Saturday 30 November 2013

Star Trek 8 - James Blish

Title: Star Trek 8
Author: James Blish
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1972
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK

“Star Trek 8” by James Blish was the eighth collection of Original Series Star Trek series scripts adapted into short story form. One thing to note is that neither the various collections nor the stories contained are in any sort of chronological order so it has been an interesting experience for me in trying to decide what order I should read them as part of my chronological reading challenge.

This collection includes adaptations of the following episodes:

  • Spock's Brain (3rd Season)
  • The Enemy Within (1st Season)
  • Catspaw (2nd Season)
  • Where No Man Has Gone Before (1st Season)
  • Wolf in the Fold (2nd Season)
  • For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (3rd Season)

  • As you can see this collection contains 2 stories from each of the 3 original series seasons but I have ended up reading this collection as part of the 2265 period due to the inclusion of the pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” which is referenced in several other books from this period.

    In all honesty the stories themselves are probably only as good or as bad as they were when shown on the TV screen. There are some really enjoyable stories in this collection such as “Where No Man Has Gone Before” or “Wolf in the Fold” but there are also some real stinkers such as “Spock’s Brain” and “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.

    One thing I noted is that the novelizations are very straight forward and workmanlike with hardly any added material. In addition Blish has been quite extreme in the way he has rigidly stuck to the scripts which results in very little insight into the characters beyond what is shown in the action and dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, the stories do capture what happened on the screen very well but dedicated fans of the show are unlikely to find anything in the stories to be engaging or suspenseful as there is quite simply nothing new. However, if you are someone who came to love Star Trek via the more modern series and have never really watched the Original Series this this collection does offer an enjoyable diversion and a nice way to quickly experience these classic stories.

    Overall, these are very competent adaptions of some Original Series episodes although they are lacking anything new or insightful. I can imagine these were superb back in the days before DVD’s enabling people to watch episodes as many times as they wished but these days I don’t think they mean as much beyond offering a quick way for someone to explore the original episodes without sitting down and watching them.

    Tuesday 26 November 2013

    Salvation (Altered Realities Book 2) - Weston Kincade

    Title: Salvation (Altered Realities Book 2)
    Author: Weston Kincade
    Genre: Fantasy
    Published: 2013
    Formats: Ebook

    Available at:
    Amazon UK

    "Salvation" is the 2nd novel in Weston Kincade’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy series known as “Altered Realities”. If you haven't read the previous book then I do advise that you avoid reading this review as some of my commentary is likely to include some spoilers due to this novel

    Anyway, the story follows on directly from “Invisible Dawn” with Madeline and her colleagues continuing to travel across multiple dimensions in their continued attempt to evade Leodenin, the PASTOR agent that has consistently been on their trail. However, Madeline soon realises that the only real way for them to escape is to take the fight to PASTOR itself and before long a daring plan to strike at the heart of PASTOR is put into motion.

    As with the first novel, there is an enjoyable blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy throughout the story with alternate dimensions, vampires and psychic powers all being utilised in an entertaining manner. The fast paced action sequences also really keep the fun factor high which is complemented by some interesting and varied worlds.

    I enjoyed the characters that were introduced in the previous novel and Kincade has continued to develop them well in this novel. We get to understand their thoughts and feeling on a deeper level and also get to learn more about them and the various powers they have. This helped ensure that there was a feeling of character growth within the novel as well as action and adventure.

    The think I really appreciated with this novel is that Kincade gives us a much better ending than what was seen in “Invisible Dawn”. Yes it is still open ended to an extent but at least the overall story of this book was concluded in a manner which left me satisfied enough but still wanting more which wasn’t something I could say when I finished the previous novel.

    Overall, I felt this book continued the enjoyable and action packed story that was started in “Invisible Dawn”. As with its predecessor it was difficult to put down, but this time I felt much more satisfied when I finish the book. If you have read and enjoyed the previous novel then I am happy to say that you shouldn’t be disappointed when you read this.

    Tuesday 12 November 2013

    The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Book 2) - Ursula K. Le Guin

    Title: The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Book 2)
    Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
    Genre: Fantasy
    Published: 1970
    Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

    Available at:
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    “The Tombs of Atuan” is the second novel in Ursula K. Le Guin's classic YA fantasy series known as the Earthsea cycle. As with the first book in the series I found this novel to be okay but there was nothing that really wowed me within its pages. It did attempt to remedy one of the major issues I had with the first book in regards to trying to cram too much story into too few pages. However, this was done by cutting back the overall scope and adventure of the story rather than by trying to increase the page count which is a bit of a shame.

    In regards to the story, it is based around a young priestess who was taken from her family as a child and brought up to serve the nameless ones as head priestess at the Tombs of Atuan. However, when an interloper breaks into the tombs, she finds herself unable to order his death as she should have. Instead, she speaks to the man, discovering he is a wizard from foreign lands and slowly but surely he helps her release the truth about the nameless ones she serves.

    As mentioned earlier, the scope of this story is nothing like the epic tale told in the first novel and this has some positives and negatives. For example, it enables Le Guin to really delve into the characters and the world more, I really appreciated the way in which she spent time detailing and describing the places, people and culture around the tombs. However, the feeling of action and adventure was missing, it was much more claustrophobic and cerebral a story which was entertaining enough but it just wasn’t as much fun to read.

    Another thing that I am also unsure about is the decision that Le Guin took to move the overall Earthsea story to a different place and viewpoint. Yes, it was an interesting and enjoyable attempt to further explore the world but I would also have enjoyed seeing more development in the life of Sparrowhawk himself. I felt that the relegation of him to a side character who appears in the latter half of the book made it a little bit more difficult to get into the novel than it needed to be.

    Overall, it was an interesting and enjoyable enough story that really helped to build a more detailed picture of some aspects of Earthsea. What I would really love to see Le Guin do in in the future is merge this detailed look at characters and world alongside the epic and enjoyable adventure she showed us in the first Earthsea novel. I am going to keep working through the series because either way I am curious to know what type of novel she decided to create next.

    Wednesday 6 November 2013

    The Fall (The Strain Book 2) - Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

    Title: The Fall (The Strain Book 2)
    Author: Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
    Genre: Horror
    Published: 2010
    Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

    Available at:
    The Book Depository
    Amazon UK

    “The Fall” by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan is the 2nd book in the Strain trilogy and follows on directly from the first book in the series entitled “The Strain”. If you haven't read the previous book then I do advise that you avoid reading this review as some of my commentary is likely to include some spoilers, especially in relation to the plot.

    Eph Goodweather and his human allies are now holed up in New York watching the Master and his brood continue to grow in strength as they turn more people into vampires. The infection has grown so out of control that other groups of vampires have now joined the fight in an attempt to stem the Master’s power. However, there is still some hope for humanity as a fabled book has turned up for auction that may hold secrets that could lead to their salvation. And so Eph, Setrakian and the others must find a way to survive the steadily worsening city but also get a hold of the book, even though the Master himself is also aware of it.

    As with the previous book in the series I found “The Fall” to be an enjoyable action packed book that takes look at the darker side of vampires and doesn’t try and sugar coat anything. However, it still didn’t strike me as being very original and it felt at times like Del Toro and Hogan and gone over many other vampire stories and just taken the sections they liked and merged it all together. In addition, the first half of the novel didn’t really add much to the overall narrative and I was worried it was going to fall into the trap of many other middle novels in which we don’t actually get much progression. Luckily the 2nd half of the novel did pick up the pace and I soon found myself really wanting to know what was going to happen next.

    One issue I had with the first novel was that it seemed intent on putting vampirism across in a very scientific manner and I found that this didn’t fit in with some elements such as why vampires couldn’t cross bodies of water. This is actually dealt with in this book as the authors opened up the paranormal elements of being a vampire. Therefore the minor issues I had previously disappear now as I am no longer just trying to look at it from a scientific viewpoint.

    My opinion on the characters is split, because whilst some of the characters continued to develop and interest me, others just plain got annoying and continue to act like cardboard cut-outs. On the positive front this is Setrakian, the old vampire hunter who we learn even more about and who continues to interest and actually reaches out to the reader on some emotional levels. However, Eph himself continues to be uninteresting and I really couldn’t care much about him at all, he just seems to be lacking charisma. I suppose, perhaps the authors were trying to show the depression that had crept into Eph’s life but it just put me off reading about him.

    Overall, whilst the review may seem quite negative in tone, I did still enjoy the book; I just kept thinking it could have been so much more. It is also a book of two halves, the first section really just reiterating what was revealed in “The Strain” before we finally get into the second section and witness the more exciting new adventure. To be honest, if you liked the first novel then you should be at least happy with this instalment in the series as it does continue in the same vein.