Sunday, 25 June 2017



Season 1 Rewatch

JAG had an interesting history with it's change of network and change of lead female stars but it certainly suited the era it was born from. A flag waving military and law show which pimped the US armed forces and at least tried to bring forward the importance of women in the military (with mixed results). One of the highlights of the show was it's shameless looting of theatrical sources for scenes which would be well beyond their budget to film, Top Gun featured heavily as did Clear and Present Danger, The Hunt for Red October and Flight of The Intruder. 
This first season premiere introduces David James Elliott as JAG officer and former Naval Aviator Harmon Rabb, Jr. along with Andrea Parker as Lt. Caitlin Pike. Andrea is replaced in the first season proper with Tracey Needham (Lt. Meg Austin) who is then replaced in the second season by Catherine Bell (Major Sarah MacKenzie) who becomes the series regular for the rest of its run (10 seasons in total).


Favourite Episodes...
  • A New Life
  • Pilot Error
  • Skeleton Crew

Friday, 23 June 2017

Ultra-Actors: William Shatner by Bunny Ultramod

Ultra-Actors: William ShatnerUltra-Actors: William Shatner by Bunny Ultramod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ultra-Actors: William Shatner is a look at some of the theatrical work from William Shatner during his long and varied career. The movies in question range from the bizarre to the more mainstream but reflect the eclectic choices made by the actor and the book delves into the reasoning and the results of a career which had many highs and lows.
The book is not that extensive but does cover 21 movies many of which I have heard of it and watched but few that I have yet to be delighted by, say what you will about Shatner but always offers memorable performances as underlined and examined by the author.

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The Order of the Air Omnibus - Books 1-3 by Melissa Scott & Jo Graham

The Order of the Air Omnibus - Books 1-3The Order of the Air Omnibus - Books 1-3 by Melissa Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought a copy of The Order of the Air Omnibus based on the authors other work notably the licensed Stargate novels and the blurb seemed appealing and I got a good deal on this 3 novel offering. The omnibus consists of the first three novels in the series, Lost Things, Steel Blues and Silver Bullet.

Lost Things
The draining of Lake Nemi in Italy disturbs a centuries long bounding of a malevolent entity, it escapes and attempts to seek out a powerful host in which to cause chaos and corruption while satisfying it's own bloodlust and desire for power.
Steel Blues
As the great depression bites hard Gilchrist Aviation enter a grand air race across the United States whose rewards could see them through to when the country rebuilds. Things get more complicated after the theft of a cursed necklace, serial killings in New Orleans, a mysterious professional thief and a scandal hungry press.
Silver Bullet
A number of aircraft are downed in a very specific area of mountains and Dr. Jerry Ballard who is in the city practicing his one true love becomes embroiled in the mystery and the legendary Tesla may be involved. The added puzzle of a bronze tablet adds a level of complexity to Jerry's life but also the promise of his greatest achievement.

I really didn't know what to expect from this collection but I did enjoy the era the stories reside in, the limitations of technology and society make many of the plot elements and characters far richer than they could be if an attempt was made to transpose them to modern times. The characters backstories circling around the first world war was also excellent world building and the use of "magic" or spirituality again just added another layer to the stories. I was often surprised by what I read and I admit a few raised eyebrows as we learnt about Alma, Mitchell, Jerry and Lewis and some of it may not sit well with a few readers but every lifestyle choice, character trait and flaw works wonderfully.
Lost Things is an excellent opener as we see the team come together to truly exploit their talents and the ramifications of bringing Lewis into the group. The Roman mythology angle was most satisfying and again the pacing thanks to the timeframe required for travelling around the states and globally worked to the plots advantage.
Steel Blues built upon the foundation of the first novel and really underlines the firm ground Alma and Lewis are building their relationship on and helped by being surrounded by a supporting Jerry and Mitchell. It's not a perfect "family" of course and the adventures of the coast to coast race allows for a lot of humour especially from a press that delight in scandal and Alma with a "male harem" in attendance sells newspapers. The introduction of Stasi is also delightful, wonderfully written and well within trope and she glues the mysterious theft of the cursed iron necklace and serial killings to perfection.
Silver Bullet takes a step back from the pressures the aviation company were under at the height of the depression, they have a new employee and a new plane. Lewis is gaining in power and Mitchell has a decision to make but Jerry is happy and earning a living pricing a collection when he discovers something that could change his life if not the history of the world as we know it. The group once again are faced with challenges both physical and mystical and there is little need to lay much groundwork, the story jumps from the page and never lets up and mixes the elements of the novel in an entertaining and very pleasing way.
I have to say the three novels in the omnibus rewarded me with far more than I expected, loved the choice of era the stories are set in and the aviation aspect along with the very strong female lead and very able supporting characters. It didn't take much effort to be fully engrossed in the lives of the main characters, well written and threaded through interesting situations and I have no worries about purchasing the fourth novel in the series.
Highly recommended.

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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Stargate Archives - Children Of The Gods

Stargate Archives 

Children Of The Gods 

Mike and Brad discuss the 2009 re-release of the Stargate SG1 "Final Cut" premiere episode for the first episode of the new podcast Stargate Archives.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Pew! Pew!: Sex, Guns, Spaceships... Oh My!

Pew! Pew!: Sex, Guns, Spaceships... Oh My!Pew! Pew!: Sex, Guns, Spaceships... Oh My! by M.D. Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's rare for an anthology to get five stars given that no matter the genre there are going to be one or two stories that don't quite hit the mark but this was an exception.
Pew! Pew!: Sex, Guns, Spaceships... Oh My! offered up nine stories most with a strong humorous themes or at least a style that offered up humour be in a dark fashion of by the natural reactions of the characters within. A few are simply out and out comedic scifi and every single one had me wanting more which is kinda the point of this style of book. I really can't recommend this collection highly enough, I was said when each story finished and soon delighted with the next one up, there are certainly authors here whose other works needs exploring.

Delta-Team - by M. D. Cooper
An homage to the classic 80's tv show The A-Team with a few changes.

The Methane Lake of Excruciating Tedium - by Felix R. Savage
A year on Titan doing research but when everyone stationed at this small scientific facility annoys you...

The Last Bounty - by Barry J. Hutchison
A man's past comes back with a vengeance when his stepdaughter is space kidnapped.

Spaceberg - by M. Pax
When a spaceberg threatens the solar system and the family of Nikili Echols (Orbital Rescue Squad) is in peril she flies to the rescue. Very much a nod to the melodramatic disaster movies of today.

The Long Dark Pew - by Chris J. Pike
Space Bees threaten the planet and the perennial late to the party space tug Barnburner and its motley crew are all that stands between Earth and globs of sticky weaponised honey.

Brewing Trouble - by Amy Duboff
A daring heist to steal a new energy technology, the goal to brew the best cup of coffee in the galaxy if they can dodge corporations, uber weaponed starships and security systems.

Dodging Fate - by Zen DiPietro
The Red Shirt gene is a nasty thing to be born with and when Charlie Kenny decides to spend the rest of his life on a well padded retirement planet what could go wrong, just one more space flight to get there on the safest commercial carrier in existence.

Gli+ch - by Drew Avera
Ben is captivated by the advert for a new life on Europa, soon after he is blasting off from Earth on the adventure of a lifetime with only his sex bot as company.

Bat Johnson, the Mad Mortician of Mars - by Rachel Aukes
Bat Johnson wasn't expecting much when he took the job on Mars as undertaker but with three deaths in the first week and all of them a lot more suspect than the doctor and base commander are willing to admit Bat can't help but investigate.

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Starship Blackbeard: The Complete Series by Michael Wallace

Starship Blackbeard: The Complete SeriesStarship Blackbeard: The Complete Series by Michael Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Captain James Drake a hero of the recent war with the Hroom is in disgrace after being court martialed for events surrounding the loss of a marine detachment. Two years punishment he can take and he's confident he can then reclaim his name and find those responsible for the unjust accusations, manipulation of records and planting of condemning evidence. Unfortunately (or not) loyal members of the crew of HMS Ajax have other plans and the path towards a honourable officer turning space pirate begins.
Starship Blackbeard (all four novels in the series) are a fun read, there is no effort made to really explain the political system of this society or how/why Albion and the other worlds exist in terms of Earth. The technology again is just there, a lot of it seems to be questionable but like Star Wars the mechanics of FTL and shielding etc are not explained they are just there, this is no Star Trek where technology becomes part of the narrative. There are many readers who will be put off by this, many like their scifi with some technological and sociological background to the main narrative but if consider this a space opera where the story and characters are the be all and end all you'll probably enjoy the series. The story certainly does evolve nicely throughout the four novels and the writing also improves and gets more complex but the basic single man and crew against a corrupt force never fails to entertain and the action is fun and fast paced.
I bought the collection off the back of a recommendation and pleased to have done so, already bought the second series of novels which, well no spoilers :)
Fun and frolics as the pirate ship Blackbeard challenges the might of the royal navy, Hroom starships, traders, smugglers and fellow pirates for booty and justice.

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Saturday, 3 June 2017

At the Helm Volume 2

At the Helm Volume 2At the Helm Volume 2 by Rhett C. Bruno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At The Helm Volume 2 is a very solid collection of science fiction stories covering a number of sub-genres and styles. There are nineteen stories in the anthology and the strength of the book comes from its eclectic mix of stories, out and out space based scifi with others focusing more on individuals living in worlds beyond our current one. A few even step beyond into more dramatic narratives and one which I particularly liked was certainly more mystical.
For the price of the ebook you can't go wrong, pretty much guarantee you'll find stories you like which leds you to the various author's other works, that's the great thing about these anthologies, you never really know what you'll get.

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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Revolution by Joshua Dalzelle

Revolution (Omega Force, #9)Revolution by Joshua Dalzelle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The galaxy has been a peace (in relative terms) thanks to the presence of the ConFed and her pillar worlds who exert their military, economic and political pressure where ever it is needed. However much of the galaxy is still wild and along the fringes there is lawlessness and criminal activities frowned upon within the core worlds. Rumours reach Jason Burke and Omega Force than a non-military threat could be rising to destabilize the ConFed which could benefit one or two of the pillar worlds or the bigger non-aligned powers in the galaxy. Khepri the location of the ConFed banking/economic AI and the birth world of Lucky the battlesynth of Omega Force seems to be a center of what could be a galaxy wide conspiracy especially when they learn hundreds of his fellow battlesynths are being recalled to the place of their birth, learning why this is happening and why Lucky is not being recalled could reveal who is lurking in the shadows.
Revolution is the ninth novel in the Omega Force series and continues to be an entertaining science fiction adventure series with characters that are both a little over the top but written to be anchored in the reality of the world they occupy. Lucky who becomes a central part of this novel is case in point, a sentient machine built for combat who has chosen to align himself with a group of individuals who were certainly never the demographic the battlesynths were intended to serve alongside. His back story is filled out in spectacular fashion in this story while maintaining a solid narrative spanning the whole of the ConFed and the growing presence of Earth ships thanks to Jason and his well meaning exploits in the last novel. A worth addition to the Omega Force series of novels and more to come.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Explorations: First Contact

Explorations: First ContactExplorations: First Contact by Isaac Hooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Explorations: First Contact is a shared universe anthology centered around the human race and their first contact with alien life and associated wonders within the universe. The first story in the anthology is called Prologue written by Stephen Moss and provides the core element the other stories are built around. Sometime in the near future the spacecraft Abeona orbits the moon and approaches an alien sphere shaped artefact recently discovered on the dark side. As they near the sphere mission commander Susan Skarsgaard finds herself floating in space with no sign of her ship or crew and then an assault of images and information floods her mind including one very clear and ominous warning.

Well there we go, the sphere and its effect on humanity and their expansion into space provides a very well thought out structure for authors to build first contact stories around them. You'll find a wide range of styles and approaches to the concept and not all of them go well for humanity and of course the warning is always casting a long shadow as we spread out into the galaxy.
I do enjoy reading these anthologies, they tend to be cheap as they are very much promotional tools for the authors involved and I have certainly followed an author after first reading their work in this type of publication. A recommended read for any science fiction fan.

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Sunday, 21 May 2017

House Rewatch

House Season 2

The second season of House continues to grow in strength, the chemistry between the cast which was excellent right out of the gate is more refined and allows for a more turbulent and at times vicious amount of interaction. The major change in this season is the recurring character of Stacy Warner who after her husband is diagnosed by House takes a full time job in the legal department. There is no question that between Stacy and House there remains passion and never one to miss an opportunity House twists the knife on her husband. Sela Ward as Stacy and Currie Graham as Mark Warner both do an excellent job.

Favourite Episodes:

  • Autopsy
  • House Vs. God
  • No Reason

Gryphon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Gryphon Precinct (Dragon Precinct)Gryphon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gryphon represents the Castle and heart of Cliff's End and this latest novel we look into the death of Lord Albin himself. To complicate matters the funeral of the Lord is attended by King Marcus and Queen Marta and there is an assassination attempt against them. A suspicious or cynical person may consider a connection between these events and indeed the detectives are ready to jump into the fray but Blayk the new Lord is making many changes in the structure and personnel of the Guard which hampers the investigation but Lord Albin's wife Lady Meerka puts her faith in Lt. Tresyllione to continue to dig into the circumstances that surrounds her husbands death.
Gryphon Precinct is very much the novel where politics becomes a central aspect of the story, this is not unusual for a crime procedural where the investigators are maneuvered with threats, bribes and "for the good of everyone" not to dig to deeply into events. Of course we'll always have the one officer or in this case detective who places the truth above all and in this case that is Danthres even when the city seems to be preparing for war and her superiors are putting more and more pressure on her to abandon her efforts.
In many ways this novel brings a fundamental change to the series as characters come and go, only time will tell if the changes will continue the tradition of the crime procedural in that the story is more important than the players.

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Goblin Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Goblin Precinct (Dragon Precinct)Goblin Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the city state of Cliff's End the belief is whatever you do to yourself is fine so there are no particular legal issues with drug use including the latest designer narcotic to hit the streets of Goblin Precinct named "Bliss". The drug induces pure happiness but as with most drugs the effect weakens over time causing greater dependency and unfortunately over dosing is common place. The City Guard are as you would expect are indifferent until the Elven General Fanthral arrives in the city looking for a former member of the Elf Queens court, unfortunately his prize is dead from a bliss overdose. Fanthral demands an investigation believing it was murder and a case file is opened. Meanwhile a string of bank robberies take place, unusual for Cliff's End given the magical protections and competency of the Guard but events soon spiral out of control and the two cases clash involving the Brotherhood of Wizards, The Guard, Politics and the upper strata of the cities population.
Goblin Precinct weaves together elements of the narrative as introduced in the first two novels of the Precinct series, it also reflects the procedurals of tv and literature and also mixes in more of the fantasy aspects which makes the series so entertaining. The novel was a fun read, I honestly expected a slightly different ending involving the wizards but no worries, it may all come around as the events unfold in later novels.

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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Unicorn Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Unicorn PrecinctUnicorn Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The upper social structure of Cliff's End tend to look down on everyone even the guards who often have the afront to poke their noses into business that is considered to be above their standing. However when Arra Cynnis the beloved daughter of a powerful family is found murdered her skull crushed Lieutenants Torin ban Wyvald and Danthres Tresyllione are put onto the case. Arra was due to be married and there are hints she was having an affair, her husband to be has no alibi and the majority of her family where out of town. The case is further complicated by the ME (Magical Examiner) who was unable to identify the culprit after the "peel back" spell only showed an assailant under a glamour disguise. The detectives get the usual run around both through deliberate and indifferent attitudes of the upper classes and most of the useful information comes from the "help". The investigation proceeds and a picture begins to form more due to what they don't learn about the events of that night and the people surrounding young Arra then positive clues.
Unicorn Precinct is the second novel in this series and once again follows Torin and Danthres as they investigate the crime but the novel does incorporate more of the guards and other detectives as the crime leads them beyond the initial circle of suspects. An entertaining murder mystery with magical elements and the added complexity of a society made up from dozens of species all with their own morality, wants and needs.

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Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Dragon PrecinctDragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cliff's End is a city state ruled by Lord Albin and Lady Meerka who have a rather progressive Castle Guard as in their guard spend less time actually guarding the castle and more dealing with the day to day major and minor crimes of the city which are many and varied as the city is home to humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves and many other species. Within the castle guard are the six Detectives who "police" the city which is subdivided mainly along economic lines into precincts named Gryphon (The Castle), Unicorn (High End Residential), Dragon (Mid Range, Commerce), Goblin (Lower End, Markets) and Mermaid (Docks). At the Dog and Duck tavern a bunch of Heroes take rooms intent on a new quest as they believe their long dead nemesis an evil wizard named Chalmraik has resurrected, mighty where their deeds so when one turns up the next day very much dead there is much consternation. When a second is killed political pressure begins to mount on Lieutenants Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald who are getting little help from the survivors of the questing party, the residents of the city or the Brotherhood of Wizards who categorically state that Chalmraik is dead and has very much not resurrected, they would know if such powerful magics had been used but the crime scene indicates magic was probably the cause of the death even when the Guards ME (Magical Examiner) can not detect its use but the Brotherhood are sure, Chalmraik is dead, definitely, positively, dead.
Dragon Precinct paints a wonderful picture of Cliff's End and the society that makes the city come alive, of course the basic structure is crime procedural and the narrative style has been well established but makes itself very amenable to a fantasy setting with one or two tweaks. I love the idea that the ME uses magic to "peel back" a locale which can offer up clues and other information which in our world would be done with prints, DNA and sourcing security cams etc. The Guards themselves are an eclectic mixture of working men and women with a variety of traits from the professional and detached to the driven and of course one or two just working out the last few years until retirement and a pension. The crime and associated mystery is entertaining and you are not really expected to become an amateur sleuth to get the most out of it, the events are set out and the players come and go as the story unfolds leading to a satisfying resolution.
A very strong start to an ongoing series of novels from Keith.

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Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Dragon at the Gate by Michael G. Munz

A Dragon at the Gate (The New Aeneid Cycle #3)A Dragon at the Gate by Michael G. Munz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Dragon At The Gate is the third and final novel in the The New Aeneid Cycle by Michael G. Munz. Michael Flynn the young "freelancer" has certainly got more than he bargained for as he deals with the politics and economics of a Corporation controlled world and city of Northgate in particular. His journey amongst other freelancers and the cybernetic reality of the business has led him into fights for his life, decisions which end in death for others and the ever complex association with the clandestine Agents of Aeneas. Returning from the moon and all the revelations that brought with it did not provide a respite, a battle is being fought not only between the various Corporations for control of the technology found in the crashed spaceship but also a new player is making it's presences known, it's first target the Agents of Aeneas and then to achieve its goals anyone and everyone that stands in its way. As friends and comrades fall in the battle for humanity's future startling truths are brought into the light and yes there really is a dragon at the gate.
A Dragon at the Gate is an entertaining final chapter to the series, it took me longer to get around to reading the novel thanks to other literatury commitments but I was soon back upto speed and I was amazed when after one particular plot unfolded I glanced at the percentage read and found I was only half way through. I got a real buzz of expectation knowing that Michael would no doubt have raised the stakes and narrative to greater heights and I wasn't disappointed. This novel probably strays more into pure scifi then the cyber/dystopian future when compared to the first two novels but that's more of a payoff, there is plenty here for a reader who prizes that narrative and the bar is raised for fans of the more alien themed scifi. It really is a very well written novel and satisfying conclusion but I have to admit the epilogue had me frowning, not in bad way just an itch I couldn't scratch.
I can highly recommend the novel and by extension The New Aeneid Cycle trilogy.

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Raise The Titanic! by Clive Cussler

Raise The Titanic!Raise The Titanic! by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Raise The Titanic! is perhaps the most well known Dirk Pitt adventure thanks in part to the failed movie which in hindsight never really stood a chance in depicting the events in the book to any accurate degree. Of course many years later another Clive Cussler Pitt novel was adapted and while technology has evolved to meet the demands of narrative action it too failed at the box office.
However Raise The Titanic! is a solid if not quite spectacular action/adventure story with intrigue and spy craft twists and turns. I was mildly surprised that it wasn't as complex as I recall but Clive's writing style evolved over the series of the novels and this was fairly early on in the adventures of Dirk Pitt.
So a highly secret "think tank" have come with a viable anti-missile defence system but the radioactive element required to power the system is a rare earth mineral called Byzantium. The only known source was believed to have illegally mined on Russian soil in 1912 and ultimately shipped to the states on board the RMS Titanic. The cold war and threat of soviet ICBM's explains the President providing huge resources to NUMA to raise the sunken cruise liner but the Russian intelligence services gain wind of the defence system and put into motion a plan to steal the ship (if and when she is raised) and worse case to destroy the ship and the mineral.
So that's the basic story which thankfully is written and paced well, the characters are all interesting without too much depth being required and the interaction between the main plot elements worked pretty well. I enjoyed reading the book once again but it did lack the complexity of later novels which isn't a negative but underlines the growth of the author's writing and maturing of the characters over time.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

House Rewatch

House Season One

A very strong opening season for this medical drama although if you tuned in for something along the lines of ER or Saint Elsewhere you might have been shocked. The show has been described as a variant on Sherlock Holmes and given the flawed but brilliant character of Greg House and the mysteries he solves with the aid of his staff you can see the reasoning.

The series kicks off with the pilot subtitled "Everybody Lies" which centers on a school teacher who collapses in class and proceeds for at least 35 minutes to confuse the medical team. Yes the formula for the show is set into concrete straight away but you know that never became an issue, after a while you knew what you were going to get and at it's heart it is a procedural with fascinating regular and guest characters. Robin Tunney was excellent as the first central patient and it shown to be important that House (Hugh Laurie) has someone capable of bouncing his performance off of and she delivers. The supporting cast of Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Lisa Cuddy), Omar Epps (Dr. Eric Foreman), Robert Sean Leonard (Dr. James Wilson), Jennifer Morrison (Dr. Allison Cameron) and Jesse Spencer (Dr. Robert Chase) are all exceptionally good, in many ways they all play straight roles and the butt of House's charm, arrogance, wit and sarcasm. Of course as the season goes on the characters are all fleshed out and a very strong dynamic builds within the cast and surprisingly adding recurring characters into the mix works very well.

I enjoyed every episode of the first season, wasn't bored or indifferent to any of them and my favourite episode of the series is in this season (Three Stories) and picking three favourites was tricky yet not as difficult as I imagined as a few just stood out in the crowd.

Favourite Episodes

  • Three Stories
  • Poison
  • Honeymoon

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Winds of Vengeance by Jay Allan

Winds of Vengeance (Crimson Worlds Refugees, #4)Winds of Vengeance by Jay Allan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the Crimson World Refugees series jumps forward in time and skips much of the drudgery of literal world building on the new home for humanity. Earth 2 has been built using the most advanced technology the last of the Ancients left behind or at least as much of it as could be deciphered. Attacks from the remnants of the Regents fleets have long since ended and as usual the human race when it has time to look inward finds plenty to argue about and maybe ultimately fracture itself once again into separate states/groups.
As the political system on Earth 2 is on the brink of collapse a long range survey fleet has been engaged by an alien fleet very similar in technology to the Imperium yet slightly different, they fight for their lives and are able to launch a warning back to Earth 2. Admiral West leads the bulk of the home fleet to investigate the loss of communications and find the message drones and wreckage and then engages a vast enemy fleet that has been waiting to avenge the Regent.
It may be a little depressing that the Pilgrims, Newborns, Tanks and Mules (names used to segment the population) have found it impossible to get along after two decades but there is always individuals and small groups that use fear of the other to gain power. The rebirth of humanity on this "eden" has like the original been soured but again an external threat may be the catalyst for yet another opportunity for best of humanity to prevail.
Winds of Vengeance was enjoyable but took me a little while to fully commit to this storyline, the existence of a few of the characters from the previous books (now called pilgrims by the citizens of Earth 2) kept me interested and then I was back into the swing of things.
The combat aesthetic/narrative has changed thanks to the jump in technology but the underlying characterisation which any book has to depend upon remains and the rest is just icing so a must for a Crimson World fan as is the series for anything with an interest in military scifi.

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Revenge of the Ancients by Jay Allan

Revenge of the Ancients (Crimson Worlds Refugees #3)Revenge of the Ancients by Jay Allan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The revelation of humanities genesis and the history of the rise and fall of the Imperium spur the remnants of the trapped fleet to seek out the world that was prepared for the Ancients last hope. The Regents fleets continue to attack in system after system each resulting in loss of ships, lives and resources. The promise of technology beyond that of even the Imperium is too strong a siren call so Admiral Compton makes a bold strategic decision to buy time for the majority of the fleet but what they don't know is that plans are already under way to wipe out the humans once and for all and then the Regent can focus on finding a way back to Earth.
This series of novels continues apace with action and drama that will delight a fan of this subset of science fiction, yes it is more of the same but at this point in the Crimson Worlds series this is what you want to be reading. Courage above and beyond by individuals and ships from across the human sphere all bound together under the threat of the Regent with epic battles and sacrifices allowing for when that one opportunity arrives a blow could be struck.

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Polar Lights - Battle Cruiser

You know when you are just browsing an online store on the off chance you see something you fancy, well this is the result of one of those times.
The Polar Lights Romulan Battle Cruiser is a 1:1000 scale model although it turned into a more Klingon version with the paint scheme and decals. Pretty easy to put together although far from a perfect fit piece wise, no doubt a more experienced modeller would have had the tools and skill to turn this out to perfection but I'm quite pleased.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Blu-Ray Treats

Always on the look out for a few gems to add to my movie collection and a good portion of the time it's reissues or repacking of much loved movies that get my cash.

The Thing (Collector's Edition)

Flight of the Navigator (Steelbook)

Sunday, 23 April 2017

We Lead by Christopher G. Nuttall

We Lead (Ark Royal #9)We Lead by Christopher G. Nuttall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The war between the allied forces of humanity and the tadpoles continues as the "foxes and cows" threaten systems and edge closer to Tadpole prime and beyond that to the human worlds. On Earth the politics of war so far from home along with the economic issues cause dissent amongst the population despite spacers dying by the hundreds and ships burning in space. Investigations by the best scientists into how the alien FTL communications work is still offering no insights but a surprising nugget of information opens up the potential for creating a gravimetric tramline by design. The power required is beyond anything a starship could generate and the hardware far too big to even consider to be mobile but maybe a complex designed to jump a fleet on a one way mission deep into enemy space could bring the enemy to its knees quickly and with minimal casualties.
HMS Vanguard with a huge multinational fleet including vessels from Russia and India head out on a ultra secret mission, their destination the complex which will fling them to within a couple of star systems of the alien homeworlds. The aliens have shown a pack like mentality which enforces an Alpha style command structure, if the fleet can capture the homeworld and break their fighting spirit it is believed the war will be over.
We Lead may be accused of coming up with a deus ex machina plot element to allow the story to be concluded but when you have opposing forces that are not that unequal in strength there is normally some element that tips the balance. The creation of the FTL jump even in this basic form allows the war to take a major step but thankfully the novel does not lose its core heart and soul, the individuals on board the warships and on the battlegrounds continue to be the most important aspects of the narrative.
This final novel is the trilogy (part of the current nine book series) continues to tell the stories of a handful of characters which we met in the first novel (Vanguard) as well as bringing to the front long established characters. People will die, some heroically and others by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, war is dirty and unfair and unpredictable. Christopher has once again delivered an entertaining finale to this trilogy of novels and a satisfying standalone part of the ongoing Ark Royal series.

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Fear God and Dread Naught by Christopher G. Nuttall

Fear God and Dread Naught (Ark Royal #8)Fear God and Dread Naught by Christopher G. Nuttall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the eighth novel of the Ark Royal series we see the HMS Vanguard repaired and made ready to return to the front lines of the battle with this enigmatic enemy comprised of two separate species. Little is still known about them but as wreckage and biologic samples are recovered after battles a picture is beginning to form. Earth for the moment is safe, the fleets are engaging within "Tadpole" space and the system "Unity" is where Vanguard and her flotilla are bound but with such a long turnaround time for messages and intelligence they are not sure what to expect.
Marines and ordnance are deployed and then the fleet is engaged with running battles in and around Unity as two battle fronts are created, one between the colossal power of the battleships and carriers the other from individuals with rifles and courage under fire.
Fear God and Dread Naught is as expected a direct continuation from the novel Vanguard with the addition of a few characters from previous novels. Christopher once again writes the space and ground battles well and with all good military scifi there is no happy ending for everyone, bravery and courage are not always rewarded and victory is never guaranteed.
As mentioned in other reviews, a series this long will live or die based on a reader's interest and enjoyment of the first novel they read, if you have gotten this far then like me you enjoy Christopher's writing within this series and look forward to the conclusion of this trilogy of stories within the series as a whole.

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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Vanguard by Christopher Nuttall

Vanguard (Ark Royal, #7)Vanguard by Christopher Nuttall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vanguard is the first book in the third trilogy of novels in the Ark Royal series by Christopher G. Nuttall and basically if you liked the first six then it's a no brainer to read the seventh. The novel is set a few years after the ending of the British/Indian conflict over the planet and alien culture of the Vesy star system. The formal alliance/treaty with the "tadpoles" holds strong but is put to the test when a human ship detects a third intelligent race during a recon down an unexplored tramline. This new world is much closer to Tadpole Prime and the two space powers launch a joint first contact mission (heavily armed) but it does not go well. Humanities second intergalactic war has begun against an enemy who have no apparent interest in communicating and what little intelligence is gathered seems to indicate that the humans and their tadpole allies may be facing at least two cooperating races.
The main character in this novel could be argued to be the brand new British battleship "Vanguard" which is on it's maiden flight and will see her first action in this war, her first officer has vanished and his replacement Commander Susan Onarina is dropped in at the deep end and having to learn a brand new ship, vastly extended area of responsibilities and deal with new crew and familiar faces. The story is as you would expect heavy on setup and character introductions before the action really starts but then it doesn't let up, large scale fleet battles combine with interpersonal conflicts to provide an entertaining novel.

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Strange New Worlds 2016

Strange New Worlds 2016 (Star Trek)Strange New Worlds 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strange New Worlds was an annual series of anthology novels which offered professional published fan sourced Star Trek stories. The 2016 edition was released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and in this novel we have a collection of stories which not only reflect the original show (well just about) but also the series that follows but to be honest given it's the 50th anniversary of TOS there is not a lot of the original series there. I don't know what the rules were for submission back in 2015 but it seems there was a move away from anything specifically TOS.
My favourites were "A Christmas Qarol" by Gary Piserchio and Frank Tagader , "The Dreamer and the Dream" by Derek Tyler Attico and "The Last Refuge" by Roger McCoy.
The world of Star Trek fan fiction is still very buoyant and the recognition of some quality work outside of the fenced off licensed market was always a good idea. It's gratifying to see creativity acknowledged and opportunities offered, it's kind of a Trek thing:)

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"Dilithium Is a Girl's Best Friend" by Neil Bryant

What did happen to Harry Mudd after his encounters with the Enterprise and more importantly how about the three women who were using the venus drug who may or may not have had relationships with potentially wealthy minors. Years later Harry approaches Eve who now controls a huge and powerful mining concern, he convinces her to join him on one of his dodgy adventures and with stolen classified technology they flee into deep space to rendezvous with, well you'll see.

"A Christmas Qarol" by Gary Piserchio & Frank Tagader

The fight against the Borg has taken a fresh turn as the Federation have made successful attempts at reverting drones back to the original species. Q appears at a scientific presentation and decides to screw around with Picard despite the fact the event also celebrates the life of a young boy named Timothy who has undergone the procedure. The boy still has a long way to go before all the technology is removed and full use of his body returns but there is hope but Q all knowing and all seeing wants to play and notices that it's christmas on Earth, how fitting.
A snap of his fingers would all that be required to send Picard into a reality where he was Scrooge and so let it be.

"The Sunwalkers" by Kelli Fitzpatrick

Dr Crusher is still mourning the loss of her son, Wesley's decision to journey with the Traveler is affecting his mother to the same degree as would his death, unable to really get a grasp Beverley throws herself into her work. On the planet Shar-Mi'la Prime the natives have evolved under a star that really shouldn't be supporting carbon based life but it does thanks in part to the species developing technologies that support state of the art shielding. However many of their young are growing sick and they call for Federation help, faced with the potential deaths of so many children Beverly is forced to face her own loss.

"The Seen and Unseen" by Chris Chaplin

The Remans, slaves of the Empire in all but name and yet one fathered by a Romulan, raised in the mines finds a place amongst the military as a source of amusement, a Reman who hates his own kind and entertains his "betters". Yet deep in his soul Troth knows there is a better path for his people, the words of a Vulcan named Spock has reached even into the depths and maybe there is a path to tread which leads to the light and freedom.

"The Façade of Fate" by Michael Turner

A battle rages with the Jem'Hadar and the Defiant is close to destruction, a blinding light floods space and the crew find themselves on Bajor but not a Bajor they recognise, a galactic peace exists and they don't belong here but where is here and what will become of them now.

"The Manhunt Pool" by Nancy Debretsion

The First Contact Symposium meets on Deep Space Nine to decide the fate of a small society on a world known as Tasadae, there is some question over the status of the natives which will determine if the planet can be opened up for use. Garak and Odo have different reactions as many new faces appear on DS9 and things begin to get even more complicated when one of the attendees is murdered and then a young Bajoran goes missing. Odo investigates but Garak brings all his deviousness and insights into the case which is proving to be far wider than a simple murder on a space station.

"The Dreamer and the Dream" by Derek Tyler Attico

Benny Russell has suffered thanks to his obsession with the worlds within his mind and the society he lives in that already places barriers to what he is allowed to achieve. Years spent in a mental facility has taken their toll and perhaps now the decision to put aside his stories will finally allow him to walk the paths of his city. A brief discussion with his friend the janitor the only man who has continued to read his stories makes him realise how important they can be, if one person can envision a future better than it can be then who is Benny to stop writing. He makes the decision and the world around him erupts into chaos.

"The Last Refuge" by Roger McCoy

Lon Suder is dead, Tuvok who had spent time with the man in an attempt to bring him towards a more balanced psyche laments his failure but while he clears out his cabin a video file is found. Tuvok plays the tape and Lon appears and tells of a time not that long ago when there was the very real threat of a Maquis/Starfleet conflict on board Voyager.

"Life Among the Post-Industrial Barbarians" by John Coffren

Captain Braxton, marooned on Earth in the 20th century, what is he willing to do or to give up when offered the chance to return to his own timeline by none other than himself.

"Upon the Brink of Remembrance" by Kristen McQuinn

Species 3836 (Lynnrali) are protected by a volatile nebula but are masters in advanced warp technology and they are very much desired by the Borg to enhance the collective. Fully aware of the Borg steps have been taken but the Borg enter orbit never the less and the assimilation begins. Seven awakes in her alcove in a cold sweat having dreamt of being assimilated by herself and while her body was violated her last breath was spent pleading for her daughter. It can be no coincidence that the Lynnrali were the last species Seven participated in assimilating before being liberated.

Iceberg by Clive Cussler

Iceberg (Dirk Pitt, #3)Iceberg by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Iceberg is perhaps the first of the Dirk Pitt novels that feels like it's built on a solid foundation, that's not to say the first two are weak but they feel in comparison less complex and structured. Iceberg once again provides the reader with an adventure undertaken by Dirk Pitt, this time pulled off a beach to ferry a NUMA scientist to investigate a mysterious ship locked within an iceberg. It turns out that NUMA are just one organisation trying to obtain a revolutionary mineral probe designed by Fyrie industries who also owned the boat trapped in the ice but the boat had been gutted by fire and the crew were dead. Thus a bloody trail of destruction grows as the forces behind the theft of the probe maneuver themselves in a global endeavour that could reshape the world. Pitt finds himself committed to finding those responsible for the violence that follows him, his journey takes him from California to Iceland back to the states and finally to Disneyland for a less than happy encounter.
Iceberg was an enjoyable read, still issues with the language and certain aspects that don't fit into the modern world of storytelling which would have passed unnoticed when originally published but are a little blatant these days. Still, I spent some quality time reading this Dirk Pitt adventure and that's all I require from a novel, an entertaining story with compelling characters and Iceberg delivered.

Mildly amusing to not that after Iceberg the next novel was Raise The Titanic.

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Tales of the Dominion War

Tales of the Dominion War (Star Trek: The Next Generation)Tales of the Dominion War  Edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tales of the Dominion War is an anthology of stories which deals with the events within Starfleet and the Federation during the timeframe of Deep Space Nine as covered in the television show. As we know DS9 was the prime focus of the war thanks to proximity to the Bajoran wormhole but the war spread throughout the Alpha quadrant and would have affected all of the characters from the franchise as a whole.
The stories in this collection are written by a number of very familiar names to readers of Star Trek novels from all aspects of the franchise and offer up some very entertaining events and insights into characters which we may never have heard of or were just a throwaway reference in DS9.
The scope of the anthology will appeal to every fan of Star Trek and yes that includes the original series thanks to one or more of the original crew still alive and kicking in this era.
Highly recommend, very easy to read and if not every story ticks every box for the reader they all offer up something a Trek fan will recognise and enjoy.

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"What Dreams May Come"
by Michael Jan Friedman

On the world of Illarh the Dominion forces have landed led by a Vorta named Sejeel, they intend to fortify the world for the war with the Federation and disguise themselves as travelers who will be moving on shortly. Sejeel is delighting in the deference the natives are offering him and one morning Draz a servant while bringing him his breakfast tells him of a dream. The Vorta is intrigued but as the dream unfolds he dismisses the uneasiness he begins to feel, after all these natives are helpless and subservient, what could there be too fear...

"Night of the Vulture"
by Greg Cox

Deep Space Nine has fallen under the Cardassian and Dominion pressure but the wormhole to the Gamma quadrant has been mined. A covert operation to infiltrate Starfleet command to gain the codes to subvert the minefield was a success and the agent and her guards are returning under the guise of a small trading vessel. Unbeknown to them they are being tracked by the entity that struck at Kirk's Enterprise and Kang's Battlecruiser around Beta XII-A (Day of the Dove) and it is hungry, a galaxy wide war will be a feast and if this vessel with its precious cargo allows the Dominion to crush the Alpha quadrant the feast will over over far too quickly.

"The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned"
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Lwaxana Troi is at home entertaining friends and the discussion turns to the war but that's far away and Betazed is deep within Federation space and while her defences are not state of the art a Starfleet battle group are stationed not too far away. Then the unfathomable happens, Lwaxana senses the alien thoughts of the Dominion forces, she feels the deaths of those close to her and the failure of Starfleet to prevent the invasion of her world as cities burn. The battle is lost but the war continues and Lwaxana Troi Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed will not let this stand, her world in time will once again be a safe home for her people.

"Blood Sacrifice"
by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

The Romulan Senate already full of division and self interest argue back and forth over the Dominion presence in the Alpha quadrant and in the background Spock whose infiltration of this society continues to slowly subvert the young to a more logical way of life watches on. In a shocking turn of events the Emperor dies ( probably murdered ) and then the news of the Dominion assassination of Senator Vreenak who was dealing "peace" with the invaders shakes the world but offers opportunities.

"Mirror Eyes"
by Heather Jarman & Jeffrey Lang

A deep cover Tal Shiar agent on Deep Space 9 recounts her days and mission in a journal (not standard procedure) and writes of her dissatisfaction of playing Seret a Vulcan medic in a position that offers little in terms of valuable intelligence. A Vulcan crewed ship is brought to DS9, the crew infected with an unknown contagion and it soon becomes apparent it's designed to strike at the Alpha quadrant. The doctors and medics of DS9 and other Federation sources combine to prevent an outbreak but only Seret seems to have any form of immunity but she can not allow anyone else to analyse her blood and reveal her secrets or would that be a relief.

"Twilight's Wrath"
by David Mack

Shinzon a human raised by Remans earned his reputation during the Dominion war and his major achievement was that strike on a secret Romulan facility that has been captured by Dominion forces. The Romulan high command need this facility destroyed but Shinzon realises whatever they consider to be so dangerous to them would in his hands be a benefit to his Reman family. A brilliant yet costly battle strategy wins the day and the events on this world eventually lead to the Reman revolt and events covered in Nemesis.

"Eleven Hours Out"
by Dave Galanter

The Breen assault Earth and cause significant damage in and around San Francisco, how could they have gotten so deep into Federation space and inflicted so much damage, granted the propaganda aspect was more significant than the material cost but still it should not have been possible. The Enterprise is not in the Solar System but her captain is on Earth attending the graduation ceremony of his niece (by marriage) Ensign Lebel. When weapons fire begins to strike the academy and starfleet command Captain Picard organises the survivors and attempts to understand what was required to allow ships so close to Earth and begins to organise the immediate response while under a communications blackout. As the Enterprise warps back to Earth to face the unknown crews on board Starbase One struggle to launch a trapped Starship while weapons fire continues to rain down on a defenceless planet.

"Safe Harbors"
by Howard Weinstein

Admiral Leonard McCoy and Captain Montgomery Scott are still alive and kicking thanks to some unexpected events and technologies and their runabout is perhaps if anything in worse shape then the two former officers of the Enterprise. They learn of the Breen attack on Earth but are unable to return until their ship is repaired so land on the Bakrii homeworld known as a free port with expert ship maintenance facilities. The locals are not over joyed to see them given the potential for reprisals from the Dominion and then a badly damaged USS Saladin arrives and the Dominion are on their way.

"Field Expediency"
by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

The Starfleet Corps of Engineers USS da Vinci is tasked to aid in a covert operation to obtain some Breen encryption technology, they steal a ship but crash on a remote world. The removal of the technology is proving difficult and then a Breem contingent arrive in system, the ships engage and a landing part of Breen assault the captured ship.

"A Song Well Sung"
by Robert Greenberger

Klag, son of M'Raq is the only survivor of IKS Pagh after a battle with Dominion forces, the ship crash lands on the planet Marcan V and the enemy vessel impacts not too far away. Klag minus one limb equips himself and sets out to avenge the death of his ship and comrades by the only thing that matters, blood.

"Stone Cold Truths"
by Peter David

Many decades after the end of the Dominion War the long lived Zak Kebron recounts his experiences during the war to his son for a school assignment, the discussion with his son and eventually the "mentor" highlight the complexity and ramifications of any conflict be they to the individual or on a galactic scale.

by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels

Reese was a survivor of AR-558 but he did not leave that world intact, nightmares and psychological issues affect the Federation soldier but eventually he is cleared for duty and he asks for and is reassigned to DS9 and the Defiant. At the ceasefire he observes the captured Founder and strikes up an unusual relationship with a Cardassian soldier Glinn Ekoor, the two of them have much in common and both have reasons to consider the trial and imprisonment of the Founder to be betrayal of the millions who have died thanks to her orders.

The Starless World by Gordon Eklund

The Starless World (Star Trek Adventures, #8)The Starless World by Gordon Eklund
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Enterprise encounters a shuttle craft from a starship lost two decades ago, on board is Thomas Clayton an officer who served on that ship and is personally acquainted to Kirk, Clayton delirious also claims to be a prophet of God. The Enterprise approaches a construct which is identified as a Dyson Sphere and is then drawn into the interior of the sphere where they find a peaceful non-technological community but also a Klingon Cruiser (also captured) and a strange subculture of "strangers". Spock is unable to formulate a reasonable explanation of the existence of the sphere and the events and peoples in this world but if the acceptance of a "God" presiding over this world then everything makes a logical sort of sense. The natives believe they are a journey with their God to a final reckoning but only the Klingons and then the Enterprise know how close that is, the proliferation of singularities in this region of space will inevitably serve as the final fate of this world.
The Starless World if memory serves was the first Trek paperback I ever bought, my very old copy has a price on the back cover of 75p so I am tempted to accept my recollection. The current condition of the paperback was so bad however that I sourced another copy on ebay which was a more recent reprint with a more generic cover and under the Star Trek Adventures banner.
This story was released fairly early in the Star Trek novel franchise and lacks much of the depth you would associate with the current breed of Trek novels, it's also shorter and in many cases more straightforward in its narrative. The core theme however is pretty strong with a Dyson Sphere and an entity (God if you will) over seeing a population living inside the sphere all on a eon long journey to a final destination. The main characters serve the story well with some nice touches with Uhura and the young native woman they encounter early on and probably for the best the final conclusion to who and what oversees the sphere is left to the reader to determine.

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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt

A-10 Thunderbolt

I was tempted, resisted then gave up and purchased this Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt diecast model. It has wonderful build quality and sits nicely alongside my Canadian Airforce livered F-18.

The Face of the Unknown by Christopher L. Bennett

The Face of the Unknown (Star Trek: The Original Series)The Face of the Unknown by Christopher L. Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Enterprise is engaged by a vessel which claims to have been attacked by a Federation ship, the body and wreckage they offer up as proof is startling in its familiarity, the dead being is the same species as used by Balok when trying to "fool" the Enterprise when it entered the area of space now known to be controlled by the First Federation.
The Enterprise enters First Federation space and attempts to find the Fesarius and Lt. Bailey, they find it under attack and come to its aid only to find that the "puppets" used by Balok were indeed once a known and feared race in this region of space and they have returned. Balok however is missing but a mysterious message is received by the Enterprise which leads them to an empty star system with one very dead world obvious having suffered from orbital bombardment. Alien ships then enter the system and the Enterprise is forced to enter the atmosphere of a huge gas giant only to find something they didn't expect...
I wonder if it is true that the best stories draw from events of the original series, there is precedent and The Face of the Unknown is certainly more proof of the theory. Christopher L. Bennett a long time fan of The Corbomite Maneuver delivered a novel that took the very basics from the tv epsiode and expanded them into a complex and fascinating look into the First Federation. The explanation of their technology and the worlds that comprised it and the mystery of such a huge are of space close to the expanding Federation of Planets is covered with style and expertise. The final result is an excellent novel which adds immensely to what we knew of Balok and the Fesarius and of course Lt. David "He's doing a countdown!" Bailey.

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Better Man by Howard Weinstein

The Better ManThe Better Man by Howard Weinstein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The world of Empyrea is a colony of genetically perfected human beings who have kept themselves apart from the growing Federation until fifteen years ago when a scientific facility was established on the planet to observe a nearby stellar phenomenon. The treaty allowing the facility is now ending and the council is refusing to allow the Federation scientists to remain so the two of the original contact team are sent back in an attempt to secure the future of the project.
Ambassador (Former Starfleet Captain) Mark Rousseau is heading the delegation and back in the day Dr Leonard McCoy was his chief surgeon, the two men are no longer the close friends they were but there should be no problem working together. Of course when McCoy arrives and meets up with Elizabeth March an old "friend" who is now the President of Empyrea and learns that she has a daughter and McCoy is the father and that it's a criminal offense to have "freelance" offspring devoid of the manufactured genetic perfection.
The Better Man was a decent enough read and I guess we can let it pass that eugenics is alive and well outside the direct Federation sphere of influence. It was interesting to read some backstory of what McCoy was up to before finding a berth on Enterprise and truth be told I think his character was written very well. It was also fun seeing Scotty having to deal with a egotistical Empyrean scientist and nearly losing his temper many a time as Spock tried to channel Scotty's emotional outbursts in a productive manner.
All Star Trek is worth a read since you never know what will appeal as we all have favoured characters and while the novel overall wasn't a must read fans of McCoy should enjoy it.

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Recovery by J.M. Dillard

Recovery (Star Trek: The Lost Years, #4)Recovery by J.M. Dillard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recovery by J.M. Dillard is the fourth and final novel in The Lost Years Saga. The novel is still set in the period before the launch of the Enterprise 1701-A and Kirk is finally coming to the end of his tether in regards to being a desk bound Admiral but before he can lay down his ultimatum to Admiral Nogura he is given the assignment to oversee the final trial/simulation of the USS Recovery a fully automated rescue ship capable of beaming ships and buildings intact and providing state of the art medical care all in a high warp capable and armed vessel. Admiral Kirk himself was fairly negative towards the concept when it originally crossed his desk but his recommendations have been taken by the designers and the ship is ready.
McCoy a civilian and still estranged from Kirk and Starfleet is approached to be an observer onboard Recovery during the simulation and is delighted to see the ship in action, he is impressed with the level of medical technology onboard. The mission for Recovery is to "rescue" the facility on Zotos 4 which includes all personnel and the structures themselves and the Klingons, Tholians and Romulans have been invited to observe as this area of space is in some minor dispute. The USS Starhawk and USS Paladin are going along to provide the "conflict" part of the trial for Recovery but after Kirk throws some curveballs at the ship to really push her programming things begin to break down as she targets all ships as enemies and fires on the two Starfleet ships and invited warships. The Recovery then warps towards the Tholian area of space with the heavily damaged USS Paladin with Admiral Kirk on board in pursuit and McCoy wishing he had stayed at home.
Recovery was an excellent Star Trek story, yes it benefits greatly from the three novels that went before it in setting up the conditions which provide the impetus for Kirk and to a lesser extent Riley, McCoy and even Spock. The description of the Recovery was impressive and the crews of Starhawk and Paladin were fleshed well enough to be invested in them without taking anything away from the core story which is obviously Kirk and the "rush" he gets when being the center of events although at a high cost. We got some interesting interactions between Starfleet and the visiting Empire Starships and Captains which never dropped into the old tried and trusted tropes but kept the reader wondering what agenda any of them had beyond just keeping an eye on Starfleet. Recovery was a great novel, I enjoyed it immensely with it's mix of character interaction and action both onboard the ship and in space and not just the events which focused on Kirk. The novel would stand by itself if required but there is a little more to be had if you are familiar with the other three novels in the series all of which are entertaining.

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The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt, #2)The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I originally read The Mediterranean Caper under the title Mayday and to be honest the word Caper should not be used in anything but a spoof, of course many would say the adventures of Dirk Pitt are firmly tongue in cheek:)
In this novel Dirk and Al come to the rescue of a US Airforce base under attack from what looks like a WW1 biplane, after fending off the attack with their own PBY they find themselves knee deep in a smuggling operation that has been ongoing for decades. Caught between the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Greek Gendarmerie and a very Bond like villain Dirk has to discover and expose the secrets being kept while protecting the NUMA research vessel and his own skin.
The novel is a fairly easy going adventure story, over the top of course but each of the events are within the scope of reality, when all put together there is a lot going on and that is when the reader either goes along with the narrative or not. I don't think this novel or the series will ever be a casual read but the early novels were certainly not demanding and for me this is just an enjoyable tale of action and intrigue with a lead character that in the real world doesn't really exist.

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Federation by Judith Reeves-Stevens

FederationFederation by Judith Reeves-Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"And for the first time in two decades, the Guardian of Forever answered…"

Federation is a pretty epic story covering the events on and around Earth prior to the third world war including the discovery of the warp drive through the Enterprise under Kirk era and onwards towards the D commanded by Picard. Zefram Cochrane is the key to everything, his story as he develops and then exploits the drive to help spread humanity to the stars is entwined with the political pressures of the day and the rising fascism under yet another guise led by Colonel Green and for this story's purpose one Colonel Adrik Thorsen who is obsessed with the notion of a warp bomb. Cochrane is pursued by Thorsen across space and time forcing the brilliant scientist to lose himself into history only to be found decades later by the Enterprise and of course Federation commissioner Nancy Hedford. This is not the end of his story though, technology allows for many things and as Cochrane lives long beyond his timeline with the aid of the companion Thorsen with a fanatic's obsession finds technology to maintain himself and the battle for the soul of mankind begins again.
Federation is very entertaining and genuinely interesting novel, it contradicts many things as most Trek novels do when put up against the canon offered by tv and movies but it does what only a novel can do and takes us on a trip through time and space with our favourite characters unafraid to cover aspects of stories the tv/movies shy away from. The timeline covered by the novel allowing for the TNG crew to exist alongside the TOS crew in the novel no doubt will appeal to a broader audience but for me being more old school the "D" elements were less interesting although their conclusion was pleasing. I really really did enjoy the bookending chapters (including Picard) with the older Admiral Kirk and the Guardian of Forever and of course the look far into their future which sums up Starfleet and I hope humanities best attributes.
A highly recommended novel with some very satisfying writing and exploration of characters and events.

"In the language of the time, the ship is called Enterprise, and she slides forward, accepting the invitation, once more going where none has gone before."
"For even here, even now, the adventure is still just beginning..."

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Crossroad by Barbara Hambly

CrossroadCrossroad by Barbara Hambly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Crossroad Nebula was a recognised shipping hazard where ships and probes have mysteriously vanished, close by was the Federation protected star system of Tau Lyra whose people were not ready to make the leap into space travel but where showing impressive progress in other areas. The Enterprise while preparing to sow new probes detect a starship leaving the nebula, sensors indicate it is basically a Constitution class but with some minor anomalies in design and energy output. After a brief exchange the Enterprise secures the vessel and the small crew are beamed aboard. The very diverse crew (Vulcan, Klingon, Orion, Human etc) claim to have recently acquired the ship called the "Nautilus" and were attacked within the nebula and are fleeing the "Consilium" but that doesn't explain the existence of the Nautilus or the advanced bio-engineering embedded in the bodies of some of the captured crew.
Crossroad in many ways takes its intent from the mirror universe trope without actually employing that narrative but there are many similarities. We get to see what the Federation and more importantly Starfleet could have been and given the right conditions and how humanity could be far more invasive and corrupt towards the galaxy than any of the current expansionist empires. I enjoyed the technology presented by the Nautilus as it set well outside the expected from Star Trek and this story may have stood alone as a piece of hard scifi dealing with the politics and machinations of a dominant galactic power.

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Traitor Winds by L.A. Graf

Traitor Winds (Star Trek: The Lost Years, #3)Traitor Winds by L.A. Graf
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Traitor Winds is part of the Lost Years series and continue the story of a post five year mission Enterprise and her crew. In this novel the refit of the Enterprise is nearing completion and many of the previous main bridge crew have taken assignments that keeps them close in the hopes of shipping out once again. Uhura is teaching at the academy, Sulu is a test pilot for a classified project and Chekov having been passed over for command school has moved over to Security and is struggling to compete with much younger "students". A chance meeting with Dr McCoy and former Enterprise medical officer Dr Piper has Chekov taking part in a classified research project analysing Klingon disruptors but the technology is stolen and highly secret technology goes missing from Sulu's project. Evidence points to the two former Enterprise officers and both end up on the run, Uhura and Kirk attempt to sort out the evidence against what they know about their friends and with aid from former colleagues and a few unexpected sources the conspiracy is revealed.
Traitor Winds was a rewarding read, the Federation and Starfleet presented in this novel and the Lost Years series skews the "tv" narrative and brings it more into a realm the reader would recognise in our own world. This can be good or bad depending upon the reader's expectations of Trek and Scifi in general but for me it works well in small doses.

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