Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Literary Treks 247: A 24th Century Jack Ryan Movie

The Next Generation:
A Time to Kill
by David Mack

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

An explosive situation is brewing on the planet Tezwa. An unhinged leader in control of devastating weapons which were covertly provided by the Federation wants to seize a nearby Klingon planet, throwing the sector into chaos. The origin of the weapons on Tezwa, if revealed, may spark war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It falls to Picard and the crew of the Enterprise to destroy these weapons before they ignite an interstellar conflict that would rival even the height of the Dominion War!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss A Time to Kill, the seventh novel in the A Time To series and the first full-length Trek novel by author David Mack. We talk about the fast-paced nature of the novel, conspiracies in the Tezwan and Federation governments, the special ops mission to destroy the weapons, Ambassador Worf's role in the story, a cliffhanger ending, a tragic tale of an android and his emotions, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we report on a new addition to the 2019 release schedule: The Original Series: The Captain's Oath by Christopher L. Bennett, as well as review issue number four in the TNG: Terra Incognita series from IDW. 

Literary Treks 247: A 24th Century Jack Ryan Movie
A Time to Kill by David Mack

Previous episode: Literary Treks 246: Conquest Olympics
Next episode: Literary Treks 248: It All Makes Sense... I Think

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Surak's Soul

Surak's Soul by J.M. Dillard
Published March 2003
Read July 10th 2018

Previous book (Enterprise): What Price Honor?

Next book (Enterprise): The Expanse

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

Spoilers ahead for Surak's Soul

From the back cover:
You are alone, in the dark reaches of space, surrounded by aliens who do not understand who you are and what you are, and who will not accept your beliefs. Under such circumstances, an emotional Human would feel lost, cut off, adrift, but Sub-Commander T'Pol is a Vulcan, and Vulcans control their emotions. However, no other Vulcan has served for longer that a few weeks aboard a Human ship. Has she, as others imply, simply lost her way? 
Pulled, once again, into one of Captain Archer's dangerously impulsive attempts to make first contact, the sub-commander finds her life threatened. T'Pol reacts, draws her phase-pistol and kills. It was a simple act of self-defense. But is killing ever simple? Has she forsaken the teachings of Surak? 
Determined to be true to her heritage, T'Pol forswears violence. She tells Captain Archer that never again will she kill – even if ordered. Is she, as Archer suggests, endangering the entire ship?

My thoughts:

Surak's Soul hits a lot of the right buttons for me upon first glance: the exploration of Vulcan ideology, what it means to be a Vulcan among humans, and what happens when that ideology is threatened. I tend to really enjoy novels that explore these ideas, such as Spock's World by Diane Duane and The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. So to me, bringing these ideas into the lit-verse of Enterprise and the character of T'Pol seems like a no-brainer.

On the surface of the planet Oan where most of the population has been killed, an Enterprise landing party discovers one lone survivor: the last of his species, the Oani. However, he is in rough shape, and when he attacks Hoshi, T'Pol fires her phase pistol in an attempt to stun him. Due to his weakened condition, the stun beam kills him, leading T'Pol to eschew violence completely. She believes that any kind of violence, even in self-defense or defense of another, is antithetical to Surak's teachings. There is some great exploration of this issue at the beginning of this novel, including flashbacks to T'Pol's youth when she first learns of Surak's teachings from her parents, as well as her adolescence, when those teachings are put to the test.

T'Pol's involvement in a fatal phase pistol shooting leads her to abstain from violence of any kind.

Surak's Soul is a very short novel. At only 240 pages, it is quite a thin spine on my bookshelf. One would expect that it is a short, intimate character study, delving into T'Pol's personal journey rather than getting deep into a plot-driven story. Unfortunately, it turns out that the T'Pol part of the story that is hinted at in the back-cover blurb is quite thin. While the novel starts out exploring that issue, the bulk of the novel drops it almost entirely, only revisiting it briefly right at the very end of story.

Strangely enough, many of the issues that Surak's Soul raises are very similar to issues T'Pol deals with in the second season episode "The Seventh." In that episode, T'Pol begins to experience memories that were previously hidden regarding her shooting and killing of a Vulcan fugitive named Jossen. Curious, I looked up when that episode aired relative to the writing and release of this novel. "The Seventh" aired in November of 2002, near the beginning of Enterprise's second season, while this novel was released in March of 2003. Additionally, we know that the acknowledgements in this novel were written in late July 2002, as the date is mentioned in them. Interestingly, Surak's Soul references the events of that episode in a somewhat offhanded way, so the author was aware of the episode at some point in the writing process. I suspect that the novel was in fact quite similar to that episode in the way that it handled these issues, and that may be why it is so thin and why T'Pol's struggle makes up such a small part of the novel. Could some of the story have been excised when it was learned that "The Seventh" would tread much of the same ground? Alas, this is mere speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me.

The plot of Surak's Soul that takes center stage involves a mysterious, gaseous creature called "The Wanderer." We learn that it was this creature who was responsible for the deaths of the Oani, as well as the ailment afflicting the crew of Enterprise. At one point, the crew must hole up in engineering to get away from the creature, in a plot development reminiscent of the second season episode "The Crossing," in which the crew hides from the "whisps" in the nacelle catwalk, where shielding prevents their entry.

The Wanderer reminded me of the Companion from TOS's "Metamorphosis."

Additionally, the Wanderer itself reminded me of The Original Series, where different sorts of lifeforms like this one regularly made an appearance. I was particularly reminded of the Companion from the second season TOS episode "Metamorphosis." However, the Wanderer is much more malevolent than the Companion proved to be. I found the fact that the Wanderer didn't see humans as "sentient" to be an interesting concept, and the fact that it saw Vulcans as worthy of the respect given to sentient creatures made for a fascinating tale.

All in all, I would have preferred a deeper exploration of T'Pol's dilemma rather that the fairly routine plot we get when Surak's Soul concludes. Still, it was an interesting adventure, but I definitely felt that it didn't go as deeply as it could have. In the end, it becomes a familiar story of the crew coming together to oppose the alien and overcoming the threat that it posed. Worth a read, but not really something I intend to revisit anytime soon.

Final thoughts:

Not entirely what I expected, Surak's Soul doesn't exactly deliver on what the back-cover blurb says it is about. There is some interesting examination of T'Pol's philosophy and the choices it leads her to make, but that exploration is dropped rather quickly for a fairly routine alien threat story. Still, not all bad; there are some interesting elements that remind me a lot of classic Star Trek. 3/5.

More about Surak's Soul:

Also by J.M. Dillard:

My next read:

Book four in the A Time To series: A Time to Harvest by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Captain Saru" One-Shot Comic Coming From IDW!

Hey folks! Some exciting comics news from the Destination Star Trek convention that happened this past weekend in Birmingham!

Coming in February 2019, IDW is releasing a one-shot prestige format comic titled Star Trek: Discovery - Captain Saru. The comic is written by Mike Johnson and Kirsten Beyer, with art by Angel Hernandez and cover by Paul Shipper.

No synopsis or price yet (we'll see those next month), but check out the gorgeous cover art below!

Star Trek: Discovery - Captain Saru cover art by Paul Shipper.

Keep an eye on Trek Lit Reviews for more news about Star Trek books and comics, and check out my 2018 and 2019 releases pages for regular updates!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

January's Star Trek comics from IDW!

Hi folks! IDW's comic solicitations for January 2019 are out, and we have a few Star Trek titles to share with you!

First up is the conclusion to Star Trek vs. Transformers in issue #5, written by John Barber and Mike Johnson, with art by Philip Murphy.
The stunning conclusion! As the Klingon-Decepticon alliance prepares to wipe out their enemies once and for all, Kirk and the Autobots make one last desperate bid to merge Cybertronian technology with Starfleet ingenuity. It’s a final conflict you won’t want to miss!
Featured below is a variant cover by Chris Panda. There is also an A cover by Philip Murphy and a B cover by Josh Burcham.

Variant cover by Chris Panda.

Next is Star Trek: IDW 20/20, a celebration of IDW's 20th anniversary, written by veteran comic writer Peter David with art by the supremely talented J.K. Woodward!

IDW 20/20 kicks off IDW’s year-long 20th anniversary celebration! An all-new weekly event giving a glimpse of your favorite characters 20 years into the future—or past! What made them into the heroes you love… and what twists does the future hold…? 
Twenty years before he took command of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, Jean-Luc Picard sat in the captain’s chair of the U.S.S. Stargazer. Picard served with distinction aboard the Stargazer for many years on his way to becoming the most respected captain in Starfleet. But in this early mission, Picard showed that even he is merely a man.
Variant cover art by Angel Hernandez.

Next we have issue #1 of Star Trek: The Q Conflict, an epic crossover story featuring The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. The series is written by Scott & David Tipton with art by David Messina. The series will run for 6 issues.
When a dispute between godlike beings threatens the galaxy, it will take all of Starfleet’s best captains to stop them. Join James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Kathryn Janeway, and Benjamin Sisko as they go head-to-head in a competition that will determine the fate of the Earth and beyond. Will they be able to emerge victorious, or will they be torn apart by The Q Conflict? A soon-to-be-classic six-part miniseries begins here!
Art for retail incentive cover by artist J.K. Woodward.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Literary Treks 246: Conquest Olympics

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

For honor... for glory... for the Empire! The brave officers and crew of the I.K.S. Gorkon embark on a new mission to seek out new life and new civilizations... and to boldly conquer them for the greater glory of the Klingon Empire! But what lines must be crossed when Klingon lust for expansion comes face-to-face with Klingon honor?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by Earl Grey's Justin Oser to discuss I.K.S. Gorkon: Book One: A Good Day to Die by Keith R.A. DeCandido. We talk about what makes this book different from other Star Trek novels, cultures in transition, lower decks crewmembers, strong female Klingon characters, an enemy worthy of respect, the dilemma faced by Captain Klag at the end of the novel, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we talk about next year's upcoming Star Trek: The Q Conflict crossover comic from IDW.

Literary Treks 246: Conquest Olympics
I.K.S. Gorkon, Book One: A Good Day to Die by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Previous episode: Literary Treks 245: The "All Good Things" of Deep Space Nine
Next episode: Literary Treks 247: A 24th Century Jack Ryan Movie

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Time to Sow

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Sow by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published April 
Read June 25th 2018

Previous book (The Next Generation): A Time to Die
Next book (The Next Generation): A Time to Harvest

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

Spoilers ahead for A Time to Sow and the rest of the A Time to... series!

From the back cover:
More than two centuries ago, the Dokaalan sent an unmanned probe into the void, bearing a distress call for anyone who could save their doomed world. But the message reached Federation space too late to save the planet or its people. Or so it was believed...
Generations later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E are stunned to discover the last of the Dokaalan -- now only a colony fighting to stay alive in a decrepit asteroid mining complex. Although their home planet was destroyed long ago, the survivors hope to someday transform a nearby planet into a new home for their people. But bitter divisions exist among the Dokaalan, sowing the seeds of sabotage and terrorism -- and placing Picard and the Enterprise in the middle of an escalating crisis that can only lead to total destruction!

My thoughts:

A Time to Sow is the third book in the A Time To series, bridging the films Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis, and the first book in a duology by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, made up of this novel and its followup, A Time to Harvest.

I had initially intended to read and review these novels some time ago, but the need to keep up with the reading for the Literary Treks podcast was too great. I only got around to the first two novels, A Time to Be Born and A Time to Die by John Vornholt before having to set them aside in favor of reading other Star Trek novels. Now, we are finally covering these novels on Literary Treks, and I can once again get back to them!

A Time to Sow starts with the Enterprise-E being assigned a "milk run," investigating a distress call from a probe first detected back in the 21st century, during Captain Jonathan Archer's first year as captain of the Enterprise NX-01. I appreciated the use of the Enterprise-era elements in this novel. I remember when Enterprise first aired, and the complaints of a small segment of "hardcore" Trek fans who felt that the new series didn't have a place in Star Trek canon (a sentiment, by the way, that is echoed by a similarly-small segment of fandom today with regards to Star Trek: Discovery). The fact that Ward and Dilmore used Enterprise elements in this story serves to further tie that series to the rest of Trek continuity, efforts that I hope continue in the novels yet to come when it comes to including Discovery elements as well. I like a fully-realized, cohesive universe!

A Time to Sow used elements from Enterprise, furthering the idea of a cohesive Star Trek universe linking all of the series, past and present.

Although the mission starts out as "low priority," it quickly becomes a first contact mission when, unexpectedly, survivors are found. The initial distress call had been sent when it became apparent that the Dokallans' homeworld would soon destroy itself, and it was determined by Starfleet and the Vulcan High Command that survivors would be extremely unlikely. However, a hardy group of survivors have made a home in the Dokallan system's asteroid belt, and against all odds have thrived there. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that there are mysterious forces at work that are attempting to thwart the Dokallans' plans for the next phase of their civilization.

The tenacious asteroid-dwellers have undertaken an ambitious plan to terraform one of the other planets in their system, hoping to make it habitable for their civilization in the future. However, the Enterprise crew soon discovers that there are small variations being introduced into the Dokallans' plans; minute alterations that, over a long period of time, will make their new home useless to them. We learn that there is much more to the situation than meets the eye, and it is apparent that there are enemy agents among the Dokallans who are working towards their own goals. They soon are able to infiltrate the Enterprise as well, and manage to incapacitate Data.

Data is incapacitated by an enemy agent operating aboard the Enterprise.

If I have one major complaint about A Time to Sow, it's that it isn't a complete story and merely part one of two. However, that criteria is built into the entire A Time To series, so it doesn't seem like a completely fair complaint to lob at this novel. I suppose I'm just a little frustrated that not having a complete story makes this a difficult novel to review before having read the second part.

Quality-wise, however, A Time to Sow rises far above the previous novel. The characters are all on point, and I also really appreciated the world-building that went into the creation of the Dokallans and their unorthodox way of life. The individual characters among the Dokallan were quite interesting as well, raising them above the usual "alien of the week" fare. While I didn't really appreciate the lack of a complete story here, I can't fault the compelling cliffhanger we are given at the end. Alien agents in disguise aboard the Enterprise, having nearly succeeded in killing Data, while Geordi and Taurik run for their lives in a hazardous asteroid field? Sign me up for part two; I can't wait to see how this all concludes!

Final thoughts:

A big improvement over the first duology in the A Time To series. A Time to Sow sets us up nicely for part two with a fascinating alien race and a menacing threat that hides in plain sight. I found myself really curious about who exactly the "big bad" is, but unfortunately that will have to wait for book two of this duology, A Time to Harvest. Definitely a strong start here, however, with great character work and an exciting mystery.

More about A Time to Sow:

Also by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore:

A Time To...

My next read:

Next on the list is an Enterprise novel: Surak's Soul by J.M. Dillard.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Literary Treks 245: The "All Good Things" of Deep Space Nine

DS9: Millennium: Book II of III
The War of the Prophets
by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

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

All three books in the Millennium trilogy are also available in this omnibus edition:

Trade paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Trapped 25 years in the future, the crew of the U.S.S. Defiant is faced with a future that is nearly unrecognizable. Only days away from Armageddon, the galaxy stands on a knife's edge. On one side, the Bajoran Ascendancy: a cult-like theocracy led by the Emissary of the "True Prophets": Weyoun. On the other, the remnants of a Federation nearly brought to its knees. In the middle: Captain Benjamin Sisko, who must decide once and for all the outcome of "The War of the Prophets."

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss the second book of the DS9: Millennium trilogy: The War of the Prophets by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. We talk about the events that led us to this point, an alternate future, Weyoun and the Pah-Wraiths, the mysterious Grigari, the mirror universe tactic, Starfleet's desperate "Project Phoenix," and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news section, we judge the cover of the upcoming TNG: Available Light by Dayton Ward, talk about the new Picard Stargazer one-shot comic coming from IDW, and review the first issue of Star Trek vs. Transformers.

Literary Treks 245: The "All Good Things" of Deep Space Nine
DS9: Millennium, Book II of III: The War of the Prophets by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Previous episode: Literary Treks 244: Less Hair, Pointier Head
Next episode: Literary Treks 246: Conquest Olympics

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fallen Heroes

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #5
Fallen Heroes by Dafydd ab Hugh
Published February 1994
Read May 2nd 2018

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): #4: The Big Game

Next book (Deep Space Nine): #6: Betrayal

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

Spoilers ahead for Fallen Heroes

From the back cover:
When a troop of alien warriors demands the return of an imprisoned comrade – a prisoner no one on Deep Space Nine knows anything about – Commander Benjamin Sisko has a deadly fight on his hands. Under sudden attack from the heavily armed warriors, Sisko and his crew struggle desperately to repel the invaders and save the lives of everyone on board. 
Meanwhile, a strange device from the Gamma Quadrant has shifted Ferengi barkeeper Quark and Security Chief Odo three days into the future to a silent Deep Space Nine. To save the station they must discover what caused the invasion to take place, and find a pathway back through time itself.

My thoughts:

"The book where everyone dies."

Fallen Heroes has gained a reputation over the years as being a novel that took a lot of risks and went out on a limb with regards to its story. However, many years have passed since its first publication back in 1994. The intervening time and the many years of Deep Space Nine that followed may have colored our impressions of this novel somewhat.

Fallen Heroes involves Odo and Quark teaming up to solve a mystery that has led to nearly the entire population of Deep Space Nine being killed.

The plot of the novel involves Quark coming across a mysterious artifact that, when activated, causes him and Odo to be transported three days forward in time. They discover that, during that time, Deep Space Nine has fallen in a massive siege to warriors from the gamma quadrant. It is up to the two of them to investigate what has happened, and eventually to find out how to return to their original time and prevent it from happening in the first place. Although the plot seems a bit repetitive at times, the story is fairly compelling. However, there are a few areas in which Fallen Heroes falls somewhat short.

For one thing, the characters seem off. By quite a bit. In some ways, that is understandable, given that the novel was written fairly early into DS9's run. However, there are references in the story to the finale of season one, "In the Hands of the Prophets." If the author had access to that script, or if that episode had already aired, then there is no reason that some of the characterizations should have been so far off. Particularly egregious to me is Major Kira, who comes across as way too intense of a hothead in this novel. At one point, she calls a character a "pinhead," which is just not a word I can see Kira using. Also, Jadzia Dax had a couple of moments that gave me pause. At one point in the novel, Sisko orders her to undertake a dangerous assignment, and her internal monologue has her bristling at this order and asking why Sisko wouldn't do it himself. This is way out of character for Dax, in my opinion.

As angry as season one Kira could sometimes get, I still can't see her calling someone a "pinhead."

All of that said, however, the author gets some of the other characters perfectly. The interplay between Quark and Odo, for example, as they explore the ruins of the station following the attack struck just the right tone. These two characters have a very distinctive relationship, and I feel that Fallen Heroes captured it perfectly.

Much of the plot of the "future" part of the story involves Quark and Odo moving from room to room in the station, piecing together what has happened. In some ways, it feels like an rpg computer game in which the player must accumulate clues and items to move on to the next part of the narrative. This part of the story is somewhat interesting, but I felt that it became quite repetitive. The most interesting part of this section of the story comes when the pair discover Jake Sisko and Molly O'Brien, who survived the catastrophe. I feel like the author particularly captured Molly's experience as a toddler quite well, showing how a young child would cope with the horrors that have occurred.

The best parts of the novel involve the flashbacks that show what happened during the missing three days. The desperation experienced by the DS9 crew as the outcome appears more and more inevitable was interesting, and the way that each member of the crew faces it was particularly memorable. However, the story does take a number of leaps in logic that I found to be unlikely. For example, Commander Sisko is able to inform his son to take shelter from his plan to flood the station with an electromagnetic pulse simply by mentioning an ancient Bajoran sun god. How Jake made this leap, I will never understand. It seems pretty far-fetched that Jake would understand Sisko's meaning so easily.

Final thoughts:

There are certainly some good aspects of Fallen Heroes, and it's true that the novel takes some risks that other novels of the time tended to avoid. Even the reset button ending doesn't bother me as much as it really should, and I chalk that up to the heroic actions undertaken by Quark and Odo that sell the ending for me. However, there are some very rough characterizations here, as well as some astounding leaps of logic that drive the rating down. Definitely an interesting story, but with a lot of issues that took me out of the story from time to time.

More about Fallen Heroes:

My next read:

Next up is the third book from the A Time To series: A Time to Sow by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Root of All Rage

Star Trek: Prometheus
The Root of All Rage by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg
Translated into English from the original German Der Ursprung allen Zorns
Release date: May 29th 2018
Read June 5th 2018

Previous book (Prometheus): Fire with Fire
Next book (Prometheus): In the Heart of Chaos

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

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.

My thoughts:

It is certainly not a new idea, but one that remains absolutely true: science fiction is a terrific vehicle for examining issues that face our world today, but in a fantastical setting that can sometimes reveal more about us than fiction set in the modern day can. If you read my review of the previous Prometheus book, Fire with Fire, you may remember that I was a little skeptical of the whole Prometheus series, but that I was proven wrong and pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed that novel. Well, The Root of All Rage continues to bring readers a great story in the tradition of Star Trek-style social messaging, further solidifying the Prometheus series as a great addition to the Star Trek universe.

The Root of All Rage continues the Prometheus series, a trilogy that was originally published in German by CrossCult, a Germany-based publisher who is also responsible for German-language translations of Pocket Books' Star Trek novels. Originally released in 2016, the Star Trek: Prometheus trilogy was conceived of as an idea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. As such, the story features cameos from a number of Trek characters, most notably Spock, but also features characters such as Lwaxana Troi and, briefly, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

Lwaxana Troi plays a role in this novel, much to my surprise.

I initially bristled a bit at the inclusion of these characters, feeling that their use in this story contributed to the "small universe syndrome" that Trek literature often falls victim to. However, they are used to fairly good effect here. I'm still a little wary of just how much of the story involves Spock; it may be just a bit too much, but perhaps book three will further justify his use here. There are certainly indications that his prior experience on the Enterprise during TOS will come in handy!

One issue that this series is tackling head on is bigotry and racial prejudice. The Purifying Flame, a terrorist group made up of the Renao, is responsible for terrorist attacks against the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Renao citizens are the target of bigotry, mostly from the Klingons, but also from Starfleet officers and even civilians on Earth. This is most directly seen through the character of Jassat, a Renao officer serving aboard the U.S.S. Prometheus. As the story progresses, he is persecuted more and more by his fellow crewmembers. Adding fuel to the fire is a strange form of radiation that seems to be affecting people, further driving their feelings of hate and bigotry. We discover the source of this radiation, and I'm happy to say I guessed it: an entity similar to the "Beta XII-A" entity seen in the TOS episode "The Day of the Dove," which caused the Enterprise crew to be locked in battle with Klingons under the command of Kang. There is even a reference to the Enterprise-E's encounter with this entity in the Q Continuum novel trilogy by Greg Cox, which I was not expecting at all.

An entity similar to the Beta XII-A entity (seen here aboard the Enterprise in TOS's "The Day of the Dove") seems to be responsible for the escalating violence in the Lembatta Cluster.

Another character that serves to explore the topic of racism is Raspin, a jeghpu'wI' ("conquered species" in Klingon) serving aboard the I.K.S. Bortas. His mistreatment and abuse at the hands of some of the Bortas crew are so internalized as to cause him to see himself as worthless. There is an important lesson here: our actions and beliefs can have far greater consequences than we can even imagine, and seeing things from another person's perspective is incredibly important if we are to break the cycle of violence. Sadly, there are some who will never learn the lesson, but one of the great things about the Prometheus trilogy is that it doesn't treat the Klingons like a monolithic species, and there are some who are more nuanced in their view of alien species.

Despite the efforts of the more level-headed people among the crew, a conflict between the Bortas and the Prometheus seems inevitable.

Things are definitely coming to a head in this series; thanks to the influence of the mysterious entity that lies in wait in the Lembatta Cluster, tensions continue to ratchet higher, with a face-off between the Prometheus and the Bortas clearly on the horizon. As I mentioned earlier, Spock's experience with the entity from "The Day of the Dove" will prove invaluable, so there is a lot that has been set up for the final chapter of Prometheus, which will arrive in December for those of us on the English-speaking side of things.

Final thoughts:

Perplies and Humberg have a great grasp on what makes a good Star Trek story. The characters of Prometheus are compelling, and I feel like they took a page out of Keith R.A. DeCandido's book with their use of diversity and variation among the Klingon crew in particular. They have also managed to craft an engrossing story that has an important social message in the best tradition of Trek. The story uses the typical Trek tropes to good effect without overusing them, which is sometimes a difficult line to walk. They have set up the final book in such a way that I find I am really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out, and I'm definitely excited for the conclusion, which will be available in English in December. Rest assured I'll be reviewing it shortly after its release. 4/5.

More about The Root of All Rage:

Also by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Next up: an older Deep Space Nine novel from back in the numbered days: DS9 #5: Fallen Heroes by Dafydd ab Hugh.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Collision Course

Star Trek: Academy
Collision Course by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Published October 2007
Read April 18th 2018

Previous book (Shatnerverse): Captain's Glory

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

Spoilers ahead for Collision Course

From the back cover:
If you think you know how it all began, think again… 
Young Jim Kirk wants nothing to do with Starfleet, and never wants to leave Earth. In the summer of 2249, he's a headstrong seventeen-year-old barely scraping by in San Francisco, haunted by horrific memories from his past. 
In the same city, a nineteen-year-old alien named Spock is determined to rise above the emotional turmoil of his mixed-species heritage. He's determined to show his parents he has what it takes to be Vulcan – even if it means exposing a mysterious conspiracy at the heart of the Vulcan Embassy, stretching to the farthest reaches of the Federation's borders. There, a chilling new threat has arisen to test the Federation's deepest held belief that war is a thing of the past and that a secure future can be forged through peaceful means alone. But it is in San Francisco, home to Starfleet Academy, where that threat will be met by two troubled teenage boys driven to solve the mystery that links them both. 
In time, the universe will come to know these young rebels as Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock… two of the Federation's greatest heroes. Yet before they were heroes, they were simply conflicted teenagers, filled with raw ambition and talent, not yet seasoned by wisdom and experience, searching for their own unique directions in life – a destiny they'll discover on one fateful night in San Francisco, when two lives collide, and two legends are born. 
Star Trek: Academy – Collision Course sets the stage for an exciting new era of Star Trek adventure, and for the first time reveals Kirk and Spock as they were, and how they began their journey to become the Kirk and Spock we know today.

My thoughts:

In 2007, Star Trek was at a kind of crossroads. Two years earlier, Viacom, who owned Paramount Pictures, separated from CBS, which retained the rights to Star Trek on television. Paramount, meanwhile, was allowed 18 months to develop a new Star Trek film, otherwise they would lose the Trek film rights. The result was J.J. Abrams being tapped to direct a new Trek film, originally scheduled for release in the holiday season of 2008, and later delayed to the summer of 2009.

Star Trek (2009) was in pre-production when Collision Course was released.

Meanwhile, a new Star Trek novel was released: Star Trek: Academy: Collision Course by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens). This novel focused on the young James T. Kirk and the events that led him to join Starfleet Academy and train to become an officer in the Federation's Starfleet.

Both the film, called just Star Trek, and this novel, focused on very similar themes and events. Both feature a young Kirk on a troubled path, described as a "delinquent," and showing his journey of redemption and acceptance into Starfleet. The film, while decried by some as not in keeping with the Star Trek of the past, proved to be a commercial and critical success, launching a new film series that renewed interest in the somewhat flagging franchise. Given the similarities between the film and the novel, but also the inherent differences due to each taking place in a separate timeline from the other, it is understandable that the proposed novel trilogy was cut short after just the first novel.

However, it is unfortunate, because Collision Course is actually pretty good.

As the novel begins, Jim Kirk is a troubled young man who is not only not interested in joining Starfleet, he actually hates the organization. This all stems from his horrific experience on Tarsus IV during the massacre of 4000 colonists by Governor Kodos. Collision Course goes into a lot of detail about this event, including the young Kirk's failed attempt to save the lives of a group of very young children and the use of child soldiers by Kodos' regime. There is a lot of chilling content in this novel, and the experiences that Kirk has on Tarsus IV go a long way to explain the problems he is having. A different person would possibly never recover from these experiences.

When it came to Kirk in this novel, I found myself picturing a young Chris Pine in the role.

In the "present day," Kirk gets involved with a number of illegal activities, but with an eye towards altruism, if that makes sense. For example, he steals a Starfleet staff car, but ostensibly for the purpose of proving his girlfriend's innocence with regards to a lab break-in at Starfleet Academy, showing how her codes could have been stolen or faked. While I initially bristled against this characterization of Kirk, it does remain consistent with some of what we have seen before; young Kirk in Diane Carey's Best Destiny, for example, has this rebellious streak as well. What I found interesting, however, is that while reading Collision Course, I actually pictured a young Chris Pine in my head. I found that the depiction of Kirk in this novel matched my idea of Kirk in the Kelvin Timeline quite well.

For the most part, Collision Course works well as a vehicle to show young Kirk's journey from troubled youth to Starfleet cadet. The primary plot, linking back to the events of the Tarsus IV massacre and a present-day threat that stems from that horrific tragedy, serves the characters well. However, some of the minutia of the plot seems overly complex. For example, there is a conspiracy to acquire advanced camouflage technology by setting up a scheme to purchase fake Vulcan artifacts. The buyers, however, know the artifacts are fake, and are actually after the technology that makes them seem authentic. If this is their endgame, it seems overly convoluted and highly unlikely to succeed once you examine the plan closely.

Young Spock's motivation to enter Starfleet Academy struck the wrong tone for me in this novel.

One final issue I had with the novel was Spock's motivation for joining Starfleet Academy. We know from Star Trek canon that Spock's decision to attend the academy was over Sarek's wishes, and led to a rift between father and son that saw them not speak to each other for well over a decade. However, in Collision Course, we learn that Spock was made to join the academy as a sentence for a crime he allegedly committed. There is an attempt to make it fit in that the sentence is ammended to allow Spock to join the Vulcan Science Academy instead if he so chooses, but he ends up joining Starfleet Academy for plot reasons, which seems to undercut the conflict between the two characters established elsewhere in Trek canon.

Final thoughts:

Collision Course was certainly an interesting novel, and it was fun to read about young Kirk and Spock's initial entry into Starfleet Academy and the choices that led them there. It's unfortunate that similar plots were explored in Star Trek 2009; if they hadn't, it's possible that we would have had the originally-planned follow-up novels. The back of this novel says the sequel, Trial Run, would be coming soon, but alas, that was not to be. Perhaps, however, this is a good thing; the ending of Collision Course features Kirk and Spock parting ways and entering the academy on separate tracks. I like the idea of them going off and then meeting up years later on the Enterprise; if the series had continued, it's likely they would have had to contrive some reason to have them continually meet up and get into misadventures. Maybe it's better that the series ended now, before a later volume completely jumped the shark. 4/5.

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

More about Collision Course:

My next read:

Next review is for book two of the Star Trek: Prometheus trilogy: The Root of All Rage by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg.