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.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Click Date Repeat Again - K J Farnham (Guest Review)

So, my wife is a big fan of K J Farnham and when she read her latest novel "Click Date Repeat Again" she basically bullied me into letting her post a Guest Review on my blog.

Anyway, I am pleased to be able to share this review that she wrote which was also published on her blog (http://www.sarahlking.com).


Title: Click Date Repeat Again
Author: K J Farnham
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
Click Date Repeat Again is the second novel in the series by K J Farnham. It can be read and enjoyed as a novel in its own right; however, as a huge fan of Click Date Repeat I would recommend reading that one first as it hugely enhances the reader’s enjoyment of the second story.

In Click Date Repeat Again we meet Jess Mason, a twenty-something who has just come out of a bad relationship and who has a pretty poor track record with the opposite sex. Her friend, Chloe, who we met and got to know in the first book, has bought Jess a subscription to a dating website. Sceptical but nonetheless keen to break the habit of a lifetime and find a nice guy, Jess jumps feet first into the world of online dating, with some unexpected and amusing results!

In short, I absolutely adored this book. Stylistically it is flawless, and the story flows at a perfect pace. I found myself completely absorbed and unable to put it down, desperate to know whether Jess was going to get her happy ending. Farnham does an amazing job in creating some memorable characters: Jess is complex, a little vulnerable and hugely sympathetic, and I found myself really cheering her on towards the end, hoping that she was going to end up in the arms of one guy in particular. If you want to know which guy and whether she does….well, you’ll just have to read it to find out.

Five stars. An amazing read; highly recommended for fans of women’s fiction, contemporary fiction and romance.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Star Trek: Mutiny on the Enterprise - Robert E. Vardeman



Title: Mutiny on the Enterprise
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1983
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Mutiny on the Enterprise” by Robert E. Vardeman is one of the early Star Trek Original Series novels published by Pocket Books. The story follows the Enterprise which is sent on a mission to deliver a diplomatic team in the hope of halting hostilities between two worlds despite being long overdue a break for some maintenance actions. However, when Kirk rescues a stranded space-traveller called Lorelei on the way, he gets more than he bargained for as she appears to cast a spell of pacifism over the crew, risking both the mission and Kirk’s control of the Enterprise.

As with Vardeman’s other early Trek novel, “The Klingon Gambit” this book really wasn’t one of my favourites. Basically, the main characters don’t feel right and the story is at times overly complicated with far too much going on. The only passing marks the novel gets is that the premise of the story itself is quite interesting and Vardeman’s writing is acceptable enough but this wasn’t enough to make this an enjoyable read.

Another issue I had with the story is the way in which Lorelei is attempting to stop the Enterprise’s mission on the premise of pacifism. In my head, it was quite clear that if the Enterprise did not get involved there would be a war so whilst I appreciate there was the chance that violence could result from the Enterprise getting involved; it seemed there was more chance of this happening if the mission was abandoned. Therefore, sabotaging the mission to me was a form of passive aggression and therefore not pacifist.

Overall, this is a rather weak Star Trek novel which an interesting premise which is badly executed in a clumsy and overly contrived way. I would only recommend this novel for those of you out there like me who want to read every Trek novel.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Woman Named Sellers (Witches of Pendle Book 2) - Sarah L King



Title: A Woman Named Sellers (Witches of Pendle Book 2)
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Historical-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“A Woman Named Sellers” is the 2nd novel in Sarah L King’s historical fiction series entitled “The Witches of Pendle” although it can quite easily be enjoyed as a standalone novel. As with my review of the previous novel, I shall start by informing you all that the author is my wife and I was involved in some of the initial edits of the book. Of course, I am still trying to be fair and honest in this review but I think it is only right that people know about my relationship with the author.

The story is set 22 years after the infamous 1612 Pendle Witch trials and the events of the previous novel, “The Gisburn Witch”. The main protagonist is a young woman named Jennet Sellers who is forced to move in with relatives in the village of Barley, Lancashire after the death of her father. Jennet harbours a dark secret which has left her guilt-ridden and unable to accept any form of real happiness in her life. Despite this, she soon finds herself falling in love with William, a stonemason from Cumberland. Yet, just as she begins to accept the chance of a real future with William, her secret is revealed to the world and a series of events unfold which leaves her facing a very familiar and dangerous situation from her childhood which may result in her losing her life.

The pacing seems exactly right here, with the story starting off at a much better pace than the previous novel with this pacing then ramping up along with the tension as the story progresses. In addition, this novel covers a shorter time period which meant there was both a better flow and a greater opportunity to grow the characters. Simply put, whilst I felt King did a great job with her structure of “The Gisburn Witch”, I felt it was even better this time.

In regards to the characters, well they all felt genuine and this time around I actually felt some real sympathy for the main protagonist. At times her constant self-recrimination could get a little bit irritating but I could understand why she ended up like that considering every bit of happiness seemed to be followed by disaster which she would blame herself for. I ended up feeling some real empathy for Jennet and William, the man she falls in love with. In all honesty, it got to the point that the various forms of suffering they endured left me in tears.

Overall, this is another excellent Historical Fiction novel and I think it is better than the previous novel, “The Gisburn Witch”. Whilst you don’t need to have read that previous novel, there are quite a few little Easter eggs related to it around the novel which did leave me smiling when I noticed them. If you have read the first novel, then you should pick this one up as well. If you haven’t read either then I would recommend you give them a go if you are looking for some engaging, Historical Fiction novels.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Star Trek: The Klingon Gambit - Robert E. Vardeman



Title: The Klingon Gambit
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1981
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Klingon Gambit” by Robert E. Vardeman is an Original Series Star Trek novel which is set firmly during the first 5 year mission period. The story follows the Enterprise as it is ordered to Alnath II where a Klingon ship is suspected of murdering the crew of a Vulcan science ship. Meanwhile an Archaeological team down on the planet refuse to leave despite the continued threat of the Klingons. Before long both the crews of the Enterprise and Klingons being to act irrationally and the risk of a major interstellar incident looms.

The first thing I noted was how short this novel is, at only around 160 pages long it isn’t the most in-depth or extravagant story. It feels more like one of the Bantam Star Trek novels which isn’t surprising when you realise that this was only the third Star Trek story released by Pocket Books. The issue with the short length however means that the book doesn’t always flow very well and issues with the passage of time abound. An example of this is that when Kirk asks for a Security Team to be assembled it seems to happen almost instantly. The author is basically racing through the story and not thinking about how to show at least some level of passing time.

Another problem with the book is that the characters are all over the place. I will admit that part of this is due to the interference of an outside force but the various out-of-character actions are still rather irritating. Unless, the plot of a Trek novel is clever, well-crafted and paced correctly, I think removing that ability to understand and appreciate the characters we all know well diminishes the book. In the case of “The Klingon Gambit” I didn’t think the story was good enough and therefore losing the characters I know reduced my enjoyment quite substantially.

The next issue I had with the novel relates to the time in which it was written. The Klingon’s themselves are missing a lot of the nuances and enhancements which were introduced in later series and novels. They are basically all brutes, who only operate for their on self-gain and are clearly just bad! In addition to this issue, some of the writing itself feels rather racist, sexist and xenophobic. It isn’t always the most comfortable of reads for a modern reader but as long as you can understand the context of when it was written, it can be ignored.

My review has been very negative so far and in simple terms I have to say that this wasn’t a very good Trek novel. However, in an attempt to highlight some positives I will say that there is a decent idea within the plot which I did find interesting at times and I still managed to finish it. Unless you are desperate to read every Trek novel I wouldn’t necessarily bother with this one.

Friday, 20 January 2017

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Book 1) - David Weber



Title: On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Book 1)
Author: David Weber
Genre: Science-Fictiony
Published: 1992
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“On Basilisk Station” by David Weber is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. This series is in the military science-fiction genre, although it does probably fit the space opera mould as well. I have to admit that I only actually read the book because it was being given away for free on Amazon and the series as a whole did seem to be reasonably well respected.

The story follows Honor Harrington who has recently been made captain of the spaceship HMS Fearless, a light cruiser in the Manticoran Navy. Honor faces some resentment issues with her crew however which is only exacerbated when a new weapons policy from the admiralty doesn’t work consistently and they are “punished” for this failure by sending them to Basilisk Station, a well-known dead end assignment. However with a threat to Manticore looming in the form of the People’s Republic of Haven, Basilisk Station could be much more important than anyone could ever have imagined.

This was an enjoyable space adventure with an interesting and engaging plot which takes the reader on a bit of a thrill ride. In addition, the lack of any gender bias was quite impressive to see, it really didn’t matter if someone was female or male in this world as there was no difference between them when it came to their role, be that military or civilian. The world in which Weber has created is superbly detailed, with corrupt officers, interest laden politicians, and incompetent leaders aplenty. He has clearly thought through all the various political situations and technologies which would be utilised in this far off future.

Honor Harrington herself is an interesting enough character and I do like how Weber has created a female lead but has avoided sexualising her or bogging her done in a romantic sub-plot. Instead, we get a ship captain, who is resourceful, determined, well skilled in tactics and just so happens to be female. However, she is a little bit too perfect for my liking. The way in which she seems to succeed at everything and has pretty much no character flaws resulted in my eyes rolling a few times throughout the novel. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to fawn over her and the characters who quite clearly dislike her are also quite clearly “bad” people.

The main issue with the novel however is in regards to the various info dumps that Weber likes to drop. He just seems to enjoy dropping lots of technical information on the reader and this resulted in me skimming over multiple pages of missile ranges and physics explanations. It basically got a little bit dry and boring at times to the point were in sections it felt like a text book. I would much rather have seen this information dropped on the reader in slower time via the characters themselves. It doesn’t help that some of the pacing in the battle sections which should be the most exciting part of the novel is affected by these info dumps.

A final comment of mine is in regards to the treecats, an aboriginal lifeform who come from Sphinx, one of the planets of the Manticore system. Basically, Honor has one with her called “Nimitz” who seems to be some form of companion. I really do have no idea what the point in this creature was though. Honestly, it just felt like it was just some way to differentiate Honor from everyone else.

Overall, despite my issues with the tendency to info dump and the fact that Honor is a bit too perfect; the book was still an enjoyable experience. If you are looking for some fun military based Space Opera then you should probably consider picking up this book, especially as I think you can still get it for free from the publisher.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Star Trek: The Rings of Tautee - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: The Rings of Tautee
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1996
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Rings of Tautee” is an original series Star Trek novel written by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The story follows the crew of the USS Enterprise as it investigates a Solar System which appears to be disintegrating. Whilst the crew suspect this may be a new Klingon super weapon they are also focused on a pre-warp civilisation which will soon be wiped out. The Prime Directive limits their ability to assist this alien race, but if they don’t do something then this species and potentially the entire galaxy will be destroyed by an ever increasing wave of destruction.

This is a reasonably interesting novel which does a good job in its characterisations of the various original series characters. Considering the authors involved, I am not surprised by this as they are experienced Trek writers so know the characters well. The plot itself is entertaining enough and there are a few engaging emotional moments included, mainly related to the Tauteeans themselves.. However, I have to admit there were a few times that I rolled my eyes in disbelief at the number of issues which kept coming along.

My biggest issue though, was in regards to the way in which the novel interprets the Prime Directive. I have always hated the way in which Star Trek sometimes uses the Prime Directive as an excuse for not helping a doomed civilisation which is how it has been depicted here. In my mind, the Prime Directive should be used to ensure the Federation does not influence the growth or development of a civilisation. It shouldn’t be an excuse to stand back and allow an alien species to go extinct. As I said, Star Trek has used the Prime Directive in this way before but it always annoys me as it never feels right to me and I can’t believe that this really would be the aim.

Overall, this was an interesting enough story although nothing out right special. The application of the Prime Directive irritated me a bit but I could probably say the same about many other novels and episodes. It stands quite firmly in that middle of the road area of Star Trek novels so most readers should find it reasonably enjoyable.