Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Man's Land

Gateways: Book Five of Seven: Star Trek: Voyager - No Man's Land by Christie Golden
Published October 2001
Read February 23rd, 2012

Previous book (Gateways): Book 4 of 7: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Demons of Air and Darkness
Next book (Gateways): Book 6 of 7: Star Trek: New Frontier - Cold Wars

Click to purchase No Man's Land from Amazon.com!

Spoilers ahead for No Man's Land and the Gateways miniseries!

From the back cover:
Throughout the galaxy, an ancient network of interstellar portals has been reactivated, instantly linking distant planets and civilizations.  Back home in the Alpha Quadrant, Starfleet can devote all its considerable resources to coping with the Gateways crisis, but in the Delta Quadrant, there is only the Starship Voyager...
Just as Voyager enters an unusually hazardous region of space, the ship and its crew are confronted with a flood of lost and disoriented starships from all over the the galaxy.  Accidentally transported incredible distances by the unpredictable Gateways, the diverse alien castaways regard each other and Voyager with hostility and suspicion.  Captain Kathryn Janeway suddenly finds herself struggling to hold together an extremely fractious fleet of dislocated vessels even as the newly awakened Gateways hold open the prospect of finally bringing her own ship home!

About the Novel:

In the Delta Quadrant portion of the Gateways series, the USS Voyager happens upon an idyllic planet where Janeway decides the crew can spend a little shore leave.  However, on the surface, the crew encounters the unexpected: a small animal, similar to an Earth canine.  Clearly someone's pet, the animal seems to have been deposited on the planet by some sort of a gateway.  Unable to return him, the crew decides to adopt the animal, hopefully for a short while.

Soon, larger gateways begin opening in the space around Voyager.  At first, only one ship arrives, and Captain Janeway and her crew do their best to aid them.  However, many more vessels soon arrive, and it's clear that none of them know how they got there.  It's up to Voyager to organize the vessels into a fleet and guide them through a very treacherous region of space replete with spatial anomalies and other hazards.  There is a great deal of enmity among the various species represented by the fleet, however, and soon these hostilities manifest themselves in acts of sabotage and even murder.  Can Voyager and her crew keep the fleet intact and guide everyone safely through "no man's land," or will the forces of chaos and treachery win the day?

My Thoughts:

In No Man's Land, Christie Golden has done a superb job in capturing the voices of the Voyager characters.  However, as I was not the biggest fan of Voyager during its television run, I feel I might be a little biased against this novel.  However, the story and the characterizations were solid and well-written, so I have only a few small complaints.

Because of the timing of the Gateways crisis, I thought that the Voyager story would coordinate well with the Alpha quadrant-based stories.  After all, the novels make a point of stating that the stories take place shortly after the Voyager episode "Pathfinder," in which the crew of Voyager finally makes semi-regular contact with Starfleet back home.  However, this plays no role in the story whatsoever, and No Man's Land has no bearing on the unfolding crisis in the Alpha quadrant.  While I enjoyed this story, I feel like there was a missed opportunity in not tying the stories closer together.

The culture-building in this novel is definitely one of the highlights.  One species is so governed by fear that it is entirely possible to frighten them to death.  One can imagine how terrifying the situation is to them: catapulted through a gateway to a far-off sector of the galaxy with no discernible way home, having to navigate through a treacherous region of space surrounded by strangers.  Needless to say, the journey does not go extremely well for them.

To me, this story was very reminiscent of the Voyager episode "The Void," one of the highlights of the series for me.  In both stories, the Voyager crew takes a leadership role in a fleet of ships in a dire situation, espousing the Federation's values as a blueprint for survival.  Both stories came out in the same year, so it's unclear whether one influenced the other.  I merely point out the similarities as a positive aspect, as I thought "The Void" to be a top-notch episode for Voyager.

The positives: The characterizations of the Voyager crew are well-handled, especially Seven of Nine and The Doctor.  While I was not a big fan of the series while it aired, Christie Golden has done a solid job making them seem like their television counterparts.  A strong story, with stakes that feel real round out the pros of No Man's Land.

The negatives: I feel like an opportunity was missed in not tying this story to the larger Gateways series.  Don't get me wrong, it's not a necessary component.  One need only  see the strength of Star Trek: Challenger's Chainmail to see that.  However, it would have been interesting to see Starfleet coordinating a response to the Gateway crisis across the light-years into the Delta quadrant.

A solid, interesting entry in the Gateways series.  The lack of coordination between this story and the rest of the series is a little disappointing, but does not detract too much from a generally interesting, if not overly compelling story.

Final score: 6.5/10.

My next read:

The past month has seen a lot of changes for me, and I have to admit I've been distracted from updating this blog as much as usual.  However, my reading has not slowed down by much!  Look for reviews of the following books over the next few weeks:

Gateways: Book 6 of 7: New Frontier: Cold Wars by Peter David

Gateways: Book 7 of 7: What Lay Beyond by various

Star Trek #57: The Rift by Peter David

Star Trek: Errand of Vengeance Book One: The Edge of the Sword by Kevin Ryan

and finally, April's new release that I am currently reading, the final entry in the Vanguard saga, Storming Heaven by David Mack.

NEWS: Cover revealed for Kirsten Beyer's Voyager: The Eternal Tide

Hello everyone, I have an update today for fans of the Voyager relaunch, currently helmed by a wonderful writer, Kirsten Beyer.  The cover for her upcoming novel, The Eternal Tide, has been revealed.  And here it is:

As you can see, the cover may possibly portend some major happenings in the lit universe.  Stay tuned!

You can pre-order The Eternal Tide here from Amazon.com.

Monday, March 12, 2012

That Which Divides

Star Trek: That Which Divides by Dayton Ward
Published March 2012
Read March 9th, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): The Rings of Time
Next book (The Original Series): Allegiance in Exile 

Click to purchase That Which Divides from Amazon.com!
Spoilers ahead for That Which Divides!

From the back cover:

Located in an area of non-aligned space near Federation and Romulan territory, the Kondaii system is home to a unique stellar phenomenon: a spatial rift that opens every three years in proximity to the system's sole inhabited planet.  Only during this brief period is communication possible with the small, mineral-rich planetoid inside the rift.  The local population has established a mining colony on this planetoid, and for the limited duration that the rift is open, a massive interplanetary operation is set into motion: ferrying mineral ore to the home planet while simultaneously transferring personnel and replenishing essential supplies and equipment--everything necessary to sustain the colony before it once again enters forced isolation.
While studying the rift, the science vessel U.S.S. Huang Zhong is severely damaged and crash-lands on the planetoid.  After the Starship Enterprise arrives to conduct rescue operations, evidence quickly points to the rift's artificial nature.  It is a feat far beyond the capacity of the local inhabitants, and presents an alluring mystery for Captain James T. Kirk and his crew.  It also attracts the attention of the Romulans, who are most interested in studying and perhaps seizing this supposed advanced technology--by any means necessary.

About the Novel:

That Which Divides tells the story of a strange rift in the Kondaii system that only opens periodically, allowing the natives of the system access to a normally hidden world.  On this world, they have established a mining colony.  However, because the rift only opens every three years, miners are cut off from their home for an extended period, and deliveries from the colony, as well as supplies sent to the colony, are very strictly timed and are vital to the survival of those who depend on them.

Due to an encounter with a sleeper ship in deep space, Starfleet has elected to make contact with the people of the Kondaii system.  They send the scout vessel U.S.S. Huang Zhong to study the rift and the world it conceals.  Aboard the Huang Zhong is a familiar face: science officer Lieutenant Boma, a man who contributed to making Spock's first command difficult in the Original Series episode "The Galileo Seven."  

The Archer-class scoutship enters the rift, unfortunately causing a negative reaction with the anomaly due to the vessel's warp engines.  On the other side, the Huang Zhong emerges badly damaged, but functional.  However, that all changes when an unknown weapon fires on the ship from the planet's surface, bringing it down in a crash-landing.  Casualties are heavy with most of the crew killed.

Lt. Boma, who has some unresolved issues with Spock.
The Enterprise, already en route to investigate the system, hurries to Kondaii when it receives the Huang Zhong's distress call.  Once there, Captain Kirk and his crew must work with the local inhabitants as well as the surviving members of Huang Zhong's crew, Lieutenant Boma among them, to determine what happened as well as the nature of both the hidden planet and the strange energy field.  Complicating matters is the presence of Romulan forces, also curious about the rift and suspicious of Starfleet's interest in the system.

My Thoughts:

That Which Divides, as the title evinces, is a sequel of sorts to the Original Series episode "That Which Survives."  Both the Kalandan outpost in that episode as well as the planet in this novel share some characteristics and origins.  I have to give credit to Dayton Ward for providing a much better sequel to that episode than Susan Wright did in her Gateways novel One Small Step.  Ward even manages to plant a very small reference to the gateways in this novel, in a "blink or you'll miss it" sense.

That said, I didn't find a whole lot in That Which Divides to rave about.  The story is solid, the characterizations are good, and the stakes are high and somewhat interesting.  However, the story never truly grabbed me.  I'm not certain what exactly to chalk that up to.  A number of possibilities exist: a bad taste in my mouth with regards to all things Kalandan due to One Small Step; high expectations caused by Dayton Ward's stellar work in the Vanguard series; Star Trek novel fatigue (God forbid!); the possibilities are many and varied.  I found my interest flagging at certain points, such as the fights between Kirk's party and the Romulans in the corridors of the outpost.  I kept wanting things to progress, and rather I found things getting bogged down in yet another fist fight or phaser exchange.

Again, however, there is nothing particularly bad about this novel.  The story holds together well, and there is some great character development and story resolution, especially between Lieutenant Boma and Mr. Spock.  I also really enjoyed the glimpses we got of the crew of the Huang Zhong in their element; it was nice to once again see the focus taken away from the principal cast, one of many reasons I love series like Vanguard and New Frontier so much.

Final Thoughts:

A solid, well-written story, just one that didn't seem to completely capture my attention.  I enjoy Mr. Ward's writing, and while this is not his best work, I still enjoyed reading it.  In particular, the exploration of the lives of people other than the main cast as well as an interesting scientific quandary make this a pretty good read.  Some parts seemed to drag on longer than they should, but these are few and far between.

Solid, if not spectacular: 6/10.

More about That Which Divides:

Also by Dayton Ward:

My next read:

Reviews will be coming for Voyager's Gateways Book 5 of 7: No Man's Land and New Frontier: Book 6 of 7: Cold Wars.  Expect them soon!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Demons of Air and Darkness

Gateways: Book Four of Seven: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Demons of Air and Darkness by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Published September 2001
Read February 14th, 2012

Previous book (Gateways): Book 3 of 7: Star Trek: TNG - Doors Into Chaos
Next book (Gateways): Book 5 of 7: Star Trek: Voyager - No Man's Land

Previous book (DS9 Relaunch): Section 31: Abyss
Next book (DS9 Relaunch): "Horn and Ivory" - Gateways, Book 7: What Lay Beyond

Click to purchase Demons of Air and Darkness from Amazon.com!

Demons of Air and Darkness is also available as part of an omnibus, Twist of Faith, containing the first four novels of the DS9 relaunch:

Purchase Twist of Faith from Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
NOTE: This volume contains Avatar: Book OneAvatar: Book TwoSection 31: AbyssGateways: Demons of Air and Darknessand the novella "Horn and Ivory" from Gateways: What Lay Beyond

Spoilers ahead for Demons of Air and Darkness, the Gateways miniseries, and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch!

From the back cover:
Once they moved from world to world in a single step, through innumerable doors that spanned the galaxy.  They were masters of space, and to those who feared them, they were demons of air and darkness.  But long ago they left their empire and their miraculous technology behind.  Now someone has found the key to it, and all those doors have been flung open.
A world near Deep Space 9, threatened with destruction from the distant Delta Quadrant, becomes the focus of a massive rescue effort as Colonel Kira Nerys, her crew, and some unexpected allies fight to avert disaster on a planetary scale.  Meanwhile, as Lieutenant Nog and Ensign Thirishar ch'Thane search for a way to shut down the spatial portals forever, Quark becomes involved in a dangerous game that could determine, once and for all, who will control the Gateways.

About the Novel:

The Gateways crisis turns potentially deadly when antimatter radiation begins spewing from a gateway orbiting the planet Europa Nova.  The planet supports a large population of human colonists spread across the world in a number of cities.  The radiation is being released by a Malon tanker in the far-off Delta Quadrant, the victim of an attack by a Hirogen vessel.  Colonel Kira and the crew of Deep Space Nine rush to the aid of the Europa Nova colony, assembling a small task force of ships to evacuate the planet.  However, it soon becomes clear that they will not be able to evacuate the colony in time. In order to stop the flow of radiation from the other side, Kira and Taran'atar travel through the gateway to the Malon vessel.  There, they find that the crew has been killed by a lone Hirogen hunter.  While Taran'atar keeps him occupied, Kira must find a way to "plug the hole" and save Europa Nova.

Meanwhile, Quark is deep in Orion Syndicate territory negotiating on behalf of the Orions for exclusive rights to the gateway technology.  Of course, as we all know from the previous stories, the "Iconians" who are bartering the gateway tech are, in fact, the Petraw.  Things turn sour for Quark when the Orions come to believe that he is not negotiating in their best interests, and he soon finds himself on the run from bloodthirsty Orion mobsters.

My Thoughts:

I initially read this novel years ago, not as part of the Gateways series per se, but rather as a part of the Deep Space Nine "relaunch," of which I am a huge fan.  Deep Space Nine was always my favorite series, and the novels continued the story quite well in my opinion, at least initially.  Demons of Air and Darkness is no exception, and DeCandido highlights many of my favorite aspects of the DS9 relaunch.  Of particular interest to me is the relationship between Kira and Taran'atar, as well as the budding friendship between Nog and Shar.  The new characters are fleshed out and explored, while not giving short shrift to the original DS9 characters we've come to know and love.  Readers who have not read the previous novels in the relaunch will be a little lost, as many of the characters are new, never having been featured on the television show.

DeCandido has a very good handle on the characters, and is very good at writing Quark in particular.  I could definitely "hear" Armin Shimerman's voice as I read, and his actions rang very true to his character.  Another character is introduced to the DS9 universe in this novel: Gul Macet, originally from the TNG episode "The Wounded."  In that episode, he was played by actor Marc Alaimo, who of course went on to play the reviled Gul Dukat in Deep Space Nine.  Understandably, the fact that they look almost identical has an impact on the story, and obviously, on Kira in particular.

Gul Macet ...
... and Gul Dukat

Final Thoughts:

A nice, solid entry in the Gateways series, but I definitely appreciate this novel more for its continuation of the story of Deep Space Nine than for the Petraw story.  Seeing the DS9 characters come together to save the Europa Nova colony is a great story, and let us be honest, seeing a Jem'Hadar face off against a Hirogen is pretty darn cool.  Great writing that kept me engrossed through the ending (which, of course, is a cliffhanger to be resolved in What Lay Beyond).

Final score for Demons of Air and Darkness: 7.5/10.  Solid.

More about Demons of Air and Darkness:

Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

My next read:

My next review will be for either the next Gateways novel, Voyager's No Man's Land, or for the latest release by Dayton Ward, Star Trek: That Which Divides.  Until then!