Monday, November 18, 2013

Arena by Fredric Brown - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Voume I

Humanity is on the cusp of inter-stellar war - mutual destruction in very likely.

Two representatives, one human one alien, are transported out of space and time to an arena by a god-like entity who is never seen and heard only once. 

They are instructed to fight to the death because the universe can only accommodate one of these races, there can be no middle ground.  Who ever wins the fight will ensure that his race will survive while the other will be wiped from existence.

I kept thinking, "I've read this before." and I may have; this story is a classic.  Then it struck me that it sounded very similar to an episode of the original Star Trek, where Kirk has to fight a giant lizard guy.

Not only did it sound familiar but Fredric Brown was credited for the episode.  You can read a quick story on how this came about at Memory Alpha:

After a bit of Wikipedia research I found that Brown had a very interesting writing career and I may have to dig out some more of his fiction, both SF and mystery.

The story was first published in 1944 and is quite a bit different in the details than the Star Trek episode.  In the story the alien is a red ball with tentacles and the two combatants are separated by a force field.  For those who complain that TV shows and movies are often nothing like the source material; think about the photo above.  In the 60's how would they have been able create the alien from the story?  The visual arts has its own limitations so sometimes they have to make adjustments but the basic story remains.  If I remember correctly the ending of the Star Trek episode is quite different from the short story.

In any case I am a fan of Fredric Brown.

Fredric Brown

Astounding Science Fiction - June 1944

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Report #73 - Star Trek: A Time to Die by John Vornholt

Captain Picard is relieved of command of the Enterprise and is kept sequestered at Star Fleet medical undergoing a psychological assessment.  His removal from command was covered in the first book, now he is under medical supervision and cannot go anywhere without being accompanied by his doctor.

Conditions in the Rashanar battle site remain unsolved and the remaining crew desperately want to clear Picard and get him back aboard.  Through a technicality Picard is allowed back on the Enterprise but not in command, he is always with his doctor who now believes in his innocence and is determined to help.

This book kept the same pace as the first and I was very happy with the story the A Time To ... series is nine books long but is split in to four two-book cycles with a single stand-alone novel completing the whole epic.

I also enjoyed the return of Westley Crusher in these two books.  The plot hole of the last book was explained but it was the most contrived and clunky part of the story.  Even with that one flaw it was still a very rich environment to set a Star Trek story.

Read it.  It's fun.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Report #72 - Star Trek: A Time to Be Born by John Vornholt

Back in the pulpy goodness of Space Opera.

Start Trek has always been my go to SF universe.

The "A Time to ..." Series spans 9 books and occupies the times between the films Insurrection and Nemesis.

The Enterprise is sent to help retrieve bodies and control scavengers in the Rashanar sector which was the site of a cataclysmic battle of the Dominion War.  Once they arrive they discover that the assignment is not as simple as it sounds; this region of space has many hazards including; the multitudes of wrecks and debris, gravitational anomalies, an antimatter asteroid, pirates, reluctant members of the Federation and a mysterious shape-shifting ship hiding among the wreckage.

The book was well paced, not bothering with much exposition.  Let's face it, if you're reading a Star Trek novel you understand the universe in general; exposition can be minimized.  When you dive into the novels, however, you must be prepared to accept that lots has gone on that is never covered in the TV shows or the movies.  This simply causes me to want to read other ST books.

I'd say this opening book sticks pretty close to the conventions of Hard SF.  Of course the science is flawed, unproven or incomplete but if that is what takes you out of the books you need to be reading something else.  Star Trek has always been about the characters and this book kept me interested throughout.

It's difficult to believe in any sense of danger when you know that, from the outset, authors are not permitted to do anything dramatic with the characters, like killing them.  If you take the mind set of reading a cliff-hanger series, then you wonder more about how a character is going to get out of a situation rather than if they will survive it.

There was one plot hole that I hope is resolved in the second book.  It involves the rescue of Data that was helped by an unknown party lurking in the Rahanar Battle Site.

I enjoyed this first book and dove right in to the second without pause.  So far, I'm hooked.
John Vornholt