Friday, November 30, 2018

Diplomatic Implausibility

Star Trek: The Next Generation #61
Diplomatic Implausibility by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published January 2001
Read August 24th 2018

Previous book (The Next Generation): #60: Tooth and Claw

Next book (The Next Generation): #62: Maximum Warp, Book 1: Dead Zone
Next book (I.K.S. Gorkon characters): The Brave and the Bold, Book 2


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

Spoilers ahead for Diplomatic Implausibility
!

From the back cover:
200 YEARS AGO: The expanding Klingon Empire found a frozen world rich in deposits of the mineral topaline. They named the planet taD -- Klingon for "frozen" -- and they called the people "jeghpu'wI'" -- conquered. 
FOUR YEARS AGO: The Klingon Empire invaded Cardassia, breaching the Khitomer Accords and causing a break with the Federation. On taD, depleted Klingon forces were overthrown in a small coup d'etat, and the victorious rebels took advantage of the disruption to appeal for recognition from the Federation.

NOW: The Klingons have returned to taD and re-established their control. But the stubborn rebels insist on Federation recognition. A solution to the diplomatic impasse must be found, a task that falls to the Federation's new ambassador to the Klingon Empire -- Worf.

Worf thinks of himself as a fighter, not a negotiator, but the Federation disagrees. Now, for the sake of the Federation and the Empire, a Klingon warrior must weave a fragile peace out of a situation ripe for war!

My thoughts:

Over the past few decades, the idea of having an all-Klingon Star Trek series has occasionally been bandied about by fans. The idea of Star Trek from not only a non-human perspective, but from a non-Federation perspective, is a compelling one that is understandably enticing. I have never thought that a non-Federation perspective series is a good idea; however, the occasional flirtation with the idea works well. Deep Space Nine episodes such as "Soldiers of the Empire" and "Once More Unto the Breach" feature adventures almost entirely from the perspective of the Klingons, and those two are among my favorite episodes.

At first glance of the cover, Diplomatic Implausibility appears to be a standard TNG novel, but open to the story and you'll discover it is anything but. While the primary story involves Worf's first assignment as Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, it's the "supporting cast" who are the true stars of the novel. Diplomatic Implausibility introduces a new ship and crew to the TrekLit universe: the Chancellor-class Klingon cruiser I.K.S. Gorkon under the command of Captain Klag.

Klag, now a captain, commands the I.K.S. Gorkon, the starship that ferries Worf to his assignment on taD.

You may remember Klag from a second-season episode of TNG, "A Matter of Honor." Klag was the second officer of the I.K.S. Pagh under Captain Kargan, and the backstory we get for him in this novel fills in the intervening years. It turns out that Kargan was an honorless Klingon, and a pretty poor captain (which we kind of figured from his actions in "A Matter of Honor"). Stuck serving him for far too long, Klag finally got out from under his shadow when the Pagh was shot down during the Dominion War, leaving Klag as the sole survivor and allowing him to perform an impressive feat in defeating the Pagh's attackers.

The rest of the Gorkon crew are mostly made up of Klingons we've seen before: first officer Drex is Chancellor Martok's son from "The Way of the Warrior" (DS9); second officer Toq is the young Klingon Worf rescued from a Romulan prison camp in "Birthright, Part II" (TNG); weapons officer Rodek is actually the mind-wiped Kurn, Worf's brother; helmsman Leskit was a member of the I.K.S. Rotarran's crew in the aforementioned "Soldiers of the Empire"; chief engineer Kurak was seen in the TNG episode "Suspicions." Rounding out the crew are a few newcomers we haven't seen before: medical officer B'Oraq studied medicine in the Federation and thus has some radical new ideas to share with her Klingon brethren; Krevor is a low-born Klingon woman who is assigned to be Worf's aide by Drex, who believes this to be an insult to Worf; Vall is an engineer under Kurak's command, and he is not a typical Klingon: he has nice teeth, short combed hair, and a "whiny voice like a Ferengi."

Diplomatic Implausibility does a wonderful job of introducing these new characters, and it is not at all surprising that they end up featuring in a book series of their own. It does strike me as odd that this is a numbered TNG novel, however, as the story has little to do with The Next Generation characters beyond some brief cameos and, of course, Worf.

The plot of the novel centers around a planet that the Klingons call taD, which means "frozen." A world with a very cold climate, taD is a source for a valuable mineral, and home to a native population called the al'Hmatti who are rebelling against Klingon control of their planet. They have reached out to the Federation for assistance with their strained relationship with the Klingons.

Familiar characters aboard the Gorkon include helmsman Leskit from DS9's "Soldiers of the Empire."

For me, the strength of this novel lies with the characters and the various arcs they go through. At the beginning of the novel, Klag resents Worf a great deal, believing his position to be the result of nepotism due to his being a part of the House of Martok. However, over the course of the book, Klag recognizes Worf for the honorable man he is and they come to an understanding. There are some other great character moments in Diplomatic Implausibility, including an unlikely courtship between Leskit and Kurak which was a great deal of fun. Leskit has a terrifically sarcastic personality and his story was a joy to read.

Final thoughts:

Diplomatic Implausibility, more than anything else, is an introduction to the crew of the Gorkon, setting them up for more adventures to come. However, it is also an interesting story featuring Worf's first assignment as a diplomat. I love the character of Worf, and it's fun to see him in a new role with which he is unfamiliar. The characters in this novel are at the heart of what makes it great, and even though the fact we have seen so many of them before contributes to a "small universe" feeling, the characters themselves are interesting enough that I can easily forgive the author that indulgence.

More about Diplomatic Implausibility:

Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

My next read:

An early TNG numbered novel: The Peacekeepers by Gene DeWeese!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Release Day! Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos

Star Trek: Prometheus
In the Heart of Chaos
by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg

The third and final chapter in the Star Trek: Prometheus saga! Originally published in German in 2016, Star Trek: Prometheus chronicles the mission of the Prometheus and the I.K.S. Bortas to bring the Purifying Flame to justice and investigate the rising levels of hostility and terrorism in the Lembatta Cluster.

This book has been showing up early all around the world (I already have my copy), but today is the official release date!

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



Publisher's description:
The situation in the Lembatta Cluster is deteriorating rapidly. Fleets from the Federation and Klingon Empire are heading for the borders. The crews of the U.S.S. Prometheus and I.K.S. Bortas are racing against time to break the cycle of violence that is spreading through the Alpha Quadrant. Adams and Kromm are on the trail of a secret weapons facility, but instead discover an enemy from their pasts who seems utterly unstoppable. Together, they search for the answers to their questions, before the galaxy goes down in flames.

Purchase Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos:

Mass-market Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-Book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk


Previous Release: Discovery: Fear Itself

Monday, November 26, 2018

Across the Universe

Star Trek #88
Across the Universe by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski
Published October 1999
Read August 21st 2018

Previous book (The Original Series - Numbered): #87: My Brother's Keeper, Book 3: Enterprise

Previous book (The Original Series - Published): Vulcan's Heart
Next book (The Original Series): #89: New Earth, Book 1: Wagon Train to the Stars


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

Spoilers ahead for Across the Universe
!

From the back cover:
The Hawking left Earth during the 21st century on a one-way mission to colonize a distant world. Due to the relativistic effects of pre-warp travel, its crew has aged only thirty years while two centuries passed outside the ship. When the Starship Enterprise comes to the rescue of the malfunctioning Hawking, the colonists find themselves thrust into a universe and an era that has left them behind. 
Captain Kirk intends to help the colonists adjust as best he can, but the task is not a simple one. The newcomers are survivors of a more violent, more paranoid time--and they have brought old suspicions, and an ancient weapon of mass destruction, into a world of unexpected challenges and dangers.
My thoughts:

A recurring plot in Star Trek features people from the past coming forward into the 23rd or 24th century and encountering our heroes, who must help them adapt to their new reality. Whether these people are genetically-engineered despots (as in "Space Seed") or a random cross-section of humanity (as in "The Neutral Zone"), it is a common trope that has been done a number of times in televised Trek. There are some interesting elements that stem from the use of this trope in Across the Universe. For one, one of the 21st century humans the Enterprise recovers is a distant ancestor of Pavel Chekov. I found the gradual uncovering of his character and the implications it has for the muddying of history to be a fascinating aspect of the novel, and I can only wish that this idea had been explored more.

Across the Universe is, unfortunately, a bit disjointed. The novel seems to revolve around two main plots, each having little to do with the other. After the Enterprise  rescues the crew of the Hawking, they set course for a colony world, Merope IV, where the 21st century humans are to settle. However, there is a strange menace threatening the people of the colony; a large biomass consumes an entire village and threatens to spread across the rest of the populated areas of the planet. The two stories do come together when the displaced 21st century humans prove their worth by working to defend the colony. However, some of the actions taken by these people as well as our heroes make very little sense to me. The leader of the people from the past offers to lead a group out to the "killer moss" and take it on using artillery-style phasers. Kirk agrees with this insane plan, without first having attempted any other less-drastic plan. First of all, these people are from centuries in the past and have never even seen a phaser before. Why would you trust them with this task? Second, why wouldn't you scan the creature and attempt to make contact with it or any of the other more "Star Trek-y" style solutions?

The frustrating thing is that both parts of the story have some fascinating elements to them, but because they have to share the real estate of this novel, neither of them get the room they need to fully develop. I would have loved to have seen a deeper exploration of the plight of the 21st century people and how they adapt to life in the 23rd century, just as I would have appreciated a story featuring this planet-spanning life-form and the understanding it and the people of the colony must reach spread over the course of an entire novel. As it stands, however, both stories are cut short before they can be fully realized.

There are a few interesting character moments in Across the Universe. The aforementioned relative of Chekov's, a man by the name of Dmitri Glakov, gets some interesting development, and it is through him (as well as their leader, Leander Cort├ęs) that we learn about the people and their lives aboard the Hawking. There is also a character with a link to Uhura's past, an administrator in the Merope IV government, Trent Ojuremi. I would have appreciated more exploration of the relationship between him and Uhura, but again, everything is rushed to fit both major stories into the novel.

Another frustration is the seeming inaccuracy of the back-cover blurb for this novel. The plight of the crew of the Hawking very quickly takes a back seat to the unfolding crisis on Merope IV. Plus, the tagline on the front cover is wildly misleading. While it's true the the Hawking carries a nuclear weapon aboard her, neither the ship nor the crew ever truly pose "a danger to the future."

Final thoughts:

Across the Universe is a book that contains a number of good ideas and some unique science fiction concepts, but they sadly seem to be wasted here due to the inclusion of too many competing plot elements. Not enough room is given to fully explore the questions that the novel raises, and the result is a bit of a jumble of interesting plots that ultimately go nowhere. The characters the story introduced were interesting, and I would have appreciated a deeper exploration of them. Unfortunately, it never really comes together well enough to be a truly good Star Trek novel.

My next read:

Next up is the beginning of the I.K.S. Gorkon saga: TNG #61: Diplomatic Implausibility!

Literary Treks 250: Tom Clancy Without Technobabble

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Heal
Exclusive interview with author David Mack!



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

Federation forces, led by Picard and the Enterprise, have captured Tezwa, a world that threatened to become a flashpoint in a devastating war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. However, as difficult as the attack itself was, the occupation of Tezwa will prove even more difficult, costly, and bloody. And the price that Picard's crew pays in lives may be in the service of a cover-up that reaches to the very highest levels of the Federation...

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson welcome back author David Mack to talk about his novel A Time to Heal. We discuss the difference between this book and A Time to Kill, what Starfleet at war is really like, the effect of war on the people involved, Troi's anger, Riker's experiences as a prisoner of Kinchawn, and wrap up with a surprise announcement from David Mack about an upcoming project, as well as where you can find him online!

At the top of the show, we respond to viewer comments about episode 248, all about DS9: Millennium, Book III: Inferno by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. 


Literary Treks 250: Tom Clancy Without Technobabble
A Time to Heal: Exclusive interview with author David Mack!





Previous episode: Literary Treks 249: A Fun Labor of Love
Next episode: Literary Treks 251: 5 Missions of Elton John

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Lost Scenes

Star Trek: Lost Scenes by David Tilotta & Curt McAloney
Release date: August 21st 2018
Read November 9th 2018



Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Publisher's description:
Think you know everything about the Original Series? Think again. Star Trek: The Lost Scenes is packed with hundreds of never-before-seen color photos of the world's ultimate sci-fi series. Professionally restored images are used to chronicle the making of the series, reassemble deleted scenes, and showcase bloopers from the first pilot through the last episode. Whether you're a new Star Trek fan or a seasoned veteran, this book is a must-have.

My thoughts:

Click here to watch my video review of Star Trek: Lost Scenes, or click play on the embedded video below!



Final thoughts:

An incredibly well-put together book featuring tidbits gathered from all three seasons of The Original Series. I can honestly say, as a life-long fan of Trek who thought he knew everything there was to know about it, I was surprised by a lot of what is in this book. A huge bonus was learning a lot about the craft and art of making a science fiction television series in the 1960s! Tilotta and McAloney have put together a masterpiece that is sure to impress both hardcore fans and new fans alike!

More about Lost Scenes:




Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Star Trek #88: Across the Universe by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Literary Treks 249: A Fun Labor of Love

Star Trek: Lost Scenes
Exclusive interview with authors David Tilotta & Curt McAloney



Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Since its debut in September of 1966, Star Trek has held a cherished place in the hearts of fans the world over. This beloved show has been covered so extensively in books, documentaries, and retrospectives that we must have learned everything there is to know about it by now, right? Wrong! If you think you've seen everything there is to see about the series that started it all, I challenge you to pick up the subject of this week's show!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther speak with David Tilotta and Curt McAloney, authors of Star Trek: Lost Scenes. We discuss how they became fans of Star Trek, the origin of the book, their website startrekhistory.com, the process of researching the material, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, and bloopers from The Original Series, and wrap up with what they have planned for the future and where you can find them online.

At the top of the show, we review the latest comic from IDW, issue #2 of Star Trek vs. Transformers


Literary Treks 249: A Fun Labor of Love
Exclusive interview with David Tilotta & Curt McAloney, authors of Star Trek: Lost Scenes





Previous episode: Literary Treks 248: It All Makes Sense... I Think
Next episode: Literary Treks 250: Tom Clancy Without Technobabble

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Time to Love

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Love by Robert Greenberger
Published May 2004
Read August 17th 2018


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

Next book (The Next Generation): A Time to Hate


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 Time to Love
!

From the back cover:
A century ago the long-running conflict between two alien civilizations ended when both of them colonised the same distant planet, becoming instead a shining example of inter-species cooperation and coexistence. Now an investigation headed by Kyle Riker -- estranged father of Commander William Riker -- has revealed how fragile their hard-won paradise is. Within a few generations, a virus indigenous to their colony planet of Delta Sigma IV will wipe out all its inhabitants. Faced with this threat the delicate shell of harmony starts to crumble... Jean-Luc Picard and his crew, still reeling from the events which have tarnished the career of one of Starfleet's most decorated captains, must come to the aid of a world which once knew only peace, but now faces violence and chaos. Riker, meantime, must face the fact that his own father may be responsible for the anarchy into which Delta Sigma IV is descending.

About this novel:

One hundred years earlier, the planet Delta Sigma IV was colonized by two races: the Bader and the Dorset. Long-time rivals, their homeworlds remained in a state of conflict with one another, while on Delta Sigma IV, the settlements experienced unprecedented peace between the two peoples. Eventually, the planet was united under one government, and applied for Federation membership, which was granted. However, a medical crisis soon developed; the population of Delta Sigma IV displayed much shorter lifespans than was typical for their species. The Federation stepped in to assist, and a cure was found. Unfortunately, one of the five test subjects murdered one of his fellow subjects upon returning to the planet, the first such crime committed in a century. Blaming the Federation for unleashing this violence upon them, the citizens of Delta Sigma IV seemed to be descending further and further into violent tendencies. At the center of all of this is Kyle Riker, Will Riker's father, who disappeared along with the murderer, El Bison El. Starfleet has assigned the Enterprise to investigate, locate Kyle Riker, and bring the situation under control.

My thoughts:

A Time to Love, which is the fifth book in the A Time To series, kicks off a duology by author Robert Greenberger. The events of the previous novels, in which the luster of the Enterprise has dulled somewhat, are taking their toll on the ship and crew. In fact, a number of crewmembers have requested transfer off of the Enterprise, while the new personnel who have recently transferred in are not of the same caliber that the Enterprise crew is used to. One such crewmember is Anh Hoang, a new addition to the Enterprise's engineering staff. We learn that she lost her entire family in the Breen attack on Earth (in the Deep Space Nine episode "The Changing Face of Evil"), and that due to this trauma, she has had a difficult time socializing with other people, an issue that Troi attempts to tackle in her role as ship's counselor. Because this is just the first book of two, we don't see this part of the story pay off right away, which led me to dismiss it as unrelated to the overall narrative. However, we do return to it in the next book, and ultimately Hoang's story is resolved.

This leads me to the main issue I had with this novel, and indeed, many of the stories in the A Time To series. It really does feel like these duologies should have been presented as one novel each rather than being split into two parts. The point at which the story ends with "to be continued" feels arbitrary, especially in the case of this story. This leads to much of this book feeling like it's "treading water." The bulk of the story is taken up by Riker's search for his father, a search that feels quite meandering. He and his guide travel from town to town trying to pick up Kyle Riker's trail, and the process continually repeats itself. It isn't until the very end of the novel that Kyle is finally discovered just in time for the book to end.

The central mystery in A Time to Love is the disappearance of Kyle Riker, and the attempt by his son, Will, to locate him.

That's not to say there aren't good aspects of A Time to Love. Even though the plot feels thin at times, much room is given for some terrific character moments. In addition to Troi's work with Hoang, there is some tension building between Beverly Crusher and Captain Picard. The former has been offered a position as head of Starfleet Medical, but hasn't confided in Picard about it. The two seem to have been drifting apart for some time, and Crusher is seriously contemplating moving on from her position on the Enterprise. This is a story that will continue to play out over the next few books as we close in on Star Trek Nemesis.

One part of the story that frustrated me was the seeming inability of the characters to close in on the cause of the problems on Delta Sigma IV. There is a gas that is naturally present in the atmosphere of the planet called liscom. Reading this story, I was certain partway through that the gas was not only responsible for the shortening of the inhabitants' lifespans, but also for the peace that had endured on the planet. When the "cure" was introduced, which inhibited the effects of the gas, the "natural" tendency of the two races to fight each other was once again unleashed. However, it takes forever for Beverly to come to this conclusion which I felt was somewhat telegraphed. Thankfully she discovers this before the end of this novel; I was concerned that the revelation would be held until the next book, A Time to Hate!

Data and Geordi have an interesting B-plot in A Time to Love.

There is also an interesting B-plot, in which Geordi organizes a program of bartering in order to acquire needed parts to repair the Enterprise. Using a Ferengi merchant, Geordi is able to set up a system whereby various starships throughout the sector can trade for parts they need, paying the Ferengi merchant with dilithium. At first, this struck me as quite odd, akin to a U.S. Navy warship employing sport fishermen to barter supplies, but eventually I warmed to this part of the story. Highlighting the dire circumstances following the costly Dominion War, Federation resources aren't what they once were, and a more fitting analogy might be sailing ships in the Age of Discovery bartering for supplies and resources with groups along their journey.

Final thoughts:

For much of this story, it feels like the plot is treading water. This may be because the story had to be stretched over two books, but I can't say for certain. There are moments where I feel like the characters should be able to figure out problems easily, but the resolution is stretched and delayed. However, there are some nice character moments, and a few interesting ideas that move the plot forward. It is also difficult to review this novel as it is only half of the complete story and feels like it was split in two at a fairly arbitrary point. Not a bad read, but definitely a bit of a step down from the previous two novels in the series. Good character moments and Greenberger's obvious familiarity with the characters and the world they inhabit bump the score up a bit.

More about A Time to Love:

Also by Robert Greenberger:

A Time To...

My next read:

Next up is a video review of Star Trek: Lost Scenes by David Tilotta & Curt McAloney. Look for that soon!


Monday, November 12, 2018

Literary Treks 248: It All Makes Sense... I Think

DS9: Millennium: Book III of III
Inferno
by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

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

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


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


The unthinkable has happened: the red and blue wormholes have come together to signal the annihilation of the universe as we know it. However, in a pocket reality, the crew of Deep Space Nine must work to return to their station at one of two points in history. The first: The Day of Withdrawal, when the Cardassians left DS9 at the end of the occupation, and the second: the moment when the red wormhole destroyed the station. Can Sisko and his crew change history and possibly prevent Armageddon?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson discuss the conclusion to the Deep Space Nine: Millennium trilogy: Inferno by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. We talk about the crew's individual personal hells, a paradox-filled time-twisting storyline, some lingering mysteries in the story, Arla Ries's surprising arc, Sisko's role as the Emissary, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we talk about an upcoming Discovery comic from IDW: Captain Saru, set for release in February 2019.


Literary Treks 248: It All Makes Sense... I Think
Deep Space Nine: Millennium, Book III: Inferno by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens





Previous episode: Literary Treks 247: A 24th Century Jack Ryan Movie
Next episode: Literary Treks 249: A Fun Labor of Love

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Farther Shore

Star Trek: Voyager
The Farther Shore by Christie Golden
Published August 2003
Read August 10th 2018


Previous book (Voyager): Homecoming

Next book (Voyager): Spirit Walk, Book One: Old Wounds


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

Spoilers ahead for Homecoming and The Farther Shore
!

From the back cover:
When the long-lost Starship Voyager returned home to Earth, did Kathryn Janeway and her crew unwittingly bring with them a deadly Borg infection from the heart of the Delta Quadrant? Many in Starfleet think so, and Seven of Nine finds herself the prime suspect as the carrier of the plague. Now, following the events of Homecoming, Admiral Janeway must reunite her crew in a desperate attempt to discover the source of the contagion -- and save the people of Earth from total assimilation into a voracious Borg collective.

My thoughts:

In Homecoming, the crew of the Starship Voyager finally makes it all the way back home to Earth. In a whirlwind of quick events, Janeway is promoted to Admiral, all the rest of the crew get promotions, Chakotay and the Maquis are pardoned, Chakotay and Seven of Nine end their relationship, Tom is chummy with his dad again, and Harry gets back together with Libby. And this is all in the space of just a few chapters!

The Farther Shore continues the break-neck pace of the plot as the "Borg virus" continues to spread throughout the planet. Voyager and her crew are naturally blamed due to the fact that they just returned from the Delta Quadrant, home of the Borg Collective, not to mention the fact that two of her crew are liberated Borg drones. However, the truth of what is behind this outbreak is certainly something no one imagined.

It turns out that an unhinged Admiral, Brenna Covington, who is the head of Starfleet Intelligence, is behind the outbreak that is rapidly turning people around the world into Borg drones. Stemming from her abuse at the hands of her step-father from a young age, Covington has come to see Borg as liberators as they ended up killing her abuser. Now, she has the ultimate goal of becoming a new Borg Queen and establishing dominion over the earth and its population, assimilating them as drones under her command. I have a few problems with this story-line. For one thing, I don't like the idea of someone suffering abuse as a shorthand for them turning evil and twisted. The abuse is shown in interstitial chapters throughout this book and the previous one, and in the end, all that comes of it is a small amount of empathy from Seven of Nine when Covington is finally defeated. Sure, have the abuse be what causes these events, but play that factor out a bit more rather than just sweeping it away in the end. I feel that this aspect of the character needed to be explored more to justify its use as her motivation.

The villian of this novel, Brenna Covington, intends to become a new Borg Queen.

The other major plot in The Farther Shore is the holographic rebellion instigated by a man named Oliver Baines, who was inspired by The Doctor's holonovel, Photons Be Free. This is another part of the story that I felt was lacking somewhat. Our main perspective on this part of the narrative is through the character of Vassily Andropov, a starfleet lieutenant who has been captured by Baines and replaced with a hologram. Andropov, trapped on a holodeck, experiences torture at the hands of Baines, ostensibly to learn what life as a hologram is like. I like the concept of having the roles reversed and learning different perspectives, but what happens to Andropov is nothing more than torture, which to me makes Baines just as bad as the force he is opposing. In the end, I think the message ends up somewhat muddled.

One aspect of the novel that I was really looking forward to was the inclusion of Lt. Commander Data into the plot. Janeway requests him for the purpose of arguing The Doctor's rights, in a similar vein to how Data's rights were argued for by Picard in the TNG episode "The Measure of a Man." However, this never comes to pass. Instead, Data accompanies the Voyager crew on an operation to rescue Seven of Nine and Icheb from imprisonment, and then aids them in taking down Brenda Covington. At no time is he used to further The Doctor's legal rights in any way, which was really disappointing to me. I was looking forward to a test of The Doctor's rights and an impassioned argument from Data for legal recognition of a fellow artificial intelligence. The fact that this plot element was dangled in front of the reader and never fulfilled frustrated me to no end.

The Voyager crew borrows Data, but I felt that his role in the story wasn't worth bringing him in. The potential for having Data in this story feels squandered.

In the end, The Farther Shore can be summed up as a book of missed opportunities. I feel like its pages were filled with good ideas that ultimately went in directions that were unsatisfying. A mentally disturbed person who suffered abuse wanting to become a new Borg Queen? Fascinating, but when the villain in question becomes nothing more than a mustache-twirling caricature with shaky motivations, it does a disservice to the story. Similarly, the promise of an intellectual argument for the rights of sentient artificial beings that ultimately goes unfulfilled is the worst kind of tease.

Final thoughts:

While Homecoming was an interesting, if rushed beginning to this story, I felt that The Farther Shore squandered a lot of the story's potential. There are certainly a number of truly interesting ideas in this book, but none of them are taken in particularly satisfying directions. A lot of the actions of both the main characters and the antagonists feel like they don't follow up on the promise that the story initially had.

More about The Farther Shore:



Also by Christie Golden:

My next read:

Book 5 of the A Time To series: A Time to Love by Robert Greenberger.


Friday, November 2, 2018

A Time to Harvest

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Harvest by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published April 2004
Read July 23rd 2018


Previous book (The Next Generation): A Time to Sow

Next book (The Next Generation): A Time to Love


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 Time to Harvest
!

From the back cover:
Still reeling from the disastrous events that have rocked all of Starfleet and tarnished the career of one of the Federation's most decorated captains, Picard and his crew must now endure the unthinkable: scandal, ostracism, and an uncertain future. But despite all that has occurred, none aboard the Enterprise have forgotten their duty as Starfleet officers… 
Assigned to assist the imperiled Dokaalan – a small colony of refugees who maintain a precarious existence in a rapidly disintegrating asteroid mining complex – the Enterprise crew must somehow aid this alien race in terraforming a nearby planet so that it might someday provide a new home for their kind. But violent acts of sabotage soon turn a humanitarian crisis into a deadly confrontation. To save the Dokaalan from extinction, Picard must uncover the presence of an old adversary – and prevent a disaster of catastrophic proportions!

My thoughts:

A Time to Harvest is the fourth book in the A Time To series, bridging the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis. It is also the conclusion to a duology by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, consisting of this novel and the previous one, A Time to Sow.

In A Time to Sow, the crew of the Enterprise-E made first contact with the Dokaalan, survivors of a planetary cataclysm who have taken refuge in their system's asteroid belt. This species, with surprising amounts of ingenuity and resilience, has undertaken a project to terraform another planet in their system, Ijuuka. However, there are elements that have invaded Dokaalan society to subvert their plans and prevent the Dokaalans from realizing their dream of a new home. In this novel, we learn the identity of this alien force and their ultimate plans for Ijuuka.

It turns out that the antagonists are the Satarrans, who TNG fans might remember as the aliens who wiped the memories of the Enterprise crew and set them against their enemies, the Lysians, in the episode "Conundrum." In that episode, an undercover Satarran operative posed as Kieran MacDuff, the supposed first officer of the Enterprise. Similarly, Satarran operatives have infiltrated both the Enterprise and the Dokaalan government in this novel. In a typical case of "small universe syndrome," one of the infiltrators of the Enterprise turns out to be the brother of the operative who posed as MacDuff.

The primary antagonists in A Time to Harvest turn out to be the Satarrans, a species who co-opted the Enterprise crew to serve in their war against the Lysians in the TNG episode "Conundrum."

In their long war with the Lysians, the Satarrans' homeworld was heavily damaged and rendered incapable to supporting the Satarran civilization. The changes that were made to the Dokaalans' plans for Ijuuka were designed to change that planet's conditions to be more favorable to the Satarrans, and useless to the Dokaalans. Because the Dokaalan science minister, Creij, was replaced by a Satarran, they are in the perfect position to subvert the terraforming project. In fact, one of the Enterprise's attempts to aid the Dokaalan effort serves to accelerate the sabotage.

It is this subversion of the Enterprise crew's plan that leads to one of the only big problems I have with this novel. Why on earth (or Ijuuka) is the crew rushing this attempt to aid the Dokaalans? The plan is formulated by Data, who only just recently recovered from a nearly-fatal attack by a Satarran operative (and in fact, he is not fully recovered at all). Captain Picard knows that there are undercover operatives among his crew and among the Dokaalans, and they are aware (thanks to Deanna Troi's empathic sense) that something is hinky with the Dokaalans themselves. So why rush headlong into this plan that involves firing torpedoes loaded with material that will drastically change the atmosphere of Ijuuka without running more tests and delaying the process by, potentially, years? The Dokaalans have waited this long, after all! I know, I know, because then we wouldn't have a plot, but still! There's no need to rush!

That one issue aside, I very much enjoyed A Time to Harvest. In the previous duology of A Time to Be Born and A Time to Die, I felt that the first book was quite strong while the second kind of dropped the ball on the story. Thankfully, that doesn't happen here, and Ward and Dilmore stick the landing. In fact, the very end of the story, in which Picard demonstrates the high-minded ideals of the Federation by offering aid to the Satarrans despite what they have done to the Dokaalans was quite touching, and very much in the spirit of what I think Star Trek is all about. There are also some strong character moments as our crew wrestles with the thought that they may have done more harm than good for the Dokaalans, as well as dealing with the changes that are on the horizon as we get closer to Star Trek Nemesis.

Final thoughts:

A strong follow-up and conclusion of Ward and Dilmore's part in the A Time To series. Great world-building with the Dokaalans and their society, as well as an unexpected use of an adversary from back in the TNG on television days. Great character work with only a few minor nitpicks with regards to some of the actions undertaken by our heroes. Plus, a terrific re-affirmation of the ideals of Starfleet and the Federation, and for what Star Trek itself espouses. For the most part, A Time to Harvest was a great addition to this nine-book series and the Star Trek lit-verse as a whole. 4/5.

More about A Time to Harvest:

Also by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore:

A Time To...

My next read:

Next is my long-overdue review of Voyager: The Farther Shore by Christie Golden, the follow-up to Homecoming!