Friday, August 31, 2018

A Stitch in Time

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #27
A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson
Published September 2000
Read November 14th 2017


Previous book (numbered): #26: Rebels, Book Three: The Liberated

Previous book (published order): Millennium, Book Three: Inferno
Next book (Deep Space Nine): Avatar, Book One


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for A Stitch in Time!

From the back cover:
For nearly a decade Garak has longed for just one thing -- to go home. Exiled on a space station, surrounded by aliens who loathe and distrust him, going back to Cardassia has been Garak's one dream. Now, finally, he is home. But home is a world whose landscape is filled with death and destruction. Desperation and dust are constant companions and luxury is a glass of clean water and a warm place to sleep.
Ironically, it is a letter from one of the aliens on that space station, Dr. Julian Bashir, that inspires Garak to look at the fabric of his life. Elim Garak has been a student, a gardener, a spy, an exile, a tailor, even a liberator. It is a life that was charted by the forces of Cardassian society with very little understanding of the person, and even less compassion. 
But it is the tailor that understands who Elim Garak was, and what he could be. It is the tailor who sees the ruined fabric of Cardassia, and who knows how to bring this ravaged society back together. This is strange, because a tailor is the one thing Garak never wanted to be. But it is the tailor whom both Cardassia and Elim Garak need. It is the tailor who can put the pieces together, who can take a stitch in time.

My thoughts:

I have a hard time defining an absolute "favorite," whether it's a film, television series, food, or character. But if pressed on the question of who is my favorite Star Trek character of all time, Garak would be an answer that I would at least consider.

There are many reasons for this admiration: he was always incredibly engaging, masterfully written, and brilliantly performed by Andrew Robinson, a true treasure in the Star Trek cast. I have always admired his portrayal of Garak, and when I got the opportunity to meet him at the Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas a few years ago, I was blown away by the intelligence and insightfulness of this talented actor.

It turns out, of course, that acting isn't the only thing Andrew Robinson excels at.

A Stitch in Time, written by Andrew Robinson, is the definitive guide to who and what Garak is. In fact, at the recent convention in Vegas, a fan asked Andrew Robinson what kind of backstory he thought Garak had, to which he responded, "it's all in my book!" A Stitch in Time is assembled from notes and musings from the actor himself from seven years of playing the enigmatic Cardassian tailor. This proximity to the source material, and the fact that Robinson himself wrote the book, makes Garak's voice come through the pages of A Stitch in Time extremely clearly.

A Stitch in Time features Garak's backstory, as told by the man himself, and written by the actor who played him: Andrew J. Robinson!

Garak's story is one of tragedy, heartbreak, determination, and, ultimately, a sort of redemption. A Stitch in Time follows his life from his early years as a student at the Bamarran Institute for State Intelligence up until his experiences on post-Dominion War Cardassia. There are many surprises revealed here, and as someone who really likes the character of Garak, I certainly appreciated these insights into his early life and what led him to where we see him during DS9.

As much as I love Garak, I have to admit that he is not, at his core, what one would term a "good person." He has a very dark past and has done many morally questionable and outright wrong things in his life. He has worked as a brutal interrogator, an assassin, and a spy. One of the things I love about A Stitch in Time is that Robinson doesn't shy away from that characterization at all. Garak is as multifaceted and "dark" in the pages of this novel as he is during Deep Space Nine. Intrigue, murder, and duplicity populate the pages of A Stitch in Time as much as you would assume a story about Garak should.

In the pages of A Stitch in Time, we discover the answers to a myriad of questions we have always had about Garak: what was his relationship with Obsidian Order head Enabran Tain? How did he come to be exiled from Cardassia? What about Garak's personal life? And how did he come to be a tailor? We get answers to all of these questions, but I submit to you that because we get those answers from Garak himself, can we actually trust those answers? Or, is this entire book yet another web of lies, with the truth somewhere to be found among the misdirection, dissembling, and outright falsehoods? It is Garak, after all...

The novel explores the major relationships throughout Garak's life, including with his father, Enabran Tain, head of the Obsidian Order.

A Stitch in Time isn't just a story about Garak, but a story about Cardassia as a whole as well. In the Star Trek universe, alien societies don't usually get a ton of depth. Beyond the Vulcans and the Klingons, and to a certain extent the Romulans, there aren't many alien worlds we know a ton about. With DS9, that changed considerably with regards to Bajor and Cardassia, but I would contend that the novelverse has done a lot more to flesh out Cardassia in particular. Beginning with this novel, we get a deep dive into Cardassian society, politics, and even spiritual beliefs. The baton is carried further in later novels, especially those by Una McCormack. If you are wanting to read a lot more about Cardassia in general and Garak in particular, I would point you towards her novels, most notably Hollow Men, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, The Crimson Shadow, and Enigma Tales.

I have never pretended that this website was for any kind of deep insights or revelations about literature. I am not a literary critic by any means, just someone who loves Star Trek novels. I can't speak to where A Stitch in Time falls in relation to other literature, but I can say that in the library of Star Trek novels, it is pretty darn near the top. As I stated earlier, I'm not good with the whole "favorite" concept, but A Stitch in Time is at least in the top five best Star Trek novels of all time. Am I biased because of my love of Garak? Possibly, but I make no apologies for that. In the list of Star Trek essential reads, A Stitch in Time will always have a place.

Final thoughts:

An absolutely essential Star Trek novel for fans of Deep Space Nine and Garak in particular. Garak's life story as told by the actor who played him? How can you not love this? And Andrew Robinson is more than up to the task of telling this particular story. One of the best Trek novels of all time, A Stitch in Time earns absolute top marks from me. 5/5 stars.

More about A Stitch in Time:

My next read:

Another Shatnerverse novel, the first book in the Totality trilogy: Captain's Peril by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Literary Treks 240: It Rings a Bit Holo

Voyager: The Farther Shore
by Christie Golden

Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

A Borg virus slowly spreads all around the Earth. A full-scale holographic rebellion is bringing the service industry to its knees. And in the middle of it all: Admiral Kathryn Janeway and the former crew of the U.S.S. Voyager. With Seven of Nine, Icheb, and The Doctor incarcerated by Starfleet, it's up to their former shipmates to set them free and get to the bottom of the mystery facing them before the entire planet is assimilated!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are once again joined by Warp Five's Brandi Jackola to discuss Voyager: The Farther Shore by Christie Golden, book two of the Homecoming duology. We talk about B'Elanna's quest to find her mother, the ultimate badmiral Brenna Covington, Oliver Baines and his holographic revolution, Data's role in the story, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings for the novel.

At the top of the show, Dan and Bruce review the latest comic from IDW: the second issue of the TNG: Terra Incognita miniseries!


Literary Treks 240: It Rings a Bit Holo
Voyager: The Farther Shore by Christie Golden






Previous episode: Literary Treks 239: Big Box o' Pips
Next episode: Literary Treks 241: The Bromance Episode

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Echoes

Star Trek: Voyager #15
Echoes by Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Published January 1998
Read November 7th 2017


Previous book (Voyager): #14: Marooned

Next book (published order): The Captain's Table #4: Fire Ship
Next book (numbered): #16: Seven of Nine


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Echoes!

From the back cover:
The U.S.S. Voyager finds itself in a system where a planet might have existed, but doesn't. Where the planet should have been, millions and then billions of people are appearing from nowhere and dying in the vacuum of space.
To solve the mystery and save billions of lives, Captain Janeway will have to face alternate versions of herself and the crew of Voyager -- not just one almost-mirror-image, but many. Janeway will have to find a way to work with her alternate selves, with whom she shares much but each of whom has a different agenda. At stake is the survival of Voyager and the lives of billions of innocent people.

My thoughts:

Echoes opens with a vivid scene: billions of people suddenly flash into existence in empty space, immediately exposed to hard vacuum and struggling to breathe. The struggle doesn't last long, however, as the billions die an excruciating death in the dark cold of space. It's an exciting (albeit incredibly dark) hook to immediately get the reader into the story!

Voyager encounters a subspace wave that doesn't seem to affect them in any way, but when they receive a distress call shortly thereafter, Captain Janeway orders the ship to the source to investigate. The subspace waves occur every two and a half hours, and correspond to small, barely noticeable changes on the planet's surface. For example, the leader with whom Captain Janeway speaks appears to change eye color from one pulse to the next. When an away team to the surface disappears during the pulse, with no one on the surface seeming to know anything about an away team in the first place, the strange curiosity turns into a crisis.

Additionally, every time a pulse occurs, a strange phenomenon is witnessed: the appearance of multiple planets, as well as multiple Voyagers orbiting those planets, stretching off into infinity. The effect is akin to two mirrors held up to one another, showing the person in them in an unending chain that goes on forever. Curiously, Voyager only appears to be present orbiting every other planet in this seemingly endless chain of planets. The reason for this is a fascinating one, and is related to the events of the second season episode "Deadlock."

Basically, when Voyager was duplicated in the episode "Deadlock," that event created a branching of quantum realities. When one of the Voyagers was destroyed, it resulted in Voyager being missing from every second quantum reality. I know, it's confusing; just go with it!

Echoes borrows heavily from that episode, as well as the TNG episode "Parallels." Each time a pulse happens, all of the people on the surface of the planet are shifted one universe over. Over time, tiny changes accumulate, and billions of people end up further and further away from their own reality. At one point in the chain of realities, there exists a reality in which a cataclysm in the distant past destroyed the planet, which is why billions of people are appearing in open space and dying in the vacuum every two and a half hours.

One of the most interesting aspects of Echoes is that the primary mystery of the book isn't one facing our main cast of characters, but rather their counterparts from over 2000 universes away - "to the right," in the parlance of the novel. This was a fascinating choice by the authors, and one that serves the story quite well. I love that "our" Captain Janeway and Voyager crew are just one of uncounted numbers of Voyagers who are working on this problem. This is a brave and realistic choice to make, as it would make no sense that "our" universe is necessarily the most important one to the story, when there are unlimited other universes revealed to be in the midst of this crisis.

By the time the end of the story comes around, it's pretty clear that a standard ending just won't do. Countless billions are dead, and uncountable more are displaced many universes away from their "original" universe, including away teams from multiple Voyagers. Unfortunately, this means that the story must rely on a crutch that the Voyager television series itself relied on far too often: the reset button. However, while the overuse of the reset button tends to infuriate me with regards to the television show, I didn't actually mind it all that much here, although I have a hard time figuring out exactly why that is. The story itself it certainly compelling and the mystery is a tantalizing one, and it's unfortunate the the reset ending undercuts all of that. However, I still really enjoyed this story and the imagination that went into crafting it.

Final thoughts:

Echoes presents a very Voyager-like problem, and fits really well into the structure of a Voyager story. There are some very interesting choices made by the authors that add to the enjoyment. A fascinating science fiction mystery that, while complex, doesn't get too bogged-down with technobabble. Definitely one of the better Voyager stories set during the series that I have read. 4/5 stars.

More about Echoes:

My next read:

A personal favorite of mine: Deep Space Nine: A Stitch in Time by Garak himself, Andrew J. Robinson!


Friday, August 24, 2018

November's Star Trek Comics from IDW

Hey all! While I was never a big reader of the Star Trek comics before, my current gig with the Literary Treks podcast means I read all the new releases, and I have to say, some of them are pretty great!

IDW has just released their solicitations for the month of November, and we have some big Trek titles on the way!

First off, if you enjoyed the Waypoint comics like I did, you were probably disappointed when the run ended. Well, some good news! While the series isn't back on a regular basis, there will be a special large-sized issue coming in November! This special issue is written by Dave Baker and Nicole Goux, Brandon Easton, Jackson Lanzig and Collin Kelly, and Matthew Dow Smith, with art by Nicole Goux, Josh Hood, Sonny Liew, and Matthew Dow Smith.

Here's the publisher's description:
The anthology series spanning 50 years of Star Trek returns in this oversized annual! These weird and wonderful stories—set during the Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and more—expand on rarely explored corners of the universe or provide closure for long-forgotten plot threads. But they all remind us of why we love Trek. This volume features your favorite characters, including Data, Q, and Ezri Dax, handled by the top creators of today and the future!

Only one cover for this special Waypoint oversized issue, by artist Josh Hood.



Next up is the third issue in the Star Trek vs. Transformers series, written by John Barber and Mike Johnson with art by Philip Murphy.

Klingons and Decepticons lay siege to a remote Federation dilithium mine—and the only thing holding them back is the shaky alliance of Captain Kirk and Optimus Prime. But what dark secret is buried beneath the ground… and can this uneasy partnership withstand the revelations?

The A cover (by Philip Murphy) has yet to be revealed, but we have the B cover as well as a retailer incentive cover below!

The B cover, by artist Gavin Fullerton.

Retailer incentive cover by Megan Levens.

Finally, November also sees the release of issue 5 of the TNG: Terra Incognita series. I have to tell you, I'm really enjoying this series! The first two issues have been terrific, and I'm excited to see where it goes from there!

This issue is written by Scott and David Tipton with art by Angel Hernandez. There will be four covers available: A cover by Tony Shasteen, and a B photo montage cover. There will also be two retailer incentive covers by J.K. Woodward and Elizabeth Beals. Right now, we only have Shasteen's and Woodward's covers to show you. I love the Woodward cover (his stuff is always amazing)!

On the heels of the blockbuster THROUGH THE MIRROR miniseries comes a brand-new NEXT GENERATION series, featuring untold tales of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D! Interstellar odd couple Worf and Beverly Crusher undertake a difficult mission, but can they overcome their differences to work together?

A cover, by Tony Shasteen.

Retailer incentive cover by J.K. Woodward.

Keep track of all of the book and comic releases through 2018 on my releases page, as well as what's coming in 2019!


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Drastic Measures

Star Trek: Discovery
Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward
Release date: February 6th 2018
Read March 1st 2018


Previous book (Discovery): Desperate Hours
Next book (Discovery): Fear Itself


Purchase:
Trade Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Publisher's description:
It is 2246, ten years prior to the Battle at the Binary Stars, and an aggressive contagion is ravaging the food supplies of the remote Federation colony Tarsus IV and the eight thousand people who call it home. Distress signals have been sent, but any meaningful assistance is weeks away. Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Lorca and a small team assigned to a Starfleet monitoring outpost are caught up in the escalating crisis, and bear witness as the colony’s governor, Adrian Kodos, employs an unimaginable solution in order to prevent mass starvation.

While awaiting transfer to her next assignment, Commander Philippa Georgiou is tasked with leading to Tarsus IV a small, hastily assembled group of first responders. It’s hoped this advance party can help stabilize the situation until more aid arrives, but Georgiou and her team discover that they‘re too late—Governor Kodos has already implemented his heinous strategy for extending the colony’s besieged food stores and safeguarding the community’s long-term survival.

In the midst of their rescue mission, Georgiou and Lorca must now hunt for the architect of this horrific tragedy and the man whom history will one day brand “Kodos the Executioner”….

My thoughts:
"The revolution is successful. But survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. Your lives mean slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore, I have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered, signed Kodos, Governor of Tarsus IV."
With those chilling words, Adrian Kodos sentenced 4000 colonists to death to ensure the survival of the remaining population of Tarsus IV. In this Discovery novel, we learn that Philippa Georgiou and Gabriel Lorca were on hand during these events and the crisis that followed.

Click here to watch my video review of Discovery: Drastic Measures, or click play on the embedded video below!



Final thoughts:

Dayton Ward's Drastic Measures does a great job in integrating Discovery characters into the history of Star Trek, while at the same time creating new and interesting backstories and lore for both Lorca and Georgiou. Especially in Lorca's case, given that this book is the most we ever see of this character from the prime universe. Readers should pay extra attention to the very last "bonus chapter" at the end of the novel for some possible hints about future developments on Star Trek: Discovery...

More about Drastic Measures:


Also by Dayton Ward:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

My next review will be for a Voyager novel from the older numbered series: Echoes by Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Nina Kirki Hoffman.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Literary Treks 239: Big Box o' Pips

Voyager: Homecoming
by Christie Golden

Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

In May of 2001, the Starship Voyager took her final on-screen voyage as Captain Janeway ordered her crew to "set a course... for home." Voyager had finally made it back to Earth after seven seasons in the Delta Quadrant, cut off from the Federation and their families. However, many viewers felt that the ending to Voyager was too abrupt. What about family reunions? What would happen to the Maquis crewmembers? And how would Voyager and her crew fit in to a Starfleet they had been separated from for so many years?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther are joined by Warp Five's Brandi Jackola to talk about the Voyager relaunch novel Homecoming by Christie Golden. We discuss a troubling account of abuse, fixing "Endgame," wrapping things up too quickly, a holographic uprising, the return of the Borg, and finish by sharing our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news this week, Bruce and Dan discuss the implications of the newly-announced Jean-Luc Picard television series on the lit-verse, the return of the Star Trek: Waypoint comic from IDW this November, and review the final issue of the Star Trek: Discovery: Succession miniseries.


Literary Treks 239: Big Box o' Pips
Voyager: Homecoming by Christie Golden






Previous episode: Literary Treks 238: Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Next episode: Literary Treks 240: It Rings a Bit Holo

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sarek

Star Trek
Sarek by A.C. Crispin
Published March 1994
Read September 21st 2017


Previous book (The Original Series - Hardcover): Shadows on the Sun

Previous book (The Original Series - Published order): #68: Firestorm
Next book (The Original Series - Hardcover): Federation
Next book (The Original Series - Published order): #69: The Patrian Transgression


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Sarek!

From the back cover:
Spock's mother, Amanda Grayson, is dying, and Spock returns to the planet Vulcan where he and Sarek enjoy a rare moment of rapprochement. But just as his wife's illness grows worse, duty calls Sarek away -- once again sowing seeds of conflict between father and son. Yet soon, Sarek and Spock must put aside their differences and work together to foil a far-reaching plot to destroy the Federation -- a plot that Sarek has seen in the making for nearly his entire career. The epic story will take the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise to the heart of the Klingon Empire, where Captain Kirk's last surviving relative has become a pawn in a battle to divide the Federation...and conquer it. With Sarek's help, the crew of the Starship Enterprise learns that all is not as it seems. Before they can prevent the Federation's destruction, they must see the face of their hidden enemy -- an enemy more insidious and more dangerous than any they have faced before...

My thoughts:

A.C. Crispin was one of the giants of Star Trek novels. When she passed away in September of 2013, the world lost an incredible talent. During her career, she penned four Star Trek novels, all of which are considered to be excellent examples of the craft. She is perhaps best known for Sarek, the subject of today's review.

In the world of Trek novels, Sarek stands on its own. It is an incredibly well-written and engaging story, filled with moments of surprising emotion and depth. The story is set shortly after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and consists mainly of three stories running in tandem. In the first, Amanda, Spock's mother, is dying. It is in this story that we learn the most about Sarek, mostly in the form of journal entries by Amanda. This is a brilliant way to explore Sarek's character, due to the fact that as a Vulcan, it can be difficult to understand his motivations and personality in a human context. By viewing him through the eyes of a human woman who is in love with him, we see him through a frame of reference that we can understand.

The character of Sarek is explored through his relationship with his wife, Amanda, and the estrangement between him and his son, Spock.

Sarek is, ultimately, a heartbreaking story of the love between Sarek and Amanda, as well as the pain and estrangement between father and son. Spock and Sarek come to a rare understanding when Amanda is near death, but when urgent matters call Sarek away, we are right back where we started with Spock resenting his father who cannot be there when Amanda dies. The scene with Spock and Amanda trying to reach out to Sarek as she passes away is heartwrenching, but the illustration of the love between husband and wife is really quite beautiful. Reading this novel, I was reminded of Trip and T'Pol's telepathic link in Star Trek: Enterprise's fourth season. It actually makes me wonder if the writers took inspiration from this novel.

The second story involves Kirk's nephew, Peter, and his attempts to get to the bottom of a hate group called KEHL - The Keep Earth Human League. The exploration of this group highlights an issue that is, unfortunately, as timely as ever. It seems like we'll never be rid of hate groups like this, with the rise of so-called "alt-right" groups and the like. In this novel, the rise of the KEHL is due to a Romulan conspiracy behind the scenes; in our own world today, we don't have Romulans to blame, only ourselves.

Unfortunately, racist groups like the Keep Earth Human League or the "alt-right" keep being a thing.

The ultimate plot that is uncovered by Sarek involves an attempt to start a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Sarek suspects a conspiracy involving a race called the "Freelans" and has devoted much of his career to sussing it out. It turns out that the Freelans are in fact the descendants of Vulcans who have been captured by Romulans over the years, part of a plot to undermine other galactic powers by using their telepathic gifts to influence other races.

There are a lot of elements I enjoyed in this novel besides the excellent exploration of the Sarek character. For one thing, I liked the use of Kamarag as the Klingon antagonist. Trek fans may remember that he is the Klingon ambassador seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He is the one that is famously called a "pompous ass" during an outburst on the floor of the Federation Council. John Schuck is a great actor, and it was fun to have his character used again here. I also liked the characterization of Peter Kirk, a young man who both wants to escape the shadow of his famous uncle but also admires and emulates him, to sometimes comedic effect. I feel like he was a good character to relate to in Sarek.

John Schuck's Klingon Ambassador character is used to good effect in Sarek.

Final thoughts:

Sarek is a truly great novel, exploring a beloved character who has influenced generations of Star Trek fans. Reading this novel, you can easily hear Mark Lenard's voice come to life in its pages. There have been a couple of other versions of Sarek over the years, including Ben Cross in Star Trek (2009) and most recently, James Frain in Star Trek: Discovery. They both do admirable jobs, but Mark Lenard will always be first and foremost Sarek in my mind. Sarek is the perfect exploration of this character through the eyes of his wife, Amanda. A moving, impactful story, Sarek will always have a place among the truly great Star Trek novels. 5/5.

More about Sarek:

My next read:

Next up is my video review of Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward. Look for that soon!


Monday, August 13, 2018

Mudd in Your Eye

Star Trek #81
Mudd in Your Eye by Jerry Oltion
Published January 1997
Read September 12th 2017


Previous book (The Original Series): #80: The Joy Machine

Next book (The Original Series): #82: Mind Meld


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Mudd in Your Eye!

From the back cover:
After millennia of warfare, the planets Prastor and Distrel may have finally achieved a lasting peace. Investigating on behalf of the Federation, Captain Kirk is shocked to find out that the architect of the peace is none other than that notorious con artist, Harcourt Fenton Mudd! Mudd claims to be a changed man, but Kirk has his doubts. He knows that Mudd has to be running some sort of scam, but what is he up to? Kirk must find out soon--before the peace gives way to unending war.

My thoughts:

Mudd in Your Eye is set during the Star Trek original 5-year mission, sometime after the episode "I, Mudd." In this tale, the Enterprise finds itself traveling to a planetary system that has recently ended a centuries-long conflict. At the heart of this new and unexpected peace is the notorious con-man, Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Is his new role as peacemaker a sign of altruism blooming in the heart of this once-despicable man? No, of course not. He's Harry Mudd, after all.

I initially read Mudd in Your Eye for an episode of Literary Treks in the lead-up to the new series, Star Trek: Discovery. We had learned that Mudd would be a character on the show and decided to do a sort of tie-in episode about a book that examines his character. With precious few to choose from (although I suppose the Bantam novel Mudd's Angels from 1978 could have been a contender), we dove into Mudd in Your Eye in the hopes that it would provide some insight into the Mudd character we didn't have before. If nothing else, having since seen the first season of Discovery, I feel that his characterization in Mudd in Your Eye kind of serves to bridge the differences between Roger C. Carmel's portrayal of the character in "Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd" (and "Mudd's Passion") and Rainn Wilson's interpretation in the Discovery episodes "Choose Your Pain" and "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad." This may be the due to the fact that in a novel, we spend more time with the character, and he must thus be written more realistically than in an episode of TOS. While he certainly retains his buffoonish qualities, the character has a deeper side to him here. Although, not that much deeper. He is, as I have said previously, still Harry Mudd.

I found that Harry Mudd's characterization in Mudd in Your Eye served to balance the two Harry Mudds we have seen in canon Star Trek, in my mind at least.

While Harry Mudd is an interesting character in this novel, I find myself much more drawn to the alien culture depicted here. We spend much of the story in the dark about the motivations that drive the Prastor and Distrel in their centuries-long conflict, seemingly over a piece of fruit and which of the two worlds has the right to eat the best part of it. Yeah, no, I'm serious. It may seem like a ridiculous reason to fight a war, but honestly, what exactly is a non-ridiculous reason to kill when it comes right down to it?

We soon learn that the entire culture is run by computer (another TOS trope, but used fairly well here). In the case of these two worlds, when one is killed in honorable combat, they are transported to "Arnhall" to be assigned to their new life. Soon, they are resurrected on the opposite planet. For example, if you are killed on Prastor, you begin your new life on Distrel, and vice versa. Because the computer preserves your pattern and can resurrect you, fighting and killing has become a way of life for this culture. It's really a fascinating pair of worlds that Jerry Oltion has set up here, and Mudd in Your Eye becomes a novel that would be well-served by a re-read once the reader understands what is going on.

Unfortunately, the system of resurrection creates what, to my mind, are a few narrative annoyances in the story. Because this system exists, we of course get a situation in which multiple main characters are killed while on the planet surface. We are expected to believe that Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty, all of whom have survived many dangerous missions in the past, are all killed. They are killed, of course, because there is a mechanism in place to resurrect them. We as readers know they cannot possibly be dead, but the novel drags out the situation before finally revealing them to be alive. While obvious, it still rankled somewhat that the story relied on this misdirection for as long as it did.

"He's dead, Jim!"
No. No he's not.

There are, however, some amusing repercussions of the situation in the novel. Kirk's "second death" in the story comes out of nowhere, and while gruesome, it did have me laughing out loud.

The primary conflict in the novel comes when the resurrection system attempts to revive Harry's android keeper, a replica of Stella, his wife that Harry left behind when he went into space. The system doesn't know what to do as the strange pattern effectively "jams" the system, and people on both sides seem to begin dying for real. The ultimate solution to this problem was certainly interesting, and it meant we got to see the "real" Stella, something that Star Trek: Discovery ended up doing as well.

We see the "real" Stella, both in this novel and in the Discovery episode "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad."

Final thoughts:

Mudd in Your Eye is definitely an enjoyable TOS adventure, with some fascinating world-building. I was never the biggest fan of Harry Mudd, but his character is a little more well-rounded in this novel. His final gambit at the end of the story in order to get away once again was inspired, and I have to admit to being as fooled as Captain Kirk was. A fun story with an interesting premise that held my attention, Mudd in Your Eye would benefit from a re-read due to the twists we learn later in the story. Some narrative choices knock the score down a little bit in my opinion, but not egregiously. 3/5 stars.

More about Mudd in Your Eye:

My next read:

Next up: a classic Star Trek hardcover: Sarek by A.C. Crispin!


Saturday, August 11, 2018

The New Picard Television Series and the Post-Nemesis Continuity

Hey everyone! I took some time to ramble on over on my YouTube channel, Kertrats Productions, about a topic that has been on my mind ever since Patrick Stewart's announcement at Star Trek Las Vegas about the new Star Trek television series he will be starring in. What will become of the post-Nemesis book continuity? There have been many great novels written chronicling the years after Star Trek Nemesis, and many readers are curious: will those novels be wiped out of continuity by this new show? Click here or watch the embedded video below where I share my thoughts!


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Preserver

Star Trek
Preserver by William Shatner
Published April 2001
Read July 25th 2017


Previous book (Shatnerverse): Dark Victory

Next book (Shatnerverse): Captain's Peril


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Preserver!

From the back cover:
In the Mirror Universe the tyrannical Emperor Tiberius, once captain of the ISS Enterprise, had great success turning captured alien weaponry to his advantage. Until, that is, his failure to seize the tantalising advances of the ancient First Federation. Now, in the more peaceful universe of the United Federation of Planets, Tiberius sees his second chance. And a new ally will help him take it - his alter ego for whom he has nothing but contempt - Starfleet Captain James T. Kirk. Honorable, idealistic and decent, James T. Kirk is many things Tiberius is not. But he is also a man deeply in love with his wife - and Teilani is dying. To save her life, Kirk is prepared to compromise his ideals and enter into his most dangerous alliance yet. Battling Captain Jean-Luc Picard and a new generation of Starfleet heroes, Kirk must guide Tiberius to a long-abandoned First Federation base which conceals a power so great it will enable Tiberius to conquer the mirror universe - and his own. But on that journey Kirk uncovers long-hidden secrets that raise the stakes far beyond the mere survival of family and friends. At the heart of their quest, something else is waiting: an object from a civilisation whose technology is far more advanced than any Kirk or Tiberius could hope to acquire, placed there for Kirk's eyes only by mysterious aliens who appear to have influenced life within the galaxy over eons of time - a message from the Preservers...

My thoughts:

As the title of this novel suggests, the enigmatic "Preservers" are at the heart of the story. The implication in Preserver is that this species is responsible for galaxy-changing events and interference spanning billions of years. They may even be the same race of ancient humanoids seen in the TNG episode "The Chase," responsible for "seeding" worlds throughout our galaxy and giving rise to the humanoid form that is so common in the Star Trek universe. However, the only canon reference to the Preservers comes to us from the TOS episode "The Paradise Syndrome," in which it is revealed that they were responsible for transplanting a community of Native Americans from Earth to another planet. Seeing as this would have to have occurred within the last 10,000 years, I always find it strange that the Preservers are linked to events that span billions of years. Preserver isn't the only story to do this; other sources such as Star Trek Online have also postulated an ancient origin for the Preservers.

The Preservers, mentioned in the TOS episode "The Paradise Syndrome," feature heavily in this novel. However, they are implied to be quite different from the beings that are explored in that episode.

This issue aside, Preserver is actually a fascinating conclusion to Shatner's Mirror Universe trilogy. We learn a lot about why things are the way they are in the Trek universe, and much of it comes down to the actions of the Preservers. Many Trek fans were put out by the revelations of the influence a computer AI had on the early Federation as revealed in David Mack's Section 31: Control, but I would contend that the Preservers' impact as outlined in this novel is much greater and more far-reaching. For example, we learn that they were likely responsible for placing people in key positions in order to shape the outcome of the universe, such as ensuring that James T. Kirk became captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Come to think of it, this may explain why everything worked out the way it did in the 2009 Star Trek film...

The story itself wraps up the trilogy in a satisfying manner. One complaint I do have, however, is the death of Kirk's wife, Teilani. I felt she was too important a character to essentially "fridge" in this manner, and her death felt empty, as it seems to just be motivation for Kirk rather than important to Teilani's story. However, I do understand that William Shatner was working through some things during the creation of this novel, including the tragic death of his wife, and it has been suggested to me that this plot point may have stemmed from that terrible incident.

An interesting aspect of the story is the idea that all of the parallel earths we see in Star Trek: The Original Series (see: "Miri," "Bread and Circuses," "The Omega Glory," et al.) were created by the Preservers as "experiments," trying different theories and outcomes by changing variables. In fact, the mirror universe itself was created via the Preservers as well.

In a Star Trek: Discovery easter egg, we see a Preserver obelisk. Might that series one day explore the origins of this enigmatic race?

After finishing two of the three "Shatnerverse" trilogies, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stories. Sure, there is far too much Kirk-worship for my tastes, but if you go in with that expectation, there are some good stories to be found here. I'm certain that much of that is due to the writing expertise of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Their stories have been consistently excellent, and it's good to see that their abilities are put to good use by the Shatnerverse, even if the basic premise and heroic acts of James T. Kirk strain credibility.

Final thoughts:

A fine conclusion to the Mirror Universe Shatner trilogy, but nothing extremely groundbreaking. The usual tropes are here, and the plot itself didn't completely wow me. I was fascinated by the revelations about the Preservers and role they play in creating the multiverse, but the fact that the conclusions the story comes to don't jive well with what is established about them in canon doesn't sit extremely well with me. 3/5.

More about Preserver:


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

My next read:

Up next is a novel from the late days of the TOS numbered novels era: Mudd in Your Eye by Jerry Oltion.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

HUGE Book News From STLV!

Hey everyone! I'm just back home from a week away in Las Vegas, attending the 2018 Las Vegas Star Trek convention! Of course, the biggest news from the convention was the announcement of the return of Jean-Luc Picard to the Star Trek television universe. However, before that, we learned of the much-anticipated and long-awaited end to the drought of Trek novels with the news of three new novels coming at the start of 2019 with more to follow!

Star Trek Books Panel at STLV 2018!

First up is a new Star Trek: Discovery novel by Una McCormack, titiled The Way to the Stars. The novel will center around Sylvia Tilly and her back story, telling us how she came to be a cadet aboard the U.S.S. Discovery. Here's the cover art and back cover blurb, along with links to purchase from Amazon!


An original novel based on the explosive new TV series Star Trek: Discovery! 
Despite being an inexperienced Starfleet cadet, Sylvia Tilly became essential to the U.S.S. Discovery finding its way back home from the Mirror Universe. But how did she find that courage? From where did she get that steel? Who nurtured that spark of brilliance? The Way to the Stars recounts for fans everywhere the untold story of Tilly’s past. 
It’s not easy being sixteen, especially when everyone expects great things from Tilly. It’s even harder when her mother and father are Federation luminaries, not to mention pressing her to attend one of the best schools that the Federation has to offer. Tilly wants to achieve great things—even though she hasn’t quite worked out how to do that or what it is she wants to do. But this year, everything will change for Tilly, as she about to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime—an adventure that will take her ever closer to the stars….
The Way to the Stars will be released on January 8th, 2019 in paperback and e-book!



Next up is an Original Series novel by Greg Cox, The Antares Maelstrom, an area of space name-dropped by Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No cover art yet, but here is the blurb and purchasing links:

An epic new Star Trek saga by New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox set during the original Five-Year Mission! 
The final frontier erupts into chaos as vast quantities of a rare energy source are discovered beneath the surface of Baldur-3, a remote planet beyond the outer fringes of Federation space. Now an old-fashioned “gold rush” is underway as a flood of would-be prospectors, from countless worlds and species, races toward the planet to stake their claim. The galactic stampede threatens the stability of neighboring planets and space stations, as widespread strife and sabotage and all-around pandemonium result in a desperate need for Starfleet assistance. Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise are dispatched to deal with the escalating crisis…which lies on the other side of a famously perilous region of space known as the Antares Maelstrom.

The Antares Maelstrom comes out on March 12th, 2019:




And finally, in April we get a continuation of the post-Nemesis continuity with a new TNG novel: Available Light by Dayton Ward! The story follows up on Section 31: Control by David Mack as well as the A Time To series (which we are currently covering on the Literary Treks podcast). Here's the blurb and Amazon links:

The past comes back to haunt Captain Jean-Luc Picard in this brand new thriller set in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 
Section 31, the covert organization which has operated without accountability in the shadows for more than two centuries, has been exposed. Throughout the Federation, the rogue group’s agents and leaders are being taken into custody as the sheer scope of its misdeeds comes to light. Now Starfleet Command must decide the consequences for numerous officers caught up in the scandal—including Admirals William Ross, Edward Jellico, Alynna Nechayev, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard who, along with many others, are implicated in the forced removal of a Federation president. 
Meanwhile, deep in the distant, unexplored region of space known as the Odyssean Pass, Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise must put aside personal feelings and political concerns as they investigate a massive mysterious spacecraft. Adrift for centuries in the void, the ship is vital to the survival of an endangered civilization which has spent generations searching for a world to sustain what remains of its people. Complicating matters is a band of marauders who have their own designs on the ancient ship, with only the Enterprise standing in their way....

Available Light's release day is April 9th, 2019:


Check out the newly-created 2019 releases page frequently as we get more updates!