Sunday, December 30, 2012

Treklit 2012: Year in Review

2012, where on earth did you go? It seems like the year had only begun, and now we're preparing to welcome 2013. Crazy.

2012 was a great year for Trek fiction in my opinion. We began the year with a couple of great TOS novels, saw the conclusion to the ground-breaking and terrific Vanguard series, witnessed further troubles for the Federation in the form of the Typhon Pact's political and military machinations, had the pleasure of another wonderful entry in the Voyager relaunch by Kirsten Beyer, and closed out the year with a new, amazing trilogy from the inimitable David Mack.

In my own life, 2012 was a year of profound change. In August, I left my position as foreign English teacher at Sinsang Middle School in Seoul, Korea, to return to my native Canada. However, rather than simply flying directly back, some friends and I decided to take the "long way" home. Taking the ferry from Korea to Vladivostok, Russia, we hopped on the trans-siberian railway and traveled the entire length of Asia and Europe on rail. Visits to Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Suzdal, Moscow, and St. Petersburg were highlights of the Russian portion of the journey. From there, rail travel through Krakow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Calais, and a ferry ride to Dover and then on to London rounded out our overland journey. One last stop in Reykjavik, Iceland, and I finally made it home to Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, nearly two months after I had left Seoul. A life-changing, wonderful experience that made 2012 the best year of my life (so far).

The end of 2012 also saw the beginning of a new experiment: another blog, called The Contented Reader, in which I review books that aren't from the world of Star Trek and report on news from the wide world of books and literature. There isn't much there yet, but I'm hoping to expand it greatly during the coming year.

Below you will find a chronological list of the books I reviewed this past year. New releases are marked with an asterisk. Each month saw reviews of both new releases and older novels with a couple of exceptions. Most notably, September is devoid of activity due to my travels during that time.


The Return by William Shatner with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (The "Shatnarrative")
The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Synthesis by James Swallow (Star Trek: Titan)
Doctor's Orders by Diane Duane (Star Trek: The Original Series)
I, Q by John de Lancie and Peter David (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Troublesome Minds by Dave Galanter (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Gateways, Book 1 of 7: One Small Step by Susan Wright (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Gateways, Book 2 of 7: Chainmail by Diane Carey (Star Trek: Challenger)


*The Rings of Time by Greg Cox (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Gateways, Book 3 of 7: Doors Into Chaos by Robert Greenberger (Star Trek: The Next Generation)


Gateways, Book 4 of 7: Demons of Air and Darkness by Keith R.A. DeCandido (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
*That Which Divides by Dayton Ward (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Gateways, Book 5 of 7: No Man's Land by Christie Golden (Star Trek: Voyager)


*Storming Heaven by David Mack (Star Trek: Vanguard)
Gateways, Book 6 of 7: Cold Wars by Peter David (Star Trek: New Frontier)
Gateways, Book 7 of 7: What Lay Beyond by various authors (All series)
The Rift by Peter David (Star Trek: The Original Series)


*Forgotten History by Christopher L. Bennett (Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations)
Hollow Men by Una McCormack (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Shadow Lord by Laurence Yep (Star Trek: The Original Series)


*Plagues of Night by David R. George III (Star Trek: Typhon Pact)


*Raise the Dawn by David R. George III (Star Trek: Typhon Pact)
*The Assassination Game by Alan Gratz (Starfleet Academy)
The Rings of Tautee by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Ex Machina by Christopher L. Bennett (Star Trek: The Original Series)


*Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin (Star Trek: Titan)
Do Comets Dream? by S.P. Somtow (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Corona by Greg Bear (Star Trek: The Original Series)


*The Eternal Tide by Kirsten Beyer (Star Trek: Voyager)
*Brinkmanship by Una McCormack (Star Trek: Typhon Pact)
Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang (Star Trek: The Next Generation)


*Cold Equations, Book 1 of 3: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
*In Tempest's Wake by Dayton Ward (Star Trek: Vanguard ebook)
Spock's World by Diane Duane (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson (Star Trek: The Original Series)
*Cold Equations, Book 2 of 3: Silent Weapons by David Mack (Star Trek: The Next Generation)


Errand of Vengeance, Book 1 of 3: The Edge of the Sword by Kevin Ryan (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Errand of Vengeance, Book 2 of 3: Killing Blow by Kevin Ryan (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Errand of Vengeance, Book 3 of 3: River of Blood by Kevin Ryan (Star Trek: The Original Series)

What will 2013 bring? Well, we already have a few ideas with regards to the world of Star Trek fiction. The first half of the year is almost entirely taken up by TOS novels, possibly to capitalize on the release of the much-anticipated film, Star Trek Into Darkness in May. Along with that film will be a novelization by Alan Dean Foster.

The last half of 2013 looks to be dominated by a multi-series crossover event entitled The Fall. Taking place in the 24th century era of Treklit, The Fall will feature five novels, written by Trek veteran authors David R. George III, Una McCormack, David Mack, James Swallow, and Dayton Ward. I'm really looking forward to learning more about this series!

Another highly-anticipated event for 2013 is the continuation of the story of the early days of the Federation, in the form of Christopher L. Bennett's July release, Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. I'm a huge fan of Bennett's Trek work, and I can't wait to see what he has in store for this largely-unexplored era of future history.

Check out the 2013 Releases page for all of the Trek fiction due out in the next year!

In my own life, 2013 will see me relocate to Calgary, Alberta. I hope to continue to bring you news and reviews from the world of Star Trek fiction, as well as a few special surprises from the year to come. I can't wait to read all that the 2013 lineup has to offer, and I can guarantee I'll be in a movie theatre on opening night for Star Trek Into Darkness! 2013 looks to be a banner year for Trek, hopefully the vanguard for many more such years to come.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best Trek gift ever!

Got a terrific present this year, perfect for any die-hard Trekkie such as myself:

I've taken a brief flip through it, and it is pretty amazing. After reading the first few pages, it is absolutely clear that David A. Goodman is a true Star Trek fan. His depth of knowledge about the Trek universe (and cute tongue-in-cheek in-jokes) make this one a true winner so far! I may just post a full review of this one after I finish, even though I don't traditionally review "non-fiction" Trek books. Non-fiction, of course, being a bit of a misnomer in this case!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

River of Blood

Star Trek: Errand of Vengeance Book Three: River of Blood by Kevin Ryan
Published August 2002
Read August 14th 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): Errand of Vengeance #2: Killing Blow
Next book (The Original Series): Gemini

Next book (Errand of...): Errand of Fury #1: Seeds of Rage

Click to purchase River of Blood from!

Spoilers ahead for River of Blood and the Errand of Vengeance series!

From the back cover:
Every person has a story, and those who are lucky enough to share the voyages of Capt. James T. Kirk aboard the Starship Enterprise have stories like anyone else's. Some live, some die, but even those who serve below deck sometimes make all the difference in the universe!
The news from Starfleet Command is grim: a full-scale war against the Klingon Empire is coming, a war that the Federation may not be able to win. In anticipation of a monumental conflict, the U.S.S. Enterprise is assigned to guard a vital starbase located perilously close to Klingon space.
But even as Kirk's mission brings him into a tense confrontation with an invading Klingon battle cruiser, an equally deadly menace lurks within the ranks of his own crew: Klingon infiltrator agents, posing as Starfleet officers and sworn to destroy the enemies of the Empire - even at the cost of their own honor!

My thoughts:

The third and final book in the Errand of Vengeance series brings most of the plot threads introduced in the previous two books to a close. The story of Kell (aka "Jon Anderson") is wrapped up in a somewhat predictable fashion. Interestingly enough, I was surprised by how little his story actually featured in this novel. Most of his journey had been laid out in the previous two novels, all that's left here is for the setup to be played out to its logical conclusion.

The Klingons' war preparations mean
they need a great deal of dilithium
For the end of the miniseries, author Kevin Ryan came up with the "big event" of a Klingon siege on Starbase 42 in order to steal a mother lode of starship-grade dilithium crystals to fuel the Empire's war machine. The focus on action in this particular novel does mean that many of the character moments that made the first two books so good are pared down quite a bit; however, most of the characters introduced earlier in the series have at least one chance to shine. Of special note is Admiral Justman, whose exploits in River of Blood are particularly exceptional. Many of the situations depicted in this novel are very well-written. The action is compelling and held my attention. Like the preceeding books, River of Blood is a pretty quick read. The characters we've come to love in the Errand of Vengeance series are consistently written with Ryan's usual aplomb.

If I have one major gripe with River of Blood, it is once again in the editing of the novel. Several small errors and mistakes creep into the prose, and while they are indeed minor, they still serve to pull me out of the story. For example, on more than one occasion, the name of the starbase is incorrectly given: it changes from 42 to 43 and back again in only a few pages. It is somewhat frustrating when small details can't be kept consistent in a novel such as this.

The series as a whole:

Duty, honor, redemption, and sacrifice: all of these topics feature heavily in the Errand of Vengeance series. Author Kevin Ryan has a terrific handle on the Klingon psyche. The seeds of the gradual evolution of mainstream Klingon culture from the conniving, scheming baddies of The Original Series into the honor-bound, warrior society of The Next Generation planted in this series are a joy to read about. The so-called "Cult of Kahless" will one day come to define the Klingon way of life and aid in the eventual creation of the alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

War is a bloody, messy business, and Errand of Vengeance doesn't shy away from depicting this. Through the eyes of the Enterprise's security forces, we see the horrible effects of violence and warfare, and the very personal sacrifices that its execution entails. Much like the original Star Trek television series itself, Kevin Ryan's books do a masterful job of presenting difficult questions without clear-cut answers. What makes an enemy? Or a friend? Is being "honorable" doing one's duty? And what happens when doing what is morally right is in direct odds to following one's orders or fulfilling one's obligations? Hardly the first work of literature to tackle these age-old questions, but presenting them the way they were here was a real treat to read.

The Errand of Vengeance series was published during a time of experimentation with the Original Series line of Trek books. This "reboot" of the series examined the original five-year mission of the Enterprise from a "lower decks" perspective; rather than following the usual tactic of featuring Captain Kirk and the "principal" cast members, these books were written from the perspective of people traditionally outside the main narrative of Star Trek. I felt this device was used to great effect in this series; a fresh perspective is always welcome and worked quite well in the Star Trek universe. Unfortunately, this experiment didn't last very long. As much as I love traditional Star Trek novels, I enjoy when things are shaken up a bit.

Although this is the end of this particular miniseries, the stories of many of the characters introduced and explored in Errand of Vengeance will return in the follow-up series. Begun in 2005 with Seeds of Rage, the Errand of Fury series follows on directly from the end of River of Blood, and will continue the story up to and including the actual outbreak of war between the Federation and the Klingons in the classic Trek episode "Errand of Mercy."

Final thoughts:

A solid ending to a wonderful series. If you are a fan of action and fast-paced storytelling, you will love this book. Some of the wonderful character moments from the first two books in the series are done away with here to make room for the compelling action sequences, but if you're like me, you'll enjoy the ride as a thrilling climax to this compelling story arc. Editing problems abound, as in the first two volumes, which unfortunately lower the book's rating somewhat. The story continues in Errand of Fury!

Also by Kevin Ryan:

My next read:

I am currently reading the third and final book in David Mack's exciting Cold Equations series: The Body Electric. During this hectic holiday season, I will try to find time to type out my thoughts on this latest release. Until then, happy holidays and merry Christmas to everyone out there. Stay warm!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Killing Blow

Star Trek: Errand of Vengeance Book Two: Killing Blow by Kevin Ryan
Published August 2002
Read August 10th 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): Errand of Vengeance #1: The Edge of the Sword
Next book (The Original Series): Errand of Vengeance #3: River of Blood

Click to purchase Killing Blow from!

Spoilers ahead for Killing Blow and the rest of the Errand of Vengeance series!

From the back cover:
There are more than four hundred sagas aboard the Starship Enterprise, one for each of the unique men and women serving under the command of Capt. James T. Kirk.  For years their personal adventures, their individual struggles and successes, have gone largely untold... until now.

The U.S.S.
Enterprise is patrolling the Klingon border when sensors detect a massive power source on a planet supposedly populated only by a race of primitive humanoids.  Suspecting some sort of Klingon plot, Captain Kirk decides to investigate the matter personally, beaming down to the planet with Dr. McCoy and a team of security officers.

But Kirk is in more danger than he knows.  Among the landing party is Lt. Jon Anderson, a Klingon infiltrator on an undercover mission aboard the
Enterprise.  Anderson does not know if the Empire is at work on the unnamed planet, but if it is, then his duty demands that Kirk be stopped--by all means necessary.

My thoughts:

A continuation of the story begun in the previous novel, The Edge of the Sword. Kell, an undercover Klingon intelligence officer posing as a Starfleet security officer aboard the Enterprise, is assigned the task of killing Captain James T. Kirk. However, as Kell witnesses first-hand the bravery and honor displayed by the crew of the Enterprise, he begins to doubt more and more the veracity of the propaganda about "Earthers" he has learned his entire life.

Following Kell on his journey was truly fascinating, as he is continually torn between his new-found respect for the humans of the Federation and his drive to fulfill his duty for the Empire. The conflict within him is very well-written by Kevin Ryan, and I found myself often empathizing with Kell. Added to his admiration of Kirk and his crew is the fact that he is beginning to fall in love with another member of the security contingent, Lieutenant Leslie Parrish. As you can imagine, this complicates Kell's mission further.

Stories from the "second string"
characters, such as Lt. West, are
continued in Killing Blow.
In addition to Kell's story, the other stories begun in The Edge of the Sword are continued to good effect. Kell's brother, Karel, gets caught up in a plot by an honorless Klingon and his bid to gain the captaincy of the Klingon cruiser D'k Tagh. Back at Starfleet Command, Lieutenant West's knowledge of the Klingons continues to come in handy as he works with Admiral Justman and Ambassador Fox to avert the coming war with the Klingon Empire. Finally, I really enjoyed Justman's remembrances of the Donatu V conflict with the Klingons. This aspect of the story gave another layer to the Admiral's character, as well as outlining the stakes of failure in maintaining peace with the Empire.

One aspect of this novel that was somewhat vexing, however, was the appearance of a few errors in the text. On a few occasions, characters are referred to by the incorrect name. In other cases, some words are incorrect, and in place words that are spelled similarly are used. I am uncertain if this issue is only with the ebook version that I read, or if these errors crop up in the dead-tree edition as well.

Final thoughts:

A generally good continuation of the Errand of Vengeance story. The flashbacks to the decades-earlier battle of Donatu V are particularly welcome, as they illustrate the dangers of losing the peace. Kell's struggle is compelling, and while we know that Kirk will not be killed, the conclusion to Kell's personal journey is a mystery that makes me very eager for the final book in the trilogy. Also somewhat fun are the homages and "shout outs" to Trek production personnel. "Lt. Okuda" comes to mind!

Also by Kevin Ryan:

My next read:

Next up is the final book in the Errand of Vengeance series, River of Blood.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NEWS: New cover and blurb

A few bits today about books being released next year:

First up, newcomer to Trek Lit, Tony Daniel, has a TOS novel coming out at the end of February 2013, and cover art has just been released. In addition, we've learned that the story involves the Horta, the silicon-based rock-eating lifeforms from the first season episode "The Devil in the Dark." Check it out below:

Next up, William Leisner also has a TOS novel coming in the new year, The Shocks of Adversity, taking up June's publication spot. The back-cover blurb has just been revealed by Simon & Schuster, and you can read that below:

Located far beyond the boundaries of explored space, the Goeg Domain is a political union of dozens of planets and races. When the U.S.S. Enterprise arrives in its territory to investigate an interstellar phenomenon, Commander Laspas of the Domain Defense Corps is at first guarded, then fascinated to discover the existence of an alliance of worlds much like his own, and finds a kindred spirit in Captain James T. Kirk. And when the Enterprise is attacked by the Domain’s enemies, crippling the starship’s warp capability and leaving its crew facing the prospect of a slow, months-long journey home, the Goeg leader volunteers the help of his own ship, offering to combine the resources of both vessels to bring the Enterprise to a nearby Domain facility to make the necessary repairs.
But what at first seems to be an act of peace and friendship soon turns out to be a devil’s bargain, as Kirk and the Enterprise crew learn that there are perhaps more differences than similarities between the Federation and the Domain. When the Goeg’s adversaries strike again, the Enterprise is drawn deeper and inexorably into the conflict, and Kirk begins to realize that they may have allied themselves with the wrong side…

Check out the 2013 releases page for information on all new Star Trek fiction coming in 2013, including links to purchase the titles on I'm looking forward to finishing the year with a few more reviews, and bringing you much more in the new year, both old and new! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. Take care!

Monday, December 10, 2012

I have another blog: Check it out!

In April of 2011, I began this blog as a way to catalog my own thoughts and feelings about the Star Trek novels I had read, as reminders to myself about what the books were about and how I felt about them. To my surprise, other people were interested as well. Each month saw a steady increase in readership, and November 2012 was the first month that Trek Lit Reviews had over 3000 page-views. That may not sound like a lot, but I was astounded that people were actually interested in reading what I had to say about these books.

As much as I like Star Trek novels, I do enjoy reading other books as well. The world of literature is an endless field of exciting stories and infinite possibilities, in which an author can guide a reader anywhere from seventeenth-century Britain to alternate worlds and histories. From epic, sweeping trilogies that involve the rise and fall of galactic civilizations to the quiet, simple struggle of a single life. In short, I absolutely love books, and I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings about them. To this end, I have started another blog, The Contented Reader. This blog will be about the books that I read and love (or hate!), as well as anything literature-related that catches my eye. There is a great deal to report on in the world of books, including prizes in literature, new releases from favourite authors, competitions such as Canada Reads from the CBC, and a myriad of other events in the world of books. Join me as I delve into this world head-first and communicate to you what I hope is an honest and abiding love of books!

If you are interested, please check out The Contented Reader. I look forward to continuing both blogs for a long time to come!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

NEWS: Teaser Trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness!

Again, with the non-book news! However, this is too good to not share. A teaser trailer for next year's Star Trek Into Darkness has just been released. Check it out on YouTube (don't forget to click the HD option!).

So, what does everyone think? I for one love actor Benedict Cumberbatch, and hope he's his usual excellent self in this film.

Monday, December 3, 2012

NEWS: New Teaser Poster for Star Trek Into Darkness

Not book news per se, but Paramount released the teaser poster for next year's Star Trek Into Darkness.

So, what do people think of the poster? Excited? Annoyed? I'd love to know your opinions!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Edge of the Sword

Star Trek: Errand of Vengeance, Book 1 of 3: The Edge of the Sword by Kevin Ryan
Published July 2002
Read March 26th, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): The Last Roundup
Next book (The Original Series): Errand of Vengeance, Book 2 of 3: Killing Blow

Click to purchase The Edge of the Sword from!

Spoilers ahead for The Edge of the Sword!

From the back cover:
More than four hundred men and women serve aboard the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701, "boldly going where no man has gone before." What are their stories? We know of Kirk and Spock, but what of those who live, and sometimes die, under their command? Those are the best and brightest of the Federation, men and women of exceptional courage and skill.
But not all of them can be trusted.
Lt. Jon Anderson is the newest security officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. He joins the crew at a time of mounting tension between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Previous battles have been inconclusive, but Starfleet Command fears that the Klingons are gearing up for a major offensive. The Enterprise would be on the front lines of an all-out interstellar war.
But Lieutenant Anderson has a secret: he is actually a Klingon infiltrator assigned to sabotage Starfleet from within. His first mission: kill Capt. James T. Kirk.

My Thoughts:

The first book in this trilogy by Kevin Ryan is a very interesting take on the familiar world of The Original Series's "five-year mission." Many novels are set in this era, but these novels represent an experimental departure from the traditional Trek story set during this time. Rather than a wholly-original story that takes place between the episodes we know and love, or after them, the Errand of Vengeance trilogy runs concurrently with the first season of TOS, and makes references to events that occur during those episodes. The twist is that, behind of the scenes of the episodes we know and love, another story is taking shape. You may recall that the Federation and the Klingon Empire briefly go to war near the end of the first season, in the episode "Errand of Mercy." In Errand of Vengeance, we see the slow build-up to that conflict, and how the Enterprise was on the front lines of several skirmishes and incidents related to that later exchange.

Additionally, this trilogy was part of an experiment in which the Original Series novels were "re-booted" somewhat, and stories were told from perspectives other than that of the main "heroes" such as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. The Edge of the Sword follows a number of original characters, all of whom are written very dynamically and well. Jon Anderson is one such character; as you read in the plot summary/blurb above, he is actually a Klingon operative who is undercover aboard the Enterprise, on a mission to assassinate Captain Kirk. As the novel progresses, we see the actions of the Enterprise crew and Captain Kirk through his eyes. Indoctrinated to believe that Starfleet is oppressive, deceitful, and treacherous, "Jon Anderson" (actually named Kell) learns that not everything he has been taught is true. Another character we learn about is Patrick West, a young xenoanthropologist who is assigned to work with Admiral Justman at Starfleet Command to prepare for the coming Klingon hostilities. He would later gain infamy as Colonel West of the assassination conspiracy in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Finally, another point-of-view character is Karel, brother to Klingon infiltrator Kell. Karel, who serves as a weapons officer aboard a Klingon battlecruiser, believes his brother to have been killed in a Federation attack.

Crewman Matthews - maybe more
than meets the eye?
These alternate points of view lend a fresh feeling to this story. It is fascinating to see the episodes of The Original Series from a new perspective. Although I've seen these episodes an umpteen number of times, The Edge of the Sword managed to make me see things in them I'd never thought of before. Characters we thought were one thing are revealed to be something completely different. This book was a lot of fun to read, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series, as well as the second trilogy, Errand of Fury.

Final Thoughts:

I actually read this novel a number of months ago, and only recently got around to continuing the series. It was originally introduced to me as something to fill the void that was left when the Vanguard series of novels came to an end: a smart, interesting, mature take on The Original Series era, with a point of view other than the usual Star Trek cast. It did not disappoint. Now that I am finally continuing the series, I can't wait to see what Kevin Ryan has in store for these characters.

Also by Kevin Ryan:

My next read:

Next up is the second book in the Errand of Vengeance series, Killing Blow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Silent Weapons

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations - Silent Weapons by David Mack
Published December 2012
Read November 25th 2012

Previous book (The Next Generation): Cold Equations #1: The Persistence of Memory
Next book (The Next Generation): Cold Equations #3: The Body Electric

Click to purchase Silent Weapons from!

Spoilers ahead for Silent Weapons and the rest of the Cold Equations series!

From the back cover:
Three years after the disastrous final Borg Invasion, a bitter cold war against the Typhon Pact has pushed Starfleet's resources to the breaking point. Now the rise of a dangerous new technology threatens to destroy the Federation from within.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew answer a distress call from an old friend, only to become targets in a deadly game of deception. To protect a vital diplomatic mission, they must find a way to identify the spies hiding in their midst, before it's too late.
But Worf soon realizes the crew's every move has been predicted: someone is using them as pawns. And the closer they get to exposing their enemy, the deeper they spiral into its trap...

My thoughts:

Where to begin with Silent Weapons? There is a lot going on in this novel. There is a great deal to like and not very much at all to dislike.

Geordi deals with his feelings about
Data's death and his return.
First of all, I'm enjoying how David Mack is dealing with what we all knew was inevitable at some point: Data's return. I really love the ambiguity that accompanies his "resurrection." Is this really Data? The fact that it's not the same Data, exactly, makes this return an interesting one, not just "oh, everything's back to normal now." Again, is this really Data? We know he's not exactly the Data we've come to know and love over seven seasons and four films. For an artificial lifeform, what exactly is life? On the flip side, what is death? Did Data really "die" in Nemesis, and is he really back now? Or is this something completely different? In addition, I love the effect that his return has had on the people around him, especially Geordi. In some ways, Data's return is a double-edged sword. Geordi expresses the requisite relief and happiness at his return, while at the same time he experiences feelings of anger that the past four years of grief and remorse were a waste. This duality seems to be a theme that comes up a number of times in the novel. Data is both the same but different. Geordi is both happy and angry about Data's return. Beverly is both relieved and annoyed at Picard's easy acceptance of the idea of leaving the Enterprise, and then being both protected and "betrayed" by him when he saves her life. Even the Gorn, presenting two faces to the Federation while engaged in the ruse they were put up to by the Breen.

In Silent Weapons, we learn more about the new security chief, Lieutenant Aneta Šmrhová, who replaces Jasminder Choudhury, brutally and senselessly killed by the Breen in The Persistence of Memory. Šmrhová  is a very different security officer when compared to Choudhury. Jasminder had a personal belief in the ideals of non-violence, while Šmrhová seems to have a very different outlook. She can at times be very violent, but uses it effectively as a security chief. There were times when I was surprised by her use of violence, notably when she uses physical force to coerce people. Both Choudhury's and Šmrhová's tactics and outlook made them effective security officers, but their styles are radically different.

Orion: Libertarian paradise?
One part of the novel that piqued my attention was Mack's descriptions of Orion's society. In many ways, the Orion presented in Silent Weapons is a Libertarian paradise. Not to get onto the topic of politics too heavily, but often when I hear libertarian ideals of "small government" and "personal property rights," I feel that a libertarian utopia might look somewhat like Somalia. On Orion, there is poverty and famine. Mack describes Orion as a society capable of eliminating those problems, but chooses not to. I see a lot of parallels between this and the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" conservative mentality. The comparison as presented in this novel is very obviously not accidental.

The secondary characters of The Next Generation really get a chance to shine in this novel. In addition to the development we see for Lieutenant Šmrhová, another of the novelverse-only characters gets her chance to shine. I've always liked the character of T'Ryssa Chen, but it is in Silent Weapons that I've truly come to love her. While in command of the Enterprise, we see a side of her we've never seen before. At one point, she actually hides her rank insignia from the viewscreen while ordering a superior officer to withdraw the USS Atlas from the area. "That is an order, Commander!" had me almost cheering out loud.

As much as I enjoyed The Persistence of Memory, I feel that this installment is even better. The characterizations are dead-on, the stakes are high, and the drama feels truly real. In addition, I'm a sucker for political drama and intrigue. At one point in the novel, I actually thought to myself, "they're not actually going to kill President Bacco, are they?" Then I looked at the name of the author, and realized that yeah, it really is a possibility!

Final thoughts:

 As it stands, the first two books of the Cold Equations trilogy are, for me, the bar against which TrekLit novels should be measured. Silent Weapons, even better than the preceding novel, was a true pleasure to read and had me awake in the wee hours, saying to myself "just one more chapter!" I can't wait for the final book, The Body Electric, coming at the end of December. In a recent podcast interview, author David Mack said that many readers tend to skip the second book in a trilogy, and advised that readers definitely shouldn't do so for this one. I can't help but wholeheartedly agree. David Mack, you've done it again!

More about Silent Weapons:

Also by David Mack:

My next read:

The next novel on my catch-up list is the first in a series: Kevin Ryan's Star Trek: Errand of Vengeance #1: The Edge of the Sword. Coming soon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pawns and Symbols

Star Trek #26: Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson
Published November 1985
Read August 8th 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): #25: Dwellers in the Crucible
Next book (The Original Series): #27: Mindshadow

Click to purchase Pawns and Symbols from!
Spoilers ahead for Pawns and Symbols!

From the back cover:

Threatened by a deadly famine, the Klingon Empire is on the verge of igniting a mad interplanetary war of conquest.

When an earthquake destroys a remote Federation research station, Jean Czerny, agricultural scientist, succumbs to amnesia.  Stranded on enemy borders, she is imprisoned by Kang, the commander of a Klingon battleship.

Now Kirk must play a dangerous game of mind strategy to prevent a savage attack on the Federation!

My thoughts:

Pawns and Symbols is, above all else, an exploration of the Klingon culture through the eyes of an outsider. I typically really enjoy stories of this nature, especially when they are done really well. Novels that I have reviewed in the past that have exhibited this style particularly well include Diane Duane's The Romulan Way, John M. Ford's exploration of the Klingons in The Final Reflection, and more recently, Una McCormack's look at the Tzenkethi culture in Brinkmanship. While Pawns and Symbols could easily find itself in the company of these greats, it fails in a few areas that serve to make it far less compelling.

The main character in the book, a Federation agent by the name of Jean Czerny, suffers from amnesia and is bewildered and unsure of her surroundings for much of the book. While this makes for a somewhat interesting complication to the main story, I would have preferred more exploration of the Klingons and Czerny's surroundings rather than the time the novel spends on her trying to find herself.

The Klingons in this novel don't really seem to fit in the established continuity of Star Trek. We've seen this before, when the "canon" of Star Trek took a different path with the Klingons than John M. Ford's excellent presentation of them in The Final Reflection. However, the Klingons in Pawns and Symbols do not seem alien enough to even fit into Ford's alternate take on the Klingons. Instead, in this novel, the warrior race seems to be all too human with only a few cultural differences. While I did very much appreciate the dilemma created by the famine and suffering experienced by the Empire, I felt that their reaction to it was not in keeping with any of the versions of the Klingons we've seen in Star Trek. The Klingons of Pawns and Symbols are alone and apart from anything we've seen before and since, and I think the story suffers because of it.

Finally, although the characterization seems a bit off here, I always enjoy when writers utilize some of the better secondary characters from over the years. In this case, it was a pleasure to read about the exploits of Kang, the deep-voiced foil to Kirk in the classic episode "The Day of the Dove." I've always smiled when this character pops up over the years, and it is a pleasure to have him in this story.

Kang and Kirk face off once again in Pawns and Symbols.

Final thoughts:

A fairly middle-of-the-road Star Trek novel. The Klingons as presented are uneven and not really keeping with any of the other portrayals of the regular antagonists we've seen over the years. The character of Jean Czerny is interesting, but I feel that the novel focuses on her confusion and "fish-out-of-water"ness a bit too much. Still, it was an interesting read, and there are certainly fun moments that remain memorable.

Notes on the e-book edition:

Often, the e-book edition of the Star Trek novels I have reviewed here have had some minor defects: things such as small typos and strange line breaks can negatively impact the reading experience, but usually only to a small degree. Such is not the case with my copy of Pawns and Symbols. The sheer number and magnitude of mistakes and errors in this novel is absolutely astounding! There were times that the prose was nearly unreadable thanks to misspelled words and sections which I can only assume were missing words or possibly entire lines or paragraphs. Ordinarily, the worst one can get is an unclear indication of where there is a scene change, and that can be somewhat jarring. Here, I sometimes got completely lost and had to re-read entire sections before I could figure out both what was happening in the novel and what the problems with the actual printed words were. It was a very frustrating experience, and I'm sure it impacted my feelings about the story. These sorts of problems should not be happening, especially when a reader is paying nearly cover price for an e-book version of a book that was published nearly thirty years ago.

My next read:

Just got a copy of the latest release in my hot little hands! Cold Equations, Book II: Silent Weapons by David Mack is ready to be read and reviewed by yours truly. Look for that soon.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Uhura's Song

Star Trek #21: Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan
Published January 1985
Read July 28th 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): #20: The Vulcan Academy Murders
Next book (The Original Series): #22: Shadow Lord

Click to purchase Uhura's Song from!
Spoilers ahead for Uhura's Song!

From the back cover:
Years ago, Lt. Uhura befriended a diplomat from Eeiauo, the land of graceful, cat-like beings.  The two women exchanged forbidden songs and promised never to reveal their secret.
Now the Enterprise is orbiting Eeiauo in a desperate race to save the inhabitants before a deadly plague destroys them.  Uhura's secret songs may hold the key to a cure - but the clues are veiled in layers of mystery.
The plague is killing Humans, threatening other planets - and Kirk must crack the code before the Enterprise succumbs!

About this novel:

On the planet Eeiauo, a Federation world, a deadly plague is ravaging the population. This virus eventually crosses species and threatens other worlds in the Federation. The novel turns into a race against the clock to discover a cure before death due to this plague becomes widespread. Uhura believes that a clue to the true origin of the Eeiauo species is found in an ancient, forbidden song she was taught by an old friend. Believing this to be the only lead to pursue, Captain Kirk takes the Enterprise on a mission to discover the long-lost forebears of the Eeiauoians, hoping that they will have a cure for the disease.

The mission to discover the Eeiauoian ancestors is successful, but Kirk and company must gain the trust of the aliens in order to get their cooperation in helping find the cure. Believing Kirk and the other humans to be children, the landing party must prove themselves by completing a sort of coming of age rite. The rite completed, the Enterprise crew get the cure and race back to Eeiauo in the nick of time to save the population and the rest of the Federation from the deadly plague.

My thoughts:

Uhura's Song was a fun story that I found fairly enjoyable. That said, there are a couple of things about the novel that bothered me a bit. First, the ticking clock aspect of the story seemed to be put aside at times. We are given to understand that the Enterprise crew has an extremely limited amount of time in which to find the cure to this plague before people begin dying en masse. However, in the "few days" they are allotted, the crew manages to follow an ancient clue to a far-off world, make first contact with the inhabitants, spend a few days trying to get on their good side, participate in a grueling trial to prove their adulthood, get the cure, AND get back to Eeiauo in time to cure the plague. This seemed to stretch credibility somewhat for me. I couldn't take the "ticking clock" seriously when the crew were able to accomplish all of this before their time was up.

Secondly, in a novel titled Uhura's Song, I would expect Uhura to have a very prominent role. I've always liked her character in Star Trek, and feel that she has often been criminally underused. I was excited to see her take center stage in this story, and for awhile, she does. Her knowledge of the ancient Eeiauoian songs provide the needed clue to finding the homeworld, but after that she kind of fades into the background. Instead, we have another character take up the slack: Dr. Evan Wilson, an almost superhumanly capable medical officer who steals the limelight for much of the novel. There were times during Uhura's Song that I felt Evan Wilson was almost a "Mary Sue" character, a feeling that persisted until the very end, when we finally find out her true origin and nature. I won't spoil that revelation here, but suffice it to say that it was fun and interesting enough to get me to hold off on the Mary Sue appellation.

Once again, Uhura takes a back seat to other cast members. But this time, it's a supporting character!

If there's one thing that Janet Kagen does extremely well with Uhura's Song, it's world-building. The alien culture we meet in this novel is a true joy to discover and explore. Although this idea may turn many off, the aliens are basically house cats writ large. They were clearly fun to write, and it's equally clear that Janet Kagan is very much a cat person. In addition, the idea that Captain Kirk and his party aren't adults in the eyes of the aliens is a fun concept, and one that really works for the story.

One final complaint, and a very minor one at that: Uhura's Song was published during a period of confusion with regards to Star Trek novel cover art. In this one, for example, we see Spock and Uhura wearing uniforms from two different eras, and the design of the Enterprise on the cover does not match the period that Uhura's uniform is from. The Trek novels published around this time suffered from these sorts of mashups a lot, and one can assume that the artists drew upon many different sources when composing the covers. If only a die-hard Trekkie such as myself were employed to curb these continuity errors before they were published!

Final thoughts:

A few niggling details keep this novel from achieving the "great" status that so many books have, but it was still a very enjoyable and interesting romp. The alien culture introduced is fun to read about, and some surprises along the way help the plot to remain compelling. I'd rate it a "pretty good." Not the best, but also certainly not the worst. A fun Sunday afternoon read.

How to pronouce "Eeiauo":

No idea.

My next read:

Next up is another novel from early on in the original Star Trek series novel run, Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spock's World

Star Trek: Spock's World by Diane Duane
Published September 1988
Read July 21st, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): #41: The Three-Minute Universe
Next book (The Original Series): #42: Memory Prime

Spoilers ahead for Spock's World!

From the back cover:
"I am Spock ... I hold the rank of Commander in the Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets; I serve as First Officer of the Starship Enterprise. I am the son of two worlds. Of Earth, whose history is an open book... and of Vulcan, whose secrets have lain hidden beneath its burning sands... Until now..."
It is the twenty-third century. On the planet Vulcan, a crisis of unprecedented proportions has caused the convocation of the planet's ruling council - and summoned the USS Enterprise from halfway across the galaxy, to bring Vulcan's most famous son home in its hour of need. As Commander Spock, his father Sarek, and Captain James T. Kirk struggle to preserve the very future of the Federation, the innermost secrets of the planet Vulcan are laid before us, from its beginnings millions of years ago to its savage prehistory, from merciless tribal warfare to medieval court intrigue, from the exploration of space to the development of c'thia - the ruling ethic of logic.
And Spock - torn between his duty to Starfleet and the unbreakable ties that bind him to Vulcan - must find a way to reconcile both his own inner conflict and the external dilemma his planet faces... lest the Federation itself be ripped asunder.

My Thoughts:

After reading the Rihannsu series by Diane Duane, I was excited to read more by this author. A few months prior, I had also read Doctor's Orders, and I really enjoyed her treatment of the TOS characters, especially the interplay between Spock and Dr. McCoy. After seeing a great deal of praise for Spock's World on the TrekBBS, I decided to give it a try, and I was definitely not disappointed.

The story revolves around a coming vote on Vulcan about whether or not to secede from the United Federation of Planets. Presenting arguments against secession, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy are all given a chance to make their cases heard by the citizens of Vulcan. In addition, it becomes clear that there is a diabolical element fueling this movement towards secession, and it takes some cunning detective work by our intrepid Dr. McCoy to ferret it out. The novel alternates between the current crisis and a recounting of the history of Vulcan, giving the readers an insight into one of Trek's most famous and enduring cultures.

The history of Vulcan as presented in alternating chapters is worth the purchase price alone. Much like The Romulan Way, Spock's World acts as a sort of history text, covering millennia of Vulcan history through the eyes of various players in that history. Oftentimes in Star Trek, the aliens are merely humans with bumpy foreheads or different colour skin. The Vulcans, as Trek's first major alien race, are something special. Spock's World shows us how different their culture truly is, and provides reasons why the motivations of the Vulcans can sometimes seem so, well, alien.

The history of harsh and arid Vulcan is explored in Spock's World.

Spock's World was a truly fun read. Diane Duane has long been one of the premiere writers of Trek fiction, and Spock's World showcases some of her best work, in my opinion. In particular, her writing of Dr. McCoy was flawless. I could hear DeForrest Kelley's voice in my head as I read McCoy's dialogue and inner monologues. In addition, the speech that McCoy gives on Vulcan is one of the best selections of Star Trek writing that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. As McCoy himself notes, his speech is "every argument I've ever had with (Spock) rolled up into one." Reading this novel, one can certainly see the love and attention that has gone into getting every tone, every nuance just right.

Continuity Issues:

As Spock's World was published before much of the "canon" of Star Trek was filmed, a number of continuity issues crop up in intervening years. Unlike Star Wars fiction, filmed Star Trek works are under no obligation to take the "expanded universe" of the novels, comics, and other media into account when writing new stories. What follows is a brief overview of areas in which the Star Trek universe has diverged from that which is presented in this novel. Also listed are connections between this novel and other works of Trek fiction.

  • Spock's World presents a different version of first contact between Humans and Vulcans than what we saw in Star Trek: First Contact.
  • Sarek mentions that he attended the 2180 baseball World Series, an event which, according to Deep Space Nine's "If Wishes Were Horses," did not occur, as the final World Series was held in 2042. The final game was attended by only 300 fans.
  • Spock's World ties into other fiction, notably by Diane Duane but by others as well, through the characters of Harb Tanzer and Naraht. Mr. Tanzer is the "recreation officer" of the Starship Enterprise, in charge of maintaining the recreation facilities under the auspices of the ship's medical department. Naraht is the ever-cheerful Horta crewmember who appears in a number of Star Trek novels and comics.

Final Thoughts:

An excellent entry into the panoply of Star Trek fiction, and one that should be a must-read for every fan of Star Trek novels. Diane Duane writes the characters pitch-perfect, and her presentation of the history of Vulcan is every bit as fascinating as the page-turning "contemporary" events of the novel.
My next read:

The next novel on my summer reading catch-up odyssey is Uhura's Song by Janet Kagen. Look for that one to be published soon.