Monday, June 30, 2014

Seasons of Light and Darkness

Star Trek: The Original Series
Seasons of Light and Darkness by Michael A. Martin
Published April 28th 2014
Read May 1st 2014

Previous book (The Original Series): No Time Like the Past
Next book (The Original Series): Serpents in the Garden

Purchase (Kindle) from | |

Spoilers ahead for Seasons of Light and Darkness!

About the novella:

Near the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, you may recall Kirk and McCoy discussing Kirk's current circumstances as a Starfleet admiral, and McCoy's frustration with Kirk for not pursuing his first, best destiny: command of a starship. In this novella, we join the two of them during that discussion, after which McCoy leaves Kirk's apartment and seeks the counsel of an old colleague: Spock. Somewhat intoxicated, McCoy discusses with Spock his belief that Jim is making a mistake, and regales the Vulcan with a tale of his mission to Capella IV, before joining the crew of the Enterprise (referenced in the TOS episode "Friday's Child").

Kirk and Bones drink Romulan ale and discuss the Admiral's career choices.

My thoughts:

When I first watched The Original Series as a kid, my favorite character by far was the enigmatic Mr. Spock. However, upon re-watching the series (many times) as an adult, my favorite character became Dr. Leonard McCoy. The warmth and humanity he brought to the show was an important counter-balance to the logical and completely rational Spock. Therefore, when I heard that this novella would be focusing on his character, I was on board.

In the recent run of Star Trek e-book novellas, we've seen where they succeed: as small, self-contained episode-like instalments. In Seasons of Light and Darkness, we see another area in which they can succeed: as small character pieces that highlight aspects of the characters' lives. As we follow McCoy in his encounter on Capella IV, we see the foundation of the man he would become in the television series.

The strength of this story lies in how true it is to McCoy's character. We see his compassion and dedication to his duty as a physician shine through as he deals with the people of Capella IV. Another aspect of the story that fascinated me was the exploration of Capellan society itself. We get into it a bit in the original television episode, but Martin is able to explore the nuances of this culture in more depth here. I enjoyed the way he portrayed their society, especially in parts such as members of the landing party being given the "gift" of combat.

In Seasons of Light and Darkness, we learn more about Capella IV's people and customs.

The most disturbing thing that came out of this novella, however? The idea that the Federation's need for a particular mineral seems to completely trump the prime directive. I suppose, however, that this idea was part and parcel of the episode "Friday's Child," and didn't originate here.

Final thoughts:

An interesting character piece that gives insight into the character of Dr. McCoy. Martin has a good handle on his character, and I could definitely hear the late Deforest Kelley's "voice" as I read this novella. A fun read that one is able to get through in an afternoon. The author uses the e-book novella format very well here. This is one that I recommend for any fan of McCoy.

Further resources:

Also by Michael A. Martin:

My next read:

Next review: another catch-up review from last month: The Lost Era: One Constant Star by David R. George III. Until next time!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Serpents in the Garden Roundup

Hey everyone! Recently, I posted my review of Jeff Mariotte's latest novel, The Original Series: Serpents in the Garden. But writing that review isn't the only thing I've got on the go with that novel!

Over at, my interview with Jeff Mariotte has just been posted. Click here to check that out!

And over on, I recently recorded a Literary Treks podcast with Christopher Jones. Click the links below to have a listen!

LITERARY TREKS #65: The Night Belongs to the Mugato

Show Notes and Streaming:
Downcast and Instacast: Search for "Literary Treks"
RSS Feed:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Serpents in the Garden

Star Trek: The Original Series
Serpents in the Garden by Jeff Mariotte
Release date: April 29th 2014
Read May 17th 2014

Previous book (The Original Series): Seasons of Light and Darkness (e-book)
Next book (The Original Series): The More Things Change (e-book)

Purchase (paperback): | |
Purchase (e-book): | |

Spoilers ahead for Serpents in the Garden!

From the back cover:
Early in his five-year mission commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk found himself caught up in a growing conflict on the planet Neural. To maintain the balance of power against a force being armed by the Klingons, he provided weapons to his friends, the Hill People. Years later, Admiral Kirk learns that the Klingon presence on the planet has grown considerably, in possible violation of the Treaty of Organia. Did his impulse as a young captain turn out disastrously wrong? Should he—could he—have done more to eliminate the Klingon threat? To find out, he embarks on a secret mission back to Neural—where he might just be the only person who can prevent an interstellar war.

My thoughts:

Jeff Mariotte returns to the Trek universe with another novel under the Original Series banner. This novel, however, is a much different story from last year's The Folded World. Set in the period between the end of The Original Series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Serpents in the Garden revisits an episode of TOS that has been practically begging for a follow-up.

"A Private Little War" was a thinly-veiled Vietnam allegory that aired during Star Trek's second season. On the planet Neural, two populations, the Villagers and the Hill People, have lived in peace for many years. However, Klingon interference in the form of firearms provided to the Villagers has shattered that peace. At the end of the episode, Kirk feels that his only recourse is to similarly arm the Hill People. It was an audacious and unexpected ending to a Star Trek episode, with implications that call into question Kirk’s interpretation of the Prime Directive on this particular occasion. Serpents in the Garden takes place a few years after that incident, shortly after Kirk’s promotion to Admiral prior to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Admiral Kirk travels to Neural along with his aide and a pair of security guards to determine the current situation there. Of course, he discovers that the Klingon interference has worsened, and the ghosts of his decision years earlier return to haunt him.

Kirk arms the Hill People ("A Private Little War")
For the most part, Serpents in the Garden is an enjoyable novel. It is refreshing to have a novel set during this time period, largely (or at least, relatively) unexplored when compared to other settings in the Trek timeline. Tempered by more experience and wisdom, the Kirk of this period is more reflective than his earlier self.

One of the drawbacks of the “anthology” format of the Original Series is the lack of opportunity to revisit earlier stories. Episodes that had an ambiguous or troubling ending didn't have any impact on future stories; the Enterprise would simply warp off to her next adventure, completely ignoring any consequences that arose from the episode’s events. “A Private Little War” is possibly the greatest example of that. I would think that arming an entire population would have long-lasting consequences, most obviously to the people of the planet, but also to Kirk and the Federation. In this novel, we learn about the consequences that arose from that decision, and the legacy that both the Klingons and the Federation have left behind on Neural.

Admiral Kirk faces the consequences of his decision to arm the Hill People of Neural.
In Serpents in the Garden, we are introduced to an interesting cast of characters. A young man with a case of wanderlust and his opportunistic rival whose actions reveal he cares little for the consequences of those around him; we also learn more about Apella, the leader of the Victors (formerly known as the Villagers) and how Klingon interference has given him more power, but will ultimately lead to his ruin. I also enjoyed the characterizations of the Starfleet personnel who accompany Kirk to Neural. Mariotte does a great job in fleshing out his supporting cast.

A well-written, tightly-plotted story, Serpents in the Garden was fun to read. It was great to revisit the Neural situation and to learn more about the planet and its inhabitants. Some good character work, and a welcome intrusion into the story by Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov elevate this novel above more pedestrian fare. I enjoyed it significantly more than last year’s The Folded World, and this novel makes me interested in seeing more from Jeff Mariotte.

Final thoughts:

Serpents in the Garden is ultimately about consequences. Kirk must face the consequences of his decision in “A Private Little War,” and the consequences of his decision to return to Neural. What the novel has to say about this topic is not particularly profound or unique, but it does a fairly good job in revisiting the situation in “A Private Little War” and providing a satisfying conclusion. Not necessarily on my list of “essential” Trek reads this year, but still a very entertaining novel that I would recommend you to read.

Further resources:

Also by Jeff Mariotte:

My next read:

Playing catch-up on the last few new releases! Next up is the the e-book novella Seasons of Light and Darkness by Michael A. Martin.