Saturday, August 25, 2012

AFK, BRB.

As I write this, I am sitting in an internet cafe in the small town of Donghae, South Korea. Today is the last day I will spend in this country, a culmination of two years of teaching English, being immersed in a foreign culture, and one of the best experiences of my life. So far.

Tomorrow, my friend and I will board a ferry bound for Vladivostok, Russia, taking our first steps on what I hope is a pretty epic journey. My internet time during this trip will be pretty scant, and there is a good chance that this blog will see very little activity in the way of updates for the next month and a half.

Our travels will take us to Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Moscow, and St. Petersberg. From there, we will make our way across Europe, traveling through Belarus, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Taking a ferry across the Channel, we will see the white cliffs of Dover before moving on to London. From London, I will fly back home to Canada, with a brief stop in Reykjavik, Iceland. Because, well, why not?

As I said, internet access might not feature much in this trip. Nevertheless, I hope to be able to provide reviews of the three new releases that will come out during this period, provided I am able to easily download them onto my ereader. With any luck, look forward to reviews of Kirsten Beyer's Star Trek: Voyager: The Eternal Tide (August 28), Una McCormack's Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship (September 25), and the ebook release of Dayton Ward's Vanguard: In Tempest's Wake (October 2). Besides that, this site will be fairly quiet. Rest assured, at the end of this long journey, I will have quite a few books to catch up on. The current plan is to arrive home on October 9th. Wish me luck!

Live long and prosper, always!
- Dan Gunther

Friday, August 17, 2012

Corona

Star Trek #15: Corona by Greg Bear
Published April 1984
Read June 23rd, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): #14: The Trellisane Confrontation
Next book (The Original Series): #16: The Final Reflection



Spoilers ahead for Corona!

From the back cover:
An awesome, sentient force of protostars -- Corona -- has taken control of a stranded team of Vulcan scientists.  The U.S.S. Enterprise has come on a rescue mission with a female reporter and a new computer that can override Kirk's command.  Suddenly, the rescuers must save themselves and the entire Universe -- before Corona unleashes a Big Bang!

My Thoughts:

Corona is a fascinating novel on a number of levels. The primary antagonist in Corona is a proto-intelligence—a being which has existed since the beginning of time. Since the formation of the cosmos, beings like "Corona" have disappeared, and this intelligence finds itself to be the only one remaining in existence. Believing the universe to be devoid of life, Corona decides to create a new big bang, thereby populating the universe with others of its kind again. It is able to take over the minds of a team of Vulcan scientists, one of whom has a connection to Spock. I found this idea really interesting: an antagonist who is truly alien, and whose motivations aren't necessarily evil, just horribly misguided.


Another aspect of Corona that was appealing was an examination of xenophobia and cultural bias through the character of Rowena Mason, a journalist who hails from a human colony. This colony could be considered "backwoods," and Mason herself is somewhat prejudiced and bigoted in her reactions to non-humans. This is something we don't see shown in Star Trek that often, at least not too blatantly. There are exceptions, of course, but generally the people of the Federation are tolerant, open-minded, and accepting. Mason's reactions and her eventual growth were a refreshing look at that side of humanity, which still exists even in the 23rd century.


In Corona, we also see the continuation of a popular Trek theme: the superiority of human intuition and thought over the sterility and single-mindedness of computers and machines. In this book, Starfleet installs a revolutionary system aboard the Enterprise: a series of computers that oversee all shipboard actions and decisions. These "monitors" even have the ability to overrule the captain's judgement if they decide he is not acting in the best interests of the ship or the mission. Needless to say, the idea of computers controlling the actions of people turns out about as well as it usually does (cf. "The Return of the Archons," "A Taste of Armageddon," "The Ultimate Computer," "The Apple").


Finally, Corona finishes in a very Star Trek-ian fashion. The ultimate solution is non-violent and results in everyone having a greater understanding of the situation and the other beings with whom they share the universe. I feel as though this would have made a terrific episode, and I can see in my mind's eye that familiar shot of the Enterprise heading off on her next adventure, the music finishing in a flourish, and the end credits beginning to roll. A good, solid tale in the finest tradition of Star Trek storytelling.

Final Thoughts:

Corona was penned by Greg Bear, who has had quite a literary career since the publication of this book back in 1984. He has become a distinguished and popular writer of science fiction, thus far having written a total of 44 books. Unfortunately, Corona is his only foray into the world of Star Trek as a writer. In 2010, Pocket Books reissued Nightshade by Laurel K. Hamilton, who had become famous for her series of vampire novels. I was somewhat disappointed that Pocket didn't instead re-release Corona. That said, I haven't yet read Nightshade, so who am I to judge?


Corona was enjoyable and Star Trek in the truest sense. I very much enjoyed it. Part of the joy of writing this review blog is the opportunity to go back and find the gems of years past, and Corona did not disappoint in that respect.

Also by Greg Bear:

Hull Zero Three (NOTE: Link is to my other blog, which reviews non-Star Trek novels)



My next read:

Next on the list is Diane Duane's novel, Spock's World.



Friday, August 10, 2012

Do Comets Dream?

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Do Comets Dream? by S.P. Somtow
Published July 2003
Read May 27th, 2012

Previous book (The Next Generation): The Battle of Betazed
Next book (The Next Generation): A Time to Be Born



Spoilers ahead for Do Comets Dream?.

From the back cover:
Every five thousand years, so the people of the planet Thanet believe, the world ends in fire and a new cycle of creation begins.  Now the Last Days are once again upon them, and a fiery star draws near.  This is the Death-Bringer, the Eater of the World, whose coming heralds the end of all things...
But to Captain Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, the Death-Bringer appears to be nothing but a rogue comet, easily destroyed.  Picard faces a difficult dilemma: how can he save the Thanetians' rich and intricate civilization without destroying the very beliefs upon which their culture is based?
This quandary is challenge enough, yet the captain's position becomes even more complicated when Deanna Troi discovers that, incredibly, the comet is alive!

My Thoughts:

Do Comets Dream? is a bit of an anomaly. Most of the Next Generation novels written during this period were set aboard the Enterprise-E and took place during the TNG movie era. Do Comets Dream? is instead set aboard the Enterprise-D and during the Next Generation television series era. While I enjoy moving the stories forward (especially in the post-Nemesis relaunch period), it was nice to go back to the familiar setting of the television series. It was kind of like being able to go back in time and visit your friends from high school, not as they are now, but as they were then. Refreshing, in a way, but at the same time, a little strange.


In this novel, the Enterprise crew deals with a civilization whose beliefs state that they are the center of the universe and that every 5000 years, their world ends and is reborn anew. We eventually discover that this is the result of a supposed comet impact that will nearly destroy the Thanetan civilization. However, the comet's origin and purpose are shocking. Picard and his crew find themselves in the position of having to convince the people of Thanet that the comet can be stopped, while at the same time trying to stop it in a way that doesn't destroy the lifeform aboard it, whom they discover to be nothing more than a frightened, brainwashed child.


Do Comets Dream? has a large cast of characters, and while most of them seemed a little one-dimensional, they were still interesting, and the final role they played in stopping the destruction was fascinating. Each character took on a role in an ancient story set on a world which turns out to be Thanet's ancient enemy. The comet is a devastating weapon, and the cast of characters led by Deanna Troi must convince the child pilot not to allow Thanet to be destroyed.


One thing I enjoyed about this novel was that it featured one of my favourite bit-part characters from TNG, Simon Tarses, the young man who was one of the victims of Admiral Norah Satie's witch-hunt in the episode "The Drumhead." Although he seemed a little out of character here, it was interesting to revisit his story.



Crewman Simon Tarses: one of my favourite small roles from TNG, and featured in Do Comets Dream?.


Final Thoughts:

Do Comets Dream? was an interesting read, but ultimately in my mind, a little unmemorable. The problem and the eventual solution were interesting, but at the same time the plot ended up feeling a little bit "paint-by-numbers." I can't exactly explain the reason why I came away from this book feeling this sort of ambivalence. I can recommend the book if you're interested in eating up an afternoon reading about some classic TNG era exploits, but Do Comets Dream? is far outside the realm of "must-reads" in my opinion.

My next read:

Much like last year, I've once again gotten far behind in writing about the Trek novels I've read over the past few months. To make matters worse, in approximately two weeks I am embarking on a month-and-a-half long trip across two continents, during which time my ability to upload reviews may be limited. I'm quite busy right now as well, wrapping up my life here in South Korea. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I will have the chance to get a few more reviews published. Here are the novels I've read that still need write-ups:


  1. Star Trek #15: Corona by Greg Bear
  2. Spock's World by Diane Duane
  3. Star Trek #21: Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan
  4. Star Trek #26: Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson
  5. Errand of Vengeance #1: The Edge of the Sword by Kevin Ryan
Currently, I'm reading Errand of Vengence #2: Killing Blow, also by Kevin Ryan. Add to these the new releases that will be coming out during my trip. These include:
  1. Voyager: The Eternal Tide by Kirsten Beyer
  2. Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship by Una McCormack
  3. Vanguard: In Tempest's Wake by Dayton Ward (e-book only)
I will also be reading constantly while hour after mind-numbing hour passes by on the trans-Siberian railway. This ensures that I'll have a TON of material for this blog over the next few months. I'll definitely be kept busy!

Hopefully I can keep up a bit while on my trip, but be prepared for some lengthy periods with no new reviews.

Hope everyone is well, and I'll have the next review up soon!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fallen Gods

Star Trek: Titan: Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin
Published July 31st 2012
Read August 5th 2012


Previous book (Titan): Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire
Next book (Titan): 



Click to purchase Fallen Gods from Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for Fallen Gods and other books in the Titan series, as well as events from the Typhon Pact series!

From the back cover:
The Starship Titan continues on her outward voyage of discovery in this latest exciting novel.
Though the Federation still reels from Andor's political decision that will forever affect the Federation, Captain William T. Riker and the crew of the USS Titan are carrying out Starfleet's renewed commitment to deep space exploration. While continuing to search the Beta Quadrant's unknown expanses for an ancient civilization's long-lost quick-terraforming technology - a potential boon to many Borg-ravaged worlds across the Federation and beyond - Titan's science specialists encounter the planet Ta'ith, home to the remnant of a once-great society that may hold the very secrets they seek. But this quest also takes Titan perilously close to the deadly Vela Pulsar, the galaxy's most prolific source of lethal radiation, potentially jeopardizing both Titan and what remains of the Ta'ithan civilization.
Meanwhile, Riker finds himself on a collision course with the Federation Council and the Andorian government, both of which intend to deprive Titan of its Andorian crewmembers. And one of those Andorians - Lieutenant Pava Ek'Noor sh'Aqabaa - uncovers a terrible danger that has been hiding in plain sight for more than two centuries...
My thoughts:

Ever since reading the first Titan novel, Taking Wing, I've been a fan of the series. The premise is a great one, and Titan is all about getting back to the roots of one of the things that makes Star Trek great: the spirit of exploration, that very human drive to see what's over the next hill or across the vast ocean. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the politics and other machinations that have characterized most of the rest of Star Trek fiction of late. But there is something very appealing about a series that deals with exploration and discovery again.

That said, the last two novels in the Titan series have fallen somewhat flat. While not quite as disappointing as the previous entry, Seize the Fire, Fallen Gods suffers from a number of shortcomings. It's hard to pin-point exactly what makes this novel difficult to read. There is no one thing that can be pointed to that makes it a bad novel per se. However, many little things add up to create a feeling of inadequacy.

The crew of Titan has always been one of the more fascinating aspects of the series. Made up of a very diverse assortment of species, the crew is always fun to learn about. However, in Fallen Gods, it feels as though the character development has stalled. Issues that previously plagued the characters are once again brought to the forefront, long after I felt they had already been dealt with and resolved. Most notably, Titan's chief engineer, an Efrosian by the name of Xin Ra-Havreii, has an on-going issue where he feels responsible for the destruction of Titan's class prototype, the USS Luna, which was destroyed in an accident that began in the engine room. This issue has been brought up many times over the Titan series, and quite frankly, it's getting tiresome. If there were something new to be learned about Xin's character or some way in which he moved forward on this issue, I wouldn't be complaining. But as it stands now, the incident seems to be mentioned whenever we need a little bit of angst in the plot, and for no reason other than that.

The world-building in this novel was handled competently, if not overly compellingly. The artificial intelligence introduced in this novel was interesting, but I still don't understand how a computer program could transport itself across space, and then run itself in the brain of an organic being such as Commander Tuvok. I understand that Star Trek is often fantastical, but phenomena such as this is usually explained a little better than in Fallen Gods. I was a little disappointed at the lack of plausibility in this novel.

Finally, the subplot of Fallen Gods dealt with the fallout of the events of the Typhon Pact series of novels, most notably the secession of Andor from the United Federation of Planets in Paths of Disharmony. The Andorian government has issued an order that all Andorian citizens of "reproductive age" are to return to the homeworld immediately. Starfleet, of course, does not compel the Andorians within its ranks to follow this order; however, Starfleet does decide to reassign all Andorians serving in sensitive positions to posts of lesser import. Needless to say, the idea incenses both Captain Riker and his crew. Meanwhile, the arrival of an Andorian warship complicates matters when its commanding officer demands that the Andorians aboard Titan be turned over. The commander of the Andorian vessel really comes across as a ridiculously evil, moustache-twirling villain here. His plan to repatriate the seven Andorians aboard Titan using transporter-duplication trickery is really ridiculous. Also, just how far away from Federation space is Titan at this point? How is it even remotely possible that the Andorian vessel could traverse that distance in such a short period of time, merely for the purpose of capturing seven Andorians? There is no indication whatsoever that the Andorian vessel is equipped with quantum slipstream technology, and I don't see how the warship could have traversed that distance any other way. The entire subplot smacks of ridiculousness and cartoonish villainy.

Final thoughts:

Fallen Gods is not a terrible novel. It's just kind of... there. The prose is bland, and the story is not terribly engrossing. There are some positives in the novel: for example, Tuvok's reaction to the loss of the eco-sculpting knowledge from the previous novel was very interesting, and I would have loved to have the author explore that idea a little more.

Fallen Gods seems to retread a lot of ground previously covered in other novels. Nothing really happens to advance the characters all that much, and while I'm interested in seeing the Andorian situation developed in the future, this novel makes me wary of the direction it seems to be taking. The idea that a lot of what is going on could be the result of nefarious Tholian mind-control worries me about what the next turn in this tale will be. Time will tell, and I'll certainly be reading. But Fallen Gods is definitely a bit of a miss in what has been a series of hits in Trek literature lately.

More about Fallen Gods:


Also by Michael A. Martin:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Mission Gamma, Book Three: Cathedral with Andy Mangels (2002)
Star Trek: Enterprise: Last Full Measure with Andy Mangels (2006)
Star Trek: Excelsior: Forged in Fire with Andy Mangels (2007)
Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm (2011)
Star Trek: The Original Series: Seasons of Light and Darkness (2014)

My next read:

The next book on my list of novels to review is S.P. Somtow's Do Comets Dream?, while later this month sees the release of Kirsten Beyer's next Voyager entry, The Eternal Tide. I'm really looking forward to this one after last year's excellent Children of the Storm. Stay tuned!