Monday, May 27, 2013

Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster
Novelization of the film from Paramount Pictures
Release date: May 21st,
 2013
Read May 25th 2013


Previous book (J.J. Abrams's New Trek): Star Trek


Click to purchase Star Trek Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster from Amazon.com!

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek Into Darkness!

From the back cover:
Months after the dramatic events seen in the 2009 blockbuster film Star Trek, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise—including Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Doctor Leonard McCoy, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, and Ensign Pavel Chekov—is called back home. But an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has declared all-out war on Starfleet and everything it stands for, leaving Earth in a state of crisis. Now with a personal score to settle as a result, Kirk must lead a covert manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction. As these valiant heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Captain Kirk has left: his crew.

My thoughts:

Readers of this website may have noticed that I haven't done reviews of novelizations in the past. In fact, when reading Star Trek, I tend to steer clear of them for the most part. However, since beginning this project in 2010, I have made a point to read every new Star Trek novel as it is released. Initially, I went back and forth on reading Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the new film, but obviously, I decided to go ahead with it in the end.

Star Trek Into Darkness - The novelization. My first foray into books made from films on this review site.

In my mind, novels excel at telling stories that are not necessarily possible in a visual medium. The best stories are those that communicate ideas and images in a fun and exciting way, allowing the reader to form those images in his or her mind with only imagination being the limit, without a thought to effects budgets or casting limitations. Novelizations, however, are simply re-telling the story that has already been presented in a film or on television. While reading this novel, I couldn't help but visualize it in my mind the way I had already seen in in the theatre. Aside from a few short snippets of extra dialogue or a little bit of extra insight into what the characters are thinking, it's difficult for me to find any sort of added experience from reading this book that the film didn't already provide me.

The Wrath of Khan by Vonda McIntyre.
A Star Trek novelization done perfectly.
This is not to say that novelizations can't be great. One need only look to the novelizations of The Wrath of Khan, The Search For Spock, and The Voyage Home by Vonda McIntyre for truly great reading experiences. Those novels not only recounted the events of the film, but expanded upon them, using material from scenes that were cut from the films as well as the author's own imagination. Relationships between the characters were examined in greater detail, and the reader got a great deal more insight into the story. It seems to me that writers of past novelizations had a great deal more freedom in crafting their stories. I wonder if today's novelization writers simply aren't allowed to take the same sort of liberties that writers like Vonda McIntyre were previously able.

As for the book itself, the story is competently adapted by Alan Dean Foster. Regardless of my personal feelings about novelizations, I found that his style of writing was particularly suited to a project such as this. Because the vast majority of readers will have seen the film, Foster doesn't spend a great deal of time on descriptive prose, instead launching the reader into the action and presenting the story in a fast-paced manner. After all, we've already seen the sets, characters, and action sequences; why waste time describing every minute detail over again? As far as the plot of the story goes, because the author didn't have much of a hand in crafting it, criticism or analysis of the events of the story feels far too much like a film review. I will say, however, that the written word allows for more careful analysis of the plot, and parts that passed by too quickly in the film are allowed greater scrutiny in this medium. In that way, I suppose I can see the value in a film novelization.

Foster doesn't waste time with lengthy descriptions of visuals. After all, we've already seen this on the big screen!

Why are film novelizations made? If I were to allow myself a certain amount of cynicism, I might say that they are simply made to make money and cash in on the popularity of a film at a particular time. Although, is that even necessarily a bad thing? Publishing in general tends to be a little more cash-strapped, particularly now. How can I possibly begrudge something that makes the industry more money?

Looking at it from a somewhat less cynical perspective, perhaps film novelizations stem from the perception of books as inherently valuable experiences, a viewpoint that I can definitely appreciate. However, I prefer when the various mediums are able to do something different with the story. For example, many people complain when television or film adaptations of books don't strictly adhere to the story as laid out in the book. However, I understand that the two mediums are very different, and I find myself separating the two in my mind. Game of Thrones is an excellent example. A few of my friends complain bitterly that the HBO series doesn't follow the plot of the books exactly. To my mind, however, we've already gotten that story in the books; why shouldn't the series do something a little bit different? I suppose I feel the same way about novelizations. We've already gotten the film. I would love for the novel to take it in a different direction, or perhaps even just offer us a little bit more. Reading the exact same story I saw on the screen is superfluous.

Novelizations, in my opinion, work best when providing details and insights not in the original film. I would definitely have appreciated more information on Benedict Cumberbatch's character's background and recent experiences, for example. Alas, such detail seems to be beyond the scope of the Into Darkness novelization.

Final thoughts:

Well, this review turned into more of an analysis of novelizations in general than a strict review of Into Darkness! As for the book itself, I found Foster's adaptation to be ably written, with an eye to getting the story across without bogging the reader down in exposition that was already presented in the film. I have a hard time reviewing the plot of the story, as Foster didn't exactly have a hand in crafting it. Extra details or some elaboration on the part of the author would very much have been appreciated, but I understand if the guidelines for writing the novelization didn't allow for that sort of embellishment.

More about the Star Trek Into Darkness Novelization:


My next read:

At the moment, I'm reading the latest release from Pocket Books, William Leisner's Original Series story, The Shocks of Adversity.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

NEWS: Cover revealed for first book of The Fall!

The cover for David R. George's forthcoming inaugural book of the miniseries, The Fall, has been revealed. The first book, entitled Revelation and Dust, centers around the Deep Space Nine portion of twenty-fourth century TrekLit, and the cover is very pretty:


The first novel in an electrifying The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine crossover event!
The Federation is rocked to its core as the Typhon Pact is suspected of being behind a barbarous act that shatters the fragile peace of the Alpha Quadrant. An original Star Trek novel, this is part of a five-book story arc that takes place over a sixty-day period, but it’s not necessary to read each novel in order to follow the storyline, which involves all aspects of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine universes.


Revelation and Dust is set to be released on August 27th. You can pre-order it from Amazon.com by following this link.

Check out all of the forthcoming releases in 2013 on my 2013 Releases page!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interphase, Part One

Star Trek: S.C.E. #4
Interphase, Part One of Two by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published February 2001
Read January 27th 2013


Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #3: Hard Crash
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #5: Interphase, Part Two of Two

Originally published as an ebook. Later published as part of the S.C.E. compilation Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002.


Compilation of the first four SCE stories
Original ebook cover


Click here to purchase the Star Trek: S.C.E. omnibus #1, Have Tech, Will Travel from Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for Interphase, Part One and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
More than a century ago, the U.S.S. Defiant disappeared with all hands into an interspatial rift deep in Tholian territory. Now the derelict ship has been seen drifting in and out of ordinary space, and the Tholian authorities have reluctantly agreed to let Starfleet retrieve the Defiant from the rift. Perhaps, at long last, the lost ship can be brought home and its valiant crew paid their final respects. Captain David Gold and an S.C.E. team from the U.S.S. da Vinci succeed in boarding the Defiant, but their investigation soon uncovers a dangerous secret. For more than a hundred years, an ancient super-weapon has been hidden away within the scarred and lifeless starship, along with evidence of a long-forgotten atrocity -- evidence that could ignite a vast interstellar war!

My thoughts:


The U.S.S. Defiant, NCC-1764, trapped in interphase
"The Tholian Web" was one of my favourite Original Series episodes when I was a kid, and I found the mystery of "interphase" and the fate of the Starship Defiant to be very compelling. In Interphase, the S.C.E. crew aboard the U.S.S. da Vinci has a hand in deciding the ultimate fate of that tragic vessel. Lost in a rift for a century, the Defiant is discovered by the Tholians in their space. The da Vinci is assigned to the salvage operation, and heads into Tholian space to recover the lost starship. Captain Gold leads a team aboard the historic vessel in order to get it out of the interphasic rift, while the da Vinci holds position outside the rift, all under the watchful gaze of the Tholians.

Kieran Duffy, second officer of the da Vinci
For the most part, I enjoyed the first part of this two-part story. Each of the characters gets something interesting to do. We get to see Captain Gold in action, and through him we experience the reverence that people of this generation have for the twenty-third century and what (to them) are the pioneering days of space exploration for the Federation. Other characters, such as Dr. Lense and the Nasat crewmember, P8 Blue ("Pattie"), each get their chance to shine in the book. Of special note is Lt. Commander Duffy, who commands the bridge of the da Vinci for an extended period for the first time. I'm interested to see where his command goes in the next part of the story.

One character I'm not really warming up to yet is the chief of security, Lt. Commander Domenica Corsi. However, I believe that this is by design. Her abrupt manner makes the rest of the crew bristle, and to be perfectly frank, it makes me uncomfortable as well.

One bonus of using the S.C.E. series to tell the story of the Defiant is the fact that the series features a character who was present for the events of "The Tholian Web": Captain Montgomery Scott, the head of the Corps of Engineers. At the beginning of the book, he expresses a desire to be on-hand for the recovery, but alas, there is not enough time for him to accompany the mission. His first-hand knowledge of events of over a century ago provide for an interesting dynamic in the beginning of this story.

The cliffhanger ending was a good one, and it made me eager to go on to part two. I do find it odd that part one of this story is in Have Tech, Will Travel, but readers have to wait for the next volume, Miracle Workers, if they wish to read the second part. I personally would have preferred to have both stories collected in the same omnibus.

Final thoughts:

An interesting beginning to what I think will wind up being a very compelling story. The Tholians are engaging and enigmatic antagonists, and I enjoy seeing them used in Trek fiction. The cliffhanger ending works very well, and each of the featured characters are placed in positions where they are being tested, Duffy most of all. I'm eager to read the second half of the story and see where it all ends up. It is somewhat unfortunate that this story isn't compatible continuity-wise with the Enterprise two-parter "In a Mirror, Darkly." However, this isn't a roadblock to enjoying the story; each of the "versions" of the events surrounding the final fate of the Defiant can be enjoyed regardless of their incompatibility.

Thus ends the first four S.C.E. stories! I hope you enjoyed the week's reviews all posted in a row. I'll very likely do something similar when I get around to reviewing the next S.C.E. collection, Miracle Workers.

Also by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore:

My next read:

Next review will be for Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the new film, Star Trek Into Darkness. Coming soon!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hard Crash

Star Trek: S.C.E. #3
Hard Crash by Christie Golden
Published October 2000
Read January 25th 2013


Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #2: Fatal Error
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #4: Interphase, Part One of Two

Originally published as an ebook. Later published as part of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers compilation Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002.


Compilation of the first four SCE stories
Original ebook cover






Spoilers ahead for Hard Crash and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
An alien starship of unknown origin has crashed into a planet inhabited by a large and populous civilization. Accompanied by Geordi LaForge, temorarily on loan from the Starship Enterprise, the S.C.E. investigates the mysterious vessel, only to discover that the ship was not nearly as damaged as it first seemed. Now the berserk ship, which seems to possess its own life and intelligence, is on a rampage across the surface of the planet, and Captain Gold and his crew face the awesome challenge of trying to stop a starship gone insane!
My thoughts:

No idea why this works in my head...
In Hard Crash, we see a few other members of the da Vinci crew in action. In particular, we learn more about Bart Faulwell, the chief linguist. I really enjoy his character. He has a thoughtful way about him, and seems to be incredibly kind. He truly cares about his fellow crewmembers, which can easily be seen in the compassion he feels for 110 and his plight. In addition, he is shown to be in a same-sex relationship. I love the way this is handled in this story. The relationship is mentioned as being a loving one, and while his partner, Mark Anthony, is living quite far away, Faulwell is seen to be writing thoughtful and detailed letters to him. It saddens me that televised Trek hasn't shown a long-term same-sex relationship in this manner. There seems to have been plenty of opportunity to do so, and the reluctance of the producers to do so is quite maddening. If shown with half the sincerity and loveliness with which Bart and Mark's relationship is showcased here, it could have been a truly groundbreaking and wonderful thing. As a side note, for some reason, based on the description we get of Faulwell in this story, I couldn't get the image of Krieger from the cartoon series Archer out of my head. For some reason... it works! Please bear in mind that the only things about Krieger that I apply to Faulwell's character are his looks and voice; otherwise, I certainly don't think their characters are anything alike!

Dr. Elizabeth Lense, from "Explorers" (DS9)
We also see Dr. Elizabeth Lense, chief medical officer of the da Vinci, in action. Last seen in Deep Space Nine's "Explorers," Lense is that specter from Julian Bashir's past who beat him out to become valedictorian of their class at the academy. In this novella, we get hints about her character that lead me to believe there's more here than we're being told. Her attitude and work ethic seem off, somehow. Her relationship with the da Vinci's emergency medical hologram program is an interesting one as well, with Lense seeming to take on the role of the holographic doctor's mentor. I'm interested to see where this relationship, and Lense's character, goes in the future.

Finally, Hard Crash provides something of a resolution to 110's character arc, ending with his decision to remain aboard the da Vinci as a solitary Bynar. Taking on the name "Soloman," he will have to come to terms with his life as a Bynar separate from his partner and from the rest of his species. I look forward to seeing where his journey takes him.

Hard Crash is a fascinating story, and much like the prior two stories, ends in a way that defies the reader's expectations. The resolution to this story is heart-wrenching, and touched me in a way I wasn't expecting. The narrative style throughout the novella is interesting as well, providing small hints about what is really going on. The nature of the crashed vessel is hinted at through the pleas of an unknown person, calling out to someone named Jaldark. Early on, this really grabbed my attention and held my curiosity.


Final thoughts:

Hard Crash surprised me with the emotional punch that it packed. I truly wasn't expecting the ending that it had, and the emotional resonance that it held. Very well-written and with some fascinating character moments, Hard Crash made me very happy that I've finally decided to give the Corps of Engineers series a try. I'm certainly not regretting that decision thus far.


Also by Christie Golden:



My next read:

The final novella in the S.C.E. omnibus #1, Have Tech, Will Travel: Interphase, Part I by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. Coming tomorrow!



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fatal Error

Star Trek: S.C.E. #2
Fatal Error by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published September 2000
Read January 23rd 2013


Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #1: The Belly of the Beast
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #3: Hard Crash

Originally published as an ebook. Later published as part of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers compilation Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002.



Compilation of the first four SCE stories
Original ebook cover.




Spoilers ahead for Fatal Error and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
For centuries, the planet Eerlik has had a thriving civilization, completely run, maintained, and administered by a giant sentient computer. But now that computer is breaking down and the desperate inhabitants are helpless to repair the damage. Only the crew of the U.S.S. da Vinci, accompanied by Geordi LaForge, can hope to fix the massive computer before the Eerlikkan society collapses entirely. Their mission grows more dangerous, however, when they discover evidence of sabotage -- and learn firsthand that hostile forces will do whatever it takes to stop Gold and his crew from saving the imperiled planet!

My thoughts:

In Fatal Error, the second novella in the S.C.E. series, Commander Gomez and her team must attempt to repair a sentient planetary computer system named Ganitriul while at the same time dealing with insurgents bent on overthrowing said computer and the government of the planet Eerlik. While the plot is fascinating and the crisis is compelling, where Fatal Error truly shines is in its treatment of the characters.

A Bynar pair, much like 110 and 111.
I'm really starting to enjoy the characters of S.C.E.. A few of them were "minor league" players on other shows (Gomez and Duffy on TNG, and Stevens and Lense on DS9) with a few new faces thrown into the mix. In Fatal Error, I was especially interested in the outcome of the horrible loss that 110 experienced in the previous story. His mate, 111, was killed, and he must now deal with that terrible loss. The death is made all the more tragic by the degree to which a Bynar relies on his or her mate. Without 111, 110 feels incomplete in a very real sense. I believe that the series is leaning towards having him remain aboard the da Vinci, but doing so comes with severe consequences. 110 will basically become an outcast in the eyes of Bynar society. I'm curious to see where these developments will lead.

I have to admit that I kept expecting the Star Trek trope of a planetary computer going all evil and enslaving the population to rear its head, but I was pleasantly surprised when Fatal Error didn't take this route. In fact, Ganitriul was an interesting character in his own right, and I found myself genuinely caring for the life of the computer system. One of the most amusing parts in the novel is when Scotty muses about how sentient computers were dealt with in the previous century: "Shaking his head, the older man said, 'In my day, when we saw a planet that had been taken over by one'a those -- Ah, but that's neither here nor there.'" Clearly making reference to Captain Kirk's consistent tendency to destroy planet-controlling computer systems, Scotty's musings brought a smile to this reader's face.


Final thoughts:

Keith DeCandido has yet to disappoint me. I have very much enjoyed everything he has written, and Fatal Error was no exception. I'm very curious to see the outcome of 110's story, and I'm also enjoying the stories of the other characters of S.C.E.. Fatal Error provided a few more insights into the lives of the characters, and presented them with an interesting problem which required a creative solution. 110 showed his computer expertise and saved the day, even while dealing with the loss of his mate. I'm looking forward to more stories featuring these characters!


Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

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)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)
Star Trek: S.C.E. #10: Here There Be Monsters (2001)
Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ferenginar: Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed (2005)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Slings and Arrows, Book VI: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment (2008)
The Klingon Art of War (2014)


My next read:

Continuing on with the first four S.C.E. stories this week. Next up is #3: Hard Crash by Christie Golden.



Monday, May 13, 2013

The Belly of the Beast

Star Trek: S.C.E. #1
The Belly of the Beast by Dean Wesley Smith
Published August 2000
Read January 18th 2013


Next ebook (S.C.E.): #2: Fatal Error

Originally published as an ebook. Later published as part of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers compilation Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002.


Compilation of the first four SCE stories
Original ebook cover



This week, on Trek Lit Reviews: reviews of the first four books of the S.C.E. series, starting with The Belly of the Beast today (Monday), followed by the next three novellas released on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday!

Spoilers ahead for The Belly of the Beast!

From the back cover:
The U.S.S. Enterprise has defeated a gigantic marauding starship from parts unknown. Now that the immediate threat has been neutralized, the S.C.E. has been called in to probe the vanquished hulk in search of both new technology and the secret of its origin. Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge has temporarily transferred from the Enterprise to assist Captain David Gold and the crew of the S.C.E. ship, the U.S.S. da Vinci, on this fascinating mission. LaForge works with Gold and his top-of-the-line group of technical specialists to unravel the high-tech mysteries of the supposedly dead alien vessel, only to discover that the real danger has just begun!

My thoughts:

The Belly of the Beast is the first novella in the originally ebook-only series, SCE (Starfleet Corps of Engineers). The first I had heard of these stories were when the first dead tree-format omnibus was published. I was curious, but apparently not curious enough to pick it up and give it a try. I'm happy to be rectifying that lapse in judgement now!

The inaugural story itself is an interesting one. The SCE team is confronted with a massive mystery ship, its origins unknown. It has attacked a Federation colony, and the USS Enterprise was just barely able to escape destruction and disable the mysterious juggernaut. As the Corps of Engineers investigates further, they discover the original purpose of the ship, as well as the original company and crew. However, something sinister has taken control of the vessel. Originally thought to be neutralized by the Enterprise's attack, the horrific threat remains to terrorize the da Vinci's away teams.

Sonya Gomez in TNG's "Q Who," now
 the commanding officer of the SCE
contingent aboard USS da Vinci.
The SCE series highlights a few of the background crew we've seen in other Star Trek series. The head of the SCE contingent aboard the da Vinci is Commander Sonya Gomez, originally seen as a newly-minted ensign in season two of The Next Generation. Originally a shy, nervous junior officer, she has matured into her role as the leader of the SCE troubleshooters. Several other crewmembers we've met over the years are also a part of the da Vinci's crew, but we don't learn much about them in this volume. I'm looking forward to more stories in the line to see if they are as ably fleshed-out as Sonya Gomez is in this novella. I really enjoyed reading about her character as I have always lamented the fact that we only got to see her in two episodes of TNG. Also, something that came as a bit of a surprise to me: The Belly of the Beast marks the first appearance of Christine Vale, security chief of the USS Enterprise in many of the TNG novels leading up to Star Trek Nemesis, and later Captain Riker's first officer aboard the USS Titan. In this novella, we learn a lot about her, and hints about more of her story are dropped.

The SCE series marked Pocket Books' first experiment with ebook-only sales. Sadly, this series has been on indefinite hiatus since 2007. 2007-2008, however, saw the release of another ebook-only series: Slings and Arrows, which I haven't read myself yet. Prior to that, in 2006, an Original Series-era series of ebooks were released. Mere Anarchy was later re-released in a trade paperback omnibus. After a couple of years without an ebook exclusive release, Pocket has once again begun experimenting with ebook-only publications, with the release of 2011's Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within by Christopher L. Bennett and last year's Vanguard: In Tempest's Wake by Dayton Ward. In addition, March of this year saw a Next Generation ebook by James Swallow, entitled The Stuff of Dreams.


Final thoughts:

A fascinating beginning to this anomalous series in Trek Lit. The mystery is well done, and the conclusion is exciting and unnerving. The story has piqued my interest enough to make me want to read more about this crew and their missions. I'm looking forward to continuing with the SCE story and learning more about the interesting group of people that have been assembled for this series.


Also by Dean Wesley Smith:

Star Trek #78: The Rings of Tautee with Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1996)



My next read:

S.C.E. week continues with #2 from Have Tech, Will Travel: Fatal Error, by Keith R.A. DeCandido.



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Vulcan Academy Murders

Star Trek #20: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah
Published November 1984
Read January 22nd 2013


Previous book (The Original Series): #19: The Tears of the Singers
Next book (The Original Series): #21: Uhura's Song


Click to purchase The Vulcan Academy Murders from Amazon.com!

Spoilers ahead for The Vulcan Academy Murders!

From the back cover:
Kirk and McCoy accompany Spock to the Vulcan Academy Hospital, seeking experiemental treatment for a badly wounded Enterprise crew member. Spock's mother is also a patient in the hospital, and Kirk soon becomes involved in the complex drama of Spock's family...
Suddenly, patients are dying, and Kirk suspects the unthinkable -- murder on Vulcan! But can he convince the Vulcans that something as illogical as murder is possible? Until the killer is caught, everyone is in danger!

Notable quote:

Sarek and Spock, discussing his failed bonding with T'Pring in the episode "Amok Time":
Spock continued bleakly, "I looked at her picture and tried to reach her." He turned again to Sarek. "I thought the bonding was inadequate because I am only half Vulcan." 
"You are not only anything, Spock. You are more, not less, because of your dual heritage. It is fruitless to wish now that I had made that clearer to you when you were a child."

My thoughts:

A friend of mine, whom I met on GoodReads, said that the description of The Vulcan Academy Murders makes it sound like "Star Trek does Nancy Drew." Interestingly enough, she hit it right on the money. This novel plays out exactly like a pulp detective novel. The investigator (Kirk) has his list of suspects and determines motive and opportunity for each one. One by one, the suspects are eliminated from his list, until a surprising development leads all involved to believe the murderer has been caught. But, lo and behold, they have the wrong man! Predictably, Kirk himself is placed in danger when the killer strikes again. Now, this formulaic detective story set in the Star Trek universe isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, Star Trek itself has been many things over the years. Stories from a multitude of genres can be adapted quite well to the Trek setting. While I don't know that The Vulcan Academy Murders was the best-written detective story, I did enjoy it for the sheer genre-busting nature of it. Kirk playing detective was certainly fun, and the reactions of the Vulcans to a murder investigation were also very interesting to see.

The imposing visage of T'Pau hides a few surprises.
The Vulcan Academy Murders is fascinating in a number of other ways. Although the Vulcan it presents in its pages is subtly different from the world we see in other volumes of Trek lit, the insights it provides in the day-to-day lives of the average Vulcan are eye-opening. Of particular interest is the transition of Vulcan into a more cosmopolitan society, with large numbers of humans and other aliens taking up residence on the planet. While most Vulcans see this transition as keeping with the ideals of the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC (infinite diversity in infinite combinations), there are a few who believe that Vulcan should be kept pure and resist the influence of alien cultures. Of particular interest to me was the characterization of T'Pau, introduced in the TOS episode "Amok Time." At first, Kirk believes her to be somewhat bigoted against non-Vulcans, but her actual outlook on humans within Vulcan society ends up surprising him.

The examination of the depth of the
bond between Sarek and Amanda
is one of the highlights of The Vulcan
Academy Murders
.
Another element of The Vulcan Academy Murders that I loved was the presentation of the relationship between Spock and his parents. In this novel, Sarak and Spock's relationship has improved significantly since their eighteen-year silence after Spock decided to join Starfleet. Indeed, we see things from Sarek's point of view on several occasions and learn of his true feelings of pride for his son and his accomplishments. We also learn why his parents weren't present at his "marriage" in "Amok Time" and how much Sarek has come to regret that decision. In addition, the portrayal of the relationship between Sarek and Amanda is heartwarming, and we see a bit of what led them to marry. I particularly loved Sarek's response when Spock asks him why he chose an Earthwoman to be his wife. His answer? "I did not. I chose Amanda, who happens to be an Earthwoman." This all kind of presages his answer to Spock in the 2009 film. "I married her because I loved her."

Finally, I really enjoyed the novel's take on the events of "Amok Time," specifically those concerning the actions of T'Pring, Spock's betrothed. What she did in that episode was so outrageous and unfathomable to Sarek that he realizes how terribly his son had been treated. A Vulcan bonding between mates as presented in this novel is shown to be a deep, abiding, almost spiritual thing. Spock feared that his bonding to T'Pring had not been so because he is only half-Vulcan, but Sarek assures him that the fault lay entirely with T'Pring and her twisted sense of logic. In fact, we see a true bonding in this novel between a human man and a Vulcan woman, and it truly is a thing of beauty to behold. Being in a Vulcan bonding is like taking part in a permanent mind meld. Two truly do become one, and Jean Lorrah writes this concept very well. While the couple, Dr. Daniel Corrigan and T'Mir, are bonding, the portrayal of it is exquisite:

I had shared my fantasy with you, Daniel, but you had never told me yours.
I never dared to recognize it, he discovered--and she found the thought along with him.
Beautiful.


Final thoughts:

A fun, if somewhat formulaic detective story set on Vulcan, with some great character moments for a few of the secondaries such as Sarek and Amanda. The exploration of Vulcan relationships and what makes a Vulcan are of particular note in this novel. I'm looking forward to checking out some more of Jean Lorrah's work in the realm of Star Trek fiction. I would recommend The Vulcan Academy Murders as a fun, light read for the trekkie who wants something a little different from the usual spaceborne setting of Trek novels.

Cover quandaries:

The scene depicted on the cover never actually occurs in the novel. While the creature, ostensibly a Le-Matya, does appear and threatens Captain Kirk, never once does Spock come face to face with it during the story!

My next read:

Next up: the first book in the S.C.E. series: The Belly of the Beast by Dean Wesley Smith.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Folded World

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World by Jeff Mariotte
Release date: April 30
th 2013
Read May 2nd 2013


Previous book (The Original Series): The Weight of Worlds
Next book (The Original Series): The Shocks of Adversity


Click to purchase The Folded World from Amazon.com!

Spoilers ahead for The Folded World!

From the back cover:
En route to a diplomatic mission, the U.S.S. Enterprise receives a distress call from the U.S.S. McRaven. As the Enterprise approaches the area where the McRaven appears to be, Captain James T. Kirk and his crew encounter an anomaly unlike anything they've ever experienced. Space itself seems inconsistent here ... warping, changing appearance. But during the brief periods of calm, the McRaven is located along with other ships of various origins—all dead in space and devoid of any life forms, all tightly surrounding and being held in place by an enormous unidentified vessel that appears to have been drifting for a millennium. As incredible and impossible as it seems, this anomaly is something that can only be described as a dimensional fold, a place where the various dimensions that science has identified—and the ones it cannot yet name—have folded in on one another, and the normal rules of time and space no longer apply...
My thoughts:

Although he has penned two prior Star Trek works in the past, The Folded World is the first novel by Jeff Mariotte that I have read. While entertaining for the most part, I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. The story itself is an interesting one: the Enterprise happens upon a "dimensional fold," in which time and space do not respond in the manner they should. They are attempting to rescue the Starship McRaven, which has been caught in the fold. Complicating matters is a diplomatic contingent aboard, representatives from the planet Ixtolde, who are vying for membership in the Federation. What Kirk and company do not realize is that the Ixtoldan ambassador and her retinue are hiding a secret, one that involves the dimensional fold and the mysterious, massive ship that lies at the center of the anomaly.

The story surrounding the anomaly and the Ixtoldan deception are interesting, and hints about the true nature of the history of the Ixtoldan people are dropped throughout the book. What kept me reading was the desire to fit these pieces togther and discover the nature of the "dimensional fold" anomaly. Unfortunately, that is one area in which the novel kind of drops the ball. The anomaly is never truly explained, and while not learning every little detail is okay, I would have enjoyed some speculation on the anomaly's origins or purpose. One thing that the anomaly evoked in me was a sense of the mystery and "weird stuff" that occasionally occurred in Original Series episodes, and in that way, the dimensional fold was a nice bit of classic Trek storytelling. However, to my mind, the mystery of the Ixtoldan deception and the reasons for the ambassador's behavior are wrapped up in a much more satisfying manner.

The novel depicts a dangerous rescue mission into the anomaly to attempt to rescue the U.S.S. McRaven. The mission, predictably, goes horribly wrong. The attitudes and actions of many of the crew on this perilous mission seemed out of place for the highly-trained Starfleet we've seen in the past. In fact, many of the actions of the boarding party seemed strange. Captain Kirk allows the party to be split up far more easily than I think would be prudent, which of course leads to crewmembers being lost in the confusion aboard the alien starship. I would have expected the crew on this mission to be a little more disciplined, and some of the actions that the crew takes don't seem logical.

Finally, the novel introduces a new character: Petty Officer Miranda Tikolo. For much of the novel, I wasn't sure what to make of her. In many ways, I enjoyed her character, and her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder was a refreshing splash of realism that Star Trek occasionally lacks. However, some of her character moments felt a little too "soap opera-ish," especially the revelation of the dark trauma she experienced as a child and the repression of that memory. In addition, the love triangle between her and two other crewmembers felt tiresome at times, and the behavior of the men in her life seemed over the top and a little childish. That's not to say that Tikolo's behavior wasn't at times childish as well. However, given her mental state and the traumas that she has experienced, one would be hard-pressed to find fault with her actions in the novel.

Final thoughts:

A generally entertaining and fast-paced novel, The Folded World was a fun read. The anomaly was interesting, but not satisfactorily explained in my opinion. Some of the character stuff was a little too melodramatic, but works for the most part. I did really enjoy Scotty's part in the novel, and it was a great deal of fun seeing him wrestle with the fine points of diplomacy while trying to deal with the Ixtoldan ambassador and the Federation diplomats aboard the Enterprise. His coming to a greater appreciation of the difficult job that Kirk has was a nice touch. While not the highlight of Trek novels from this year so far, The Folded World was enjoyable for the most part.

More about The Folded World:

Also by Jeff Mariotte:



My next read:

Next up: another classic Trek novel from the days of yore: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah.