Monday, July 22, 2019

Literary Treks 275: Q is a YouTube Comment Troll

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Q & A
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

The supposedly-omnipotent Q has long been a thorn in the side of Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. From the very beginning of the Enterprise-D's mission to Farpoint, Picard has been put through his paces dealing with the seemingly-childish entity. However, is there more to Q's visitations than meets the eye? Picard and his crew will soon find the answer to that question, with the fate of the entire universe at stake!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss the TNG novel Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido. We talk about the new members of the Enterprise crew, the strange planet at the heart of the novel, the ultimate Q story, the link to "Parallels," Worf's new outlook on life, a particular cover quandary, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we congratulate David Mack on his new role behind the scenes in a couple of upcoming Star Trek television shows, and respond to feedback from The Babel Conference for Literary Treks 273: Unintended Consequences.


Literary Treks 275: Q is a YouTube Comment Troll
The Next Generation: Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido





Previous episode: Literary Treks 274: An Old Man in the Park Feeding Pigeons
Next episode: Literary Treks 276: How to Write Star Trek Fiction

Thursday, July 18, 2019

New Discovery Novel Coming! And... Mirror Voyager?

A couple of interesting book and comic tidbits to share with you today!

First, thanks to a reveal at last weekend's Shore Leave convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland, we've learned of a new Star Trek: Discovery novel coming later in the year from one of my favorite Trek authors, Dave Galanter.

Paul Stamets is the focus of the upcoming Discovery novel Dead Endless by Dave Galanter.

Star Trek: Discovery: Dead Endless features an adventure set aboard the U.S.S. Discovery (a first for the book series bearing the ship's name), and centers around the character of Lieutenant Paul Stamets. Here's the back-cover blurb:

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?

Dead Endless goes on sale on December 17th. Below are the pre-order links to pick it up from Amazon.

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




And recently announced by IDW at the San Diego Comic Con: Voyager is getting some Mirror Universe representation in an upcoming comic!

"Mirrors and Smoke" cover art by J.K. Woodward.

"Mirrors and Smoke" comes out in October, written by Paul Allor featuring artwork by one of my favorites, J.K. Woodward, as well as a retailer incentive cover by George Caltsoudas. The story features the rebel crew of the I.S.S. Voyager, stranded in the Delta Quadrant far from the remnants of the Terran Empire.

‘Mirrors and Smoke’ introduces Captain Janeway of the Voyager, a rebel ship stranded in the Delta Quadrant, far from the ruins of the Terran Empire. When Janeway crowns herself Pirate Queen of the Quadrant, the locals – including scavengers Neelix and Kes – won’t give up without a fight. Amid this conflict, the crew of the Voyager has a second problem on their hands: just who is the Terran calling herself Annika Hansen, and can she be trusted?

"Mirrors and Smoke" is a one-shot, but it will just be the first in a multi-month series featuring tales from the Mirror Universe with each issue focusing on a different Star Trek crew!

Keep track of all of the upcoming releases on my 2019 Releases page, and stay tuned for more news and reviews!

The Captain's Oath

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Captain's Oath by Christopher L. Bennett
Release date: May 28th 2019
Read May 28th 2019


Previous book (The Original Series): The Face of the Unknown
Next book (The Original Series): The Antares Maelstrom


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

Publisher's description:
The saga of James T. Kirk's historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk's first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet's youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise. From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

My thoughts:

Click here to watch my video review of The Original Series: The Captain's Oath, or click play on the embedded video below!



Final thoughts:

A strong novel showcasing Kirk's career as a captain before The Original Series, as well as the events that led him to take command of the Enterprise. Christopher Bennett does his usual awesome job of connecting various bits of canon and crafting a terrific story that fills in some of the missing bits. Great character work in this novel, and fascinating problems for Kirk and his crews to overcome. I always enjoy Bennett's world-building, and the more-alien-than-usual Agni are a great addition to the Trek gallery of lifeforms. Highly recommend this novel, which gives great insight into the man James T. Kirk was, as well as informing the man he would become.

More about The Captain's Oath:



Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

My next review is for the Star Trek: Titan novel, Orion's Hounds, by Christopher L. Bennett!


Friday, July 12, 2019

Resistance

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Resistance by J.M. Dillard
Published September 2007
Read June 5th 2019

Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Titan: The Red King
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Titan: Orion's Hounds

Previous book (The Next Generation): Death in Winter
Next book (The Next Generation): Q & A


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

Spoilers ahead for Resistance
!

From the back cover:
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, his ship repaired, must now reassemble his crew. With the departure of both William Riker and ship's counselor Deanna Troi, the captain must replace his two most trusted advisors. He chooses a Vulcan, a logical choice, and for his new first officer, Worf. But the Klingon refuses the promotion and the new ship's counsellor appears to actively dislike Worf. A simple shake-down mission should settle everything. Except that once again, the captain hears the song of the Borg collective. Admiral Janeway is convinced that the Borg have been crushed and are no longer a threat. Picard believes she is wrong, and that if the Enterprise doesn't act the entire Federation will be under the domination of its most oppressive enemy.

My thoughts:

The Borg. To the Federation, they are a menace and an existential threat. To Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it is much more personal. His experience as Locutus created wounds in his psyche that are not easily healed. The scars left behind have, at times, made him the perfect weapon against the Borg, and have also been a handicap that has clouded his judgement when faced with the cybernetic menace.

When Captain Picard hears the Borg in his mind and is convinced they are preparing to attack the Federation, his long-time crew believes him and supports his desire to intercept the threat. However, Picard's new counselor and Starfleet Command are unconvinced. Admiral Janeway advises Picard to hold position, sending Seven of Nine via shuttlecraft to rendezvous with the Enterprise. Picard instead chooses to set course for the suspected position of a Borg vessel that he believes is arming itself for an attack, and readying a new Borg Queen.

This novel takes place after a great deal has changed for Picard and his crew. Data, Riker, and Troi are all no longer members of the crew, and Picard and Beverly have begun a romantic relationship. One of the changes we are introduced to in this novel is the addition of new members of the Enterprise crew: the aforementioned counselor, T'Lana, is one of them. A Vulcan, she brings an outsider's perspective to the story, questioning Picard's rationality when it comes to the Borg. It's easy to dislike her in her debut here, as she is very much an outsider, criticizing not only Picard's judgement, but also the appointment of Worf to the position of first officer. She believes that the choice he made on a prior mission to put his wife ahead of the mission (see the DS9 episode "Change of Heart") disqualifies him from holding the first officer position.

Worf's decisions on a mission during the Dominion War come back to haunt him as he contemplates taking a promotion to first officer of the Enterprise.

Resistance is a tough novel to review. On the one hand, there is some great character work, especially with the newer members of the crew. The chief of security, Lio Battaglia, and the conn officer, Sara Nave, have a relationship that was interesting to read about. That said, the outcome of the relationship, while dramatic and compelling, was a bit on the cliched and predictable side. And as far as characterizations of the main cast goes, there were a few elements that left me feeling cold.

For example, after having sent an unsuccessful away mission to destroy the Borg Queen, Picard opts to take up the mantle of Locutus once again in order to infiltrate the Borg vessel. This decision, while interesting, struck me as wildly out of character. I could see this as an absolute last resort, but to Picard, it just seems like the logical next step that he must take because the plot dictated it. There was far less agonizing over the decision than I would have expected. It almost seemed to me as though the idea of Picard becoming Locutus again was a tantalizing thing to write into this novel, but not as much thought went into the execution of it as there should have been.

Resistance involves Picard becoming Locutus once again, but that decision didn't seem as well-thought out as I feel it should have been.

The one major highlight of the novel was Beverly Crusher sciencing her way to a solution after Picard is captured by the Borg Queen. While some of the science felt a bit dodgy, with the Borg creating a queen using "royal jelly" like insects would, it was fun to see a typically Star Trek science solution to a complex problem. And the fact that Beverly was the one to implement it was fun, as she never seems to get enough to do, either in the novels or the television show, or the films for that matter.

Final thoughts:

Resistance was an interesting read with plenty of action and high stakes, but at times the story felt rushed and a bit aimless. Some things in the plot seem to happen because they seem like a cool idea, rather than an organic plot dictated by the personalities of the characters. Contrived situations such as Picard's choices seem to be a bit out of left field, but there are enough saving graces that allowed me to enjoy the novel. Not stellar, but entertaining enough.

More about Resistance:



Also by J.M. Dillard:

My next read:

Next is my video review of Christopher L. Bennett's new TOS novel: The Captain's Oath.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Available Light

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Available Light by Dayton Ward
Release date: April 9th 2019
Read April 11th 2019


Previous book (The Next Generation): Hearts and Minds
Next book (The Next Generation): Collateral Damage


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

Publisher's description:
Section 31, the covert organization which has operated without accountability in the shadows for more than two centuries, has been exposed. Throughout the Federation, the rogue group’s agents and leaders are being taken into custody as the sheer scope of its misdeeds comes to light. Now Starfleet Command must decide the consequences for numerous officers caught up in the scandal — including Admirals William Ross, Edward Jellico, Alynna Nechayev, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard who, along with many others, are implicated in the forced removal of a Federation president.

Meanwhile, deep in the distant, unexplored region of space known as the Odyssean Pass, Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise must put aside personal feelings and political concerns as they investigate a massive mysterious spacecraft. Adrift for centuries in the void, the ship is vital to the survival of an endangered civilization which has spent generations searching for a world to sustain what remains of its people. Complicating matters is a band of marauders who have their own designs on the ancient ship, with only the Enterprise standing in their way....

My thoughts:

Click here to watch my video review of The Next Generation: Available Light, or click play on the embedded video below!



Final thoughts:

A strong continuation of the on-going story post-Nemesis, drawing a lot from the previous novels going all the way back to the A Time To series. Very excited to see this story continue, and the personal stakes for Picard continue to mount. The main part of the story, involving the exploration of a seemingly-derelict ship, is a lot of fun with some interesting scientific concepts involved. I love the role that T'Ryssa Chen gets to play in this story, and the secondary characters introduced in this novel are quite interesting. Definitely a solid entry in the on-going Star Trek novel-verse!

More about Available Light:



Also by Dayton Ward:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

My next review is for the TNG novel Resistance by J.M. Dillard.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Thin Air

Star Trek #93
New Earth, Book Five of Six
Thin Air by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith
Published August 2000
Read May 16th 2019

Previous book (New Earth): #92: Book Four: The Flaming Arrow
Next book (New Earth): #93: Book Six: Challenger


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

Spoilers ahead for Thin Air
!

From the back cover:
Many light-years away from the safety of the Federation, the Starship Enterprise stands guard over an alien world whose unique natural resources could change the balance of power throughout the galaxy. The ship's crucial assignment: to maintain a Federation presence on the Planet below, to defend the world's newly arrived inhabitants from hostile aliens, and to fight a solitary battle against all who would claim the planet's riches for their own.

Against all odds, Kirk and his crew have preserved the struggling Federation colony on Belle Terre, but their heroic efforts may have been in vain In a last-ditch attempt to drive the entrenched settlers off their new home, the alien Kauld have contaminated the planet's atmosphere with a destructive biochemical agent that will soon render the entire world inimical to human life. With only weeks to spare, Spock races to find a scientific solution to their dire predicament, while Kirk takes the battle to the enemy, determined to wrest the secret of their salvation from the very forces out to destroy the future of this new Earth!

My thoughts:

The newly-established colony at Belle Terre is once again threatened by the Kauld, and similar to the previous novel, The Flaming Arrow, the attack is an unconventional one. In that case, a huge laser was directed at the planet which would destroy the colony; in this novel, the attack is more methodical and insidious: the introduction of a substance that would initiate a chemical reaction, creating a sort of thin foam that covers the surface of the planet, suffocating everyone and everything in its path. The description of the effect this smothering substance has on people caught in it was horrifying to say the least.

Thin Air is a huge improvement over the previous novels in the New Earth series. Everything seems to come together well in this installment, including pacing, characterization, and the writing in general. The threat is a unique and terrifying one, with a lot of thought put into it. More so than at any other point in the series, I was concerned for the well-being of not only our hero characters, but the inhabitants of the Belle Terre colony as well. The attempts made by Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew to combat the chemical weapon deployed on Belle Terre made a lot of sense, and the ultimate solution was logical.

Belle Terre is once again attacked in this novel, but not in a conventional manner; rather, elements from beneath the surface explode, forming a type of suffocating "foam" that will render the planet uninhabitable.

Rusch and Smith get the characters' voices perfect in this novel, which makes sense given their experience in writing Star Trek fiction. Additionally, this novel seemed to flow well from the novels before it, a feat that is impressive given the series' track record so far. Plot points hinted at in the previous novels are picked up here, making the story feel a part of a cohesive whole, rather than a patchwork of disjointed stories by different authors, as the previous novels have.

There is a subplot that I found interesting as well: certain members of the colony seem to have a sensitivity to the olivium that is being mined in the system. These children have been quarantined on the medical ship. The mother of one such child is aboard as well, and I found myself enjoying the story as she fights for her son's survival against what turns out to be a corrupt medical officer. The budding romance between the mother and the captain of the medical ship was fun, and I found myself truly caring about these characters whom we had only just met.

Similarly, I found Lillian Coates' part in the novel quite compelling. At one point, she is trapped in an area being affected by the suffocating foam, and her plight had me totally engrossed. She showed remarkable resourcefulness before having to brave the environment and being rescued at the last moment by a team from the Enterprise. Far from being a typical "damsel in distress," Coates did everything she could to survive, and I found myself wondering how I would fare given the situation she was in.

The fact that the story is "just" yet another attack on the colony by the Kauld that Kirk and company have to save them from does count against this novel, but it was done in a unique enough fashion that I am pretty much willing to forgive it. It is unfortunate that it has taken five books for this series to finally hit on a story that works for me, as the overall concept is a fascinating one and deserves better than to wallow in predictable and disjointed plots. Thin Air stands as a truly good entry in the series, but does not make up for the failings that preceded it.

Final thoughts:

The first novel in the New Earth series that I genuinely really enjoyed! The authors have crafted a unique and fascinating problem for the characters to overcome, and the descriptions of the effects of the Kauld suffocation weapon were vivid and visceral. A great entry in the series, but it is quite unfortunate that it took five books to get here. Here's hoping for a strong finish in book six!

Also by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith:

My next read:

Next up is my video review of the recent TNG novel, Available Light, by Dayton Ward!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Literary Treks 274: An Old Man in the Park Feeding Pigeons

Star Trek:
The Children of Kings
by David Stern

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

Before Kirk's historic five-year mission, the mighty U.S.S. Enterprise was commanded by Captain Christopher Pike. In response to an apparent Klingon attack on a Federation starbase, Pike takes the Enterprise to the Borderlands, a lawless region of space controlled by the Orions. Hoping to strike an alliance with elements of the Orion syndicate, Pike soon discovers that not all is as it seems with this mysterious and ancient race.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by Earl Grey's Justin Oser to discuss The Children of Kings by David Stern. We talk about the time period in Star Trek history, some confusion about which timeline the book takes place in, Dr. Philip Boyce, Orion history, Number One, other characters in the novel, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

At the top of the show, Dan and Bruce review issue #3 of IDW's Star Trek: Year Five and respond to listener feedback from The Babel Conference on Literary Treks 272: A Fun Borg Romp?.


Literary Treks 274: An Old Man in the Park Feeding Pigeons
Star Trek: The Children of Kings by David Stern





Previous episode: Literary Treks 273: Unintended Consequences
Next episode: Literary Treks 275: Q is a YouTube Comment Troll

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Red King

Star Trek: Titan
The Red King by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin
Published October 2005
Read May 8th 2019

Previous book (Titan): Taking Wing
Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Articles of the Federation

Next book (Titan): Orion's Hounds
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): The Next Generation: Resistance


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

Spoilers ahead for The Red King
!

From the back cover:
Investigating the disappearance of a secret Romulan fleet, the U.S.S. Titan, commanded by Captain William Riker, is unexpectedly propelled more than 200,000 light-years into the Small Magellanic Cloud. One of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies, the Cloud is also home to the Neyel, the long-sundered offshoots of Terran humanity, with whom the Federation has had no contact in over eighty years. 
Nearby, Riker's uncertain ally, Commander Donatra of the Romulan Warbird Valdore, rescues a young Neyel, the survivor of a mysterious cosmic upheaval that seems at times to be both unraveling and reweaving the very fabric of space...the fulfillment of an apocalyptic vision that has already claimed millions of lives. Titan's science team soon finds evidence that the ravaging of Neyel space is the work of a vast and powerful intelligence: the stirrings of a dormant consciousness that is maintaining the existence of the Small Magellanic Cloud -- and all life within it -- from one moment to the next. And if it should awaken, the consequences are unimaginable.

As Riker considers his options, his new crew struggles with the scientific and philosophical implications of what they've discovered...while the young Neyel in their midst forges a bond with the captain, conjuring old ghosts Riker has yet to lay to rest.

My thoughts:

At the end of the previous novel, Taking Wing, Captain Riker and the crew of the Titan are assisting Romulan Commander Donatra in her attempt to locate her missing fleet, somehow pulled into an anomaly called the "Great Bloom," the remnants of the destruction of the Scimitar, Shinzon's warbird in Star Trek Nemesis. The anomaly functions as a wormhole, pulling in Donatra's ship, the Valdore, as well as the Titan and depositing them in the Small Magellanic Cloud, outside our galaxy. This region of space is home to the Neyel, descendants of an offshoot of humanity, displaced thousands of light-years thanks to an errant warp field experiment (see: Star Trek: The Lost Era: The Sundered).

The Sundered should be required reading for this novel.

In the course of their exploration of this region of space, the lost Romulan fleet is discovered; however, it appears to be under the control of an unknown intelligence. Our heroes soon discover that a proto-universe is encroaching into the region and will soon wipe out a huge area of space. This proto-universe exhibits a kind of intelligence which is what is in control of the Romulan fleet. They manage to expel the intelligence from the fleet, but the universe continues to expand into our realm, threatening the entire Neyel Hegemony and the other races that populate the region. Riker and his crew, along with the Romulans and the Neyel, must contend with this threat before all is lost.

Ostensibly a two-parter following Taking Wing, The Red King ditches nearly all of the Romulan politics of the previous book in exchange for revisiting the Neyel. Having recently read The Sundered, I really enjoyed this second look at a fascinating concept, but for readers who have not read The Sundered (or even simply haven't read it recently), this novel can be a bit tough to keep up with. While I feel that the authors do a fairly good job of catching readers up, it really does help to have read The Sundered to be familiar with the players featured here.

The Small Magellanic Cloud is revisited in The Red King.

There are a lot of great character moments in The Red King, including some insight into the failed friendship of Admiral Akaar and Tuvok. Both of these characters were present for the previous journey to the Small Magellanic Cloud in The Sundered, so they are essential to that story in this novel. Is this all too much of a coincidence, that two officers involved in the incident nearly a century earlier are present for this diversion to Neyel space? Probably.

I did also enjoy the continued exploration of the Romulans, especially through the character of Donatra. I liked her well enough in Star Trek Nemesis, but I find myself really getting into her character in the novels. While she sometimes operates in a manner that is a help to our heroes, she is still a Romulan, and will engineer situations to be beneficial to her and her long-term goals. Her actions, while they may serve the alliance with Riker and the Titan, are still borderline treacherous, especially where the Klingons are involved!

Commander Donatra continues to be one of my favorite secondary characters in The Red King.

Finally, I want to highlight a scene near the very end of the novel, in which Titan's dedication plaque is finally revealed. This was a lovely moment filled with humor and good spirits, very welcome after some grim happenings in these first two novels. The impromptu party that Vale is credited with planning (even though she was opposed to it and tried to break it up) was a fun addition to the story, and the sentiment of "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination" is a perfect note to end the novel on.

Final thoughts:

While it was a lot of fun revisiting the Neyel, I could see some frustration reading this novel if you haven't previously read The Sundered. However, this was a fascinating story with some great character moments, and a good conclusion to the beginning of Titan's mission of exploration. Some of the science was a bit suspect, and the plot got pretty convoluted towards the end, but overall I enjoyed the story and it made me eager to read on for more adventures of Captain Riker and the U.S.S. Titan.

More about The Red King:



Also by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin:

My next read:

Next review: New Earth, Book 5 of 6: Thin Air by Kristine Kathryn Rusch & Dean Wesley Smith.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Literary Treks 273: Unintended Consequences

Star Trek: Titan
Orion's Hounds
by Christopher L. Bennett

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

The Starship Titan under the command of William Riker begins its mission of exploration far beyond the boundaries of Federation space! In the largely-uncharted Gum Nebula, Riker and the crew of Titan encounter giant, space-dwelling lifeforms that have been seen only once before: during the mission to Farpoint Station that began the voyages of the Enterprise-D. But these majestic lifeforms are being hunted, and Riker feels the need to intervene. However, all may not be as it seems.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson discuss the third Star Trek: Titan novel: Orion's Hounds by Christopher L. Bennett. We talk about the beginning of Titan's true mission, the mysterious "star-jellies," Riker's decision to get involved, the other cozmozoans that make up the Gum Nebula ecosystem, the difficulty in changing one's way of life and adapting to new circumstances, some stand-out characters in the novel, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we talk about the recently-announced reprinting of the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in honor of the film's 40th anniversary. We also review the fifth issue in IDW's Star Trek: The Q Conflict miniseries and respond to Babel Conference feedback for Literary Treks 271: To Thine Own Self Be True.


Literary Treks 273: Unintended Consequences
Titan: Orion's Hounds by Christopher L. Bennett





Previous episode: Literary Treks 272: A Fun Borg Romp?
Next episode: Literary Treks 274: An Old Man in the Park Feeding Pigeons

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Burning Dreams

Star Trek
Burning Dreams by Margaret Wander Bonanno
Published July 2006
Read April 30th 2019

Previous book (The Original Series): Vulcan's Soul, Book Two: Exiles
Next book (The Original Series): Mere Anarchy: Things Fall Apart


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

Spoilers ahead for Burning Dreams
!

From the back cover:
Before James T. Kirk, another captain stood on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, spearheading its mission of exploration into the uncharted reaches of the galaxy. He was a man driven to perfection, a brooding soul whose haunted eyes reflected the burden of the impossible standards he set for himself, and for whom his longtime science officer, Spock, one day would risk everything. Yet, little is truly known about the enigmatic Christopher Pike, the events that defined him...or the secrets that consumed him. 
From the embers of his early childhood among Earth's blossoming interstellar colonies, to the terrifying conflagration that led him back to the world of his birth; from the mentor who would ignite young Chris's desire to return to the stars, to the career he blazed in Starfleet that would end in supreme sacrifice -- the path of Pike's astonishing life leads through fire again and again. But even amid the ashes of Talos IV, the forbidden world on which he would live out the remainder of his days, the dreams smoldering still within his aging, radiation-ravaged breast fan the flames of Pike's spirit to accomplish one final task....

My thoughts:

At the time that Burning Dreams was written, not much was canonically known about the history of Captain Christopher Pike. We have the original pilot episode, "The Cage" (re-purposed for the only TOS two-parter, "The Menagerie"), and that's it, canon-wise. Outside of canon Trek, there has been a bit more exploration, notably in the novels: Vulcan's Glory by D.C. Fontana and The Rift by Peter David being a couple of notable examples. But no one had tried to tell the life story of Pike, which is the ambitious goal of Margaret Wander Bonanno's Burning Dreams.

Christopher Pike's history is the focus of Burning Dreams.

The framing story has him arriving at Talos IV at the end of "The Menagerie" to live out the rest of his days in their care along with his former cage-mate, Vina. Getting to know one another, Pike begins to tell her his life story, beginning in his youth on the frontier world Elysium. Accompanying his mother and Heston Prescott, his step-father, young Chris spends his formative years helping Heston with his attempts to tame this new world and aiding a hired hand, Charlie, in raising horses. Tragedy strikes, and an out-of-control fire claims the life of his mother and step-father, and Charlie and Chris leave Elysium behind and return to Mojave on Earth.

Charlie, who is a crewman in Starfleet, inspires Chris to attend Starfleet Academy and become an officer. We see pieces of his Starfleet career as he ascends the ranks and becomes a model officer, eventually rising to the position of first officer under a questionable captain. Eventually, Pike learns that he was placed on that vessel to expose the crimes of his captain, showing how he would come to be known as an officer with impeccable moral character.

Burning Dreams was a fun novel to revisit, given the recent season of Star Trek: Discovery in which the classic character was played by actor Anson Mount. Reading this novel, I pictured both him and Jeffrey Hunter at various points. The Pike of Burning Dreams tended to echo the more brooding style of Hunter's portrayal, but both interpretations of the character seemed applicable to various parts of the novel.

Bonanno's characterization of Pike lent itself to both Jeffrey Hunter's and Anson Mount's portrayals of the character.

Overall, Burning Dreams is a fascinating study of the Pike character, delving into the experiences that turned him into the man we saw both in "The Cage" and Discovery. At times, a few of the plot turns and revelations felt a bit "soap opera-y," but Bonanno mostly does an excellent job of getting to the root of what makes this character tick. Pike's later life is one filled with tragedy, and his past reflects that same theme.

One aspect of the novel that I want to touch on is a part of the story set decades after Pike was left on Talos IV. Spock, receiving a telepathic summons from the Talosians, returns to Talos IV believing Pike to have passed away. His supposition turns out to be correct, and he is being summoned to take possession of Pike's remains for return to the Federation. This part of the novel ends on a surprising and very welcome note of hope, as not only have the Talosians done a great service to Pike by letting him live out his remaining years in their care, but he has returned the favor by putting Talosian society on a path to recovery from the holocausts of their past. Burning Dreams ends with the thought that Spock might argue for their admittance into the Federation due to the huge amounts of progress they have made as a society thanks to Pike's help. It's a wonderful note for the novel to end on and brought a big smile to my face.

Pike's legacy includes possible redemption for the Talosian species.

Final thoughts:

A touching novel that explores the life of Christopher Pike with a depth not achieved by any other work featuring this character. While some parts seem a bit on the melodramatic side of things, for the most part, Burning Dreams is a wonderfully written biography of what has become one of my favorite characters in Trek. It doesn't completely mesh with what we've come to know as canon with Pike's portrayal in Discovery, but that doesn't make it any less worth reading. Bonanno does an excellent job bringing this character to life from just one prior appearance in canon. Definitely recommended!

More about Burning Dreams:



Also by Margaret Wander Bonanno:

My next read:

Next up is my review of the second Star Trek: Titan novel, The Red King by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Flaming Arrow

Star Trek #92
New Earth, Book Four of Six
The Flaming Arrow by Kathy Oltion and Jerry Oltion
Published July 2000
Read April 16th 2019

Previous book (New Earth): #91: Book Three: Rough Trails
Next book (New Earth): #93: Book Five: Thin Air


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

Spoilers ahead for The Flaming Arrow
!

From the back cover:
Beyond the borders of the Federation, Kirk must bring peace and security to the final frontier. His new mission: to defend an isolated human colony an a newly discovered world, deter aggression from neighboring alien races, and ensure the survival of a brave new Earth. 
Belle Terre's stubborn colonists have survived the countless hardships and natural disasters of their new home, only to face a deadly foreign enemy. The alien Kauld, intent on claiming the world's unique resources for their own are determined to destroy the human settlements at any cost. Months away from any hope of Starfleet reinforcements, the Starship Enterprise is all that stands between Belle Terre and an all-out alien invasion. But Kirk and his valiant crew may not be enough to save the planet from a relentless assault by the ultimate superweapon!
My thoughts:

As I continue reading the New Earth miniseries, I find myself hoping that the overall story improves with each successive book. The overall premise is an interesting one: the Enterprise shepherds a long-term colonial effort as the colonists attempt to tame a new world. However, the execution has fallen short of expectations. The absolute low-point of the series for me, so far, has been book three, Rough Trails. So, going into this book, the fourth in the series, my expectations have been lowered significantly. It can only go up from here, right?

Thankfully, that does seem to be the case! The Flaming Arrow tells the story of a Kauld attack on the Belle Terre colony using an unorthodox method: a huge space laser, with a beam light-minutes long, which will completely obliterate the colony and its inhabitants if allowed to hit the planet. The laser is deployed from deep in space, away from the prying eyes of the Enterprise and her crew, and travels towards Belle Terre at the speed of light, relatively slow in the world of Star Trek.

I enjoyed the "low-tech" weapon deployed in this novel, as it made for an interesting problem to overcome for our heroes. The problem-solving employed by Spock as the Enterprise gathered clues and began its search for the laser beam was interesting to read about, and I also appreciated the roles that Scotty and McCoy had in the story. The two of them are out on a recon patrol using a small vessel, and their adventures made for some interesting reading, with the pairing of two characters who don't usually have a lot to do together.

Scotty and Bones had a fun B-plot together, reminding me of their quest to build a whale tank in Star Trek IV.

There were, however, aspects of the story that didn't sit well with me. For one thing, many of the characters we've come to know in previous novels seem off in this installment. Lilian Coates, who lost her husband earlier in the series, is one of the colonists we've learned a lot about through the course of the last few books. Her actions in this novel seemed out of place compared to her characterization in the previous novels, but of course that could be a symptom of so many different writers contributing to the overall narrative.

Speaking of which, the disconnect that I experienced in Rough Trails continues in The Flaming Arrow, in which situations and the overall state of the colony feels completely divorced from what has come before. There is still some stubbornness among the colonists, but nothing approaching the hatred many of them had for Starfleet in the previous novel. I wish there had been more of an effort to reconcile the differences between the various novels to make the entire miniseries feel more cohesive.

Final thoughts:

Some interesting ideas contribute to an overall gripping story, but many of the drawbacks in the rest of the series continue to play out here. Characterizations and situations feel off from what has been established in other novels in the series, and the aimlessness of the series continues to mar what should be an interesting concept. The plot by the Kauld in this novel was interesting enough to hold my attention, but overall I'm still not sold on the New Earth series as a whole.

My next read:

My next review is for the Christopher Pike novel, Burning Dreams, by Margaret Wander Bonanno.