Thursday, 28 January 2016

Star Trek: The IDIC Epidemic - Jean Lorrah


Title: The IDIC Epidemic
Author: Jean Lorrah
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1988
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The IDIC Epidemic” by Jean Lorrah is a Star Trek Original Series novel which is more or less a sequel to Lorrah's other novel, “The Vulcan Academy Murders”. The story picks up a few days after the events of the previous novel with the Enterprise preparing to transport Spock’s parents, including a now recovered Amanda to a diplomatic event. However, the Enterprise is diverted to the planet Nissus, a scientific colony where multiple species live and work together due to the outbreak of deadly plague that only Klingon’s appear to be immune to. Soon McCoy and several other Doctor’s who have travelled on the Enterprise from Vulcan find themselves in a desperate race to find a cure before it is too late.

It is an interesting enough read as Lorrah uses the novel to explore inter-racial relationships and how co-operation between disparate groups can be used for good. It is a clear attempt at showcasing IDIC, one of the core ideals of Star Trek and as such from a philosophical standpoint it is highly entertaining. It was great getting to see the opinions and views from multiple different species rather than just focusing on humans. However, I would note that it was probably one of the slowest paced Star Trek novels I had read recently as the amount of action and adventure present is rather limited.

One thing that may disappoint some readers is that the novel rarely focuses on the main characters we all know and love from the TV series. Yes, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are present but the real drive of the novel is around the new and original characters that Lorrah has introduced. Those characters are all very interesting, reasonably developed with intriguing cultures and complex relationships but to those readers who love Trek because of the characters they know, it may feel a little bit disappointing that we see so little of them. Personally, I enjoyed meeting the new characters and especially found myself really loving the Klingon character, Korsal Katasai who Lorrah has developed well and presented him and his family in such a way that I found myself quickly caring about what happened to him.

Overall, this was an interesting look at one of Trek’s main ideals that was entertaining enough if lacking a little on the action front. The characters introduced in the novel are well developed and really help drive home the philosophical points of the story although this does happen at the expense of the usual characters we know. If you aren’t interesting in anything outside the core characters then you may want to give this a miss but for any other Trek fans it should be an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Grail Mysterium: An Adventure on the Heights - Thomas Kaplan-maxfield



Title: Grail Mysterium: An Adventure on the Heights
Author: Thomas Kaplan-maxfield
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2012
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Grail Mysterium, An Adventure on the Heights” by Thomas Kaplan-Mansfield is a rather intriguing fantasy/mystery novel. The story follows a group of friends at Boston College who begin to notice strange things occurring such as high performing students just dropping out, ghost sightings and a rather virulent illness. When one of the group, Jack Knecht, a huge fan of Harry Potter begins to investigate he soon finds himself involved in uncovering the ancient secrets of the mythical Holy Grail.

Kaplan-Maxfield has created a very interesting story by mixing elements of fantasy and magic with religion and science alongside a mystery plotline which is full of twists and turns. I found myself completely unsure which characters I should believe or trust as the story progressed which was a credit to the mystery being told. Unfortunately I did find that the plot was little bit too convoluted at times. The amount of twists, red herrings, philosophical musings and characters were actually a little bit too much for me. It was quite a slow read as I worked through the novel trying to ensure I understood everything that was going on.

In regards to the characters, they are all well-crafted in a manner which ensures that they all seem like specific individuals. I easily found myself caring about what happened to them although I have to admit I found most of them quite juvenile in behaviour. Maybe I am just a grumpy old man with false memories of my own youth but I am sure that as a University student I had a bit more maturity than what we see in this book. If the story was based around High School seniors then I could understand their behaviour but these students are older than this and it just didn’t fit with me.

Overall, this is an entertaining enough book but at times the plot could be a bit over complex which slows down the pace. I also think the characters were a bit more juvenile than they needed to be but in a way I suspect this will ensure the book appeals more to teenagers.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Star Trek: The Original Series: Child of Two Worlds - Greg Cox


Title: Child of Two Worlds
Author: Greg Cox
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2015
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
"Child of Two Worlds" by Greg Cox is a Star Trek novel set on the USS Enterprise during Christopher Pike’s captaincy. The premise of the story is that the crew of the Enterprise have come down with a severe case of Rigelian fever and due to their distance from the nearest Starbase, their only hope is to visit the planet Cypria V which is a source of ryetalyn, a component used in an experimental drug that may cure the disease. However, as they travel to the planet they intercept a distress call from a Cyprian vessel which results in them becoming embroiled in a Klingon – Cyprian dispute around a child that was kidnapped over a decade earlier. Pike and his crew must therefore navigate a dangerous path of trying to avoid a war with the Klingon’s whilst also ensuring that they do not upset the Cyprian’s to the point that they will withold the ryetalyn needed to cure their illness.

I was thrilled when I found out that the novel was set during Pike’s time aboard the Enterprise as I feel the opportunity to explore some of lesser developed time periods is one of the great aspects of Trek Literature. One issue of course is that this type of novel normally only appeals to the more dedicated Star Trek fan, but Spock’s presence amongst Pike’s crew does provide an element of familiarity which I think helps opens the book up to the more casual fan. Spock is therefore understandably given a reasonably prominent role in the story which is used to wonderfully explore various aspects of his young character as he learns to live and work with humans aboard the Enterprise. However, Cox also makes sure that other characters from Pike’s crew are fairly well involved and utilised such as Doctor Boyce, the enigmatic Number One and Captain Pike himself. For me this added to the intrigue and interest factor as I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about these less well known characters and liked to review in my mind the little differences that I would see between this crew and Kirk’s more familiar one.

Outside of the interesting character elements I mentioned above, the plot was entertaining in its own right, with action, adventure, and camaraderie aplenty. Cox’s writing is solid as I would expect from someone with his experience and the pacing is just about perfect to the point that I pretty much read the book in just two sittings as I couldn’t put it down. In addition, it wouldn’t be a Trek novel without a few amusing references to the regular series, including a comment about expendable ensigns, explaining the origin of an intruder control system and some foreshadowing of Spock’s future with Kirk. I actually found the references toned down compared to other Trek novels including some of Cox’s own work which I appreciated as I thought this more subtle approach wasn’t as jarring as it can be when author’s decide to just throw Trek reference’s in the reader’s face.

Overall, this was a thoroughly interesting look at Spock’s history that also provides the reader with a satisfying and entertaining central story. Cox has weaved this story into the know continuity well and I would love to read more stories set in this era as there is a very engaging crew here that I think deserve some time in the limelight.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury



Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Horror
Published: 1962
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a dark fantasy tale written by Ray Bradbury which follows the adventures of Jim & Will, two teenage boys who live next door to each other in a run of the mill small town. When a carnival comes to town, their initial excitement soon leads to trepidation as there is a sinister felling which pervades the carnival and its owner Mr Dark. When the boys witness some magical aspects of the merry go round their lives are put under threat as they try to avoid Mr Dark and his rather eerie “employees” who are hunting them down.

The plot itself is reasonably enjoyable, nothing truly remarkable but it was at times mildly creepy and entertaining. The real selling point however is the focus the novel gives to the theme of aging. It takes an intriguing look at people’s psyche in regards how adolescents dream of being older whilst the middle-aged wish for youth. It takes a gentle swipe at how humanity can sometimes put too much stock in their age and therefore miss out on what they can and should be enjoying each day.

There were a couple of issues that I did note regarding the writing itself. First up the prose used hasn’t aged very well and it was very obvious to me that the book was written many decades ago which does limit the ability of a reader to get fully immersed in the story. On its own I probably wouldn’t have noticed this that much except for the fact that Bradbury loves to use a fair amount of poetic and descriptive imagery. This just slowed the plot down to the point that I found some of these extended descriptions to be rather tedious. If you enjoy reading books that are written in pretty and lyrical styles like this then I am sure you will love it, but to me it was just a distraction.

Overall, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a reasonably entertaining novel that takes an interesting look at humanity’s obsession with aging. However, Bradbury’s style of writing with its description and dated prose could be a little bit too much for some readers.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Star Trek: The Vulcan Academy Murders - Jean Lorrah



Title: The Vulcan Academy Murders
Author: Jean Lorrah
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1984
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Vulcan Academy Murders” by Jean Lorrah is a novel set in The Original Series period of Star Trek. The story takes place on the planet Vulcan as Kirk, McCoy and Spock have brought an injured crew member to the Vulcan Science Academy so that a revolutionary new form of treatment can be utilised to heal him. However, when one of the patients involved in the treatment dies, it soon become clear that there is a murderer on the loose. Kirk is therefore forced into becoming a detective and must catch the perpetrator before anyone else dies.

The book was well paced and there was quite a bit of action to keep me entertained from start to finish. There was also some interesting exploration undertaken in regards to Vulcan life which was eye opening and enjoyable to see. The only real weakness in the story itself is the actual mystery itself because it is far too easy to identify the culprit. I knew who the murdered was before passing the 50 page mark which does remove most of the intrigue and excitement from that element of the story as none of the reveals were surprising.

On the whole, the characters are nicely portrayed and I had no issue recognising Kirk, Spock & McCoy. In addition most of the new characters were interesting and varied although the antagonist of the story was a bit one-dimensional which meant it was easy for the reader to identify them as the murderer. Another strange character related issue was the relationship between Spock and Sarek. Whilst I appreciate that the two of them are closer than they had previous been due to the events of "Journey to Babel” they felt a little bit too reconciled. This was exacerbated by the fact that Sarek seemed to be a little bit more relaxed and open that I would have expected.

Overall this was a fun but predictable story that takes an interesting look at Vulcan society, ecology and culture. The weak mystery plot points were rather disappointing and I don’t think hard-core mystery readers may be rather disappointed although I suppose it might still appeal to regular Star Trek fans that only have a mild interest in the mystery genre.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Strange Circumstances - Marshall J. Stephens, Weston Kincade & David Chrisley



Title: Strange Circumstances
Author: Marshall J. Stephens, Weston Kincade & David Chrisley
Genre: Paranormal
Published: 2012
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Strange Circumstances” is a collection of speculative fiction short stories written by Weston Kincade, Marshall J. Stephens and David Chrisley that take a look at fate and destiny. I was drawn to this collection because of Weston Kincaid’s involvement, a man who’s paranormal and fantasy books have kept me thoroughly entertained. However, it is obvious from reading the stories that both Marshall J. Stephens and David Chrisley are capable authors themselves and together all three of them have crafted some superbly entertaining stories.

What I enjoyed the most was that whilst there is an overall theme relating to fate and destiny, each of the stories vary substantially in subject matter although all of them have a speculative fiction feel. Each story is wonderfully well written and sucks the reader in before usually delivering an intriguing twist that left me wanting to read the next one. At times it felt like I was reading a collection of stories that would have worked in a TV series like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits or Black Book.

The only complaint I can level at the collection is that just as I am getting into the interesting worlds that have been created the story ends. A minor complaint for sure as there isn’t much you can do about this when you are using the short story form but it is still rather aggravating that none of the worlds explored here have been expanded upon.

Overall, this is a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable collection of stories. There is pretty much a story in here for anyone who enjoys speculative fiction so no one should be disappointed.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Star Trek 4 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 4
Author: James Blish
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1971
Formats: Hardback/Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 4” by James Blish is his fourth collection of Star Trek Original Series scripts adaptations. There are six adaptations included in this collection with two taken from each of Star Trek’s three seasons as follows:

All Our Yesterdays (Season 3)
The Devil in the Dark (Season 1)
Journey to Babel (Season 2)
The Menagerie (Season 1)
The Enterprise Incident (Season 3)
A Piece of the Action (Season 2)

The episodes in this collection are all rather enjoyable and fun, including the two stories taken from season 3 which were probably the best ones available from that season. It probably isn’t as enjoyable as “Star Trek 3” was but considering that book contained four episodes that were nominated for Hugo awards and this one only contained one it shouldn’t be that surprising.

In regards to the writing itself, Blish continues to do a competent job at converting the episodes into short story form although as always there is very little elaboration over what has been shown on TV. In fact, in regards to “The Megangerie”, Blish just removes the entire framing story and sticks with what is basically “The Cage”. He does at least explain why he does it, although as a modern reader used to reading many stories that include multiple viewpoints, different time periods and framing stories I can’t say I agree with his reasoning. Then again, as this was a short story, perhaps it was the right thing to have done.

Overall, this is another competent and enjoyable collection of Star Trek episode adaptations. It is probably only something a Trek fan would enjoy but I do like having the ability just to quickly delve into the stories of The Original Series without having to sit down and watch a full 40 minute episode.