Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Ashes of Eden

Star Trek
The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner
First published June 1995
Read February 9th 2016

Next book (Shatnerverse): The Return

Hardcover: | |
Mass-Market Paperback: | |

Spoilers ahead for The Ashes of Eden!

From the back cover:
For almost three decades, millions of television viewers and moviegoers around the world have thrilled to the exciting adventures of the most successful science fiction creation of all time—Star Trek. And during all that time, William Shatner has portrayed Star Trek's most dynamic hero—Captain James Tiberius Kirk, a gallant commander of the legendary starship Enterprise and her crew. 
Now William Shatner brings his unique blend of talents as an actor, writer, director, and producer, as well as bestselling author and creator of the acclaimed TekWar novels and television series, to tell the story only he can, of Captain Kirk's greatest adventure. 
The time—six months prior to the launch of the USS Enterprise-B and the tragic loss of Captain James T. Kirk in deep space. 
The place—Earth, where the galaxy's most renowned hero must now face the spectre of retirement and a life devoid of challenge and excitement. 
But in the apparent twilight of his career, Kirk's path takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious young woman offers him an irresistible adventure—a perilous voyage to an uncharted planet where he will confront the ultimate threat to the fragile peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and the ultimate temptation—a chance to actually recapture his youth. 
Turning his back on his friends, Spock and McCoy, and hunted by Captain Sulu's USS Excelsior, Kirk soon stands alone as defender of a world of incredible vitality and sensual beauty where he must choose between conquering the gravest challenge of his career, or surrendering to the greatest passion of his life. 
What arises from The Ashes of Eden is no less that a new understanding of one of science fiction's greatest heroes, and one of the most gripping—and personal—Star Trek stories ever told.

My thoughts:

1995 saw the beginning of what has become known as the "Shatnerverse" - Star Trek novels written by William Shatner (with writing collaborators Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens) primarily featuring Captain James T. Kirk and his exploits post-Star Trek VI and Generations. The first book in that series, The Ashes of Eden, is the subject of this review.

For the most part, I was very pleased with The Ashes of Eden. In it, we get a fairly epic story that didn't strain credibility too much. Captain Kirk, at the twilight of his career, is coping with getting older and feeling somewhat useless, many of the same issues that were at the heart of Nicholas Meyer's story in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Shatner and the Reeves-Stevenses do a great job exploring this issue here, and it makes a lot of sense considering where Kirk finds himself in his life.

At the end of his career, Kirk faces issues such as growing older and finding his new place in the galaxy.

One thing about The Ashes of Eden that surprised me was the realistic take on Kirk's character. Written by Shatner, one might expect a "fan-wanky" self-aggrandizing story in which Kirk can do no wrong, but this novel actually exposes a few of the flaws of the Kirk character. The main antagonist of the story, Admiral Androvar Drake, uses Kirk's psychological profile against him, exploiting his flaws to manipulate him into the actions he takes. While throughout the novel, Kirk seems to be having his dreams realized and generally kicking ass, it becomes apparent by the end of the story just how much he has actually been manipulated. This was a surprising turn, and a refreshingly candid take on the character of Kirk.

Another aspect of The Ashes of Eden that I appreciated was the wide focus on the entire group of TOS characters, something that is missing from many of the filmed adventures around this period. This is understandable, as motion pictures need to have a tighter focus to tell their stories in the allotted time, and a novel has greater latitude in featuring the rest of the cast. While there were a few character touches that I felt were a little out of place, for the most part the focus on the group dynamic was very welcome.

There is a role for each of the original cast to play in The Ashes of Eden.

As far as the characters themselves go, there were a few notes that I felt rang a little false. First, the animosity that Chekov held for Sulu seemed a little out of place. While this is resolved by the end of the story, I felt that the antagonism existed for its own sake in the story. It seemed out of character to me for Chekov to be so completely at odds with Sulu and his perspective. The other aspect that irked me somewhat was just how over-the-top villainous Drake's character turned out to be. By the end of the story, he is practically cackling and foaming at the mouth over the idea of defeating Kirk. I would have appreciated a more nuanced look at the conflict with Drake being more relatable, but alas it is not to be.

Final thoughts:

A strong start to the "Shatnerverse"! I appreciated the candor with which the Kirk character was handled, without resorting to the story being purely a "wish fulfilment" fantasy on the part of William Shatner. Sadly, I feel like the remainder of the Shatnerverse may not hold to this standard, but for The Ashes of Eden, it seems that the story was sufficiently realistic. My rating is somewhere around a 3.75/5, rounded up to a 4.

More about The Ashes of Eden:

Also by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens):

My next read:

Next time, look for my review of the new e-book exclusive by Greg Cox, The Original Series: Miasma.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Re-Watch Reviews, Episode 005: "Accession" - DS9 4x17

The next episode in my alphabetical Star Trek re-watch is here! A major turning point in the life of Benjamin Sisko: his acceptance of the role of Emissary. What did I think of the Deep Space Nine episode "Accession"? Find out by watching my review!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Literary Treks 139: Feels Like Star Trek VII

The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner

In 1995, the first novel of what came to be known as the "Shatnerverse" hit bookshelves. This book spawned a series that would last for ten books and twelve years, featuring all-new adventures about James T. Kirk, penned by William Shatner himself. Journey with us back in time as we take a look at where it all began!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther talk about William Shatner's The Ashes of Eden. We discuss opinions on the Shatnerverse, getting older, when fantasies become reality, interesting villains, Heart of Darkness and Insurrection, the crew reunited, and our ratings.

Literary Treks 139: Feels Like Star Trek VII
William Shatner's The Ashes of Eden

Previous episode: Literary Treks 138: A.K.A. K.M.F.B.

Next episode: Literary Treks 140: Landed in Yoda's Swamp

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Release Day! The Latter Fire by James Swallow

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Latter Fire by James Swallow

As Star Trek readers, our cups runneth over this month! The second new release in as many days: The Latter Fire, the latest novel by New York Times bestselling author James Swallow, is released today. It has already shown up on many booksellers shelves, and I already have my copy in hand! Pick yours up today, it's available in hardcopy or downloadable e-book.

Look below for the back-cover blurb and links to purchase from Amazon.

Publisher's description:
The five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise has brought the vessel and her crew to the forefront of an important first contact situation. Under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, the ship is heading to the planet Syhaar Prime in the Beta Quadrant—the home world of an alien civilization preparing to take its first steps on to the galactic stage. One year earlier, the Enterprise came across a badly damaged Syhaari explorer vessel drifting in deep space. In collaboration with the explorer’s captain, Kirk and his crew were able to restore the ship to full function and send it on its way. And now, as the Syhaari display rapid technological advances made over the past year, hard questions must be asked. Did the Enterprise crew leak advanced technology or information to the Syhaari during their first encounter, in total violation of the Prime Directive?

Purchase The Latter Fire:

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): |

Previous Release: The Original Series: Miasma (e-book exclusive)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Release Day! TOS E-book: Miasma by Greg Cox

Star Trek: The Original Series
Miasma by Greg Cox
An e-book exclusive release

Today, the latest of the e-book exclusive offerings from Simon and Schuster is released: Miasma by New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox! Look below for the cover art, publisher's description, and links to purchase Miasma from Amazon.

Publisher's description:
The Enterprise-A is transporting a party of diplomats when it picks up a mysterious alien signal emanating from a nearby world. The planet’s dense, impenetrable atmosphere makes it unclear if the beacon is a distress signal, an invitation—or a warning to stay away. Spock, Doctor McCoy, and Chekov are part of a team sent to investigate, but an unexpected catastrophe forces a crash landing. Now the landing party is stranded on a hostile world, unable to communicate with the Enterprise. While Captain Kirk and Saavik race to locate the lost crew, a badly wounded Spock struggles to keep McCoy and the others alive until they can be rescued, even if that means making an unthinkable sacrifice...

Purchase Miasma:

E-book (Kindle): | |

Previous Release: Voyager: A Pocket Full of Lies

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Re-Watch Reviews, Episode 004: "The Abandoned" - DS9 3x06

Here it is, the fourth episode in my Star Trek re-watch reviews video series! From Deep Space Nine season three, it's "The Abandoned." When a young Jem'Hadar is found, Odo must take the youth under his wing. Will he be able to tame the Dominion warrior?

No. No he won't. He's a freaking Jem'Hadar.

Next episode: "Accession" - DS9 4x17

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Pocket Full of Lies

Star Trek: Voyager
A Pocket Full of Lies by Kirsten Beyer
Release date: January 26th 2016
Read February 2nd 2016

Previous book (Voyager): Atonement

Next book (Voyager): Architects of Infinity

Spoilers ahead for A Pocket Full of Lies!

From the back cover:
The Full Circle Fleet has resumed its explorations of the Delta Quadrant and former Borg space. Captain Regina Farkas of the USS Vesta makes a promising first contact with the Nihydron—humanoid aliens that are collectors of history. They rarely interact with the species they study but have amassed a large database of numerous races, inhabited planets, and the current geopolitical landscape of a large swath of the quadrant. When an exchange of data is proposed via a formal meeting, the Nihydron representatives are visibly shaken to be greeted by Admiral Kathryn Janeway. For almost a hundred years, two local species, the Rilnar and the Zahl, have fought for control of the nearby planet Sormana, with both sides claiming it as their ancestral homeworld. The shocking part is that for the last several years, the Rilnar have been steadily gaining ground, thanks to the tactics of their current commanding officer: a Human woman, who appears to be none other than Kathryn Janeway herself…

My thoughts:

As I have said in probably every review of a new Voyager release since my review of Unworthy back in 2011, it amazes me how great Voyager has become under the skilled pen of Kirsten Beyer. Voyager was always my least favorite of the Trek television series, and yet the Voyager novels have, in recent years, become the ones that I anticipate reading the most. A Pocket Full of Lies is certainly no exception.

While I generally enjoy most of the new releases from month to month, no author is more consistently great than Kirsten Beyer. More than anything else, her name on the cover of a Trek novel is an indicator of high quality writing and an engaging story. In this particular novel, we get a terrific story that builds on a number of earlier Voyager adventures from the series while bringing its own sensibilities to the ongoing mission of Voyager and the Full Circle fleet.

One of my favorite stories from Voyager's seven year television run was the two-parter "Year of Hell." Featuring great drama and high stakes for the crew of Voyager, "Year of Hell" was a riveting couple of hours of television. Completely satisfying, that is, until the last ten minutes of the second part. Voyager is often known for using the "reset button," and "Year of Hell" features the most egregious example. In one fell swoop, the entirety of the two hours of television are wiped out, without even a vague memory remaining in existence for the characters. A Pocket Full of Lies, however, finds a way to make that story actually matter to the current timeline, and that alone is worth picking up this novel.

Kirsten Beyer partially un-does one of the biggest reset button pushes in all of Star Trek!

Based on the cover design, I was already expecting the tie-in to "Year of Hell." However, what I wasn't expecting was a surprise continuation of story elements from the seventh season episode "Shattered." A very middle-of-the-road-not-great episode of Voyager (in my opinion), "Shattered" apparently sparked the imagination of Kirsten Beyer in an interesting and unexpected way. She is very good at taking mediocre storytelling from the series and crafting compelling adventures from them. In previous novels, season two's "Twisted" was the basis of creatures encountered by Voyager, and the use of "Shattered" here makes me wonder if we should just comb Voyager's catalog of episodes for any past-tense verb titles to discover where Beyer might next take the story!

This moment in season seven's "Shattered" fueled Kirsten Beyer's imagination and led her to create the "second Janeway" for A Pocket Full of Lies.

One of the issues that Beyer explores in this novel is the idea of depression, and the effect this has both on the person suffering from it and on their friends and the people who care about them. Through the character of Nancy Conlon as well as, surprisingly, Tuvok, Beyer explores this issue with a deftness and sensitivity that is amazing to read. Conlon's experiences especially resonated with me. Having known several people who have suffered from severe depression and battle with despair on a daily basis, I found the reactions of Beyer's characters to be grounded very much in reality. Harry Kim's relationship with Conlon in particular felt very real, and I found myself empathizing with everyone involved in the situation. (Harry Kim, a compelling character... I would never have thought this possible before reading a Kirsten Beyer novel!)

There are many more aspects of this novel that I haven't even touched on, such as how our life experiences change who we are, and a great many more character moments that make this novel very much worth a read. For one thing, A Pocket Full of Lies handles the question of differing experiences making a person who they are in a much better way than, say, Star Trek Nemesis does. And any novel that makes me really appreciate the character of Icheb is highly worthy of praise! And, as an added bonus, a hanging plot thread from all the way back in The Eternal Tide is tied up in a very unexpected and pleasant way.

Final thoughts:

With 2016 having just begun, A Pocket Full of Lies has already set the bar very high for Star Trek novels this year. A very fun and very compelling read, this novel not only tells its own story very well, but it also serves to expand on and enhance Voyager stories that have come before. Add to that the fact that Beyer manages to undo the biggest reset button push of all of Star Trek, and A Pocket Full of Lies becomes a must-read. There are many big Trek novels coming out throughout this year, which is Star Trek's 50th anniversary, and I have to say that they all have their work cut out for them if they hope to be the equal of this stellar novel.

More about A Pocket Full of Lies:

Also by Kirsten Beyer:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Look for my review of The Ashes of Eden, the first novel of the "Shatnarrative," coming soon!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Literary Treks 138: A.K.A. K.M.F.B

Voyager: A Pocket Full of Lies
Interview with author Kirsten Beyer!

Ever since Full Circle hit bookshelves in 2009, the Voyager relaunch novels under Kirsten Beyer have become a highlight of the Star Trek novel line. In this, the 50th anniversary year of Star Trek, the bar is raised once again as another stellar Voyager novel continues the story of the Full Circle Fleet's exploration of the Delta Quadrant.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther are joined by Kirsten Beyer to talk about her latest Star Trek: Voyager book A Pocket Full of Lies. We discuss planning this story, wrapping up with a bow, using episodes, home is where the heart is, despair and depression, Tuvok, the Obi-Wan thing, forgiveness, the Denzit's end, a new Janeway, juggling, reader interaction, what's coming up next, and hints.

Literary Treks 138: AKA KMFB
Interview with A Pocket Full of Lies author Kirsten Beyer

Previous episode: Literary Treks 137: Retcon Love Letter

Next episode: Literary Treks 139: Feels Like Star Trek VII

Monday, February 8, 2016

Re-Watch Reviews, Episode 003: "The 37's" - Voyager 2x01

A little late with this post, but the third episode of my re-watch reviews is another Voyager entry, this time from earlier in the series: the first episode of season two, "The 37's"!

Last episode: "11:59" - Voyager 5x23

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Literary Treks 137: Retcon Love Letter

Enterprise: The Good That Men Do
by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin

When the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise aired, it was promoted as a "valentine" to the fans. However, its reception left much to be desired. Featuring a nonsensical plot and laughable villains, "These Are the Voyages" was not well-loved. Therefore, when it was announced that an Enterprise "relaunch" story would undo some of the worst parts of that episode, many Enterprise fans rejoiced!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther talk about the Enterprise novel The Good That Men Do. We discuss the last episode of Enterprise, the audacity of rewriting canon, the set up, bringing Trip back, lack of vision, prequels, a tight story, swiss cheese, head canon, Trip and T’Pol, the foundation of the Romulan War, and our ratings.

In the news, we remind everyone that A Pocket Full of Lies is out!

Literary Treks 137: Retcon Love Letter
Enterprise: The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin

Previous episode: Literary Treks 136: Temporal Mechanics Chess Game

Next episode: Literary Treks 138: A.K.A. K.M.F.B.