Friday, 29 April 2016

Epic Fails - Scott Rhine



Title: Epic Fails
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2013
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Epic Fails” by Scott Rhine is an anthology of fantasy short stories which all focus around one fundamental point, failure. By calling it fantasy however, you should not expect any Epic, High Fantasy here, the fantasy on show here is rooted in our own world. Due to the stories being based around failure, I found that the collection contains and interesting mix of both humour and darkness.

Rhine provides the reader with an introduction to each story, providing an element of background to each one which I did find rather interesting and helpful considering the range of stories the collection contains. What I mean by a range of stories is that there is a variety of sub-genres and styles on show. Whilst, I suspect this variety is mainly related to the fact they were written over a period of time, I think it does a good job of highlighting Rhine’s talent and ability to write engaging and entertaining stories in various different manners.

I don’t really want to say much more as detailing short stories tends on the whole to spoil them too much for the reader. However, if you haven’t read anything by Rhine, I can’t help but recommend this collection as an entertaining introduction to a talented Indie Author. There really is something in the collection for almost any fan of speculative fiction in the collection.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code - Christopher L. Bennett



Title:Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Live by the Code" by Christopher L. Bennett is the fourth novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. The series has been a thoroughly enjoyable one, right from the start so I was looking forward to getting my hands on this book.

The story is set in the second half of 2165 and is mainly focussed around 3 narratives although there are also several other side plots and referenced made in relation to stories initiated in the earlier novels. The first of the main narratives takes a look at Starfleet’s attempts to shut down Ware technology. This seemingly benevolent act soon results in devastating impacts across a group of races who call themselves the Partnership and Starfleet find themselves facing the fact that they maybe don’t always know best. Secondly, we get to see what is occurring within the Klingon Empire now that Chancellor M'Rek has died and others are vying to replace him. The final main narrative of the novel follows Doctor Phlox and his daughter, Vaneel who is marrying an Antaran, an alien race who until recently had been enemies of the Denobulans. The wedding has been met with anger from some hate groups, one of which includes Phlox’s own son, Mettus.

Once again Bennett writes with his usual expert skill and weaves the various different plot lines into an entertaining and enjoyable story. I never once found myself confused or lost as the novel progressed which is rather impressive considering the vast array of characters and plots involved. In regards to the main narratives themselves, I found two of them to be thoroughly engrossing whilst the third was a little bit dull.

I really enjoyed watching Starfleet try and understand the mistake they had made in how they were dealing with the Ware. It was one of the things I really liked about the Enterprise series as a whole; we get to see the mistakes being made by these earlier explorers and watch them try to learn from the experiences. In addition, the origin story of the Ware itself was clever and unexpected, with it making an interesting point about corporate power and the increased automation of society.

The elements of the story set within the Klingon Empire were also fun to follow and I loved seeing how those who had suffered from the Qu’Vat virus were trying to survive in an Empire that treats them as less than they are. The section that I found a bit dull was the wedding on Denobula, don’t get me wrong it was really interesting seeing Phlox’s complex family tree but the plot itself seemed rather unoriginal and I just found it rather slow compared to the rest of the novel.

Overall, this is another well-written and entertaining novel in the Rise of the Federation series. The ending was darker than what we normally see in the Star Trek universe which I appreciated as it shows that Starfleet don’t always get the best results when they get involved in events. As always, I now look forward to the next book in this thoroughly enjoyable series of novels.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My Other Car is a Spaceship - Mark Terence Chapman



Title: My Other Car is a Spaceship
Author: Mark Terence Chapman
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2014
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“My Other Car is a Spaceship” by Mark Terence Chapman is a book which caught my eye due to the various declarations I saw on Amazon stating that it was a #1 best seller in the Military Sci-Fi category. I have to admit that after finishing the book I found it to be rather average and how it made it to #1 on any list surprises me; I can only assume that there has been some amazing marketing going on behind the scenes.

The plot follows Hal Nellis, a retired air force pilot who finds himself unexpectedly plucked from Earth in order to help the Merchants' Unity, a form of intergalactic police force who are fighting various pirates t are determined to pillage Earth and other similar backwater worlds. For years these pirates have worked independently which has enabled the Unity to keep them at bay, but now a new united pirate force is emerging and Hal soon finds himself taking a pivotal role in a war which risks the stability of the entire region.

As I stated in my first paragraph, the novel isn’t bad, it is just a rather standard light military science fiction adventure. The writing is adequate without being stunning and the plot line is reasonably coherent although the author does sometimes skip over sections which I would have been interested in actually seeing. For example, when Hal learns about that spaceships, aliens and the wider Universe it is over far too quickly. In my opinion this was a chance to really start expanding the characters and the world in which they were inhabiting but the author just decides to skim over it and move onto something else in the story. This sets the tone for the entire novel as the characters on the whole are rather one-dimensional due to the author spending more time on moving the adventure forward than on their development.

The only major negative I had with the book was in regards to the Science. Now, I understand that this is a rather light and adventurous Science Fiction novel but I do expect at least some level of understanding some fundamental principles. For example, an important plot point in the novel involves a concussive shock wave propagating through space, which of course is impossible as space is a vacuum. Maybe this is just my Physics background coming to the fore but I did this and a few other basic errors in the Science were a bit annoying.

Overall, this is a rather light Science Fiction adventure story which is reasonably enjoyable but isn’t anything special. It is fun enough to stick with right to the end, but the weak characters and failings in fundamental physics just let it down in my opinion. If you are after a book to just quickly read without thinking much then you should be happy enough, but if you are after a complex and deep Space Opera then this probably isn’t for you.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Star Trek: Vanguard: Precipice - David Mack



Title: Precipice
Author: David Mack
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2009
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Precipice” by David Mack is the 5th novel in the Star Trek Vanguard series. As always with the Vanguard novels there are a several plotlines to follow but they all focus in some way around the Taurus Reach and the various interactions between the Federation, Klingons, Tholians and Shedai.

On the whole, this is another enjoyable episode in the Vanguard series of novels. Mack’s writing is competent and the pacing is much improved from what I noted in the previous novel, “Open Secrets”. In addition, Mack expertly manages the now quite considerable number of plotlines so that I never once found myself getting lost or confused. One minor issue I do have is that I feel the progression of the overall story is now being limited by the sheer number of plotlines involved. Don’t get me wrong, we do still get some forward movement but the series just seems to be losing momentum as the plotlines increase in both quantity and complexity.

One thing, I am split on in regards to this novel is Cervantes Quinn. I have always enjoyed this loveable rogue so it was nice to see him take a more prominent role in this novel but the evolution of his character seemed a bit far-fetched. I can just about accept his recruitment into Starfleet as in the previous books we have seen him slowly begin to act in a more responsible manner but that doesn’t explain how he also appears to have become some sort of super-agent.

Overall, this is a novel which does a good job at continuing the Vanguard saga. The overall forward momentum of the series is suffering a little due to the quantity of plotlines involved but there is still enough progression here to ensure that readers of the series won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The K2 Virus - Scott Rhine


Title: The K2 Virus
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The K2 Virus” is the latest Science-Fiction novel to be written by Scott Rhine. The story revolves around a young researcher, Daniel Mann who is working with a company who are assisting the US Army in inoculating their troops in South Korea against future illness. Whilst Daniel is out in Korea helping to administer the inoculation and monitor for side effects, a new virus named “K2” appears in North Korea and soon spreads into the South. Before long, Daniel finds himself slap bang in the middle of a major outbreak that threatens to spill out across the world.

The novel was sold to me under the Hard Science-Fiction sub-genre and I feel that this label does fit adequately. It offers quite a detailed explanation of how a potent disease can spread from patient zero to the rest of the population and covers some of the attempts by Scientists to combat it. This doesn’t mean the plot is overly dry or bogged down in jargon however as there are still twists, thrills and some elements of action included in the story. If I had one major complaint with the plot, then it is probably in regards to the ending which I found rather rushed and unsatisfying. The tension which Rhine has tried to build up just doesn’t seem to go anywhere and this was rather disappointing. My disappointment with the ending was probably compounded by the fact that whilst the novel was entertaining and interesting enough, it just wasn’t that exciting compared to some of Rhine’s other novels.

In regards to the characters, they were all well-defined and had a level of complexity that impressed me. I enjoyed finding myself being surprised by some of their actions and the various hidden motivations that were ultimately driving them. I also found the various reactions on show to be quite believable with each character showing various levels of panic, fear and denial as events unfolded.

Overall, “The K2 Virus” was an enjoyable enough story with some interesting science based around the inoculation programme and the spread of the virus itself. I also appreciated the way in which the various characters were portrayed. However, there was just something lacking on the excitement front which was further driven home by the rather rushed ending.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Star Trek: Twilight's End - Jerry Oltion



Title: Twilight's End
Author: Jerry Oltion
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1996
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Twilight's End” by Jerry Oltion is a Star Trek Original Series adventure in which the Enterprise comes to the aid of a tidally locked world whose inhabitants occupy a single thin strip of land. The ever increasing population has destroyed what fragile biosphere there was, and is now attempting to save their home by implementing an audacious plan to start the planet spinning by using a vast array of impulse engines spread across the planet.

I have to admit that I found the plot to be rather silly, the thought of using 30,000 engines to spin a planet just seemed a bit absurd to me. Oltion does at least try and put some scientific thought into what happens but in the end it feels like this is just another example for the magical technology of Star Trek being used to save the day even if the entire premise is nuts! Luckily, Oltion tries to use amusing commentaries and interactions between the main characters to lighten the overall tone of the novel so the silliness isn’t difficult to ignore.

One thing that Oltion has captured well, are the crew of the Enterprise. The characterisations are pretty much spot on and everyone seemed to act in a manner that I would have expected. In addition, the regular characters are supported by some interesting new characters from the planet itself. I can’t complain at all about that aspect of the novel.

My final note on the book is that there was an undertone to the plot which reminded me of the global warming arguments that were popular in the period that the novel was written. The discussions on ecological damage being done to the world and how we should react were of course the same discussions which were happening in the real world and to be honest still are.

Overall, this is an interesting enough Trek novel even if it does feel a little bit silly. Oltion’s writing is competent enough and it was interesting seeing him try to explain some of the science in a manner we don’t always get with Trek novels. If you are a fan of the more comic/silly Trek episodes then I suspect you may enjoy this one.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Star Trek: Mission to Horatius - Mack Reynolds


Title: Mission to Horatius
Author: Mack Reynolds
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1968
Formats: Hardback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Mission to Horatius” by Mack Reynolds is a rather important book in the history of Trek Lit as it was the first original novel ever written. The target audience admittedly was children rather than adults but at least it showed there was a market there for different Trek stories if people were willing to exploit it.

The plot follows the crew of the Enterprise as it is called upon to respond to a distress call, even though the ship’s crew are already suffering some negative effects from the length of time they have been out in space. The system in question has three habitable planets, populated by people whose beliefs resulted in them leaving the Federation to set up their own colonies. The crew explore these three very different planets and uncover the reason for the distress call.

In all honesty, the novel was rather disappointing as the plot was paper thin. There was so much that Reynolds could have delved into as the plotline progressed but the reader is left with the bare bones of a story. It felt like I was just reading an initial outline that had never been edited or expanded upon. Maybe this is what children’s books were like in the late 60’s, but compared to modern day literature it was very weak.

This lack of depth continues with the characters as well as the character development is pretty much non-existent I think that some of the characters are named in the story just to ensure they appeared at some point. Most of them don’t actually add anything to the story and when they do, some of the time what we see doesn’t really fit with the personas we know about from the TV series.

Overall, this is a rather poor novel that is probably only saved by the fact it is historically important to Trek Lit. Some of the problem with it probably due to the fact that it is aimed at children so the plot is intentionally kept on the lighter side, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that some of the characters were all over the place compared to what would have been seen in the TV series. Without doubt this novel really highlights how far we have come since those earlier days and maybe that is actually a good enough reason for Star Trek fans to read it.