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.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Tehanu (Earthsea Book 4) - Ursula K. Le Guin



Title: Tehanu (Earthsea Book 4)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1990
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
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Review:
“Tehanu” by Ursula K. Le Guin is the fourth book in the Earthsea fantasy series. The story is returns the reader to the island of Gont and the woman Tenar who had been brought to the Island by Ged after he had rescued her in the previous novel “The Tombs of Atuan”. Years have passed since then and she is ow as a widow with her own grown-up children. However, her seemingly ordinary life soon changes when she opts to take in a severely abused child as a foster daughter.

The book was written several years after the original trilogy and it is therefore quite different from the previous books, in both style and substance. Le Guin has quite clearly picked up a stronger feminist viewpoint since the original trilogy and has used “Tehanu” as a novel in which she can call out the inequity between the sexes in both the fantasy genre and the world in general. Fundamentally, I don’t have an issue with this except for the fact that I think she takes it too far. Perhaps this is just a defensive viewpoint from a man, but at times it almost felt like every female character was somehow worthy and important whilst the men were portrayed as weak and flawed. In fact, the way in which Ged has been reduced to depressed individual who mopes around feeling sorry for himself felt rather inconsistent with the man we had come to know in the other novels.

Her writing of course is as skilful as always and overall plot itself was rather intriguing if not brimming with action or a fast pace. But to be honest, anyone who has read any of Le Guin’s other Earthsea books should be used to that by now. The ending itself was left a little bit open for my liking but I think this is intentional as it is being used to set up future books in the series.

Overall, I did enjoy this latest book in the Earthsea series but it wasn’t a favourite of mine. I found the stripping back of Ged’s dignity a bit sore to take and the in your face feminist slant just came across to strongly.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Star Trek: Purgatory's Key (Legacies Book 3) - Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore



Title: Purgatory's Key
Author: Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Purgatory's Key" by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore is the final book in the “Legacies” trilogy of novels which were written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. It picks up directly from the events that occurred at the end of the previous novel, Best Defense” with the Enterprise heading to the planet Usilde to see if they can actually rescue the various people now trapped in an alternate universe. Of course with the Klingon’s already holding the planet, it is not going to be an easy task. Meanwhile, in the alternate universe, Captain Una along with the recently arrived Sarek, Joanna McCoy & the Klingon Gorkon are trying to work out themselves if there is any chance to get home.

The authors have crafted a well-written novel that wraps up all the various loose ends. The writing is competent and the plot itself is enjoyable enough with some entertaining action sequences interspersed amongst the other more cerebral sections of the novel. In addition, the various main characters acted exactly as I would have expected, but considering the Treklit experience of the authors involved this didn’t surprise me.

However, the story did have various issues which detracted from my overall enjoyment. I suspect most of them however were related to the quantity of plot lines the authors had to get completed. Basically, we just seemed to skim the surface of the various story elements and there was pretty much zero development of the characters. The authors just didn’t seem to have the time to get deeper down into the plot lines and characters. This lack of depth was really highlighted to me in relation to the strange intermediate “ether” realm that existed between the two Universes. I have to admit that I got a little bit confused here as I couldn’t understand why or how this strange realm existed or how it actually worked. It almost felt more like Fantasy than Science-Fiction although I know the differences between these two genre can be rather blurred.

Overall, this is a competent enough conclusion to the series and if you have read the other novels then you will at least get some closure by reading "Purgatory's Key". I think in the end the best way to describe this book and the series as a whole is that they are reasonably enjoyable standard Star Trek novels. They aren’t bad but I just don’t think they lived up the 50th Anniversary hype.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Star Trek: Best Defense (Legacies Book 2) - David Mack



Title: Best Defense
Author: David Mack
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Best Defense” is the second book in the “Legacies” series of novels which are being written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The story picks up several weeks after the previous book ended with the reveal that Captain Kirk's yeoman was a Romulan spy who had now stolen and alien artefact known as the Transfer Key. Whilst the crew of the Enterprise are trying to deal with this situation, Ambassador Sarek reaches out to the Enterprise to come to his aid in the peace talks which are taking place between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. If these peace talks fail that the Klingon Empire and Federation may both be doomed and therefore Kirk has no choice but to try and help Ambassador Sarek. In parallel to this, the reader also gets to follow Captain Una who is now in the Jatohr universe where she is determined to find her lost colleagues.

David Mack has done a decent job in building on the elements introduced in the first book, creating a fast paced adventure which nicely balances elements of intrigue, diplomacy and action. I quite simply struggled to put the book down and would probably say that I enjoyed it more than the first novel, “Captain to Captain”. There is also some decent progress being made in the storyline which was nice to see as 2nd novels in a trilogy can sometimes fall into the trap of being nothing more than filler which thankfully isn’t the case here.

The only real issue I have is in relation to the sections of the novel dedicated to Captain Una. Whilst in the previous novel I was surprised at how central she was to the story, this time it feels like she has been shunted off to the side with her sequences in the Jatohr universe coming across as being rather dull. I actually think that Mack has reduced her role a little bit too much and some more expansion of what was going on the Jatohr universe may have actually made these sequences more entertaining.

Overall this was a very satisfying and entertaining story which follows on neatly from the events seen in “Captain to Captain”. There may be a little bit too much included in the novel which does limit some sections such as those set in the Jatohr universe but this is a minor quibble. If you read the first book, then I really do recommend you pick up this novel as well. For myself, I am now looking forward to getting stuck into the finale of this entertaining trilogy.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake Book 2) - C.J. Sansom



Title: Dark Lake (Matthew Shardlake Book 2)
Author: C.J. Sansom
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published: 2004
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
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Review:
“Dark Fire” by C.J. Sansom is the 2nd novel in his “Matthew Shardlake” series of historical mystery novels. In this novel, the hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake is asked to defend a young lady who is accused of murdering her cousin. The case is difficult enough but his client is also refusing to speak and if she doesn’t make a plea at court, she will be forced to face the “Press” which is a rather unpleasant torture device. However, he is soon offered a reprieve and is given two weeks to investigate the case on the proviso that he carries out a job for Lord Cromwell. Unfortunately, no job for Cromwell is without its own risks.

As with “Dissolution”, the previous book in the series I found this novel to be written in an intelligent and competent manner. The pace starts off quite slowly but as the story progresses the pacing picks up and it becomes harder and harder to put the book down. The description of 16th century London is also exquisite and I could easily envisage the Tudor world, both in look and culture. But what really worked here is that Sansom manages to showcase this period without getting distracted from the actual art of storytelling. It never feels dry or boring; I was quite simply entertained from start to finish.

The characters themselves are realistic and varied, with a level of depth that it is quite impressive. Shardlake himself has mellowed somewhat since the events of the first novel and despite some of his viewpoints still being outside the norm for a contemporary person, his intelligence, modesty and honesty will still endear him to the reader, especially when you consider the world in which he inhabits appears to be lacking in these values. I also loved his new acquaintance, John Barak, a brash young man who works for Cromwell and provides a wonderful partner for Shardlake. I really hope to see more of Barak in future novels as I look forward to seeing how his relationship with Shardlake develops.

Overall, I found this to be another enjoyable and interesting mystery novel that provides both an entertaining plotline and a vivid image of Tudor London. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series as I expect it to be just as entertaining as the previous two novels, but also because I am beginning to really love the characters of Shardlake and Barak and want to see how they further develop.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Star Trek: Captain to Captain (Legacies Book 1) - Greg Cox



Title: Captain to Captain
Author: Greg Cox
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
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The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Captain To Captain” is the first book in the “Legacies” series of novels which are being written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The novel is split across two time periods, in 2267 Captain Una (aka Number One from the pilot episode The Cage) visits the Enterprise on a supposedly social call, but soon steals an artefact known as “The Key” in order to complete a personal mission. The reason for this mission is explained by a flashback to 2249 in which the Enterprise, under the command of Captain Robert April discovers a race of creatures known as the Jatohr who have come from an alternate universe via the Key technology. Una and her away team are forced to find a way to deal with the Jatohr before they can use their technology against the Federation and the entire Universe.

The story is well written and nicely paced with overall drama of the story being complemented by a few entertaining action scenes. What I liked about the 2249 period is that beyond Una and Captain April themselves I had no idea who would live or die from the Enterprise’s crew which added to the drama. I also felt that Cox has done well in capturing the characters and in particular I found the adjustment of Number One's name to "Una" to be quite plausible.

One thing which was a bit surprising to me is that so much of the book was focused on Una (Number One) rather than the regular main characters. Whilst I was more than happy to learn a bit more about that enigmatic character, it wasn’t really what I would have expected from a book celebrating 50 years of Star Trek. Yes, many Trek fans will probably like this exploration of character that was cast aside after the first pilot episode, but for the more casual fans I suspect it would have better to create a story that gave more of a central role to Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

The ending itself was also a little bit disappointing as it didn’t really close any of the open plot points. I understand it is a series but the new twist revealed at the end would have been enough of a cliff-hanger to keep people wanting to read more. Instead I am a bit annoyed that there are new plot lines being brought into the story even when we still have plenty of others ones left open.

Overall, despite my minor issues, this was still an enjoyable and entertaining Star Trek novel. From my point of view, I enjoyed learning more about Number One although I do understand that for some fans the side-lining of Kirk et al won’t be popular. The lack of closure evident at the ending was irritating but the additional twist revealed has nicely set up the next novel in the series “Best Defense”.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 4) - Harry Harrison



Title: The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 4)
Author: Harry Harrison
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1978
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
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Review:
“The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!” is the fourth instalment in Harry Harrison’s amusing and at times quite ridiculous science-fiction series entitled “The Stainless Steel Rat”. If you have read any of the other novels in the series, then you will know the drill by now. Slippery Jim DiGriz is a con artist who’s been forced to work undercover for the Special Corps, an intergalactic investigating agency. When his wife is kidnapped by the revenue service, Slippery Jim picks up his two teenage sons from their military boarding school (and penitentiary) to free their mother and wreak havoc on the tax bureau. As is often the case with his adventures, this escapade leads to Jim finding himself commandeered to save humanity from galaxy-wide destruction.

Up until this point, Harrison’s series has been devoid of aliens which is remedied in this novel. And by remedied, I mean he overwhelms the Universe with an invasion of countless different slimy, tentacled creatures, all improbably banded together against us, united in their hatred and disgust for just how ugly we look. Honestly, I think he tried to cover every B-movie alien he could; he really did make up for his previously human centric Universe!

In regards to the writing itself, well it is fast paced and full of many witty and humourous moments, just like the other novels in the series. At times it did feel a little bit like Harrison was running out of new ideas however as the basic frame work of the plot is very similar to the other novels. And don’t get me started on the use of time travel again; I seriously think this gimmick is getting overused. The resolution’s also a little convenient, but it is in keeping with the tone of the novel so it didn’t bother me that much.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still an enjoyable romp and I probably liked this one more than the previous novel “The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World”. However, it is just more of the same and there is probably only so many times you can enjoy following these parodies of golden age sci-fi novels before beginning to get a little bored.

Overall, this is another entertaining novel in “The Stainless Steel Rat” series that should appeal to those of you have who have already read the previous novels. Yes, the books are beginning to feel a bit samey but Slippery Jim DiGriz continues to be an enjoyable and engaging character who keeps drawing me back into his world, even if the originality is now slightly lacking.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Star Trek: Treaty's Law (Day of Honor Book 4) - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: Treaty's Law
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1997
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Treaty’s Law” by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch is the fourth book in the “Day of Honor” series, a collection of Klingon focussed cross-over Star Trek novels. Whilst it is the fourth book in the series, it is actually the first book chronologically and involves a standalone plot so there was no issue in regards to reading it out of series order.

The story is set during The Original series period on the planet Signi Beta, a planet ideal for farming which both the Klingons and Federation wish to claim. The Klingon’s have a stronger claim but Kirk really doesn’t want to lose it, especially when his old adversary, Commander Kor is involved. However, when the Klingon Colony is attacked by powerful, unknown aliens, it is up to the crew of the Enterprise to work alongside the Klingons in order to survive.

The story was well written and fast paced with a fair amount of action. It reminded me a bit of the usual Kirk centric action plots you would see on the TV series. This feeling I had was enhanced by the characters who are well captured and easily match what we know of them from the TV series. However, the authors also added in a few new characters such as the Klingon Kerdoch. He was a well-rounded character who was used well to add different views into the story without eclipsing the regular characters. In a way he reminded me of the usual “Guest Stars” you would have seen during the TV series, who have prominent roles but are used alongside the regular cast rather than instead of.

One disappointing aspect of the novel is in regards to Kor. He basically spends most of the novel injured and doesn’t really say that much. Therefore there is very little of the enjoyable verbal sparring that you would normally get to see between him and Kirk. It wasn’t a huge issue, but I would have enjoyed seeing a little bit more of him, especially considering he is quite prominent on the cover.

Overall this is an enjoyable original series novel although I don’t think it adds that much to my knowledge of Klingons. Still, if you are interested in Klingons you may as well still pick it up for a read as there are the odd interesting elements present. Like in regards to the non-warrior aspects of Klingon culture.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Star Trek: Vanguard: Declassified - David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore



Title: Declassified
Author: David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“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

The Land That Time Forgot (Caspak Book 1) - Edgar Rice Burroughs


Title: The Land That Time Forgot
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1918
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
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Amazon UK

Review:
“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

Star Trek: The Case of the Colonist's Corpse - Bob Ingersoll & Tony Isabella



Title: The Case of the Colonist's Corpse
Author: Bob Ingersoll & Tony Isabella
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"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

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.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Shaman (Behind The Walls of Sleep Book 2) - Scott Rhine


Title: Shaman (Behind The Walls of Sleep Book 2)
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2014
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Shaman” by Scott Rhine is the 2nd novel in his YA fantasy series, “Behind the Walls of Sleep”. The story picks up directly on from the ending of the previous novel “Messenger”, although the majority of the plot this time takes place in the real world. Whilst staying with his Native American family, Daniel must learn to become a shaman with all the responsibilities required of that role. However, he discovers that a teenage girl is being held in New Orleans by a coven and soon embarks on an adventure with his cousins to rescue her.

I really appreciated that the majority of this book took place in the real world as it was those sections which really shown in the first novel. In that book, Rhine used the real world to really grow the characters and he has once again done it here. We get to see some real development of Daniel’s and I loved witnessing how his own interpretation of events changes as he matures. Those earlier viewpoints were quite fundamental in affecting his behaviour, so it was easy for the reader to follow and appreciate his changing characteristics. In addition, it was also good to learn about the culture and history of his Native American family alongside him; I think that it is always easier to appreciate a character and their reactions when it feels like you are learning something at the same time as them.

In regards to pacing, this book continues on from the “Messenger” in that it is slower that what I am used to from Rhine. In fact, I think this one may have been even slower and more deliberate as Rhine tries to develop both Daniel’s character and some of the secondary characters. Whilst this slower pace may be a little surprising to regular readers of Rhine’s work, I enjoyed the more measured pacing which helps sell the character driven aspects of the novel.

Overall, this is an entertaining YA Fantasy novel that kept me fully engaged from start to finish. I really enjoyed following Daniel on his adventure and appreciated that Rhine tried to showcase his growth.

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.