Monday, August 19, 2019

Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount"

Star Trek: Discovery
The Enterprise War
Exclusive interview with John Jackson Miller!

Purchase The Enterprise War:
Trade Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

At the end of Star Trek: Discovery's first season, we encounter the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. A long and costly war with the Klingons has taken its toll on Starfleet, but the Enterprise was kept out of the fray. What was this storied starship up to for the duration of the war, and why was she out of contact with Starfleet for so long? The answers to these questions and more can be found in the subject of this week's episode!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by John Jackson Miller to talk about his latest book, Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War. We discuss how the novel ties into seasons one and two of Discovery, the Lurians and the atypical Baladon, Enterprise's revolving door of engineers, the mysterious Boundless, Lt. Evan Connolly, this novel's links to the wider Trek litverse, the final shocking reveal, and wrap up with what Miller is currently working on and where he can be found online.

In the news segment, we break down the 2020 book schedule as revealed at STLV, as well as news of an upcoming comic prequel to Star Trek: Picard. We also respond to listener feedback from the Babel Conference for Literary Treks 276: There's a Line We Can't Cross.


Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount"
Discovery: The Enterprise War - Exclusive Interview with John Jackson Miller!





Previous episode: Literary Treks 277: You're Meant to Be Confused
Next episode: Literary Treks 279: The Original Series: The Antares Maelstrom

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The IDIC Epidemic

Star Trek #38
The IDIC Epidemic by Jean Lorrah
Published February 1988
Read July 9th 2019

Previous book (TOS Numbered): #37: Bloodthirst
Previous book (Published Order): Final Frontier

Next book (TOS Numbered): #39: Time for Yesterday


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

Spoilers ahead for The IDIC Epidemic
!

From the back cover:
I.D.I.C -- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. More than just a simple credo, for those of the planet Vulcan it is the cornerstone of their philosophy.

Now, on the Vulcan Science Colony Nisus, that credo of tolerance is being being put to its sternest test. For here, on a planet where Vulcan, Human, Klingon, and countless other races live and work side by side, a deadly plague has sprung up. A plague whose origins are somehow rooted in the concept of I.D.I.C. itself. A plague that threatens to tear down that centuries-old maxim and replace it with an even older concept.

Interstellar War.

My thoughts:

If you are a long-time reader of Trek Lit Reviews, you may remember my review of the TOS novel The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. I was very impressed with that novel, not so much by the plot (which was a fairly by-the-numbers murder mystery), but by the character exploration. I found the relationships depicted in that novel to be very touching, so when I learned that The IDIC Epidemic was a sequel, I resolved to pick it up and check it out. Sadly, it's taken a number of years to finally get to it, but I have finally read Jean Lorrah's second Star Trek novel. Does it hold up as well as The Vulcan Academy Murders?

The Vulcan I.D.I.C., representing Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, a concept central to The IDIC Epidemic.

Taking place a few weeks after TVAM, The IDIC Epidemic features a number of the same characters and following on almost immediately from the events of that novel. Nisus, a science colony populated by numerous species, has been hit by a highly contagious plague that is swiftly mutating and striking down the population one-by-one. It seems that, once the virus encounters a host that is of mixed heritage, it quickly mutates into a highly lethal strain that swiftly kills. The Enterprise, having just left Vulcan, is diverted to assist. The Vulcan antagonists from TVAM are aboard the Enterprise, and see this property of the virus as vindication of their anti-IDIC beliefs, and dub it the "IDIC epidemic."

At first blush, they would seem to be right. However, as the story goes on, we learn more about the virus and how it propagates, and more importantly, how it can be cured. It turns out that the Klingons are key to halting the virus, and greater cooperation among species becomes essential to the solution, rather than merely the cause of the epidemic. In fact, my favorite character in the novel is Korsal, a Klingon engineer living on Nisus who, along with his sons, becomes vital to the solution to the crisis. Many people see the Klingons as nothing more than hardened warriors who crave battle and victory, so it was refreshing to get a different type of Klingon, especially in an Original Series novel.

There is also a secondary plot in which the colony is threatened by a failing dam, a crisis that Korsal and his son also have a hand in averting. There are a number of good old fashioned suspenseful moments as the initial scope of the crisis becomes apparent, and during the subsequent disaster and rescue attempts. They may be standard tropes in storytelling, but they are still effective!

As someone who doesn't usually enjoy "medical mystery" stories, The IDIC Epidemic had a lot to overcome to win me over. However, my problem with that sort of story usually has to do with the eleventh hour "eureka" moment as a cure is discovered and the plague is stopped. The solution in The IDIC Epidemic was much more meaningful and fit very well with the Star Trek ethos, and therefore sat much better with me. While I didn't enjoy this novel as much as The Vulcan Academy Murders, I still found it to be a worthy sequel and a nice reaffirmation of Star Trek's ideals.

Final thoughts:

A medical mystery story that has a meaningful resolution keeping with Star Trek's ideals and ethics. The IDIC concept has become central to what Star Trek is all about, and I enjoyed reading a story that ended up reinforcing that concept. I didn't enjoy the story as much as the novel it is a sequel to, The Vulcan Academy Murders, but I very much appreciate Jean Lorrah's singular take on the Star Trek universe and the optimism of her characters.

Also by Jean Lorrah:

My next read:

Star Trek: The Next Generation #50: Dyson Sphere by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Release Day! The Antares Maelstrom by Greg Cox

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Antares Maelstrom
by Greg Cox

The newest book in the Star Trek: The Original Series line officially goes on sale today, but it has been popping up early in bookstores everywhere. Pick up/download The Antares Maelstrom by Greg Cox now!

The Antares Maelstrom was first mentioned by Khan in Star Trek II, and we now finally get to see the phenomenon he was referring to!

Check out the back cover blurb and links to purchase below.




Publisher's description:
An epic new Star Trek saga by New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox set during the original Five-Year Mission!

The final frontier erupts into chaos as vast quantities of a rare energy source are discovered beneath the surface of Baldur-3, a remote planet beyond the outer fringes of Federation space. Now an old-fashioned “gold rush” is underway as a flood of would-be prospectors, from countless worlds and species, races toward the planet to stake their claim. The galactic stampede threatens the stability of neighboring planets and space stations, as widespread strife and sabotage and all-around pandemonium result in a desperate need for Starfleet assistance. Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise are dispatched to deal with the escalating crisis…which lies on the other side of a famously perilous region of space known as the Antares Maelstrom.

Purchase The Original Series: The Antares Maelstrom:

Trade Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-Book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk


Next Release: Star Trek: The Motion Picture 40th Anniversary Edition

Monday, August 5, 2019

Literary Treks 277: You're Meant to Be Confused

Star Trek: Titan
Sword of Damocles
by Geoffrey Thorne

Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

The Starship Titan continues its mission of exploration in the Gum Nebula, encountering a strange phenomenon that stops the vessel dead in its tracks. Tracing the cause back to a planet called Orisha, an away from Titan encounters a strange anomaly that has wreaked devastation on the Orishans for millennia, and will cause one member of Titan's crew to come face to face with his destiny...

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss Star Trek: Titan: Sword of Damocles by Geoffrey Thorne. We talk about the non-linear nature of the novel, the planet Orisha and its inhabitants, the risky mission to save the Titan, the fate of Jaza Najem, the unorthodox solution that saves the ship, the design of the U.S.S. Titan by Sean Tourangeau, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we discuss the fate of the post-Nemesis novelverse following the news from SDCC. We also respond to listener feedback from The Babel Conference for episode 275: Q is a YouTube Comment Troll.


Literary Treks 277: You're Meant to Be Confused
Titan: Sword of Damocles by Geoffrey Thorne





Previous episode: Literary Treks 276: There's a Line We Can't Cross
Next episode: Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount"

Friday, August 2, 2019

Q & A

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published October 2007
Read July 2nd 2019

Previous book (The Next Generation): Resistance
Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity: Titan: Orion's Hounds

Next book (The Next Generation): Before Dishonor
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Titan: Sword of Damocles


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Q & A
!

From the back cover:
Nearly two decades ago, Jean-Luc Picard took command of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D. The captain knew it was an honor without equal. His new command bore the name of Enterprise. The people who had commanded other like-named starships had gone down in Starfleet's annals. Some officers would be intimidated, but they would not have been given command of Enterprise

On her first mission, the Enterprise was sent to Farpoint Station. A simple, straightforward investigation. Perfect for a crew that had never served together. Then there was Q. An omnipotent lifeform that seemed bent on placing obstacle after obstacle in the ship's -- and in particular in Picard's -- way. And it hadn't ended with that first mission. When he was least expected, Q would appear. Pushing, prodding, testing. At times needling captain and crew with seemingly silly, pointless, and maddening trifles. Then it would turn all too serious, and the survival of Picard's crew was in Q's hands. 

Why was it today that Picard was remembering the day he took command of the Enterprise-D? Now he commanded a new ship, the Enterprise-E. His crew was different. There was nothing about Gorsach that in the least resembled Farpoint. But Picard couldn't shake the feeling that something all too familiar was going on. All too awful. All too Q.

My thoughts:

The post-Nemesis voyages of the Enterprise continue! In this novel, Picard is assigned to explore the planet Gorsach IX, a strange, seemingly artificial world with an odd symmetry to everything on the surface. Complicating matters is the appearance of Q, Picard's nemesis from the very earliest days of his captaincy of the Enterprise-D. It seems that Gorsach IX is much more than it appears, with the fate of the entire universe resting on Picard passing the latest of Q's tests.

Q's ultimate goals finally come to light in Q & A.

In my time reading Star Trek novels, I've likened Q to the Borg: both are elements of Star Trek lore that can be a little overdone. Many novels and comics have gone to the Q well, to the point that the stories get watered down and a visit from Q is no more exceptional than a trip to a nebula or another "planet of the week." So, years ago, it was with a bit of reluctance that I picked up Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido. After Q popping up in numerous novels, I dreaded yet another story that would use the character in a way that seemed less than warranted.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the story that Mr. DeCandido crafted. While the whole "fate of the entire universe" might feel a little over-the-top and overdone, DeCandido really makes it work here. In Q & A, he has woven together all of Q's canon appearances in TNG into one cohesive narrative, providing a reason for each and every action the supposedly-omnipotent being has performed, even if that reason was simply wanting to see how Picard looks in tights (referencing the escapade in Sherwood Forest in "Qpid").

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was the continued integration of the new crewmembers with the cast of characters we are already familiar with. Part of this involved Geordi coming to terms with Data's replacement, Commander Kadohata. There were some lovely scenes where Geordi becomes introspective and examines the reasons behind his feelings. He even seeks professional advice from the Enterprise's new Vulcan counselor, T'Lana (introduced in Resistance). I appreciate the illustration of how professional therapists can be useful in our day-to-day lives. Mental health is just another aspect of physical health and should not be ignored!

Leybenzon, another of the new characters, gets some attention in the novel as well. In his role as the Enterprise's new security chief, Leybenzon finds himself in a position unfamiliar to him: as an officer having to lead other officers. We are told that he started out as a non-commissioned officer, having earned a battlefield commission during the Dominion War. He still considers himself one of the "grunts," and found his career propelled in an unexpected direction when he takes the offer of the security chief position on the Enterprise. Save for Chief O'Brien, non-coms are rarely seen in Trek, and I appreciated this perspective, different from the ones we are used to.

Worf has come a long way since his earliest days aboard the Enterprise-D.

Another character who has come a long way in his Starfleet career is Worf, currently serving as first officer of the Enterprise. Throughout TNG, Worf was characterized as being quick to fight, and often rushing headlong into combat without giving adequate thought to the consequences. Now, after having served for many years in Starfleet and even a stint as ambassador, we see a more mature and thoughtful Worf. When Q appears, it is Worf who suggests the tactic of ignoring him completely, much to the surprise of Counselor T'Lana who believed she had the Klingon pegged as a hothead. The fact that he has become much more cool-headed has shown that he makes a very good first officer. Also, the experience he had traversing quantum realities in the TNG episode "Parallels" comes into play in this novel, as the Enterprise faces a similar situation at the climax. It turns out, of course, that Q was responsible for the events of that episode, knowing that the knowledge Worf gained would come in handy at this juncture.

The episode that really ties everything together is "All Good Things...," the incredibly great finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that episode, Picard learned what he needed to navigate the strange, multiverse-jumping finale of this novel. The conclusion of the plot in Q & A is equal parts silly and poignant, and perfectly keeping with the tone that Q has set for Picard in the past. I truly enjoyed how things played out, and I felt it was the perfect culmination to Q's shenanigans.

Final thoughts:

Q & A exceeded my expectations. In a literary universe that at times seems inundated with Q's misadventures, I was glad that this novel didn't feel like more of the same. It really did feel like the "ultimate" Q story, with meaning retroactively applied to all of Q's previous canon visits. The concept of Q is a dangerous one and very easy to overuse, but Keith DeCandido has the writing skill to make this feel fresh and unique. One of my favorite novels in the post-Nemesis continuity, Q & A was a lot of fun to revisit. Highly recommended for any fan of Q!

More about Q & A:



Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

My next read:

The sequel to the classic novel The Vulcan Academy Murders - by Jean Lorrah: The IDIC Epidemic.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

New Books Coming in 2020, including Picard & Kelvin Timeline!

Hey folks, we have some news from the Star Trek books panel at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, happening right now!

First, we have a rough outline for the release schedule for 2020, which includes a few surprises! Lets start with February:


February kicks off the year with a new novel by Una McCormack: Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope. Described as a prequel novel to the Star Trek: Picard television series by Dayton Ward, I'm excited to get this first glimpse at the world of Picard from one of my favorite writers!

In March, we have Star Trek: The Original Series: The Higher Frontier by Christopher L. Bennett.

April sees the release of a novel set in the Kelvin Timeline! The Order of Peace by Alan Dean Foster is apparently his novel from the initially-announced four novels set in the new Star Trek universe around the time of the 2009 film. According to Dayton Ward, this novel (and the one later down the line by David Mack) was "freshened up" by Foster for its release.

In June, another Star Trek: The Original Series novel: Agents of Influence by Dayton Ward.

And in August, another Kelvin Timeline novel: More Beautiful Than Death by David Mack. Like Alan Dean Foster's novel, this one was originally written years ago, but then cancelled. Glad to know that these will finally see the light of day!

The original soliciation cover for More Beautiful Than Death from back in 2010.
Additionally, there are a couple of other novels not yet scheduled but reportedly coming in 2020: the first is another Star Trek: Discovery novel by John Jackson Miller. No word on a title or what this one is about yet.

And finally, Kirsten Beyer's latest Star Trek: Voyager novel is reportedly coming in 2020. Presumably this is the previously announced To Lose the Earth.

And one final bit of new from John Jackson Miller: apparently, one of the characters introduced in his recent Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War is featured in one of the upcoming Short Treks episodes. I'm partway through that novel at the moment, looking forward to finding out who he is talking about!



More news as we learn it, and links to pre-order as soon as they are available!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Challenger

Star Trek #94
New Earth, Book Six of Six
Challenger by Diane Carey
Published August 2000
Read June 26th 2019

Previous book (New Earth): #93: Book Five: Thin Air
Next book (The Original Series): #95: Rihannsu, Book 3: Swordhunt


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Thin Air
!

From the back cover:
Far from the reaches of the Federation, the Starship Enterprise has been guiding the development of a once obscure planet upon whose fate the future of the galaxy may now depend. The Enterprise has been the sole representative of the Federation, fighting a constant battle to protect the colonists from enemy aliens and standing alone against all those who have their own designs on the colony world. 

But all adventures come to an end. It is time for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise to turn over the guardianship of the colony to another ship and crew. The new ship arrives in the midst of a deadly attack on the colony -- and is destroyed. With the Enterprise off fighting a new and powerful enemy that threatens the colony as well as its enemies, Commander Nick Keller, first officer and ranking survivor of the decimated crew, is marooned and at first alone -- but he must find a way to complete his original mission and come to the aid of the Enterprise in what might be its most desperate hour.

My thoughts:

In this, the sixth and final novel in the New Earth miniseries, we find the focus of the main plot shifted away from the usual gang of Kirk and company. Rather, the main character is Commander Nick Keller, who we are introduced to as the second officer of the U.S.S. Peleliu. The Peleliu is a Starfleet picket ship, assigned as Enterprise's replacement at Belle Terre. En route to her new assignment, the Peleliu comes under attack by the Kauld. The first officer is killed, and Keller must step up into the position. As the captain of the Peleliu becomes more and more erratic, Keller finds himself in the unenviable position of deciding whether or not he should be relieved of command.

Meanwhile, a strange robotic mechanism seems to be repeatedly stealing quantities of mined olivium ore. Kirk and the Enterprise set off in pursuit, having to leave Dr. McCoy and Commander Uhura behind, as they have failed to report in. In fact, the two officers have been captured by an antagonist we first met in book one: Billy Maidenshore, the criminal who attempted to sell out the colonist fleet to the Kauld, has commandeered a prison vessel and taken Uhura and Bones as prisoners. Using Uhura's expertise, Maidenshore has maintained his cover and used the vessel to amass a fortune in olivium.

Challenger put Uhura and McCoy together in a fight for their lives, a pairing that isn't common in Trek.

When the Peleliu is critically damaged due to the actions of her captain, the Belle Terre colony is left without protection with the Enterprise away chasing down the supposed olivium thieves. Keller finds himself having to come up with a solution fast, after having arrested his captain and removing him from the field. His answer: to build a new starship using scraps and parts from the Peleliu, as well as other ships that have been decommissioned from the Belle Terre fleet. While the idea seemed to be pretty far-fetched, I actually found myself really enjoying this part of the novel, especially with the involvement of Scotty who is on hand to help Keller put his plan into motion.

I also enjoyed the resolution to the olivium storyline, with the revelation of where the material comes from and why the lifeforms behind the robotic probe were taking it from the colony. Additionally, we learn more about the fate of the Rattlesnake, a ship that went missing in the novel Belle Terre. The ending of this part of the story had a much more sci-fi twist than I was expecting, given the tone of the rest of the novels.

While I am still not a fan of the Billy Maidenshore character, I felt that he was used to much greater effect in this novel than he was in Wagon Train to the Stars. The eventual comeuppance he gets at the hands of Bones and especially Uhura was very satisfying indeed.

I quite enjoyed the characters that were introduced in this novel, and it is a shame that the Star Trek: Challenger book series didn't continue past its single entry, Chainmail, part of the Gateways crossover series. I enjoyed the "aw, shucks" nature of Commander Nick Keller, and liken him to a kind of Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly type character. There was one moment, however, that kind of took me out of the story, when Keller goes on an extended monologue about the value of big business and how they are the best form of charity there is. Capitalist ventures that succeed and are very profitable are the best thing for a planetary ecosystem to thrive, says Keller. I guess he's as much of a libertarian as Diane Carey is. No surprise there, I suppose.

Chainmail is the only other novel to feature Nick Keller and the crew of the Challenger.

The New Earth series has been a very mixed bag, with most of the entries failing to live up to the promise that the overall premise offered. However, I noticed a definite turnaround with the previous book, Thin Air. How does the final installment, Challenger, stack up?

Surprisingly, quite well! With one or two small hiccups, Challenger bested my expectations and turned out to be a great wrap-up to an overall-lackluster series. I would actually have enjoyed seeing these characters more in later novels, a fact that surprised me.

Final thoughts:

Challenger is an excellent conclusion to a series that has been frustratingly hit-or-miss, and mostly miss. The series overall could have used a big dose of cohesiveness, with each book flowing better into the next one. Instead, the series is very disjointed, but Challenger manages to bring everything to a satisfying close. There is a line on page 247 about how the space shuttle Challenger was the only shuttle that NASA lost, which has sadly not aged well. If only that prediction had come true! Overall, the novel was a fun read, with only a bit of a digression into a libertarian screed that kind of pulled me out of the story. Other than that, though, Challenger beat my expectations quite handily!

Also by Diane Carey:

My next read:

My next review is for Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido.