Friday, 11 May 2018

Star Trek: Dreams of the Raven - Carmen Carter



Title: Dreams of the Raven
Author: Carmen Carter
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1987
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Dreams of the Raven” by Carmen Carter is an Original Series Star Trek novel which is primarily focused around the character of Dr. McCoy. The overall plot follows the crew of the USS Enterprise as they attempts to deal with a new and dangerous species who are seemingly able to take control of ships and their crews with relative ease. Unfortunately, the crew aren’t helped by a head injury to Dr. McCoy which has resulted in him losing all his memories from his time in Starfleet. Devoid of all his experiences, he is more of a hindrance than a help as the crew tries to battle the new foe!

The first thing to mention about the plot is that the cause of McCoy’s amnesia is rather silly and quite unimaginative. The concept of his reversion to a younger self however was an interesting one which did keep me intrigued. It was particularly nice seeing how the effect of past experiences could change someone as was evident with McCoy and how he now acted without those experiences. However, I do think that the author maybe went a bit too far at times as some of McCoy’s core personality traits were altered beyond what I felt was realistic. Of course, it could be argued that this was potentially just another aspect of his head injury.

The plot elements around the alien threat itself were rather standard and uninspiring. It wasn’t that long ago that I finished the book but I am already struggling to remember anything of note about these aspects of the plot. Overall, this is probably best described as another average Original Series novel. The amnesia plot is a bit trite in set-up and conclusion but it was nice to see a book dedicated to McCoy and the concept of how the memory loss affected him was interesting. The rest of the story isn’t really anything memorable but it isn’t the worst Star Trek novel I have read.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures - Dayton Ward



Title: Drastic Measures
Author: Dayton Ward
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2018
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Drastic Measures” by Dayton Ward is the second Star Trek: Discovery novel that has been released. The story actually takes place many years prior to the Discovery series but does feature two of its main characters, Gabriel Lorca and Philippa Georgiou. These two Starfleet officers get involved in events as they unfold on the planet Tarsus IV which is suffering from a fungal plague that is ravaging the colony food supplies. Fans of Star Trek should of course be aware of what unfolds on Tarsus IV regarding the colony Governor, Kodos and his decision to murder 4000 colonists in a misguided attempt to save the rest. The novel shows us these events and the aftermath of how Starfleet attempts to hunt him down.

Whilst the events on Tarsus IV have been covered various times in the past it was still interesting to read this latest attempt at taking what we know from the Original Series and bringing it all together. Of course, most readers will know how the overall plot ends but it was still a satisfying read with enough twists to keep me entertained. A particular point which I appreciated was the attempt which Ward makes to provide some insight into the thoughts of Kodos himself and how those around him came to rationalise what they were doing.

In regards to the characters, the portrayals were generally acceptable. It is difficult to really compare Lorca to what we saw on the TV screen as this is the Prime Universe version which we don’t really know that much about. However, his rather stiff persona and stifled emotions, supported by loyalty to his colleagues did seem to work. In regards to Georgiou, well her heroism is quite clear but I didn’t see much of her humour or playfulness on show during the novel. The only other character to comment on is the young Jim Kirk who unsurprisingly makes an appearance and is just as brave as you would expect when you know who he grows up to be.

Overall, I thought the story was well-written and undertook an interesting exploration of an important piece of Trek lore. In all honesty, I am not sure this was really a Discovery novel as it felt more like a prequel to the Original Series and the author has just used two Discovery characters in order to link the two. This isn’t really an issue but readers should be aware that due to this there isn’t any real expansion on what we know about the Discovery and its crew.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Zombie Generation - Drake Vaughn



Title: The Zombie Generation
Author: Drake Vaughn
Genre: Horror
Published: 2012
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"The Zombie Generation" by Drake Vaughn is an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic zombie genre. The story follows Warner, a survivor who is trying to stay alive in a world overrun by infected people whom he calls "Buggers". What makes things even worse for Warner is that he is quite clearly losing his grip on reality. He is tormented by hallucinations and is no longer sure what is actually real and what isn't.

This novel was anything but a standard zombie story, the zombies themselves were very unique with features such as an obese bodies, a love of alcohol, and the fact that they sleep in piles which can reach the height of a building. In addition, Warner's weak grasp of reality actually leads the reader on an intriguing psychological journey which I found to be just as unique as the zombies themselves. Warner's hallucinations result in him being the epitome of an unreliable narrator which kept me wondering if what was happening was actually real or not.

In regards to the characters, the book is centred around Warner and his life alone so unless you feel like an overweight, alcoholic zombie, I suspect he is the only characters that a reader can actually relate to. I felt that Vaughn has done a great job in bringing him to life as everything he does comes across as natural. His choices and actions were realistic, especially when you consider the world he has survived and how well his sanity is holding up. I actually gave a damn about him as the main characters which is something I always appreciate in a book.

My only real issue with the book is that the plot could be a little bit slow at times. This was exacerbated by some of the background information that Vaughn decided to include in the story. Don't get me wrong, I like to know about the history of a world but not when seemingly unrelated and overly detailed points cause the story to actually drag.

Overall, I did find this story entertaining enough with the rather different take on the zombie genre keeping me intrigued from start to finish. I can imagine that some people may dislike the unreliability of Warner's narrative but this is the very thing which helps give it a unique feeling.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference - Christopher L. Bennett



Title: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Patterns of Interference” by Christopher L. Bennett is the fifth novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. This book was probably the weakest in this series which is a shame as up until now I had been finding the series to be incredibly enjoyable.

The novel is set in the first few months of 2166 as the federation continues to deal with multiple issues. The main plot point however is in relation to the planet Sauria and the dictator, Maltuvis who is determined to undermine the Federation in order to cement his own power. Into this dangerous situation comes Tucker who is determined to undermine Maltuvis's authority in a manner which could also bring down Section 31 as well. This is supported by various other plotlines such as Hoshi and the crew of the Endeavor on the world Birnam who are dealing with what could be a sentient race of Dryads. In addition, we also get to see the growth in relationship between Malcolm Reed & Caroline Paris

I suppose the reason why this book disappointed me in comparison to the earlier books is that it simply felt like a filler and it feels like Bennett is sometimes struggling to give some characters interesting things to do. I worry that the series appears to be turning into “The Adventures of Trip” rather than properly progressing all the characters and delving into some of the open plot points from the series.

What Bennett does do well is that he once again showcases his understanding of the characters in the Enterprise universe and his skill at bringing them to the page. I just didn’t feel as entertained as I had with the previous entries in the series although this doesn’t make “Patterns of Interference” a bad book, it just makes it an average book.

Overall, this is still a reasonably solid Trek novel but it just didn’t capture my attention to the same extent as the previous novels. I am hoping that in the next book we will see some of these plots get closed down and maybe give less page time to Trip!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours - David Mack



Title: Desperate Hours
Author: David Mack
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Desperate Hours” by David Mack is the first novel written as a tie-in to the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series. The story is set a year prior to the event’s which occurred during the Star Trek: Discovery pilot episode and follows the crew of the USS Shenzhou who have to assist the people of a colony who have awoken some rather dangerous technology which was hidden in the ocean. This mission is further complicated when the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike also arrives with orders to destroy this technology no matter the cost.

The plot is quite standard for Star Trek in that it explores the moral dilemma of duty versus ethics. One thing to note is that there is plenty of action present to keep the pace moving but unfortunately there is no tension involved as the reader knows there is no real threat to characters. Therefore some elements of action, especially those involving Burnham and Spock on the alien spacecraft did begin to feel a bit repetitive at times.

One thing Mack has done well however is capture the characters from the new series quite well. Despite the lack of data so far available, the characters did seem to fit with what has been shown on the TV screen so far. In addition, the background provided into Burnham and Saru was very interesting to follow and has helped me actually appreciate both characters much better. It is this type of thing I like in my Trek novels, the chance to actually expand and enhance what we know from the series.

The bit I am particularly intrigued about from the book however is the relationship between Spock and Burnham. Some of the interactions between the two of them were quite interesting to see and it was nice seeing Spock and Burnham both realise through each other that the relationships with Amanda and Sarek were more complicated than they had first assumed. I am curious to see if anything shown here is expanded upon in future novels or alluded to on the TV Series.

Overall, this was a very competent first tie-in novel for the new series although the plot itself was pretty standard stuff. The main reason to read this book is to enhance your understanding of the characters and learn more about the relationships between them all.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Ethersay - Sarah L King



Title: Ethersay
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository


Review:
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of "Ethersay" by Sarah L King prior to its release and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. The book uses a dual narrative, to explore two periods in the life of Rebecca, a young political activist from Glasgow. The first follows her recovery on the mysterious island of Ethersay after a car accident strands her there. Whilst there she realises that there is something being hidden from her by the islanders and she is determined to find out what the secret is. The second narrative follows Rebecca's involvement in the Scottish Independence Referendum which results in the very accident which leaves her on Ethersay.

The pacing of this novel is spot on as the initial burst of action get the reader hooked before it slows down a notch as King builds the suspense and mystery up concurrently in both narratives. I found myself really looking forward to finding out what the secret of Ethersay was and how Rebecca would come to be there. It is quite hard to say much more without spoiling some of the plot but I suspect a few people will be surprised by the reveal at the end.

One thing I have to add in my review is that the depiction of the Scottish Referendum was spot on and whilst I didn't live in Glasgow, most of what Rebecca saw and experienced as a Yes activist was recognisable to me from my own involvement. I have seen a lot of non-fiction books charting the referendum from various high profile people but it was great seeing something written here which captured the hope and hard work of the regular activist even if the character themselves was fictional.

The best bit about this book from my point of view is that it was the first novel by King in which I have actually liked the main protagonist. Yes, Rebecca has her flaws as any realistic character would do but in this book those flaws didn't affect my ability to feel empathy for her. Rebecca being a Yes activist probably made it easy for me but I was actually quite happy to find that this time it was the main character I was supporting rather than one of the secondary ones.

Overall, this is a great first attempt at contemporary fiction from King. I can see this book really appealing to people who enjoy a good non-crime based mystery, but it should also appeal quite strongly to those people who were involved in the Scottish Independence Referendum. I can't sing it's praises enough as it entertained me but also brought back the memories of the referendum both good and bad.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Star Trek 12 - James Blish & J.A. Lawrence



Title: Star Trek 12
Author: James Blish & J.A. Lawrence
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1977
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 12” was the final collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations written by James Blish as he passed away whilst writing it. The collection was therefore completed by his wife, J.A. Lawrence who would go on to adapt the only remaining episodes in "Mudd's Angels". The five episodes included in this collection are cover all three seasons and are as follows:

Patterns of Force (Season 2)
The Gamesters of Triskelion (Season 2)
And the Children Shall Lead (Season 3)
The Corbomite Maneuver (Season 1)
Shore Leave (Season 1)

So I am at the point where I just want to copy my reviews from previous Blish novelisations as most of the commentary is the same. Basically, if you enjoyed the TV episode then you will enjoy the novelisation and if you didn't like the episode then you won't like the novelisation. Blish and Lawrence are competent in their job of converting the episodes into written form but they don't really add anything new to change the underlying strengths or weaknesses of the individual stories.

As I suspect most people considering this book will have seen these episodes already I won't bother summarising them here. The writing itself is good but I would only really recommend this collection to a Trek lit completionist at it doesn't offer anything new and if you don't know the stories then you would be better off actually watching the TV show episodes.