Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk
The Story of Starfleet's Greatest Captain
by James T. Kirk (edited by David A. Goodman)
Release date: September 8th 2015
Read September 23rd 2015

Hardcover: | |
Kindle: |

From the back cover:
The Autobiography of James T. Kirk chronicles the greatest Starfleet captain's life (2233–2371), in his own words. From his birth on the U.S.S. Kelvin, his youth spent on Tarsus IV, his time in the Starfleet Academy, his meteoric rise through the ranks of Starfleet, and his illustrious career at the helm of the Enterprise, this in-world memoir uncovers Captain Kirk in a way Star Trek fans have never seen. Kirk's singular voice rings throughout the text, giving insight into his convictions, his bravery, and his commitment to the life—in all forms—throughout this Galaxy and beyond. Excerpts from his personal correspondence, captain's logs, and more give Kirk's personal narrative further depth.

My thoughts:

While James T. Kirk is arguably Starfleet's "greatest captain," we haven't gotten his life story in his own words... until now. Thanks to his editor, David A. Goodman, and the application of some "wibbly-wobbley timey-wimey" stuff, you can now read the story of James T. Kirk right from the horse's mouth!

Kirk's entire life is covered in his autobiography, including his time at Starfleet Academy.

The book itself is laid out in a chronological fashion, with Kirk's childhood and early years comprising the early chapters and his later Starfleet career making up the majority of the book. Revealed are his experiences on Tarsus IV during the massacre by Kodos the Executioner and the events that led him to apply to Starfleet Academy, all the way up to the days leading up to his disappearance during the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B in Star Trek: Generations. The conceit is that this memoir is published posthumously, with a touching foreword by Leonard McCoy and an afterword by Spock of Vulcan.

All of the major moments in Kirk's life are covered, including his encounter(s) with the infamous Kodos the Executioner.

It's a fairly quick read, with Kirk moving quickly from one event to the next. If there is any kind of main throughline to the story, it is Kirk's attempts to balance his personal life with his professional life as a Starfleet officer. Time and again, he must sacrifice his sustaining of a relationship or any semblance of a "normal" life in order to chase his best destiny: command of a starship. From that one woman from far in the past who touched his life, Edith Keeler, to Carol Marcus who ends up being the mother of his son, Kirk struggles to find love and ultimately winds up married to his career above all else.

One fun thing that this book does is to link disparate parts of Kirk's life together, bringing deeper meaning to what were once small "throwaway" lines in Trek episodes and films. Additionally, in what will likely prove to be a controversial choice for many Trek fans, David Goodman deals with the inconsistencies in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in a very unique way.

So... did this really happen, or not?

Another great touch was the addition of "editor's notes" throughout the narrative that lent a feeling of verisimilitude to the pages of the book. Little things that Kirk gets wrong in the book that are "corrected" by the editor make this feel like a real autobiography. Also, a full color insert of pictures in the middle of the book from Kirk's life, including his Academy graduation photo and travel documents to Tarsus IV, lend even more credibility.

I definitely preferred the parts of the book where an effort has been made to expand on or create new events in Kirk's life, rather than rehashing what we already knew. There are some interesting insights to be gleaned here, and Goodman's writing kept me interested throughout the book such that I finished it quite quickly, reading through it in a couple of evenings.

If you are interested in learning more about the process of writing this book or further insights from the author on his experience in creating Kirk's backstory, please check out the latest episode of Literary Treks, in which I and co-host Matthew Rushing talk to David Goodman at length about this book!

Final thoughts:

From reading The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, it's very clear that David A. Goodman knows his stuff. He captures the unique voice of Kirk in the pages of the book, and his relationships with those around him feel very real. I would have like the book to go more in depth in some of the areas we know less about, but Goodman does a very good job in balancing what we know with new material. There are some very clever choices made in this book that made me grin, but that might make other fans dislike the direction he takes. Unfortunately, you can't please everyone, but I think that Goodman has crafted an entertaining life story for our intrepid captain, and The Autobiography of James T. Kirk will have a place on my bookshelf.

More about this book:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Later this week, I'll have a review of another Corps of Engineers novella, S.C.E. #14: Caveat Emptor by Ian Edginton and Mike Collins. And next week, look for my review of the new release, Titan: Sight Unseen by James Swallow!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Release Day! Titan: Sight Unseen by James Swallow

Star Trek: Titan
Sight Unseen by James Swallow

A new novel featuring Admiral Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan! Since the end of Star Trek Nemesis and the revelation that Riker now has his own ship and crew, I have enjoyed the novels featuring the Titan and her diverse crew. Now, the next chapter in that story is here. Look below for the back cover blurb and links to purchase Sight Unseen from Amazon.

My review: coming soon.

Publisher's description:
An original spin-off novel set in the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation universe from New York Times bestselling author James Swallow!

In the wake of political upheaval across the United Federation of Planets, Admiral William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan find themselves in uncertain waters as roles aboard the ship change to reflect a new mandate and a new mission. On orders from Starfleet, Titan sets out toward the edge of Federation space to tackle its latest assignment: to work with an alien species known as the Dinac, who are taking their first steps into the galaxy at large as a newly warp-capable civilization.

But when disaster befalls the Dinac, the Titan crew discovers they have unknowingly drawn the attention of a deadly, merciless enemy—a nightmare from Riker’s past lurking in the darkness. Friendships will be tested to the limit as familiar faces and new allies must risk everything in a fight against an unstoppable invader—or a horrific threat will be unleashed on the galaxy!

Purchase Sight Unseen:

Hardcover: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Next Release: Seekers #4: All That's Left

Monday, September 28, 2015

Literary Treks 121: Wall Street of the '80s

Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed

The world of Ferenginar was first seen in the Deep Space Nine episode "Family Business," and would only be seen one other time in the series. Yet the planet was home to some of the show’s most beloved characters, so it was an obvious choice to visit again in the Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine books.

In this episode of Literary Treks, Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther brave the weather on Ferenginar to talk about Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed. We discuss this being a "Ferengi Episode," how it fits with the rest of the book series, an outsider's look, rounding out Quark, cleaning up the Ferengi, ratings, and our final thoughts.

In the news, we take a look at the latest issue of Star Trek Ongoing, #49.

Literary Treks 121: Wall Street of the '80s
Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed

Previous episode: Literary Treks 120: Kathy and Coco are a Beach Boys Song

Next episode: Literary Treks 122:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Centre Cannot Hold

Star Trek
Mere Anarchy, Book Two
The Centre Cannot Hold by Mike W. Barr
First Published October 2006
Re-published in the omnibus collection Mere Anarchy in March 2009
Read June 25th 2015

Previous book (Mere Anarchy): Things Fall Apart
Next book (Mere Anarchy): Shadows of the Indignant

Original e-book cover

Trade Paperback: | |
Kindle E-book: | |

Spoilers ahead for The Centre Cannot Hold and the rest of the Mere Anarchy series!

From the back cover:
A few years after the disaster on Mestiko, the Payav are struggling to rebuild in the wake of the pulsar's damage. The Starship Enterprise returns with a plan to help restore the planet's atmosphere.

But the Klingon Empire has also taken an interest in Mestiko, and has come to the aid of one of the world's many factions. Captain James T. Kirk finds himself once again pitted against the Klingon commander Kor, with the fate of Mestiko at stake.

My thoughts:

The 2006 40th anniversary of Star Trek celebrations continue with book two of the Mere Anarchy e-book series, The Centre Cannot Hold. This installment moves the timeline forward a couple of years into the "5-year mission" era of The Original Series. This is the familiar, bright primary color uniform period we all know and love.

The Centre Cannot Hold is well representative of the TOS five year mission era.

The Enterprise returns to Mestiko with a scientist who has a plan to help restore the environment to pre-disaster conditions. The plan will take quite some time to come to fruition, but it is the best chance to create a sustainable Mestiko for future generations. However, the Enterprise crew finds themselves in competition with the Klingons, who have also approached the Payav with their own plan to help them. Their plan involves selling natural resources from Mestiko to pay for immediate relief plans. While more appealing over the short-term, the Klingon plan doesn't provide for the future in the same way the Federation plan does. Plus, it's the Klingons. They're out for conquest. Of course, the Payav don't know that.

Because this takes place at the height of The Original Series, we see a lot of the milieu that defined that era. The "cold war" between the Federation and the Klingons dominated this period, an era during which the Organian Peace Treaty kept the powers from engaging in open hostilities. With hundreds of novels set in this era, this story is nothing unique, but it still did make good use of the time period.

Kor represents the Klingon Empire to the people of Mestiko.

I would have enjoyed a little more exploration of the issues around the two plans, long-term sustainability versus short-term relief. I feel that these topics mirror a lot of what is happening in the world today. However, the story is more about the machinations of the Klingons in manipulating the situation to their own advantage. This is, of course, consistent with the Klingons of this era, so I can't really fault the story for it.

Final thoughts:

Not bad, but not outstanding. There were a few things that irked me a little about the story, including a lack of depth in exploring the environmental issues that are raised. However, this is a short e-novella, so it is understandable that space to go deeper is at a premium. I thought the character of Kor was a little wasted on this story, but it was still interesting to see him again. For the most part, a good outing for the TOS crew that represents this era in Trek history fairly well.

More about The Centre Cannot Hold:

Star Trek: Mere Anarchy:
  • Things Fall Apart by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
  • The Centre Cannot Hold by Mike W. Barr
  • Shadows of the Indignant by Dave Galanter
  • The Darkness Drops Again by Christopher L. Bennett
  • The Blood-Dimmed Tide by Howard Weinstein
  • Its Hour Come Round by Margaret Wander Bonanno

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Next week, look for my review of a fun new book from David A. Goodman: the in-universe reference book, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk: The Story of Starfleet's Greatest Captain!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Literary Treks 120: Kathy and Coco are a Beach Boys Song

Voyager: Atonement
Interview with author Kirsten Beyer!

The relaunch of Voyager under the direction of Kirsten Beyer has seen the return of the crew and the Full Circle fleet to the Delta Quadrant as well Kathryn Janeway back from the “dead” with the trilogy that began in Protectors coming to a rapid conclusion.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther are joined by Kirsten Beyer to talk about Atonement. We discuss the puzzle pieces coming together, creation, neat cameos, character arcs, B’Elanna, Chakotay and Janeway, downtime, the truth, At-One-ment, some of her favorite things, and what’s coming next.

In the news segment, we talk about the latest issue of the Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover #3.

Literary Treks 120: Kathy and Coco are a Beach Boys Song
Interview with Kirsten Beyer, author of Voyager: Atonement

Previous episode: Literary Treks 119: Unique Opportunity

Next episode: Literary Treks 121: Wall Street of the '80s

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Literary Treks 119: Unique Opportunity

New Frontier: The Returned, Part 3
Interview with author Peter David!

There are very few authors out there that can say they have worked for DC Comics, Marvel, and Dark Horse Comics, and have written almost every major comic book character at some point in their career and, to top it all off, have gotten to play in the Star Trek universe, creating completely new characters and working with the established to build his own Trek playground.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther welcome Peter David to talk about The Returned series. We discuss his favorite working experiences and characters, the genesis of New Frontier, creating original characters, the tone of New Frontier, The Returned, writing Calhoun, the return of Q, the Dayan, what’s next for New Frontier, where to find Peter online, and our final thoughts.

In the news segment, we talk about New Visions #8 as well as the release of the new James T. Kirk book.

Literary Treks 119: Unique Opportunity
Interview with Peter David, author of New Frontier: The Returned!

Previous episode: Literary Treks 118: Footie Pajamas

Next episode: Literary Treks 120: Kathy and Coco are a Beach Boys' Song

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Returned, Part 3

Star Trek: New Frontier
The Returned, Part 3 by Peter David
An e-book exclusive novella
Release date: September 7th 2015
Read September 9th 2015

Previous book (New Frontier): The Returned, Part 2

Next book (New Frontier):

Kindle: | |

Spoilers ahead for The Returned and Star Trek: New Frontier!

Publisher's Description:
Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur are back, picking up three months after the stunning events depicted in New Frontier: Blind Man’s Bluff. Calhoun's search of Xenex has failed to find any survivors, and now he is bound and determined to track down the race that killed them—the D'myurj and their associates, the Brethren—and exact vengeance upon them. His search will take the Excalibur crew into a pocket universe, where he discovers not only the homeworld of the D’myurj, but another race that shares Calhoun's determination to obliterate his opponents. But is this new race truly an ally…or an even greater threat?

My thoughts:

Here it is: the conclusion to the e-book trilogy The Returned. Calhoun and crew witness the near-total destruction of the D'Myurj species and now find themselves leading an even greater threat back to our own galaxy. The Dayan, bent on the destruction of all life everywhere, are using Calhoun and the Excalibur to access the wormhole to bring them to the Milky Way Galaxy, where they will presumably systematically wipe out all life.

Meanwhile, on New Thallon, Mark McHenry faces off against Q who is posing as "The Awesome," the god of the Thallonians. Q is keeping his cards close to his chest, not revealing why he is showing such interest in the Thallonian line of succession and aiding Shintar Han in his desire to kill Robin Lefler and her son, Cwansi.

The Returned, Part 3 does an adequate job in resolving the various storylines that came out of parts one and two. The story was generally engaging, and it kept my interest throughout. The typical Peter David whimsy is definitely present, as is his tendency to go to dark places from time to time. However, I felt that something was missing. Some parts felt very "paint by numbers," almost as though the author was kind of bored with writing these characters. The final act of the story is wrapped up at a breakneck pace, with a crazy, soap opera-ish ending. I suppose that is par for the course for New Frontier, but it still felt a little cheap.

As I mentioned above, there are a few "dark" moments in the story, most notably when Q assaults two of the characters by removing their lungs and allows them to suffer in order to force Mark McHenry to go along with his plan. And there is also a very unexpected sexual assault perpetrated on Captain Calhoun by Soleta. I would have been interested to see where this story might go, but the assault itself is dealt with just a little too flippantly for my tastes.

This happens a couple of times in the story. Ideas such as consent, lack of control, all-power beings, and even genocide aren't quite given the depth that they need. I enjoy exploring these ideas, and I feel that literature should force us to examine our beliefs and worldview, but this story doesn't quite get there for me.

Still, I don't want to say to skip this story. If you are a fan of New Frontier, you will enjoy seeing the characters back in their element, with a huge, over-the-top galactic threat, facing off with the usual irreverence of the New Frontier gang. Just take everything with a grain of salt and try not to worry too much when the story gets pretty far off the rails.

Final thoughts:

New Frontier fans will be happy to see the gang back together, and the story features Peter David's usual whimsy and dabbling in darker story ideas. I would have liked to have seen a deeper exploration of some of the issues at the heart of the story, but that is not to be. Still, I don't think you should skip this if you enjoy New Frontier. There are some developments that are important going forward, and I do truly hope that New Frontier continues to go forward.

The "Next book (New Frontier)" space above remains open, hopeful that someday I will have a title to type in there again.

More about The Returned, Part 3:

Also by Peter David:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

I continue to review the TOS Mere Anarchy series with book two: The Centre Cannot Hold by Mike W. Barr.