Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Star Trek #94
New Earth, Book Six of Six
Challenger by Diane Carey
Published August 2000
Read June 26th 2019

Previous book (New Earth): #93: Book Five: Thin Air
Next book (The Original Series): #95: Rihannsu, Book 3: Swordhunt

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

Spoilers ahead for Thin Air

From the back cover:
Far from the reaches of the Federation, the Starship Enterprise has been guiding the development of a once obscure planet upon whose fate the future of the galaxy may now depend. The Enterprise has been the sole representative of the Federation, fighting a constant battle to protect the colonists from enemy aliens and standing alone against all those who have their own designs on the colony world. 

But all adventures come to an end. It is time for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise to turn over the guardianship of the colony to another ship and crew. The new ship arrives in the midst of a deadly attack on the colony -- and is destroyed. With the Enterprise off fighting a new and powerful enemy that threatens the colony as well as its enemies, Commander Nick Keller, first officer and ranking survivor of the decimated crew, is marooned and at first alone -- but he must find a way to complete his original mission and come to the aid of the Enterprise in what might be its most desperate hour.

My thoughts:

In this, the sixth and final novel in the New Earth miniseries, we find the focus of the main plot shifted away from the usual gang of Kirk and company. Rather, the main character is Commander Nick Keller, who we are introduced to as the second officer of the U.S.S. Peleliu. The Peleliu is a Starfleet picket ship, assigned as Enterprise's replacement at Belle Terre. En route to her new assignment, the Peleliu comes under attack by the Kauld. The first officer is killed, and Keller must step up into the position. As the captain of the Peleliu becomes more and more erratic, Keller finds himself in the unenviable position of deciding whether or not he should be relieved of command.

Meanwhile, a strange robotic mechanism seems to be repeatedly stealing quantities of mined olivium ore. Kirk and the Enterprise set off in pursuit, having to leave Dr. McCoy and Commander Uhura behind, as they have failed to report in. In fact, the two officers have been captured by an antagonist we first met in book one: Billy Maidenshore, the criminal who attempted to sell out the colonist fleet to the Kauld, has commandeered a prison vessel and taken Uhura and Bones as prisoners. Using Uhura's expertise, Maidenshore has maintained his cover and used the vessel to amass a fortune in olivium.

Challenger put Uhura and McCoy together in a fight for their lives, a pairing that isn't common in Trek.

When the Peleliu is critically damaged due to the actions of her captain, the Belle Terre colony is left without protection with the Enterprise away chasing down the supposed olivium thieves. Keller finds himself having to come up with a solution fast, after having arrested his captain and removing him from the field. His answer: to build a new starship using scraps and parts from the Peleliu, as well as other ships that have been decommissioned from the Belle Terre fleet. While the idea seemed to be pretty far-fetched, I actually found myself really enjoying this part of the novel, especially with the involvement of Scotty who is on hand to help Keller put his plan into motion.

I also enjoyed the resolution to the olivium storyline, with the revelation of where the material comes from and why the lifeforms behind the robotic probe were taking it from the colony. Additionally, we learn more about the fate of the Rattlesnake, a ship that went missing in the novel Belle Terre. The ending of this part of the story had a much more sci-fi twist than I was expecting, given the tone of the rest of the novels.

While I am still not a fan of the Billy Maidenshore character, I felt that he was used to much greater effect in this novel than he was in Wagon Train to the Stars. The eventual comeuppance he gets at the hands of Bones and especially Uhura was very satisfying indeed.

I quite enjoyed the characters that were introduced in this novel, and it is a shame that the Star Trek: Challenger book series didn't continue past its single entry, Chainmail, part of the Gateways crossover series. I enjoyed the "aw, shucks" nature of Commander Nick Keller, and liken him to a kind of Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly type character. There was one moment, however, that kind of took me out of the story, when Keller goes on an extended monologue about the value of big business and how they are the best form of charity there is. Capitalist ventures that succeed and are very profitable are the best thing for a planetary ecosystem to thrive, says Keller. I guess he's as much of a libertarian as Diane Carey is. No surprise there, I suppose.

Chainmail is the only other novel to feature Nick Keller and the crew of the Challenger.

The New Earth series has been a very mixed bag, with most of the entries failing to live up to the promise that the overall premise offered. However, I noticed a definite turnaround with the previous book, Thin Air. How does the final installment, Challenger, stack up?

Surprisingly, quite well! With one or two small hiccups, Challenger bested my expectations and turned out to be a great wrap-up to an overall-lackluster series. I would actually have enjoyed seeing these characters more in later novels, a fact that surprised me.

Final thoughts:

Challenger is an excellent conclusion to a series that has been frustratingly hit-or-miss, and mostly miss. The series overall could have used a big dose of cohesiveness, with each book flowing better into the next one. Instead, the series is very disjointed, but Challenger manages to bring everything to a satisfying close. There is a line on page 247 about how the space shuttle Challenger was the only shuttle that NASA lost, which has sadly not aged well. If only that prediction had come true! Overall, the novel was a fun read, with only a bit of a digression into a libertarian screed that kind of pulled me out of the story. Other than that, though, Challenger beat my expectations quite handily!

Also by Diane Carey:

My next read:

My next review is for Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q & A by Keith R.A. DeCandido.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Release Day! The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller

Star Trek: Discovery
The Enterprise War
by John Jackson Miller

The latest entry in the Star Trek: Discovery book series hits shelves today! John Jackson Miller's The Enterprise War tells the story of what the U.S.S. Enterprise under Captain Pike was up to during the Klingon War chronicled in season one of Star Trek: Discovery.

Featuring Captain Christopher Pike, First Officer Una (otherwise known as "Number One"), and Science Officer Spock, The Enterprise War explains the famous starship's conspicuous absence from hostilities between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.

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

Publisher's description:
An all-new novel based upon the explosive Star Trek TV series!

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….

Purchase Discovery: The Enterprise War:

Trade Paperback: | |
E-Book (Kindle): | |

Monday, July 29, 2019

Literary Treks 276: There's a Line We Can't Cross

How to Write Star Trek Novels
Interview with authors Dayton Ward & David R. George III

For almost the entire history of Star Trek, novels have played a part in many people's experience of the fandom. They are a way to go beyond what we see on the screen, and Star Trek fiction novels now account for scores more adventures than the television shows and films. But how does a Star Trek novel come to be, and what goes into the writing of a Star Trek adventure in book form?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by veteran Star Trek authors Dayton Ward and David R. George III to discuss how to write Star Trek novels. We talk about how they got their start in writing, the process of how a Trek novel is published, how writing tie-in fiction differs from writing original fiction, how they approach writing the established characters, working with CBS licencing, and what is required for someone to become a Star Trek author. We wrap up by talking about what projects they currently have on the go, and where they can be found online.

In the news segment, we report on a new Discovery novel coming in December, a schedule change for The Autobiography of Mr. Spock, and a new Voyager Mirror Universe comic coming from IDW. We also review the sixth and final issue of The Q Conflict, as well as respond to listener feedback from The Babel Conference for Literary Treks 274: An Old Man in the Park Feeding Pigeons.

Literary Treks 276: There's a Line We Can't Cross
Writing Star Trek novels with Dayton Ward & David R. George III

Previous episode: Literary Treks 275: Q is a YouTube Comment Troll
Next episode: Literary Treks 277: You're Meant to Be Confused

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Orion's Hounds

Star Trek: Titan
Orion's Hounds by Christopher L. Bennett
Published January 2006
Read June 13th 2019

Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): The Next Generation: Resistance
Previous book (Titan): The Red King

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

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

Spoilers ahead for Orion's Hounds

From the back cover:
As the U.S.S. Titan ventures beyond the outermost reaches of known space, the telepaths in her crew -- including Diplomatic Officer Deanna Troi -- are overwhelmed by an alien cry of distress, leading the ship to the scene of a shocking act of carnage: a civilization of interstellar "whalers" preying upon and exploiting a familiar species of sentient spaceborne giants. Appalled but reluctant to rush to judgment, Captain William Riker and his crew investigate, discovering a cosmic spawning ground in a region of active star formation -- the ecosystem for a bewildering array of diverse but similarly vast life-forms. While attempting to negotiate an end to the victimization of these creatures, Riker's crew inadvertently grants them the means to defeat their hunters' purpose...only to learn that things are not exactly as they seem.

My thoughts:

After the two previous novels in the Titan series dealing with the Romulan situation (plus a side quest to the Small Magellanic Cloud), we finally get the beginning of Titan's mission of exploration beyond the borders of the Federation and into the unexplored region of the Gum Nebula. This, to me, finally fulfills the promise of the Titan series: a ship of very diverse crewmembers, embarking on a long-term mission of exploration into areas never before touched by the Federation. The sense of excitement in the characters was certainly mirrored by this reader.

Shortly into their mission, the Titan encounters a familiar lifeform; the large, jellyfish-like creatures encountered at the end of the TNG premiere episode, "Encounter at Farpoint" make an appearance, seemingly being hunted by people who are flying corpse-versions of what come to be known as the "star-jellies." Deanna Troi and the other telepaths aboard Titan are overwhelmed by the strong feelings of alarm and confusion emanating from the star-jellies, almost to the point of being incapacitated. Here we see another example of Christopher L. Bennett's penchant for taking small pieces of continuity and expanding on them: in "Encounter at Farpoint," Deanna's empathic sense seems much more exaggerated than what we see in subsequent episodes; Bennett establishes that as a particular quirk of the star-jellies and how they project their emotions, eliminating a small "changed premise" between "Encounter at Farpoint" and the rest of the TNG series.

The "star-jellies" from "Encounter at Farpoint" are discovered to be living in the region of space being explored by the Titan.

On the face of it, the hunting of the innocent star-jellies appears to be cruel and barbaric, and of course Riker can't help but become involved. When a group of hunters appear and attack the star-jellies just as Titan meets with a group of them to learn more about the situation, Riker decides to intervene, protecting the jellies who can then make their escape. The situation is further complicated when critical information is passed on to the jellies via a compromised Tuvok. They use the information to protect themselves against the hunters, forever changing the balance between them.

The crew soon discovers that the entire region is rife with various kinds of "cosmozoans," space-dwelling lifeforms, some of which are benign, but many of which are dangerous and threaten entire planets and star systems. The hunters, a coalition of races led by a species called the Pa'haquel, maintain the balance by battling various cosmozoans in an effort to protect inhabited worlds in the region. This balance has been irreparably damaged by the knowledge given to the star-jellies, possibly jeopardizing the way of life of many species in this region of the Gum Nebula.

The region of the Gum Nebula that Titan is in the process of exploring is home to countless "cosmozoans," including a species of "crystalline entity," seen in TNG's "Datalore" and "Silicon Avatar."

Orion's Hounds comes across as a bit of a Prime Directive morality tale, with the reasons behind General Order #1 starkly illustrated by the growing crisis set off by Titan's interference in the Pa'haquel's way of life. Because Riker was unaware of the true scope of what he witnessed, countless lives were put in danger. Props to the author, however, for crafting a very clever resolution to the plot. The solution to the crisis went in a direction I did not expect at all, and was a lot of fun to read.

Another major theme in the novel seems to be how people and societies adapt to change. The Pa'haquel's use of the star-jellies was one such adaptation to a universe that was dangerous and deadly. When their way of life was suddenly threatened, they found that they had to change to survive. Some of them met this challenge head-on and rose to confront the changes with changes of their own, while others buried their heads in the sand and clung to the old ways, even though they were no longer sustainable. I can't help but take the ideas in this novel and apply them to what I see happening in the world around me. We are confronted with huge challenges, including threats such as climate change. How we respond to these threats says a lot about who we are. Are we willing to confront them and make necessary changes to preserve what we have? Or do we continue as though nothing is wrong, refusing to adapt to changing circumstances? I feel like there is definitely a lesson to be taken from this novel and the fate of the Pa'haquel.

Final thoughts:

An excellent story, easily one of the best of the modern Star Trek novel era. Like any great Star Trek story, Orion's Hounds contains allegories for our own lives and lessons that we can use in our own world today. The world-building of the cosmozoan ecosystem of the Gum Nebula is first rate, and Christopher Bennett has managed to create a setting that is full of wonders that truly made me feel that sense of excitement at the idea of exploration and discovery. As the start of Titan's mission of exploration, Orion's Hounds succeeds on nearly every level.

More about Orion's Hounds:

Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

My next read:

Next review: the sixth and final novel in the New Earth mini-series: Challenger by Diane Carey.

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

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

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: There's a Line We Can't Cross

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: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

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

Trade Paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

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


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

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

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

Trade paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

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

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

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

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

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