Monday, June 11, 2018

Literary Treks 232: Andorian Crinkled Bendy Straw Antenna

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Through the Mirror
IDW Comics miniseries


In the dreaded Mirror Universe, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew aboard the fearsome I.S.S. Enterprise plot to raid our universe for valuable plunder to fuel the ever-expanding war machine of the Terran Empire. Unbeknownst to the Enterprise crew in the Prime Universe, infiltration of Starfleet by Mirror-Picard and his crew has already begun...

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by Trek.fm's own Amy Nelson to talk about the five-part IDW Comics miniseries Through the Mirror. We discuss each issue of the series, which features two stories running in tandem: story A, in which our heroes must thwart an attempt by the mirror crew to steal resources from our universe, and story B, in which the mirror Commander Data attempts to track down former Emperor Spock and learn the secrets of the prime universe.

In the news segment, Dan and Bruce review the second issue of the Star Trek: Discovery: Succession comic miniseries.


Literary Treks 232: Andorian Crinkled Bendy Straw Antenna
IDW's TNG: Through the Mirror comic miniseries






Previous episode: Literary Treks 231: Dancing to the Strains of Cadillac Ranch
Next episode: Literary Treks 233: Prometheus: The Root of All Rage

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Q-Squared

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Q-Squared by Peter David
Published August 1995
Read May 16th 2017


Previous book (The Next Generation - Hardcover): All Good Things...

Next book (The Next Generation - Hardcover): Star Trek: Generations
Next book (The Next Generation - Published order): #31: Foreign Foes


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Q-Squared!

From the back cover:
In all of his travels Captain Jean-Luc Picard has never faced an opponent more powerful that Q, a being from another continuum that Picard encountered on his very first mission as Captain of the Starship Enterprise. In the years since, Q has returned again and again to harass Picard and his crew. Sometimes dangerous, sometimes merely obnoxious, Q has always been mysterious and seemingly all-powerful. 

But this time, when Q appears, he comes to Picard for help. Apparently another member of the Q continuum has tapped into an awesome power source that makes this being more powerful than the combined might of the entire Q continuum. This renegade Q is named Trelane -- also known as the Squire of Gothos, who Captain Kirk and his crew first encountered over one hundred years ago. Q explains that, armed with this incredible power, Trelane has become unspeakably dangerous. 

Now Picard must get involved in an awesome struggle between super beings. And this time the stakes are not just Picard's ship, or the galaxy, or even the universe -- this time the stakes are all of creation...

My thoughts:

I first read Q-Squared nearly twenty-three years ago, back when it was first published. I don't think it was the first Star Trek novel I ever read, but it was certainly the most well-loved. A gift from my aunt and uncle, Q-Squared became one of those novels that I would return to multiple times, re-reading every few years or so. My most recent re-read was last year for episode 190 of the Literary Treks podcast, and I was curious as to whether or not I would love the book as much as I did at the age of thirteen.

As it turns out, I need not have worried.

Q-Squared brings together the characters of Q and Trelane, the seemingly-omnipotent man-child from the TOS episode "The Squire of Gothos." Trelane was pretty obviously the inspiration for the creation of the Q character, so it makes sense to bring them together here. Trelane is just as out-of-control as he was in that classic episode, and Q is tasked with riding herd on him. However, it soon becomes apparent that Q is in over his head, and Trelane eventually amasses enough power to be a real threat to Q, as well as to the rest of the universe.

Q-Squared brings William Campbell's Trelane to the 24th century.

I think I loved the book so much as a kid because it hit all the right notes for me. I fell in love with Peter David's writing style, with his whimsical moments balanced perfectly against the deadly seriousness of the peril in the story. It is a very difficult balance to achieve, and Peter David managed to somehow strike just the right tone, with such disparate story elements as the extreme trauma experienced by William Riker of a parallel universe, tortured for decades at the hands of the Romulans, and some ridiculous over-the-top Q shenanigans such as the cast of Winnie the Pooh coming to life in the schoolroom of the Enterprise-D.

There are a few things that don't jive with a strict interpretation of canon Star Trek, but longtime readers of this site will know that I am pretty easy-going when it comes to those sorts of things. We all know that Star Trek novels are considered "non-canon," which means that at any given moment, a "canon" source (anything on television or in a film) can come along and wipe out from the continuity anything that the novels have established. Therefore, I didn't lose a lot of sleep when Voyager established that the Q don't tend to have children in the traditional sense, thereby making Q-Sqaured's assertion that Trelane is a Q child invalid. To me, a good story is a good story, whether or not it fits in with established continuity. And Q-Squared is certainly a good story.

Q finds himself in over his head in trying to deal with Trelane and asks Captain Picard for help.

As a young Star Trek fan, I distinctly remember seeing "The Squire of Gothos" very early in my life. Much like Q-Squared, I'm fairly certain it wasn't my first, but it was very close to it. The idea of a seemingly-omnipotent being really fascinated me, and the twist that he is just a child was really compelling and a great ending. This is a theme that Star Trek visits often: the idea of unlimited power in the hands of someone or something who is ultimately immature or child-like. Along with "The Squire of Gothos," I would contend that "Charlie X" and even the character of Q himself play with the idea of immaturity and omnipotence coupled together. Q-Squared continues this exploration quite expertly, giving Trelane ultimate power. His tantrum at the end of the novel when things ultimately don't go his way shows that he is still the immature and out-of-control youth we met in "The Squire of Gothos."

Final thoughts:

Q-Squared, in addition to being simply a damn good book, is incredibly funny as well, which should come as no surprise given who the author is. There are numerous character moments that are laugh-out-loud funny, while at the same time remaining a poignant and fascinating exploration of Q, Trelane, our TNG heroes, as well as numerous alternate universes. I remember as a young man being fascinated with all of the various universes (labelled as "tracks" in the novel) coming together and intermingling in this novel. A fun exploration of TNG and an interesting pairing of Q and Trelane make this one an absolute favorite that I will likely continue to return to for years to come.

More about Q-Squared:


Also by Peter David:

My next read:

Next review: My video review of The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. Look for that one soon!


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Release Day! Discovery: Fear Itself by James Swallow

Star Trek: Discovery
Fear Itself by James Swallow

The second new Star Trek novel in two weeks! Our cups runneth over! Be sure to pick up the latest novel in the Trek universe, Discovery: Fear Itself by James Swallow. A story focusing on Saru, Fear Itself looks to be an interesting story about one of my favorite new characters in Discovery!

There are reports of this book having shown up early in bookstores, so you may have your copy already. If you don't have it yet, though, be sure to pick it up at your local bookstore, online, or as an e-book from your favorite retailer! And please consider the links below to order it from Amazon. You would be helping out Trek Lit Reviews!

Check out the back cover blurb and links to purchase below.




Publisher's description:
An original novel based upon the explosive new Star Trek TV series on CBS All Access.

Lieutenant Saru is a Kelpien, a member of a prey species born on a world overrun by monstrous predators…and a being who very intimately understands the nature of fear. Challenged on all sides, he is determined to surpass his origins and succeed as a Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou. But when Saru breaks protocol in order to prove himself to his crewmates, what begins as a vital rescue mission to save a vessel in distress soon escalates out of control. Forced into a command role he may not be ready for, Saru is caught between his duty and the conflicting agendas of two antagonistic alien races. To survive, he will need to seek a path of peace against all odds, and risk compromising the very ideals he has sworn to uphold….

Purchase Discovery: Fear Itself:

Trade Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-Book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk


Next Release: Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos

Monday, June 4, 2018

Literary Treks 231: Dancing to the Strains of Cadillac Ranch

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Die by John Vornholt

Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Captain Picard relieved of command and under psychiatric care. The Enterprise in mortal danger. A "Traveler," scared to use his power, but knowing that he must in order to save his friends from another life. And a strange, other-worldly threat prowls the site of the deadliest battle of the Dominion War, with seemingly nothing able to stop it. Can Wesley Crusher once again do what he does best: save the U.S.S. Enterprise and everyone aboard her?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss A Time to Die, part two of a duology by John Vornholt and the second novel in the nine-part A Time To series. We talk about Wesley's abilities as a Traveler, the character of Colleen Cabot and her relationship with Wesley, Picard's role in the story, the "Demon Flyer" that threatens our heroes, the Ontailians, answer some questions from our listeners, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.


Literary Treks 231: Dancing to the Strains of Cadillac Ranch
The Next Generation: A Time to Die by John Vornholt



Previous episode: Literary Treks 230: Golf in the Original Klingon
Next episode: Literary Treks 232: Andorian Crinkled Bendy Straw Antenna

Friday, June 1, 2018

Original Sin

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Gamma
Original Sin by David R. George III
Release date: September 26th 2017
Read October 10th 2017


Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Enigma Tales
Next book (Deep Space Nine): I, The Constable


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Publisher's description:
At the end of 2385, in a significant shift of its goals from military back to exploratory, Starfleet sent Captain Benjamin Sisko and the crew of the U.S.S. Robinson on an extended mission into the Gamma Quadrant. Tasked with a years-long assignment to travel unknown regions, they set out to fulfill the heart of Starfleet’s charter: to explore strange new worlds, and to seek out new life and new civilizations.

But now three months into the mission, their first contact with an alien species comes in the form of an unprovoked attack on the Robinson. With the ship’s crew suddenly incapacitated, seventy-eight of the 1,300 aboard are abducted—including Sisko’s daughter, Rebecca. But Rebecca had already been kidnapped years earlier by a Bajoran religious zealot, part of a sect believing that her birth fulfilled the prophecy of the arrival of the Infant Avatar. Does her disappearance now have anything to do with the harrowing events of the past? And for what purposes have these enemies taken Sisko’s daughter and the rest of the missing?

My thoughts:

Click here to watch my video review of Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin, or click play on the embedded video below!



Final thoughts:

A fascinating novel that serves to fill in a bit of the gap in the skipped years of the Deep Space Nine relaunch, while still progressing the story forward with Captain Sisko on the USS Robinson. We learn a lot about Ben and Kassidy's daughter, Rebecca, and the story sets the stage for (hopefully) more novels to come that explore this corner of the Trek universe! 4/5.

More about Gamma: Original Sin:


Also by David R. George III:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Next review: Q-Squared by Peter David, a favorite of mine from back in the day!


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dark Victory

Star Trek
Dark Victory by William Shatner
Published April 2000
Read April 24th 2017


Previous book (Shatnerverse): Spectre

Next book (Shatnerverse): Preserver


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
MMPB: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Kindle: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Dark Victory!

From the back cover:
The Mirror Universe is a dark and twisted reflection of our own, where all that is noble and compassionate is instead cruel and barbaric. Now our universe has been invaded by that other reality's most feared tyrant: the dreaded Emperor Tiberius, the Mirror Universe counterpart of James T. Kirk. Just as Kirk survived his own era to live into the 24th century, so has Tiberius returned from the past to menace a new generation of Starfleet heroes.  
And only Kirk can stop him. 
With Spock, McCoy, and Spotty at his side, and teamed with Jean-Luc Picard and the valiant crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E, Kirk is propelled into his most personal and dangerous mission yet as he fights to uncover the secret of Tiberius' return and learn the terrible truth behind the madman's nightmarish plans for the Federation. 
But how can he defeat an enemy who knows Kirk's mind as well as he knows his own?

My thoughts:

Dark Victory is the second book in William Shatner's Mirror Universe trilogy, following on from the previous novel, Spectre, and concluding in the next, Preserver. After Kirk faces down his evil doppelganger, Tiberius, a few months have passed. Starfleet considers Tiberius dead, and tries to convince Kirk of that fact, but he is not having it. However, life must go on, and soon Kirk finds himself marrying the love of his life, Teilani. On the wedding day, Teilani is poisoned, and Kirk believes that Emperor Tiberius is responsible. Kirk sets off to track down Tiberius and get the cure for the toxin that has incapacitated his wife, not knowing that it is in fact a rogue agency within Starfleet, Project Sign, that has set everything in motion.

The idea of Kirk and Starfleet being against one another is a theme that comes up again and again in the "Shatnerverse" novels. Quite often, Kirk comes up against a conspiracy within Starfleet's ranks, and Dark Victory is no exception with its use of "Project Sign," a shadowy secretive organization that reminds me more than just a little of Section 31.

Dr. Andrea M'Benga plays a role in Dark Victory. If that name sounds familiar, it's because she is the great-granddaughter of the Dr. M'Benga who appeared twice in the original Star Trek television series (pictured).

In the course of this novel, we learn more about Project Sign and the underhanded tactics it uses, mostly through the secondary character of Dr. Andrea M'Benga, the great-granddaughter of the Dr. M'Benga character from the original Star Trek television series. It is revealed that Project Sign regularly uses Dr. M'Benga as an expert to conduct their research, subsequently repressing her memories of the events after each instance of her work with Project Sign. Interestingly, the character who uncovers this is none other than plain, simple Garak, the enigmatic Cardassian spy/tailor from Deep Space Nine! Garak has always been one of my all-time favorite Star Trek characters, and Dark Victory uses him to great effect. In some ways, this is surprising, as I often find that the Shatnerverse novels tend to use characters from the other series in a haphazard way, throwing them in the story so as to have Kirk interact with as many different Trek characters as possible. Garak, however, plays a really interesting role in this story, and I feel like his character is used quite well.

Garak's role in the novel was a surprise, and one that worked quite well in my opinion.

I rather enjoyed the immediate precursor to this book, Spectre, but I found myself somewhat let down by Dark Victory. For one thing, the pacing of this novel felt very off. Although they are part of a trilogy of stories, I am of the firm belief that each novel should feel like a complete book in and of itself. This is not to say that you can't have a story stretch over three books, but rather just that each book needs to have a defined arc with a complete beginning, middle, and end. In this respect, Dark Victory failed. Instead, the beginning of the book seems to wrap up the cliffhanger from Spectre quite quickly, and then the story seems to meander for quite awhile before finally upping the pace again towards the end. However, rather than ending on a really high note, the conclusion to Dark Victory fell flat for me. Instead of having a strong beginning middle and end, Dark Victory ends up feeling like it is just connective tissue between books 1 and 3 in this trilogy, and for my money, a book needs to be a little more than that.

Having said that, there were things I enjoyed. The story's use of Garak, as I mentioned, was quite welcome, as were the insights into Kirk's character. At one point, Kirk talks about the need to keep moving and making a difference in order to sort of "outrun" old age and death. I rather liked this insight into what makes Kirk tick, and as Bruce Gibson and I mention in the Literary Treks podcast about this novel, it seems as though this is something that William Shatner himself believes about his own life. Definitely a fascinating insight into James T. Kirk as well as possibly William Shatner.

Final thoughts:

While there are certainly aspects of Dark Victory that I enjoyed, I feel that it falls short of being a good Star Trek novel. Instead of feeling like a complete book in and of itself, it simply serves to connect the novels that precede and follow it. The conclusion is also fairly clunky, and I would have preferred a more compelling cliffhanger or conclusion than the note the story ends on. Unfortunately, this has been the low note in the Shatnerverse novels up to this point. 2 out of 5 stars.

More about Dark Victory:


Also by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens):

My next read:

Next up is my video review of Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin!


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Literary Treks 230: Golf in the Original Klingon

by John M. Ford

Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

Star Trek is no stranger to absurdity. "The Trouble with Tribbles," "I, Mudd," and "A Piece of the Action" are probably the most notable instances. However, I think it's fair to say that Star Trek has never been quite this off-the-wall! With characters bursting into song at the drop of a hat and over-the-top physical gags including an epic pie fight and a Klingon captain getting his foot stuck in a toilet, the subject of this week's episode isn't your typical Trek!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson talk about the highly polarizing classic novel How Much for Just the Planet? We discuss the plot of the novel, the instances of very broad comedy, the characters who populate this colorful tale, artistic flourishes by the author including some surprise cameo appearances, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we talk about the TNG: Through the Mirror comic series, which is currently being released. We will do a complete review of the entire miniseries in an upcoming episode of Literary Treks!


Literary Treks 230: Golf in the Original Klingon
Star Trek #36: How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford



Previous episode: Literary Treks 229: Spaceballs From the Gamma Quadrant
Next episode: Literary Treks 231: Dancing to the Strains of Cadillac Ranch