Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dark Victory

Star Trek
Dark Victory by William Shatner
Published April 2000
Read April 24th 2017

Previous book (Shatnerverse): Spectre

Next book (Shatnerverse): Preserver

Hardcover: | |
MMPB: | |
Kindle: | |

Spoilers ahead for Dark Victory!

From the back cover:
The Mirror Universe is a dark and twisted reflection of our own, where all that is noble and compassionate is instead cruel and barbaric. Now our universe has been invaded by that other reality's most feared tyrant: the dreaded Emperor Tiberius, the Mirror Universe counterpart of James T. Kirk. Just as Kirk survived his own era to live into the 24th century, so has Tiberius returned from the past to menace a new generation of Starfleet heroes.  
And only Kirk can stop him. 
With Spock, McCoy, and Spotty at his side, and teamed with Jean-Luc Picard and the valiant crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E, Kirk is propelled into his most personal and dangerous mission yet as he fights to uncover the secret of Tiberius' return and learn the terrible truth behind the madman's nightmarish plans for the Federation. 
But how can he defeat an enemy who knows Kirk's mind as well as he knows his own?

My thoughts:

Dark Victory is the second book in William Shatner's Mirror Universe trilogy, following on from the previous novel, Spectre, and concluding in the next, Preserver. After Kirk faces down his evil doppelganger, Tiberius, a few months have passed. Starfleet considers Tiberius dead, and tries to convince Kirk of that fact, but he is not having it. However, life must go on, and soon Kirk finds himself marrying the love of his life, Teilani. On the wedding day, Teilani is poisoned, and Kirk believes that Emperor Tiberius is responsible. Kirk sets off to track down Tiberius and get the cure for the toxin that has incapacitated his wife, not knowing that it is in fact a rogue agency within Starfleet, Project Sign, that has set everything in motion.

The idea of Kirk and Starfleet being against one another is a theme that comes up again and again in the "Shatnerverse" novels. Quite often, Kirk comes up against a conspiracy within Starfleet's ranks, and Dark Victory is no exception with its use of "Project Sign," a shadowy secretive organization that reminds me more than just a little of Section 31.

Dr. Andrea M'Benga plays a role in Dark Victory. If that name sounds familiar, it's because she is the great-granddaughter of the Dr. M'Benga who appeared twice in the original Star Trek television series (pictured).

In the course of this novel, we learn more about Project Sign and the underhanded tactics it uses, mostly through the secondary character of Dr. Andrea M'Benga, the great-granddaughter of the Dr. M'Benga character from the original Star Trek television series. It is revealed that Project Sign regularly uses Dr. M'Benga as an expert to conduct their research, subsequently repressing her memories of the events after each instance of her work with Project Sign. Interestingly, the character who uncovers this is none other than plain, simple Garak, the enigmatic Cardassian spy/tailor from Deep Space Nine! Garak has always been one of my all-time favorite Star Trek characters, and Dark Victory uses him to great effect. In some ways, this is surprising, as I often find that the Shatnerverse novels tend to use characters from the other series in a haphazard way, throwing them in the story so as to have Kirk interact with as many different Trek characters as possible. Garak, however, plays a really interesting role in this story, and I feel like his character is used quite well.

Garak's role in the novel was a surprise, and one that worked quite well in my opinion.

I rather enjoyed the immediate precursor to this book, Spectre, but I found myself somewhat let down by Dark Victory. For one thing, the pacing of this novel felt very off. Although they are part of a trilogy of stories, I am of the firm belief that each novel should feel like a complete book in and of itself. This is not to say that you can't have a story stretch over three books, but rather just that each book needs to have a defined arc with a complete beginning, middle, and end. In this respect, Dark Victory failed. Instead, the beginning of the book seems to wrap up the cliffhanger from Spectre quite quickly, and then the story seems to meander for quite awhile before finally upping the pace again towards the end. However, rather than ending on a really high note, the conclusion to Dark Victory fell flat for me. Instead of having a strong beginning middle and end, Dark Victory ends up feeling like it is just connective tissue between books 1 and 3 in this trilogy, and for my money, a book needs to be a little more than that.

Having said that, there were things I enjoyed. The story's use of Garak, as I mentioned, was quite welcome, as were the insights into Kirk's character. At one point, Kirk talks about the need to keep moving and making a difference in order to sort of "outrun" old age and death. I rather liked this insight into what makes Kirk tick, and as Bruce Gibson and I mention in the Literary Treks podcast about this novel, it seems as though this is something that William Shatner himself believes about his own life. Definitely a fascinating insight into James T. Kirk as well as possibly William Shatner.

Final thoughts:

While there are certainly aspects of Dark Victory that I enjoyed, I feel that it falls short of being a good Star Trek novel. Instead of feeling like a complete book in and of itself, it simply serves to connect the novels that precede and follow it. The conclusion is also fairly clunky, and I would have preferred a more compelling cliffhanger or conclusion than the note the story ends on. Unfortunately, this has been the low note in the Shatnerverse novels up to this point. 2 out of 5 stars.

More about Dark Victory:

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

My next read:

Next up is my video review of Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Literary Treks 230: Golf in the Original Klingon

by John M. Ford

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

Star Trek is no stranger to absurdity. "The Trouble with Tribbles," "I, Mudd," and "A Piece of the Action" are probably the most notable instances. However, I think it's fair to say that Star Trek has never been quite this off-the-wall! With characters bursting into song at the drop of a hat and over-the-top physical gags including an epic pie fight and a Klingon captain getting his foot stuck in a toilet, the subject of this week's episode isn't your typical Trek!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson talk about the highly polarizing classic novel How Much for Just the Planet? We discuss the plot of the novel, the instances of very broad comedy, the characters who populate this colorful tale, artistic flourishes by the author including some surprise cameo appearances, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we talk about the TNG: Through the Mirror comic series, which is currently being released. We will do a complete review of the entire miniseries in an upcoming episode of Literary Treks!

Literary Treks 230: Golf in the Original Klingon
Star Trek #36: How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford

Previous episode: Literary Treks 229: Spaceballs From the Gamma Quadrant
Next episode: Literary Treks 231: Dancing to the Strains of Cadillac Ranch

Release Day! Prometheus: The Root of All Rage

Star Trek: Prometheus
The Root of All Rage
by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg

Something that is all too rare this year: a new Star Trek novel release! Today, pick up the latest English translation of a novel in the Star Trek: Prometheus series: book 2, The Root of All Rage!

This book has already been showing up in the wild, so you should have no problem finding it at your local bookstore, and you can also get the e-book version at your favorite online retailer.

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

Publisher's description:
A dangerous evil is flourishing in the Alpha Quadrant. In the Lembatta Cluster, a curious region of space, fanatics who call themselves the Purifying Flame are trying to start a galactic war, and the warlike Klingons are baying for blood. The Federation have sent the U.S.S. Prometheus to settle the crisis, and the crew must contend with both the hostile Renao: the secretive inhabitants of the Cluster, and the Klingon captain of the I.K.S Bortas, who is desperate for war.

Purchase Prometheus: The Root of All Rage:

Trade Paperback: | |
E-Book (Kindle): |

Next Release: Discovery: Fear Itself

Monday, May 14, 2018

Literary Treks 229: Spaceballs From the Gamma Quadrant

Deep Space Nine #5:
Fallen Heroes by Dafydd ab Hugh

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

Deep Space Nine under siege! A seemingly indestructible and implacable foe is tearing through DS9 deck-by-deck, destroying everyone in their path. Salvation will come from an unlikely place, however, and it is up to Quark and Odo to work together to solve the mystery and save the station!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther are joined by guest host Brandon Shea-Mutala to discuss the Deep Space Nine novel Fallen Heroes by Dafydd ab Hugh. We talk about when the novel was written, a Quark and Odo team-up, whether the author captured the voices of characters adequately, time travel shenanigans, the alien of the week, the resolution of the novel, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news section, we review issue #18 of Boldly Go, which is sadly the final issue of the series.

Literary Treks 229: Spaceballs From the Gamma Quadrant
Deep Space Nine #5: Fallen Heroes by Dafydd ab Hugh

Previous episode: Literary Treks 228: Wesley 2.0
Next episode: Literary Treks 230: Golf in the Original Klingon

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Escape

Star Trek: Voyager #2
The Escape by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published May 1995
Read April 15th 2017

Previous book (Voyager): #1: Caretaker

Next book (Voyager): #3: Ragnarok

Mass-market paperback: | |

Spoilers ahead for The Escape!

From the back cover:
The U.S.S. Voyager is in desperate trouble, her systems damaged, her warp engines failing. Without immediate repairs the starship and her crew will be trapped forever between the stars. Captain Kathryn Janeway must guide her ship to an ancient, deserted planet that could hold the key to their survival -- a planet that is hiding more than one deadly secret.

My thoughts:

Back when Star Trek: Voyager first premiered in 1995, I had it in my head that I would collect every novel that was published in the Voyager series. It was a new, shiny Trek series, and I was pretty excited to embrace the journey full steam from day one. That goal didn't last very long, but I did pick this novel up back when it was first published. I remember devouring it, really enjoying the time-twisting plot and the very cool depiction of a society whose people travelled through time as easily as you or I might get on a flight to a sunny beach destination. When I recently re-read The Escape for the Literary Treks podcast, I hoped I wouldn't be disappointed, as I remembered really enjoying this story.

For the most part, I wasn't disappointed. While The Escape is the first original Voyager novel, and thus is vulnerable to the pitfalls of not knowing much about the source material beyond the series bible and scripts of the first few episodes, the story manages to stay very true to the Voyager series with characters who, for the most part, feel much like the characters we get to know on the show.

Voyager characters, such as Paris and Torres, are well-represented in The Escape, especially given how early this novel was written, before any episodes of the series had even aired!

There are certainly a couple of exceptions: Neelix in particular feels very out of character. Sure, he was annoying and a little troublesome in Voyager's first season, but his ineptitude and "bumbliness" in this novel is a bit over-the-top. Also, The Doctor is given a name: Doctor Zimmerman, which was apparently to be his name on the show before the producers decided to go in a different direction. However, this is a minor detail that is easy to overlook while reading The Escape.

One character who unfortunately misses the mark a bit is Neelix. He was never quite as annoying as he is in The Escape.

The story itself is quite fascinating, focusing on a culture that employs time travel to an extensive degree. Citizens of Alcawell travel into the distant past, governed by a strict set of laws whose purpose is to protect history from being altered by a significant margin. Voyager's crew, of course, inadvertently runs afoul of these laws when an away team accidentally travels back in time while exploring the deserted remains of the planet. Watching Paris, Torres, and Neelix come up against an implacable bureaucracy was, at times, very amusing, and reminded me a lot of every time I have to call my phone, internet, or other utility providers. The brick wall they come up against is as frustrating as it is familiar.

The resolution to the plot is satisfying, with the Voyager crew coming to an understanding with the authority that governs the planet Alcawell. It's certainly nice to see someone come out ahead when dealing with ridiculous bureaucracies; I would probably do well to get Captain Janeway to call my internet provider on my behalf the next time I'm subjected to the torture of having to deal with them!

Final thoughts:

Voyager, more than any other Star Trek series, dealt with crazy anomalies and confusing time paradoxes on a fairly regular basis. In that respect, The Escape does a very good job in predicting the tone of Voyager and crafting a tale that feels right at home in that series. This, combined with fantastic world-building and the nearly spot-on representations of the Voyager crew, make The Escape one of my favorite "in-series" Voyager novels, quite a feat by the authors given how early in Voyager's run it was written. Four out of five stars.

More about The Escape:

Also by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

My next read:

Next up is my review of the William Shatner novel Dark Victory!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Literary Treks 228: Wesley 2.0

The Next Generation: A Time to Be Born
by John Vornholt

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

In 2004, Pocket Books undertook an ambitious project: a nine-book series that bridged the gap between the films Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis. Dubbed the "A Time To..." series, the nine novels have titles that will be familiar to readers of the Ecclesiastes book of the Old Testament, or those who know the pop hit by The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Good luck getting that one out of your head!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson talk about the first book in the series, A Time to Be Born. We discuss Wesley Crusher's surprise return, the dangers of the Rashanar battle site, the damage to Picard's reputation, Data's role in the story, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we review the first issue of the new Star Trek: Discovery: Succession miniseries.

Literary Treks 228: Wesley 2.0
The Next Generation: A Time to Be Born by John Vornholt

Previous episode: Literary Treks 227: Hogwarts Academy
Next episode: Literary Treks 229: Spaceballs From the Gamma Quadrant

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Literary Treks 227: Hogwarts Academy

Star Trek: Academy: Collision Course
by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

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

James T. Kirk. He has crossed the galaxy, fought Klingons, Romulans, and Borg, and lived through more than anyone ever thought possible. But how did this remarkable Starfleet captain get his start? While the story of his academy years has been told in a number of different stories, never before have we seen his young life from the perspective of the man who played him: William Shatner.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss the final Shatnerverse novel, Academy: Collision Course. We talk about this novel's relationship with Star Trek 2009, Jim Kirk's relationship with Starfleet, his family dynamic, Spock in his youth, another perspective on Tarsus IV, how Collision Course fits in with Trek canon, why the Academy book series was cancelled, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we judge the upcoming Discovery novel Fear Itself by its cover and review the latest New Visions comic, "The Enemy of My Enemy."

Literary Treks 227: Hogwarts Academy
Star Trek: Academy: Collision Course by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Previous episode: Literary Treks 226: Nintendo Hwii
Next episode: Literary Treks 228: Wesley 2.0