Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Before Dishonor

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Before Dishonor by Peter David
Published November 2007
Read August 26th 2019

Previous book (The Next Generation): Q & A
Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Titan: Sword of Damocles

Next book (The Next Generation): Greater Than the Sum


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

Spoilers ahead for Before Dishonor
!

From the back cover:
An enemy so intractable that it cannot be reasoned with. The entire race thinks with one mind and strives toward one purpose: to add our biological distinctiveness to their own and wipe out individuality, to make every living thing Borg.

In over two centuries, the Federation has never encountered a greater threat. Twice Starfleet assembled and threw countless starships to stand against them. The Borg were stopped, the price paid in blood. Humanity breathed a sigh of relief, assuming it was safe. And with the destruction of the transwarp conduits, the Federation believed that the killing blow had finally been struck against the Borg.

Driven to the point of extinction, the Borg continue to fight for their very existence, for their culture. They will not be denied. They must not be stopped. The old rules and assumptions regarding how the Collective should act have been dismissed. Now the Borg kill first, assimilate later.

When the Enterprise manages to thwart them once again, the Borg turn inward. The dark places that even the drones never realized existed are turned outward against the enemy they have never been able to defeat. What is revealed is the thing that no one believed the Borg could do.

My thoughts:

Following the defeat of the Borg in the novel Resistance, the massive cube has appeared dormant. Starfleet has assigned the U.S.S. Einstein to lead the investigation of the cube, and Admiral Kathryn Janeway insists on accompanying them, ignoring the warnings of "Lady Q," the consort of the Q we have come to know and "love." Once Janeway and her team board the cube, the unthinkable happens: having evolved beyond the need for traditional assimilation, the cube "absorbs" Janeway and the rest of the away team, transforming the former captain of Voyager into their new Borg Queen. Seven of Nine, sensing that Janeway has been captured by the Borg, attempts to convince Starfleet to send her to investigate. When Admiral Jellico ignores her warnings, she sets out to make her own way to the cube, enlisting the aid of Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise along the way.

The massive, damaged Borg cube from Resistance is not as dead as Starfleet thought...

Before Dishonor has a rather infamous place in the annals of Trek Lit among many of its readers, for a variety of reasons. Many people cite the mis-characterizations of both the regular characters and the newcomers, others take issue with the loss of a particular character (more on that later), and others decry the seemingly out-of-place humor that pervades the novel. On the other side, many readers love this novel, praising its action-packed nature and fascinating depiction of an evolved threat from the Borg. I myself read this novel years ago when it was first released, and my reaction to it was quite mixed.

One character that I feel Peter David got right is Seven of Nine. Now serving as an instructor at Starfleet Academy, Seven's journey to attempt a rescue of Admiral Janeway was one of the highlights of the novel. Along the way, she meets a smuggler named Grim Vargo. I also enjoyed this character, and would not be opposed to seeing him pop up again in a future novel.

Speaking of characterizations, however, I felt that the novel dropped the ball on the TNG crew. Picard in particular comes across as quite "jokey" and a bit irreverent, which is not how I see Captain Picard at all. Additionally, it felt like the progress that Worf has made as a character was thrown out the window, and he is back to being the brawler from the early days of TNG, rather than the more thoughtful, reserved, and diplomatic Worf we've come to know in recent years. However, even more egregious to me was the depiction of the newer officers on the Enterprise, specifically Kadohata, Leybenzon, and T'Lana. The three of them are instrumental in leading a mutiny against Picard when he doesn't follow Starfleet's orders to return to Earth when the Borg attack, instead proceeding to "Trophy World" to attempt to revive the "Planet Killer" (from TOS's "The Doomsday Machine") to counter the Borg threat. While I can buy these officers becoming involved in a mutiny, the steps leading to this outcome didn't ring true for me. Kadohata has been shown to be a more reasoned individual before, and would likely show more loyalty to Picard, having served with him since the early days of the Enterprise-D. Leybenzon seemed entirely too hot-headed, actually yelling at Picard on the bridge at one point, while T'Lana refused to even entertain the possibility that she might be wrong, even when confronted by Ambassador Spock. While I was never a fan of T'Lana, I expected more sense from her than this.

Picard hatches a plan that makes this novel a sequel to one of my favorites: Vendetta, also by Peter David.

My favorite part of the novel comes from Picard's plan to use the "Doomsday Machine" against the Borg. This aspect of the story serves as a direct sequel to David's earlier novel, Vendetta, in which a woman named Delcara waged a one-woman war against the Borg with a larger and deadlier version of the Doomsday Machine. Without wanting to ascribe intention to Peter David which I know nothing about, it felt like he was much more invested in this part of the story. Seven of Nine is chosen to "pilot" the weapon, and her interaction with the device and the way it seems to tempt her to stay with it forever cast my memory back to Vendetta and the tragedy of Delcara. This was by far the most interesting part of the story, and I would have liked more of a focus on these events.

Towards the end of the novel, the massive Borg cube (which now has the ability to simply absorb starships and other matter) threatens to destroy Earth unless Captain Picard is turned over to them. Along the way, the Borg cube "eats" Pluto (which is now apparently once again classified as a planet, flying in the face of current scientific understanding). Adding to the silliness is almost-comedic commentary by Admirals Jellico and Nechayev. Despite the fact that the Earth is facing an existential crisis, I did not feel the tension at all, and the tone of the novel seemed in direct contrast to the events being depicted.

Admiral Janeway meets an unexpected fate in this novel.

Finally, we have to tackle the event that immediately comes to mind when talking about Before Dishonor: the apparent death of Kathryn Janeway. Many Janeway fans malign Peter David (unfairly, in my opinion) about this event. Personally, I don't have an issue with it, and in fact I applaud that the novels were audacious enough to kill a canon character of such importance. It does strike me as odd that it takes place in a TNG novel rather than a Voyager one, but at this point, the stories are so enmeshed that it makes little difference. We, of course, all know just how permanent "death" is in the Star Trek universe, and with Janeway walking with "Lady Q" into an uncertain future at the end of this novel, we can all be pretty sure that she'll be back... right?

Final thoughts:

Before Dishonor occupies a strange place in the Trek Lit world. I feel like if it were more of a standalone novel, rather than in the middle of an on-going continuity, it would be more palatable; however, given that the tone of the story is so markedly different from the previous and subsequent novels, it feels very much out of place. Normally, I enjoy Peter David's trademark comic-style humor, but it feels like it is dialed up to eleven in this novel. This stands in stark contrast to the heavy elements of the plot: an existential threat to the Federation, a mutiny, and the death of a major character. I also recently re-read Vendetta, and I feel like a much better balance of tone and stakes was struck in that novel. For me, Before Dishonor greatly misses the mark. There are a couple of elements I enjoy, but they are not enough to make this an enjoyable read overall. My score for Before Dishonor is 2/5.

More about Before Dishonor:

Also by Peter David:

My next read:

Next up is my video review of the newest TOS novel: The Antares Maelstrom by Greg Cox.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Literary Treks 281: The Next Evolutionary Step of the Borg

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Before Dishonor
by Peter David

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

The Enterprise has fought a costly battle with the Borg. Now, the massive cube they faced seems to be dormant, and Starfleet sends a team led by Admiral Kathryn Janeway to investigate. However, the Borg ship comes alive without warning and captures the admiral, using her to lead a direct attack on the heart of the Federation. Now, it's up to the crew of the Enterprise, along with Spock and Seven of Nine, to counter the renewed Borg threat.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor by Peter David. We talk about the newly-evolved Borg, Seven of Nine's role in the story, Ambassador Spock, unexpected actions taken by Picard's crew, the Doomsday Machine, Admiral Janeway's fate, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

At the top of the show, we review Star Trek: Year Five #5 from IDW and respond to listener feedback from The Babel Conference for Literary Treks 279: The Young, Rash, Impetuous Russian.


Literary Treks 281: The Next Evolutionary Step of the Borg
The Next Generation: Before Dishonor by Peter David





Previous episode: Literary Treks 280: The Rigellians are Psycho
Next episode: Literary Treks 282: The Official Guide to the Animated Series

Friday, September 13, 2019

Cover of Discovery: Dead Endless Revealed!

On the Star Trek twitter feed, as well as on Facebook by the author, Dave Galanter, the cover for the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery novel Dead Endless has been revealed! Focusing on the character of Stamets, Dead Endless tells the story of the U.S.S. Discovery's encounter with the mysterious mycelial network. Check out the cover art below, as well as the publisher's description and links to pre-order from Amazon!

Star Trek: Discovery: Dead Endless is set to be released on December 17.



Publisher's Description:

An all-new novel based upon the explosive Star Trek TV series! 

The U.S.S. Discovery’s specialty is using its spore-based hub drive to jump great distances faster than any warp-faring vessel in Starfleet. To do this, Lieutenant Paul Stamets navigates the ship through the recently revealed mycelial network, a subspace domain Discovery can briefly transit but in which it cannot remain. After responding to a startling distress call originating from within the network, the Discovery crew find themselves trapped in an inescapable realm where they will surely perish unless their missing mycelial fuel is found or restored. Is the seemingly human man found alone and alive inside the network the Starfleet officer he claims to be, or an impostor created by alien intruders who hope to extract themselves from the mycelial plane at the expense of all lives aboard Discovery?
Pre-order Dead Endless:

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


Monday, September 9, 2019

A Flag Full of Stars

Star Trek #54
The Lost Years Book Two
A Flag Full of Stars by Brad Ferguson
Published April 1991
Read July 29th 2019

Previous book (The Lost Years): Book One: The Lost Years
Previous book (TOS Numbered): #53: Ghost-Walker

Next book (The Lost Years): Book Three: Traitor Winds
Next book (TOS Numbered): #55: Renegade


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

Spoilers ahead for A Flag Full of Stars
!

From the back cover:
It has been eighteen months since the Starship Enterprise completed her historic five-year mission and her legendary crew has seperated, taking new assignments that span the galaxy.

On Earth, Admiral James T. Kirk has married and started a new life as the Chief of Starfleet operations where he is overseeing the refit of his beloved ship, now commanded by a new Captain -- Willard Decker. Kirk's only tie to his former crewmates is his Chief of Staff, a young Lieutenant Commander named Kevin Riley.

But Kirk's new, quiet life changes when he meets a scientist named G'dath who is on the brink of perhaps the greatest scientific discovery in a century. G'dath's invention could mean tremendous strides in Federation technology, or -- in the wrong hands -- the subjugation of countless worlds.

When Klingon agents capture this new technology, Admiral Kirk and Lt. Commander Riley are all that stands between peace and devastation for the entire Federation.

My thoughts:

It's been a long time since I read The Lost Years, but I finally sat down and read the follow-up: A Flag Full of Stars, marketed as the second book in the Lost Years saga.

I love when books "fill in the gaps" in Star Trek future history, and the so-called "lost years" are one of my favorite gaps to fill! The years between The Original Series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture represent big changes, not just in the lives of the characters, but in the whole look and feel of the Star Trek universe.

Admiral Kirk continues to adapt to his life without the Enterprise, and balances his new job with his marriage to Admiral Lori Ciana.

However, it is the changes for our characters that are the most meaningful. Kirk's role as a newly-minted admiral, as well as the breakup of the crew we were familiar with in TOS are significant changes, and the exploration of these changes is very interesting to me. Kirk in particular continues to deal with his feelings regarding his promotion to admiral, seeing his chances to be on the Enterprise slip away from him. His role at the beginning of the novel has him overseeing the refit of Enterprise, as well as other starships, but Starfleet Commander-in-Chief Nogura sees something else in Jim that leads him to appoint Kirk as Starfleet's media relations officer.

One of the aspects of this novel that I enjoyed was the glimpse of life on Earth outside of Starfleet. Part of the story centers around a Klingon named G'dath, who lives on Earth and teaches a junior high class. We learn that his experience is much like the experiences of many immigrants into a society unfamiliar with them: he faces judgement and fear by those who live around him, all of it unwarranted. G'dath is a thoughtful and intelligent person, with expertise that is being underutilized in his current role. In his spare time, he works on a project that yields unexpected results: a seemingly unlimited power source that is able to propel an object at unimaginable speeds. Of course, agents of the Klingon Empire who have G'dath under observation learn of the discovery and make a move to acquire the technology for themselves. G'dath approaches Starfleet through Kirk and a news reporter named Nan Davis for protection, while the Klingon agents continue to pursue him, eventually putting his students in danger as well.

The main plot of the novel was compelling, and I enjoyed the look at life outside of Starfleet. G'dath is a fascinating character, and I would love to see more of him in future stories. His students are also an interesting group, with some of them more wary of the Klingon teacher than others. Civilian life within the Federation has always been interesting to me, and I wish that we would get more of this sort of thing in Star Trek as a whole.

Kirk's Chief-of-Staff is a familiar face: Kevin Riley, now a lieutenant commander, who is facing his own personal problems as well as a demanding job.

Kirk's Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Commander Kevin Riley, also plays a significant role. Like Kirk, there is a lot going on in his personal life, and it impacts his job performance significantly. I liked his arc in this novel, and I look forward to it (hopefully) continuing in the remaining Lost Years books.

I have to admit, I had been spoiled on certain elements of the climax of this novel with regards to the role the U.S. space shuttle Enterprise plays in the outcome of the story. I was generally worried about that plot element, thinking it to be far too implausible to work. Amazingly, Ferguson is able to make use of the shuttle in a way that wasn't completely outlandish. It still strikes me as fairly implausible, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. Some readers may find it a bridge too far, however.

Final thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised with A Flag Full of Stars, finding it to be an enjoyable adventure with characters I found to be quite interesting. Even an implausible finish to the story didn't detract too much from my enjoyment, and it was fun to see Kirk in a situation other than starship command, and still succeeding brilliantly. Plus, there is a kitten in the story, and who wouldn't love that?

My next read:

Next up is my review of Peter David's Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Release Day! The Official Guide to The Animated Series

Star Trek:
The Official Guide to the Animated Series
by Aaron Harvey and Rich Schepis

Amazingly, there has never been an official companion to the animated series of Star Trek that ran for two seasons in the 1970s... until now! From Aaron Harvey (host of Trek.fm's Saturday Morning Trek podcast) and Rich Schepis comes the first official guide to the animated series.

Check out the publisher's description below, along with links to purchase from Amazon!




Publisher's description:
Star Trek was left for dead in 1969, after the cancellation of The Original Series (TOS). However, even though new adventures of the Enterprise and its crew were not being produced, it remained in the zeitgeist due to syndication and fan-run conventions. As a result, Star Trek became more popular and led to Gene Roddenberry and Filmation Studios continuing the Enterprise’s original five-year mission on Saturday morning television.

Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) was a critical success, airing 22 episodes over two seasons and earning the franchise its first Emmy Award in 1975. The show featured the voices of almost the entire original cast, including William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, along with TOS writers Dorothy Fontana (“Journey to Babel”), David Gerrold (“The Trouble with Tribbles”), acclaimed science-fiction author Larry Niven, and many more. 

This book is the first officially dedicated to TAS, and provides fans with behind-the-scenes production documents, never-before-seen art, and all-new interviews with the people who produced the Enterprise's new animated adventures. 

Star Trek: The Official Guide to The Animated Series reveals the efforts it took to translate TOS into animated form, includes a Databank encyclopedia of new and returning characters, ships, and planets, as well as trivia, bloopers, and TAS's connections to other Star Trek shows.

Purchase Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series:

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


Monday, September 2, 2019

Literary Treks 280: The Rigellians Are Psycho

Star Trek: Early Voyages
Issues #1-4
With special guests Shashank Avaaru & Barry DeFord!


Captain Christopher Pike has played a large role in the Star Trek universe over the past year, and we have made a concerted effort to take a look at the books that chronicle the adventures of this captain of the Enterprise. So it only makes sense to cast our gaze back to the late '90s, when Marvel Comics briefly held the licence to print Star Trek comic books, and released a series based on the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Chris Pike.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by Shahank Avaaru and Barry DeFord of the Trek Geeks podcast Poli-Treks to discuss the first four issues of Star Trek: Early Voyages. We talk about the crew's introduction in "Flesh of My Flesh," a face-off with the Klingons in "The Fires of Pharos," the crisis on Rigel VII in "Our Dearest Blood," and revisit Talos IV from a new perspective in "Nor Iron Bars a Cage." We wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings and where Barry and Shashank can be found online.

At the top of the show, we respond to your feedback on the Babel Conference for Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount."


Literary Treks 280: The Rigellians Are Psycho
Star Trek: Early Voyages, Issues 1-4





Previous episode: Literary Treks 279: The Young, Rash, Impetuous Russian
Next episode: Literary Treks 281: The Next Evolutionary Step of the Borg

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Enterprise War

Star Trek: Discovery
The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller
Release date: July 30th 2019
Read August 4th 2019


Previous book (Discovery): The Way to the Stars
Next book (Discovery): Dead Endless


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

Publisher's description:
A shattered ship, a divided crew—trapped in the infernal nightmare of conflict!

Hearing of the outbreak of hostilities between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, Captain Christopher Pike attempts to bring the U.S.S. Enterprise home to join in the fight. But in the hellish nebula known as the Pergamum, the stalwart commander instead finds an epic battle of his own, pitting ancient enemies against one another—with not just the Enterprise, but her crew as the spoils of war.

Lost and out of contact with Earth for an entire year, Pike and his trusted first officer, Number One, struggle to find and reunite the ship’s crew—all while Science Officer Spock confronts a mystery that puts even his exceptional skills to the test…with more than their own survival possibly riding on the outcome….

My thoughts:

Click here to watch my video review of Discovery: The Enterprise War, or click play on the embedded video below!



Final thoughts:

With The Enterprise War, the Star Trek: Discovery novels are five for five! John Jackson Miller has crafted an excellent story that fills in the gaps in the Discovery television series. It was fun to follow the adventures of the Enterprise for the year before season 2 and discover new insights into that season's storyline. Jackson nails the delivery of the characters, especially Captain Pike and Number One. The actors' voices are clearly heard when reading this novel. Top marks, definitely looking forward to Miller's next contribution to the Star Trek litverse!

More about The Enterprise War:



Also by John Jackson Miller:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

My next review is for the second book in the old Lost Years saga: Star Trek #54: A Flag Full of Stars by Brad Ferguson.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sword of Damocles

Star Trek: Titan
Sword of Damocles by Geoffrey Thorne
Published December 2007
Read July 19th 2019

Previous book (Titan): Orion's Hounds
Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): The Next Generation: Q & A

Next book (Titan): Destiny, Book 1: Gods of Night
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): The Next Generation: Before Dishonor


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

Spoilers ahead for Sword of Damocles
!

From the back cover:
Fate: It is an idea as old as life itself. Do our choices shape the future, or is it the other way around? And if the path we walk is predestined—if the way we are to meet our end is knowable—what might that knowledge compel us to do?

Titan's travels take it to a world at the edge of reason. Orisha is a planet whose people have lived for centuries beneath an unfathomable celestial body in their sky. From the moment it first appeared, the object was thought to be something unnatural, an ill omen that has made them feel watched, exposed, vulnerable—provoking a primal fear that has steered the course of their civilization. The Orishans call it "the Eye," and because it has consistently defied every scientific attempt to decode its true nature, many are convinced it represents an intelligence that is studying their world...and perhaps waiting to destroy it.

But the secret behind the Eye threatens Titan as well as Orisha... and it holds a special meaning for one member of Captain Riker's crew in particular, whose lifelong quest to balance faith and scientific truth is tested against the harsh, unblinking glare of inevitability.

My thoughts:

In Greek literature, Damocles was a man who greatly admired King Dionysius for his wealth and power. Dionysius offered Damocles the opportunity to take his place on the throne for one day so that Damocles could experience having the king's fortune that he so greatly desired. Damocles eagerly accepted the proposal. However, in order to illustrate the true lot of a king, Dionysius arranged to have a sword hanging directly above the throne. The sword, suspended by single hair of a horse's tail, threatened to drop at any time, surely killing Damocles. The sword evoked the fear and anxiety the king experienced, having made many enemies during his reign.

Sword of Damocles
By Richard Westall - own photograph of painting, Ackland Museum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3437614

Nowadays, we use the Sword of Damocles as an allusion to this tale, a metaphor representing impending doom, ready to crash down on us at a moment's notice. It is an appropriate title for this Star Trek: Titan novel, representing the doom that hangs over the planet Orisha, home to a native species who worship "Erykon's Eye," an anomaly in the sky visible from the planet's surface, which rains down destruction periodically.

The U.S.S. Titan's fate becomes linked with Orisha's when the starship finds herself becalmed in the midst of a dangerous region of space. Unable to free the ship, Riker sends a team via shuttlecraft to the nearby Orisha, believing that experiments carried out by the inhabitants have led to the Titan's predicament. As the team nears the planet, they encounter what would seem to be "Erykon's Eye," which causes them to crash land on Orisha. However, while Vale, Troi, Keru, and Ra-Havreii end up a couple of days in the past, Jaza Najem and Ensign Modan find themselves closer to a thousand years in Orisha's past.

The story from this point forward is, admittedly, a little confusing. It is sometimes difficult to discern who is where and what each person is experiencing. We as the readers slowly learn the circumstances in which the characters find themselves, and the pieces begin to fall into place. However, reading reviews online, there are many readers who still found this story very confusing right through to the end.

In fact, reviews I've read online for this novel tend to be very mixed. There is certainly a contingent who very much dislike it, but there are also a significant number of readers who enjoyed the story. I count myself in this latter group. Jaza Najem, Titan's science officer, plays a significant role in the story. He is a character I quite like in the series, and Sword of Damocles is his novel. Jaza is person of faith, and the themes of science and faith come into play here as well. Star Trek traditionally tends to steer clear of religion, but the Bajorans have always been an exception since the early days of Deep Space Nine, and Jaza's faith in the Prophets and the path They have laid out for him play a large role in his journey in this novel.

However, this novel continues a tradition that I've come to resent a little in the Titan series: the loss of a character in each book. In Sword of Damocles, Jaza follows the path of Nidani Ledrah, T'Lirin, and Orilly Malar before him. Ah, Jaza, we hardly knew ye.

One other item of note: this novel features the first look at the actual design of the U.S.S. Titan, thanks to a design contest put on by Simon & Schuster. The winner, Sean Tourangeau, has his design featured both on the cover of the novel and in a schematic shown in the novel. This design has been established as the Titan such that I actually own a licensed Eaglemoss model of the ship. Crazy!

The U.S.S. Titan, designed by Sean Tourangeau, in Eaglemoss collection form!

As I said above, I quite enjoyed this novel. The predicament the away team finds itself in, as well as the situation faced by the crew left behind on the Titan, made for an exciting and interesting mystery. The true nature of Orisha and Jaza's ultimate role in the history of that world gave me a lot to think about after finishing Sword of Damocles. I appreciate when a story makes me think, and doesn't just leave my mind when the reading is finished.

Final thoughts:

Sword of Damocles is not a typical Star Trek novel. The style of the writing is a significant departure from the "norm," but in my opinion, the story is all the better for it. There is some great character work in this novel, and some interesting time-twisting adventures that, while maybe a little confusing, serve to make the story a fascinating one. I would have liked to have seen Geoffrey Thorne tackle more Star Trek novels after Sword of Damocles.

More about Sword of Damocles:

My next read:

Next up is my video review of John Jackson Miller's Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Literary Treks 279: The Young, Rash, Impetuous Russian

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Antares Maelstrom
Exclusive interview with Greg Cox!

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

A 23rd century gold rush kicks off when a rare element is discovered on planet Baldur III, and it's up to the crew of the Enterprise to maintain order when the small colony world is overrun by pioneers hoping to strike it rich. Complicating matters is the nearby Antares Maelstrom, a treacherous area of space that has claimed the lives of many explorers over the years. With his crew stretched thin, can Kirk manage to prevent tragedy?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther welcome author Greg Cox to the show to discuss his new Original Series novel, The Antares Maelstrom. We talk about the pergium discovery that starts things off, an old-fashioned western set in space, Sulu's mystery woman and the role they play, a side quest for Spock and Chekov, a major crisis the colony faces, the mysteries of the Antares Maelstrom, and wrap up with projects that Greg is currently working on and where he can be found online.

At the top of the show, we review issue #4 of Star Trek: Year Five from IDW, and respond to listener feedback from the Babel Conference for Literary Treks 277: You're Meant to Be Confused.


Literary Treks 279: The Young, Rash, Impetuous Russian
The Original Series: The Antares Maelstrom - Exclusive Interview with author Greg Cox!





Previous episode: Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount"
Next episode: Literary Treks 280: The Rigellians are Psycho

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dyson Sphere

Star Trek: The Next Generation #50
Dyson Sphere by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski
Published April 1999
Read July 15th 2019

Previous book (TNG Numbered): #49: The Q Continuum, Book 3: Q-Strike
Previous book (Published Order): Star Trek: Insurrection

Next book (TNG Numbered): #51: Double Helix, Book 1: Infection


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

Spoilers ahead for Dyson Sphere
!

From the back cover:
Two hundred million kilometers across, with a surface area that exceeds that of a quarter-billion worlds, the Dyson sphere is one of the most astounding discoveries the Federation has ever made. Now the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned to explore the awesome mysteries of the sphere. Intrigued by what is possibly the greatest archaeological treasure of all time, Captain Jean-Luc Picard hopes to discover the origin of humanoid life throughout the galaxy--or perhaps the ultimate secret of the Borg. 
But when a neutron star approaches on a collision course with the sphere, a mission of discovery becomes a desperate race against time. The many sentient species inhabiting the sphere face extinction--can even the Starship Enterprise save them all?

My thoughts:

The massive Dyson Sphere introduced in the TNG episode "Relics" is a true marvel of engineering. In fact, that is a massive understatement. The Dyson sphere as shown would be an absolutely incredible work of a civilization millions of years ahead of us with resources nearing infinite. It's a shame that the episode (one of my favorites) does not do this structure justice. The mere existence of the Dyson sphere would be an incredible coup to the science of the Federation. The surface area of the interior of such a sphere with a radius of 1 AU (astronomical unit - the average distance from Earth to the sun) would be 2.8 x 1017 km2, or about 550 million times the surface area of Earth. While our heroes in "Relics" are somewhat in awe of the sphere, I feel like they are significantly less impressed than they should be.

The Dyson sphere discovered in TNG's "Relics" would be unimaginably immense, and the interior surface seen in this shot represents the tiniest fraction of the total area of the inside of the sphere.

This is one area in which this novel, Dyson Sphere, improves upon the source material. Reading this book, I got a much better sense of the immensity of the sphere, and the sheer audacity of its creators, whoever they may be. The stellar region surrounding the sphere is described as having been completely stripped clean, which accounts for the immense resources that would have to be used to create a Dyson sphere.

Captain Dalen and her crew are descendants of the Horta discovered in TOS's "The Devil in the Dark," seen here.

Joining the crew of the Enterprise is a science vessel, the U.S.S. Darwin, crewed entirely by Horta. I loved this idea, and the character of Captain Dalen is fascinating. The concept of Horta in Starfleet is not unique to this novel, but the authors do some interesting things with the characters.

Unfortunately, Dyson Sphere falls down on a number of levels. What is there is very interesting indeed: the exploration of the interior of the sphere, the inevitable lifeforms discovered there, and the threat of a neutron star on a collision course with the sphere, which it reacts to in an unexpected way. However, the narrative is very disjointed, jumping from situation to situation, and leaving numerous plot threads hanging and unexplored. The book is full of fascinating concepts, but ultimately that's all it is: new and interesting concepts piled upon one another, with no real feeling of resolution.

Sadly, the reasons for this might have been quite out of the control of the authors. According to one of the authors, Charles Pellegrino, following Paramount's approval of the manuscript for Dyson Sphere, the editor made a number of very questionable changes to the novel. Allegedly, this editor removed a significant amount of the information about the characters, and even entire chapters from the book. This is according to Pellegrino, commenting on another reader's review on Goodreads. How much of that contributed to my dissatisfaction in parts of this novel is unknown, but it goes a long way toward explaining why much of the story feels so disjointed.

The Dyson sphere, an unimaginably immense structure, was much better represented in this novel than in its original appearance on TNG.

Another aspect that bothered me was the tendency of the characters, Picard in particular, to make grandiose assumptions or hypotheses about the nature of the Dyson sphere and the predicament it finds itself in. Picard theorizes that the Borg might have something to do with the Dyson sphere, and that the neutron star was launched towards it by a species who is at war with the builders. Both of these suppositions come with zero evidence, but are mere musings. Interesting thoughts, yes, but usually Star Trek does a better job of building a semi-solid scientific basis for its theories.

Final thoughts:
While Dyson Sphere impressed me with the ideas that it contained, it is unfortunately marred by a lack of cohesion in the plot. Sadly, this would seem to be due to forces beyond the control of the authors, as there have been reports of some strange editorial decisions with regards to this novel. Still, it was an enjoyable read with some audacious science fiction concepts that are a lot of fun to explore. 

On the possibility of a real-life Dyson sphere:

Popular Mechanics has a pretty great article about Dyson spheres and Dyson swarms, and why the former is completely unfeasible (at least at our, and Star Trek's, current level of technology and understanding). 

My next read:

Next up: Star Trek: Titan: Sword of Damocles by Geoffrey Thorne!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount"

Star Trek: Discovery
The Enterprise War
Exclusive interview with John Jackson Miller!

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

At the end of Star Trek: Discovery's first season, we encounter the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. A long and costly war with the Klingons has taken its toll on Starfleet, but the Enterprise was kept out of the fray. What was this storied starship up to for the duration of the war, and why was she out of contact with Starfleet for so long? The answers to these questions and more can be found in the subject of this week's episode!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by John Jackson Miller to talk about his latest book, Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War. We discuss how the novel ties into seasons one and two of Discovery, the Lurians and the atypical Baladon, Enterprise's revolving door of engineers, the mysterious Boundless, Lt. Evan Connolly, this novel's links to the wider Trek litverse, the final shocking reveal, and wrap up with what Miller is currently working on and where he can be found online.

In the news segment, we break down the 2020 book schedule as revealed at STLV, as well as news of an upcoming comic prequel to Star Trek: Picard. We also respond to listener feedback from the Babel Conference for Literary Treks 276: There's a Line We Can't Cross.


Literary Treks 278: His Losses Continue to "Mount"
Discovery: The Enterprise War - Exclusive Interview with John Jackson Miller!





Previous episode: Literary Treks 277: You're Meant to Be Confused
Next episode: Literary Treks 279: The Young, Rash, Impetuous Russian

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The IDIC Epidemic

Star Trek #38
The IDIC Epidemic by Jean Lorrah
Published February 1988
Read July 9th 2019

Previous book (TOS Numbered): #37: Bloodthirst
Previous book (Published Order): Final Frontier

Next book (TOS Numbered): #39: Time for Yesterday


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

Spoilers ahead for The IDIC Epidemic
!

From the back cover:
I.D.I.C -- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. More than just a simple credo, for those of the planet Vulcan it is the cornerstone of their philosophy.

Now, on the Vulcan Science Colony Nisus, that credo of tolerance is being being put to its sternest test. For here, on a planet where Vulcan, Human, Klingon, and countless other races live and work side by side, a deadly plague has sprung up. A plague whose origins are somehow rooted in the concept of I.D.I.C. itself. A plague that threatens to tear down that centuries-old maxim and replace it with an even older concept.

Interstellar War.

My thoughts:

If you are a long-time reader of Trek Lit Reviews, you may remember my review of the TOS novel The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. I was very impressed with that novel, not so much by the plot (which was a fairly by-the-numbers murder mystery), but by the character exploration. I found the relationships depicted in that novel to be very touching, so when I learned that The IDIC Epidemic was a sequel, I resolved to pick it up and check it out. Sadly, it's taken a number of years to finally get to it, but I have finally read Jean Lorrah's second Star Trek novel. Does it hold up as well as The Vulcan Academy Murders?

The Vulcan I.D.I.C., representing Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, a concept central to The IDIC Epidemic.

Taking place a few weeks after TVAM, The IDIC Epidemic features a number of the same characters and following on almost immediately from the events of that novel. Nisus, a science colony populated by numerous species, has been hit by a highly contagious plague that is swiftly mutating and striking down the population one-by-one. It seems that, once the virus encounters a host that is of mixed heritage, it quickly mutates into a highly lethal strain that swiftly kills. The Enterprise, having just left Vulcan, is diverted to assist. The Vulcan antagonists from TVAM are aboard the Enterprise, and see this property of the virus as vindication of their anti-IDIC beliefs, and dub it the "IDIC epidemic."

At first blush, they would seem to be right. However, as the story goes on, we learn more about the virus and how it propagates, and more importantly, how it can be cured. It turns out that the Klingons are key to halting the virus, and greater cooperation among species becomes essential to the solution, rather than merely the cause of the epidemic. In fact, my favorite character in the novel is Korsal, a Klingon engineer living on Nisus who, along with his sons, becomes vital to the solution to the crisis. Many people see the Klingons as nothing more than hardened warriors who crave battle and victory, so it was refreshing to get a different type of Klingon, especially in an Original Series novel.

There is also a secondary plot in which the colony is threatened by a failing dam, a crisis that Korsal and his son also have a hand in averting. There are a number of good old fashioned suspenseful moments as the initial scope of the crisis becomes apparent, and during the subsequent disaster and rescue attempts. They may be standard tropes in storytelling, but they are still effective!

As someone who doesn't usually enjoy "medical mystery" stories, The IDIC Epidemic had a lot to overcome to win me over. However, my problem with that sort of story usually has to do with the eleventh hour "eureka" moment as a cure is discovered and the plague is stopped. The solution in The IDIC Epidemic was much more meaningful and fit very well with the Star Trek ethos, and therefore sat much better with me. While I didn't enjoy this novel as much as The Vulcan Academy Murders, I still found it to be a worthy sequel and a nice reaffirmation of Star Trek's ideals.

Final thoughts:

A medical mystery story that has a meaningful resolution keeping with Star Trek's ideals and ethics. The IDIC concept has become central to what Star Trek is all about, and I enjoyed reading a story that ended up reinforcing that concept. I didn't enjoy the story as much as the novel it is a sequel to, The Vulcan Academy Murders, but I very much appreciate Jean Lorrah's singular take on the Star Trek universe and the optimism of her characters.

Also by Jean Lorrah:

My next read:

Star Trek: The Next Generation #50: Dyson Sphere by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski.