Thursday 20 March 2014

Star Trek: Vanguard: Open Secrets - Dayton Ward

Title: Open Secrets
Author: Dayton Ward
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2009
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Open Secrets” by Dayton Ward is the 4th novel in the Star Trek Vanguard series which continues the various plotlines kicked off in the previous novels. A prime focus of the narrative in this book is the investigation and trial of the station’s commander, Commodore Reyes who was arrested at the end of the previous book for allowing classified information to be published by a reporter. In addition, the reader gets to the follow the further deterioration of relations with the Klingon and Tholian Empires, the ongoing search for information on the Shedai technology and the fallout of T’Prynn’s mental breakdown which results in her return to Vulcan.

This book is another enjoyable chapter in the Vanguard series although it didn’t wow me as much as its predecessor, “Reap The Whirlwind”. The storyline developments were interesting and the characters continue to entertain me but there were just no real surprises or twists involved. Everything pretty much progressed as you would expect and there were no elements there that really struck me as being gripping or memorable.

One of the real issues I had with the novel however is in regards to the pacing which at times reduced my reading progress to a slow slog. I think the basic problem was that the novel is overly wordy at times to the point of distraction. Ward is basically using 20 words when 10 would have sufficed and for some reason the editing process has failed to rectify this. It is a shame as some competent editing could have dealt rather easily with this issue to ensure the pacing was better.

A nice element to the story is in regards to Ward’s ability to link various events into the wider Star Trek universe. I enjoyed seeing both the tie in to the Original Series in regards to the peace between the Klingons and Federation that was imposed by the Organians and the inclusion of Carol Marcus’ involvement with Shedai technology that hints at the future Genesis project seen in Star Trek II. Sometimes I think these links to the wider universe can be rather brutally shoehorned into a novel but with “Open Secrets” it all felt rather natural and subtle which I did appreciate.

Overall, this is a novel which competently continues the plots started in the previous Vanguard novels but doesn’t really provide any genuinely memorable or exciting parts. For fans of the series there is more than enough here to provide some entertainment but when you hold it up against the previous novel it seems rather lacking.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The Martian - Andy Weir

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

When I first picked up “The Martian” by Andy Weir I didn’t know what to expect as this was a new author and the premise wasn’t that original. However, by the time I closed the final pages I realised that this was quite simply my favourite book of those I read in 2013. It actually had me hooked from the first pages few pages due to its realism, humour and a character that the reader can find easy to emotionally engage with.

As said, earlier, the premise of the story isn’t that original with an astronaut known as Mark Watney being abandoned on the planet Mars. We then get to follow Mark as he tries to survive on the planet’s inhospitable surface in the hope of future rescue. There are portions of the story which focus elsewhere as we see NASA trying to react but on the whole the book is concentrated on Mark’s individual struggles.

The pacing is perfect and the narrative voice of Watney is quite simply wonderful. With a book like this in which one character dominates the majority it is important that they are realistic and that the reader would want to take the journey with him through the highs and lows. Weir has done a brilliant job in creating Watney and at no point was I not fully behind him in his adventure. He is witty, humorous and full of a determination and drive to survive which helps the reader warm to him very quickly. I found myself laughing at his jokes, cheering his successes and wishing him to get home with all my being. It has been a long time since I have really felt for a character like I did Watney and I think that unless you have a heart of stone you will struggle not to like him either.

Another superb element of the story is the way in which Weir manages to blend science into the story in such an entertaining and interesting way. Until I read this book I never knew that someone could make the science of soil so enjoyable to follow. This utilisation of chemistry, biology and physics also really enhanced the story and helped add to the overall realism. It highlighted to me both the abilities of the characters but also the thought and dedication that has gone on behind the scenes in writing the book.

Overall, I have to say that “The Martian” is a superb achievement for Weir in that he has taken a well-used science-fiction premise and repackaged it expertly. The pacing is perfect, the characters are engaging, the science is used in an interesting manner and there is a wonderful level of witty humour throughout. I am happy to recommend this book to anyone out there who enjoys an engaging and entertaining science fiction story with an undeniable hint of humour.