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Star Trek: The Light Fantastic

Last year, David Mack wrote a terrific trilogy of Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, under the subtitle “Cold Equations.”  (Click here for my review of book 1, click here for my review of book 2, and here for my review of book 3.) It’s a great trilogy that moved forward the continuing, post-Nemesis 24th century Star Trek story that has been ongoing in the Trek novels for many years now.  Most notably, Cold Equations repaired the biggest sin of Star Trek: Nemesis and (Careful!  Spoilers!  Spoilers!) brought back Data.

Interestingly, this major event in the Trek books was itself a direct sequel to a stand-alone Trek book from about a decade earlier, a book called Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang.  That novel introduced the idea of a secret society of android artificial intelligences and led to several fascinating developments in the life of Lt. Data.  (Click here for my review of Immortal Coil, a terrific book.)

And so I was delighted to see that now Mr. Lang himself has written a sequel to David Mack’s Cold Equations trilogy, a book focusing on the newly-resurrected Data called The Light Fantastic.  What a wonderful bit of full-circle perfection.  The Light Fantastic is a phenomenal follow-up to Cold Equations, thoroughly exploring Data’s new status quo following the events of that trilogy.

It is difficult to discuss this book too deeply without ruining some of the surprises of Cold Equations, so if you are reading this but you have not yet read Cold Equations, you might want to stop here.

Still with me?  The Light Fantastic picks up about a year following the events of Cold Equations.  Data and Lal, both newly returned to life, have settled into a quiet life on, of all places, Orion Prime.  (When Noonien Soong inhabited the new android body now possessed by Data, he used his intelligence to create something of a casino empire for himself, an empire Data now finds himself running, mostly as a way to keep that parto f his father alive in some way.) But their tranquility is shattered by the return of Moriarty, the holographic entity from “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle.”

I was thrilled to read of the return of Moriarty, a wonderful character from TNG and a terrific foil for Data.  I was also delighted by what Mr. Lang has done with his character.  The narrative of The Light Fantastic jumps around in time, often flashing back to show us what became of Moriarty and the Countess in the years after they we trapped in a holographic simulation back in “Ship in a Bottle.”  It turns out things have not … [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Star Trek Enterprise was was an interesting failure as a TV show.  Its pilot episode showed great promise, but the show quickly fell into the trap of recycling familiar Trek story tropes.  Its first two seasons were very mediocre, and the show quickly shed most of the viewers who had watched the pilot.  Things took a sharp turn for the better in the third season, when the writers decided to tell a more complex, serialized story-line.  Things got even better in the fourth season, when the show finally embraced its concept as a prequel to the Original Series, we finally got to see the kind of show it could have/should have been.  And then, of course, it was cancelled, and that was that.

But Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek novels have been creating a phenomenal, inter-connected web of Trek stories moving beyond the finales of the various Trek TV shows.  They have not ignored Enterprise, and have boldly pushed the series forward into territory it might have explored had the show been allowed to continue.  (Click here for my review of Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru.)

I was at first delighted by the series of novels telling the story of The Romulan War, an event hinted at in The Original Series.  But in the end, I felt those books disappointed.  (Click here for my review of The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, and here for my review of The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm.)  When the Romulan War series was hurridly wrapped up (that’s how it seemed to me, at least, with Michael A. Martin’s planned trilogy shortened to just two books), I figured the post-Enterprise series of novels were over.

But, to my surprise, Pocket Books turned to a high-level Trek author, Christopher L. Bennett, to launch a new series of post-Enterprise novels, now subtitled “Rise of the Federation.”  These books take place following the end of the Romulan War and the founding of the United Federation of Planets.  The first novel, A Choice of Futures, followed now-Admiral Archer and all the other members of the former Enterprise command crew, now divided onto different ships, including the Endeavor, under the command of Captain T’Pol, and the Pioneer, under the command of Malcolm Reed.  I thought this first novel was a terrific read and a compelling exploration of just how the noble Federation of Kirk’s era came to be.  I was impressed at how thoughtfully Mr. Bennett examined many aspects of the Federation that Trek fans have taken for granted for fifty tears.  I loved the way he moved all of the Enterprise characters forward  into new situations, rather than having everyone … [continued]

 

Star Trek Voyager: Protectors

I’ve had a fun over the last month or two, catching up with all of Kirsten Beyer’s Star Trek Voyager novels that take the characters of that show forward from the events of the TV series’ finale.  As I have repeatedly mentioned, Voyager is my least favorite of the Trek series, though I’ve quite enjoyed reading these novels.  Ms. Beyer has, in the four books I’ve read so far, given the characters far more depth and development than they got in the seven series of the actual show.  Click here for my review of Full Circle, here for my review of Unworthy, here for my review of Children of the Storm, and here for my review of The Eternal Tide.  I had some problems with the last book, The Eternal Tide, mostly centered on the decision to resurrect Captain Janeway, but over-all these books have been a very enjoyable ride and a great new sub-series within the broader Star Trek novel universe.

Having now arrived at Ms. Beyer’s fifth Voyager novel, Protectors, I have at last caught up with the story.  (Though there’s more to come, as Protectors has been described as the first book in a new trilogy of Voyager novels.)  Protectors splits its focus between two main stories.  The returned-to-life Kathryn Janeway has returned to the Alpha Quadrant, so that Starfleet Command can assess her fitness to return to duty, and so she can take stock of her life following her dramatic death and resurrection.  Meanwhile, with the continuing fate of the Full Circle fleet’s mission in the Delta Quadrant uncertain, Captain Chakotay casts about looking for a mission to prove the worth of their work in the Delta Quadrant.  Harry Kim pitches him on an idea to seek out the origin of an anomaly encountered by Voyager years before (in the second season Voyager episode, “Twisted”).  The conclusion of that episode raised the intriguing possibility that the anomaly was in fact a life form, trying to communicate with Voyager, but that idea was never followed up on.  Ms. Beyer’s story reveals that Kim has been working for years to decipher the anomaly’s attempts at communication, and that he believes he has pinpointed the anomany’s area of origin.  Voyager travels to those coordinates, only to discover a deep mystery: a vast area of space shielded by an enormous cloaking device; a planet made up of a variety of lifeforms that appear to have been harvested from other, now-destroyed planets in the system; and powerful wave-forms (versions of the anomaly encountered by Voyager) that just might be sentient.

Once again Ms. Beyer has crafted an intriguing new sci-fi story as a centerpiece for her novel, … [continued]

 

Star Trek Voyager: The Eternal Tide

This Star Trek Voyager novel, The Eternal Tide, is one I’d been dreading.

To my huge shock, I’ve found myself quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Star Trek Voyager novels (click here for my review of Full Circle, here for my review of Unworthy, and here for my review of Children of the Storm).  I never much liked Voyager the TV show, but I’ve been intrigued by this series of novels, moving the Voyager characters beyond the universe-shaking events of David Mack’s epic novel trilogy Star Trek Destiny from several years back.  These Voyager novels by Kirsten Beyer have had a great mix of strong characters (Ms. Beyer has fleshed out the characters far more than they ever were on the TV show, and thankfully she has moved them all beyond the eternal-status-quo they were trapped in on the show) and some great new sci-fi stories and new concepts for alien species.  As opposed to the continuing series of post-finale Next Gen and Deep Space Nine novels, which have been written by a rotating series of authors, it’s interesting that Ms. Beyer has apparently been given full control (for now, at least) of the Voyager corner of the Trek universe.  Having one author write this series has given it a tight continuity and cohesiveness that has been particularly enjoyable for me, now, reading these books one after the other.

But while I’ve enjoyed the previous three Voyager books, I was not looking forward to this one.  Why?  Because of Kathryn Janeway’s face staring out at me from the book’s cover.

I adored the decision made, in Peter David’s Next Gen novel Before Dishonor (one of the books leading up to the big Destiny crossover) to kill off Captain Janeway.  It was a shocking move, one I did not see coming, and it was a thrilling raising-of-the-stakes as the threat of the Borg grew in anticipation of the massive Borg invasion of the Alpha Quadrant that occurred in Destiny.  More than that, the manner of Janeway’s death — her arrogance allowing her to wind up assimilated by the Borg Queen — seemed to me a support of everything I’d ever disliked about the Janeway character.

One of many reasons why I never took to Voyager was the character of Captain Janeway.  I like Kate Mulgrew.  She’s a great actress, and clearly capable of terrific work (just look at how amazing she is on Orange is the New Black).  So Ms. Mulgrew wasn’t the problem.  Nor did I have any issue with a female being the lead of a Star Trek series.  I love plenty of female-centric shows and movies, and the strong … [continued]

 

Star Trek Voyager: Children of the Storm

I never much liked Star Trek: Voyager.  It was always by far my least-favorite of the Trek TV shows.  However, I’m quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Voyager novels.  (Click here for my review of Full Circle, and here for my review of Unworthy.)

It’s interesting that Pocket Books has given one single author, Kirsten Beyer, sole control over these Voyager novels for now.  The post-finale Deep Space Nine series, as well as the post-Nemesis Next Generation series, have all been guided by multiple authors working in collaboration.  It’s an interesting choice to give one author control over the Voyager books, and so far I am enjoying the tight continuity and consistency having a single author, with a single voice, gives to this series of books.

Children of the Storm picks up immediately following the events of Unworthy.  Eden Afsarah has replaced Willem Batiste as Fleet Admiral, allowing Chakotay to resume command of Voyager.  The Voyager fleet of nine starships is proceeding on their mission of exploration of the Delta Quadrant.  Their first order of business: to follow up on Captain Dax and the Aventine’s brief encounter (chronicled in David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy) with a mysterious race called the Children of the Storm that was apparently able to defeat the Borg.  (When Dax and the Aventine used one of the Borg’s transwarp conduits to journey briefly into the Delta Quadrant, they encountered an enormous field of wreckage from hundreds of Borg vessels, apparently destroyed somehow by the Children of the Storm.)  Unfortunately, the Voyager fleet’s return to this area of space does not go well.  The xenophobic Children of the Storm destroy one of the fleet’s vessels, capture another, and wreak havoc on a third.  This leave Voyager and the rest of the fleet in disarray, struggling to determine how to proceed.

The set-up for this series of Voyager novels is that Voyager isn’t returning to the Delta Quadrant alone, but rather with a fleet of nine vessels.  One of my favorite aspects of Children of the Storm is the way Ms. Beyer began to explore the different ships of the fleet, and the different characters on those vessels.  Over the course of this novel, we get to know several of these new ships in-depth.  There’s the U.S.S. Demeter and its captain, Liam O’Donnell, a brilliant academic who leaves most of the business of actually running the ship to his XO, Lieutenant Commander Fife.  That arrangement works well until the Demeter gets captured and the two men disagree strongly on how to proceed, with Captain O’Donnell certain that a scientific solution can be found to their predicament, while Lt. … [continued]

 

Star Trek Voyager: Unworthy

In my opinion, Star Trek: Voyager was by far the weakest of the Star Trek TV series.  I felt that the show never lived up to its premise (of the difficulties one lone starship would face, all on their own eighty thousand light-years from home), and even more disappointingly, I felt there was almost zero character development over the course of the series’ seven years.  (You could watch a first season episode and then watch a seventh season episode and see little to no difference in the dynamics of the characters.)  I watched Voyager all the way through its seven years, but there are hardly any episodes I have ever re-watched.  (Whereas I have seen every episode of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine many, many times… and I have even watched Enterprise through a few times over the years.)

Pocket Books has published some Voyager novels over the years, but I never bought any of them until Kirsten Beyer’s Full Circle in 2009.  (Click here for my original review.)  I am not sure what prompted me to buy a Voyager book.  Maybe the gorgeous cover image (Voyager has never looked so good!).  More likely I was excited to read any book picking up the pieces after David Mack’s incredible trilogy Star Trek: Destiny, a story that chronicled the long-feared Borg invasion of Federation space and all of the catastrophes that followed.  I was eager to see what happened to all of the Trek characters following Destiny, and I think I was also very interested in reading about the Voyager crew’s reactions to the death of Janeway (brutally killed off by Peter David in his TNG book Before Dishonor).

To my surprise, I loved Full Circle.  Kirsten Beyer’s lengthy book spanned several years of Trek continuity, catching up the Voyager crew with the events of the past few years of TNG novels.  I enjoyed the character arcs given to each member of the Voyager ensemble.  I felt that I got to know and care about the Voyager crew in this book far more than I ever did in the TV series.  Full Circle ended with Voyager leading a fleet of nine starships on a mission back to the Delta Quadrant, hoping to confirm what had happened to the Borg following the events of Destiny.  I was excited to see what happend next.

But then, though I bought the next several Voyager novels written by Ms. Beyer, I never read them.  I think that as the months went on, though I remembered enjoying Full Circle, my over-all dislike for Star Trek: Voyager reared its head, and I just never found myself interested … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Peaceable Kingdoms

Since the summer, Pocket Books has been publishing an interconnected five-novel Star Trek series, “The Fall,” which has brought to a head many of the story-lines that have been running through the Trek novels for the past several years.  ”The Fall” began with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), in which a terrible tragedy pushed the galaxy once again to the brink of interstellar war.  The story continued with The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review), a novel that brought together Captain Picard and the Cardassian Garak, a wonderfully unexpected combination of characters.  In David Mack’s spectacular A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review), the Andorian fertility crisis (a story-line that began at the very start of the post-finale DS9 relaunch, a decade and a half ago) came to the head as Julian Bashir’s Starfleet career came to an end (at least for now!).  Then, in the fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice (click here for my review), William Riker was recalled to Earth and promoted to Admiral, only to discover an enemy at the very heart of the Federation.

At the end of The Poisoned Chalice, I was left wondering whether these stories would be resolved in the fifth and final novel, Dayton Ward’s Peaceable Kingdoms.  Was this entire five-book series just a set-up for future stories to come?  Well, yes, in a way — the end of Peaceable Kingdoms certainly sets the stage for many more stories to be told in the Trek universe of novels.  But I was very pleased by the way in which Peaceable Kingdoms brought a definitive resolution to many of the story-lines that have been running through “The Fall.”

Over the course of the past few novels, we’ve read references to the Enterprise’s mission to Ferenginar (where apparently representatives from The Typhon Pact have been attempting to convince the Ferengi to break their alliance with the Khitomer Accord Powers and instead align with them).  I wondered if that would be the focus of this final novel, but the Enterprise’s business with the Ferengi represents only the very beginning of this tale.  This book picks up directly from the end of The Poisoned Chalice, with Riker and his allies attempting to root out the enemy they have discovered in the highest echelons of power in the Federation.

As the novel progresses, we follow many different characters across the quadrant.  The race to the election for President of the Federation is in its final days, and we spend some time exploring the politics of the situation as … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Poisoned Chalice

The latest series of Star Trek novels, subtitled “The Fall,” roars on with the fourth of five books, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice.  “The Fall” started off strong with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), and built with the terrific The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review) and David Mack’s equally terrific A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review).

Now, in the spectacular fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice, everything starts to come together.  This novel was billed as focusing on Captain William Riker and his crew on the U.S.S. Titan, and indeed it does, but I was thrilled by how this book pulled together story-threads from the previous three novels and moved the larger story dramatically forward.

Following the tragic events that occurred during the dedication ceremony of the new Deep Space Nine, the Titan’s mission of deep-space exploration has been cut short, and Captain Riker’s ship has been recalled to Earth.  Upon arriving home, Riker is called before an array of admirals.  But while he fears reprisals from his handling of the Andorian situation (in Michael A. Martin’s Titan novel Fallen Godsclick here for my review), instead he is offered a promotion to admiral.  To my surprise, Riker accepts!

It is soon revealed that Starfleet Admiral Akaar (a frequent recurring character in the last decade or so of Trek novels) has been growing more and more concerned with the actions of Federation President pro tempare Ishan Anjar, particularly in light of the events that took place at Andoria (in the previous novel, A Ceremony of Losses).  He wants someone he can trust helping him navigate the increasingly treacherous political waters, and so he tapped Riker.

This of course over-turns the whole dynamic of the Titan series, and I was thrilled that Riker’s promotion to admiral and his new Earth-bound post still stands at the end of this book.  What that means for future Titan novels I don’t know, but I love seeing these stories move forward and the characters’ lives change.

In the meantime, this leads to a thrilling story in The Poisoned Chalice as Riker and a small cadre of allies work to determine what exactly is going on in the highest echelons of power in the Federation.  As the novel unfolds, we follow several connected stories.  Now on Earth with her husband, Deanna Troi has accepted a temporary post in the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps, and her first assignment winds up being trying to resolve a tense diplomatic standoff between the Andorian diplomatic contingent and President Anjar, … [continued]

 

Star Trek: A Ceremony of Losses

In Revelations and Dust, book one of Pocket Books’ ongoing Star Trek novel crossover series, “The Fall,” the opening of the new, Federation-designed DS9 was marred by a shocking murder.  Then, book two, The Crimson Shadow, chronicled upheaval on Cardassia as the greatest challenge to their new democratic government emerged.

And so we have arrived at book 3, David Mack’s A Ceremony of Losses.  Julian Bashir, still reeling from the events of Revelations and Dust, is contacted by his old friend and colleague, the Andorian Shar.  Shar was a character introduced at the very beginning of Pocket Books’ post-finale series of DS9 novels, in S.D. Perry’s Avatar.  It seems that the reproductive crisis affecting Andor — a story-line that has been running through the novels ever since those early DS9 relaunch books from back in 2001 — is reaching a tipping point.  If a solution to the fertility problems affecting the majority of Andorians is not found within the year, it will spell extinction for the Andorian people.  Shar believes that the solution lies in the Shedai meta-genome, an incredibly-complex piece of alien DNA found by Starfleet a hundred years ago, but classified at the highest level for fear the genome could be used to create terrible weapons.  (This is a story-point from the Original Series era “Vanguard” series of Trek novels, and it was brought into the 24th-century-set Trek novels in the “Typhon Pact” novel Paths of Disharmony, in which the Andorians’ discovery that Starfleet had been hiding this information led to an upheaval in the Federation.)  Julian is drawn to help the Andorians, but doing so would involve his accessing the classified Shedai information, which would be a crime of treason against the Federation.

A Ceremony of Losses is an excellent book, one that not only presents one of our heroes with a meaty moral dilemma, but that also, in the book’s second half, turns into an edge-of-your-seat thriller as Bashir races against the clock, and against enemies on all sides, even those who were once his friends and colleagues, to do what he feels is right and try to save the Andorian people.

I was particularly excited that A Ceremony of Losses finally brings some resolution to the story of Andor’s fertility crisis, a story that has been running through the Trek books since 2001.  That’s a heck of a long time for that story-line to have been hanging, and I was thrilled to see this issue finally addressed head-on in this novel.  It’s also great to see Shar finally front-and-center again.  He got a lot of focus in the early re-launched DS9 books, but after 2004′s Andor story in Worlds of Deep [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Crimson Shadow

As a humongous fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I am delighted by how central the DS9 storylines and characters have become to the continuing, interconnected series of Star Trek novels, in particular this new five-book crossover series, “The Fall.”

In the first installment, David R. George III’s Revelation and Dust, Starfleet finally brought on-line the new, Federation-designed and built DS9.  The celebration, though, was marked by terrible tragedy, an event that threatened to spill the tentative peace in the Alpha Quadrant back over into brutal interstellar war.  In the middle of the book, Cardassian Castellan (the head of their government) Rakena Garan was forced to depart DS9, in order to return home to deal with unrest back on Cardassian Prime.  She then dropped out of the book.  Una McCormack’s magnificent The Crimson Shadow picks up the story from there.

Ms. McCormack has become the go-to writer in Pocket Books’ stable of Trek writers when it comes to dealing with Cardassians.  One of her first major pieces of writing for Pocket Books was the Cardassian novella The Lotus Flower, in Worlds of Deep Space Nine back in 2004.  That was a terrific story, and ever since then most of Ms. McCormack’s works have focused on Cardassians, in particular her phenomenal novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice.

Like that book, The Crimson Shadow draws its title from a Cardassian novel mentioned on DS9 (and kudos again to Ms. McCormack for that wonderful little bit of continuity).  It’s hard to believe, but this book is actually set ten years following the series finale of DS9.  I knew that the Trek series of books was moving forward in time — that’ one of my favorite things about Pocket’s Trek novels from the past decade-plus, how they have fearlessly moved the over-all story forward beyond the finales of the 24th century-set Trek TV shows.  But I hadn’t quite realized how much time had passed in the books.

The Crimson Shadow is an engaging study of what has been happening on Cardassia in the previous ten years, following the defeat of the Dominion (and their final, great purge that laid waste to most of the planet and killed hundreds of millions of Cardassians).  With Federation aid, the Cardassians have slowly been rebuilding, both the physical structures of their cities (buildings, roads, etc.) and their very society.  Cardassia has been struggling with democracy, an entirely new concept for its citizens who had been ruled by the military for so long.  The road has been rocky, and Ms. McCormack’s story doesn’t gloss over the difficulties this new experiment in democratic self-government represents, nor does she cheat and give us overly-easy answers in the end.

The focus of … [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan: Fallen Gods

Star Trek: Titan has been a continuing series of novels, for the past several years, chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker, following the events of the final Next Gen movie, Nemesis, and Riker’s finally accepting a captaincy of his own.  I have very much enjoyed the books in the series, not only for their development of the characters of Riker and Troi but also for their focus on telling stories focused on adventure and exploration, and the development of new alien races and scientific concepts.  The series has also been a big part of most of the major multi-novel stories of the past few years, from the Borg invasion of David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy (click here for my review) to the recent “Typhon Pact” story-lines.  I have loved the way that the last several years’ worth of Trek novels have woven together into an incredible tapestry, freed from having to maintain the status quo of the TV shows or movies, and the Titan series has been a huge part of that.

The Titan book series was begun by Michael A. Martin, along with co-writer Andy Mangels, and after several years and several books written by other authors, I was excited for Michael A. Martin to return to the series with the latest novel, Fallen Gods.  But I will also admit to a little trepidation.  Together, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have written some of my very favorite Trek novels, including that first Titan novel, Taking Wing (click here for my review) and their magnificent Captain Sulu epic Excelsior: Forged in Fire (click here for my review), a story that shed light on the backstory of Dax and Kor, Kang, and Koloth (the three great Klingons from the Original Series whose connection to Dax was the focus of the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”).  Their recent Enterprise series of novels, chronicling the post-finale adventures of Jonathan Archer & his crew, and finally telling the story of the Romulan War (an often-hinted-at piece of Star Trek back-story) started off strong but ultimately fizzled out and ended up as a big disappointment to me.  Possibly this is because mid-series their writing partnership seems to have broken up.  Mr. Martin finished the Romulan War series by himself, and I did not feel the same magic was there.

To my relief, Fallen Gods is far superior to those “Romulan War” novels.  It’s a very solid book, and a compelling new Titan adventure.  I will say, though, that the first half is far stronger than the second half, and there was a lot that frustrated me in that second half.  I’ll get into more details … [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation

I thought the post-finale series of Star Trek: Enterprise books was finished.

Written exclusively by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin (and, in the later books, by Mr. Martin solo), this post-finale Enterprise series had gotten off to a great start.  They cleverly undid the stupid, pointless death of Trip in the Enterprise finale (while also beautifully unravelling many of the continuity gaffes from that poorly-made finale).  Then they began a multi-book story-line to finally tell the untold story of the Earth-Romulan War.  But what began so promisingly quickly unravelled, and I felt the last two books fell off significantly in quality.  At the end of the last book, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm (click here for my review), the last few chapters seemed designed to serve as a quick finale to the Enterprise story as a whole, with the ship decommissioned and her former crew scattered to the winds.  It seemed clear to me that this story was over.

And yet here we are, just a year later, with a new Enterprise novel that seems poised to be the start of a new series of post-finale Enterprise stories: Christopher L. Bennettt’s Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.  (There are a lot of colons in that title.  I frankly wasn’t sure how to type it out.  But it seems to be that Enterprise: Rise of the Federation is the new title of this series, with A Choice of Futures being the title of this particular installment.)

This novel is set after the events of Mr. Mangels and Mr. Martin’s books, and it is very much in-continuity with those stories.  This new book meshes seamlessly with those books (and, indeed, Mr. Bennett makes some great choices to begin unravelling some of the problems with where the narrative had been left at the end of those books), but you definitely don’t have to have read those books to enjoy A Choice of Futures.  It is very successful as a new beginning for these post-finale Enterprise stories.

There are two main story-lines in the novel, both of which cleverly highlight the questions the newly-formed United Federation of Planets must face.  In one story, a Federation starship, the U.S.S. Essex, is negotiating with different factions on the planet Sauria (as in Saurian brandy — nice nod to the Original Series there) for trading rights to minerals on their planet.  As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the involvement of these Federation officers has dramatically affected the balance of power among the indigenous peoples of the planet.  Should the Federation have stronger guidelines in terms of what they can or cannot do when contacting people … [continued]

 

Star Trek Revelation and Dust

I have written often on this site about Pocket Books’ spectacular series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels, that continued the story of the characters from that great TV show (the best of the Star Trek series, in my opinion), beyond the series finale.  There were about a dozen novels published between 2001 and 2005, and they basically formed an eighth season of the show.  Together they were a spectacular series of books, brilliantly continuing many of the story-lines and character arcs from the series while also weaving in many rich new characters and stories.  But after a while, the series seemed to hit something of a snag, and several years passed without any new DS9 adventures.  In 2008, David Mack wrote his phenomenal Destiny trilogy of novels (click here for my original review), which featured characters from all the 24th century-set Trek shows (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).  That was an amazing story, and it lead to several more phenomenal novels that explored the Trek universe following the destructive events of Destiny.

I loved all those books, but I was a little sad to see the lack of DS9-centered novels.  Then came the “Typhon Pact” series from two years ago.  That crossover was pleasingly Deep Space Nine centered, with two of the books, David Mack’s Zero-Sum Game (click here for my review) and David R. George III Rough Beasts of Empire (click here for my review) focused on DS9 characters and story-lines.  Those books were followed by last summer’s duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, also written by David R. George III.  Those two novels were also published under the “Typhon Pact” heading, but they were unquestionably Deep Space Nine stories, as Mr. George masterfully pulled together countless DS9 story-lines that had been dangling — some of them for years — while also moving forward the political “Typhon Pact” story-line, in which the Federation found itself threatened with a new alliance of many of its deadliest enemies.  I loved those books when I read them last summer (click here for my review), and this past summer, I re-read Rough Beasts of Empire followed by those two books, and I found myself even more impressed by the rich, compelling Deep Space Nine story-line that David R. George III had written.

Very recently, Mr. George’s latest Star Trek novel was published: Revelation and Dust.  Like his previous books, this new novel did not appear with a Deep Space Nine heading on the cover.  Instead, this book was labeled Star Trek: The Fall, kicking off a new five-book series, with each book written by a … [continued]

 

Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier (Part Three)

I have been having a great time diving back into Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier series of novels.  Click here for my overview of the series, and here for my thoughts on several of Mr. David’s most recent New Frontier novels.  Having caught up with the New Frontier story, I was eager to move on and read the two most recent books that I had not yet read: Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff.

Treason – One of the earliest New Frontier story-lines involved the unlikely relationship between the hermat Burgoyne 172 and the Vulcan Dr. Selar.  That romance immediately turned sour, sadly, and in the background of the last decade-plus worth of New Frontier books we have seen the tension between the two characters.  Finally, with Treason, the Burgoyne/Selar story returns to the forefront.  Dr. Selar has become increasingly isolated and bitter due to her inability to solve the health situation of her son with Burgoyne.  The young Xy has been developing at an incredible rate, so that now at age four he is already an adult and the science officer on board the Excalibur.  But Selar knows that his rapid aging will soon, inevitably, lead to his death.  As her logic begins to crumble over her increasing rage at the hand fate has dealt her, Selar abandons the Excalibur in a desperate attempt to find a cure for her son.

Meanwhile, Robin Lefler has fled the New Thallonian Protectorate with her young baby, seeking shelter on board the Excalibur.  Captain Calhoun has granted her asylum, but things become rather more complicated when the spirit of Robin’s dead husband, Si Cwan, seems to inhabit and take control of Si Cwan’s sister, Kalinda, and Dr. Selar kidnaps Robin’s child, for reasons unknown.  This begins a frantic chase across the galaxy to a thought-to-be-uninhabited world, where the Excalibur and their sister ship, the Trident, will encounter a powerful new foe.

After a little shakiness with Missing in Action, Treason is a confident return to form for Mr. David.  I am loving the return to focus, in these recent New Frontier novels, on several of the side characters and sub-plots that have been in the background for the past decade-or-more of books.  The character-arcs of supporting players like Selar, Burgoyne, Xyon, Moke, etc. are compelling and very enjoyable.  The novel itself is tense and fast-paced, and as usual with Mr. David I found myself enjoyably clueless as to where the story was going.  I am not wild about the name of the new race of villains, The D’myurj (just say it out loud and perhaps you’ll see why this particular new alien race’s name was a little too on-the-nose … [continued]

 

Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier (Part Two)

As I wrote about earlier this week, I have recently re-immersed myself in Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier novels!

Stone and Anvil – This novel, published back in 2003, is one of my very favorite of Mr. David’s New Frontier novels.  It proved to be a wonderful culmination of the New Frontier story at the time, wrapping up a number of long-running story-lines while also bringing the series back full circle to tell the story of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun’s days at Starfleet Academy and his original romance with Elizabeth Shelby.  The book jumps back and forth between the two stories, with one chapter being set “Now” and the next being set “Then” (I always love the fun ways Mr. David structures the chapter headings in his books) and the strength of the novel is that each of the two stories is equally strong and compelling.  I never found myself, reading one of the story-lines, wishing that I was back in the other story.

In the present day, the book picks right up from the minute the brutal cliffhanger of the previous book, Gods Above, had ended: with Calhoun and Shelby discovering the brutally murdered body of Lieutenant Gleau in one of the ship’s turbolifts.  Gleau is a Selelvian (a race created by Mr. David) and over the previous few books Mr. David had been weaving a fascinating though unpleasant story in which Lieutenant M’Ress (one of two characters from Star Trek: The Animated Series that Mr. David has incorporated into New Frontier) felt that Gleau was using his race’s heretofore unknown mental powers in order to seduce her and then, when she turned down his advances, mentally torture her.  Of course, M’Ress is the first suspect when Gleau is found murdered, but the investigation quickly turns to another character, Ensign Janos, a huge, bestial, but fiercely intelligent character introduced by Mr. David several New Frontier novels back.  Mr. David has kept Janos’ background shrouded in mystery, though hints have been given that he is a Mugatu (one of the iconic alien monsters from the Original Series, seen in “A Private Little War”).  In Stone and Anvil we finally get Janos’ true story, and, well, it doesn’t end well.

Meanwhile, the very first New Frontier book had introduced us to the notion that Calhoun and Shelby (newly assigned as his first officer back in that first New Frontier adventure) had had a romance that had turned sour somewhere back in their past.  In the flashback chapters of Stone and Anvil, we finally get to see how they met, fell into a romance, and how that romance ended with their going their separate ways.  It’s a pretty sweet story, … [continued]

 

Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier

About twenty years ago, I started reading the Star Trek novels published by Pocket Books.  At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air, probably in the second or third season.  There were no other spin-off shows, and only four Trek movies.  I’d seen those four movies many, many times, and the new episodes of Next Gen weren’t enough to satiate my cravings.

When I discovered the novels, I was delighted.  Not only was there a big backlog of new Star Trek adventures to discover (each of which took me a lot longer to consume than an hour-long TV episode) but a new book was published almost every month.  As I recall, at the time the books alternated: one month there would be a classic Star Trek adventure (featuring Kirk/Spock/McCoy), and the next month a new Next Gen adventure (with Picard, etc.).

I enjoyed all of the books, but quickly there was one author whose work stood out to me.  One author who, when I saw his name on the cover, I knew to be excited because his name was a guarantee of a particularly entertaining book.  This author was Peter David.

Some of those Next Gen books that Peter David wrote back in the late eighties/early nineties remain my very favorite Star Trek books ever written.  There was Q-in-Law, in which Mr. David brilliantly combined Next Gen’s two most popular guest-star characters, Q and Lwaxana Troi, in a hilarious romp that was so much funnier and sexier and fun-filled than even the best Trek episode.  There was Imzadi — still considered by many to be the very best of the Trek novels — which not only told the story of Will Riker and Deanna Troi’s love-affair on Betazed, years before they would meet again on the Enterprise D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” but which also wove a terrifying alternate-universe story in which a premature end to that relationship lead to catastrophic consequences.  Then there was Vendetta — my personal favorite Trek novel — in which Mr. David told what still, twenty years later, stands to me as the ultimate Borg story.  Set just about a year after the events of “The Best of Both Worlds,” in which Captain Picard was assimilated and one Borg cube nearly succeeded in destroying Earth, the Borg return to Federation space, this time with three cubes.  It’s a ferocious, epic-scale but also deeply personal story that has never been topped by any of the canonical on-screen Borg stories we have seen in the twenty years since “The Best of Both Worlds.”

After writing so many great Next Gen books, in the early nineties Mr. David created his own spin-off series … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Continues… (Part II)

Last week I wrote about the first two books in Pocket Books’ re-launch of the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel series, set after the final canonical on-screen Next Gen adventure, the (truly terrible) film Star Trek: Nemesis.  Here are my thoughts on books two and three of that re-launch!

Before Dishonor – when the early books in the TNG relaunch were originally announced, I was especially excited because it seemed that Pocket Books had assigned some of their best heavy-hitters as authors of the first wave of books.  Some of the very best long-time Trek authors (Michael Jan Friedman, J.M. Dillard, and Peter David) were being mixed with some of the very best of the newer Trek authors (Keith R.A. DeCandido and Christopher L. Bennett).  I was particularly excited for Peter David’s book, as Mr. David has always been one of my very favorite Star Trek authors.  (I mentioned in my last post that his magnificent Borg novel, Vendetta, might be my very favorite Star Trek novel of all time.). So I was very eager to read Mr. David’s book in this new TNG series.

Unfortunately, like the books that preceded it, Before Dishonor is rather a mixed bag.  There is a lot that I love about it.  As always, Mr. David’s prose is fantastic, very funny and very compelling.  I love that aspects of the book’s story are intended as a direct sequel to the events of Vendetta.  (Not only do we return to the great idea that the planet-killer seen in the Original Series episode “The Doomsday Machine” was originally designed as a weapon against the Borg, but the book also refences the storyline in Vendetta in which Geordi tried and failed to restore a rescued Borg woman to her individuality.  (It’s a story that is very similar in essence to what would, years later, be told on Voyager with Seven of Nine, just with a much less happy ending.  By the way, I have heard Peter David say that people at Paramount originally nixed his idea because they insisted that there was no such thing as female Borg, a ludicrous idea that Mr. David humorously references in this book.)  I love that Mr. David involved Spock in the story.  And I love love love the very controversial fate given to Admiral Janeway.  I could rant for days on how poorly Janeway was characterized on Star Trek: Voyager.  I love the idea of a woman captain, but I felt that Janeway as written was unbelievably arrogant and blindly stubborn.  I love that in this book her hubris finally catches up to her.  I know that Voyager fans were upset, but I loved it.

So what doesn’t … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Continues… (Part I)

As readers of this site clearly know, I am something of a Star Trek fan.  Grin!  Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed reading the various Star Trek novels published by Pocket Books, but over the past decade I have found the Trek books to be particularly enjoyable, and they have become my main avenue for consuming new Star Trek adventures.  Ever since the flop of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2003 and the cancellation of Enterprise in 2004, Star Trek novels have been pretty much the only way to enjoy new Star Trek stories!  Luckily, without having to worry any longer about having to maintain consistency with continuing TV series, the authors of the Star Trek novels have had the freedom to move their stories forward, shaking up the status quo in exciting ways.  The one-two-punch of a) that newfound fearlessness in breaking free of the old status quo of the TV series, allowing the characters to grow and change, while b) also establishing a very tight inter-book continuity between the novels, with characters and story lines continuing from book to book, has made the Trek book series particularly enjoyable to me.  I don’t read every new Star Trek book that is published, but I probably read six to eight new Trek books each year, and taken as a whole they form an enormous tapestry, an epic continuing adventure.  I love sagas.  I love them in any form, be they books (like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, or Frank Herbert’s Dune, or JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) or comic books (like Chris Claremont’s two-decade run writing X-Men from the late seventies into the nineties) or TV shows (like The X-Files, or Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica) or movies (the Planet of the Apes series, the Star Wars films, etc.).  One of the things I love about official, televised Star Trek is that aspect of the Trek universe being a cohesive whole, an expansive, ever-expanding saga.  Now, more than ever, that is also true of the Trek books.

Over the last several years, I have enjoyed writing about the various Star Trek novels I have read.  Recently, I decided to go back and re-read some of the old Trek books that I really enjoyed, such as as Excelsior: Forged in Fire and some of The Lost Era books (Serpents Among the Ruins and The Art of the Impossible).  I had fun doing that, so I then decided to go back and re-read some of the earlier books in the relaunch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the new adventures of Captain Picard and his crew following the events depicted in Star Trek: Nemesis.  My recollection was … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Allegiance in Exile

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]

 

Star Trek The Lost Era (Book 3): The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)

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]

 

Star Trek The Lost Era (Book 2): Serpents Among The Ruins (2311)

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]

 

Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire

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]

 

Star Trek Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric

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]

 

Star Trek Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons

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]

 

Star Trek: Immortal Coil

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]

 

Star Trek Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory

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]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship

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.)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Ms. McCormack’s previous Star Trek novels, Hollow Men and the terrific Cardassian story The Never-Ending Sacrifice (click [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm

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]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing

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]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru

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]

 

Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History

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]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night & Raise the Dawn

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 Keyclick 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 Gameclick 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]

 

Star Trek Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions

February 22nd, 2012
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Now that’s what I’m talking about!!  I just finished reading David Mack’s novel Rise Like Lions, the phenomenal, long-awaited conclusion to the Mirror Universe storyline begun back in the second-season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued in several terrific Star Trek novels which have been published in the last half-decade or so.

But let’s back up.  Back in 2006, David Mack wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Warpath. It was a magnificent novel, a fast-paced, rip-snorting adventure yarn that really shook up the post-finale DS9 literary universe Pocket Books had been crafting.  It was one of the best Star Trek novels I’d ever read.

And also one of the most frustrating.

A huge chunk of the novel was a depiction of some-sort of alternate-world dream of the near-death Kira Nerys.  It was hinted, at the end, that this was a vision given to Nerys by the Prophets, and at the time I loved this oblique glimpse at what story-lines were lying ahead in the Deep Space Nine world.  As the years have gone bye, though, that glimpse given in Warpath has grown more and more frustrating to me, as those story-lines have not yet been continued.  Warpath is also notable for its absolutely brutal cliffhanger ending.  At the time, I was delighted by the boldness of the ending, but here again that delight eventually grew to frustration as the months and eventually years passed and no new DS9 novel ever appeared.  (The cliffhanger was eventually resolved in Olivia Wood’s 2008 & 2009 novels Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key.)

But the reason I’m bringing up Warpath is because of the other twist found in the novel’s closing pages.  As the events reached their climax, suddenly the story we were following shifted direction, and for a few pages we were taken back into the Mirror Universe and witnessed the death of a major character.

I’m not sure whether this was all planned before Warpath or not, but the next few years gave us several new Pocket Book Star Trek novels that explored the Mirror Universe.  There was the excellent duology Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances (click here for my review), each of which contained three novellas which explored the history of the Mirror Universe, from the time of Enterprise to the days immediately after the first crossover (in the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror”), to the post-DS9 finale time-period.  That duology was followed by a short-story collection called Shards and Shadows (click here for my review), which further explored the back-story of the Mirror Universe.  The key story, to me, in all of those novels was David Mack’s novella The Sorrows [continued]

 

Star Trek: Cast No Shadow

December 28th, 2011
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In the new novel by James Swallow, seven years have passed since the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Klingons and the Federation have begun to take their first, tentative steps towards a lasting peace.  However, there still exist many, on both sides of the Neutral Zone, who have no interest in seeing peace emerge between these two intergalactic powers.  When a series of devastating terrorist attacks wreak havoc across Klingon space, it seems that the last surviving member of the Chang/Cartwright conspiracy may hold the clue to unravelling the identity of the terrorists:  Valeris, formerly of Starfleet, now in prison with little possibility of parole.

I adore Star Trek VI, so right away this novel had my interest piqued.  The years immediately following the final adventure of the original Enterprise haven’t been that well mined , so I really enjoyed this look at how the Klingon/Federation political situation progressed following the ending of Trek VI. Mr. Swallow digs deeply into the Star Trek mythos to present a compelling tale of intergalactic espionage that addresses several meaty story threads left hanging by Trek VI.

The focus on Valeris is long overdue.  Though it wasn’t all that risky of the makers of Star Trek VI to make the one new character be the traitor, Nick Meyer’s sharp script and Kim Cattrall’s tart performance combined to create a very memorable character.  I enjoyed having the chance, reading Cast No Shadow, to peel back some of the layers of this enigmatic Vulcan.  It’s fascinating (ha ha) to dig into Valeris’ point of view, and I enjoyed the novel’s periodic flashbacks into Valeris’ history.   We learn how and why she became involved in Admiral Cartwright’s conspiracy, and in the devastating final flashback, we uncover the source of her un-Vulcan-like enmity for the Klingons.

Although he is featured extremely prominently on the cover, Spock is not that central to the novel’s story.  This was a big disappointment to me.  I assume that Mr. Swallow cannot control the content of his book’s cover art, but when I pick up a novel with Spock and Valeris on the cover, I assume that the novel is going to focus on the relationship between Spock and Valeris!  While their contentious relationship is addressed, it is not at all the novel’s focus.

Instead, in addition to telling Valeris’ story, the novel also focuses on the tale of a young Elias Vaughn’s first mission in the field.  Devoted fans of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels of course know that Vaughn, a created-for-the-novels character, was a key player in the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels.  Several Trek novels, over the years, have explored the long-lived Vaughn’s early history … [continued]

 

Star Trek Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

November 25th, 2011
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A few years ago, Pocket Books released a terrific two-book series entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. (Read my review here!)  Each book featured three novellas, each written by a different author, and each featuring a fascinating “what-if” tale set in a different era of the Star Trek universe.  These were stories set in alternate universes, in which the events of Star Trek’s history (as depicted in all of the movies and TV shows) unfolded differently.  That two-book series was phenomenal, containing some of my very favorite Star Trek stories from all of Pocket Books’ novels.  So I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that a new Myriad Universe collection, once again featuring three novellas, was being released last year.  It took me longer than I thought to get to reading the book (I’m a busy guy!), but I finally was able to read it last month.  While this new collection, Shattered Light, isn’t quite the home-run that the original two books were, it’s still a supremely entertaining series of stories.

The Embrace of Cold Architects, by David R. George III — In this universe, William Riker, in command of the Enterprise following Captain Picard’s abduction by the Borg and transformation into Locutus, is able to defeat the Borg by using the Enterprise’s deflector array to destroy the attacking cube, killing Captain Picard and all the Borg on-board.  That’s a dramatic hook for the story, but the novella’s focus is actually on another change: that Data’s attempt to create a daughter, Lal (which we saw in the TNG third season episode “The Offpsring”) was delayed by several months, so that shortly after Lal’s creation, Data found his creator, the cybernetics genius Dr. Noonien Soong (as seen in the early fourth season TNG episode “Brothers”).  Dr. Soong is able to prevent the cascade failure in Lal’s positronics brain, thus saving her life.  But as we saw in “The Offspring,” many in Starfleet grow worried by the presence of a second android on-board the Enterprise, and an Admiral from the Daystrom institute (an advanced Starfleet research facility) begins pressuring Captain Riker to remove Lal from the Enterprise and bring her to their facility.  I think David R. George III is one of the very best authors working on Star Trek novels these days, so I was really excited for his contribution to this collection.  And The Embrace of Cold Architects starts out quite strongly, as we follow the ripple effects of Lal’s presence — and Picard’s loss — through the events of the early fourth season of The Next Generation. But, ultimately, this novella wound up being my least favorite story in the collection.  It ends incredibly abruptly, … [continued]

 

Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock

When Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons, it left several story-lines hanging.  Many Star Trek fans, myself included, had been hoping that Enterprise would one-day chronicle the events of the Romulan War hinted at in episodes of the Original Series.  (And, indeed, several episodes from Enterprise’s fourth and final season hinted that the show might indeed be heading in that direction.)  Fortunately, Michael A. Martin (along with, on the first novel, Andy Mangels) has been telling the story of the Romulan War in a series of Star Trek novels.  (Click here for my review of the first novel in that series, Kobayashi Maru, and I’ll have reviews of the other two novels in the series coming soon.)

But there was an even bigger story-line left painfully unresolved at the end of Star Trek: Enterprise. Ever since the show’s pilot episode, “Broken Bow,” we’d been hearing about a mysterious Temporal Cold War, apparently being fought throughout time by time-travelers from the future.  Factions of this Temporal Cold War were repeatedly seen to be interfering in events of Captain Archer’s time, but to what end was never clear.  We saw some apparently heroic characters (Daniels, who appeared to be from a future Starfleet), and apparently villainous characters, such as the mysterious figure glimpsed throughout the series whose identity was never revealed (leading to his being nicknamed “Future Guy” by many fans).  I write “apparently” since various episodes offered sometimes contradictory information as to who was really trying to do what.  (At one point Future guy helped Captain Archer, and at other times Daniels appeared to be less than totally truthful.)

I have been waiting for the Star Trek novels to address this enormous dangling story-line, and I am very pleased to report that Christopher L. Bennett has done so with gusto in his latest novel Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock.  (It’s a lengthy, sort of confusing title, but I gather that the hope is that there will be future installments of novels, under the Department of Temporal Investigations heading.  I join in this hope!)

The Department of Temporal Investigations is, of course, an agency seen in only one single Star Trek episode: the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibble-ations,” in which Sisko & co. accidentally travel back in time to the events of the Classic Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”  In that episode, we were introduced to DTI agents Lucsly and Dulmur, who were sent to investigate the time-travel events on behalf of their department, which was the Starfleet agency tasked with protecting the integrity of the time-line.  Agents Lucsly and Dulmur didn’t have a lot of screen-time, but they … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Troublesome Minds

Last spring I wrote a very positive review of the latest Star Trek: Phase Two episode, Enemy: Starfleet!, which was written by Dave Galanter.  (If there are any Star Trek fans reading this who have not yet watched this awesome completely fan-made episode, you should do so immediately!)  After reading the review, Mr. Galanter was kind enough to drop me a line.  In the course of our e-mail exchange, he asked if I had read his latest Star Trek novel: Troublesome Minds. I admitted that I had not.  Though I’d purchased it about a year ago, I kept putting aside this stand-alone adventure, set during the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D)’s original five-year mission, in favor of the Trek novels that were pushing the Star Trek story forward with adventures set following the events of the 24th century-set movies and TV shows.

But after that e-mail exchange, I decided that I should really find the time to give Troublesome Minds a read.  I’m really glad I did, because it’s a ripping Star Trek yarn and a really great novel.

In his e-mails to me, Mr. Galanter described Troublesome Minds as the Star Trek episode he’d always wanted to write.  That’s a great description of the novel.  I could totally see it as an episode.  (And damn, would it make a GREAT Phase Two episode!  Are you listening, Phase Two folks??)  The story is a completely stand-alone adventure, unburdened by any involvement with long-running story-lines.  It requires no detailed knowledge of other Star Trek novels or adventures.  It’s just a fun, fast-paced piece of speculative fiction, with some great sci-fi concepts, tough moral dilemmas for Kirk & co., and some tense action.  As I said, it would have made a terrific episode!

Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise respond to a distress call and rescue the life of an alien named Berlis, whose ship was about to be destroyed.  This simple act of kindness turns incredibly complicated, however, when it is discovered that Berlis belongs to a race of powerful telepaths known as the Isitri.  Every several generations, an Isitri emerges whose telepathy is so powerful that, without intending to do so, he/she can control the minds of every other Isitri he/she comes in contact with, thus mentally enslaving an entire race until that Troublesome Mind dies or is killed.  Berlis is just such a mind.  Will Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew follow the wishes of the Isitri ruling council, and murder the man they just saved?  Or will they allow him to return home, and thus enslave an entire planet for a generation?

It’s a wonderfully inventive, thorny sci-fi dilemma that Mr. Galanter has … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony

Although I was a bit lukewarm on the first two novels in the four-book Star Trek crossover series, Typhon Pact, I loved the third installment (Rough Beasts of Empire, by David R. George III), and having just read the fourth and final installment, Paths of Disharmony, I am pleased to report that Dayton Ward stuck the landing. I thought this novel was a terrific Next Generation book in its own right, and also a compelling finale to this four-novel series.

Although I have complained, repeatedly, over the past few years about the dearth of new Deep Space Nine novels, I was thrilled by how DS9-centric this Typhon Pact series has been.  The first novel focused on Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir, the third novel focused on Benjamin Sisko, and in Paths of Disharmony I was thrilled to discover that we were finally returning to the story-thread that was so-prominent in the early post-finale DS9 novels: the reproductive problems afflicting Andorian society (with fewer and fewer Andorian children being born each year), and the personal journey of young Andorian Starfleet officer Thirishar Ch’Thane.

It’s been many long years since Shar has appeared in a Star Trek novel (I believe his last appearance — certainly his last PROMINENT appearance — was in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Andor: Paradigm, by Heather Jarman, from back in 2004).  In the timeline of the Trek novels, it has been four years since the events of Paradigm. Shar has been working on Andor, and the need to solve his people’s reproductive crisis has only been exacerbated by the planet-wide destruction wreaked by the Borg during their invasion of Federation Space (in the series Star Trek: Destiny).

In this new novel, Andor’s story intersects with that of the growing Typhon Pact storyline.  Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E are sent to Andor to help ensure security for a conference of scientists working to solve the Andorian reproductive crisis.  But Andor is still reeling from the havoc caused by the Borg attack, and the population is in turmoil over the various scientific solutions being proposed in order to attempt to solve their reproductive issues.  Anti-Federation sentiment and anti-alien hatred collide with fears over scientific tinkering with the Andorian genetic code leading to the possible eradication of everything that makes Andorians, as a species, unique, and though the current Andorian Presider (their top governmental official) hopes that the conference will help spark a scientific breakthrough, the gathering also has the potential to turn into a flashpoint for violence.

In addition to complaining about the dearth of recent DS9 novels, I have also written repeatedly about how I felt the … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire

Now this is more what I’m talking about!  David R. George III’s new Star Trek novel, Rough Beasts of Empire, is by far the strongest installment in the Typhon Pact series so far, and one of the best Trek books I’ve read in years.

This third Typhon Pact novel only enhanced the comment I made in my review of the second book, Seize the Fire by Michael A. Martin: that this Typhon Pact series was not turning out to be at all what I had expected.  Since the idea of the Typhon Pact — an alliance made up of most of the United Federation of Planet’s major adversaries — was established a few years ago in A Singular Destiny by Keith R.A. DeCandido and Losing the Peace by William Leisner, I had assumed that this four-novel Typhon Pact series would now tell the story of the Pact’s confrontation with the Federation.

But having read three of the four books of the series, it hasn’t turned out that way at all.  The novels haven’t been about a conflict between the new Typhon Pact and the United Federation of Planets.  (The Typhon Pact was locked in an interstellar cold war with the Federation at the start of the series, and remain exactly in the same place here at the end of book three.)  Rather, the first three novels have focused on the character arcs of various characters from across the Star Trek series (Julian Bashir, William Riker, Spock, and Benjamin Sisko) while also exploring the cultures of the various Typhon Pact races.

It’s certainly not the fault of the authors that I had different (though I think reasonable) expectations for what the series would be.  And, indeed, I don’t mind at all that the novels have been more about character and world-building.  My complaints are more that the first two novels in the series were not all that exciting.  But while I was somewhat lukewarm about both Zero Sum Game and Seize the Fire, this third novel, Rough Beasts of Empire, is a real winner.

First of all, I was very pleasantly surprised that, despite the Typhon Pact label on the book’s cover, this novel is actually the meatiest Deep Space Nine focused novel to have been published in YEARS, and easily the best DS9 novel since David Mack’s Warpath from back in 2006.  (I did love Una McCormack’s The Never-Ending Sacrifice, but that novel didn’t advance any of the main DS9 story-lines — which was also a complaint I had about Zero Sum Game which, despite featuring Dr. Bashir and Ezri Dax, in my opinion frustratingly skirted all of the big lingering DS9 stories.)  But … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire

I’m finally ready to catch back up with this year’s four-book series of crossover Star Trek novels from Pocket Books: The Typhon Pact.  This series represents the latest installments in Pocket Books’ exciting efforts from the past few years to push the 24th century Star Trek adventures forward past their last on-screen appearances (the movie Star Trek: Nemesis and the ending of Deep Space Nine and Voyager).  In Keith R.A. DeCandido’s excellent 2009 novel A Singular Destiny (read my review here), we learned that a number of the Federation’s deadliest enemies — the Romulans, the Tholians, the Gorn, the Breen, and others — had banded together to form a new interstellar alliance called the Typhon Pact.  This was obviously going to lead to trouble for our heroes, particularly with the Federation still reeling from the decimation wrought by the Borg invasion (chronicled in David Mack’s also-excellent 2008 trilogy of novels, Star Trek: Destinyread my review here).  The new Typhon Pact series focuses on characters from many of the different Star Trek series, and explores the repercussions of the creation of this new alliance.

Book one of the series, Zero Sum Game, was DS9-centric.  It followed Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax (who now commands her own starship, the USS Aventine) on a mission to infiltrate the Breen.  (You can read my review of Zero Sum Game here.)  After a few months away, I’ve finally found the time to move on to book two of the series: Seize the Fire,which is written by Michael A. Martin.  This novel shifts the focus to Captain Riker and the crew of the USS Titan, and explores the society of the Gorn.

At the start of the novel, a terrible natural disaster completely destroys Sazssgerrn, the only planet in the Gorn Hegemony on which their warrior caste were able to lay their eggs.  While the Gorn political structure struggles to find a solution to this species-threatening problem, several radiation-damaged Gorn warriors who survived the planetary catastrophe begin forming their own mad plans for the future of their race.  When they discover a massive, ancient structure that appears capable of terraforming an entire world in an instant — just like the long-lost Genesis technology could — they appear to have found the instrument by which to achieve their plans.  Unfortunately, in eco-sculpting an entire planet, this device would also completely destroy any life already existing on that world.  When the Gorn attempt to test this new device on the inhabited planet of Hranrar, only Captain Riker and the USS Titan appear to stand in the way of the annihilation of the millions of Hranrarii.… [continued]

 

Star Trek: Unspoken Truth

Some of the earliest Star Trek books I ever read as a kid were written by Margaret Wander Bonanno (one of these days I really have to go back and re-read Strangers from the Sky to see if I still like it as much as I did back then).  After the mess with the novel Probe (which is a fascinating and horrifying tale — head to Margaret Wander Bonanno’s web-site and click on “Probe: The Novel I didn’t Write: The Whole Story” on the right-hand side of the page for all the gory details), though, Ms. Bonanno was unable to continue writing Trek novels.  Thankfully, a decade later, editor Marco Palmieri (a phenomenal editor of the Star Trek line who was sadly fired himself a few years ago) brought her back into the fold.  Her first new novel, Catalyst of Sorrows, was OK, but her next book — an exploration of the life of the Christopher Pike called Burning Dreams — was phenomenal.  When I heard that she was working on a new novel that would explore what happened to Lt. Saavik after her brief appearance in Star Trek IV, I was very excited.

The main story of Star Trek: Unspoken Truth is set in the days following the events of Star Trek IV.  But the novel continually jumps around in time, allowing us to get glimpses of Saavik’s terrible childhood spent on the Romulan outpost nicknamed Hellguard, her early days on Vulcan (after having been rescued from Hellguard by a young Spock), her time at Starfleet Academy, and the events of Star Trek II-IV.  I particularly enjoyed the way the narrative wove in and out of familiar moments from those three films.  In particular, Ms. Bonanno makes a real meal out of Saavik’s one brief scene in Star Trek IV. That scene in the movie has always disappointed me.  While I was glad she at least got that one moment (even though the creators of the Trek films had clearly decided to jettison the character), it always struck me as a poor finish to the rich character who had received so much on-screen time and development during Star Trek II and III. Ms. Bonanno really fleshes out what was going on in that scene, what Saavik was thinking, why she blurted out that comment about David Marcus, and more.  Her writing really redeemed that scene for me in a wonderful way.

Much of Unspoken Truth — particularly the first half of the novel — is made up of short scenes.  I found this story-telling style to be quite engaging.  Through an accretion of vignettes, Ms. Bonanno is able to build in our minds … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Sorrows of Empire

December 17th, 2010
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David Mack’s novella The Sorrows of Empire appeared in the Star Trek: Mirror Universe anthology Glass Empires back in 2007.  It was the highlight of the anthology, and one of my favorite pieces of Star Trek fiction in recent memory.  (Read my review of Glass Empires here.)  Last year, Mr. Mack expanded his story to a full-length novel, and it is a real winner.

The Sorrows of Empire is set entirely in the Mirror Universe introduced in the Classic Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror,” and picks up very shortly after the events of that episode.  The Spock of the Mirror Universe has been swayed by his mind-meld with “our” universe’s Dr. McCoy (in which Mirror Spock gained a glimpse of a United Federation of Planets made up of worlds peacefully joined towards their common benefit) as well as by his final encounter with Captain Kirk (in which Kirk argued that the tyrannical Mirror Universe Terran Empire was doomed to eventual collapse, and so Spock’s continued loyalty to that empire was wasteful and illogical).  So Spock decides to murder the Mirror Kirk and assume command of the I.S.S. Enterprise, but this is merely the first step in a much greater plan to eventually seize control of the Empire itself and begin to introduce reason and Democracy into the structure of the Empire’s society.  But even that is merely the beginning of a much bolder, long-term plan that by which Spock would attempt to reshape the galaxy.

I love Mr. Mack’s conceit of casting Spock as the Harry Sheldon of the Mirror Universe.  The first Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episode, “Crossover,” painted Mirror Spock as a fool whose reforms lead to the weaking of the Terran Empire and its eventual conquest by a Klingon/Cardassian alliance.  But Mr. Mack’s story completely reinvents and redeems the Spock character as one who knew that his actions would eventually lead to the Terran Empire’s collapse and the brutal subjugation of Humans and Vulcans.  But Spock’s careful actions would ensure that this would not be the end of their civilization — quite the contrary, he saw that this was the only way to transition the galaxy to a much more benevolent, long-lived societal structure, and he carefully planted the seeds to ensure this ultimate outcome.  Spock is presented here as the ultimate tactician — always prepared for his adversaries’ moves, and thinking decades and even centuries ahead into the future.  It’s a wonderfully compelling and heroic depiction of this familiar character.

The novel also sets up Marlena Moreau, the “Captain’s woman” introduced in “Mirror, Mirror” as an equally compelling partner in Spock’s ambitious undertaking.  I love that she is presented as truly being … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game

November 19th, 2010

David Mack is one of the best of the group of extraordinarily talented, reliable writers who have been writing new Star Trek novels for Pocket Books for the past several years.  It’s the compelling work of these core writers that has kept me engaged with the novels’ expansion and continuation of the Star Trek saga.  So when Amazon delivered me his latest novel, Star Trek Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game, it immediately jumped to the top of my lengthy to-read stack.

Mr. Mack’s stories have been among my favorite Trek novels from the past few years: his terrific, tense DS9 novel Warpath (click here for my review); his Mirror Universe story The Sorrows of Empire (click here for my review); and his game-changing three-part Star Trek Destiny series (click here for my review).  (I have his novel-length expansion of The Sorrows of Empire sitting on my book-shelf.  I’m really looking forward to reading that, since I enjoyed the novella so much — this might be the next book I read.)

But despite my enjoyment of Mr. Mack’s previous work, I must admit that I had some concerns about this novel, going in.  Primarily this is based on my disappointment with the way that the Deep Space Nine series of novels has floundered.  It was the post-finale continuation of DS9 novels that got me back into Star Trek fiction, nearly a decade ago, and for the first several years I thought that Pocket Books’ DS9 series was unimpeachable.  The novels came out in fairly regular installments, and together they formed a terrifically well-made story that continued the stories of all of the beloved characters, and extended the canvas of the DS9 saga.  But after David Mack’s really fantastic novel Warpath, which ended on an excruciating cliffhanger, the series hit rough waters.  In the years since that novel’s publication (in 2006), only three post-finale-set DS9 novels have been published: two short, mediocre books, and a third novel (The Never-Ending Sacrifice) that was terrific but which told a pretty separate, distinct story that didn’t connect in any strong way to the continuing post-finale story readers have been following (click here for my review of that great book).  Whereas other novels have moved forward the stories of the other 24th-century-set Star Trek shows (we’ve seen several novels continuing the story of the crew of the Enterprise-E following the last movie, Nemesis, and there has even been a new series continuing the Voyager story), the DS9 saga has felt, to me, to have been left behind.

In his universe-spanning cross-over series, Destiny, Mr. Mack made the decision to jump ahead in the … [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan (Book Six): Synthesis

It’s taken me a few months longer than I had originally planned, but after completing James Swallow’s novel Synthesis, I am finally caught up with Pocket Books’ Titan series, which chronicles the post-Nemesis adventures of Captain William T. Riker and his new command, the U.S.S. Titan.

Continuing to explore uncharted space far beyond the borders of the United Federation of Planets, the Titan enters an area of severe spatial disruption. Finding evidence of a terrible battle, they find only one survivor: what appears to be a sentient computer from a race of artificial intelligences. Captain Riker offers to help, and tries to learn more about the mysterious enemy that the machines have apparently been fighting for centuries. But he is met with hostility and mistrust from the A.I.s – and then he too is forced to wonder if it is possible to trust the machines when the actions of the one they rescued (who identifies himself as SecondGen White-Blue) cause the main computer of the Titan itself to become sentient! Making matters even more awkward, the computer chooses as it’s avatar form an image from Will Riker’s past – the woman named Minuet.

The authors of the Titan series have really been living up to the series’ mandate of creating new species and new cultures for the Titan crew to encounter, rather than relying on familiar alien races. Mr. Swallow does an excellent job at presenting us with this look at a society of A.I.s – their history, how their society functions, and more. Mr. Swallow also continues to explore and richen the many faces of the Titan crew. I’ve been very pleased at the book-to-book continuity, and have enjoyed watching the development of the Titan characters (many of whom were created for this series of novels). This, more than anything else, is what leaves me eager for further Titan adventures.

There some instances in this novel, though, where I felt Mr. Swallow stumbled a bit. There were a few places where I felt his prose was a bit awkward (a reference to Serenity, in which a Titan character utters the phrase, “I’m a leaf on the wind,” felt particularly out of place to me). And after the complex world-building of previous Titan author Christopher Bennett, our investigation of the machine culture presented in this novel felt a bit superficial.

What was most disappointing to me was the use (or lack thereof) of Minuet. It seemed totally random to me that the newly-sentient Titan would choose this image – out of all of the billions of images in the ship’s computer – to take as it’s form. And … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Titan (Book Five): Under a Torrent Sea

Author Christopher Bennett returns to the Star Trek: Titan series of novels (chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker and the diverse inter-species crew of his new command, the deep-space exploration ship Titan) with the fifth installment in the series, Under a Torrent Sea.  (Click here for my review of book four, Sword of Damocles.)

The Titan crew discovers a water planet that, despite apparently having no land masses whatsoever, seems to contain sentient life.  Titan‘s navigator, Aili Lavena, takes the lead in the investigation of this strange new world (which the Titan crew quickly nicknames Droplet), since she comes from a water planet and is fully comfortable exploring Droplet’s oceans without the aid of a shuttlecraft or environmental suit.  Guess what, things go wrong, and she soon finds herself stranded on the planet along with the injured Captain Riker.

Following on the heels of book four’s investigation into the background and character of Bajoran science officer Jaza Najem, Under a Torrent Sea provides us with a similarly detailed look at another Titan crew-member, the Selkie Ensign Lavena.  It’s great fun to read along as these novels explore these fascinating created-for-the-novels characters, while also continuing to throw lots of new wrinkles towards the from-the-TV-shows characters like Riker and Troi, and even the Elaysian Melora Pazlar (who appeared in one second season Deep Space Nine episode).

What I enjoy most about the novels written by Christopher Bennett is the time and space that he devotes to fully investigating and exploring the alien societies that he creates.  His previous Titan novel featured his extrapolations about the workings of an entire society of space-faring Cosmozoans, while Under a Torrent Sea contains a wealth of details about the conditions on a water-planet and the type of life that might be found there.  Of course this is all science fiction, but Mr. Bennett has clearly devoted time and attention to researching the scientific underpinnings of his story.   This brings his novel closer to speculative fiction than it is to pure fantasy, and enhances the engaging nature of the story being told.

All of this wouldn’t amount to much if he didn’t have a strong story to tell within that framework, and as always Mr. Bennett does not disappoint on that score.  I really enjoyed getting to know Ensign Lavena over the course of the novel and (spoiler alert!!) I was pleased that she wasn’t written out of the series at the end of the book, the way the focus of the previous novel was!  The strength of this main story keeps the book moving along at a quick pace.  It may be why I found myself enjoying this … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Titan (Book 4): Sword of Damocles

It’s been a bit of a while since my last review of a novel in Pocket Books’ Star Trek: Titan series, chronicling the post-Star Trek: Nemesis adventures of Captain William Riker and his new command.  After reading the first four novels when they were originally released, earlier this year I realized that I had fallen behind on the series.  Since a few years had passed since the series began (the novels have been published at a rate of about one or two a year), I decided to go back and re-read the first four novels before moving on to the fifth and sixth installments (which were published this year).  However, after finishing book three, Orion’s Hounds, I got a bit distracted by my project to re-read all of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey series, and various other things.  But now I’m back in the saddle!

Entering a region of space never-before explored by manned Federation starships, the Titan encounters the planet Orisha, whose denizens have been menaced for centuries by a celestial phenomenon that they call “the Eye” which periodically wreaks havoc on their planet.  Many Orishans worship “the Eye” as a deity, one which sits in judgment of their society and regularly punishes them for their sins.  As the Titan crew attempt to investigate this phenomenal, things (predictably) go awry and the landing party is separated from the Titan and presumed dead.

Far from being deceased, the landing party find themselves stranded on the surface of a planet Orisha that seems much different from the planet they had observed from orbit.  As the crew (both on the planet and back on Titan) attempt to extricate themselves from the situation in which they have become enmeshed, they must struggle with aspects of the Prime Directive while also confronting questions about fate and destiny.

Sword of Damocles, written by Geoffrey Thorne, is another strong, enjoyable installment in this series of novels.  I’ve been pleased by how well the different authors have been able to maintain consistency in the voices of the many new-to-the-novels characters that make up the diverse Titan crew.  Mr. Thorne has a terrific grasp on the characters, giving each of them a distinct personality even as he weaves scores of alien Titan crew-members in and out of the narrative.  It was nice to see several members of the Titan crew — such as science specialist Jaza Najem, chief engineer Dr. Xin Ra-Havreii, and head of Stellar Cartography Melora Pazlar — get a lot of attention in the story, though I must confess some disappointment (small spoiler alert!) that one intriguing character was written out of the series by the novel’s conclusion, just when … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Titan (Book 3): Orion’s Hounds

Today I’m continuing my look at Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek: Titan novels, chronicling the post-Nemesis adventures of newly-minted Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan.  (Click here for my review of Book 1: Taking Wing, and here for my review of Book 2: The Red King.)  While authors Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin wrote those first two books, with the third novel in the series, Orion’s Hounds, they hand things off to Christopher L. Bennett.

The basic premise of the Titan series is that, following the cataclysmic events of the Dominion War and the other crises that followed, Starfleet has decided to attempt to return to its basic principles of peaceful exploration.  As such, they have commissioned the creation of a new class of starships, the Luna class, designed for deep-space exploration.  Will Riker commands the Titan, one of those new Luna class vessels, and he and his crew have been sent on a mission beyond the boundaries of the Federation (specifically towards the Gum Nebula, one of the largest astronomical landmarks in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy) to attempt to seek out new life and new civilizations.

As they travel into unexplored space, Deanna Troi and the other telepaths on board Titan find their minds touched by powerful consciousnesses that, while alien, nevertheless, feel somehow familiar to Troi.  The reason for that familiarity is soon made clear as the Titan discovers that the telepathic contact originated from a school of “star-jellies” — the same type of beautiful (and enormous) space-faring creatures that the U.S.S. Enterprise-D first encountered in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter at Farpoint.”

However, along with the star-jellies in their natural habitat, Titan also encounters the Pa’haquel, a species that hunts the star-jellies as well as many of the other space-dwelling life-forms found in that part of the galaxy.  The Pa’haquel are actually able to manipulate the dead corpses of the jellies, turning them into their own ships in which they’re able to live and which they use as vehicles for their hunts.  Riker, along with many members of his crew, are horrified by the actions of the Pa’haquel, but as per Starfleet regulations they are reluctant to interfere in the culture of an alien race.

Of course, events (which I won’t spoil here) soon force their hand, and a member of the Titan crew commits an act that dramatically upsets the balance between the Pa’haquel and the star-jellies.  The repercussions of that event makes plain to the Titan crew that things aren’t quite so simple as Star-jellies=good and Pa’haquel=bad, and they discover that their actions have caused … [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan (Book 2): The Red King

After being catapulted clear of the Milky Way galaxy at the end of Taking Wing (The first Star Trek Titan novel — read my review here), Captain William T. Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan find themselves in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies.  This area of space also happens to be the home of the Neyel, the mysterious race of aliens with centuries-old ties to humanity first introduced in the novel The Sundered (read my review here).

While Taking Wing was focused on introducing Riker’s new ship and its extraordinarily varied interspecies crew, as well as wrapping up a number of dangling story-threads left by the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, The Red King (written by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin) is more of what the Titan series was billed to be: a story of exploration, in which Riker and his crew encounter strange new worlds and new life forms.  At the same time, The Red King is a direct sequel to both Taking Wing and The Sundered, as Riker and his crew work to locate Romulan commander Donatra’s missing fleet, figure out how to return to Federation space, and unravel the mystery of a terrible new threat to Neyel space.  (Readers, meanwhile, get to learn about what has happened to the Neyel since we last met them 100 years earlier during Captain Sulu’s time in The Sundered.)

My recollection was that The Red King was my least favorite of the Titan series, but in re-reading the novel I found quite a lot to enjoy.  Mangels & Martin have a nice, easy-to-read writing style that I always find very engaging.  The Red King is a fast-paced yarn, and it continues the exploration of the unique natures and backstories of the members of Titan’s diverse inter-species crew that was begun in the previous installment.  Most interestingly to me, we finally learn the details of the event that caused the thirty-years-and-counting rift between Starfleet Admiral Leonard James Akaar and Lt. Tuvok (who had been close friends aboard the Excelsior during the events of The Sundered).

But the novel does have some weaknesses.  Primarily, the emerging sentient protouniverse that is destabilizing space in the Small Magellanic Cloud doesn’t really present that compelling a scientific mystery (the Titan crew seem to figure out what’s going on pretty quickly) nor that compelling a challenge/adversary.  As a result, the novel sometimes seems to be without a central narrative thrust.  Riker’s crew comes up with a plan to contain the protouniverse about halfway through the novel, meaning that the whole second half of the book is without any real twists.  Oh, … [continued]

 

Star Trek The Lost Era (Book 1): The Sundered (2298)

February 26th, 2010
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Back in 2003-2004, Pocket Books released a terrific series of novels entitled The Lost Era that chronicled the approximately seventy-five years between Captain Kirk’s death in Star Trek: Generations and the launch of the Enterprise-D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series when it was initially released, and I’ve been wanting to re-read these novels for several years now.  Since the cliffhanger at the end of Taking Wing (the first novel in Pocket Book’s Star Trek Titan series — read my review here — following the exploits of Captain William T. Riker’s new ship) referred directly to the events of the first Lost Era novel, The Sundered, I decided to go back and re-read that novel before proceeding on to Titan book 2, The Red King.

Set in 2298, five years after Star Trek: Generations, The Sundered presents us with an adventure of Captain Sulu and the U.S.S. Excelsior.  Star Trek VI introduced the idea that former U.S.S. Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu had been promoted to captain of the Excelsior, and The Sundered picks up his story as the veteran master of that vessel.  Also aboard the Excelsior are several familiar faces: Pavel Chekov is Sulu’s first officer, Janice Rand is his communications officer, and Christine Chapel is his chief medical officer.  As established in the Voyager episode “Flashback,” the young Vulcan Tuvok is also on-board, though struggling to deal with the illogical nature of all of the non-Vulcans in Starfleet.  We also learn that a young Leonard James Akaar (born in the Original Series episode “Friday’s Child” and re-introduced in the last several years of Star Trek novels as a stern elderly admiral in the post-Nemesis Next Gen era) is on board as well, and had at the time a close friendship with Tuvok.

At the risk of repeating what I have written in previous Trek novel reviews ad nauseum, I am continually delighted by the interconnectedness of the last decade’s worth of Pocket Book’s Trek novels.  Though set almost a hundred years earlier, The Sundered fits in perfectly with the current batch of post-Nemesis Next Gen novels and with the new Titan series, providing a number of interesting pieces of backstory for characters featured in those other novels.  (It of course helps that The Sundered was written by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels, who also wrote the first two Titan novels, Taking Wing and The Red King.)

I haven’t even mentioned the main thrust of The Sundereds story yet.  Tenuous peace talks with the violent, xenophobic Tholians (enigmatic aliens first introduced in the classic Original Series … [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan (Book 1): Taking Wing

February 5th, 2010
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I’ve written a lot on this site about Pocket Books’ series of post-finale Deep Space Nine novels, as well as the series of post-Nemesis Next Generation novels.  But I haven’t made much mention of another top-notch series of novels that has been a big part of Pocket Books’ exciting efforts to move the Star Trek universe forward: the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan.

There have been six Titan novels published so far, with more on the way.  Before beginning the latest novel (set after the cataclysmic events of David Mack’s Destiny trilogy, which I reviewed here), I decided to go back and re-read the series in its entirety.  Over the next few weeks (hopefully it will be weeks, and not months!) I’ll be bringing you my thoughts on all the novels in the series.

Today, we’ll start with Taking Wing, the novel that kicked everything off, by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels.

After almost a decade of near-constant conflict with alien races such as the Borg, the Cardassians, the Klingons, and, of course, the Dominion, it seems that the United Federation of Planets has finally returned to a state of peace.  As such, Starfleet decides to return to its central mission of peaceful exploration and commissions the construction of a new class of starships, the Luna class, to be sent out into the unexplored regions of the galaxy to seek out new life and new civilizations.

Newly-promoted Captain William Riker (whose promotion to captaincy was one of the only decent story-points to be found in the final Next Gen film, Star Trek: Nemesis) is filled with excitement for this new mission of exploration, and he sets out to assemble the most biologically and culturally diverse crew in Starfleet history.  (More on the Titan’s crew in just a moment.)  Unfortunately, the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (in which the clone Shinzon led a Reman plot to murder the Romulan Praetor and every member of the Senate and usurp control of the Romulan Empire for himself, before he too perished in conflict with the U.S.S. Enterprise) have left the Romulan Empire fractured and in chaos.  Titan‘s mission of exploration is postponed so that Riker and his crew can travel to Romulus in the hopes of mediating some sort of power-sharing agreement and stave off a catastrophic civil war.

Taking Wing is an absolutely phenomenal novel — probably the strongest of the Titan series, and one of my favorite Trek novels from the past several years.  I really loved the Romulan storyline.  I enjoyed the way Mr. Martin & Mr. Mangels picked up the pieces from Nemesis — they … [continued]

 

Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Never-Ending Sacrifice

October 23rd, 2009
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My faith in the continuing DS9 saga is restored!

Last week I week I wrote about my disappointment with how the spectacular DS9 novel series has sort-of petered out over the past few years, but after reading the other DS9 novel published this year, Una McCormack’s spectacular The Never-Ending Sacrifice, I am again reminded about just how amazing this series can be.

The Never-Ending Sacrifice is a sequel, of sorts, to the intriguing second-season DS9 episode “Cardassians.”  In that episode, an elderly Bajoran man arrives on the station with his adoptive son, Rugal, a Cardassian child who was left behind when the Cardassian occupation of Bajor ended.  Allegations emerge that the Bajorans are raising Rugal to hate his own kind, and when his actual father arrives on the station, relieved that the son he believed dead still lives, the Cardassian government demands that Commander Sisko turn the boy over to them.  It’s a complex episode that fleshes out a lot of the show’s back-story — including a look at what went on during the Cardassian occupation and the reasons for their withdrawal (indeed, this was the episode that revealed that the Cardassians’ name for the station was Terok Nor), as well as a lot more about the deceitful web of Cardassian politics (including more information than we’d learned at that time about Garak and Dukat) and how life on Bajor was proceeding after the Cardassian withdrawal.  Despite all those great qualities, though, I was always troubled by the ending of the episode.  After all that build-up, Sisko’s decision is revealed in the closing moments in a simplistic commander’s log (it’s as if the writers just ran out of time and realized that they had to end the episode), and I couldn’t believe that Sisko actually decided to take the boy from his adoptive parents, with whom Rugal had expressed a clear desire to stay.

It was an episode that demanded a follow-up, but none ever came during the seven-year run of the show.  Luckily, Una McCormack has stepped in to fill that void.  The Never-Ending Sacrifice follows the life of Rugal from the moment he was taken by his Cardassian father-by-blood, Kotan Pa’Dar, back to Cardassia Prime, all the way through the tumultuous events of the series and through the post-finale series of novels as well.  Ms. McCormack has masterfully woven together the intimate story of Rugal’s young life with the epic tale of the rise and fall of Cardassia.

Both aspects of the story are extraordinarily compelling.  Rugal is an interesting protagonist.  Following the events of the episode “Cardassians,” I expected him to be depicted as an angry, hateful young man because of his forced separation … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Losing the Peace

September 18th, 2009
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The post-Nemesis Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures continue in the latest excellent novel from Pocket Books, Losing the Peace, by William Leisner.

Following the calamitous destruction that the Borg have wrought throughout the Federation in David Mack’s terrific Destiny trilogy (see my review here), Starfleet’s exploration programs are all put on hold as every surviving starship is called upon to help pick up the pieces.  Whole planets have been destroyed, leaving countless displaced survivors stranded across space.  The surviving Federation worlds quickly find themselves overwhelmed by an enormous flood of refugees who have lost everything, and dramatic shortages of food and materiel strike everywhere.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise bounce about the quadrant, attempting to help where they can and put out whatever “fires” they might come across, but the enormous problems facing the Federation seem much larger than anything that can be addressed by one lone starship.  Meanwhile, Picard’s command crew (many of whom are new faces who have been introduced in Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis novels) each must face personal struggles as they try to come to grips with the tragedies they have survived.

Losing the Peace may be a unique Star Trek novel in that there is no villain.  There is no alien threat to be overcome, no unique science-fiction mystery to be solved.  Rather, the problems that beset Picard & co. this time are of a much more mundane — though no less perilous — nature.  It would have been easy for Mr. Leisner to have added in some sort of more traditional antagonist — an alien race trying to take advantage of the chaos in the Federation, or something like that — and he is to be commended for avoiding that somewhat obvious way to add drama to the story.  Instead, Mr. Leisner takes the time to draw the reader into a variety of much smaller-scale dramas taking place amongst Picard’s crew and all around the devastated Alpha Quadrant.  These aren’t “fate of the universe” stories of a galactic scale — they’re very “human” tales.  One might think that could make for a rather dull Star Trek novel.  Quite the contrary — I thoroughly enjoyed this very realistic take on what the Federation would logically be facing following the galactic upheavals that took place in Destiny, and all of the “small” stories to be found in Losing the Peace accumulate into a tense novel in which the Federation seems to be in far greater peril than it ever has been before.

I was also pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to characterize both the familiar Next Gen characters who appear (Picard, Beverly, Worf, … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews Star Trek: Voyager “Full Circle”

I can’t believe I actually purchased a book with Star Trek: Voyager in the title!  (For those of you just tuning in, despite my intense love for Star Trek, I have a rather large amount of disdain for Voyager, the most boring and uninspired of the Trek series.)  And even more than that — I can’t believe I liked it!!

Pocket Books has published Star Trek: Voyager novels before (though not for several years).  So what prompted me to pick this one up?

Following David Mack’s magnificent three-book Destiny series (which I reviewed here) that involved characters from all of the 24th century Trek TV shows (Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager) and wreaked an enormous amount of havoc within the established Trek universe, I have been chomping at the bit to see where the story goes from here.  Keith R.A. DeCandidio’s excellent novel A Singular Destiny was the first follow-up (reviewed here), and two subsequent novels have been released over the past few months: Over a Torrent Sea, by Christopher L. Bennett (which explores the ramifications of the events of Destiny on Captain William Riker and his crew on the U.S.S. Titan, and which I’ll be reviewing here soon), and Kirsten Beyer’s Voyager novel, Full Circle, which bridges the gap between the series finale of Voyager (and the handful of Voyager novels that Pocket books released soon after) and the events of Destiny.

Full Circle is a lengthy book (clocking in at 561 pages) that really feels like two books combined into one.  (That is not a complaint.)  The bulk of the first half of the novel follows up on a storyline begun in the latter days of the Voyager series: the idea that a sect of Klingons has become convinced that Miral, the daughter of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, is the Kuvah’magh, the long-predicted Klingon savior.  Upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant, B’Elanna takes sanctuary with Miral at the Klingon monastery on Boreth, where she seeks to discover the truth behind the prophecies of the Kuvah’magh.  Of course, it isn’t long before Miral is kidnapped and Torres, and the rest of the crew of Voyager, find themselves swept up in a Klingon feud that is thousands of years old.

The second half of the novel jumps back in forth in time over the course of the next few years, catching the Voyager story-lines up with the events of the last few years worth of Trek novels that culminated in Destiny.  Voyager is home, and back on active duty with Starfleet in the Alpha Quadrant.  But none of the crew has had an easy time re-adjusting … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Myriad Universes

Star Trek fever continues here at MotionPicturesComics.com!  Did you miss my list of the Top Twenty Episodes of Star Trek?  Then check it out!  Previously this week I’ve written about Pocket Books’ excellent two-book Star Trek: Mirror Universe series, as well as their follow-up Mirror Universe collection “Shards and Shadows.”

Based, I presume, on the success of the two-book Mirror Universe series in 2007, this past summer Pocket Books released a similarly formatted two-book collection (each containing three novellas, just like the Mirror Universe volumes) entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. While all six Mirror Universe novellas charted the future-history of that one particular parallel universe, Myriad Universes contains six stories that are each set in entirely different alternate universes.  These aren’t return visits to alternate pasts or futures that we saw in any of the Trek TV shows — these are all completely new creations of the authors involved.  As with the Mirror Universe stories, these tales are all fantastic fun.

Volume I: “Infinity’s Prism”

A Less Perfect Union, by William Leisner — In the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, as Earth took its first tentative steps towards uniting with the nearby alien races it had once feared and hated (the Vulcans, the Andorians, the Tellarites) to form what would one-day become the United Federation of Planets, a xenophobic hate-group called Terra Prime began gaining influence and followers on Earth.  In this story, we are introduced to a United Earth where the followers of Terra Prime convinced Earth’s government to reject the nascent interstellar alliance and instead expel all aliens from the planet.  Nearly a hundred years later, Captain Christopher Pike, in command of the U.E.S.S. Enterprise, comes across a distress signal from an old Earth vessel that has apparently crash-landed on a distant planet called Talos.  Astute readers will immediately recognize the story of the original Star Trek pilot, The Cage.  Unfortunately, things go a little differently for the United Earth Starship in this reality than they did in our familiar version of the story.  Captain Pike, along with several members of Earth’s government, begins to realize that the time may finally have come for Earth to once again reach out to its neighbors in the galaxy… and the one surviving member of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise might be the key.  From the brilliant first chapter, which tells a so-familiar yet so-different version of the famous opening scenes of The Cage, right up through the parallel version of the Babel Conference (originally told in the great Classic Trek episode “Journey to Babel”) which forms the bulk of this novella, this is a marvelous story.  It is emotional, intense and, at the same … [continued]

 

Continuing Adventures in the Mirror Universe

Yesterday I discussed the two terrific collections of Star Trek: Mirror Universe novellas, “Glass Empires” and “Obsidian Alliances.”  I commented that my only real complaint was that so many of the stories ended on cliffhangers that seemed to beg for further tales to be told.

I still sense that there’s a lot more to the Mirror Universe story that we have yet to see, but for now I have to be content with Pocket Books’ recent follow-up, “Shards and Shadows.”  Rather than a collection of novellas, “Shards and Shadows” contains twelve short stories written by a “who’s-who” of great Trek authors and spanning hundreds of years of Mirror Universe future-history.

Nobunaga, by Dave Stern — Continuing the story begun in the Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” and the novella Age of the Empress, this story follows the sad final days of Charles “Trip” Tucker.  His body has been broken and his mind scrambled by too many years working in close proximity to the dangerous energies produced by starship warp engines.  But beyond the pain of dying, Trip is tortured by scattered memories of something he can’t quite recall.  Was he involved in a plan by Empress Sato to construct a second ship like the miraculous 23rd century Starship Defiant?  If he was, what happened, and why can’t he remember?  Dave Stern’s story is a great mind-bender of a fractured narrative.  It also hints at what happened to the character re-introduced in the final pages of Age of the Empress, but I am still left wanting to know more about that character’s full story!  Hopefully some-day soon…

Ill Winds, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore — A story of the Mirror Universe Robert April (commander of the Enterprise before Christopher Pike and James T. Kirk).  April and his crew aboard the I.S.S. Constellation are sent to investigate the rumors of a new super-weapon being constructed by the Klingons, but which crew will prove to be the more ruthless?  A great, brutal ending fits right in with the Mirror Universe.

The Greater Good, by Margaret Wander Bonanno — It’s the tale of how James T. Kirk gains command of the Starship Enterprise, how he meets Marlena Moreau and how he gains possession of the powerful Tantalus Device (a key plot device in the very first Mirror Universe episode, Classic Trek’s “Mirror Mirror”).  It’s one of the most well-written stories in the collection, gripping and fast-paced.  At the same time, it’s a little disappointing in that it all seems a little too, well, easy.  Kirk just happens to find the Tantalus Device?  I’d have hoped for a more epic story about his acquisition of that amazing and mysterious … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Mirror Universe

One of the most delightful surprises about the last few years of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels (about which I have waxed poetic here, here, and here) has been the way the writers and editors have fleshed out the Mirror Universe.

This concept was first introduced in the Classic Trek episode “Mirror Mirror,” written by Jerome Bixby.  A transporter accident throws Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and Uhura into an alternate universe where the beneficent United Federation of Planets has been replaced by a vicious, evil Terran empire populated by darker versions of all the familiar Trek characters.  Year later, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explored the idea further through a series of episodes (“Crossover,” “Through the Looking Glass,” “Shattered Mirror,” “Resurrection,” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak”) in which we discovered that the Terran Empire had been conquered by an even more brutal alliance of Klingons and Cardassians.  Finally, the two-part Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly” gave viewers a look at the origins of the dark Terran Empire.

That’s quite a number of Mirror Universe episodes that I just listed, but the Star Trek authors and editors at Pocket Books clearly felt that there was a lot more that could be done to flesh out the Mirror Universe, and thank goodness for that!  The Mirror Universe has played a large role in the recent Deep Space Nine novels, but it was really pushed into the limelight with the two-part series Star Trek: Mirror Universe, each of which contained three novellas by some of Pocket Books’ best Trek authors.

Volume I: Glass Empires

Age of the Empress, by Mike Sussman with Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore — This story picks up moments after the end of Enterprise‘s “In a Mirror, Darkly,” with the newly-crowned Empress Sato in command of the fearsome 23rd century Starship Defiant.  It’s not long, though, before her rule is threatened by enemies from without (a band of rebels with whom T’pol has gotten involved) and within (a coup organized by Sato’s consort, the Andorian Shran).  The tale is just as much of an action-packed romp as the two Enterprise episodes were, although it fails to answer my biggest question that was left hanging by those episodes, which is what happened, ultimately, to the Starship Defiant?

The Sorrows of Empire, by David Mack — The highlight of the series.  Spock’s exposure to “our” universe’s Captain Kirk (in the original Trek Mirror Universe episode) has convinced him that the Terran empire is illogical and must be replaced by a kinder, more just society.  Mack’s tale unfolds over the decades that follow, as we watch Spock’s eminently logical plan unfold, step by step.  In … [continued]

 

Star Trek: A Singular Destiny

In movies, in TV shows, in books, and in comic books, a big cataclysmic event is always a lot of fun.  But it only becomes meaningful and worthwhile if that big event leads to great new, interesting stories about the aftermath of whatever has happened.  

Did something BIG and DRAMATIC happen in some show’s season finale or season premiere?  Well, great!  But is everything back to normal in the very next episode?  Or are the repercussions of the exciting event explored in the episodes that followed?  Since, as you can tell from the headline, we’re talking about Star Trek today, let me give a Trek example: “The Best of Both Worlds” is possibly the high-point of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  (As anyone reading this article is probably aware, it’s an amazing, action-packed two-parter in which Captain Picard is assimilated by the Borg.)  But, for me, an enormous part of what made that event so great is the episode that follows, “Home,” in which we explore Picard’s attempt to recover from the intensely traumatic event that he went through.

David Mack’s trilogy of novels, Star Trek: Destiny, (which I reviewed here) was an incredibly exciting, ambitious story that left the established Star Trek universe in chaos.  I enjoyed Destiny thoroughly, but I was even more excited about that story’s follow-up: A Singular Destiny, written by Keith R.A. DeCandido.  That many of Mr. DeCandido’s books rank among my favorites of the recent Trek novels certainly added to my anticipation, but mostly I was just excited to see what sorts of new, exciting stories the Trek authors would be able to tell in this brave new post-Destiny world.

I am happy to report that A Singular Destiny is a terrific read, and that this new novel continues to contain all of the elements that I have so throughly enjoyed in so many of Pocket Books’ recent Star Trek novels.

As the book begins, we are introduced to a new character: Professor Sonek Pran.  Once a valued advisor to a series of Presidents of the United Federation of Planets, he has fallen out of favor and settled into a life of teaching University students on Mars.  But he is called back to service to help with the diplomatic situation within what’s left of the fractured Romulan empire (the result of the events of Star Trek: Nemesis as well novels such as Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman and Taking Wing by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels).  Needless to say, what seems like an isolated incident turns out to be only a small piece of a larger, galaxy-wide puzzle.  Before long, Professor Pran (and the readers!) have … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Destiny

February 18th, 2009
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A few months ago I wrote about some of the exciting Star Trek fiction that Pocket Books has released over the past several years, picking up story-lines left hanging by the now off-the-air 24th century Trek series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).  The over-all quality of these books has been terrific, and I have really been enjoying the sense of a coherent, connected universe that the novels have created.  Story-lines from one novel lead into the next, characters are growing and changing in ways they seldom did on the TV shows that needed to preserve the status quo from week-to-week, and there’s been a strong sense of the over-all narrative moving forward towards something really exciting.

That something exciting is Star Trek: Destiny, the three-novel series by David Mack that serves as a sort-of “season finale” for all of the Trek novels released recently.  Multiple characters from all of the Trek series, as well as a variety of new characters that have been introduced and developed in the novels, converge in this enormous storyline.

Half a decade after the end of the Dominion War, Captain Dax of the U.S.S. Aventine has discovered in the Gamma Quadrant the wreckage of Earth’s second Warp 5 starship, the U.S.S. Columbia NX-02, lost for centuries.  (The Columbia and its Captain, Erika Hernandez, were a big part of the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.)  Meanwhile, the moment the Federation has long dreaded has arrived:  The Borg have launched a full-scale invasion of Federation territory, with hundreds of cubes.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise attempt to lead the remains of Starfleet in a last-ditch effort to protect the core systems and somehow halt the Borg advance, but as world after world falls, their struggle becomes increasingly hopeless.  

Destiny is an ambitious, far-reaching story that tells several (interconnected) tales simultaneously.  We follow Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise as they fight to find some way to defeat the Borg, as they have so many times in the past.  Meanwhile, far outside of Federation space on a mission of deep-space exploration, the hopelessness of Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan at being too far away to help their friends and family is compounded when they find themselves in an impossible situation, trapped by the highly advanced species called the Caeliar.  This long-lived race is connected to the mystery of the Columbia, which Dax and the Aventine are investigating in the Gamma Quadrant.  (And, not surprising, both stories are connected to the Borg’s invasion of the Federation — although what IS surprising is the remarkable nature of … [continued]

 

Beyond the Final Frontier — Part II

September 5th, 2008
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In addition to the great series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels that I discussed yesterday, Pocket Books has really stepped up their game across the board.  They have released a number of marvelous novels in the past few years dealing with ALL the different series in the Star Trek franchise.  With few exceptions, they all have the same great things going for them that the DS9 books do — tight continuity from novel to novel, strong character arcs, and terrific attention to detail in terms of picking up old plotlines from long-ago episodes of the different Trek shows, or in taking minor characters from old episodes and bringing them back in unexpected and fun ways.  I have never seen the Trek UNIVERSE treated so much like a cohesive universe before — where things that happen in one novel, or that happened in older episodes of the series, aren’t just forgotten about.  Rather, the consequences and repercussions of those actions are explored… and characters that might have been one-dimensional in the past are fleshed-out and deepened.

For example, Ensign Ro was a well-loved character introduced in season five of the Next Generation.  And yet, after her initial introduction we never learned a whole heck of a lot about her, other than that she was tough and didn’t much like authority figures.  But she has been magnificently fleshed out in the DS9 books, where she has had to struggle to figure out where she belongs as Bajor begins the process of becoming a member world of the Federation.  Will she return to Starfleet, an organization in which she has failed twice?  Will she remain on Bajor, a planet and cultural heritage she rejected and fled from in her youth?  There’s a lot of interesting drama to be had there.  Here’s another interesting example: In the second season of Deep Space Nine, there was an episode in which it looked like Bajor was going to renounce its partnership with the Federation, and a team of Bajoran officers attempted to capture the station.  The leader of those officers was a Bajoran general named Krim.  He only appeared in that one episode, but I always thought the actor made a great impression — he was a memorable character, one who was tough and extraordinarily loyal to his home planet of Bajor, but also calm, rational, and open-minded.  Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought he was a great character, because the Trek novel writers have brought back Krim in the role of Bajor’s first representative to the Federation Council.  The character has played a major role in the “Bajor” novella from the Worlds of Deep Space Nine series, … [continued]

 

Beyond the Final Frontier

September 4th, 2008
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The other day I mentioned here that there hasn’t been any truly great Star Trek around since Deep Space Nine went off the air back in 1999.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Believe it or not, in the past few years, Pocket Book has put together a terrific line of Star Trek fiction.  You heard me right!

I have found most novels based on sci-fi TV shows or movies to be, as a rule, disappointing.  Most are saddled with the restrictions of having to adhere to the continuity of the show or movie being written about.  In other words, nothing of great significance can happen to any of the characters, because they need to be in the exact same place at the end of the book as they were in the beginning.  Well, that takes a lot of the fun out of the story!  I’ve been reading Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels since I was a kid.  Even though I got a lot of enjoyment out of the books back in the day, I quickly recognized that most of the books followed the same basic framework: the Enterprise (either Kirk’s or Picard’s) visits a new planet, has an adventure, and then our heroes head on their merry way.  There were several authors who spun some terrific Star Trek tales within that framework (Peter David being one of my favorites), but after a number of years of reading those novels I eventually drifted away.

But over the past few years, with no new Star Trek TV series or movies on the horizon (and the more recent development of J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie looking like its going to be some sort of reboot in its own continuity), Pocket Books’ editors and authors have been free to move the 24th century Star Trek characters forward in exciting and unexpected ways.  Suddenly, characters from the different series can interact… old familiar characters head in dramatically different directions (some are even — gasp! — killed off!)… new characters are introduced and developed… in short, lots of exciting things happen, and the over-all Star Trek story is moved forward.  Even more exciting to me is the CONTINUITY that now exists between the Star Trek novels!  As I have written about before on this site, I LOVE continuity in my entertainment (be it in TV shows, comics, etc.)  This continuity in the Star Trek novels is delightful, as each book now has significance — with one leading into the next — and with plot twists now having weight and repercussions.  Of something happens in one novel, that is reflected in the storyline of the next novel!  And all the novels begin with a … [continued]