Sunday, 26 February 2017

Firestorm by L.A. Graf

FirestormFirestorm by L.A. Graf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Enterprise arrives at the extremely active volcanic planet of Rakatan to deal with both a geological survey who may have stumbled onto a sentient lifeform existing within the heart of the magma and an Elasian mining operation who have claimed the planet. The scientists are not too happy to see the Starship but the Elasian's have defensive screens and threaten violence but have yet to respond to any communications. Eventually Uhura makes the breakthrough by addressing the Elasian compound with respect and more importantly as representing the ship as its Dohlman. The young woman (Israi) in charge of the Elasian facility is revealed to be the younger sister of now deceased Dohlman Elaan (Elaan of Troyius) but as of yet she has not come into her "tears" and thus a regent rules over her world. Uhura soon learns to deal with Israi who treats Uhura as the Dohlman of the Enterprise but the planet has other ideas. Political and military tensions continue to escalate not helped by the Federation scientists or the misunderstandings and opposing world views which all come to a head when the huge Rakatan Mons shows definite signs of eruption which could destroy the already on edge environment.
Firestorm was an entertaining novel, I really liked the ties to the tv episode Elaan of Troyius and the young Israi learns as much from Uhura as Uhura learnt from her and the politics of Elasian seemed to fit perfectly into the Federation structure. Chekov and Sulu were fun as Uhura's loyal retinue and the character of Mutchler was a great addition to the story.
Overall an enjoyable read and a well worked exploration of an alien race from a tv episode.

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The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey

The Great Starship RaceThe Great Starship Race by Diane Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story of first contact and one of the more unusual introductions to the galaxy wide family of sentient species await the people of the world Gullrey located far on the edge of the Milky Way. Their position which is well outside of the normal traffic patterns leads to an usual event, a race from the nearest Federation Starbase to Gullrey open to all starships who are willing to abide by some basic performance rules. In essence the great starship race is a promotional and marketing event for a world desperate to belong after being alone without even a hint there could be any other life in the galaxy.
The event welcomes Starfleet vessels, private commercial vessels, representatives of independent and Federation worlds and surprisingly a Romulan vessel who all agree to the rules of the race. This course consists of a number of waypoints carefully hidden amongst the naturally occurring navigation hazards of this space, speed is not the only consideration rather the skills and luck needed to make the right choice which will lead to the next beacon in the list ultimately revealing Gullrey itself.
I have to admit The Great Starship Race as a book title was not that inspiring but I do like the writing of Diane so never a doubt I would be reading the novel. It opens up on two fantastic events, both first contacts one involving a Romulan Battlecruiser (doesn't go well) and the other the Starship USS Hood which goes better. We then get into the meat of the novel as the Captains of the competing ships are learning the "rules" and given that relations between them are not all sweetness and light we are promised an interesting race. The only drawback as Kirk sees it is that if any ship gets into trouble there is no question a Starfleet vessel will help, other ships may not abide by that unwritten rule. As you would expect the IRV Red Talon commanded by Valdus Ionis Zorokove is not there to win a race and we learn the motivations of Valdus and his crew as the race progresses. The upside is that Valdus is written very well, he is a classic TOS Romulan in the truest sense, yes he is ruthless but there is a core of honour and respect for a worthy rival that shines through. As always a good "villain" makes for a good story for our "heroes" to work within and The Great Starship Race turns out to be far better than you might have expected.

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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Shadows on the Sun by Michael Jan Friedman

Shadows on the SunShadows on the Sun by Michael Jan Friedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shadows on the Sun is an unashamedly Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy novel and sheds some not canon light onto his early years before and just after joining Starfleet. We learn about how he met his wife in high school and their relationship leading up to marriage and the birth of their daughter and then the collapse of the marriage which paved the way to joining Starfleet.
Present day Enterprise as it completes it's final cruise (post Undiscovered Country) receives new orders to ferry two diplomats to the world known as Ssan which is being racked by a civil war between the existing Federation friendly government and an outlawed sect of assassins once held in high esteem by this world's population. It turns out that the diplomats are Jocelyn Treadway along with her husband Clay, yes the former wife of McCoy. The Enterprise has been given this particular assignment as McCoy himself spent some time on Ssan during the last crisis when the Federation supported the government with medical aid.
The novel spends a good portion of it's time exploring McCoy as a young man in his native Georgia with Jocelyn as well on his first assignment as a young doctor on the war torn Ssan learning exactly what sort of Doctor he will become when faced with the horrors of war. The rest of the novel concerns the ramifications of McCoy having to face his wife after so many years and deal with Clay who seems to have something to prove by taking risky chances when dealing with an Assassination cult deeply embedded in the psyche of the Ssan people. The initial contact goes very badly and members of the party are taken hostage leading to an even more dangerous rescue attempt and a surprise for McCoy as his past comes back to haunt him even more so than his wife.
Shadows of the Sun was a very entertaining read, McCoy's family life pre-starfleet was illuminating and his time learning what it takes to be a Starfleet Doctor explained a lot of who he came to be when serving on a Starship. I liked the insights into the Assassination culture and the one on one discussions between McCoy and his Ssan patient were fascinating as was the reactions from his friends and colleges. A highly recommended novel for anyone even mildly interested in McCoy and a sold Trek story if not.


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From the Depths by Victor Milán

From the DepthsFrom the Depths by Victor Milán
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Conflict rages on Okeanos between two species one of which derives from the planet Earth. The other people known as the Susuru are being partially aided by the Klingons and call upon the Federation to remove the humans. The Enterprise along with the Federation Commissioner for Interspecies Affairs one Moriah Wayne make initial contact and learn that the humans have their roots in the genetic experiments during the age of the Eugenic Wars and fled into deep space to live free and not be constrained by laws preventing the use of genetic manipulation. The result is a wide variety of human life which is more or less tailored to support an ocean world, the Commissioner is appalled by this and automatically supports the view of the Susuru who she accepts as the native population and she is also smoothed talked by the Klingon commander who has more political savvy than most in his position. Kirk insists on conducting face to face discussions between the two parties but the Susura and the Commissioner being skillfully manipulated by the Klingons threaten and then carry out their threats in their own particular way. As the situation begins to spin out of control the true intent of the Klingons is revealed leaving the Enterprise alone to face far more than they bargained for.
From The Depths is certainly a novel that takes a different approach to a Klingon themed story of conquest, the use of the eugenics war and the desire for people to live as they choose certainly provided a solid base to tell a Star Trek story. The Klingon commander Kain was a great villain and written in the true classic "Kor" style, he had style and flare which was used to confuse Kirk while moving pieces as if on a chess board. The only real weakness in the story and alas it's a big one is the character of Moriah Wayne who is way over the top in her reactions to the situation even before being manipulated by Kain. The story does try to explain away some of her actions but she is too extreme and her actions by extension are as well and ultimately the world building and the Klingons fail to make up for her abruptness which is a shame.


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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Windows on a Lost World by V.E. Mitchell

Windows on a Lost WorldWindows on a Lost World by V.E. Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Enterprise is assigned to ferry and assist an archaeological project within the Dulciphar star cluster and more specifically the world Careta IV where ruins had been observed which may hold the key to why this are of the galaxy has so many dead cultures and worlds. The archaeological team and landing parties beam down and almost immediately the world feels "wrong" but no one can explain why. Chekov is accompanying the Djelifan native Talika Nyar who looks down with some scorn on the weak male she is lumbered with. They do however discover something buried or more accurately hidden and screened, a few days later a device is uncovered and the mystery of what it does, why it was hidden and who hid it needs to be answered.
Through some experimentation the "mirror" like device reveals an image of another location, it seems to be some sort of gateway (similar to the Iconian devices) and even with extreme caution Chekov and Talika are pulled through to appear somewhere. Further misadventures or plain carelessness causes more people to be pulled through the device and the only indication of where there are going is the new life form readings of large crab like creatures appearing elsewhere on the planet. Some of the "transported" people begin to understand what has become of them and to manipulate their surroundings, contact is made and slowly but surely the story behind this world and her people is revealed and it's not pretty.
Windows on a Lost World is an epic piece of scifi and expands upon what you would expect from Trek with scifi more akin to independent stories. There is a darkness in the narrative that makes the Klingons and Romulans look like playground bullies yet a determination and courage that allows the Enterprise and the scientists to eventually triumph and reach the point where there is only one decision to be made. The irony is not lost that the same lesson is being learnt by the Federation people as was learnt 100,000 plus years ago by another people.
An entertaining and disturbing story at times, adds to the collective work of Trek with some style.



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The Starship Trap by Mel Gilden

The Starship TrapThe Starship Trap by Mel Gilden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Enterprise is pulled away from Starbase 23 to rendezvous with a diplomatic party and then proceed to Starbase 12 where further orders would be forthcoming. On route they encounter a Klingon warship and her Captain accuses the Federation of complicity in the disappearance of a number of ships in this region of space. Kirk is totally confused over the accusation but the lead diplomat (Conrad Franklin Kent) intervenes and the Klingon ship departs. Kirk learns that starships from many worlds have indeed vanished and he along with some specialists have been assigned to discover the cause and to prevent it from happening again. Mr Kent and his party however represent an anti-starfleet faction within the federation and Professor Omen a leading weapons designer (responsible for the weapons package onboard Enterprise) make strange bedfellows for this mission.
As you would expect things do not go according to plan and the Enterprise does discover the cause of the ship disappearances and then becomes a victim and finds itself in another universe/reality. They are however able to make use of the device that caused their relocation and begin the journey back encountering in one universe a species very much like the Klingons before finally returning to their own realm and facing down those responsible.
The Starship Trap is as my rating reflects an okay Star Trek story, the politics if given more weight could have made a complex core element of a novel but it's almost window dressing especially given the resolution for some of the characters. There was a lot more in the novel that never got fleshed out and that was a shame, some of the ideas would make great contemporary scifi but for me they didn't work and lacked that certain something that makes a novel stand out in as crowded franchise like Trek.

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Shell Game by Melissa Crandall

Shell GameShell Game by Melissa Crandall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Romulan Star Empire goes against grain by building it's first large scale permanent space station outside of their home system, later the same station is found drifting on the Federation side of the neutral zone. The Enterprise comes across this large mysterious station, no signs of life and a landing party is beamed over. There seems to be only minimal life support but like the ghostly tales that Scotty entertained the crew with the question remains, where did the crew go?
Power to the landing parties equipment begins to fluctuate and a sense of foreboding and not being alone affects them, then the body is found and did something move in the darkness?
Shell Game is lightweight but entertaining yarn using tried and true tropes but within the Star Trek setting. There are certainly elements in the story that any fan of the show will recognise but that's not always a bad thing yet you are left thinking there should have been more meat to the story. On the flipside this would have been a good original series tv episode, make of that what you will :)

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Saturday, 4 February 2017

Bird Of Prey

Romulan Bird Of Prey


I pre-ordered this last year and my Diamond Select / Art Asylum Romulan Bird Of Prey finally arrived this week. It has excellent build quality, good sound effects and voice recordings from the original series episode Balance Of Terror.




Best Destiny by Diane Carey

Best Destiny (Star Trek)Best Destiny by Diane Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best Destiny turns back the clock and sheds some non-canon light on the teenage years of one James Kirk, the story covers two separate timeframes with the first as James as a rebellious teenager and the other as a Captain looking at the end of one career. The focal point is the planet Faramond and the events that surrounded the discovery of a race vastly more technically advanced that the Federation and who seem to have as a species packed their bags and vanished into history.

Commander George Kirk with help from Captain Robert April arrange to take Jim on a cruise to Faramond for a ribbon cutting event in the hopes he can reach his wayward son before anything too serious happens. Jim is playing fast and loose with rules and regulations and roping other people into his games, it's only a matter of time before events spiral out of control and something happens that can not be fixed. The kicker is that Captain April is taking out the Enterprise and even the already jaded Jim Kirk is in awe of her beauty and power, of course he tries not to show it. April, George, Jim and some crew take one of the shuttles as Enterprise makes a call on another world but the shuttle is ambushed by pirates, badly damaged and with casualties Jim has to learn some very painful lessons in what it means to really lead people and be prepared to sacrifice all for the benefit of those who may never even know what you did.
Decades later the constitution class USS Enterprise is coming to the ends of its life and on its final voyage when its sensors pickup an energy surge which is only associated with the explosion of warp engines. The source is a starship in the Faramond system, records indicate it's likely to be the Excelsior Class USS Bill of Rights under the command of Captain Alma Roth (former officer under Kirk). Captain Kirk does not believe in coincidences and provides records to both Spock and McCoy on events so long ago and orders his ship towards Faramond. James Kirk is again looking at life that may not hold many more wonders and has to face his mirror image yet learns that the journey is never going to be complete, there will always be one more world, one more civilisation and that will be enough to spur on this Captain, this ship and this crew.

Best Destiny by Diane Carey is one of the novels that played a part in my own personal Star Trek canon, I like this Jim Kirk (similar it has to be said to the Kelvin Universe) and no question that drawing upon her own novel Final Frontier helped greatly in continuity. The novels asks many questions of its core characters and the two timelines with varying technologies and challenges work well for the narrative and while the experienced Captain Kirk and Enterprise are pure Trek it's perhaps the young Jim with his father and April that hold the limelight. This era of Star Trek and Diane's own take on a young Kirk may not be for everyone but it works for me.

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