Monday, September 30, 2019

Literary Treks 283: Everyone's Tilting at Windmills

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Vendetta
by Peter David

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

The Borg: the Federation's most lethal adversary. A force of nature, nearly unstoppable, and the harbinger of doom for any civilization unfortunate enough to come to the attention of this cybernetic menace. The crew of the Enterprise thwarted their attack on the Federation once; but now, when this relentless enemy comes again in force, can the Federation once again be saved?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss the TNG novel Vendetta by Peter David. We talk about Picard's mysterious connection to a woman with a vendetta, the horrors of a Borg attack, Geordi's quixotic role in the novel, new types of Borg, Picard's rival, the Doomsday Machine, the theme of Vendetta, how this book compares to its sequel, Before Dishonor, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news section, we talk about a number of new releases: issue #2 of Star Trek: Aftermath, the 40th anniversary edition of the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry, and Star Trek: The Next Generation: Collateral Damage by David Mack. We also review issue #6 of Star Trek: Year Five, and respond to listener feedback from the Babel Conference for Literary Treks 281: The Next Evolutionary Step of the Borg.


Literary Treks 283: Everyone's Tilting at Windmills
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Vendetta by Peter David





Previous episode: Literary Treks 282: And Then Wonder Woman Shows Up!
Next episode: Literary Treks 284: Smoothing Over the Rough Edges of Canon

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Literary Treks 282: And Then Wonder Woman Shows Up!

Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series
by Aaron Harvey & Rich Schepis
Exclusive interview with Aaron Harvey!

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

An often-overlooked corner of the Star Trek universe, the animated Star Trek series of 1973-'74 was the first time Trek would make a comeback. Utilizing most of the original voice talent, TAS approached storytelling in much the same way as its predecessor. A comprehensive guide to this groundbreaking series has never been made available... until now!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by Aaron Harvey, Trek.fm host and co-author of Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series. We discuss his passion for the animated adventures of Star Trek, how he and co-author Rich Schepis got the job of creating this guide, the process of putting the book together, the layout of the book, some interesting surprises that were revealed about the series, and wrap up by talking about where Aaron can be found online.

In the news section, we talk about the release of issue #1 of Star Trek: Discovery: Aftermath from IDW, get a sneak peek of Dayton Ward's upcoming Kirk Fu manual, and judge the cover of the upcoming novel Star Trek: Discovery: Dead Endless by Dave Galanter. We also respond to your Babel Conference feedback for Literary Treks 280: The Rigellians are Psycho.


Literary Treks 282: And Then Wonder Woman Shows Up!
Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series - Exclusive Interview with author Aaron Harvey!





Previous episode: Literary Treks 281: The Next Evolutionary Step of the Borg
Next episode: Literary Treks 283: Everyone's Tilting at Windmills

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: And Then Wonder Woman Shows Up!

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