Saturday, 8 August 2015

Star Trek: The Disinherited - Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman & Robert Greenberger


Title: The Disinherited
Author: Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman & Robert Greenberger
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1992
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Disinherited” is a Star Trek Original Series novel written by three authors, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman & Robert Greenberger. It contains two parallel stories, the first of which follows Kirk and the Enterprise who are trying to pursue a group of raiders who have been viciously attacking Federation colonies. The second plotline is in relation to Uhura who has been temporarily assigned to another ship, the USS Lexington. Her role is to serve as an interpreter for the inhabitants of Rithra who have asked the Federation for assistance in protecting their procreation centre from a volcano.

The two plotlines enabled the novel to provide some entertainment on multiple levels. The Enterprise segments had plenty of entertaining action with Kirk taking centre stage, masterfully commanding the Enterprise through various incidents. Whereas the story on Rithra enabled the authors to really explore and develop Uhura’s character beyond just her expertise at linguistics. Basically, it enables readers to experience a story which tries to capture the feeling of series with some Kirk centric adventure, but also learn something new about one of the less developed characters which to me is an important part of Trek literature.

This interesting dual narrative is also supplemented by some great retcon work in regards to Chekov. We get to see the angst and nerves that he may have faced when he took on the role as Navigator and became a bridge officer. I really enjoyed getting a chance to see how he deals with his new more prominent position.

Whilst the action and adventure were fun to follow, it was the characters that really impressed me. As I have mentioned already, Uhura and Chekov get some great exposure here but what I also liked is that both of them and the others all felt true to the characters we know and love. The authors had a great grasp on the characters and it shines through here in this novel.

My only other comment on the book is to highlight that whilst the book is written by three different authors it didn’t feel like it. The writing flowed nicely between the chapters without any issue and at no point did it feel disjointed. I do not know how they did it but all I can say, is well done.

Overall, this was an enjoyable TOS novel that provides the reader with the best of both worlds. A fun Trek adventure in the standard mould supplemented by some great character work that really helps to enhance the overall Trek Universe. If you are one of those Trek fiction readers who only read a limited number of TOS novels then I recommend you consider this one.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Light (Gone Book 6) - Michael Grant


Title: Light (Gone Book 6)
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2013
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Light” by Michael Grant is the 6th and final Book in the Gone series. As it is in the final book in the series, I suspect that if you have been read the other books you are going to read this book no matter what I say here. However, I will put down at least some of my thoughts as it may persuade the odd curious reader to give the series a try.

The story picks up from the enjoyable events the concluded the previous novel, “Fear”. The evil gaiaphage has been reborn into human form and is slowly doing all she can to destroy the children who are left inside the FAYZ. Her aim is to kill everyone there and then escape uncontested into the wider world which she can bring under her control. So, begins a final battle begins between her and the final few survivors who must stand together against her.

Closing a long series such as this is no easy task but I feel that Grant has done a great job with “Light”. The adrenaline packed adventure we have been following throughout the series doesn’t let up for one moment, the fast pacing grabs the reader from the first page right to the last. In addition, Grant uses the characters he has wonderfully crafted over the past few novels to expertly showcase a finale that is full of loss, horror, sacrifice, heroism and triumph.

The characters are something I do really want to go into with this book as it is the final one. I have thoroughly enjoyed following what is a very diverse and varied cast, many of whom have their own development arcs that were interesting and at times could be classed as quite risqué in what is essentially a YA novel. For example, he wasn’t scared to show two teenagers having sex as it fitted perfectly with the story he was telling and he wasn’t worried about delving into religious aspects with characters questioning their faith and begin to doubt things. All these type of things helped to ensure that characters actually felt real and were people that I wanted to know more about.

If I have to give you all one minor niggle it is that whilst Grant did a great job delving into quite a wide range of characters, a couple of them do seem to fall by the wayside such as Bug and Computer Jack who were developing along nicely before Grant just seemingly decided to abandon their arcs beyond the interactions needed in regards to the main plot. Not a major problem but it is disappointing when you see the side-lining of characters you were enjoying following.

A final thing I will also note is that this book and the others in the series as a whole do contain a fair amount of gore and violence which may not appeal to everyone. Grant is more than happy to try and shock the reader in a new and more extreme way for each book, so by the 6th book I am sure you can imagine how inventive the deaths and horror can be.

Overall, this was an excellent final chapter in an engrossing and enjoyable series. It is a credit to Grant’s work that I do believe this is one of the best YA series I have read in recent years and highly recommend it to anyone who may be looking for a dark, dystopian story with strong characters and thrills aplenty.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Star Trek: The Centre Cannot Hold (Mere Anarchy Book 2) - Mike W. Barr


Title: The Centre Cannot Hold (Mere Anarchy Book 2)
Author: Mike W. Barr
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2006
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Centre Cannot Hold” by Mike W. Barr is the second book in a six part Star Trek mini-series entitled “Mere Anarchy”. It is set a few years after the disaster seen in the previous novel which badly affected the planet Mestiko. The Enterprise has returned with a plan to help restore the planet’s atmosphere but the Klingon Empire has also now taken an interest in the planet and has offered to help. Kirk soon finds himself once again pitted against Klingon commander Kor, with the future of Mestiko at stake.

This was another enjoyable but short novel in the “Mere Anarchy” series. To be honest, it is probably best described as a novella although the pricing doesn’t seem to acknowledge this. The price I paid for the ebook was rather obscene when you consider the length and I would therefore advise people to look at the various options available to them in regards to reading this series. In particular they should consider buying the book which combines all the individual stories together as this is much better value.

The style and feeling I got reading it was very similar to what I encountered in the previous novel in the series which is quite interesting considering they were written by different people. Simply put, it is well-written and does feel like it would fit in well as an episode in the original series. In addition, the short length means we don’t gain anything new in regards to our understanding of the Trek Universe and its characters but it is a fun read none the less.

Overall, the “Mere Anarchy” series continues to entertain me and if you have read the previous novella you really need to pick this one up as well or just buy the combined edition.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Jezebel's Ladder (Jezebel's Ladder Book 1) - Scott Rhine


Title: Jezebel's Ladder (Jezebel's Ladder Book 1)
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Jezebel's Ladder” is the first book in a sci-fi series written by Scott Rhine which spans a total of 5 novels. In this novel we are introduced to an ex-magician's assistant named Jezebel who reads an alien artefact, resulting in her being recruited into a corporation run by millionaire Elias Fortune who has been tracking down these artefacts. The artefacts seem to imbue those who read them with almost magical abilities which of course means that many governments and corporations are willing to kill to get their hands on them Therefore, working for Elias Fortune is full of risk but Jezebel is determined to stick it out and the novel charts her rise through the corporation whose final ambition is to head into space and meet the mysterious alien intelligence who seeded Earth with the artefacts.

This novel is pure Scott Rhine in that it is incredibly fast paced and doesn’t slow up at any point. It is like you have been strapped onto a rocket and blasted through a story full of twists, turns and action galore. If I had one issue with the style and structure of the book it would be that the pacing means it is easy to lose track of the details. There is so much going on at such a high pace, some people may quite simply struggle to keep up at times.

The plot itself is interesting, consistent and internally logical and was a fun journey from start to finish. A minor niggle would have to be that it did at times feel a little bit like an exercise in wish-fulfilment with Jezebel becoming almost superhuman in her ability to solve any problem without any real effort. Luckily Jezebel herself was a likeable character full of wit, loyalty and the odd flaw which meant most readers won’t begrudge her easy rise to becoming so powerful.

An interesting aspect of the novel is that the 2nd half is actually a re-working of Rhine’s novella “The Icarus Transformation”. I had actually already read the novella before but it was still interesting to see how he had managed to link this story with Jezebel’s. Unfortunately, to me the incorporation of this novella meant that the book felt like it was just two separate stories in Jezebel’s life which had been stuck together. It just don’t think it flowed very well and the movement between the two parts felt quite jarring.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, fast paced sci-fi adventure story which keeps you hooked right until the end. Most of the minor flaws probably all fallout from the break-neck pace that is utilised, but luckily you get carried along so quickly that you tend to forget any of the minor issues as quickly as you noticed them.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic - Christopher L. Bennett


Title: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2015
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Uncertain Logic” by Christopher L. Bennett is the third novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. I have been thoroughly enjoying this series of novels and wasn’t surprised when I found myself appreciating this novel just as much as the others.

The story follows three simultaneous narratives, the first of which follows Archer and T’Pol as they work with the leaders of Vulcan after a shocking revelation is made about some of the planet’s new beliefs which could lead to a civil war. Then there is the crew of the USS Pioneer, captained by Malcolm Reed who are exploring an area of space dominated by some highly-advanced automated technology called the “Ware” which was first seen in the episode “Dead Stop.” The final story is that of the USS Essex (From TNG's "Power Play") which travels to the planet Delta IV where the locals turn out to be extremely hazardous to the ship’s crew

As I have come to expect with Bennett, the stories are all told exceedingly well and his skill at taking some rather disparate elements of continuity and moulding them into a cohesive story is nicely showcased again. My favourite storyline of the three had to be the Vulcan one which explores the Vulcan people and the rift that is forming in their civilisation. The way in which we see various Vulcan’s interpret and apply logic in their own unique ways made them feel like a real people, with individual ideas and opinions. The view that can sometimes be had of them being a rather homogeneous society when it comes to logic is well and truly shown up for the fallacy it is and I loved seeing that. Quite simply, I actually feel like I have a greater understanding of the common Vulcan citizen than I have before and I really appreciate this.

If I was going take any issue with the novel then it is probably that I think three storylines is maybe a little bit too much, especially when none of them are really connected with each other. The best way I can find to describe the book is that it felt more like an anthology of novella’s than a single novel. This was compounded by the fact that whilst I appreciated getting to see humanities first real contact with the Deltans and the introduction of the USS Essex, I honestly wasn’t that interested in what eventually turned into another Orion Pirate storyline. Compared to the incredibly engaging and interesting Vulcan storyline it just felt rather weak and un-needed.

Overall, this is another entertaining novel in the Rise of the Federation series. Bennett’s writing as always is top notch and I enjoy the way in which he manages to continue the story of Star Trek Enterprise and build on some of the smaller elements in Star Trek continuity. Yes it doesn’t feel like a single novel, but the Vulcan storyline alone is enough to mitigate this as I just treat the additional two stories as a bonus to be enjoyed beyond this core element.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Gisburn Witch - Sarah L King


Title: The Gisburn Witch
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2015
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
Smashwords
Kobo

Review:
"The Gisburn Witch" is a historical fiction novel written by debut author Sarah L King. In the interest of upfront honesty, I want to start by informing you all that the author is my wife and I was involved in some of the initial edits of the book. I am still trying to write a fair review but wanted to make sure everyone knows about the relationship I have with the book as I doubt I can keep it completely bias free.

Anyway, the novel itself is based around the events that led up to the infamous witch trials of Pendle in Lancashire, England during the early 17th Century. The specific story we follow in this book is that of Jennet Preston, a woman who was from the village of Gisburn which is in the neighbouring county of Yorkshire. Scandalised as a young woman after being accused of seducing Tom Lister, a gentleman’s son, her life is soon filled with shame and hardship. As an outcast in her own village she befriends the Device family in Blacko and is quickly embroiled in their world of folk magic, superstition, old family feuds and dangerous reputations. When fate intervenes to reunite her with Tom, Jennet risks everything for love and happiness, but when tragedy strikes Jennet finds that she is vulnerable to accusations for which she could pay the ultimate price.

So my first comment on the novel is in regards to the pacing, the novel does start off relatively slowly as King attempts to introduce the reader to Jennet herself and the society she lives within. However, as the story progresses the pace gradually increases until the final part of the novel more or less flies by as the tension builds and the drama unfolds. I pretty much read the final quarter of the novel in one sitting as I really wanted to know how this obvious tragedy was going to unfold. Other than that, the writing was very competent and it had a heavy descriptive element which really helped to bring out the obvious love felt by the author for the Lancashire countryside and climate.

In regards to the characters, I found myself quite split as there is basically nobody in this book who you could define as being a classical "good guy"; even Jennet herself acts and behaves in a manner which I didn't always like. I actually found myself moving from an initial feeling of pity for Jennet, to frustration with her, to mild anger and then back to feeling a sense of pity for her again. King has basically tried to create people with flaws and defects in an attempt at providing an element of realism within the novel which is commendable but at times it did lead to me wondering if I would end up caring about any of them by the end. Thankfully, as mentioned above, I did feel sorry again for Jennet by the end and I especially felt a sense of empathy for her husband, William who had suffered a lot throughout the novel.

Overall, I did really enjoy the book, it isn't a genre I read regularly but I think it was a well written, successful attempt at trying to bring to life a real historical tragedy with people full of their own hopes, weaknesses and flaws. As said, I am probably biased as my wife wrote it but during the editing process she altered parts of the story I had issues with so the final product was probably always going to please me. If you are interested in exploring a Historical Fiction novel that takes a look at some of the lives of the common people within English 16th/17th century society rather than royalty etc. then I think you should give this book a try.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Fear (Gone Book 5) - Michael Grant


Title: Fear (Gone Book 5)
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Fear” by Michael Grant is the 5th and penultimate Book in the Gone series. I was looking forward to reading this book as the Gone series has been some of the best dark, dystopian novels I have encountered in recent years. The book follows on from the event of “Plague” with Sam now working with others to run a settlement out by the lake whilst Caine rules over his own settlement in Perdido Beach as a King. The tenuous peace that now endures is threatened when the dome around them begins to blacken cutting out all light which threatens to finally finish off everyone within the FAYZ.

As with the other novels in the series, the book is a wonderfully well written, adrenaline packed adventure that had me hooked from the first page to the last. The story structure is very similar to what we have seen before, with Sam being central to the plot and the teenagers having to face off against each other in addition to some form of enemy sent by the gaiaphage. However, the main driving force behind this novel to me was character development. Grant really begins to delve into the psyche of the surviving characters who all appear to be suffering from various forms of post-traumatic stress. As we move towards the final novel it appears that Grant is determined to ensure the reader really knows each character and understands who they are, even those without special powers.

A really interesting addition to this novel is that Grant decides to finally let the readers glimpse a view from outside the FAYZ. The reader gets to follow things from an adult’s viewpoint which is a nice counterpoint to that of the teenage centric story we have had so far. This adds an enjoyable and fresh feeling to the novel as we get to see how the various parents and the military have been responding to the situation as it has unfolded.

In summary, this is another enjoyable novel in this exciting series. With this novel I specifically appreciated that Grant has tried to give us something new with the view of outside in addition to the further development of the characters. There is not much more to say other that next up in the series is “Light” which is the finale and I really can’t wait!