Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Title: Mutiny on the Enterprise
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
“Mutiny on the Enterprise” by Robert E. Vardeman is one of the early Star Trek Original Series novels published by Pocket Books. The story follows the Enterprise which is sent on a mission to deliver a diplomatic team in the hope of halting hostilities between two worlds despite being long overdue a break for some maintenance actions. However, when Kirk rescues a stranded space-traveller called Lorelei on the way, he gets more than he bargained for as she appears to cast a spell of pacifism over the crew, risking both the mission and Kirk’s control of the Enterprise.
As with Vardeman’s other early Trek novel, “The Klingon Gambit” this book really wasn’t one of my favourites. Basically, the main characters don’t feel right and the story is at times overly complicated with far too much going on. The only passing marks the novel gets is that the premise of the story itself is quite interesting and Vardeman’s writing is acceptable enough but this wasn’t enough to make this an enjoyable read.
Another issue I had with the story is the way in which Lorelei is attempting to stop the Enterprise’s mission on the premise of pacifism. In my head, it was quite clear that if the Enterprise did not get involved there would be a war so whilst I appreciate there was the chance that violence could result from the Enterprise getting involved; it seemed there was more chance of this happening if the mission was abandoned. Therefore, sabotaging the mission to me was a form of passive aggression and therefore not pacifist.
Overall, this is a rather weak Star Trek novel which an interesting premise which is badly executed in a clumsy and overly contrived way. I would only recommend this novel for those of you out there like me who want to read every Trek novel.
Sunday, 26 February 2017
Title: A Woman Named Sellers (Witches of Pendle Book 2)
Author: Sarah L King
“A Woman Named Sellers” is the 2nd novel in Sarah L King’s historical fiction series entitled “The Witches of Pendle” although it can quite easily be enjoyed as a standalone novel. As with my review of the previous novel, I shall start by informing you all that the author is my wife and I was involved in some of the initial edits of the book. Of course, I am still trying to be fair and honest in this review but I think it is only right that people know about my relationship with the author.
The story is set 22 years after the infamous 1612 Pendle Witch trials and the events of the previous novel, “The Gisburn Witch”. The main protagonist is a young woman named Jennet Sellers who is forced to move in with relatives in the village of Barley, Lancashire after the death of her father. Jennet harbours a dark secret which has left her guilt-ridden and unable to accept any form of real happiness in her life. Despite this, she soon finds herself falling in love with William, a stonemason from Cumberland. Yet, just as she begins to accept the chance of a real future with William, her secret is revealed to the world and a series of events unfold which leaves her facing a very familiar and dangerous situation from her childhood which may result in her losing her life.
The pacing seems exactly right here, with the story starting off at a much better pace than the previous novel with this pacing then ramping up along with the tension as the story progresses. In addition, this novel covers a shorter time period which meant there was both a better flow and a greater opportunity to grow the characters. Simply put, whilst I felt King did a great job with her structure of “The Gisburn Witch”, I felt it was even better this time.
In regards to the characters, well they all felt genuine and this time around I actually felt some real sympathy for the main protagonist. At times her constant self-recrimination could get a little bit irritating but I could understand why she ended up like that considering every bit of happiness seemed to be followed by disaster which she would blame herself for. I ended up feeling some real empathy for Jennet and William, the man she falls in love with. In all honesty, it got to the point that the various forms of suffering they endured left me in tears.
Overall, this is another excellent Historical Fiction novel and I think it is better than the previous novel, “The Gisburn Witch”. Whilst you don’t need to have read that previous novel, there are quite a few little Easter eggs related to it around the novel which did leave me smiling when I noticed them. If you have read the first novel, then you should pick this one up as well. If you haven’t read either then I would recommend you give them a go if you are looking for some engaging, Historical Fiction novels.
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Title: The Klingon Gambit
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
“The Klingon Gambit” by Robert E. Vardeman is an Original Series Star Trek novel which is set firmly during the first 5 year mission period. The story follows the Enterprise as it is ordered to Alnath II where a Klingon ship is suspected of murdering the crew of a Vulcan science ship. Meanwhile an Archaeological team down on the planet refuse to leave despite the continued threat of the Klingons. Before long both the crews of the Enterprise and Klingons being to act irrationally and the risk of a major interstellar incident looms.
The first thing I noted was how short this novel is, at only around 160 pages long it isn’t the most in-depth or extravagant story. It feels more like one of the Bantam Star Trek novels which isn’t surprising when you realise that this was only the third Star Trek story released by Pocket Books. The issue with the short length however means that the book doesn’t always flow very well and issues with the passage of time abound. An example of this is that when Kirk asks for a Security Team to be assembled it seems to happen almost instantly. The author is basically racing through the story and not thinking about how to show at least some level of passing time.
Another problem with the book is that the characters are all over the place. I will admit that part of this is due to the interference of an outside force but the various out-of-character actions are still rather irritating. Unless, the plot of a Trek novel is clever, well-crafted and paced correctly, I think removing that ability to understand and appreciate the characters we all know well diminishes the book. In the case of “The Klingon Gambit” I didn’t think the story was good enough and therefore losing the characters I know reduced my enjoyment quite substantially.
The next issue I had with the novel relates to the time in which it was written. The Klingon’s themselves are missing a lot of the nuances and enhancements which were introduced in later series and novels. They are basically all brutes, who only operate for their on self-gain and are clearly just bad! In addition to this issue, some of the writing itself feels rather racist, sexist and xenophobic. It isn’t always the most comfortable of reads for a modern reader but as long as you can understand the context of when it was written, it can be ignored.
My review has been very negative so far and in simple terms I have to say that this wasn’t a very good Trek novel. However, in an attempt to highlight some positives I will say that there is a decent idea within the plot which I did find interesting at times and I still managed to finish it. Unless you are desperate to read every Trek novel I wouldn’t necessarily bother with this one.
Friday, 20 January 2017
Title: On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Book 1)
Author: David Weber
The Book Depository
“On Basilisk Station” by David Weber is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. This series is in the military science-fiction genre, although it does probably fit the space opera mould as well. I have to admit that I only actually read the book because it was being given away for free on Amazon and the series as a whole did seem to be reasonably well respected.
The story follows Honor Harrington who has recently been made captain of the spaceship HMS Fearless, a light cruiser in the Manticoran Navy. Honor faces some resentment issues with her crew however which is only exacerbated when a new weapons policy from the admiralty doesn’t work consistently and they are “punished” for this failure by sending them to Basilisk Station, a well-known dead end assignment. However with a threat to Manticore looming in the form of the People’s Republic of Haven, Basilisk Station could be much more important than anyone could ever have imagined.
This was an enjoyable space adventure with an interesting and engaging plot which takes the reader on a bit of a thrill ride. In addition, the lack of any gender bias was quite impressive to see, it really didn’t matter if someone was female or male in this world as there was no difference between them when it came to their role, be that military or civilian. The world in which Weber has created is superbly detailed, with corrupt officers, interest laden politicians, and incompetent leaders aplenty. He has clearly thought through all the various political situations and technologies which would be utilised in this far off future.
Honor Harrington herself is an interesting enough character and I do like how Weber has created a female lead but has avoided sexualising her or bogging her done in a romantic sub-plot. Instead, we get a ship captain, who is resourceful, determined, well skilled in tactics and just so happens to be female. However, she is a little bit too perfect for my liking. The way in which she seems to succeed at everything and has pretty much no character flaws resulted in my eyes rolling a few times throughout the novel. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to fawn over her and the characters who quite clearly dislike her are also quite clearly “bad” people.
The main issue with the novel however is in regards to the various info dumps that Weber likes to drop. He just seems to enjoy dropping lots of technical information on the reader and this resulted in me skimming over multiple pages of missile ranges and physics explanations. It basically got a little bit dry and boring at times to the point were in sections it felt like a text book. I would much rather have seen this information dropped on the reader in slower time via the characters themselves. It doesn’t help that some of the pacing in the battle sections which should be the most exciting part of the novel is affected by these info dumps.
A final comment of mine is in regards to the treecats, an aboriginal lifeform who come from Sphinx, one of the planets of the Manticore system. Basically, Honor has one with her called “Nimitz” who seems to be some form of companion. I really do have no idea what the point in this creature was though. Honestly, it just felt like it was just some way to differentiate Honor from everyone else.
Overall, despite my issues with the tendency to info dump and the fact that Honor is a bit too perfect; the book was still an enjoyable experience. If you are looking for some fun military based Space Opera then you should probably consider picking up this book, especially as I think you can still get it for free from the publisher.