Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Latter Fire

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Latter Fire by James Swallow
Release date: February 23rd 2016
Read March 4th 2016

Previous book (The Original Series): Miasma

Next book (The Original Series): Elusive Salvation

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

Spoilers ahead for The Latter Fire!

Publisher's description:
An all-new novel from New York Times bestselling author James Swallow set in the popular universe of Star Trek: The Original Series!

The five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise has brought the vessel and her crew to the forefront of an important first contact situation. Under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, the ship is heading to the planet Syhaar Prime in the Beta Quadrant—the home world of an alien civilization preparing to take its first steps on to the galactic stage. One year earlier, the Enterprise came across a badly damaged Syhaari explorer vessel drifting in deep space. In collaboration with the explorer’s captain, Kirk and his crew were able to restore the ship to full function and send it on its way. And now, as the Syhaari display rapid technological advances made over the past year, hard questions must be asked. Did the Enterprise crew leak advanced technology or information to the Syhaari during their first encounter, in total violation of the Prime Directive?

My thoughts:

James Swallow is an author who really "gets" Star Trek. Reading his stories make you appreciate the message behind some of the best tales that the Trek franchise has to offer. This latest TOS novel, The Latter Fire, is certainly no exception.

Fear is a consuming and pervasive force in our world. Fear of that which is different lies at the heart of countless misunderstandings and conflicts. In The Latter Fire, this idea is explored through a number of interactions throughout the story. The primary conflict in the story stems from an encounter between Syhaari explorers and an alien race called the Breg'hel. Tormid, the captain of a Syhaari ship, commits atrocities against the Breg'hel, murdering the entire complement of a Breg'hel vessel. Fearing the unknown, he panicked and let his base emotions take hold.

Understandably, the Breg'hel were furious. Due to the interconnected nature of their species, the Breg'hel couldn't conceive that the Syhaari weren't all responsible for the death of their people. Once again, a huge misunderstanding leads to conflict, predicated mainly on fear. I found this aspect of the story to be very timely, given what is happening in politics and world affairs today. Fear is behind so much of what we do and think that it leads to rash decisions and poor judgement on the part of decision makers, law makers, and the general public.

Preconceived notions and prejudice both play a major role in the story as well. This idea plays out in the novel through a number of situations, including the Federation Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador Xuur's preconception of Kirk and what he stands for. The aforementioned Breg'hel and their notion of the nature of the Syhaari could also be seen as a preconception that leads to misunderstanding. Until people have open minds and truly aim to learn about their neighbours and people with different ideas and ways of life, there will always be conflict. A theme in this story seems to be "challenge your preconceptions or they will challenge you."

Another thing that James Swallow does really well is world-building. In The Latter Fire, this talent particularly shines as he creates two fascinating cultures, along with a giant space-faring leviathan creature. The novel is filled with very Star Trek: TOS ideas, and was very reminiscent of some of the big spectacles in that series.

The "Leviathan" in The Latter Fire is reminiscent of some otherworldly ideas from TOS, such as the giant space amoeba from "The Immunity Syndrome."

Final thoughts:

Communication, cooperation, and friendship; it is these ideals that Star Trek says should guide humanity into the stars. Fundamentally, this novel is about those ideas. It is Star Trek in the truest sense, and James Swallow captures the essence of "Roddenberry's philosophy," as it has become known. An excellent novel, and one of the best TOS 5-year mission stories I've read in some time.

More about The Latter Fire:

Also by James Swallow:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Another new release, this time the continuation of Christopher L. Bennett's Rise of the Federation series: Live By the Code.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Release Day! Rise of the Federation: Live By the Code

Star Trek: Enterprise
Rise of the Federation
Live By the Code by Christopher L. Bennett

New this month, and hitting bookshelves and online retailers today: it's Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Live By the Code! Continuing stories from the previous Rise of the Federation novel, Uncertain Logic, Live By the Code sees the crews of Endeavour, Pioneer, and Vol'Rala taking on threats to the young Federation such as the Ware and the troubled Klingon Empire. Pick up your copy today, and look for both my review and our episode of Literary Treks in which we discuss Live By the Code!

Look below for the back-cover blurb and links to purchase from Amazon.

Publisher's description:
The "fifth season" saga of the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series continues with this action-packed original novel!

Admiral Jonathan Archer has barely settled in as Starfleet Chief of Staff when new crises demand his attention. The Starfleet task force commanded by Captain Malcolm Reed continues its fight against the deadly Ware technology, but one of the task force ships is captured, its Andorian crew imprisoned by an interstellar Partnership that depends on the Ware for its prosperity. Worse, the Partnership has allied with a renegade Klingon faction, providing it with Ware drone fleets to mount an insurrection against the Klingon Empire. Archer sends Captain T'Pol and Endeavour to assist Reed in his efforts to free the captured officers. But he must also keep his eye on the Klingon border, for factions within the Empire blame Starfleet for provoking the Ware threat and seek to take revenge. Even the skill and dedication of the captains under Archer's command may not be enough to prevent the outbreak of the Federation's first war!

Purchase Live By the Code:

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Star Trek: The Original Series
Miasma by Greg Cox
An e-book exclusive release
Release date: February 22nd 2016
Read February 23rd 2016

Previous book (The Original Series): Child of Two Worlds

Next book (The Original Series): The Latter Fire

Kindle: | |

Spoilers ahead for Miasma!

Publisher's description:
Star Trek continues its fiftieth anniversary celebration in 2016 with an all-new e-novella from New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox, set in the popular and blockbuster Original Series era!

The Enterprise-A is transporting a party of diplomats when it picks up a mysterious alien signal emanating from a nearby world. The planet’s dense, impenetrable atmosphere makes it unclear if the beacon is a distress signal, an invitation—or a warning to stay away. Spock, Doctor McCoy, and Chekov are part of a team sent to investigate, but an unexpected catastrophe forces a crash landing. Now the landing party is stranded on a hostile world, unable to communicate with the Enterprise. While Captain Kirk and Saavik race to locate the lost crew, a badly wounded Spock struggles to keep McCoy and the others alive until they can be rescued, even if that means making an unthinkable sacrifice...

My thoughts:

To start this story off, Spock, McCoy, Chekov, and a few redshirts take a shuttle down to a planet shrouded in an oppressive, blinding fog. As the shuttle descends, the characters remember that they are in the movie era, and thus all wearing red shirts, so the shuttle crashes.

A shuttle mission to investigate a supposed distress call ends in disaster.

On the surface, they soon come under attack by terrifying creatures: essentially giant leeches with legs! After one of the non-main characters is brutally killed, the landing party realizes that they have to get off the surface as soon as possible. With the shuttle in pieces, they set out to the source of the signal that brought them there in the hopes that the Enterprise crew will start there in an attempt to locate them. They soon discover that the mega-leeches are repelled by the smell of Spock's green blood, and set about weaponizing it by extracting it via hypospray and using it as an aerosolized weapon, essentially turning it into a "shark repellent." It is even copper-based like real shark repellent!

What first struck me about this story is how much it felt like an episode of the television series. I know this is an oft-repeated line here, but these e-book novellas are really great at evoking the feeling of watching an episode of Star Trek. The pacing and the length are perfect in this respect. In this case, the story feels like a never-aired episode of a non-existent series that takes place in the late movie era. This is one of my favorite periods in Trek history, made all the more interesting by the lack of stories set there.

The circumstances in Miasma are reminiscent of another doomed shuttle mission decades earlier...

In many ways, Miasma is reminiscent of the TOS episode "The Galileo Seven." The characters even comment on the fact that they are in a very similar situation. Where Miasma shines, however, is in juxtaposing these adventures by showing how far these characters have come and how much they have matured since that original adventure. Spock, rather than simply applying cold, hard logic, has come to appreciate the human perspective, making allowances for emotion and compassion. Similarly, McCoy reflects that his behavior in this instance is much more reserved and understanding of the pressures that Spock is under while commanding a difficult away mission.

Saavik features in this story in a unique way. 

One fascinating aspect of the story is the inclusion of Saavik. The DC run of Star Trek comics set during this period featured her character, and it is that situation that Greg Cox is emulating here. I loved the dynamic between her and Spock as she and Kirk search the planet for the doomed landing party. The exploration of the link between these two characters was a compelling one, with their experience on the Genesis planet in Star Trek III coming into play in an unexpected way. I also found it interesting that Greg Cox states that he alternated between visualising Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis while writing Miasma; I had a similar experience while reading it. Some parts seemed to fit Alley's portrayal better, while I often found Curtis's Saavik coming to the fore in other parts.

Final thoughts:

Miasma is a fascinating look at the late TOS movie era with characters who have a great deal of experience under their belts. I love the "elder statesman" feel of the TOS crew at this stage, with decades of service having tempered their dispositions and their outlooks. There are some great character moments in this novella, and the inclusion of Saavik was a welcome touch.

It's funny, I was reading Stephen King's The Shining for a book club I am a part of and had to pause to read Miasma. I remember thinking to myself that it would be a nice break from the terror in The Shining, which is definitely an intense story. However, the leech creatures in Miasma were nearly just as terrifying! So much for taking a break!

Thanks to the quick pacing and short length of Miasma, reading it in an afternoon is like sitting down to watch an episode of the television series. I recommend it for any fan of the movie-era of Star Trek!

More about Miasma:

Also by Greg Cox:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Another new release! This time, The Original Series: The Latter Fire by New York Times bestselling author James Swallow!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Re-Watch Reviews, Episode 006: "Acquisition" - Enterprise 1x19

Episode six in my alphabetical Star Trek re-watch is here! This week, it's the first episode I've gotten to from Enterprise! And it's... oh... it's "Acquisition."

That's right folks, Enterprise did a Ferengi episode.


Enterprise does get much better than this, I swear!

Last episode: "Accession" - DS9 4x17
Next episode: "The Adversary" - DS9 3x26

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Literary Treks 140: Landed in Yoda's Swamp

Miasma by Greg Cox

The TOS movie era is a period of Star Trek history rife with story possibilities. Kirk's crew aboard the Enterprise-A has been through a lot together, and that experience has molded them into some of Starfleet's most valuable officers. Imagine if a television series had been set in this period. The episodes of that imaginary series might have been very much like the e-novella we are discussing this week.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther discuss the newest e-novella Miasma. We talk about it feeling like an episode, the setting, growth for the characters, Spock and Saavik, logic vs. compassion, and our ratings.

In the news, we take a look at Ongoing #54.

Literary Treks 140: Landed in Yoda's Swamp
We discuss The Original Series: Miasma by Greg Cox

Previous episode: Literary Treks 139: Feels Like Star Trek VII

Next episode: Literary Treks 141: Plastic Cage of Emotion