The latest collection of IDW's re-imagining of classic Star Trek episodes in the rebooted universe picks up right after this summer's Star Trek Into D...moreThe latest collection of IDW's re-imagining of classic Star Trek episodes in the rebooted universe picks up right after this summer's Star Trek Into Darkness left off and finds Captain Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise finally heading out for their historic five year mission.
I've read several of the previous collections from IDW and found the results of adapting original series episodes into the rebooted universe to be hit or miss. Occasionally the series does something interesting or different with these familiar (at least to me) stories. For the latest four-issue collection, Mike Johnson goes after two of the bigger episodes from the original series run "Arena" and "Amok Time."
Given that these two episodes are among my favorite from not only the original 79 but also the Trek franchise as a whole, my expectation level was high for them.
Which may be why I found the stories to be rather disappointing.
The "Amok Time" adaptation starts out well enough and puts some intriguing questions on the table, including the notion that with Vulcan gone, there are going to be complications for some under the influence of pon-farr. The concept that the blood fever and the urge to return home and procreate could drive certain Vulcan's mad when they can't return to their home world is a fascinating one and also one without an easy solution. Or at least that's what you'd hope would be the case.
However, instead of really delving into this issue in an intriguing or creative way, the writing team takes the deux ex machina route out, turning to the trasnporter as the solution to just about any solution. (It slice, it dices, it makes fries!) The concept of Spock being driven mad by the blood fever and possibly being off the ship for an issue or two was intriguing enough. Also of frustration is how Spock's need to return home to find T'Pring to help "cure" his blood fever and just how it doesn't really have a huge impact on Uhura and their relationship beyond this three-issue storyline. I'm hoping future issues may delve into this a bit and examine some of the consequences of this.
Also included in this collection is a one-issue storyline that borrows elements from "Arena." It's nice to see the Gorn updated for the modern page, but the story honestly feels like a throw-away more than anything else. And that's a shame given how good "Arena" was and some of the philosophical issues that episode raised. Little of that depth is on display in this installment. I will cut this one a bit of slack since it feels like this installment is picking up on a previous issue that I probably missed.
As for the artwork, I found the depiction of all the series regulars to be faithful and easy to identify. Given that one of my big complaints about the recent TNG/Doctor Who cross-over was (what I felt) was sub-par artwork, I'm glad to see that style isn't crossing over to the rest of IDW's Trek line.
All of this made me come away from this latest collection feeling a bit disappointed.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I will say that I was given an ARC digital copy of this collection via NetGalley. (less)
With what seems like hundreds of Star Trek tie-in novels published over the last forty-plus years, I understand that finding new, unexplored areas of...moreWith what seems like hundreds of Star Trek tie-in novels published over the last forty-plus years, I understand that finding new, unexplored areas of the "final frontier" can be a bit difficult. I also understand there are only so many ways you can tie together elements from the original seventy-nine episode run and have it still feel fresh.
Much of Devil's Bargain has the feeling of "been there, done that," to it for the crew of the starship Enterprise. In many ways, it feels like a third-season episode of the classic series and if you've watched the show, you know that isn't exactly a compliment.
The frontier world of Vesbius is facing destruction because a huge asteroid is bearing down on the planet. The population withdrew from the Federation years ago, but that doesn't mean the Federation is willing to let them all die in the coming catastrophe. They send Captain Kirk and company to try and evacuate the colony, but the colonists refuse to leave the planet. We eventually discover why they can't and won't leave as well as finding out that the population is a bit xenophobic. Ironically, it's Spock who comes up with a potential solution -- warp over to Janus VI and pick up a batch of Horta to mine the asteroid and break it up into chunks that will be more manageable for the Enterprise to take out or that won't cause as much damage upon impact to the planet.
Along the way, Kirk falls in love with the daughter of the planetary leader and spends a lot of time pondering this. There are entire passages in which one or the other reflect on their relationship and how its only going to be a limited thing, but by golly, they sure are in love. I can see what Tony Daniel was trying to achieve here, but the execution is a bit lacking.
Daniel's first Trek novel has some potential, but it never really all comes together.
Each time I pick up a new Trek novel, my memory is cast back to my teenage years when I couldn't get enough of the Pocket novels. I'm beginning to believe my memories of most of those books are better than the actual novels themselves. Or else my tastes have changed (in large part because of the output of one Peter David) and I don't find the standard, cliche ridden Trek novel quite as satisfying as I once did. Either way, I have to admit this one didn't so much disappoint as it's guilty of not living up to my memories and expectations. (less)
While Star Trek fans may never agree on which series is the best (it will always be Original Series, hands down), most fans will agree that Star Trek...moreWhile Star Trek fans may never agree on which series is the best (it will always be Original Series, hands down), most fans will agree that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best entry in the long-running film franchise. In fact, were it not for Khan and it's success, it's likely we'd only have the original 79 episodes and a couple of movies to discuss when it comes to one of the greatest franchises in modern entertainment history.
A lot of ink has been spilled in recent years on the "kiss and tell" behind the scenes looks at the making of Star Trek. This time the behind the scenes look comes from director Nicholas Meyer, who admits that he had very little familiarity with Star Trek before he took on the task of crafting the story for Khan and serving as director for the second installment. And yet it's Meyer, along with Harve Bennett, who arguably have had the biggest impact on the Trek franchise outside of Gene Roddenberry himself and the oft-overlooked classic Trek producer Gene Coon.
The View from the Bridge offers a look at Meyer's life and career pre and post Trek and it's every bit as interesting as you'd hope it would be. It's also refreshingly honest from Meyer, who admits that all he ever wanted to do is grow up to write the kind of stories he liked. Meyer examines his career with honesty and little self-delusion. He is quick to point out things he believes he did right, but also to call himself for shortcomings or mistakes made along the way. (Most telling are a few comments about how Roddenberry was treated by the time Meyer assumed the director's seat for the sixth installment in the franchise).
If you're a Trek fan like I am, you're likely to eat this up with a spoon. But this memoir holds more than just the standard look at the franchise or serving as another kiss and tell book. Reading it made me want to re-visit much, if not all of, Meyer's output over the years to examine them again after seeing this inside look. I will admit I've never been a huge fan of his Holmes pastiche The Seven Percent Solution but after reading this book, I'm curious to look at it again, taking into account the behind-the-scenes information Meyer details here. And, of course, after reading this book, I want to dust off my oft-watched copy of Wrath of Khan and view it again. (less)
More and more these days, Star Trek novels tease me, offering great promise in the opening chapters but slowly falling back into the limitations of ti...moreMore and more these days, Star Trek novels tease me, offering great promise in the opening chapters but slowly falling back into the limitations of tie-in fiction in the waning pages.
With the franchise effectively rebooted by the movie series, it would seem the books could pretty much take some greater risks these days, exploring some new corners of the universe and offering up some compelling stories about the characters both major and minor we've met over the course of four decades.
And for the first hundred pages of "Cast No Shadow," I really felt like James Swallow was going to do just that. The story is set seven years after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.. When Klingon ship yards are attacked by a terrorist vessel that is linked to the conspiracy from the earlier film, the only connection to the group involved is the disgraced Valeris. Serving out consecutive life terms for her role in the events surrounding Gorkon's death, Valeris is given the opportunity to wipe the slate clean legally.
Up to this point, Swallow's story is a compelling one as he weaves in not only a lot of classic Trek history but incorporates some of the elements from the DS9 reboot. The exploration of the implications of what Spock did to Valeris and how it has affected them both in the years since it one of the most compelling and interesting aspects of the opening chapters. Even the psychiatrist sent to study and try and understand Valeris is interesting, at first.
It's once Valeris agrees to be part of the mission to stop the terrorist cell from attacking again that things suddenly become less compelling. "Cast No Shadow" then falls into the standards tropes of the bulk of the tie-in Trek universe and makes the last two-thirds of the novel not nearly as interesting as they could be. There are a few flashbacks to how Valeris got tied into the group that offer some insight into the character and her growth, but they aren't enough to rescue the novel from being something of a disappointment. (less)
Maybe I'm just getting too old for Star Trek novels. Or maybe I've reached my saturation point with them and need to step away from them for a while....moreMaybe I'm just getting too old for Star Trek novels. Or maybe I've reached my saturation point with them and need to step away from them for a while. But curse them for having interesting cover blurbs and intriguing sounding concepts that keep pulling me back in.
Such is the case with "Indistinguishable From Magic." Set in the post-Nemesis continuity, the novel is a virtual who's who of guest stars from various TNG episodes all brought back together again. When an old NX starship suddenly turns up after being listed as destroyed, a crack team of engineers is sent out to look into it. This includes Geordi, Scotty, Nog, Leah Brahms and Reg Barclay. Also included is Rasmussen from the fifth season TNG episode "A Matter of Time." And, of course, he has an ulterior motive and soon another old foe has returned with a plan that involves the newly found ship and time travel.
And that's just the first half to two thirds of the novel.
I've read that this one was proposed as a dual novel storyline but condensed down to a single entry. And because of that, you'd think you were getting twice as much story for half the price.
Frustratingly enough, that's not the case. Author David A. McIntee frustratingly spends a lot of time focusing on all the wrong elements of the story, drawing some things out far past the point of interest and compressing the interesting details down to a few scant paragraphs. What you end up with is a Trek novel with some interesting ideas, concepts and potential character exploration that ends up sagging and collapsing under its own weight. (less)
Since the first installment of Peter David's New Frontier series debuted over a decade ago, Captain Mackenzie Calhoun has been the center of the serie...moreSince the first installment of Peter David's New Frontier series debuted over a decade ago, Captain Mackenzie Calhoun has been the center of the series and stories. Other characters have had their moments and novels to shine, but the New Frontier universe has always and probably will always revolve around Calhoun.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise to fans that the latest installment in the series, "Blind Man's Bluff," centers firmly on threats to Calhoun in multiple fronts. As Calhoun tries to find a way to neutralize the ever growing threat of the sentient computer system Morgan, little does he know events and characters are transpiring to move him off stage and make him pay for his involvement in the defeat of the Brethern at the end of the last novel.
Of course, Calhoun being Calhoun, he's more than up to the task, though there are a few times throughout "Bluff" that fans may wonder just how Calhoun will survive the latest threat to his person, his reputation and his career.
And while Calhoun is front and center for this story, a majority of the supporting cast get a moment or two to shine. Long time fans of the series may be disappointed to know that two TV series characters get a lot more page-time than long-time favorites like Shelby. But given how vital they are to the overall arc of the story, the inclusion of Seven of Nine and the Doctor from Voyager are vital to the final chapters of the story. In fact, the inclusion of both characters almost makes David's entry in the Next Generation Borg mini-series, "Before Dishonor", a bit more palatable since it sets up certain points for this story.
As with other New Frontier novels, the action isn't just focused to one ship or setting. Events take place on New Thallon, the starship Excaliber, Calhoun's home world of Xenex and even on Earth at Starfleet Headquarters. But even as sweeping as the landscape (or should I say spacescape) is for the story, David never loses his focus or his readers. You'll easily be able to keep up with events, developments and the twists and turns of this enjoyable entry in the series.
It all leads to an astounding finish that while it doesn't end on a life or death cliffhanger, will leave you ready for more. And that may be where the largest tragedy of all comes in. At this time, David isn't contracted to write any more novels in the New Frontier series with Pocket. Hopefully, that will change based on the sales and clamor for more from fans. David clearly still has stories left to tell in this universe and with these characters and it would be a shame to see what has been the most enjoyable Trek fiction series in recent years be put out to pasture or given to someone else to write the next installments.(less)
After a long absence from the world of "Star Trek" novels, Margaret Wander Bonanno has come back with a vengeance in the past couple of years. Her ret...moreAfter a long absence from the world of "Star Trek" novels, Margaret Wander Bonanno has come back with a vengeance in the past couple of years. Her return should be a cause for celebration and for the most part it is. Bonanno is one of the early set of "Trek" fiction writers who did more than just tell standard "Trek" stories but actually offered some character insight into the regular crew and some fairly rounded new characters to the "Trek" universe.
So when I heard she was going to write a story that would bridge the gap of the Saavik we last saw in "The Voyage Home" and the one we meet in the "Vulcan's Heart" series, I hoped we were in for something special. Or at least something good.
And for the first half of "Unspoken Truth" we get something pretty good. Easily the best first half of a "Trek" novel I've read in a while, Bonanno explores the past and present of Saavik's life, augmenting what we saw in "The Pandora Principle" and providing some insight into how the events of "Star Trek III" had a major impact on her life. The only major complaint I have early is the flashbacks sometimes take a paragraph or two to figure out what time period we're dealing with.
Then we get to the second half of the novel and the story starts to fall apart. Part of it is that the story of Saavick joining a new ship and setting out to explore a "strange new world" feels fairly repetitive of a lot of other "Trek" fiction. We've got some mysterious aliens and Saavik is able to communicate with them. Nothing groundbreaking here nor does it necessarily have to be. I just wish it had felt like something a bit more substantial than what we get.
Where the story really falls apart is an attempted conspiracy/blackmail thread that never gels like it could or should. Again, it's nothing new and it doesn't offer any real insight into Savvik. It also hinges a lot on remembering details of "Pandora," a novel I read when it first came out and I've forgotten a lot of details about.
In the end, "Unspoken Truth" does a lot of things well, a few things not as well. Unfortunately, the not as well parts are in the last half and left me feeling unsatisfied as I turned the final page. (less)
Ever since zombies invaded the pages of Jane Austen with great success, publishers have been searching for the next great mash-up novel. Earlier this...moreEver since zombies invaded the pages of Jane Austen with great success, publishers have been searching for the next great mash-up novel. Earlier this year, we got "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter," a funny take on the historical biography that asked what if Honest Abe was really a vampire slayer? On the other end of the spectrum is the Hugo-nominated zombie/steampunk novel "Boneshaker."
And then, somewhere in the middle is the mash-up, "Night of the Living Trekkies." The story is a satire, bringing the horror of the zombie apocalypse to a "Star Trek" convention.
"Trekkies" is a clever satire that works well enough in small gulps. Each chapter title is cleverly taken from the title of an episode of "Star Trek," and each chapter is packed with in-jokes and one-liners for fans of each generation of "Star Trek."
The story finds Jim Pike, a former special forces soldier who quit the military after stints in Iraq, working at small hotel that is hosting the local "Star Trek" con. After Iraq, Jim wanted a quiet job where he wouldn't have to think too much and working at the hotel seems to fit the bill. However, as the con gets up and running, Jim finds that things are slowly getting more and more bizarre, leading up to the discovery that zombie are attacking the hotel. Jim becomes the reluctant leader of a small group of survivors who work their way through the hotel, trying not to become zombies themselves and to escape.
One of the big problems with satirical genre stories is the author or authors try too hard to emulate the style of two of the greats in the field--Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Both men make being funny, satirical and witty look easy as you read it, but anyone who's tried to emulate their style knows it's not easy to do. "Trekkies" isn't in the same stratosphere of an Adams or Pratchett story, but authors Kevin David Anderson, and Sam Stall are able to keep the jokes coming at a reasonable pace and to have the story keep moving. My big fear picking up the novel was that it could become like an "SNL" skit and overstay its welcome. And while the story, as a whole, loses a bit of momentum from the time we figure out zombies are attacking the con and our team of heroes getting together to try and escape, the story and jokes never go hopelessly off the rails.
Reading "Trekkies," I kept having flashbacks to Sharon McCrumb's two classic murder-at-genre-convention novels, "Bimbos of the Death Sun" and "Zombies of the Gene Pool." And while "Trekkies" isn't quite as entertaining as those two novels, it's still a fun little read. It's a far more specific genre satire than either of McCrumb's novels.
If you love and know your "Trek," there are a wealth of in-jokes and fun to be had here. The novel may not be as clever as some of the other zombie mash-ups, but it's still a fun read and well worth picking up if you like zombies and you like "Star Trek."(less)
Tie-in novels can walk a fine line between genuinely finding loose threads to tie together or stretching a few threads so thin that they seem threadba...moreTie-in novels can walk a fine line between genuinely finding loose threads to tie together or stretching a few threads so thin that they seem threadbare.
Unfortunately, the latter is the case with the new "Trek" tie-in novel, "Inception."
Set at a time when a young Commander Kirk is courting Carol Marcus and Spock has just run across a woman named Leila Kalomi, the novel speculates on a what if these two women were part of the same team working on an early stage of the Genesis project. Throw in a couple of radical environmental terrorists and you've got this story, which is a light read but nothing more.
The novel wants to deal with the issue of technology and its impact, but unfortunately sees things too much as one side or the other without really attempting to find much middle ground. Also, the plot device of having Carol and Leila meet, both at significant crossroads in their careers and their relationships with Kirk and Spock really stretches willing suspension of disbelief to the n-th degree. Also, if you're a classic "Trek" fan you know where certain things are headed before the first page is turned and S.D. Perry and Britta Dennison don't really plow any new ground or come up with anything interesting or different along the old familiar ground.
Following the events of "Star Trek: Destiny," Captain Riker and the crew of the Titan are sent back to the original mission--exploring strange new wor...moreFollowing the events of "Star Trek: Destiny," Captain Riker and the crew of the Titan are sent back to the original mission--exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations.
Early on in Christopher L. Bennett's "Over a Torrent Sea," the reasoning for sending Titan back out on its original mission instead of staying behind to rebuild the Federation is laid out in a fairly believable manner.
Then it's on to the planet of Droplet, a world made of mostly of oceans with a unique alien race living in the vast oceans.
After reading and enjoying several of Bennett's previous "Trek" novels I wish I could say this one was equally as enjoyable. Unfortunately, the story takes a bit of time to build up its momentum and even once things get rolling, it's still a lot of your standard "Trek" novel cliches repackaged (we're out of contact with the away team, the ship and world are threatened, there's internal crew conflict.).
Well, if it's summer time, that must mean Pocket Books is once again ready to foist another Trek crossover, multi-book Trek series upon us. Last year'...moreWell, if it's summer time, that must mean Pocket Books is once again ready to foist another Trek crossover, multi-book Trek series upon us. Last year's New Earth was good at first, sagged in the middle only to be redeemed in the end. This year, the Section 31 set kicks off with a series of novels examining the secret organization and its affect on the four shows. On paper it sounds interesting and like it has some real potential.
First off (from what I've read you can read these in any order without really losing anything), there is the Voyager novel. The plot features a pretty standard civilization in danger and only Voyager can save them plot coupled with an attempt by Section 31 to do off with Seven of Nine. The main plot of the civlization in peril is a bit of a yawn at times--there are some nice characters but overall the dramatic thrust never materializes enough to be interesting--especially when it descends into cliches of the aliens not trusting Voyager and taking hostages. The more interesting plot is just why Section 31 considers Seven of Nine a threat and is out to irradicate her. It's interesting to read that the organization can reach out as far as the Delta Quadrant and how it does is interesting. However, the investigation into who is attacking Seven goes on a bit too long and some of the regular characters make unintelligent choices for the sake of prolonging the suspense of who is attacking Seven and why. Also, Sevens' characterization is bit off--she seems a bit too arrogant and unlikeable. She has these qualities in the show, but she becomes a two-dimensional character at times in this storyline. Of course, the two plots intersect each other at certain points in the book. To give away any details might take away some of the surprise, so I won't do that.
All in all, this book has potential, not all of it realized. I think the TNG and DS9 books have the most potential in the series. VOY suffers from the same things the show does--being cut off from the Alpha Quadrant means there's little or not consequences to the story or any type of meaningful follow up to the actions and events shown here. (less)
When the Enterprise rescues a ship from near destruction, they bring on board the mysterious Belis. Part of an alien race, Belis has the ability to pr...moreWhen the Enterprise rescues a ship from near destruction, they bring on board the mysterious Belis. Part of an alien race, Belis has the ability to project his thoughts and will upon people--and that includes Spock.
By saving Belis, Kirk and company may have inadvertently started a war between two neighboring planets. Belis was sentenced to death as part of a peace agreement between the two people. But when Belis is returned, he begins to take over the will of the people slowly as the other side escalates toward full-scale war.
Added to the dilemma is that Spock may or may not be under the influence of Belis.
The dilemma of what to do about Belis and how the Prime Directive applies to the situation makes for the kind of moral quandary novel that "Star Trek" does so well. The ethical considerations for Kirk of whether or not the greater good needs to be served over the rights of an individual is a fascinating dilemma.
That said, a solution to the problem comes out of left field a bit, thus negating some of the ethical dilemma and giving our heroes an easy way out. (less)
Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin are back for the second installment in what's being called the "Enterprise" relaunch. Their first story ret-conned...moreAndy Mangels and Michael A. Martin are back for the second installment in what's being called the "Enterprise" relaunch. Their first story ret-conned the events of "These Are the Voyages" in a satisfying, interesting way and set up the "Enterprise" to tell the story of the long-alluded and long-anticipated "Romulan War."
"Kobayahi Maru" is the story of the opening salvo of the war and the events leading up to hostilities between the Planetary Coalition and the Romulans.
It all sounds exciting.
Too bad, "Kobayahi Maru" is one of the most disappointing novels from the "Trek" line in a while. The story is simply trying to have too many irons in the fire all at once and seemingly goes no where for pages on end. And even when it does introduce a new plot thread, familiarity with the history of the "Trek" universe negates any real driving suspense since the twists and turns then become telegraphed. In the end, it's more a matter of waiting for the eventual and known outcome without any of the usual "maybe it was different than you originally thought" points that drove the previous entry in this series.
I've heard this novel serves as a starting point for events in the "Star Trek: Destiny" series. Maybe after I get to those novels, this one will be better. Until then, it's a disappointment. (less)