Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed

Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Volume Three
Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published February 2005
Read April 3rd 2015

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Bajor: Fragments and Omens

Next book (Deep Space Nine): The Dominion: Olympus Descending

MMPB: | |
Kindle: | |

Spoilers ahead for Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed and the rest of the Deep Space Nine relaunch!

From the back cover:
Quark's profit-driven homeworld is rocked with scandal as shocking allegations involving his brother's first wife, the mother of Nog, threaten to overthrow Rom as Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance. Making matters worse, Quark has been recruited by Rom's political adversaries to join their coup d'etat, with guarantees of all Quark ever dreamed if they succeed in taking his brother down. While Ferenginar's future teeters on the edge, the pregnancy of Rom's current wife, Leeta, takes a difficult turn for both mother and child.

My thoughts:

Deep Space Nine accomplished many things during its seven-year run as a television series. One of the most important things it did was to redeem the Ferengi in the eyes of many Star Trek fans, including me. The DS9 Ferengi were no longer trying to be the supposed threatening antagonists they were branded as initially in TNG. Instead, through the characters of Quark, Rom, and Nog, we got to know the Ferengi on a more personal level. The Ferengi became people rather than comical profit-driven buffoons. While there was still a certain amount of buffoonery, these characters were now dynamic and certainly more realistic.

The government of Grand Nagus Rom is under threat in Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed.

Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed continues that trend admirably. While it certainly is comical, this story explores the Ferengi homeworld and presents it in a realistic way. From the perspective of the Federation and its values, the Ferengi can seem "backwards" or overly silly, but to the Ferengi, profit is a serious business. I enjoyed how even the non-Ferengi took the situation seriously when it would be easy to laugh off the politics of Ferenginar. Lieutenant Ro and her experiences on Ferenginar gave us an interesting outsider's perspective to the events in the novel.

I remember my trepidation regarding this novel years ago when I read the back-cover blurb. While I definitely understand that Quark is an old-school Ferengi who dislikes the direction the new Ferenginar is taking, I was worried about the damage done to his character if the story made him actually participate in a coup against his brother Rom. However, my fears were ill-founded, as DeCandido handles Quark's character with his usual sensitivity and style. I enjoyed the internal struggle that Quark experiences while wrestling with whether or not to support his brother's government despite his misgivings. The fact that his old adversary, the slimy FCA Liquidator Brunt, returns in this story makes Quark's decision much easier!

Once again, Brunt is scheming to become Grand Nagus.

The Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series is touted as a look into the cultures of Star Trek, in much the same way that Spock's World explored Vulcan. In that respect, Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed is very satisfying. While we visited Ferenginar a couple of times during Deep Space Nine, we never really got a feel for what life on the planet was like day-to-day. This novella gives us more of that experience, and we see a lot more of Ferenginar than we have before. Ferenginar feels like a real place in the pages of this story.

Final thoughts:

A generally lighthearted story that still has huge repercussions for the Ferengi. While there are many comical elements to the story, Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed still treats the Ferengi with respect and dignity in the style of the best Ferengi episodes of Deep Space Nine. Over the course of the series, Quark turned into a truly round and multi-faceted character, and one of my favorites. I enjoyed the look into his beliefs and the choices that have led him to where he is now. The glimpses into the day-to-day life of the average Ferengi citizen was very interesting as well.

A great addition to the Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series, and one that any Quark fan should enjoy immensely.

Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

Star Trek: S.C.E. #2: Fatal Error (2000)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #6: Cold Fusion (2001)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #7: Invincible, Part One of Two with David Mack (2001)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #8: Invincible, Part Two of Two with David Mack (2001)
Gateways, Book Four: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Demons of Air and Darkness (2001)
"Horn and Ivory" from Star Trek: Gateways, Book Seven: What Lay Beyond (2001)

Star Trek: S.C.E. #10: Here There Be Monsters (2001)
The Klingon Art of War (2014)

My next read:

Next week, part four of the Slings and Arrows series: That Sleep of Death by Terri Osborne.

Literary Treks 99: Dr. Seuss Trek

The Gold Key Comics, Volume One

The first company to produce Star Trek comics was Gold Key. Armed in the beginning with only production art and never having seen the show, these comics give fans a picture of what Star Trek might have been without the philosophy and hope for the future Roddenberry instilled in the franchise.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther go back to issues 1 through 3 of the Gold Key comics, collected in IDW's stunning Volume 1. We discuss the impact of creators who had never seen Star Trek beyond publicity stills and how this impacts the look, feel and interpretation of Star Trek, asking the question; "If this was what Star Trek had been, would it have lasted 50 years?". We walk through each issue and conclude with our ratings for the first 3 issues.

In our news segment we talk about the upcoming Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover as well as take a look at the last issue of the Trek/Apes series.

Literary Treks 99: Dr. Seuss Trek
Gold Key Comics Volume One

Previous episode: Literary Treks 98: Vulcan Mandalorians

Next episode: Literary Treks 100:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Some Assembly Required

Star Trek: S.C.E. #12
Some Assembly Required by Scott Ciencin and Dan Jolley
Published January 2002
Re-released in print form as part of the S.C.E. compilation Some Assembly Required in April 2003.
Read April 9th 2015

Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #11: Ambush
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #13: No Surrender

Original e-book cover

Compilation of SCE #'s 9 - 12
Some Assembly Required from | |

Spoilers ahead for Some Assembly Required and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
Keorga is a haven for artists and musicians, a place of contemplation and artistic appreciation. When their request for a planet-running computer is denied by Starfleet, they go elsewhere; unfortunately, the instruction manual is in a language they cannot understand.
A team from the U.S.S. da Vinci is brought in to help them, but soon they realize there's more to this than a simple translation problem. The computer seems to be running a test -- one that the Keorgans are failing! If the S.C.E. team can't get the information they need out of the recalcitrant Keorgans and figure out how to stop the rampaging computer, Keorga may well lie in ruins!

My thoughts:

In Some Assembly Required, Bart Faulwell, Carol Abramowicz, and Soloman travel to Keorga, a planet recently contacted by the Federation. They have purchased a computer for the management of their world, but unfortunately, no one seems to know how to operate it. The computer's true purpose and effects on Keorga are set up as the central mystery in this story.

While the mystery and build-up are interesting, I found the payoff to be somewhat lacking. Not only is the resolution kind of thin in its explanations, the ending itself feels very rushed. Of course, the length of the novella sets a limit on what can be done, but I feel that more time could have been devoted to explaining the ending more fully and showing a more realistic resolution. The end came so quickly, I was reminded of the worst episodes of Voyager when the dilemma central to the plot was cleared up with a few lines of technobabble followed by a captain's log.

There is some character development attempted with Abramowicz, but unfortunately it comes across as somewhat forced. There are allusions to her childhood, but nothing is really explained. I understand that this is an ongoing story and that the writers may want to keep some revelations in reserve, but there is simply too little about her backstory here to really latch on to.

One aspect that I did like was the development of Soloman. In this story more than any previous one, he seems to be developing a distinct voice and personality all his own. I look forward to seeing where his character goes in future installments of S.C.E..

Final thoughts:

I like that Soloman is given a little more depth to play with here, but unfortunately the rest of the story falls short in my opinion. An interesting setup is marred by a rushed conclusion, and what could have been some real character development for Carol Abramowicz feels a little forced with not enough given to me to really make me care. I hope that the character work that was done in this story is built upon in the future, but sadly I felt that there wasn't enough here for the authors to play with.

My next read:

Next up is my review of Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed by David R. George III. Look for that review this weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Star Trek: S.C.E. #11
Ambush by Dave Galanter and Greg Brodeur
Published December 2001
Re-released in print form as part of the S.C.E. compilation Some Assembly Required in April 2003.
Read April 8th 2015

Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #10: Here There Be Monsters
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #12: Some Assembly Required

Original e-book cover

Compilation of SCE #'s 9 - 12
Some Assembly Required from | |

Spoilers ahead for Ambush and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
What started out as a simple supply run turns into a life-or-death struggle! The crew of the USS da Vinci thought they were just bringing mining supplies to Beta Argola. But en route they find out that the planet has been attacked—by the same superior forces that are now overwhelming the da Vinci! 
Overmatched by three enemy vessels that will not rest until the da Vinci is destroyed, the SCE crew must use all of their wits to figure out how to take on a more powerful foe. And they have to do it soon, because the miners on Beta Argola are quickly running out of time before their reactor goes critical…

My thoughts:

Ambush gives us something that happens often in Star Trek, but hasn't previously made an appearance in the S.C.E. series: cat-and-mouse starship combat! The U.S.S. da Vinci is attacked by raiders as she is delivering supplies to a mining colony. Captain Gold and his crew must contend with the damage to the da Vinci while using all of their expertise to turn the tide of battle against the aggressors.

Needless to say, the engineering know-how of Commander Gomez's S.C.E. team is put to the task of defending the ship. I've been waiting for a story like this! Not that Star Trek is all about ship battles and destroying your enemies, but I've been fascinated to see how the engineering gurus of S.C.E. tackle a tactical problem, and the characters do not disappoint. As usual, they come up with several creative solutions to their difficulties.

I also really enjoyed the scenes shown from the perspective of the colonists waiting for rescue. The tension and danger felt very real, and I found myself developing an emotional connection not only with the da Vinci crew, but with the struggling colonists as well. For a story with such a short page count, that is quite a feat! Additionally, the colonists show a great deal of ingenuity themselves, giving the S.C.E. crew a run for their money in the smarts department.

Final thoughts:

Some of Star Trek's most memorable episodes involved situations where the crew deals with damage during a combat or emergency situation and must outwit their foes using unconventional means. The da Vinci crew finally gets their chance to show how they deal with that particular scenario. I felt that this was the strongest entry in Some Assembly Required, and Dave Galanter and Greg Brodeur should be very proud of the story they have written. Very enjoyable, and a great outing for the da Vinci and her crew!

My next read:

Tomorrow's review: the final story of the third S.C.E. omnibus collection: Some Assembly Required by Scott Ciencin and Dan Jolley.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Here There Be Monsters

Star Trek: S.C.E. #10
Here There Be Monsters by Keith DeCandido
Published November 2001
Re-released in print form as part of the S.C.E. compilation Some Assembly Required in April 2003.
Read April 7th 2015

NOTE: Here There Be Monsters is an epilogue to the Gateways crossover series.

Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #9: The Riddled Post
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #11: Ambush

Previous story (Gateways): Book 7: What Lay Beyond

Original e-book cover

Compilation of SCE #'s 9 - 12

Some Assembly Required from | |

Spoilers ahead for Here There Be Monsters, the Gateways crossover series, and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
After the events of What Lay Beyond, the Gateways crisis has finally come to a close and Starfleet can rest easy, knowing that another threat to the galaxy has been stopped. Except for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers who, as usual, are left to clean up the mess.
While on a mission to Tellar, the U.S.S. da Vinci gets a distress call from the planet Maeglin. Still reeling from a previous attack, the natives of Maeglin find themselves under siege by a horde of alien creatures that came through one of the Iconian Gateways and are now hell-bent on destroying the planet!
Commander Sonya Gomez and her team of S.C.E. engineers must find a way to stop the rampaging monsters before it's too late!

My thoughts:

The S.C.E. crew returns to Maeglin, the site of a previous attack that they helped to repel. This time, however, the threat is a little more visceral: thanks to the recent Gateways crisis, a number of large creatures have traveled through the Iconian passages and are wreaking havoc in the populated areas of Maeglin.

As with the previous S.C.E. novellas, we get some good character moments and development for a few of our core cast. There are some fun moments, including aerial acrobatics using anti-gravity boots, presumably like the kind worn by Spock in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

An exciting sequence featuring gravity boots happens in Here There Be Monsters.

There is one part of the story that is from the perspective of a small child encountering one of the "monsters" which was very touching. This serves as our first clue that not everything is as it seems, and DeCandido shows us that our preconceptions often mislead us.

The conclusion to the story is in the true Star Trek style, with the "monsters" not exactly living up to the terrifying beasts they were believed to be. Bart Faulwell once again plays an important role in the story, illustrating the usefulness of a language expert and the importance of good communication when dealing with alien cultures.

Final thoughts:

Another fun story, this time tying in with the Gateways crossover miniseries, providing a sort of coda to the multi-series story. A typically Star Trek ending caps this story off nicely. Bart Faulwell is fast becoming one of my favorite characters in this series. I enjoy when these stories tie into the larger continuity, such as the adventure at Empok Nor in S.C.E. #6: Cold Fusion. These small stories that tie into the overarching ongoing continuity form cool little touchstones that make this wider universe feel more real.

Also by Keith DeCandido:

Star Trek: S.C.E. #2: Fatal Error (2000)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #6: Cold Fusion (2001)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #7: Invincible, Part One with David Mack (2001)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #8: Invincible, Part Two with David Mack (2001)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gateways, Book 4 of 7: Demons of Air and Darkness (2001)
Deep Space Nine: Horn and Ivory, from Star Trek: Gateways: Book 7 of 7: What Lay Beyond (2001)
Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ferenginar: Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed (2005)
The Klingon Art of War (2014)

My next read:

The eleventh story in the S.C.E. series: Ambush by Dave Galanter and Greg Brodeur.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Riddled Post

Star Trek: S.C.E. #9
The Riddled Post by Aaron Rosenberg
Published October 2001
Re-released in print form as part of the S.C.E. compilation Some Assembly Required in April 2003.

Read April 4th 2015

Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #8: Invincible, Part Two
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #10: Here There Be Monsters

Original ebook cover

Compilation of SCE #'s 9 - 12

Some Assembly Required omnibus: | |

Spoilers ahead for The Riddled Post and the rest of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
The dilithium mining outpost of BorSitu Minor is an understaffed, uninteresting, unspectacular place full of miners, engineers, and scientists who have never done harm to anyone, nor do they have anything of value. 
Yet the outpost has been devastated by a brutal assault, with almost all hands lost -- and the survivors have no idea what attacked them. Worse, the attack weapon appears to have the power to penetrate the outpost's powerful shields. That has the crew of the USS da Vinci worried, as it could just as easily destroy a starship!
Now the SCE team, led by Commander Sonya Gomez, must find the truth behind what ravaged the outpost, and hope that someone hasn't unleashed a weapon that could destroy them all!

My thoughts:

An entire mining outpost destroyed, riddled with holes, every member of the team stationed there killed. It's a fascinating mystery, and one that showcases the talents of the S.C.E. ensemble very well. Every character gets their role to play in this one, from the engineers who work out exactly what happened, to the cultural and language experts who must translate a peculiar piece of writing.

Most of the stories so far have focused on one or two of the characters, but The Riddled Post is the first to really utilize the strengths of a majority of the characters. The mystery of what has left the mining station filled with holes and where the "weapon" that caused the damage is now was sufficient to hold my interest throughout. Likewise, the character development was well-done, and each of the crew advance their stories somewhat. Definitely sufficient for this point early in the story of the da Vinci and her crew.

The final conclusion to the mystery is an interesting one, but the true joy of the story is the steps that the crew takes to solve it. The short length of the story lends itself to this style of storytelling as well, with a clear-cut mystery and resolution. I think this Corps of Engineers concept lends itself very well to the novella format, and would similarly work very well for a weekly episodic television series.

Final thoughts:

An interesting mystery story that utilizes the entire cast of S.C.E. quite well. I am enjoying the crew dynamic and the procedural style of the stories featuring these characters. Not exactly groundbreaking or enthralling, but a satisfactory story that makes me want to read more about this crew.

My next read:

Tomorrow, the next S.C.E. story: Here There Be Monsters, a follow-up to the Gateways miniseries by Keith R.A. DeCandido!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Insolence of Office

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Slings and Arrows, Book III
The Insolence of Office by William Leisner
An e-book exclusive novella
Published December 2007
Read March 22nd 2015

Previous book (Slings and Arrows): The Oppressor's Wrong
Next book (Slings and Arrows): That Sleep of Death

E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for The Insolence of Office and the rest of the Slings and Arrows series!

From the back cover:
A major turning point in the lives of two of the Enterprise crew! Newly promoted Admiral Hayes gives La Forge an ultimatum: his VISOR is a security risk, and he must either have it replaced with ocular implants or be transferred to a less sensitive post.

Meanwhile, Troi has some issues of her own. Though she knows that her mother Lwaxana recently remarried to the Tavnian Jeyal, she was unaware of the subsequent pregnancy -- and now Lwaxana is about to give birth. To make matters worse, the Tavnian government has decided that, even though Lwaxana and Jeyal are now divorced, the child still belongs to them.

My thoughts:

The 2007 e-book series chronicling the first year of service of the Enterprise-E continues in book three: The Insolence of Office. In this installment, we learn about a couple of developments during that period: Geordi transitioning from his VISOR to ocular implants and the birth of Deanna Troi's new sibling.

In the Deep Space Nine episode "The Muse," a pregnant Lwaxana Troi turns up at the station seeking Odo's protection. She is fleeing her Tavnian husband, Jeyal, who wishes to take the male child from Lwaxana once he is born. In the end, Odo ends up marrying Lwaxana, even going so far as convincing Jeyal that their love is genuine. As we find out in this novella, however, the Tavnian government is not entirely convinced. A representative arrives on Betazed to take the child into custody just as Lwaxana goes into labor. Deanna Troi, who is visiting, must keep him at bay while her little brother is delivered.

Jeyal, the father of Lwaxana's son.

Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Geordi LaForge receives a disturbing ultimatum: he must either replace his VISOR unit with ocular implants, or be reassigned from the Enterprise to a "less sensitive" posting. Trek fans will recall that Geordi's VISOR has presented a security risk on a number of occasions, the most recent of which contributed to the loss of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: Generations. Faced with the decision to either acquiesce to Admiral Hayes' order or resign from Starfleet, LaForge isn't sure what course to take.

The Insolence of Office explains Geordi's transition from VISOR to ocular implants.

I like that both of these stories get some attention in this miniseries, especially with regards to Lwaxana's pregnancy. I always found it bothersome that Deanna played no part in the story when it happened on Deep Space Nine, and it was nice to find out why that was. I also enjoyed the examination of Lwaxana's character and her choices of potential mates over the years. The story came to some interesting conclusions regarding her outlook on life.

With regards to Geordi's story, I never really found it necessary to explain why he changed from the VISOR to the implants, but William Leisner was able to craft a fascinating story out of the change. I was worried that this story would forever color LaForge's change to the implants negatively, not allowing me to see them without thinking about the terrible choice that he had to face. However, the end of the story makes it clear that it is actually his decision and that he makes it freely, which was a really good way to resolve the situation. Regardless, the story asks some difficult questions about security versus freedom. These are questions that have a great deal of relevance in today's world, and any time fiction can examine these issues in a mature manner, I'm on board.

Final thoughts:

I found The Insolence of Office to be a very worthwhile read, but I do have to say, the cover art is somewhat... questionable. First of all, Lwaxana's bedroom (where she gives birth to her son) looks an awful lot like Voyager's sickbay for some reason. And second, the stylistic choices are a little troublesome. I often set my cell phone background picture as the cover art of the next review I have to work on, so for a week I was subjected to this whenever I picked up my phone:

Needless to say, the picture of Lwaxana in the midst of her labor was somewhat... disturbing!

Further resources:

Also by William Leisner:

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Shocks of Adversity (2013)

My next read:

This coming week, I am hoping to do a marathon of reviews for four stories in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers e-book series: the four novellas that comprise the omnibus Some Assembly Required. Check back here on Monday when the first of these reviews should be published: Aaron Rosenberg's The Riddled Post!