Stargate Archives

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Star Trek: The Disinherited by Peter David

Star Trek: The DisinheritedStar Trek: The Disinherited by Peter David
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Disinherited goes rather dark rather quickly as several colonies are attacked by an unknown enemy, the novel opens up with the introduction of a few characters for the sole purposes of hooking you in only to sacrifice them for the narrative. That said it works very well, strangely enough it always seems that we hear about brutal events after the fact especially from the tv series but here there is no middle ground, the enemy slaughters men, women and children with no quarter given.
The Enterprise is assigned to investigate and hopefully prevent further bloodshed on these colony worlds while Lt. Uhura has been assigned to the USS Lexington for a specific mission to do a deal with the inhabitants of Rithra, a species who rely on both verbal and gesture based communications. The Enterprise encounters the raiders and doesn't fare too well against them and a young Ensign Chekov does not do himself any favours in the eyes of the Captain. Uhura on the other hand embraces the opportunity to speak to a new alien race and to aid them in protecting their young and establishing a rapport leading to perhaps membership to the Federation.
The Disinherited weaves the two plots beautifully, they both offer the reader a story with depth and pay off but when the two plots merge then the novel pays off the reader bigtime. An excellent original series adventure with particularly focus on Chekov and Uhura.

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Probe by Margaret Wander Bonanno

ProbeProbe by Margaret Wander Bonanno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Probe has an interesting history, while Margaret is credited as the writer she didn't infact write the published novel. Seems to be Romulan level machinations going on with the publisher but for now I can only review this novel I read.
Probe is of course a story dealing with the machine/entity which visited the Earth in ST:IV in search of intelligent marine life, this novel gives us a huge amount of backstory to this enigmatic creation in terms of its genesis, it's mission and interactions with aliens both known and unknown. We also get a very compelling plot line which deals with the Romulans holding out a potential hand of friendship (after the death of the Praetor) but of course nothing is what it seems.
I came away from this novel totally happy with the Probe storyline, in seems to fit with what little we were offered from the movie and of course does clearly indicate that the Federation and Empires are very very small and almost insignificant when viewed in terms of a million plus years of galaxy wide civilisations birth and deaths. The Romulan subplot has plenty of depth and complexity to the point where it could have been a standalone story by itself but the merging of two of the aspects through music was most satisfying in terms of scifi storytelling.
A highly recommended read for those looking for more on the Probe or just a fan of the devious Romulan Empire but with enough heart to avoid some of the cliches.

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Faces of Fire by Michael Jan Friedman

Faces of FireFaces of Fire by Michael Jan Friedman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Faces of Fire is certainly a Star Trek novels that pays off if you are familiar with the events of Star Trek II & III as it contains the seeds of that story. On the Federation colony of Beta Canzandia III a research project into terraforming in ongoing with mixed results with integrating new strains of plant life into a methodology for generating oxygen in a new ecosystem. One of the lead scientists is Dr Carol Marcus who along with her son David is going to be paid a visit by the Enterprise who is due for a routine audit and medical screenings, Spock will be staying behind to offer some short term assistance. Unbeknown to both the colony and Starfleet a faction within the Klingon Empire has also heard of the project and sees it as a potential weapon against the Empire and Klingons tend to do only one thing when they believe they are threatened.
Faces of Fire was an entertaining look at a Carol Marcus who we knew little about from the movies, we also begin to understand why David was so anti-starfleet and of course at least one of the Klingons will be playing a pivotal role many years later when Genesis comes to fruition.
I probably found the secondary story more interesting though, Kirk and the Enterprise dealing with a culture fractured by deeply held religious beliefs and on the verge of civil war, the usual Federation diplomatic fun and games add spice but a more satisfying story then the Marcus one.
Faces of Fire is certainly worth a read if you want more of the Marcus backstory but that apart a solid story of original series Star Trek with some good intrigue.

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Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Rift by Peter David

The RiftThe Rift by Peter David
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The USS Enterprise under the command of Christopher Pike discovers a tear in the fabric of space, a signal is sent though and they are surprised when they get a reply and an invitation to enter the rift and pay these people a visit. They find a highly developed culture on a single world who admit they are a little xenophobic but are willing to open their world to the Enterprise crew for the duration the rift allows passage. Years later when the rift reopens the USS Enterprise under Captain Kirk awaits complete with ambassadors and other vested interests ready to once again visit this enigmatic world on the other side of the rift.

Another interesting tale of Star Trek which deals with Captain Pike and his very different command style to that of Kirk. Of course the 33 year gap between the closing and opening of the rift allows two story arcs to play out but also it's not to long for certain crewman to have been on the Enterprise then and now, one of them was Spock as you no doubt would guess:)
I enjoyed the story and the concept of the Calligar, I would have love to see their world rendered in HD on any of the TV shows or movies but perhaps my own imagination will serve. I wasn't quite sold on the relationship which underpinned most of the plot but I was willing to go with it and I didn't quite buy the fact Federation member worlds ships would engage Starfleet no matter what the reason.
Still a worthy addition to the original series lineup with the welcome addition of Pike and his crew.

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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

I was surprised to see there was an Australian Blu-ray boxset of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, naturally I purchased it.


Legacy by Michael Jan Friedman

LegacyLegacy by Michael Jan Friedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Landing parties beam down to Alpha Octavius Four for a brief survey, Spock is attacked by a huge subterranean dwelling tentacled creature and is fortunate to be rescued before being eaten and is beamed back to the ship. Kirk then finds himself in an earthquake and as the world around him collapses the Enterprise receives a priority order to rush to a colony in the Beta Cabrini system which under attack. Scotty is forced to leave his missing Captain and landing party behind and deal with the threat of Merkaan pirates.
Spock is suffering from a toxin delivered by the creature that attacked him and McCoy is unable to find a cure so Spock imposes his own control on his metabolism to allow him to function. Spock is indeed the best man to deal with the Merkaan threat as years earlier serving under Christopher Pike he was a principal player in their defeat when first encountered.
Legacy chooses to split the main characters between two storylines, this makes sense to allow Spock to take center stage in dealing with a threat he is familiar with and for the "flashback" elements of his time with Pike not to feel out of place along with current Pike and Vina on Talos IV. It is a tricky juggling act and that's where Kirk's narrative fighting for survival along with three of his crew counterpoints the main story very well.
An enjoyable Star Trek novel made more so for the inclusion of a Pike both then and now and the focus on Spock without ignoring the regular characters as well as a villain with some substance and a mystery for Kirk to solve.

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Stargate Communication Stones

The communication stones, first introduced in SG1 and allowed Daniel and Vala to visit the ORI homeworld with all the complications that brought. They played a small part in Stargate Atlantis but really came to the forefront in Universe after the technology was reverse engineered to work with an SGC interface. Many fans still hold them in shall we say contempt as a symptom of why Universe never really caught on or a shortcut to incorporate fresh characters and ties to Earth when billions of light years away. Either way when SG1 Props manufactured some and offered them for sale I decided that I could certainly see them on my shelf, not cheap but they are mighty pretty even in the cheapish wooden box I bought for displaying them.

Renegade by Gene DeWeese

RenegadeRenegade by Gene DeWeese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chrellkan IV located in the same star system as it's colony world Vancadia have been a peace with each other for nearly a century and on track for Vancadia to be given its independence within a few years as agreed from first planet fall. It's surprising to the Federation and Starfleet that with around a decade to go civil war has broken out and accusations and counter accusations thrown between the two worlds as military and terrorist action takes place.
The Enterprise picks up representatives from Chrellkan IV who present evidence of the terrorist actions but Kirk refuses to act until he listens to the people of Vancadia. The Enterprise is welcomed into orbit, Spock and McCoy beam down and almost immediately a very high tech shield appears cutting the ship off from it's landing party.
The crew continue to look for ways to counter the obviously more advanced technology present and dealing with the demands of the Chrellkan premier and the escalation of military action in system.
Renegade on the surface is a standard Federation in the middle of a civil war fought between planets story, not an unusual premise but Gene throws in some added ingredients via interference with the cultures from an outside source as well as an epic plot to not only defeat Kirk but bring Starfleet to it's knees. We get some great Spock and McCoy moments and that kinda offsets how mildly annoying it was to see how long it took Kirk, Scotty and other crew to understand what was happening.
Overall a solid Star Trek novel with some good call backs and twists and turns.

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A Flag Full of Stars by Brad Ferguson

A Flag Full of Stars (Star Trek: The Lost Years, #2)A Flag Full of Stars by Brad Ferguson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Admiral James Kirk seems to be happy in his new role, he has just over seen the initial refitting of the Enterprise and the world watches as the saucer is flown into orbit for attaching to the engineering section. However all is not well, his marriage to Admiral Lori Ciana is crumbling and he is still estranged from his friends from his time on the Enterprise.
As the world looks to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings which will include an epic flyby of vintage spacecraft including a retrofitted Space Shuttle Enterprise a Federation naturalised Klingon scientist named G'dath makes a breakthrough in energy generation. Thus the players are in place for a action based and politically charged clash of intelligence and Starfleet services as the fruits of G'dath's creation are up for grabs.
A Flag Full of Stars continues the storyline brought to us in the novel Lost Years and expands upon Kirk's time in the admiralty before the arrival of V'ger. We see that his time wasn't wasted and he is responsible for some major changes in procedures within the fleet thanks to the benefit of his experience and insight. We also see that the wanderlust is still within him and that as much as anything leads to his failed marriage. The addition of G'dath a Klingon who finds a home on Earth thanks to the Organian intervention was eye opening as is the more real world Federation Brad writes about. I have to be honest and say it may not offer the most "Trek" like conclusion to the paths some of the characters tread in the narrative but it makes sense in terms of how they have been presented to us so you'll come away satisfied if not too happy.
Oh and credit to Brad for making me question my own opinion of the presence of families onboard the Enterprise D :)

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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Ghost-Walker by Barbara Hambly

Ghost-WalkerGhost-Walker by Barbara Hambly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The planet Elcidar Beta III is the center of a non-violent conflict as the Klingons and Federation look to ratify its inhabitants (Midgwins) as sentient or not, the results will determine if the planet can be exploited freely. The locals are non industrial and even eskew agriculture in favour of hunter/gathering thanks to a belief the world provides and it is sacrilege to attempt to force the land to provide more. However starvation and the associated fall out are beginning to have an impact and the leaders of the "warrens" are contemplating accepting help but traditionalist are in opposition.
Yarblis Geshkerroth the leader of the opposition and who has been responsible for killing a number of Klingons after they were culling and eating his people approaches Kirk and demands to telepathically read him, Kirk agrees and Yarblis goes away apparently satisfied of his intentions.
However when the crew beam back up it's not just Kirk who is materialised on the transporter pad and the ship and crew are unaware that their captain is no longer serving the interests of Starfleet and the Federation.
Ghost Walker offered up an interesting premise in how native populations which are not technological are treated by more advanced races and it's a reasonable narrative used to describe the intentions of the Empire and Federation. It's always interesting when an author chooses to give Kirk a serious love interest but it got quite dark when as always the relationship has to be broken and gratifying that we didn't get any real bad guys in the novel, bad things were done certainly but understandable if maybe a little extreme.
A worthy original series novel with a fascinating alien race (and individuals) with some fun look at the inner workings of the Enterprise and her crew.

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Home Is the Hunter by Dana Kramer-Rolls

Home Is the HunterHome Is the Hunter by Dana Kramer-Rolls
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Klingon Empire and UFP come into open conflict upon a planet controlled by a being called Weyland who has been missing for a while. Upon his return he is quite adamant over the disruption of his people and has no interest in the "games" of the two galactic powers. Unfortunately during a brief skirmish a young boy and a member of the Enterprise crew are killed and the two ships experience the full power of Weyland through his ability to manipulate matter and energy.
The two starships lose system functions including station keeping which means they will burn up in the atmosphere, transporters and weapons are out and also Scotty, Sulu and Chekov have vanished.
Sulu finds himself in feudal Japan, Scotty in the Scottish highlands during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Chekov in Stalingrad during the second world war. The three man have to survive and handle the pressure of potential tampering with the timeline.
Home is the Hunter was an interesting read, the addition of the time travel adventures really pushed the novel beyond the basic Trek good versus bad guys and even that with was enhanced with this being of unimaginable power and purpose.
A good Star Trek novel, something a little different and worth a read.

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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Enemy Unseen by V.E. Mitchell

Enemy Unseen (Star Trek #51)Enemy Unseen by V.E. Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A routine assignment to ferry diplomats and to prepare the field for discussions between two worlds over the disposition of a third seems to be an opportunity for the crew to take it easy but things rarely turn out well especially when the senior diplomat is married to a woman who Kirk had a relationship with in the past and was manipulative and dangerous maybe if proof could have been found at the time treasonous. Spock has taken a busmans holiday and two new crew members are onboard for the journey and it's all the new faces which complicate matters when the negotiations falter and a spy/assassin has come onboard.
Enemy Unseen worked well as a story of Kirk and the Enterprise in their second five year mission, the lack of Spock was an interesting choice but did allow the introduction of an old friend of Kirk who was shortly to move onto a new ship and a Deltan science officer who I would certainly liked to have read more of. The Deltan element of the story was fascinating, we've never gotten a huge amount of information about the race barring the minor TMP element and one of two novels but I did like the chemistry between the half Deltan officer, her mother and the science officer which fueled part of the narrative. The complex social aspect of the alien race did show some of the complexities of understanding another's worldview and the spy's ability was unexpected but very effective as was the Deltan fly in the ointment which added suspense and drama to the story.
Overall an entertaining ship bound mission of the Enterprise, some good additional characters and a solid story.

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Prime Directive by Judith Reeves-Stevens and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Prime Directive (Star Trek: Worlds in Collision, #2)Prime Directive by Judith Reeves-Stevens and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prime Directive takes the reader on an interesting journey right from the start as we read about the failures of the Starfleet Constitution Starships and their five year missions including the loss of the Enterprise at Talin IV.
Since this novel is not an alternate reality or mirror universe then you are kinda derailed straight away but as you read the book and learn of the catastrophe then took place in orbit over Ralin IV and the subsequent crippling of the Enterprise it all falls into place. Prime Directive follows the consequences of what would be Captain Kirk's biggest failure and the ramifications throughout the Federation and Starfleet. The crew of the ship are blown to the four corners, some resign, some are charged and some stay within the fleet but at much lower rank. Of course Kirk having accepted fault and resigning is working his way back to Talin IV (now a restricted system) and during his journey reveals the details of the events to his latest employer. It is at this time we get to know exactly what was going on and the fact that this final mission of the Enterprise was far from a simple one as it interacted with the activities of the First Contact Office who prepare the Federation for first contact with a developing species on the verge of discovering they are not alone.
Prime Directive is many ways is more than an entertaining science fiction story it is an analysis of the politics and ethics of the Prime Directive which has featured to such a degree throughout Star Trek on tv and the movies. It's often been seen to be selectively implemented and worked around when required and the plot of this novel asks the question of why the Federation relies so much on what is explained to be a very complex and fluid calculation far beyond the basic explanation we have been given on the big and small screen.
I'll be honest and say I wasn't too keen on how this novel started but the hurdles and difficulties the crew of the Enterprise had to cope with really made the novel pay off bigtime. I don't believe that the mystery of Talin IV without the fallout amongst Starfleet would have paid off or have been as satisfying. I also have to say that the final few paragraphs of the story proper (not epilogue) had me surreptitiously wiping my eyes as the tears begin to flow, it was a very moving and heartwarming emotion triggered by the events occurring on the planet and the underlying belief that what Star Trek can provide is a template for what humanity should be striving for here on Earth and that if given the opportunity our children will lead our race to the stars and beyond.

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Doctor's Orders by Diane Duane

Doctor's OrdersDoctor's Orders by Diane Duane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doctor's Orders is one of my all time favourite original series novels. The story works upon the premise that after a while everyone fancies a change in circumstance and in specific terms we have Kirk who is dealing with the demands of bureaucracy and Bones looking to get his hands "dirty" and less impressed by his Captain bemoaning his current situation.
We know in later series that the Captain in particular is reliant on his subordinates to have the "adventures" while he oversees and correlates data and then makes the important decisions so here is Kirk stuck in the center chair will the bulk of his science and technical departments exploring the planet nicknamed "Flyspeck" and the three sentient species discovered there.
Eventually Kirk has the opportunity to beam down and he leaves Bones in command of the ship (perfectly within the scope of his responsibilities) and while on the planet he meets a member of the ;At species and they discuss life and all things associated with the care of others and the demands of responsibility. Then Kirk vanishes from the ship's sensors, the locals insist he is still there but a Klingon battlecruiser turns up and they beam down a survey party who are on a very specific mission, after a brief shouting match between and McCoy and Commander Kaiev a sort of truce is declared but then the Klingon party vanish...
I'm going to keep it pretty spoiler free from now just say that we get some excellent character interaction on board the ship and with the Klingons and some great world building on Flyspeck. The indigenous races that inhabit the planet are varied but make perfect sense in context and gratifying to see how the Federation's Starfleet can handle itself when science and diplomacy are called for. We get to see the more relaxed and easy going Kirk when he is with the ;At and their capabilities were interesting to say the least. Bones in command of the Enterprise and dealing with the Klingons was inspired and again showed how closely knit the crew are. Of course we get a decent amount of space action as you would expect but not directly against the Klingons which adds a nice twist to the story and shines a light on what could be going on beyond the Federation's borders and direct influence.
Overall Doctor's Orders is a excellently written and fun Star Trek novel combining science, diplomacy, action and a lot of humour and making the most of the regular crew with some highly appropriate new characters/species. It really is a must read for any fans of the original series characters.

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes

The Pandora PrincipleThe Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saavik, an enigma to many that know her and in this novel by Carolyn Clowes we see a very legitimate backstory to how she came to exist and her ties to Spock. As Star Trek fans we first met Saavik on The Wrath of Khan and she's obviously not quite Vulcan and the novel confirms that she is a Vulcan/Romulan fusion created from a sickening plot by a Romulan faction on the failed colony of Hellguard. We learn how as a child she first met Spock and how he took responsibility for her and brought her through the trauma of who and what she is and then through her early years at Starfleet academy. The secondary plot involves an attack on Earth which sidelines Kirk leaving the Enterprise commanded by Spock having to deal with immediate consequences as Starfleet goes to a war footing.
The Pandora Principle is a very good Star Trek novel, we get an awful lot of background on Saavik and Spock and their relationship which rests at the heart of the novel. There is also a nice mix of new characters included the strange alien "obo" whose existence reminds me a lot of a character from the JJ movies. Recommended for anyone interested in learning of a possible explanation of Saavik or simply into all things Spock.

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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Rules of Engagement by Peter Morwood

Rules of EngagementRules of Engagement by Peter Morwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rules of Engagement is a Klingon centric novel set well within the worldview I believe created by John M. Ford or at least that's where I first came across this variant of the Klingon culture.
Kasak sutai-Khornezh has had the "honour" of taking out the first ship of any new class and when the ground breaking vessel IKS Hakkarl is set for her first flight he seizes the opportunity to do a little privateering with a goal to claim a Federation world for the Empire and as it turns out take epic revenge upon Captain Kirk for a certain incident with Tribbles years previously.
The Enterprise is assigned to oversee the removal of Federation personnel from the planet Dekkanar after a change of administration has made it anti-Federation, strict policies prevent the three Starfleet vessels and crews from making for use of the capabilities leaving them open to aggression, not the ideal time for a Klingon Battle Cruiser to turn up regardless of motivations and of course with the Organians always looking over everyone shoulder.
This is a very entertaining novel set in the time after Kirk had regained the Enterprise after his stint at the Admiralty, it also adds the deeper story element of how the Federation/Starfleet has to deal with worlds who turn their back on membership along with the balancing act of an enforced peace with the Klingons. The Klingon characters are well written and time and time again we see a good solid antagonists can make all the difference to a movie/tv show and even a novel. In Kasak sutai-Khornezh we have a fellow commander who is intelligent and cunning and makes the most of his advantages to manipulate the situation and that makes our "heroes" all the better for it.

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Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Kobayashi Maru by Julia Ecklar

The Kobayashi MaruThe Kobayashi Maru by Julia Ecklar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Kobayashi Maru is getting a five star rating not because it's a dramatic well written novel that graces not only the scifi genre but any genre, it's getting the rating because I just love reading the novel. The basic story is pretty straight forward, a serious accident on a shuttle leaves it helpless inside a rubble strewn solar system and the Enterprise has no practical way to determine it's location. On board are Scotty, McCoy, Chekov, Kirk and Sulu with the latter two being injured and seriously in Sulu's case. As the men deal with what seems to be a helpless situation the similarity to the Kobayashi Maru simulation is mentioned, McCoy is confused and asks for clarification and the no-win scenario from command school is explained to him.
We then get a recounting of the simulation from those who took part, yes we learn how Kirk beat the scenario by creative means (some would say illegal). Chekov had to deal with his serious approach to the test and the consequences within his peer group. Sulu who during a bad time and facing demerits was forced to examine himself and his reasons for being in Starfleet and finally Scotty who loved engineering but was being groomed for command.
All these stories offer fascinating insights into each of the crew and of course McCoy the observer is taking our part, he is not surprised how Kirk handled such a test and learns a lot about those he shares a ship with.
Yes I also prefer this explanation or at least the specifics of how Kirk triumphed to that offered in the 2009 movie :)

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by J.M. Dillard

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by J.M. Dillard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok then the movie is generally regarded as one of the failures of the Star Trek franchise but I don't hate it and there are some truly wonderful character moments in the story. This novelisation as you would expect gives us everything that is good about STV but adds so much more garnish to the story that you come away wondering what the studio were doing when setting the budget which limited to what they could do on screen.
The background to Sybok as a child and how the events with his mother shaped him gave us so much more to work with and in turn added greatly to the Spock narrative later in the story. The extended storylines for the Klingons and the Ambassadors also contributed greatly to the enjoyment of the story. Novelisations at their best add to the movie and no doubt at all what we get from Jeanne should make even a STV hater sit up and take notice of perhaps what should have been even without the rock monsters.
A highly recommended novel in it's own right and an excellent example of a novelisation.

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The Lost Years by J.M. Dillard

The Lost Years (Star Trek: The Lost Years, #1)The Lost Years by J.M. Dillard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So what did happen in the year or so after the Enterprise returned after her first five year mission, much has been speculated in fan fiction but in The Lost Years we get as close to cannon as you can in novel form. Kirk is adamant he will not accept a promotion to the Admiralty and most of the core crew expect to serve with him once again. It comes as a surprise when Kirk is convinced to hold flag rank and Spock and McCoy do not take it well as revealed in the novel.
The core narrative focuses initial on the comings and goings of the crew and then concentrates on the three main characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy who have gone their separate ways but events conspire to bring them back together albeit not in a joyful way. We know from the The Motion Picture that the three are estranged when the Enterprise refit is nearly complete and the novel certainly fills in all the gaps to explain that disturbing situation.
I'm not going to go into specifics but all three main character arcs worked very well and the encompassing narrative centered on Vulcan was perfect, no other world really would have been able to set in motion the events that would drive our classic trifecta.
The Lost Years gave us some interesting twists, humour and tragedy while staying true to the characters we know and love and still delivered on the promise of the era when the crew were deprived of the all encompassing safety that was their home away from home, Enterprise.

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Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Cry of the Onlies by Judy Klass

The Cry of the OnliesThe Cry of the Onlies by Judy Klass
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Cry of the Onlies incorporates elements from the original series episodes "Miri" and "Requiem for Methuselah" and considering how I have said in the past I like novels which expand upon the series I wonder why this one didn't quite shine as bright in my eyes.
The core story is a rather bleak look at a failing of the Federation in their support of a corrupt and despotic regime on the planet Broaco VI driven by the galaxies need for a medicinal raw material harvested from this world's forests. The Romulans and Klingons are sniffing around as well after the regime was toppled during a coup and the new ruling council have little interest in dealing with the "corrupt" Federation. The Enterprise is sent to open negotiations with the council and try to prevent the influence of a Klingon/Romulan pact as well as avert an intersystem war with Broaco VIII a world still supported by the Federation. To complicate matters a Starfleet craft equipped with a new cloaking device designed by Flint was stolen by some of the "youngsters" from Miri's world and has gone on a rampage destroying ships whenever it comes across them. Kirk is forced to contend with the scepticism of the Broaco VI council, the renegade ship, placating the ruling body of Broaco VIII and the notion that there is something about Flint he does not like but can understand why...
In many ways the story reflects circumstances of our world where maybe well meaning or indifferent organisations have supported governments with aid without looking too closely what they do with it as long as resources continue to flow back to the "enlightened" world. This part of the story is pure Star Trek and works well but unfortunately gets tied up a little too quickly and is diluted by the "Flint" and "Onlies" plot lines. It's by no means a weak Star Trek novel but I wonder if Judy had concentrated totally on Broaco VI and the darker side of vested interests I would have enjoyed the novel more but than again the market for Trek novels was different back then compared to now.

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Double, Double by Michael Jan Friedman

Double, DoubleDouble, Double by Michael Jan Friedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Double, Double was Michael Jan Friedman's first Star Trek novel and a sequel to the original series episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". I have to admit a fondness for novels that continue established stories and this one does cover all the bases for extending the story of the ancient machine and the goal of Dr Korby to replace well everyone with their android duplicates.
It seems that Captain Kirk in his desire to protect Chapel glossed over the events on Exo III and also failed to do a full investigation, this mistake comes back to haunt him when a copy of Dr Brown returns to the facility and discovers his creator is dead. The android decides to continue the work and the template for Kirk is still in the machine, the android Kirk is fully loaded especially in terms of ego and ventures forth with his takeover of a starship, the removal of Kirk and then to control the galaxy.
There has been a running joke in the Trek podcast community that a dedicated Starship follows the Enterprise around to clean up the mess and handle all the specifics of Kirk's plans for the betterment of everyone. So here we have the USS Hood with an incomplete report innocently arriving at Exo III and paying the price and it all makes sense, it may stretch credibility that Kirk whitewashed his report but hey not the first time or the last and let's face it the reports on Talos were to put it mildly pure misdirection by Starfleet Command.
I enjoyed the novel, it was well paced and lots of detail and drama given as a lot of the novel takes place off the Enterprise and the character dynamic worked well both between the "real" people and the androids and in all combinations thereof.

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Sunday, 11 September 2016

Vulcan's Glory by D.C. Fontana

Vulcan's GloryVulcan's Glory by D.C. Fontana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Vulcan's Glory D.C. Fontana takes us back to the time when Spock first joined the crew of the USS Enterprise under the command of Christopher Pike. This era has not been a focus of the franchise well maybe the Kelvan Universe of the recent movies but this is written within the original framework of the series. Spock is very much a more relaxed individual (as seen in The Cage) and is quickly accepted by the crew of the Starship and more importantly by Pike and Number 1 however it's not all plain sailing for his first cruise when he is tasked to investigate a possible location for a prized gem long since lost to Vulcan after the ship carrying it was vanished with all hands.
Vulcan's Glory expands upon what we know of Spock's homelife in terms of his relationship with Sarak and Amanda and more importantly with T'Pring, we also learn how widespread Vulcan participation within Starfleet was (not really seen on the show apart from The Intrepid) and it was gratifying to see a younger less "damaged" Spock embrace the possibilities that the Enterprise was offering. Of course events transpire to push Spock towards the more controlled Vulcan we came to know him to be under Jim Kirk and while we can mourn the loss of his "youthful innocence" we are without doubt presented with Spock as he really was by an author who has more right and insight into the character than anyone else. Vulcan's Glory is a must read for any fan of Spock or someone looking for a story then isn't set with the Kirk era but retains much of what we are comfortable with, well worth the time trust me.

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Harley Quinn

I picked up the Harley Quinn Vinyl Vixen to stand with the Wonder Woman and Catwoman figures I already own, they are not too expensive and are pretty impressive.

The Final Nexus by Gene DeWeese

The Final NexusThe Final Nexus by Gene DeWeese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Final Nexus is the sequel to the novel Chain Of Attack and the mysterious "gate" system the Enterprise investigated in the original novel has revealed itself once again. The USS Cochise has run into one and unlike before members of the crew are gripped with an almost uncontrollable paranoia and terror. A call to Starfleet results in the Enterprise warping to the Cochise only to find it's Captain ready to fight anything and anyone, when the immediate situation is resolved further gates begin to appear across the galaxy and in many cases anyone who comes close is gripped by paranoia and soon death and destruction begins to spread.
In this novel Gene expands upon the gate system adding a lot more detail which was missing from the original novel which concentrated on the effects of the gates on the immediate area. The Final Nexus has the gate system at the heart of the story, it's creation and manipulation be a race so long ago and the consequences of such a universe spanning construct when control waived. Ultimately this is a story about individual integrity and commitment framed by a threat which the crew could wipe out life everywhere. Commander Ansfield was a good character having joined Starfleet when she was much older than the "average" cadet although it did bother me she rarely address Captain Kirk as Captain and Kremastor showed us an alien who shared the core beliefs of what makes the core characters of Trek so appealing.
The Final Nexus is a good accompaniment to Chain of Attack and wraps the central theme of the two stories up with a satisfying bow, maybe too neat a bow but the tv series was also guilty of that:)

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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Memory Prime by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Memory PrimeMemory Prime by Judith Reeves-Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Memory Prime is a novel that draws upon the events from the original series episode "The Lights of Zetar" where Lieutenant Mira Romaine is taken over by an alien life form after Memory Alpha is wiped clean and it's personnel killed. The budding romance between her and Scotty is also built upon in the novel and these elements are the cornerstones of Memory Prime.
In this novel the Federation has created a number of "memory planets" which provide redundancy while also specialising in certain areas but the entire network is still dependent upon a central nexus which is Memory Prime which is also the home for sentient AI's who have legal status in the Federation. As the Enterprise ferries nominees and attendees of the Nobel and Z-Magnees prize ceremonies to Memory Prime a threat is uncovered and while the details are vague the very existence and viability of the Federation is at stake. Sabotage aboard the Enterprise throws suspicion on Spock and Starfleet puts more military personnel into positions of power curtailing the normal operations of Memory Prime. The state of affairs become more confusing when subspace jamming prevents communication between the starbase and the Starfleet command and Kirk and his crew equally suspect after certain events occur are forced to solve the mystery themselves despite it putting them all on the wrong side of regulations...
Memory Prime is a very entertaining novel full of interesting characters and events for them to handle, the introduction of the sentient AI's was excellent, I really liked the idea that over the course of the Federation (and even before) a few computer systems had become self aware and eventually were recognised as sentient beings in their own right. The "people" who then became part of the interface team also added an interesting aspect to the story and by extension the conflict inherent when groups and individuals make decisions based on what's good for them rather than the whole. Memory Prime is an excellent story set within the original series environment but adds a level of complexity and depth the tv show could not often provide and I can recommend to any fan of Kirk and crew.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

STARGATE SG-1: Hall of the Two Truths by Susannah Parker Sinard

STARGATE SG-1: Hall of the Two Truths (SG1-29)STARGATE SG-1: Hall of the Two Truths by Susannah Parker Sinard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of the Stargate tv franchise but only dipped into the novels recently, I've read more of Atlantis than SG1 so it was time I jumped into the significant library of titles released since the shows went of the air.
In this case I picked up Hall Of The Two Truths by first time Stargate author Susannah Parker Sinard and with the usual trepidation always present when reading another's viewpoint of favoured characters shared the journey of SG1 as described in the novel. The story is set during the fifth season of SG1 so the Goa'uld are still in a free for all after the demise of Apophis and the team are still in turmoil over "their" failure to save the inhabitants of K'tau (Red Sky). This allows the author to mix things up a little and read more into the chemistry of the team than was always the case on the television show. So let's dip into the story a little but without any significant spoilers, after being approached by the Tok'ra the team are investigating ruins on a previously unknown world. Jack thinks it's all a waste of time but allows Daniel and Sam to keep investigating and they do indeed find some alien technology which seems to only activate when Jack touches is (yes the reader is well ahead of the team at this point). Soon after their location is attacked and the team plus the Tok'ra representative are captured and soon after they awake in a sealed cavern only accessible by rings. They are then joined by two women named NebtHet a'Eshe and Aset a'Teneb who welcome them to "Duat" and after describing personal details of each member of SG1 proceed to zat them twice and so far away from home SG1 die.
Ok there you go, go buy the novel and get reading because this is just the beginning of an adventure that's pretty much not like any other as the mythology of the ancient Egyptians gods and walking through the underworld facing tasks and obstacles for the soul to overcome before being judged are revealed to us through the eyes of our favoured explorers.
Hall Of The Two Truths was an enjoyable read, the concept was very interesting and the story complex enough to really hold my attention with the characters (regular and recurring from the show) all written well and believable in context. I quite liked the scenes with General Hammond dealing with the Tok'ra especially Anise but it was the exploration of the psyche and character of SG1 where the novel really hits its mark.

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Spock's World by Diane Duane

Spock's WorldSpock's World by Diane Duane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spock's World is easily one of my top five Star Trek novels, I own a rather battered hardback copy of the novel and read it more than I probably should. In this novel we get the main storyline which deals with the Vulcan population considering pulling out of the Federation, a global debate is imminent and people from all walks are invited to debate the proposition in front of the Vulcan people. As you would expect all our favourite characters get their time under the spotlight and we get many secondary characters playing major roles as the story unfolds. In addition to this main story we get a number of secondary elements dealing with aspects of Vulcan from the birth of their star system, their evolution into sentience, Surak, Sarek and many other aspects which add so much more to the Vulcan that we knew so little about from the tv series.
Personally I simply love reading about the birth of the first Vulcan language and the experience of wonder as the world is opened to a single vulcan who looks beyond what he can see and is determined to face the unknown. The "Forge" a huge desert where life is forever lived on the edge provides the backdrop to a chilling story of passion and anger and underlines how known Vulcan physical traits played their part in the history of it's people. The story of the political/economic and eugenic aspects of the vulcan society seen through the interaction of two of the main "houses" on the verge of a major space exploitation project is beautiful and sorrowful to read but reveals so much of what Vulcan was before Surak. As for Surak his story is wondrous and inspiring and his revelation after seeing an antimatter weapon used on Vulcan's sister planet shows how near the edge these people were before Surak brought sanity to his people. Finally Sarek a master of computer tech posted to the Vulcan embassy on Earth and his rise as an attache finally as ambassador and his meeting to one Amanda Grayson. There is a lot more in the novel, some of which has been expanded upon in other works by Diane but overall the structure of this book is perfection giving you a great core story with to coin a phrase "fascinating" looks into Vulcan society. Spock's World is a must read for any original series Star Trek fan.

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Scott and Ramona

I picked up a couple of pop vinyls, well they were pre-ordered a while back and arrived this week. I'm always amazed how Funko can take some basic elements and create figures which capture the core look/feel of characters from television and the movies.

Scott Pilgrim & Ramona Flowers

Three Minute Universe by Barbara Paul

Three Minute UniverseThree Minute Universe by Barbara Paul
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A threat to the entire universe reveals itself and the Enterprise is sent to investigate, they determine a huge energy source is expanding into our reality and already the Zirgosian system has been wiped out but perhaps for once they are hoping it was engineered because it was then there may be a way to stop it. Enterprise visits the only colony world of the Zirgosian people and finds a strange and powerful starship in orbit, could these be the people responsible for the energy wave or are they too victims...
The Three Minute Universe offers up a pretty epic concept, the death of our universe as it's suborned by another but the introduction of the "Sacker" species and everything they bring to life in the Milky Way is the high point of the novel. The interaction between them and select crew of Enterprise also adds a lot to the overall positive feel of the novel and certainly fits into the ethos of what Star Trek was always meant to be about. That said I don't think the main plot really served to underpin the character based elements that were spun off but I did like the references to non-canon characters from other novels so worth a read if you get the chance.

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Saturday, 13 August 2016

Star Trek Music

A few goodies arrived from Amazon in the form of the soundtrack to Star Trek Beyond and a tin box of Trek albums.

Time for Yesterday by A.C. Crispin

Time for Yesterday (Star Trek: The Yesterday Saga, #2)Time for Yesterday by A.C. Crispin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book, easily a five star novel and improves on every aspect of Ann's first tale about Zar.
Throughout the galaxy stars are dying long before their time, the cause is traced back to Gateway the world where the Guardian of Forever exists. Thanks to their success with dealing with this time portal the crew of the Enterprise are sent to find out why time waves emanating from this world are tearing the fabric of space apart. On the long dead world they discover the portal is unresponsive but telepathic contact is made and basic operating functions are restored which allows Kirk, Spock and McCoy to venture back into Sarpeidon's past and to find Spock's son Zar who they believe will have the mental shielding and power to contact the guardian safely having done so previously.
Time For Yesterday is the direct sequel to Yesterday's Son and we get a far more complex and entertaining story with Zar no longer the unsure young man but a leader of his people. We get the best of original series character interaction combined within a medieval background scenario in terms of technology, politics and combat. The description of Sarpeidon 5000 years ago is painstakingly beautiful, it was so very easy to picture the city state of New Araen and all the associated elements of the period thanks to it mirroring our own. We also get some wonderful dialogue between the classic trifecta but also between Spock and Zar who are no longer estranged and there is also a wide and encompassing support group of characters. Ann provides some great action, humour and drama which makes the most of the possibility of time travel to allow some out of the box plot points to work and are both satisfying and entertaining.
I can not recommend this novel highly enough.

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Timetrap by David Dvorkin

TimetrapTimetrap by David Dvorkin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A distress call from the vicinity of Tholian space has the Enterprise warping to the rescue, they find a Klingon cruiser caught in a spatial storm which is ripping the ship apart and they refuse the offer of assistance from the Starfleet vessel. Kirk and a security party beam over equipped with some state of the art transponders but once on the bridge of the Klingon warship the storm intensifies and when Kirk awakes his is in the future in a galaxy where the Federation and Klingon Empire are at peace...
Timetrap is certainly an interesting read and well a century or so after TOS and the Organian prophecy as we've seen in TNG the two galactic powers are indeed co-operating on many fronts so is Kirk experiencing the future or is there more going on than meets the eye? I really enjoyed Spock more than anyone else in this novel, the pressure on his mental well being caused by the decision to abandon Kirk and the need to argue his decisions with Starfleet as well as the negative view of the crew for his choice to leave the area all come together to give us a view of Spock we rarely see. McCoy is written well as you would expect as so often being critical to how we view Spock, strangely enough Kirk as a character is less interesting despite his adventures away from his command.

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Sunday, 7 August 2016

The IDIC Epidemic by Jean Lorrah

The IDIC EpidemicThe IDIC Epidemic by Jean Lorrah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nisus is a science colony grown well beyond its academic roots being a home to a viable multi species community from within the Federation sphere and some from beyond. The most notable is the Klingon scientist Korsal who is the former husband of a Starfleet officer who together had two sons. However a disease breaks out and mutates striking species from across the range of blood types, few seem to be immune and exposure to one strain is no guarantee of immunity to a previous one. However Korsal and his sons do not contract the disease which gives the medical staff of Nisus and the Enterprise something to work from but even more surprises are in store for the world's population as the disease continues to spread and gets aboard the starship while an Orion seeks to sell the virus as a bio-weapon.
The IDIC Epidemic is a direct sequel to The Vulcan Academy Murders so we once again get to enjoy the characters that Jean introduced in the first novel but with the addition of a new people via Nisus the community she created for this novel. There was some nice scenes in this story and I liked all the characters but the novel is a little light weight, you don't really get a sense of dread and perhaps the story needed to be written a lot more ominous and darker to really make the most of the plot. That said T'Pina and Beau were a great double act and overall I really do like the way Jean writes Vulcans and if you want some pleasant Trek with a little bite then this is ideal.

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Final Frontier by Diane Carey

Final Frontier (Star Trek)Final Frontier by Diane Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Final Frontier was one of the "giant" Star Trek novels of the time and for me it went alongside Diane Duane's work in shaping my view of Starfleet and the Kirk family, I believe the term is head canon and for the most part superior to anything seen on tv or the moves:)
The novel tells the story of the very first mission of the very first Constitution class Starship, a new cutting edge design making use of the latest computer tech often spoken of within the tv series which would have been set a few years after these events. Captain Robert April who oversaw the building of the ship shanghai's George Kirk and his fellow security officer Francis Drake Reed to fill spots on the ship as it attempts a high priority but clandestine rescue mission. Captain April is worried that the ship and it's power will be seen as being overly aggressive by both the Federation members and the many enemies looking in, an epic rescue mission as an introduction for the ship will ease her into the spotlight. Almost immediately there are issues with the ship's tech but the skeleton crew pull together and warp towards the huge ion storm which has trapped a colony ship which is adrift without power, the families on board doomed to die with the media spotlight listening to every transmission. The ship ventures into the storm using it's vastly improved navigation and shield systems but the gravity system malfunctions and incapacitates the crew, they awake much later adrift in an unknown part of the galaxy and not far away an alien starship is looking on prepared to defend her space from the "invaders".
Yeah I love this novel, this is how I picture George Kirk even though JJ did the character proud in his first big screen adventure but I still like this idea better. The introduction of the Enterprise also suits my own view that the Constitution design was a quantum leap in starship design not just a small advance on a design which seems to be everywhere in the canon franchise. Once again I love how the aliens are described both the overall culture and the individual character traits and no question the combat sequences are very well written. There is plenty of humour as well and I do get a little tingle when Pike is describing the sort of Captain who will eventually take this ship and venture into the void, a combination of the courage and tenacity of George Kirk and the intellect and compassion of Pike. The novel is so far from canon yet for me it is Star Trek or at least what came before the Star Trek we got to know, highly recommended.

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Bloodthirst by J.M. Dillard

BloodthirstBloodthirst by J.M. Dillard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A distress call from an uninhabited world is received by the Enterprise, on arrival they discover a secret bio lab with Starfleet level security and equipment, of the three people only one survives and he claims the other two were a murder/suicide. Investigation indicates that the lab could have been involved in bio-warfare research which is illegal within the Federation but then the Enterprise is ordered to abandon the investigation and ordered to deliver the survivor to Starfleet, an unusual request. Kirk slowly realises that there is a lot more to the lab on Tanis than he is being allowed to know and a conspiracy could exist at the highest level of Starfleet but who can he trust..
Right there you go, for the in and outs of the story and the mystery you are going to have to read the novel which is an interesting spin on the "horror" theme within a franchise not really known for such a thing. As in many cases the story makes good use of characters first seen in other novels which for me really is a good thing and the author provides depth and complexity to their interactions, you never feel short changed as people weave in and out of the plot.
Well worth a read and if want something a little different then this would be it.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford

How Much for Just the Planet? (Star Trek: Worlds Apart, #2)How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok where to start..
How Much for Just the Planet? is an out and out comedic novel which is quite rare for Star Trek publishing and maybe one of the reasons the reviews for the novel are pretty much all over the place, you'll love or hate it there is no middle ground. So that said hand on heart I love this novel, I laugh myself silly on so many occasions and I've read the book many many times.
The story itself takes place on and around the planet Direidi which is covered by the Organian Peace Treaty which basically prevents the Empire and Federation from direct military conflict so when a huge dilithium source is discovered on the planet intense diplomatic negotiations will be forthcoming. The planet had been colonised by what seems to be a mainly human population and they knew that when they were discovered they could not prevent anyone from exploiting the resources and thus "Plan C" was implemented, the Federation and Klingon representatives would never know what hit them....
As with most of my reviews I'm not going into any great detail, just take my word for it that the crews of the Enterprise, Klingon Cruiser Fire Blossom, Jefferson Randolph Smith and various diplomats have a very hectic and bizarre few days on what looks like a tranquil world and is anything but:)

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The novel also contains many characters that have been shaped on real individuals most notably Star Trek authors, see the wiki.

Popular opinion in the Federation concerning the Organian Treaty may be summarized as follows: 

  • 4% The deepest wisdom of the Galaxy 
  • 4% Treaty? What treaty? 
  • 11% Not a bad idea, glad I voted for it 
  • 81% Who do they think they are, anyway? 

Popular opinion in the Klingon Empire concerning the Treaty, while perhaps less important than in the more politically liberal Federation, may be summa- rized in similar fashion: 

  • 4% If the Emperor says it's okay, it's fine with me 
  • 4% This is a trick question, fight? 
  • 11%The Federation made the whole thing up 
  • 81% Who do they think they are, anyway?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Highlander 30th Anniversary

I finally pre-ordered the Highlander 30th Anniversary Blu-ray brought off the back of a 4k remastering a couple of weeks ago. It was priced rather high but when it hit £14.99 I was willing to double dip on the movie without feeling ripped off. Having watched the movie this weekend it did indeed look great but it was ridiculous that they didn't spend the money to digitally paint out the wire rigging on the final fight scene.
Sometime waiting for the release and review makes sense, probably wouldn't have bought this version given I only have need for a 1080p source and my existing steelbook blu provides that.

Star Trek Goodies

I got a quite a few pre-orders delivered this week, not sure when I will have the time to watch/read given my ongoing Trek paperback journey but I will no worries :)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Vonda N. McIntyre

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Star Trek TOS: Movie Novelizations, #4)Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Vonda N. McIntyre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spock has been taken back to Vulcan to have his Katra returned to where it belongs and Kirk and the crew are preparing to return to Earth in their captured Bird of Prey to face charges. During the return trip subspace is flooded with numerous signals and noise, do not return to Earth save yourselves. Of course Kirk is not going to sit back and watch the fireworks and when Spock identifies the mysterious signal being aimed at Earth from a huge construct in orbit Kirk grasps at the slim chance that time travel could provide a solution to saving the planet one more time. They slingshot around the sun and find themselves in San Fransico of 1996 and surprisingly they don't look totally out of place:) We then get a clean action/drama which fully exploits the comedic opportunities for the fish out of water as well as the ongoing dynamic between the crew with spice added thanks to Spock (and McCoy) slowly recovering themselves. The novel of course as with many novelisations builds upon the theatrical narrative added more detail to scenes and characters. We didn't really need to know so much about the refuse collector and the writing of his novel but it added so much to the basic premise. I also preferred the novel clearly stating that the inventor of transparent aluminium was the character who got access to the formula rather than Scotty being more vague when arguing for the transaction with McCoy.
The Voyage Home is in many ways the most popular Star Trek movie due to it's more encompassing nature, the movie brought people to the cinema who were never before that interested in Trek or scifi in general. That said for the same reason the movie does split the hardcore fanbase so the novelisation will probably do the same yet I think the added content moves the story more into scifi then environmental and maybe hits the target more often for those who prefer Trek to be made in a certain way.

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Strangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno

Strangers from the SkyStrangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine an Earth still recovering from the Third World War and Eugenic wars looking into the vastness of space and its first contact with an alien life form is through the eyes of the mass media itself peering through a lens obstructed by political and military cover ups. A blood on the walls scenario in every definition, this is the memory/dream which plagues Captain Kirk after reading a scholarly work from a human with access to information long held within Vulcan archives. Many consider it a work of fiction but when Spock returns from a training cruise of the Enterprise and shares many of the same dreams perhaps there is more to it than an interesting look into an alternate reality.
Strangers from the Sky is a very good Star Trek novel dealing with a more vulnerable Earth and humanity and using the crew of the Enterprise as seen in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" so the dynamic is shifted from the established "trio" which makes this story work. The whole premise deals with how humanity can learn and demonstrate the maturity and understanding required to be part of a galactic family and the principle that nobody can do it alone.
I did like many of the call backs to other novels and characters which is only going to pay off if you are reading novels from the same author or following the published licensed Trek books, if not then it doesn't harm the story which is a bonus. It was also interesting to see an Earth still hurting and dealing with the social, political and economic fall out before she raised herself to meet the challenge of being a major power in the galaxy. This of course is being told through the eyes of the human characters who deal hands on with the alien visitors and they too are certainly not of a single mind which gives the scifi story the personal touch that adds so much.
I've got to highly recommend this novel for anyone looking for a story offering a different first contact, in fact the book has two first contact situations neither of which line up with the TNG movie presentation so enjoy and wonder what the tv series and movies could have done.

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