional adventures set during the five-year mission. It definitely stretches the imagination to think that all of those events could have happened within the span of five years.
But Allegiance in Exile muddies those waters even further, because this novel suggests that the final year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission was spent mapping a particular region of unexplored space. That is logical, and it also makes sense that, rather than having a new adventure every few days, that weeks or even months might pass between new adventures with new alien life-forms. That is the scenario as presented in Allegiance in Exile, in which year five of the five-year mission passes fairly uneventfully, with only a few adventures every few months (adventures depicted in the book, and which wind up connecting as Kirk and his crew attempt to solve a mystery). That means that all of the other adventures of the five-year mission didn’t just happen during the course of five years, but rather during … [continued]
After re-reading Excelsior: Forged in Fire (the story of how Hikaru Sulu became the captain of the USS Excelsior, as well as the backstory behind Kor, Kang, and Koloth’s connection with Dax as seen in the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”) and Serpents Among the Ruins (the story of “The Tomed Incident” with the Romulans, and the end of Captain John Harriman’s command of the USS Enterprise B), I was eager to continue reading the next adventure of “The Lost Era” (the years between Captain Kirk’s final adventure in Star Trek: Generations and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation). I remember loving the next book in Pocket Books’ “Lost Era” series of novels, The Art of the Impossible, by Keith R.A. DeCandido, when I first read it about a decade ago, and I was excited to read it again.
The novel is every bit as spectacular as I remembered it being, a real highlight of Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek books. As opposed to the other novels of the “Lost Era” series, this novel doesn’t take place during one specific year — instead, it spans eighteen years. I commented that the previous “Lost Era” book, Serpents Among the Ruins, dug deeply into geeky Star Trek lore. Well, the event that forms the basis of this novel is even more obscure than the Tomed Incident and the Treaty of Algeron that were depicted in Serpents. The Art of the Impossible depicts the Betreka Nebula Incident. This event was only mentioned once, in a jokey (but very memorable!) exchange from the fourth season premiere of Deep Space Nine, “The Way of the Warrior.” After getting beaten up by some Klingons, the Cardassian Garak remarks that he has no idea why the Klingons might not like him. Doctor Bashir reminds Garak of something called the Betreka Nebula Incident. ”A minor skirmish,” Garak scoffs. ”That lasted eighteen years!” Dr. Bashir replies. The whole thing is just a joke, for the punchline of Garak being so dismissive of some sort of conflict that lasted almost two decades, and it’s never mentioned again.
But in this novel, author Keith R.A. DeCandido takes that one little line of dialogue and expands it into an epic tale of interstellar intrigue, weaving together characters and references from across all of the many Star Trek series into a phenomenally entertaining novel. A small conflict between a Cardassian ship and Klingon ship over the rights to the salvage of a crashed vessel on a planet in unclaimed space threatens to turn into a shooting war. Diplomat Curzon Dax is brought in to mediate the conflict. Drawing upon Federation history, and the technique the Organians used to mediate … [continued]
Well over a year ago, I re-read The Sundered, the first book in the Lost Years six-book series, published by Pocket Books about a decade ago, that set out to depict events of the “lost” seventy years or so between the last on-screen adventure of Captain Kirk and co. (the launch of the Enterprise B in Star Trek: Generations) and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with the launch of the Enterprise D in the series’ pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”). After re-reading The Sundered, I had intended to go on and re-read the next several books in the Lost Years series, which I had remembered loving. But I never got around to it! Last month, though, after re-reading the Captain Sulu adventure Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire, which was also set during those “Lost Years,” I decided to move on and re-read the Lost Years Book Two: Serpents Among The Ruins, written by David R. George III.
As with Forged in Fire, this novel is absolutely phenomenal, an exceedingly well-writen, epic saga that weaves together numerous strands of Star Trek history, hints and pieces drawn from many different sources from among the different Trek movies and TV shows, to create a sprawling, exciting adventure. This novel, even more than Forged in Fire, is drenched in Star Trek lore. This is exceedingly geeky stuff (and I love it!), as the novel draws upon a few very minor lines of dialogue from a couple of TNG episodes (“The Neutral Zone,” “The Defector,” and “The Pegasus” of something called “The Tomed Incident” and “The Treaty of Algeron” (which made the use in the Federation of a cloaking device illegal, and was the Federation’s last formal contact with the Romulans for almost almost a century) and creates from those two events a huge story.
The novel centers on John Harriman, Captain of the Enterprise B. Peter David’s novel, The Captain’s Daughter, did a great job of rehabilitating Captain Harriman from his cartoonish, borderline idiotic depiction in Star Trek: Generations, and this novel builds strongly on that work (and indeed references it several times). David R. George presents us in this novel with the strong captain that Harriman should always have been — a man deserving of captaining the Federation’s flagship, now a seasoned veteran, right smack in the middle of a flashpoint of conflict between the Fedeation and the Romulans, a conflict that, by the time of the events in this novel (2311, eighteen years after the events of Star Trek: Generations), has been boiling for years. The novel also focuses on another member of the Enterprise B’s crew — Demora Sulu. No longer the ensign … [continued]
Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels have, together, written some of my very favorite Star Trek novels (such as Taking Wing, the excellent attempt to pick up the narrative pieces left by the train-wrech that was Star Trek Nemesis that also launched the Titan series of novels, chronicling William T. Riker’s first command) and some of my least favorite (such as The Red King, their follow-up to Taking Wing, and the Kobayashi Maru/Romulan War series of novels that began with such promise but ultimately disappointed). But one of their very best novels –if not THE best — was their 2008 novel Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire.
Set mostly in the year 2289/2290, several years before the events of Star Trek VI, Forged in Fire tells the story behind the events of the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath.” That awesome episode brought together, for the first time, the three most well-known Klingon characters from the Original Series, amazingly played by the three original actors: Kang (Michael Ansara), Kor (John Colicos), and Koloth (William Campbell). That episode revealed that the three Klingon warriors, along with Jadzia Dax’s forebearer, Curzon Dax, had decades ago sworn a blood oath to avenge the deaths of the three Klingons’ first-born sons (one of whom was Dax’s god-son) at the hands of a brigand known as the Albino. Forged in Fire fills in the backstory behind that event. In this book we see how the Klingons first crossed swords with the Albino, and how it came to be that a young Federation diplomat became so close to a group of Klingons that one of them eventually named him godfather to his first-born son.
Why did I decide to re-read Forged in Fire now? Actually, I wanted to re-read it ever since re-reading the first The Lost Era novel, The Sundered, which also featured Captain Sulu and the USS Excelsior, and was also written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels. But life got in the way, and I hadn’t gotten to it until now. But what a delight it was to re-read this terrific book!
Forged in Fire is gloriously drenched in Star Trek continuity. I love how cleverly the authors fleshed out the vague hints of back-story given in “Blood Oath” into an enormous tapestry, an epic asventure spanning many years (the dense novel cleverly hops all about in time) that turns out to depict a critical event in the history of the Federation’s relationship with the Klingon Empire, setting the stage for the rapprochement that would arrive following the events of Star Trek VI.
I love getting to spend time with Kor, Kang, and Koloth. … [continued]
I loved The Persistence of Memory, book 1 of David Mack’s new Star Trek trilogy, “Cold Equations,” and I was a little more lukewarm on book 2, Silent Weapons. Book 1 dug deeply into Star Trek lore, bringing Data and his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, back front-and-center in the continuing Star Trek story. The book followed up on many ideas begun in Jeffrey Lang’s novel from a decade ago, Immortal Coil, a story that referenced almost every single previous incident in Star Trek involving an android or any other kind of machine life, and that introduced the idea of a galaxy-spanning Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence. Book 2 shifted the focus to the continuing Typhon Pact story-line, and the tense, ongoing cold war between the Federation and this new enemy alliance.
In book 3, The Body Electric, David Mack returns his focus to Data and the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence. Building directly on story-lines begun in Immortal Coil (which really should be considered book one of this four-novel story), we see that Data is still attempting to track down the Immortal (the man known as Flint, from the original series episode “Requiem for Methuselah”), because Flint has discovered the ability to repair android brains following a cascade failure. That is what caused the death of Data’s android “daughter,” Lal (from the third season Next Gen episode “The Offspring”), and Data is convinced that the Immortal can bring Lal back to life. With the Immortal captured by a violent offshoot of the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence, Data has no choice but to allow himself to be captured, too, with the hope that he can free the Immortal. While in their custody, he discovers the android woman, Rhea McAdams, with whom he fell in love (back in Immortal Coil), is also being held by these androids. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher has discovered an awful enemy feared by the Travelers — a planet-sized machine wreaking havoc at the center of the galaxy. With entire solar systems being destroyed every minute, he appeals to his old allies aboard the Starship Enterprise to try to help him avert destruction on a galactic scale.
As always, Mr. Mack spins a ripping yarn. (Though I will comment that his tremendous skill with maintaining tension seemed to fail him at a few points, in my opinion. The early part of the book establishes that the machine is literally destroying whole solar systems every minute, yet as the book unfolded over the day or two that the Enterprise was dealing with the problem, I often felt that things were moving at a surprisingly slow pace considering any second it could be Earth being demolished. For example, after bringing the … [continued]
I really enjoyed The Persistence of Memory, the first book in David Mack’s new Star Trek trilogy, “Cold Equations,” so I was very excited to move on to book two. In Silent Weapons, Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise find themselves entangled in a complex web of politics between the Federation and the Typhon Pact, the new alliance of many of the Federation’s enemies. Federation President Bacco is engaged in a secret meeting on Orion with representatives of the Gorn Hegemony, members of the Typhon Pact. A peace treaty between the two powers would drive a wedge amongst the Typhon Pact powers, but are the Gorn negotiating in good faith, or are they attempting to lure the Federation and Starfleet into a trap of some sort? The already complicated situation is worsened when the peace talks are disrupted by an attempted attack by a Soong-type android.
In writing about book 1: The Persistence of Memory, I commented that while the book was set firmly in the continuity of Pocket Books’ 24th-century-set Star Trek novels, most of which have been dealing with the advent of the Typhon Pact and its repercussions on the Federation, I enjoyed that the book wasn’t focused on the Typhon Pact. The novel didn’t have the “Typhon Pact” subtitle, it had the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” heading, and with good reason — the book delved deeply into Next Generation story-lines, focusing on trying up many dangling plot-lines concerning the seemingly-deceased Data and his cyberneticist “father”, the also-seemingly-deceased Dr. Noonien Soong.
Book 2, however, is very much a “Typhon Pact” novel. While Data and Soong-type androids factor into the plot, they are not nearly as significant elements of the story as I had expected. Instead, this book is really focused on the politics of the Typhon Pact situation — especially as concerns the Gorn and the Breen — and Federation President Nanietta Bacco’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the rising tension. Silent Weapons is also very much a mystery novel, as Captain Picard and President Bacco attempt to sort out a byzantine scheme before their enemies can get the better of them.
Ever since his fantastic DS9 novel Warpath, I have always been impressed by Mr. Mack’s ability to build tension, and there’s a terrific sequence about mid-way through the novel in which it becomes increasingly clear that something really bad is going to happen at the peace talks. The fifty-or-so pages leading up to the event are, together, probably my favorite part of the whole novel — it’s a real white-nuckle sequence. And, when things do come to ahead, we see that once again Mr. Mack is pretty brutal … [continued]
The Persistence of Memory, book 1 of David Mack’s so-far-great new Star Trek trilogy, Cold Equations, made repeated reference to events in a previous Star Trek novel: Jeffrey Lang’s 2002 book, Immortal Coil. Before continuing on to read book two of Mr. Mack’s trilogy, I decided to track down and read Mr. Lang’s book. I am glad I did, because it is fantastic.
Set after the events of Star Trek: First Contact and during the time of conflict with the Dominion as told in the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine, the story of Immortal Coil focuses on Data, still struggling to adapt to the emotions given to him by the emotion chip installed into his system during the events of Star Trek: Generations. At the start of the novel, Dr. Soong’s wife (and Data’s metaphorical mother), Juliana Tainer (introduced in the Next Generation episode “Inheritance” and played by Fionnula Flanagan, so memorable to fans of Waking Ned Devine and Lost) has died. This forces Data to confront the hard truth that he will likely outlive every one of his friends and ship-mates. The prospect of seeing them all die, one by one, dooming him to an unending life of loneliness sends Data into an emotional crisis, one he finds himself ill-equipped to handle. Meanwhile, it turns out that Commander Bruce Maddox (introduced in the classic second season Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man”) has been continuing to work on creating another Soong-type android. Partnering with the genius Emil Vaslovik and Reg Barclay (I love Barclay!), Commander Maddox has all but succeeded — until his lab is destroyed, Maddox is left in a coma, and their android prototype is stolen. What follows is a terrific adventure/mystery, as Data seeks to uncover the truth about the android prototype, along the way learning far more than he ever suspected about machine-life in the galaxy as well as the past of his creator/father, Noonien Soong.
Immortal Coil is an absolutely marvelous book. The book is deeply immersed in Star Trek continuity, but also totally compelling as a story in its own right. In addition to picking up on myriad dangling story threads from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mr. Lang’s story directly deals with the events from two classic Trek episodes: “What Are Little Girls Made Of” and “Requiem for Methusaleh.” On top of that, Mr. Lang cunningly connects just about every example of machine-life ever seen in Star Trek, from the Exocomps from the Next Gen episode “The Quality of Life” to Norman from the Classic Trek episode “I, Mudd” to, in one of my favorite moments in the book, the M-5 computer from “The Ultimate Computer.” It’s … [continued]
I’ve been a huge fan of Mike Mignola’s for over two decades, ever since I read Gotham by Gaslight (1991) as a kid and was first impressed by Mr. Mignola’s weird, highly-stylized artwork. I started following his work, and when he branched into the realm of creator-owned comics with his creation, Hellboy, I eagerly followed. For that very-first four-issue Hellboy mini-series, 1994′s Seed of Destruction, Mr. Mignola brought with him another writer, John Byrne, but after that Mr. Mignola took over the writing of his series. As the Hellboy comic continued, with mini-series following mini-series, and as the Hellboy universe gradually expanded into other titles featuring other characters (the B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and more), Mr. Mignola’s work as a writer grew more and more confident. I would now say that Mr. Mignola is as good a writer as he is an artist (and he is a VERY good artist), and these days he writes far more comic-books than he draws.
Mr. Mignola had stepped into the world of prose novels once before, with 2007′s intriguingly-titled Baltimore , or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, co-written with Christopher Golden. I don’t know why I never read that novel — it’s been on my “to-read” list ever since it was released, but I’ve just never gotten around to it. Nevertheless, I was immediately intrigued and captivated by the announcement of Mr. Mignola and Mr. Golden’s latest novel: Joe Golem and the Drowning City. That’s another fantastic title, promising all sorts of pulpy adventure fun, and if that wasn’t enough, there was Mr. Mignola’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous painted cover. BEHOLD! First of all, I wish I could draw that well. Secondly, that title and that cover-image immediately captivated me with its mix of Jewish mysticism and Lovecraftian horror.
Let me say that this delightful novel is just as much fun as the cover promises!
Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a marvelously fun pulp adventure, with two-fisted heroes battling dastardly villains. It’s style is nostalgic, but never at the cost of feeling dull or old. The book is very much alive, shooting the reader along through the rich adventure story being told.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Mignola and Mr. Golden’s world-building, and as the story progressed I was intrigued to learn about the alternate version of 1970′s Manhattan depicted in the story, one in which a 1925 catastrophe has left much of the city sunk under-water. The book is filled with colorful, fascinating characters, from the tender, elderly Orlov the Conjurer; to the ancient and part-mechanical occult investigator Simon Church; to the mad Dr. Cocteau, and finally to the two main characters in the book: Joe Golem himself and the young … [continued]
David Mack’s 2006 DS9 novel Warpath made me a fan of the author’s forever (boy, I can’t believe that novel is almost a decade old!) and his epic 2008 trilogy Star Trek: Destiny (click here for my review) surely proved Mr. Mack to be one of the finest Trek authors working today. That status-quo toppling trilogy has set the shape for all the Star Trek novel stories that have followed, as various authors (including Mr. Mack himself, in the novel Zero Sum Game) have set about to explore the wonderful chaos left in the wake of Destiny. The news of a new trilogy of Star Trek novels written by Mr. Mack had me very excited, and I am pleased to report that the first book in this new trilogy, The Persistence of Memory, is absolutely stellar. (I will refer to this novel as The Persistence of Memory, rather than its incredibly wordy actual title, which seems to be Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory. Sheeesh!!)
Set four years after the events of the final “official” on-screen adventure of Captain Picard and co., the dreadful movie Star Trek: Nemesis, Mr. Mack’s main purpose with this new novel seems to be to make right one of the worst mis-steps of that film, and let me say, it’s about damn time. (More details in the spoiler section, below!)
Most of the recent 24th century-set Star Trek novels (such as David R. George’s magnificent Deep Space Nine-centric duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, and Una McCormack’s recent Brinkmanship) have been focused on the story of The Typhon Pact, the new interstellar alliance of several of the Federation’s fiercest alien enemies (the Romulans, the Breen, the Tholians, etc.). Intestingly enough, David Mack’s new trilogy appears not bearing the “Typhon Pact” sub-header, but rather that of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” While Persistence of Memory certainly moves forward the story of these post-Nemesis Star Trek novels, and the book does deal heavily with a Typhon Pact race, the Breen, I loved that this novel really was focused on the cast and story-lines from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
We get to spend some excellent time with Captain Picard, Geordi, and Worf in specific, as well as with several introduced-in-the-novels members of the Enterprise E’s command team. (With Will Riker and Deanna Troi off on their own ship and series of novels, Titan, Data dead as of Star Trek: Nemesis, and Wesley off exploring the universe as a traveller as per one of the final episodes of Next Gen’s TV run, they did need some new characters!)
And boy, … [continued]
Pocket Books continues to weave a tight continuity between their Star Trek novels, particularly those set in the post-Nemesis time-frame. For the past year or so, all of these new 24th century novels have fallen under the “Typhon Pact” banner, named for the new alliance of bad-guys that threatens the Federation. It’s neat to see a new, long-term, serious threat to our heroes being developed, and I’ve really enjoyed how liberally all of the Typhon Pact books have mixed characters from the various Star Trek series. After David R. George III’s absolutely spectacular DS9-focused duology Plagues of Night and Seize the Dawn (click here for my review), I was eager to read the next installment in this continuing Star Trek saga.
In Una McCormack’s new novel Brinkmanship, the Typhon Pact’s Tzenkethi Coalition (who were so memorably developed in the afore-mentioned David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novel Rough Beasts of Empire – click here for my review of that book) again step into center stage. When they form an alliance with the (created-for-the-novel) Venette Convention to lease bases near the borders of the Federation, the Cardassians, and the Ferengi (newly allied as a result of the end of Seize the Dawn), the three allied nations immediately suspect that the Tzenkethi plan to militarize the bases to use against them. So they launch a diplomatic initiative to convince the Venette to ally themselves with the Federation and its allies, rather than with the Typhon Pact. When that fails, and the Tzenkethi send ships to deliver supplies (supplies that might be weapons) to their newly-leased starbases, the Federation demands the ships be halted before they can arrive at the bases, or there will be war.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Brinkmanship was Una McCormick’s Star Trek version of Thirteen Days, the famous story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s a clever parallel, and the idea of a cold-war story set in the Star Trek universe has a lot of potency. (Certainly several classic Original Series adventures had strong Cold War parallels — I’m thinking of “Balance of Terror” in particular — and of course the final adventure of Kirk & co. in Star Trek VI was all about the post-Cold War world.) I did feel that Ms. McCormack hit that nail a little more on the head than she needed to, as a slightly subtler approach might have worked better in my mind. (When one character declares that the Tzenkethi must “turn those ships around!” I thought that was a bit too on-the-nose.)
The latest Star Trek: Enterprise novel, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, brings to a conclusion the finally-told story of the Earth-Romulan war that lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets, and also serves as a finale to the series of five Star Trek: Enterprise novels written by Michael A. Martin (the first three of which were co-written by Andy Mangels). I have recently written about the last two of those books: Kobayashi Maru (click here for my review) and The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wings (click here for my review).
To Brave the Storm is a frustrating novel. There is a lot about the book that I really enjoyed. It’s a very fast-paced read. The story is exciting and gripping, and I tore through the book’s pages at rapid speed. There are none of the digressions I complained about in Beneath the Raptor’s Wings (such as the lengthy chapters dealing with the two news-reporters Gannet Brooks and Keisha Naquase). The story is galaxy-spanning, with the stakes extremely high: nothing short of the survival of Earth and the human species itself as the Romulans’ assault intensifies and the newly-formed Coalition of Planets (the alliance formed between humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites in the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise) shatters. I love how epic the story is in scope, and I appreciated that the book takes place over the span of over five years. That gives the Earth-Romulan war a believable scale. I’m glad this mysterious, much-discussed conflict in Earth’s past wasn’t depicted as having been resolved in just a few weeks.
On the other-hand, To Brave the Storm feels in many ways like the cliffs-notes version of what should have been a much-lengthier saga. I read that this book was originally planned to have been books 2 and 3 of a Romulan War trilogy, but that for reasons unknown those last two books wound up being compressed into one novel. It certainly feels that way. There’s a lot of plot in the book, but little time spent fleshing out the characters of the story and how the galactic events effect them — which should, of course, be at the heart of any good story. Why don’t we get a single scene of Captain Archer’s grief at the disappearance of his former lover Captain Erika Hernandez and the Columbia (an event — key to the trilogy Star Trek: Destiny — that seems like it happened right at the end of the events of the previous book, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing)? Why don’t we get to see Hoshi Sato’s reaction to serving on Enterprise during wartime, something which she said in … [continued]
After re-reading Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels’ Star Trek: Enterprise novel Kobayashi Maru (click here for my review), I started right into Michael A. Martin’s follow-up novel The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing. This is the first book of a duology chronicling the events of the Romulan War, a momentous event in Earth’s history referred to in the Original Series but never actually depicted on-screen. In the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, fans grew excited that the show seemed to be planting the seeds of that conflict, but the show was cancelled before they ever got to actually show it. Luckily, the authors of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels are here to pick up those tantalizing story threads.
Whereas Kobayashi Maru was mostly build-up, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing is “the good stuff,” so it’s not surprising that I felt this was a slightly stronger novel than the previous. I’m not sure why Mr. Martin is no longer writing with Andy Mangels (with whom he had partnered on numerous previous Star Trek books). When I saw Mr. Martin’s name alone on the book’s cover, I worried there would be a noticeable change in style, but I was pleased that this book flowed very smoothly from the previous novel.
As the novel opens, the newly-formed Coalition of Planets (the alliance between Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar) is being forced to deal with a threat to all their worlds. The Romulans’ involvement in the attacks on their ships (under the guise of the Coalition planets attacking each other, because the Romulans had discovered a way to remotely take control of Coalition ships and use them to attack others, as seen in Kobayashi Maru) has been revealed, and the coalition is now embroiled in a shooting war with their unseen enemies. Unfortunately, they still have no way to defeat the Romulans’ telecapture weapon, so the Coalition finds themselves defeated at every turn by the Romulans, who are able to turn the Coalition’s own starships into weapons against them.
Beneath the Raptor’s Wing takes place over a full year. I like how the novel is stretched over a much longer time-period than Kobayashi Maru was — it helps give an epic feel to the dramatic interstellar events being depicted. I also appreciated how one of my major complaints about Kobayashi Maru seems to have been addressed. (In my review of that previous book, I commented that all of the planets in the story — Earth, Vulcan, Chronos, etc. — seemed way too close together, with Archer and Enterprise able to zip from one center-of-government to another in just days, whereas I would have expected … [continued]
The last of the Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Enterprise, was over-all a disappointment but the biggest tragedy of the show was that it was cancelled just as it was starting to get good. The series left a number of plot-threads unresolved. Luckily, the authors of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels have taken it upon themselves to pick up and resolve those dangling threads in a very entertaining fashion. Christopher L. Bennett resolved the Temporal Cold War story-line (that had been an aspect of Enterprise since the show’s very first episode) in his novel Watching the Clock (click here for my review). That novel was set in the 24th century, but Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels have been, in a series of novels, continuing the adventures of Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 in the 22nd century, depicting the adventures we might have seen had the show gotten a fifth season.
In their novels Last Full Measure (which I haven’t read) The Good that Men Do (which I did read, and really enjoyed) and in Kobayashi Maru, which I have just re-read, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have set about to do several praiseworthy things. First of all, they have ret-conned the ridiculous, stupid death of Trip, the Enterprise’s chief engineer, that was seen in the series’ final episode “These Are the Voyages”. Second, they have focused in on the story-line begun in the show’s fourth and final season of the first, tentative steps towards the formation of the United Federation of Planets with the creation of a new coalition between Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar. I was fascinated by that story-line in the show, and in these novels Mr. Martin & Mr. Mangels dig deeply into the politics and struggles of this burgeoning interstellar alliance. Lastly, with Kobayashi Maru in particular, they have begun telling the story that fans of Enterprise always hoped the show would eventually get to: the Romulan War hinted at in the Original Series.
I had read Kobayashi Maru when it was originally published a few years ago, but I hadn’t yet gotten to the two “Romulan War” novels written by Mr. Martin (no longer collaborating with Mr. Mangels, I’m not sure why). Before reading those two books, I decided to go back and re-read Kobayashi Maru. It’s a solid though not quite spectacular novel.
My favorite aspect of the book is its focus on interstellar politics. I love the glimpses we get into the discussions and debates between the ambassadors of the various Coalition planets, as well as the struggles and disagreements between the leaders of each individual world. I love that Mr. Martin … [continued]
I really loved Christopher L. Bennett’s first Department of Temporal Investigations novel (click here for my review) that fleshed out the Federation’s timeline-policing agency, first seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibbble-ations,” so I was excited to see the release of a follow-up novel: Forgotten History.
This new book is a sequel, but really it’s a prequel, as the novel focuses on the origins of the DTI. I love Mr. Bennett’s enthusiasm for asking the logical follow-up questions to aspects of the Star Trek shows. In this case, Mr. Bennett was clearly intrigued by the idea of how an agency like the DTI (which was used for mostly comic effect in “Trials and Tribble-ations”) might have come to be, and this wildly entertaining new novel is his attempt to answer that question.
One of the DTI agents comments, early in the book, that the beginning of most time-travel stories somehow always seems to wind up back with James T. Kirk. The origin of the DTI is no exception. In the early part of the novel, probably my favorite part of the book, Mr. Bennett retells aspects of various Original Series episodes that involved time travel. In the book, we see how Kirk’s early misadventures through time planted the seed for the necessity for a time-policing agency. But more interestingly than that, I loved how, in re-telling the stories from those Classic Trek episodes, Mr. Bennett found a way to explain away the ridiculous fake-science and inconsistencies of every single one of those early time-travel episodes.
It’s an extraordinarily fascinating and entertaining feat, and I really delighted in reading Mr. Bennett’s explanation for why, for instance, Spock might have lost his emotional control when traveling back in time through the Atavachron in the episode “All Our Yesterdays.” (The explanation given in the episode, that Spock had traveled back to before the time when Vulcans had mastered their emotions, hence he could no longer control his emotions, was totally ridiculous.) Or, for another example, Mr. Bennett’s explaining of the opening of the episode (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”) which begins with the Enterprise having (seemingly with no effort) traveled back in time to the 1960′s to observe a pivotal moment of Earth’s history. I also loved his willingness to address the totally-unexplained appearance of a duplicate Earth in “Miri” (a plot point that I still find unbelievable that it wasn’t really explained or much-discussed in that episode) or the Earth-like planet seen in “The Omega Glory” (in which the United States of America and the people’s Republic of China apparently formed just like they did on our planet, only thousands of years in the past)…
Forgotten History,… [continued]
After far, far too long a hiatus, the Deep Space Nine saga has come roaring back to the forefront of the Star Trek literary universe with David R. George’s magnificent, epic duo of novels: Star Trek: Typhon Pact Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn.
It was the post-DS9 finale series of Star Trek novels that drew me back into the world of Star Trek novels well over a decade ago. I have written many words on this site praising the extraordinary series of post-finale novels that picked up on the many story-threads and character arcs left hanging by the end of the television series (in my opinion the greatest of the Trek television series). I have also written about how frustrated I have been by the way the DS9 series of novels has floundered in the years after David Mack’s fantastic 2006 novel Warpath. We got a few short, sub-par DS9 novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key — click here for my review), a great DS9 novel that was fairly disconnected by the main stories of the post-finale series (Una McCormack’s The Never-Ending Sacrifice – click here for my review), and several novels set years later that featured some DS9 characters but felt separate from the main DS9 storyline (I’m thinking of Ezri Dax’s story-line in the Destiny three-parter — click here for my review — and the two recent Typhon Pact novels Zero Sum Game — click here for my review — and Rough Beasts of Empire — click here for my review). Rough Beasts, in particular, was a great novel and featured several meaty DS9-centric story-lines, but because all of those novels were set several years after where the DS9 series of books had left off, they felt weirdly disconnected from the DS9 saga I’d been following for so many years. It was cool seeing DS9 characters involved in this new major series-spanning Star Trek story-line (the emergence of the Typhon Pact as a major new interstellar alliance threatening the Federation), but still somehow unsatisfying to me as a fan of Deep Space Nine.
Finally, though, FINALLY, the DS9 saga has returned in full force. David R. George’s duology isn’t given the Deep Space Nine sub-header — the two books are instead both labeled as Star Trek: Typhon Pact novels. This is appropriate, as these two novels connect and move forward the stories begun in last summer’s four-book Typhon Pact series. Just like those novels, this duology features characters from many of the Star Trek series, both the different TV shows and the various series of novels from the past decade-or-so. But make no mistake, Plagues of Night and … [continued]
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, by John Ortved, is a look back at the creation and early days of The Simpsons. The book is told in the form of an oral history, with the story assembled by Mr. Ortved’s weaving together of interviews with the many people — super-famous and otherwise — connected to the show’s origins.
I love the use of the oral history device to tell these sorts of stories. (The crown jewel example, for me, is Live From New York, Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller’s voluminous oral history of Saturday Night Live.) To moderate your expectations, I have to tell you that Mr. Ortved’s history of The Simpsons is not as great as Live From New York. For one thing, it’s nowhere near as thorough. Whereas Live From New York covers, within its lengthy page-count, thirty years of SNL history, Mr. Ortved admits right in the introduction that his book is not intended to be a history of he show’s twenty-plus seasons. His focus is on the show’s beginnings. That’s a perfectly understandable choice for an author to make, though it perhaps renders the book’s title, which bills the tome as a history of The Simpsons, a little inaccurate.
Still, Mr. Ortved’s focus on the early years of The Simpsons is deep and engaging. I’m pretty well-familiar with the history of the show. I’ve read articles about the show’s creation, I’ve watched the specials, I’ve listened to the DVD season-sets’ commentary tracks. Despite that, I found this book to be filled with stories I’d never known. And when I got to the “good stuff” — that is, the juicy, vicious in-fighting among the show’s creative forces that is the meat and potatoes of these types of books — I found Mr. Ortved’s recounting of events to be endlessly fascinating. And it’s not as if the novel only focuses on season one. Later chapters do indeed explore, in a decent amount of depth, some of the later seasons. (There’s a particularly great chapter that compares and contrasts the different show-runners that The Simpsons has had over the years, allowing people to comment on their different styles and the different flavor that each individual show-runner gave to the seasons they oversaw.)
The book has two main flaws. One, it’s pretty shockingly filled with typos. This is definitely a manuscript that needed a copy-editor to have taken one more good look through it before being published. Secondly, I think Mr. Ortved allows his narrative voice to overwhelm, at times, the oral history he’s compiling. It’s not unusual in these sorts of books for the author to occasionally insert a few paragraphs of introduction of explanations of … [continued]
Last week I wrote about Bill Carter’s seminal book The Late Shift, which chronicled the 1992-1993 struggle between David Letterman and Jay Leno over who would host The Tonight Show. Almost two decades later, NBC’s late-night terrain was unravelled by a very similar late-night war which resulted in Conan O’Brien’s ouster as host of The Tonight Show and Jay Leno’s return, following the failure of his 10 PM show. Returning to chronicle that craziness is Bill Carter, and I was excited to read his new book, The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy.
Before he can get to all of the insanity that went down during the two-week period after Jay’s 10 PM show was cancelled and Conan refused to allow The Tonight Show to be moved back to 12:05 so that Jay could return to an 11:30 time-slot, Mr. Carter steps back a full five years to begin the story with the events that he felt led, almost inevitably, to that showdown. After an introductory chapter set at an uncomfortable NBC “upfront” presentation in 2009, the book moves back in time to 2004, and depicts the behind-the-scenes decision-making that resulted in NBC’s surprise move to promise Conan O’Brien that he would be installed as the host of The Tonight Show five years later, even though Jay Leno had been scoring great ratings and beating his rival David Letterman regularly for the past decade-and-a-half. That announcement raised a lot of eyebrows back in 2004 (I remember it raising mine, even though I was thrilled to hear that Conan would be replacing Jay), and through the book we get a lot of insight into how and why that all went down the way it did.
The book then moves forward to 2008, when NBC is now faced with the imminent loss of one of its late-night stars, Jay, and is desperate to come up with a solution that will allow them to hold on to both Jay and Conan. Shades of 1993, when NBC was desperate to find a way to hold onto its two big late-night stars of the time, Jay and Dave! Mr. Carter takes us through Jeff Zucker’s idea for the 10 PM show for Jay, and the middle chapters of the book depicts how and why that show quickly failed. Then, at last, we get to those fateful weeks in 2009, when things came to a head and everything exploded in NBC’s face.
This is great, juicy material, and I was thoroughly engrossed in The War For Late Night. As with his previous book, The Late Shift, Mr. Carter has done an enormous amount of research and … [continued]
Like many of you out there, I followed the news of NBC’s recent late-night craziness — the collapse of Jay Leno’s 10 PM show, the feud this caused between newly-installed Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien and the NBC brass, and Jay Leno’s return to The Tonight Show and Conan’s departure from the network to launch a new show on TBS — with great interest and a sort of morbid fascination. I read quite a lot about the situation as everything was going down, but when I read that New York Times reporter Bill Carter had written a new book about the whole mess, The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy, I immediately picked it up.
But before reading it, I thought that maybe the time had finally arrived for me to read Bill Carter’s earlier book about the Late Night wars: The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night.
Published in 1994, The Late Shift covers in great detail the dramatic behind-the-scenes story of the upheaval that followed Johnny Carson’s departure as host of The Tonight Show, and the battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman over who would replace him as host. The book caused quite a stir when it was first released — I remember reading about it back then, and as I recall it was even made into a TV movie! I’ve always been interested in the subject matter, but I’d never read the book until now.
For anyone fascinated by television and the inside story of how the networks work and how the shows that one loves actually get on the air (or don’t), The Late Shift is a must-read. Mr. Carter writes with a concise, fluid prose that is easy-to-read, and the book is cleverly structured in the manner of what’s almost a thriller. Bouncing back-and-forth between the recollection of a vast number of participants, we watch the behind-the-scenes story unfold with building intensity, as the battle over The Tonight Show comes to a head. Even though we all know who eventually won out, there’s a gripping intensity to the proceedings, as one wonders not so much WHAT will happen, but more HOW exactly did things turn out the way we all know that they did?
It’s also fascinating to get the perspectives of so many of the people involved in the proceedings. The book is very well researched and fairly even-handed in its presentation of Mr. Leno, Mr. Letterman, and the other major participants in the behind-the-scenes goings-on. Mr. Carter includes comments from a vast number of people involved in the saga, including Leno and Letterman and the key members of their … [continued]
In the introduction to my review of Time After Time, I wrote that the true reason for the supposed Star Trek odd-numbered movie curse (the phenomenon in which the even-numbered classic Star Trek films seem to be of a far higher quality than the odd-numbered ones) is because of the coincidence that Star Treks II, IV, and VI are the three films that benefitted from the involvement of Nicholas Meyer. Being a long-time Star Trek fan, I have long-held Mr. Meyer in great esteem. Even years ago, when I first learned of his roles as writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI (by far my two favorite Star Trek films — and that stands to this day) and as a writer of Star Trek IV (Mr. Meyer wrote all of the 1986-set portions of the film, while Harve Bennett wrote the framing sequences set in the 23rd century), it was clear to me that Mr. Meyer’s was one of the key creative voices behind GOOD Star Trek.
What little I knew of Mr. Meyer himself (mostly from interviews I had seen or read — including his lengthy comments in William Shatner’s much-underrated chronicle of the making of the six classic Star Trek films, Star Trek Movie Memories* — and also from his terrific commentary tracks on the special edition DVDs of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI) supported the conclusions that I had drawn from his work: namely, that Mr. Meyer was a bright, erudite fellow whose ideas about Star Trek, and about quality movie-making as a whole, quite mirrored my own.
That opinion was further supported by Mr. Meyer’s wonderful memoir: The View From The Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood. This is a fascinating chronicle of Mr. Meyer’s years in the business, and it’s of interest to anyone fascinated by the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood works and how movies do (and don’t) get made, and of course of particular interest to anyone curious for tons of behind-the-scenes info on the making of the Star Trek films.
Mr. Meyer has an honest, hunorous writing style in evidence right from page one. In these sorts of memoirs, I often find the early chapters (devoted to the subject’s youth) to be deadly boring. As a reader I’m usually eager to get to “the good stuff” — that is, the subject’s adult work and achievements that were the reasons I picked up the memoir to begin with. However, in this book, a) Mr. Meyer is bright enough to know what we’re really interested in, and so keeps those early chapters brief, and b) posesses such … [continued]
This past summer marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. That’s pretty amazing. Although I’d read the book several times in my life, it had been well over a decade (probably closer to fifteen years) since the last time, so last month I decided to re-read the novel.
What could I possibly say about this magnificent work that hasn’t already been said? Every couple of years I see that it has topped a list, put together by one organization or another, of the best novels ever written, and I can’t say that I disagree.
The elegant prose wraps you in its warm embrace right from page one, paragraph one. Harper Lee’s writing contains all of the wistfulness of one’s recollections of a childhood now long-passed, while also maintaining a wonderful good humor throughout. I’d remembered just how sad the novel was, in places, but I hadn’t quite recalled just how funny it is. (I love, for instance, Scout’s gentle chiding of her father’s “last will and testament diction.”)
I was also startled, as I re-read the book, by how well I remembered it even though it must have been at least fifteen years since I’d read it last. I can’t remember the details of books that I read two or three months ago, and yet scene after scene in To Kill a Mockingbird were as fresh in my mind as if I’d just read them last week. I can only marvel at the power of Harper Lee’s story that it made such an indelible impression on my memory.
Time Magazine‘s 1960 review of the book noted that Harper Lee’s tale “teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life.” Having grown up in Connecticut in the ’70s and ’80s, I can’t really vouch for the novel’s verisimilitude. But I can say that it FEELS real to me. Scout and Jem are wonderfully realized children, and Ms. Lee’s ability to put us right into their heads (or, to use an iconic phrase from the novel, to let us stand in their shoes and walk around in them for a while) is extraordinary, and to my mind it’s the key to the novel’s enduring success. Yes, the book is filled with striking episodes (Atticus’ shooting of the mad dog has always been a favorite scene of mine), and of course the sad story of Tom Robinson’s trial gives it a potent message about racism in America. But to me all of that pales before the way that To Kill a Mockingbird allows us, in a way, to step back into our own childhoods as … [continued]
My buddy Ethan has been pestering me to read this book for quite a while, and I am so happy that I finally followed his sage advice!
Live From New York is described on the cover as “an uncensored history of Saturday Night Live as told by its stars, writers, and guests.” The book is an oral history of SNL. There is almost no prose to be found in the entire 600-plus pages. Instead, the entire book is a collection of interviews with a dazzlingly dense array of the writers, performers, guest hosts, directors, producers, network executives, music coordinators, production assistants, and many, many more of the folks who worked on Saturday Night Live since the show’s inception in 1975.
Moving chronologically through the years, the books moves from one person’s recollections to another. The interviewed subjects’ comments weave in and out of one another as authors (perhaps they should almost be called editors) Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller piece together the story of the show.
And what a story. To say that Shales and Miller delved deep would be a dramatic understatement. It is staggering to see how many people they interviewed in putting together this book. The result is an incredibly revealing peek behind the curtain of how SNL got made – filled with stories of all the painful struggles and bitter disputes and moments of pure creative genius that have been going on at 30 Rock for the past 35 years.
I feel like I know a decent amount about SNL – I’ve read a lot about the show, and I’ve certainly seen many of the behind-the-scenes specials and retrospectives that have been made over the years (usually to mark one of the show’s anniversaries), but this book was filled to overflowing with stories both hilarious and heartbreaking that I had never heard before. It kicks off with a perfect opening line from Rosie Shuster (former writer for SNL, as well as former wife of Lorne Michaels) that sets the tone for the book perfectly – and things just go from there.
My personal favorite anecdote was Al Franken’s recollection of a terrible, terrible prank that he played on the women assembled for his wife’s baby shower. This page of the book had me literally howling with laughter.
The cover describes the book as uncensored, and it certainly is. Not so much in the sense of being raunchy (though it is at times!), but more to mean that this isn’t a white-washed, everyone-was-happy sort of corporate-approved history of the show. Quite the opposite – Shales and Miller seem to almost revel in all of the juicy stories of arguments and disputes and turmoil from over the … [continued]
Whew! At last, today, we come to the end of my journey through the Odyssey series of films and novels by Arthur C. Clarke. Over the past several weeks I have written about 2001: A Space Odyssey the film and the novel, the follow-up novel 2010: Odyssey Two and its film adaptation, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and the third novel in the series, 2061: Odyssey Three.
I mentioned in my review of Odyssey Three my recollection that, when I first read this series of novels around 15 years ago, I didn’t enjoy 2061 or 3001 nearly as much as 2001 and 2010. I wondered if my opinions would have changed now, many years later. That didn’t turn out to be the case with 2061 (which had some fun bits but that didn’t, I felt, add anything to the epic story begun in 2001 and 2010), but I had high hopes that I would enjoy the saga’s conclusion, 3001: The Final Odyssey, more upon my rereading.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The novel starts out strong. There’s an intriguing hook — the body of Frank Poole (believed to be long-dead as a result of his murder by HAL 9000) is found and resuscitated, and through his eyes we are introduced to the astounding developments of human society a millennia in the future. I have commented before about how much I have enjoyed the scientific speculation that Mr. Clarke has woven into his Odyssey novels, in which he takes the time to explore his ideas about how science and technology might progress in our future, and how that can explain some of the sci-fi activities found in the stories. Mr. Clarke goes to town during the first 100 pages of 3001. As Frank learns about life in the year 3001, so too do we. There’s a lot of fun to be had as Mr. Clarke fleshes out this world of tomorrow, and I relished all of the fascinating scientific speculation.
Unfortunately, all of that interesting set-up never leads to a story that goes anywhere. In my review of 2061, I commented that I didn’t feel there was much significance to the goings-on in that novel — the rescue mission that provided the main thrust of the book’s plot paled in comparison to the cosmic story-lines of 2001 and 2010. Sadly, 3001 has even less plot to speak of. (I tried to keep things vague, but some SPOILERS are ahead, gang, so beware.)
I kept waiting for the book’s story to kick into gear, but every-time it seemed like something interesting was about to happen, things stopped cold. After Book I (… [continued]
My journey through the Odyssey series continues! Over the past two weeks I have written about 2001: A Space Odyssey the film and the novel, as well as the follow-up novel 2010: Odyssey Two and its film adaptation, 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
Only five years after writing 2010: Odyssey Two, in 1987 Arthur C. Clarke released the third Odyssey novel, 2061: Odyssey Three. (This would prove to be the shortest span of elapsed time between the novels. 2001 was written in 1968, and Mr. Clarke did not release the final novel, 3001: The Final Odyssey, until 1997.)
Fifty years after Heywood Floyd and the crew of the Leonov‘s journey to Jupiter, and the cataclysmic re-ordering of the solar system that resulted from the wakening of the Monolith they encountered there (I am being vague here so as to avoid spoiling the wonderful ending of 2010), interplanetary travel has become, if not commonplace, at least much faster and more convenient. Mankind has established colonies on several bodies in the solar system, including the Jovian satellite Ganymede, and the wealthy Chinese tycoon Sir Lawrence has created a fleet of luxurious interplanetary space-liners. His newest and most elaborate vessel, Universe, has been tasked with an extraordinary maiden voyage: to rendezvous with and land upon Halley’s comet, making its regular journey through our solar system. Sir Lawrence has invited a number of world-famous celebrities to make the journey on-board Universe, including a very elderly Heywood Floyd, aged 103 (still alive and remarkably fit due to a lifetime spent living in low-gravity environments). But this scientific (and PR) mission is cut short when news arrives that another of Lawrence’s space-liners, Galaxy, has been hijacked and forced to land on the forbidden world of Europa (go read 2010 for the full story on why mankind is not supposed to set foot on the Jovian satellite Europa). Now Universe must speed across the solar system in an attempt to rescue the crew of Galaxy, as its crew hopes to avoid another confrontation with the Monolith (and the mysterious entities responsible for their creation).
My recollection, from the first time I read through Arthur C. Clarke’s four Odyssey novels about a decade-and-a-half ago, was that I found 2061 and 3001 to be far inferior to the first two installments. I was curious if I would still feel the same way, re-reading those novels now.
Sadly, the answer is yes for 2061: Odyssey Three.
Don’t get me wrong: 2061 is an enjoyable read. Mr. Clarke’s prose is engaging and fast-paced. Although the novel is filled with Mr. Clarke’s scientific ruminations (about the mechanics of interplanetary … [continued]
On Monday I wrote about Arthur C. Clarke’s magnificent novel 2010: Odyssey Two. After completing the novel, I couldn’t resist taking another look at Peter Hyams’ film adaptation, with the revised title of 2010: The Year We Make Contact. (It’s a film I had only seen once, back in the mid ’90s on video.)
Somehow it seems acceptable to me for Mr. Clarke to choose to write a follow-up to his own novel (2001: A Space Odyssey). Yet the idea of a movie sequel to Stanley Kubrik’s iconic and influential film — particularly a sequel helmed by another director, and one whose story would set out to answer many of the questions that Kubrik so pointedly left unanswered — seems almost sacrilegious.
2010 is not a film that should be any good. It could have so easily wound up being Blues Brothers 2000. And yet, somehow, while it’s nowhere near as great as the novel, it is a far better film than it has any right to be.
Whereas Stanley Kubrik’s 2001 was slow and lyrical and notably short on any actual plot or character development, 2010 is more of an adventure film. There is no shooting and there are no fist-fights, thank goodness. But there’s solid narrative thrust throughout the film, as we follow Heywood Floyd (recast here as the wonderful Roy Scheider) on his odyssey towards Jupiter. Once there, tension mounts as the mysteries deepen and an enormous potential danger is discovered.
I was very pleasantly surprised, rewatching this film, at how many talented and familiar faces make up the cast. There’s Roy Scheider, of course, who makes a potent lead. His Dr. Floyd is a man of great intelligence and integrity, and a bit more of an action hero than the rather administrative version of the character as played by William Sylvester in 2001. John Lithgow plays the American engineer Walter Curnow, and he brings a lot of warmth and humanity to the role. I was disappointed that the Indian character of Dr. Chandra, HAL 9000′s creator, was recast in the film as an American — but when that American is played by the terrific Bob Balaban, I really can’t complain. Then there’s Helen Mirren — yes, THAT Helen Mirren — as the Russian captain of the Lenov (the vessel launched towards Jupiter in an attempt to rescue the Discovery and discover what happened to Dave Bowman). She doesn’t have a whole lot to do in the film, but she’s great whenever she’s on screen. It’s fun to see her in this type of sci-fi/adventure role.
While the visual effects of the film don’t quite hold up as well as those … [continued]
Last week I wrote about Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as the novel by Arthur C. Clarke! I enjoyed both of those so much that I decided to continue onwards with the rest of the series of novels (as well as the film sequel).
2010: Odyssey Two is one of my very favorite science fiction novels. It’s my favorite of Mr. Clarke’s Odyssey series, superior in my opinion even to the original novel 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The disastrous Discovery mission of 2001 gave mankind no answers about the mysterious Monoliths and the ancient extraterrestrial entities behind their creation. So, after several long years of work, a new mission towards Jupiter is finally ready — a joint US/Russian endeavor aboard the Leonov (named after cosmonaut Alexei Leonov). Their mission: find the Discovery, determine what went wrong with HAL 9000 and what happened to astronaut David Bowman, and find some answers about the enormous Monolith floating in space.
Aboard Leonov is a familiar character from 2001 (the novel and the film): Heywood Floyd. As one of the architects behind the Discovery mission, Floyd has long felt responsible for the lives lost on that doomed expedition. He hopes that his involvement in this follow-up mission will allow him to finally answer some of the questions that have been gnawing at him for a decade, since his first glimpse of TMA-1 on the moon, and to help in some way to set things right.
Leonov is crewed with an extraordinarily skilled mix of Russian and American officers, but their journey is complicated when they learn that the Chinese have also launched a mission to Jupiter, one that will beat them to Discovery by several weeks. When the entity once known as Dave Bowman returns to Earth, and the Monolith in orbit of Jupiter begins to multiply, the successful completion of Leonov‘s mission might take a back-seat to the preservation of their lives.
2010: Odyssey Two is a ripping yarn. It is a much faster-paced tale than 2001, one filled with a lot more narrative twists and turns. In addition, I enjoyed Mr. Clarke’s increased emphasis on character development in this installment. The Leonov has a large, diverse crew, and over the course of the novel I felt that we got to know each member of the team better than pretty much any character in 2001. Also, 2010 is, I think, superior to 2001 in that it has a central protagonist, Heywood Floyd, who readers can invest in and follow through the tale. Now, 2010: Odyssey Two isn’t a character study, that’s for sure. It’s clear that Mr. Clarke’s interest lies far more … [continued]
After re-watching that film last month, I was driven to pick up Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001: A Space Odyssey off my book-shelf to re-read that as well.
I had read all four of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey novels many years ago, back when I was in college. After so thoroughly enjoying seeing 2001 the film again, I was excited to take another look at the novel. As Mr. Clarke explains in the introduction (to the 25th anniversary edition, which is what I have), the novel and the film were created simultaneously. Neither was an adaptation of the other, which is pretty unique. Instead, Kubrick and Clarke developed the story together. Then, while Mr. Kubrick assembled his film, Mr. Clarke crafted his novel.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a terrific read. It succeeds as an engaging creation in its own right, and also as a fascinating companion to Mr. Kubrick’s film.
The novel and the film share many similarities. Since they were created simultaneously and in partnership, the basic structure of both tales is identical. There are none of the dramatic revisions found in even the best film adaptations of novels, which is refreshing. The themes and “tone” of both works are remarkably similar.
The novel also shares some of the film’s, er, more challenging aspects. There isn’t a whole heck of a lot of “plot” that actually happens over the course of the tale. And the somewhat episodic structure (in which the story is divided into several distinct parts, set in different locations and wildly differing eras of human history) is unusual, to say the least, and provides something of an obstacle to the narrative building up a full head of steam. (Just when we’re “settling in” to one setting and group of characters, the story moves away from that location, never to return.)
There are also a number of interesting differences between the novel and the film. In the film, Discovery‘s ultimate goal (and the location of Dave Bowman’s encounter with the Monolith) is Jupiter, whereas in the novel it is Saturn. (Indeed, Mr. Clarke devotes a decent chunk of time towards describing the mechanics of Discovery‘s journey through the solar system towards Saturn.) One of the film’s most iconic sequences, in which Dave and Frank discuss their concern over HAL’s increasingly erratic behavior while hiding in one of Discovery‘s small pods (in an attempt prevent HAL from hearing their discussion which proves fruitless when HAL reads their lips) never occurs in the novel. There’s also a lengthy stretch of time, in the book, in between the final confrontation with HAL … [continued]
Deep Space Nine remains, by an order of magnitude, my favorite of the Star Trek series. Not surprisingly, then, it was the terrific DS9 relaunch of novels set after the series finale (which I wrote about in depth here) that rekindled my interest in (and love for) Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.
But after the publication of David Mack’s phenomenal novel Warpath in April, 2006, the DS9 relaunch series hit something of a snag. Warpath ended on a brutal cliffhanger, bur for whatever reason the next installment in the series, Fearful Symmetry, wasn’t scheduled to be published until a year later. Unfortunately, it was actually over TWO years until that next novel was finally published (written by Olivia Woods, a different author than the one originally announced) in July, 2008. Fearful Symmetry wound up being one of the shortest DS9 novels published (in the relaunch series, at least), and then we all had to wait still another year for the next novel: The Soul Key, also written by Olivia Woods, released this past August.
Such a long a wait put a lot of pressure on The Soul Key. Things were exacerbated even more (in my mind, at least), when, a few months ago, Pocket Books released their schedule of novels for 2010. Only one DS9 novel was included, and according to the description it will be set several years after the events of the entire DS9 relaunch series of novels, so that it can be a part of next year’s “Typhon Pact” Next Gen crossover story. That sounds like a cool novel, but one that will be much more about the post-Destiny Next Gen stories as opposed to all of the DS9-centric stories of the DS9 relaunch. So it might be another two years at least before more actual DS9 proper novels are published. All of that means that Ms. Woods’ two novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key) could conceivably be the only new DS9 relaunch stories published for FIVE years.
That means that The Soul Key would have to be really magnificent to live up to all of the expectation placed upon it. Sadly, it is not.
Although not as short as Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key is still a fairly short novel — and it feels even shorter than it actually is. That might be because, while there is a lot of PLOT covered in this novel (we do, at last, get some resolution to several of the story-lines that have been running through the past several DS9 novels, which means the last several YEARS of my life), there doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a … [continued]
Alan Moore is one of the undisputed masters of the comic book form, and that’s putting things mildly. He has authored a quite astounding body of work, including V For Vendetta, From Hell, and, of course, the magnum opus that is Watchmen.
TwoMorrows Publishing has, for the past few years, been publishing a wonderful series called Modern Masters, in which they spotlight a variety of the greatest artists in the field: Alan Davis, George Perez, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, etc. The format of those books (I suppose I should call them books — they are the size of magazines, but they are square-bound and much lengthier than your average magazine) is a lengthy one-on-one interview with the subject. Through these series of in-depth questions and answers, the reader is taken on a detailed journey through the life and career of the subject, and is also given great insight into his/her style, approach, and techniques.
First published in 2003, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore adheres to the format of the Modern Masters series. The entire work is a lengthy interview with Mr. Moore, conducted by George Khoury. But while the Modern Masters volumes are all in-depth, this work puts those volumes to shame, clocking in at a hefty 237 pages. The new “Indispensable Edition,” which is what I have, was published a few months back, presumably with the intention of meeting the renewed interest in Mr. Moore’s work following the release of the Watchmen movie. This new edition has a great new interview with Mr. Moore, conducted in 2008, that serves as a fine epilogue to the whole piece.
For anyone who has ever read and enjoyed any of Alan Moore’s amazing comic books, I cannot recommend this publication highly enough. I thought that the early chapters, dealing with Moore’s youth and childhood, would be boring — but Mr. Moore’s wit brought great humor to those stories of his “early days.” And once the story moves to his break-though stint writing Swamp Thing, the narrative really kicks into high gear. The book is filled with behind-the-scenes stories of Moore’s time working on all of his seminal works. I’ve read a good deal over the years, for example, about his run on Swamp Thing and the making of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, etc., but the stories found here quickly move beyond the familiar “legends” connected with those projects. It’s endlessly fascinating to hear Moore’s thoughts on the development of those works, as well as his opinions about them now, looking back. (I was quite interested to read about the reasons for his dislike, for example, of The Killing Joke, which — despite his feelings — … [continued]
Yesterday I began reviewing a collection of short-stories entitled The Sky’s the Limit, which was part of Pocket Books’ 20th anniversary salute to Star Trek: The Next Generation. In my last post, I reviewed the stories set during the run of the Next Gen TV show. Today I’ll turn my attention to the stories set after “All Good Things,” Next Gen‘s series finale.
‘Twould Ring the Bells of Heaven, by Amy Sisson — Set soon after the events of “All Good Things,” this tale finds Deanna Troi leading an away team assigned to help a group of scientists studying the ring system of a planet nicknamed Heaven. There are some interesting scientific notions mixed into the story, which I enjoyed, and a nice sci-fi mystery. It was a good idea to focus on Counselor Troi at this point in Next Gen‘s history, as she began stepping into more of a leadership role among the Enterprise’s command structure.
Friends with the Sparrows, by Christopher L. Bennett — The classic Next Gen episode “Darmok” introduced us to the Children of Tama, a race of aliens who speak only in metaphor. With this story, Mr. Bennett really dives into many of the fascinating questions that a consideration of that episode would bring: How do the Tamarians teach their vocabulary to their children? How do they communicate technical information? How do they convey to one another the full stories behind their myths in the first place? It’s hard to avoid asking those questions after having watched “Darmok” a few times, and I was tickled by Mr. Bennett’s attempts to provide answers and flesh out Tamarian culture. This story also focuses on Data’s struggles with his emotion chip (from Star Trek: Generations). That aspect of the story is a quite a leap beyond what we saw of Data in that film, but nonetheless works when you consider how many more challenges Data must have had to struggle with (beyond what we saw in Generations) in terms of adjusting to his newfound emotions. (I should also mention that this story contains the best line in the entire collection: “Mirab-his-sails-unfurled factor what, sir?” Brilliant.)
Suicide Note, by Geoff Trowbridge — After the Federation’s alliance with the Romulan Empire (to fight against the Dominion, as depicted in the later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Captain Picard is finally in a position to fulfill a promise made long before. In the excellent third-season episode “The Defector” (one of the first scripts by Ronald D. Moore), Romulan Admiral Jarok defects to the Federation in an effort to prevent the outbreak of war. When he discovers that he … [continued]
2007 was, believe it or not, the TWENTIETH anniversary of the launch of the very first Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” is terribly clunky when looked at today, but as a kid watching that very first episode I was blown away, and hooked for life.
During 2007, Pocket Books released a number of great novels celebrating Next Gen‘s 20th anniversary, but one that I missed was a short-story anthology called The Sky’s The Limit. I’m glad that I have remedied my oversight, because this collection is a delight. The fourteen stories are presented chronologically, spanning the years between a time immediately before “Encounter at Farpoint,” and the time immediately after the last Next Gen feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis.
Meet with Triumph and Disaster, by Michael Schuster & Steve Mollmann — As Starfleet prepares for the launch of the Enterprise-D, the man who supervised her construction, Captain Thomas Halloway, is faced with a momentous choice. One of the shortest stories in the collection, it’s a great introduction to the era of Next Gen, and a delightful fleshing out of a man only glimpsed very briefly in one episode.
Acts of Compassion, by Dayton ward & Kevin Dilmore — Beverly Crusher and Tasha Yar are tasked with seeing to the safe return of three Starfleet Officers who were captured in Cardassian territory. Needless to say, the mission hits a few bumps along the way. I was glad to see that Tasha was not ignored by the authors contributing to this anthology, and I really enjoyed this glimpse at the relationship between these two women. I can’t think of any first-season episodes that gave us much information about how Tasha and Beverly interacted, but Ward & Dilmore do a great job in conveying the very different ways that these two officers viewed the world.
Redshift, by Richard C. White — Set during Next Gen‘s second season, this story focuses on the early days aboard the Enterprise of new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Pulaski was an interesting character who, I feel, was done a disservice by the writers when she vanished off the show at the end of that season. It’s nice to see her character fleshed out here, and White creates a crackling adventure scenario that keeps the story moving.
Among the Clouds, by Scott Pearson –A mishap in the lower stratosphere of a Jovian planet sends Geordi LaForge plummeting down through the clouds of ammonia ice to his certain death. The story moves at a rapid pace, bouncing back and forth between the events that lead to Geordi’s situation and … [continued]
Click here for a terrific three-essay series that delves into the first three Indiana Jones films. These are all really well-written pieces, filled to the brim with love for the cinematic adventures of Dr. Jones.
Clever tourists wrecking the world one monument at a time. Don’t think — just follow that link. You won’t regret it.
Click here for a fascinating list of the twenty best non-fiction books for people who think they hate to read non-fiction. I need to get on this, having only read two of the items on this list!
I’m not exactly recommending this lengthy essay, because I disagree with it wildly, but it’s sort of bizarrely fascinating two see two individuals who really don’t seem to like Star Trek at all go on an enormous length about it as they revisit the first six Trek films. (Well, one of the two authors seems to be a fan, but he doesn’t seem to put up much of a fight whenever the other one bashes the series.)
Speaking of Trek, here is a link to a lengthy, fascinating Q & A that’s been going on over at Trekmovie.com between Star Trek screenwriters Bob Orci & Alex Kurtzman and a number of fans who, like me, had lots of questions about elements of the new movie’s plots. I really respect Mr. Orci for engaging with the fans in this way — though I feel most of his responses are pretty flimsy. Check it out and see what you think. (UPDATE: Still MORE Q & A with Mr. Orci & Mr. Kurtzman can be found here!)
It’s pretty obvious that the new Star Trek movie was pretty heavily influenced by the action and dynamism of Star Wars. But have you considered just how deep those similarities run? Shocking! (And hysterical.)
That should keep you all good and busy until tomorrow! See you back here then!… [continued]
After my lengthy series of posts about Star Trek novels from last month, I bet people think that’s all I read. And, its true, sci-fi novels make up the bulk of my regular reading list. But every now and then I do branch out, and I’d like to share several great books I’ve recently read that peak behind the scenes of Hollywoodland.
What Just Happened?, by Art Linson — Mr. Linson has been a producer in Hollywood for a few decades now, and this book covers a period of several years in the late ’90s in which he went to work for 20th Century Fox and proceeded to produce a large number of bombs. Now, did these movies bomb because of bad luck and ridiculous studio politics and lack of support (as Mr. Linson contends), or is Linson just bereft of talent? Well, I don’t know the man, so I can’t really judge. But either way, this book is relentlessly entertaining as Linson takes us through the making of several movies that, to put it gently, did not do well. Linson is a good storyteller, and in the book he focuses on anecdotes — putting the reader right in the middle of a series of hilarious (and painful for the people involved in them) situations. We join Linson as he tries to deal with Alec Baldwin who, tapped to play the young and handsome photographer in the David Mamet-scripted The Edge, shows up to the set overweight and bearing an enormous mountain-man beard which he refuses to shave. We see him trying to respond when studio head Tom Rothman asserts that they absolutely positively cannot cast Gwyneth Paltrow in Great Expectations because she has no chin. We see him flummoxed the day he finds out that a central scene in that movie, that of a young man sketching his female paramour in the nude, is also a centerpiece of another soon-to-be-released Fox movie, James Cameron’s Titanic. And we’re right there with him the first time he and David Fincher screen Fight Club for a room full of horrified Fox execs.
If there’s any weakness to the book, its the framing device that Linson uses for these anecdotes — that of a series of lunches he has with a former studio head. There are some funny interactions between these two, but each time the book cut back to their lunches, I kept thinking “let’s get back to the real stories!” Despite this, Linson’s book is really engaging — and at less than 200 pages, you’ll breeze right through it. Its a lot of fun.
By the way, this book is being adapted into a film starring Robert DeNiro. … [continued]