Saturday, 4 June 2016
Author: David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
The Book Depository
“Declassified” is a collection of four novellas that form part of the Star Trek: Vanguard series. As with most stories set in this series the novellas are based around the crew of the Vanguard Starbase which is located in the Taurus Reach, a highly contested region of space.
The first story in the collection is “Almost Tomorrow” by Dayton Ward which takes place prior to the events witnessed in the prequel novella, “Harbinger”. The main aim of this novella appears to be in providing the reader with some backstory regarding the relationship between Vanguard’s Commander, Deigo Reyes and it’s JAG Officer, Rana Desai, and the one between T’Prynn, the station’s Vulcan security chief, and Anna Sandesjo, a Klingon agent and member of the ambassadorial delegation.
Personally, this was probably my least favourite story in the collection as it was all rather slow paced, and to be honest it was lacking in any real excitement. I also have to say that I have never really felt any desire to learn more about the two relationships it focused on. Yes, the way in which Sten’s influence on T’Prynn affected the level of relationship she entered into was interesting to see but outside of that, I don’t really think that anything here was actually necessary.
Next up in the collection is “Hard News” by Kevin Dilmore which takes place just after the events in “Reap the Whirlwind” and details the motivations as to why Tim Pennington decides to join T'Prynn on her journey to Vulcan. I was quite appreciative of this story as whilst it doesn’t really advance the overall Vanguard plot, it does provide the reader with some much needed detail as to why Pennington travels to Vulcan.
The third novella is "The Ruins of Noble Men" by Marco Palmieri and it is my favourite story in the collection. It takes place after the events of the previous novel, “Precipice” and follows two plotlines. The first of these is in regards to exploring how Reyes first met the Klingon, Gorkon when he was Captain of the USS Dauntless several years past. It explores how Reyes came to learn more about the Klingon mind-set and motivations and provides some backstory to explain why Gorkon decides to use Reyes for his own purposes in the future. I enjoyed that we also get to learn a bit more about the bonds between Reyes, Fisher and Gannon, the captain of the USS Bombay who dies in the prequel novella, “Harbinger”.
The 2nd element of this novella follows Desai and the Chief Medical Officer Ezekiel Fisher as they investigate the mysterious death of a Starfleet Officer who was trying to persuade some colonists to relocate. This sub-plot intrigued me on two levels, first up; I loved seeing Fisher and Desai actually out and about in the world as normally these two tend to be stuck on the Starbase. Further to this, it was also nice to see an author further explore some of the paranoia that people do have to Starfleet and what they may use research and scientific progress to do.
The final novella in the collection is David Mack's "The Stars Look Down" in which we follow Quinn and Bridy Mac on a mission to explore the re-emergence of the Jinoteur wave pattern. This is probably the story with the fastest pacing and it is full on fun and adventure but it suffers from some of the same issues I had with the previous novel, “Precipice”. Namely, we get to see lots more of the Super-heroic Quinn with his improbable skillset that just seems far too fanciful to be believed. I have to admit, that the irritation and incredulity of the plotline meant that the ending didn’t have as powerful an effect on me as it probably should have. On the positive front, the story does advance the overall Vanguard plot and I was still left looking forward to see what is going to happen in the next full length novel.
Overall, I do continue to enjoy the Vanguard Series although this collection was a little bit hit and miss for me. Everything was well written but some of the stories either seemed a bit dry and unneeded or required just too much suspension of disbelief to really appreciate. If you are a fan of the series, then you will enjoy “Declassified”, but I think it is probably the weakest book in the Vanguard series to date.
Sunday, 29 May 2016
Title: The Land That Time Forgot
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
“The Land that Time Forgot” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a classic novel set during WWI in which a group of people from both sides of the conflict find themselves stranded in a strange and mysterious land called Caspak. They soon find that Caspak’s seclusion from the world means that there are prehistoric animals and vegetation still surviving there alongside some primitive human tribes. It soon becomes obvious to this group of both allies and enemies that they must face many dangerous adventures if they are to one day return home.
The story is told at a decent pace and I thoroughly enjoyed the initial portions of the novel which covers the capturing of a German U-Boat by the Brits and Americans. This section of the novel was written wonderfully by Burroughs and I found the plot to be quite interesting and engaging. However, once the novel moves onto Caspak itself, the story soon descends into a rather pulpy adventure fantasy which jumps from one crisis to the next. Yes, it is action packed and moves along quickly, but the plot itself just becomes rather flimsy and lacking in depth as Burroughs becomes more interesting in giving the reader action and adventure. For me, the sections of the story set on Caspak were only made bearable due to the wonderful setting itself which Burroughs does make quite atmospheric and I also found the evolutionary aspects of the human tribes quite interesting to observe.
The characters themselves seemed rather too rigidly defined with an obvious hero, love interest and villain there to see. There are no surprises with any of them and to be honest they are all quite lacking in detail. There are no complicated, multi-facetted characters here; they are more or less caricatures that exist just to ensure there is someone there who can be used to fit the various plot points.
My final gripe, is in regards to the ending itself. It is very abrupt and we don’t really get a proper resolution. It feels like an attempt at creating a cliff-hanger to make sure we read the next book, but it just didn’t feel like a truly natural ending to the novel which was a bit disappointing.
Overall, this is an action packed adventure that is interesting enough but it feels rather dated with a rather pulpy plot and quite uninspiring characters. I will probably read the sequel just to find out what happens next and whilst I expect it to be competently written, I am not expecting anything more than a light pulpy fantasy adventure.
Thursday, 19 May 2016
Title: The Case of the Colonist's Corpse
Author: Bob Ingersoll & Tony Isabella
"The Case of the Colonist's Corpse" by Bob Ingersoll and Tony Isabella is an interesting departure from standard Star Trek literature. There is only a brief cameo from the Enterprise and its crew with the majority of the novel being devoted to telling a mystery/courtroom drama story set on a colony world with a story centres around Sam Cogley, the lawer who defended Captain Kirk in the TV episode “Court Martial”.
The events of the novel take place on Aneher II, a planet whose ownership is being contested by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty whichever government is deemed to have best developed their portion of the planet will be awarded the planet and both groups are therefore trying to prove their abilities. The uneasy peace between the two groups is shattered however by the murder of the Federation Administrator, Daniel Latham, seemingly killed by the Klingon Commander Mak'Tor. In order to provide a fair trial, Sam Cogley volunteers to defend Mak’Tor and must face off against his previous foe in the courtroom, prosecutor Areel Shaw.
The plot follows a classic mystery template with the reader knowing who is dead and who is going to be accused right from the earliest moments. They also know that the accused is obviously innocent and the fun lies in trying to pick the real culprit out a list of suspects who all have clear reasons for wanting to kill the victim. If you have ever read Perry Mason mystery novel then you will have a good idea what type of novel this is as it is very similar in style.
In regards to the writing itself, on the whole it felt quite simplistic but I don’t think that this distracted from the simple fun of seeing the Trek Universe explored in such an original and enjoyable way. However, this decision to concentrate on a small and little explored element of the Trek Universe instead of just re-hashing the standard Trek formula does result in one issue which may disappoint some readers. Basically, there is very little time put aside for the traditional characters of The Original Series. Personally, I didn’t mind this but I know there are some readers of Trek lit who mainly read these novels because of the Enterprise and its crew.
Overall, this was an enjoyable novel which provides readers with a Trek novel that doesn’t follow the traditional template. The fusion of Star Trek and Courtroom drama is an interesting one that had me entertained although I suspect the Science-Fiction elements may put off regular readers of the Mystery genre. In addition, any Star Trek fan who regular reads Trek books due to the Enterprise crew will also probably have some issues.
Friday, 29 April 2016
Title: Epic Fails
Author: Scott Rhine
“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
Title:Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Science Fiction
The Book Depository
"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
Title: My Other Car is a Spaceship
Author: Mark Terence Chapman
Genre: Science Fiction
“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
Author: David Mack
Genre: Science Fiction
“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.