Thursday, 30 November 2017

Ethersay - Sarah L King



Title: Ethersay
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository


Review:
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of "Ethersay" by Sarah L King prior to its release and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. The book uses a dual narrative, to explore two periods in the life of Rebecca, a young political activist from Glasgow. The first follows her recovery on the mysterious island of Ethersay after a car accident strands her there. Whilst there she realises that there is something being hidden from her by the islanders and she is determined to find out what the secret is. The second narrative follows Rebecca's involvement in the Scottish Independence Referendum which results in the very accident which leaves her on Ethersay.

The pacing of this novel is spot on as the initial burst of action get the reader hooked before it slows down a notch as King builds the suspense and mystery up concurrently in both narratives. I found myself really looking forward to finding out what the secret of Ethersay was and how Rebecca would come to be there. It is quite hard to say much more without spoiling some of the plot but I suspect a few people will be surprised by the reveal at the end.

One thing I have to add in my review is that the depiction of the Scottish Referendum was spot on and whilst I didn't live in Glasgow, most of what Rebecca saw and experienced as a Yes activist was recognisable to me from my own involvement. I have seen a lot of non-fiction books charting the referendum from various high profile people but it was great seeing something written here which captured the hope and hard work of the regular activist even if the character themselves was fictional.

The best bit about this book from my point of view is that it was the first novel by King in which I have actually liked the main protagonist. Yes, Rebecca has her flaws as any realistic character would do but in this book those flaws didn't affect my ability to feel empathy for her. Rebecca being a Yes activist probably made it easy for me but I was actually quite happy to find that this time it was the main character I was supporting rather than one of the secondary ones.

Overall, this is a great first attempt at contemporary fiction from King. I can see this book really appealing to people who enjoy a good non-crime based mystery, but it should also appeal quite strongly to those people who were involved in the Scottish Independence Referendum. I can't sing it's praises enough as it entertained me but also brought back the memories of the referendum both good and bad.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Star Trek 12 - James Blish & J.A. Lawrence



Title: Star Trek 12
Author: James Blish & J.A. Lawrence
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1977
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 12” was the final collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations written by James Blish as he passed away whilst writing it. The collection was therefore completed by his wife, J.A. Lawrence who would go on to adapt the only remaining episodes in "Mudd's Angels". The five episodes included in this collection are cover all three seasons and are as follows:

Patterns of Force (Season 2)
The Gamesters of Triskelion (Season 2)
And the Children Shall Lead (Season 3)
The Corbomite Maneuver (Season 1)
Shore Leave (Season 1)

So I am at the point where I just want to copy my reviews from previous Blish novelisations as most of the commentary is the same. Basically, if you enjoyed the TV episode then you will enjoy the novelisation and if you didn't like the episode then you won't like the novelisation. Blish and Lawrence are competent in their job of converting the episodes into written form but they don't really add anything new to change the underlying strengths or weaknesses of the individual stories.

As I suspect most people considering this book will have seen these episodes already I won't bother summarising them here. The writing itself is good but I would only really recommend this collection to a Trek lit completionist at it doesn't offer anything new and if you don't know the stories then you would be better off actually watching the TV show episodes.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Star Trek: Double, Double - Michael Jan Friedman



Title: Double, Double
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1989
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Double, Double” was Michael Jan Friedman’s first ever Star Trek novel and acts as a sequel to the Original Series episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. The story is based on the premise that Kirk has decides to gloss over the events which occurred on Exo III and doesn’t carry out a full investigation in order to protect Nurse Chapel. However, another android returns to the planet and when it finds its creator dead, it decides to continue his work. The android finds the template of Kirk still in the machine and creates another android using it. This android Kirk is full of confidence and ventures forth to takeover a starship and then to control the galaxy.

This is one of the better written Trek novels with a well-paced story and a decent amount of detail. In addition, the story itself was rather engaging with Friedman doing an excellent job of continuing the established story from the TV series. The characters are also handled well although I did have an initial issue with Kirk which is detailed below.

Basically, the issue with Kirk I had was due to him not telling Starfleet everything that happened on Exo III. The reason given that he is protecting Nurse Chapel just seemed very inconsistent and flimsy. I found it hard to believe that Kirk would risk not telling Starfleet about everything considering the risk posed by the machine. It doesn’t spoil the overall telling of the story but me feeling rather incredulous at the set up wasn’t the best way to start a novel.

Overall, I did enjoy the novel although I will admit that I do have a soft spot for stories which continue threads started via the original show so maybe I would have enjoyed it even if it was terrible! Thankfully it isn’t and despite the weak initial premise, the writing and pacing are more than adequate and the story is entertaining.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake Book 3) - C.J. Sansom



Title: Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake Book 3)
Author: C.J. Sansom
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published: 2007
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Sovereign” by C.J. Sansom is the 3rd novel in his “Matthew Shardlake” series of historical mystery novels. In this novel, it is now 1541 and King Henry is making a “Great Progress” to York in an attempt to both impress the northerners and meet the King of Scotland. Matthew Shardlake, our hero lawyer is asked by Archbishop Cranmer to also head to York so that he chaperone a political prisoner back to London. His trip to York is complicated by the mysterious murder of a glazier which draws him into a treasonous plot which endangers his own life.

Sansom’s writing continues to be intelligent, well-structured and engaging with a myriad of interesting sub-plots and intrigues that kept me hooked. You can’t help but keep turning the pages to find out what Shardlake is going to uncover next or what new unexpected challenge he is going to face. The novel isn’t for the faint hearted however, as the Tudor world is shown in all its ugly brutality which can be rather disconcerting.

The characterization is superb, the people really feel like they belong in the time period. Sansom doesn’t try and re-align morals to a modern view point; viewpoints which may be unacceptable now are on show without any attempt to soften them. In fact some of the heroes of the piece think and do things which would probably be left for the villains if this was a contemporary novel. Don’t get me wrong however; these characters are still likeable, but you need to accept that they are products of their time.

Overall, this is another brilliant entry in his series of Shardlake novels. Sansom is skilled at providing the reader with both an engaging and exciting mystery plot as well as detailed portrayal of the Tudor world. If you have read the previous novels then you are going to love this book, if you haven’t then I can only advise you to pick up the first novel in the series as it is quite simply, superb.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Star Trek 7 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 7
Author: James Blish
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1972
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 7” by James Blish is the seventh collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations. The six episodes included in this collection are from both Season Two and Season Three and are as follows:

Who Mourns for Adonais? (Season 2)
The Changeling (Season 2)
The Paradise (Season 3)
Metamorphosis (Season 2)
The Deadly Years (Season 2)
Elaan of Troyius (Season 3)

Unsurprisingly, I found that the stories based around the Season 2 episodes were better than the ones from Season 3. This is because the standard of Blish’s adaptations tend to scale in relation to source material which began to deteriorate by Season 3. Other than that, it is all very by the book with Blish continuing his competent work in converting the scripts into short stories.

The stories included in this collection are on the average side in comparison with some other episodes from the Original Series but there are a couple of interesting inclusions that I want to highlight. Firstly, there is the story “Metamorphosis” which introduces the character Zefram Cochrane into Trek Lore. Secondly there is “The Changeling” which is basically the basis for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Overall, there isn’t much else for me to say unless I wanted to summarise all the stories which I think is probably a waste of time as most people who are thinking of reading this collection will know them anyway. The writing itself is competent although the stories themselves aren’t anything that special, but this isn’t the fault of Blish. I probably would only recommend this collection to a completionist which is probably what I will be doing for all my future reviews of these collections.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Turnabout - Carmen Webster Buxton


Title: Turnabout
Author: Carmen Webster Buxton
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
If anyone reads through my reviews they will find quite a few for novels written by Carmen Webster Buxton. She was one of the first Indie Authors I ever read and I have consistently found her books to be well written, enjoyable and entertaining. So when she offered me the chance to read her latest novel, a young adult Sci-Fi adventure called "Turnabout" I couldn't say no.

The story follows Jason, a young teenager who discovers that he can teleport himself, although it seems to only happen under very specific circumstances. Luckily for Jason, it turns out that one of his teachers also has this ability and explains to him how the process works. What Jason is basically doing is travelling to a parallel Universe and then travelling back to our own but in a different location. His teacher explains however that if he is not thinking clearly when he makes a jump then the process will not work completely and he could find himself stranded in this other Universe. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens which results in Jason trying to survive in a place where men are outnumbered by women to such an extent that they have no rights and are treated almost like stud bulls. Whilst his teenage brain thinks that a constant supply of sex must be a good thing, he soon realises that this comes at a price of his own freedom and he then embarks on an adventure with the aim of getting home.

I was glad that the novel was mainly based about surviving in the alternate universe as I was worried initially that the novel was going to end up being another standard teenager teleport story. Luckily this wasn't the case and I found the book thoroughly enjoyable to the point that I pretty much read it all in one day. Buxton's writing was also excellent as always, with the action and adventure being well supplemented by the exploration of the matriarchal culture which exists in the other Universe. The various well developed characters helped to enhance this cultural exploration and assisted the reader in understanding what it would be like to live there as a local rather than just as someone new to the society like Jason.

I suppose my only issue was with the ending as Jason's return home was a little bit to easy and neatly tidied up for my liking. Basically, Jason returns to his own Universe and manages to get back to his family in the space of only one chapter even though he has been missing for quite a while. This is only a minor problem but I do wish that there had been a few more chapters used to extend his return and create a more structured ending.

Overall, this was an entertaining read with a creative and engrossing story which had me hooked very early on. Don't be fooled by the initial chapters on teleportation, this novel is much more than that and I think it would specifically appeal to those who like Sci-Fi novels which explore dystopian alternative societies. Personally, I really hope that there is a sequel in the future as I want to know more about the interaction between our own world and the alternative one.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Star Trek: Uhura's Song - Janet Kagan



Title: Uhura's Song
Author: Janet Kagan
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1985
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"Uhura's Song" by Janet Kagan is an Original Series novel set on the planet Eeiauo where the Enteprise is attempting to help the planet’s feline inhabitants battle a plague. Things soon become worse however when the disease jumps the species barrier and begins to spread to other planets. Before long it becomes clear that a song Uhura learnt from an Eeiauoan diplomat in her early career may hold the secrets needed to stopping the disease as it hints at a cure in the Eeiauoan past. The Enterprise’s crew therefore work hard to try and unravel the truths hidden in the song.

Kagan’s writing and pacing are spot on and I have to say that the standard is much higher than quite a few other Trek novels I have read. Her excellent writing is supplemented by the creation of a wonderfully complicated new alien culture. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the cultural differences affected how the Federation and the Eeiauoans interacted with each other. The ability to properly develop a one off alien species is without doubt one of the real advantages that the novels can have over the TV series and this is a prime example.

It was also great to see Uhura use her linguistic skills and emotional intellect to make a significant impact on the outcome of the story. I suppose, the title of the book should have given away her importance but it was still good to see her get some proper character development. Her interactions with Spock were particularly wonderful to see and really helped showcase her character.

Whilst it was good to see Uhura get an important role in the story, she was overshadowed by another character which annoyed me. Namely the far too perfect, Dr. Evan Wilson. Seriously… she is beautiful and feisty enough to entice Kirk, smart and intellectual so she can challenge Spock, able to compete with Sulu at swordplay and is a wizard with the computer. It was all too much for me, especially when I am not sure was even needed as everything she did could have been handled by various different crew members.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel and much better than the previous two Trek novels I read by Robert E. Vardeman. It really was a pleasure to read this and if it wasn’t for my annoyance with Dr. Evan Wilson it probably would have been up there as one of my favourite Trek novels to date. In the end though, I would advise any Trek fan to go give this book a read, just for the joy of seeing Uhura in all her glory.