Thursday, 28 January 2016
Title: The IDIC Epidemic
Author: Jean Lorrah
Genre: Science Fiction
“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
Title: Grail Mysterium: An Adventure on the Heights
Author: Thomas Kaplan-maxfield
The Book Depository
“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
Title: Child of Two Worlds
Author: Greg Cox
Genre: Science Fiction
The Book Depository
"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
Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Ray Bradbury
The Book Depository
“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.