Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cardassia: The Lotus Flower

Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Volume One
Cardassia: The Lotus Flower by Una McCormack
Published May 2004
Read January 8th 2015


Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Unity

Next book (Deep Space Nine): Andor: Paradigm


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



Spoilers ahead for The Lotus Flower and the rest of the Deep Space Nine relaunch!

From the back cover:
The last world ravaged by the Dominion War is also the last on which Miles O'Brien ever imagined building a life. As he joins in the reconstruction of Cardassia's infrastructure, his wife Keiko spearheads the planet's difficult agricultural renewal. But Cardassia's struggle to remake itself -- from the fledgling democracy backed by Elim Garak to the people's rediscovery of their own spiritual past -- is not without opposition, as the outside efforts to help rebuild its civilization come under attack by those who reject any alien influence.

My thoughts:

When I began doing the Deep Space Nine relaunch reviews for this site (starting way back with Avatar, Book One), it was meant to be a re-reading project. However, I was surprised to realize that I had never actually read the Worlds of Deep Space Nine novels! Discovering this fact has meant that a wealth of DS9 stories that I have never read can be enjoyed for the first time now, including one of Una McCormack's first professional Trek stories: Cardassia: The Lotus Flower. Regular readers of Trek Lit Reviews will know that I think very highly of Una McCormack's work, having given very high marks to every one of her novels that I have read. So, what were my thoughts on The Lotus Flower?

Unsurprisingly, McCormack's work here is up to her usual excellent level. After the explosive "finale" of S.D. Perry's Unity, this first story in the Worlds of Deep Space Nine anthology felt much like some of DS9's season premieres: a soft re-tuning of the series' premise and a continuation of the story in a somewhat unexpected direction. This story of Cardassian recovery from the horrors of the end of the Dominion War is the perfect story to continue the saga of Deep Space Nine.

Keiko gets a storyline of her own in The Lotus Flower.
McCormack has a terrific handle on her characters. Miles O'Brien's terror and anger at the jeopardy that Keiko is in felt very real, as did Keiko's steely resolve in the face of the threats and crises she faces. Keiko O'Brien was never one of my favorite characters on Star Trek (possibly unfairly so). She was often given the role of the "nagging" wife, with only occasional work done with her character to chart her own course apart from that of her husband, Miles. She gets her best storyline to date in this novel, in my opinion. In The Lotus Flower, she is not merely Miles' wife or Molly and Kirayoshi's mother, but a character in her own right.

Also written extremely well was, of course, Garak. Everyone's favorite "tailor" is back in this story, and he is up to his usual standard of excellence. Any time Una gets the chance to write Garak, I am on board. No other author, with perhaps the exception of Garak actor Andrew Robinson himself, has the ability to write him as well as McCormack can.

Garak plays political operative in Cardassia's young democratic government.

At one point in the story, the situation Cardassia faces following the Dominion War is compared to the state of Bajor following the Occupation. This juxtaposition is used to amazing effect and was a stroke of brilliance on the part of the author. This accompanies some strong character development for Vedek Yevir, the Bajoran religious figure to issued the attainder to Colonel Kira. I felt that The Lotus Flower continued the character redemption (or, at the very least, rehabilitation) of Yevir from the final two books of the Mission Gamma series. As with any truly round character, Yevir is revealed to have many facets. He is not simply a foil for Kira or anyone else; he is, in fact, much more.

Final thoughts:

An excellent continuation of the Deep Space Nine post-finale stories. Una McCormack has a great ear for the characters, and writes them extremely well. I love that Deep Space Nine delves into the lives of the secondary characters so deeply, and The Lotus Flower continues that tradition admirably.

Also by Una McCormack:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Hollow Men (2005)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never-Ending Sacrifice (2009)
Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship (2012)
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow (2013)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Missing (2014)

My next read:

Next week, the second story in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume One, namely, Andor: Paradigm by Heather Jarman.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Literary Treks 87: Like The Godfather Part III

Deep Space Nine: Mission Gamma, Book 3: Cathedral

Things on Deep Space Nine and in the Gamma Quadrant are heating up. Bajor looks to finally join the Federation while at the same time talks with Cardassia about formal relations have stalled. On the Defiant, Bashir, Nog, and Ezri all face issues that may radically alter their lives forever after an encounter with an alien object in space.

In this episode of Literary Treks, Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther discuss the pivotal third book in the Mission Gamma series, Cathedral. We look at the pace of the series, the importance of pain, the role of faith, Kira's place in the Bajoran reformation, and the character growth that has continued from Deep Space Nine through the novels.

In the news segment, we talk about the first issue of Star Trek's crossover with The Planet of the Apes as well as get Dan's thoughts on John Byrne's New Vision series.



Literary Treks 87: Like The Godfather, Part III
Discussion of Mission Gamma: Cathedral by Michal A. Martin and Andy Mangels



Next episode:
  



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dark Mirror

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dark Mirror by Diane Duane
First published December 1993
Read December 28th 2014


Previous book (The Next Generation): #28: Here There Be Dragons
Next book (The Next Generation): #29: Sins of Commission


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

Spoilers ahead for Dark Mirror!

From the back cover:
Stardate 44010.2: the twenty-fourth century. Humanity's greatest dreams have become reality. Along with dozens of other sentient races, the people of Earth have formed the United Federation of Planets—a galactic civilization that governs much of the known universe for the good of all. Over the past two centuries, mankind has tamed its basest instincts, and reached the stars… 
But suppose it hadn't happened that way at all? Suppose instead humanity's darkest impulses, its most savage, animalistic desires had triumphed? Suppose the empire mankind made out in the stars was one ruled by terror, where only those willing to brutalize their own kind and their neighbors could survive? 
One hundred years ago, four crewmembers of the USS Enterprise crossed the dimensional barrier and found just such an empire. A mirror image of their own universe, populated by nightmare duplicates of their shipmates. Barely able to escape with their lives, they returned thankful that the accident that brought them there could not be duplicated. Or so they thought. 
But now the scientists of that empire have found a doorway into our universe. Their plan: to destroy from within, to replace one of our starships with one of theirs. Their victims: the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. 
Here, from the author who gave us the smash New York Times bestseller Spock's World, is a dramatic Star Trek: The Next Generation adventure unlike any seen before. A story that shows us the crew of the Enterprise-D in mortal combat against the most savage enemy they have ever encountered... themselves.

Notable quote:
Picard swallowed, his throat gone dry, more betrayed by the black ink on the yellowed page than by anything that had happened to him so far. He turned the pages and found what frightened him more second by second: a Shakespeare horribly changed in all but the parts that were already horrible. Titus Andronicus was much as it had been. So was Macbeth, and oddly, Lear; but Picard paged through the latter and breathed out unhappily, almost a moan, to find one small part missing: that of Cornwall's "first servant," who tries to protect old Gloucester from having his eyes plucked out and is immediately killed—a matter of a few lines in the original, now gone completely. And the other two servants gone dumb, and not even a single voice raised, now, to protest the old man's fate at the hands of Lear's hateful daughter and her husband. 
Slowly Picard shut the book, put it back, and looked mistrustfully at the Bible—and, beautiful language or not, decided not to pick it up.

My thoughts:

I first read Dark Mirror many years ago. It was nearly the first Star Trek novel I ever read, with only Peter David's excellent Q-Squared having been read first. I can still remember spending the night at my aunt Rose's house, reading Dark Mirror under the covers with a penlight into the wee hours. I was so enthralled by the depictions of the darker, more treacherous versions of the characters I'd come to love. In particular, the sadistic yet subtle viciousness of the mirror universe's Deanna Troi disturbed me greatly. So, after all of these years, how does Dark Mirror fare upon re-reading?

I was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised by how well the story held up. In particular, I was worried that I'd find the delphine commander Hwii to be too "cutesy" a character. However, he was as delightful as I remembered, and an interesting addition to the story. Once again, the alternate versions of the Enterprise crew were frightening, in a way that the Original Series mirror characters weren't. There seems to be a darker edge to this story than TOS's "Mirror Mirror."

Diane Duane has a good handle on the characters and their reactions to the atrocities and "moral shift" of the alternate universe. The revulsion experienced by Picard in particular is conveyed very well. I also appreciated the depiction of Geordi LaForge in this novel. He is a character who is often given short shrift, and it was great to see the story making very good use of LaForge.

When I was younger, I remember pondering why exactly Data didn't have a counterpart in the mirror universe. I understand the "in-universe" reason given, but story-wise, I couldn't understand the omission of his character. In this re-read, I realized that the reason was two-fold. First, going up against an alternate crew that had a Data of their own would be a much more difficult challenge than what was depicted in the story, and second, the "evil twin" story had already been done for Data, and having a mirror universe counterpart here might come across as a simple re-hash of Lore.

Of course, in the years since Dark Mirror was published, Trek canon has taken a much different direction with regards to the Mirror Universe. While I did enjoy this story and how it depicted the outcome of Spock's attempt at reforming the Terran Empire, I felt that the story that Deep Space Nine told was a little more interesting. The idea that Spock's actions had unintended consequences for the Terrans was a compelling one, and the fact that those events were turned around completely in the Mirror Universe novels, especially The Sorrows of Empire and Rise Like Lions, makes that story even more compelling. Still, Dark Mirror was an interesting look at what the Empire might have turned into a century after "Mirror Mirror."

The idea of seeing your own life taking a completely different turn, resulting in an "evil" version of yourself is a chilling one, and it would be terrifying to come face to face with those aspects of yourself. Diane Duane conveys this feeling very well in Dark Mirror. A savage, brutal version of oneself has the added terror of possibly having an insight into your own psyche, and a familiarity with a part of yourself that you would much rather pretend doesn't exist. That is where the truly frightening aspects of this story come into play.

Final thoughts:

One of the rare instances that something I loved in my childhood holds up as well as I remember! Dark Mirror was a page-turner then, and it was just as compelling now. Diane Duane has a way of crafting a fascinating story that often has high stakes as well as great character moments, examining an important facet of the human condition along the way. Although the conclusion of the story relies heavily on technobabble (and stars... Duane often uses ship maneuvers involving stars in the climaxes of her novels! Why is that?), Dark Mirror is still a great read.

Both disturbing and entertaining, Dark Mirror will always have a reserved place on my bookshelf.

Further resources:



Also by Diane Duane:

Star Trek #18: Rihannsu #1: My Enemy, My Ally (1984)
Star Trek #35: Rihannsu #2: The Romulan Way with Peter Morwood (1987)
Star Trek: Spock's World (1988)
Star Trek #50: Doctor's Orders (1990)
Star Trek: The Next Generation #45: Intellivore (1997)
Star Trek #95: Rihannsu #3: Swordhunt (2000)
Star Trek #96: Rihannsu #4: Honor Blade (2000)
Star Trek: Rihannsu #5: The Empty Chair (2006)


My next read:

My next review will continue my Deep Space Nine relaunch re-read, but this time, it will be for a story that I somehow skipped the first time through! Look for Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Volume One: Cardassia: The Lotus Flower, coming next week! (Gosh, that's a lot of colons...)


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Literary Treks 86: So Much Janice Rand

Here it is, the first new Literary Treks episode of 2015!

In this episode, Matthew Rushing and I are joined by Drew Stewart of the TOS podcast Standard Orbit to discuss IDW's comic adaptation of Harlan Ellison's original teleplay for what is arguably the most beloved classic episode of Star Trek: "City on the Edge of Forever." Click below to be taken to the show page on Trek.fm, where you can listen to the episode via iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, and more!

Literary Treks 86: So Much Janice Rand
Discussion of Harlan Ellison's original City on the Edge of Forever teleplay... in comic form!



Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Missing

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Missing by Una McCormack
Release date: December 30th 2014
Read January 3rd 2015


Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Section 31: Disavowed

Next book (Deep Space Nine): Sacraments of Fire

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

Spoilers ahead for The Missing and the current state of Trek novel continuity!

From the back cover:
The entire sector is waiting to see what the newly reopened Bajoran wormhole will mean for the shifting political landscape in the Alpha Quadrant. On Deep Space 9, Captain Ro Laren is suddenly drawn into the affairs of the People of the Open Sky, who have come to the station in search of sanctuary. Despite the opposition of the station's security officer, Jefferson Blackmer, Ro Laren and Deep Space 9's new CMO, Doctor Beverly Crusher, offer the People aid. But when Dr. Crusher’s highly secure files are accessed without permission—the same files that hold the secrets of the Shedai, a race whose powerful but half-understood scientific secrets solved the Andorian catastrophe—the People seem the likeliest suspects.

As tensions rise on the station, the science vessel Athene Donald arrives as part of its journey of exploration. The brainchild of Doctor Katherine Pulaski, this ship is crewed by different species from the Khitomer Accords and the Typhon Pact. Pulaski’s hope is that science will do what diplomacy has not: help the great powers put aside their hostilities and work together. But when the Athene Donald is summarily stopped in her voyage by the powerful vessel of a hitherto unknown species, Pulaski begins to wonder—will this first contact bring her crew together or tear them all apart?

Notable quote:

"I know," Pulaski said with a laugh, "that I'm not the kind of person to attract confidences. So I appreciate your trust. I've always felt that because of that brief time I spent on the Enterprise that people ... I don't know ... put us into competition somehow. Compare and contrast us. But I was always more than chief medical officer on the Enterprise."

"I know exactly how you feel," said Crusher.

Dr. Katherine Pulaski, formerly of Starfleet, plays a starring role in The Missing.

My thoughts:

I have long been a fan of Una McCormack's Star Trek work. The first of her novels that I read was the outstanding Deep Space Nine novel, The Never-Ending Sacrifice. From that moment on, I was hooked. McCormack has a way of getting to the core of what a story is about, with redemption being one of her favorite topics. The Missing is no exception.

There are a number of plotlines that make up the story of The Missing. First, the Olympic-class science vessel Athene Donald is embarking on a civilian mission of exploration. Aboard the Athene Donald is Katherine Pulaski, the one-time chief medical officer of the Enterprise-D, as well as one of the "co-conspirators" in devising a cure for the Andorian reproductive crisis. The mission of the vessel is to bring together various species in the spirit of peaceful cooperation in scientific endeavors.

The Athene Donald, an Olympic-class starship, hosts a civilian mission of scientific discovery.

At the same time, a rag-tag fleet of starships arrives at Deep Space Nine, populated by a group calling themselves the "People of the Open Sky." Meanwhile, a Cardassian civilian petitions Odo to act on her behalf in repatriating her son, a prisoner of the Romulans since the end of the Dominion War, along with a number of other Cardassian POWs.

Una manages to stitch each of these stories together quite well, creating a "day in the life" feel on this new Deep Space Nine, a feeling that has been missing for some time. In many ways, The Missing felt like an actual episode of DS9.

While I didn't quite enjoy The Missing to the same extent I liked McCormack's previous outings, including Hollow Men, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, Brinkmanship, or my favorite Trek novel of 2013, The Crimson Shadow, The Missing is still very well-written and engaging. With Una McCormack, I tend to set the bar very high, and her weakest novel is still miles above most others!

Earlier, I mentioned that Una McCormack likes to deal with redemption in her novels. In The Missing, a highlight for me was the character of Peter Alden, a character that was first introduced in Brinkmanship. His character arc surprised me by being one of the great parts of this novel. His relationship with unwitting Tzenkethi defector Corazame (also from Brinkmanship) was a touchstone of the character work in The Missing. The contrasting ideas of politics and conflict versus the ideals of exploration and discovery have been a central theme in Star Trek novels lately, and that contrast was played out very literally in the character of Peter Alden.

Final thoughts:

The Missing brings us back to Deep Space Nine in a way that made the series great. More than any other Star Trek series, the premise of DS9 allowed for "day-in-the-life" vignettes and on-going story arcs, and The Missing showcases those features expertly. I very much enjoy Una McCormack's writing, and I love that she feels free to experiment with different styles of narrative. For example, each chapter in The Missing begins with a personal log entry by Captain Picard, discussing various aspects of discovery and exploration. Each log entry set the tone for the chapter, bringing the story together in a fun and interesting way. For this and many other reasons, The Missing was definitely a joy to read.

Further resources:

TrekBBS review and discussion thread for The Missing


Also by Una McCormack:

Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Volume One: Cardassia: The Lotus Flower (2004)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Hollow Men (2005)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never-Ending Sacrifice (2009)
Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship (2012)
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow (2013)

My next read:

Look forward to my review of a classic from my childhood: Dark Mirror by Diane Duane!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another new cover! Uncertain Logic by Christopher L. Bennett

This has certainly been a week for Trek book news! Today, we have another new piece of cover art to show you: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic by Christopher L. Bennett.

Below the cover, you will find the back cover blurb, as well as links to pre-order Uncertain Logic from Amazon. By using these links, you will be helping out Trek Lit Reviews!

The release date for Uncertain Logic is March 24, 2015.


Years ago, Jonathan Archer and T’Pol helped unearth the true writings of Vulcan’s great philosopher Surak, bringing forth a new era of peaceful reform on Vulcan. But when their discov­ery is seemingly proven to be a fraud, the scandal threatens to undo a decade of progress and return power to the old, warlike regime. Admiral Archer, Captain T’Pol, and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour investigate with help from their Vulcan allies, but none of them suspect the identity of the real master­mind behind the conspiracy to reconquer Vulcan—or the price they will have to pay to discover the truth. 
Meanwhile, when a long-forgotten technological threat reemerges beyond the Federation’s borders, Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer attempts to track down its origins with help from his old friend “Trip” Tucker. But they discover that other civilizations are eager to exploit this dangerous power for their own benefit, even if the Federation must pay the price!

Pre-order the mass-market paperback from: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Pre-order the e-book (Kindle edition) from: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk


Sunday, January 4, 2015

New cover art! TOS e-book: Shadow of the Machine

Hello everyone! Today, we have a brand-new cover to show you: March's e-book exclusive novella, Scott Harrison's The Original Series: The Shadow of the Machine!

As always, check out the publisher's description below, where you will also find links to pre-order The Shadow of the Machine from Amazon. By doing so, you will be helping out Trek Lit Reviews! If you're planning on getting it from Amazon anyway, why not use our link and help us out? It is always greatly appreciated!

Shadow of the Machine will be released on March 9, 2015.


After its recent encounter with V’ger, the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned to dry dock to finish its refit before commencing its continuing mission. The crew has been granted a two-week period of shore leave before preparations for their next voyage begins. Shaken by their encounter with V’ger, Kirk, Spock and Sulu travel to their respective homes and must reflect upon their lives—now forever changed.

Pre-order the e-book (Kindle edition) from: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk