Friday, 12 January 2018

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference - Christopher L. Bennett



Title: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Patterns of Interference” by Christopher L. Bennett is the fifth novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. This book was probably the weakest in this series which is a shame as up until now I had been finding the series to be incredibly enjoyable.

The novel is set in the first few months of 2166 as the federation continues to deal with multiple issues. The main plot point however is in relation to the planet Sauria and the dictator, Maltuvis who is determined to undermine the Federation in order to cement his own power. Into this dangerous situation comes Tucker who is determined to undermine Maltuvis's authority in a manner which could also bring down Section 31 as well. This is supported by various other plotlines such as Hoshi and the crew of the Endeavor on the world Birnam who are dealing with what could be a sentient race of Dryads. In addition, we also get to see the growth in relationship between Malcolm Reed & Caroline Paris

I suppose the reason why this book disappointed me in comparison to the earlier books is that it simply felt like a filler and it feels like Bennett is sometimes struggling to give some characters interesting things to do. I worry that the series appears to be turning into “The Adventures of Trip” rather than properly progressing all the characters and delving into some of the open plot points from the series.

What Bennett does do well is that he once again showcases his understanding of the characters in the Enterprise universe and his skill at bringing them to the page. I just didn’t feel as entertained as I had with the previous entries in the series although this doesn’t make “Patterns of Interference” a bad book, it just makes it an average book.

Overall, this is still a reasonably solid Trek novel but it just didn’t capture my attention to the same extent as the previous novels. I am hoping that in the next book we will see some of these plots get closed down and maybe give less page time to Trip!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours - David Mack



Title: Desperate Hours
Author: David Mack
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

Review:
“Desperate Hours” by David Mack is the first novel written as a tie-in to the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series. The story is set a year prior to the event’s which occurred during the Star Trek: Discovery pilot episode and follows the crew of the USS Shenzhou who have to assist the people of a colony who have awoken some rather dangerous technology which was hidden in the ocean. This mission is further complicated when the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike also arrives with orders to destroy this technology no matter the cost.

The plot is quite standard for Star Trek in that it explores the moral dilemma of duty versus ethics. One thing to note is that there is plenty of action present to keep the pace moving but unfortunately there is no tension involved as the reader knows there is no real threat to characters. Therefore some elements of action, especially those involving Burnham and Spock on the alien spacecraft did begin to feel a bit repetitive at times.

One thing Mack has done well however is capture the characters from the new series quite well. Despite the lack of data so far available, the characters did seem to fit with what has been shown on the TV screen so far. In addition, the background provided into Burnham and Saru was very interesting to follow and has helped me actually appreciate both characters much better. It is this type of thing I like in my Trek novels, the chance to actually expand and enhance what we know from the series.

The bit I am particularly intrigued about from the book however is the relationship between Spock and Burnham. Some of the interactions between the two of them were quite interesting to see and it was nice seeing Spock and Burnham both realise through each other that the relationships with Amanda and Sarek were more complicated than they had first assumed. I am curious to see if anything shown here is expanded upon in future novels or alluded to on the TV Series.

Overall, this was a very competent first tie-in novel for the new series although the plot itself was pretty standard stuff. The main reason to read this book is to enhance your understanding of the characters and learn more about the relationships between them all.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Ethersay - Sarah L King



Title: Ethersay
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2017
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository


Review:
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of "Ethersay" by Sarah L King prior to its release and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. The book uses a dual narrative, to explore two periods in the life of Rebecca, a young political activist from Glasgow. The first follows her recovery on the mysterious island of Ethersay after a car accident strands her there. Whilst there she realises that there is something being hidden from her by the islanders and she is determined to find out what the secret is. The second narrative follows Rebecca's involvement in the Scottish Independence Referendum which results in the very accident which leaves her on Ethersay.

The pacing of this novel is spot on as the initial burst of action get the reader hooked before it slows down a notch as King builds the suspense and mystery up concurrently in both narratives. I found myself really looking forward to finding out what the secret of Ethersay was and how Rebecca would come to be there. It is quite hard to say much more without spoiling some of the plot but I suspect a few people will be surprised by the reveal at the end.

One thing I have to add in my review is that the depiction of the Scottish Referendum was spot on and whilst I didn't live in Glasgow, most of what Rebecca saw and experienced as a Yes activist was recognisable to me from my own involvement. I have seen a lot of non-fiction books charting the referendum from various high profile people but it was great seeing something written here which captured the hope and hard work of the regular activist even if the character themselves was fictional.

The best bit about this book from my point of view is that it was the first novel by King in which I have actually liked the main protagonist. Yes, Rebecca has her flaws as any realistic character would do but in this book those flaws didn't affect my ability to feel empathy for her. Rebecca being a Yes activist probably made it easy for me but I was actually quite happy to find that this time it was the main character I was supporting rather than one of the secondary ones.

Overall, this is a great first attempt at contemporary fiction from King. I can see this book really appealing to people who enjoy a good non-crime based mystery, but it should also appeal quite strongly to those people who were involved in the Scottish Independence Referendum. I can't sing it's praises enough as it entertained me but also brought back the memories of the referendum both good and bad.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Star Trek 12 - James Blish & J.A. Lawrence



Title: Star Trek 12
Author: James Blish & J.A. Lawrence
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1977
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 12” was the final collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations written by James Blish as he passed away whilst writing it. The collection was therefore completed by his wife, J.A. Lawrence who would go on to adapt the only remaining episodes in "Mudd's Angels". The five episodes included in this collection are cover all three seasons and are as follows:

Patterns of Force (Season 2)
The Gamesters of Triskelion (Season 2)
And the Children Shall Lead (Season 3)
The Corbomite Maneuver (Season 1)
Shore Leave (Season 1)

So I am at the point where I just want to copy my reviews from previous Blish novelisations as most of the commentary is the same. Basically, if you enjoyed the TV episode then you will enjoy the novelisation and if you didn't like the episode then you won't like the novelisation. Blish and Lawrence are competent in their job of converting the episodes into written form but they don't really add anything new to change the underlying strengths or weaknesses of the individual stories.

As I suspect most people considering this book will have seen these episodes already I won't bother summarising them here. The writing itself is good but I would only really recommend this collection to a Trek lit completionist at it doesn't offer anything new and if you don't know the stories then you would be better off actually watching the TV show episodes.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Star Trek: Double, Double - Michael Jan Friedman



Title: Double, Double
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1989
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Double, Double” was Michael Jan Friedman’s first ever Star Trek novel and acts as a sequel to the Original Series episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. The story is based on the premise that Kirk has decides to gloss over the events which occurred on Exo III and doesn’t carry out a full investigation in order to protect Nurse Chapel. However, another android returns to the planet and when it finds its creator dead, it decides to continue his work. The android finds the template of Kirk still in the machine and creates another android using it. This android Kirk is full of confidence and ventures forth to takeover a starship and then to control the galaxy.

This is one of the better written Trek novels with a well-paced story and a decent amount of detail. In addition, the story itself was rather engaging with Friedman doing an excellent job of continuing the established story from the TV series. The characters are also handled well although I did have an initial issue with Kirk which is detailed below.

Basically, the issue with Kirk I had was due to him not telling Starfleet everything that happened on Exo III. The reason given that he is protecting Nurse Chapel just seemed very inconsistent and flimsy. I found it hard to believe that Kirk would risk not telling Starfleet about everything considering the risk posed by the machine. It doesn’t spoil the overall telling of the story but me feeling rather incredulous at the set up wasn’t the best way to start a novel.

Overall, I did enjoy the novel although I will admit that I do have a soft spot for stories which continue threads started via the original show so maybe I would have enjoyed it even if it was terrible! Thankfully it isn’t and despite the weak initial premise, the writing and pacing are more than adequate and the story is entertaining.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake Book 3) - C.J. Sansom



Title: Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake Book 3)
Author: C.J. Sansom
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published: 2007
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Sovereign” by C.J. Sansom is the 3rd novel in his “Matthew Shardlake” series of historical mystery novels. In this novel, it is now 1541 and King Henry is making a “Great Progress” to York in an attempt to both impress the northerners and meet the King of Scotland. Matthew Shardlake, our hero lawyer is asked by Archbishop Cranmer to also head to York so that he chaperone a political prisoner back to London. His trip to York is complicated by the mysterious murder of a glazier which draws him into a treasonous plot which endangers his own life.

Sansom’s writing continues to be intelligent, well-structured and engaging with a myriad of interesting sub-plots and intrigues that kept me hooked. You can’t help but keep turning the pages to find out what Shardlake is going to uncover next or what new unexpected challenge he is going to face. The novel isn’t for the faint hearted however, as the Tudor world is shown in all its ugly brutality which can be rather disconcerting.

The characterization is superb, the people really feel like they belong in the time period. Sansom doesn’t try and re-align morals to a modern view point; viewpoints which may be unacceptable now are on show without any attempt to soften them. In fact some of the heroes of the piece think and do things which would probably be left for the villains if this was a contemporary novel. Don’t get me wrong however; these characters are still likeable, but you need to accept that they are products of their time.

Overall, this is another brilliant entry in his series of Shardlake novels. Sansom is skilled at providing the reader with both an engaging and exciting mystery plot as well as detailed portrayal of the Tudor world. If you have read the previous novels then you are going to love this book, if you haven’t then I can only advise you to pick up the first novel in the series as it is quite simply, superb.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Star Trek 7 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 7
Author: James Blish
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1972
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 7” by James Blish is the seventh collection of Star Trek Original Series episode novelizations. The six episodes included in this collection are from both Season Two and Season Three and are as follows:

Who Mourns for Adonais? (Season 2)
The Changeling (Season 2)
The Paradise (Season 3)
Metamorphosis (Season 2)
The Deadly Years (Season 2)
Elaan of Troyius (Season 3)

Unsurprisingly, I found that the stories based around the Season 2 episodes were better than the ones from Season 3. This is because the standard of Blish’s adaptations tend to scale in relation to source material which began to deteriorate by Season 3. Other than that, it is all very by the book with Blish continuing his competent work in converting the scripts into short stories.

The stories included in this collection are on the average side in comparison with some other episodes from the Original Series but there are a couple of interesting inclusions that I want to highlight. Firstly, there is the story “Metamorphosis” which introduces the character Zefram Cochrane into Trek Lore. Secondly there is “The Changeling” which is basically the basis for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Overall, there isn’t much else for me to say unless I wanted to summarise all the stories which I think is probably a waste of time as most people who are thinking of reading this collection will know them anyway. The writing itself is competent although the stories themselves aren’t anything that special, but this isn’t the fault of Blish. I probably would only recommend this collection to a completionist which is probably what I will be doing for all my future reviews of these collections.