Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review #110 - Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Seize The Fire by Michael A.Martin

Book 34 of 52
Page count - 488

This is the second book in the Typon Pact series and centers it's story around Will Riker and his ship the Titan.

After the affairs described in Destiny, races that felt they were forced to participate in the Federation actions against the Borg formed their own alliance.  Members of the pact are; the Romulans, the Tzenkethi, the Breen, the Gorn and the Tholians.

These are all races the Federation has had troubles with in the past so it's a bit ominous that they would all group together in a rival alliance.  So now the world of Star Trek is poised to endure a period of Cold War much like the United States and the USSR.  This could make for some interesting story telling.

Unlike the previous series, the Destiny trilogy, these books do not follow a single narrative, at least not yet.  The first two books truly stand alone and serve to more fully explore each of the member races.  In this book we take a look at the Gorn Hegemony where they have suffered a terrible natural disaster.  A critical hatchery world is destroyed and they are now looking for a candidate to terraform to replace it.  The trouble starts when they choose a planet that is inhabited by intelligent pre-warp beings.

Riker and the Titan must get involved to save the inhabitants of this world.

We learn more about the Gorn society and  how delicately it is held together.

All in all it was a good story in that understanding the Gorn is the primary thing I've come away with.  The book itself could have been cut by 150 pages without hurting the plot one bit.  The amount of repetition is astounding, you'd think this was a collection of serialized stories, not a novel.  Plus, again, "sigh", aliens, (I hate these guys) - so much ink is wasted on describing all the funky aliens working on Titan that I was ready to pull my hair out. 

This book was only okay.  It was such a slog to get through that it has made me want to take a break from the world of Star Trek.

Interestingly, this recent period of exclusively reading Star Trek stories has awakened some real world interests in me.  While reading this fiction I've been buying many non-fiction books that the stories have inspired me to learn more about.  I've got dozens of books about the history of space flight, engineering, shipping, espionage and exploration all inspired to be purchased from reading Star Trek.

Because Star Trek books are so closely related to each other I've come away with a desire to read some history.  I could have gone on a quest to learn the history of Star Trek by buying all the old books and filling in the blanks but, instead, I want to learn more about the real history and current events of the world I'm living in.  I'll be returning to Star Trek from time to time but I don't see myself reading them exlusively as I have been for the past while.

I'll still be choosing books that I feel I can fit into my book a week challenge.  Once the 52nd book is read I'll be free to tackle some of the larger books out there.

Michael A Martin

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review #109 - Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game by David Mack

Book 33 of 52
Page count - 336

This is the first book (of 8) in the second major mini-series in the Star Trek novels.

After the Destiny trilogy some of the less-than-friendly races, who fought against the Borg, have split away from the Federation to form their own coalition known as the Typhon Pact; much like the Cold War after World War 2.

The Breen and the Romulans work together, in a covert attack, to steal the Slipstream Warp technology from the Federation.  Section 31 recruits Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax to mount their own counter-op to recover the stolen data and to destroy the prototype ship the Breen are building.

I just love spy stories and this one was a boat-load of fun even though there were some moments where I thought some of the circumstances were a bit ridiculous.  Bashir and his estranged love Sarina Douglas are dropped into Breen society with the monumental task of having to infiltrate a top-secret shipyard.

The Breen are a super-secretive society where individual identity is kept hidden by the wearing of uniforms and helmets.  The underlying reasoning is quite interesting; without clues to race or gender Breen society can work on the notion of egalitarian decision making.  It also makes for a very secretive and rule-based culture.

The Breen
The Federation knows next to nothing about the Breen and it is left to Bashir and Douglas to figure out the language, social interactions and  geography in order to complete the mission.  I felt this was too much to expect the reader to believe; considering the Breen are super-secretive among themselves, imagine how monumental a task it is for aliens posing as natives to overcome being detected in the street never mind trying to infiltrate a military base.

Some of the action sequences fall into the James Bond level of silly, pulpy, over-the-top, death-defying improbability that I found myself laughing instead of holding my breath in excitement.  I also found it less than believable when the characters are instantly experts in alien languages, computer interfaces, piloting alien crafts and withstanding torture.  I mean really?  Where are their capes?

So, yes it was fun but one of the things I like about Star Trek is the believability of it all.  It's a fine line between the probable and just making shit up to make the story work.  It is also very difficult to continually up the stakes form one adventure to the next.  So I find myself forgiving David Mack for taking certain leaps and look on this story as a whole which was a fun popcorn movie of a book.  I especially liked the Breen society and I hope we get to see more of it in future books.

I've already started reading the next book in the series so don't let my Luke-warm review deter you from reading it.  If you approach it like a Bond movie you'll be in a good place to enjoy yourself.

David Mack
Here is a pretty cool promotion poster.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review #108 - Star Trek: Destiny: Lost Souls by David Mack


Book 32 of 52
Page count -283

Fantastic!

The Federation is only moments away from complete destruction.  Billions have died and billions more are about to.

With the help of Captain Erika Hernandez, Will Riker and the crew of the Titan return to the Azure Nebula only to find that they are well behind enemy lines.  The war looks to be lost while the remnants of the Federation are preparing to meet their fate. The Borg press on with their plan to destroy it.

There are often glimmers of hope in the battle however most gains the Federation makes are soon lost, leaving only desperate plans.  What comes as a surprise is which characters rise to the challenge and which take unfamiliar roles of support rather then leadership.  I found that very refreshing.

We are also treated to a wonderful origin story that becomes the key to everything.

I cannot express how happy I am that this series has come along.  From this trilogy all the characters we know from the Star Trek universe are set free from the shackles of CBS and Paramount Pictures.  The authors are no longer constrained by what might transpire in future movies or TV episodes, since they are over and there is no chance of further installments.  The 23rd century now only lives in the novels and it is in very capable hands.

If you've come this far you will read the last book in the series; you don't need me to encourage you.  Resistance to Star Trek: Destiny is futile.

Omnibus edition cover art.
David Mack



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Interphase Book 2 - by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, a short story review.

Original cover.
In part one the Captain and his a way team are stranded on the Defiant, inside the spacial anomaly, while the Tholians execute a surprise attack on the da Vinci.

This becomes a two-perspective story switching from the actions of the away team trying to free the ship from the anomaly and the crew of the da Vinci coping with the attack while being led by an inexperienced officer.

Through the action the authors keep injecting moments of humor that serve to break the tension for the reader and the characters in the story.  This kind of self-deprecating interaction is easily achieved among people with exceptional abilities and strikes a note of realism that I very much enjoyed.

I'm not sure if David Mack has read these stories although I feel he must have.  There is a scene at the end of the story that was lifted and inserted into the end of Star Trek: Destiny.  I do know that these three authors have worked extensively together so I'm pretty sure this kind of thing is more a tip of the hat then a lift.  It's a form of compliment among authors.

In any case this story was very satisfying and I recommend anything written by Ward and/or Dilmore.

Dayton Ward (Captain) and Kevin Dilmore (Navigation)
Cover of the omnibus collection


Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review #107 - Star Trek: Destiny:Mere Mortals by David Mack

Book 31 of 52
Page count - 273

What a wonderful surprise.  After the exceedingly dull narrative of the first book this one hooked me in.  Plot lines started to come together in compelling ways.  The long captivity of Captain Hernandez begins to pay off as we find the crew of the Titan is now trapped in orbit around the Caeliar home world; while Troi's pregnancy increases the tension.

Meanwhile, in the Azure Nebula, Picard and Dax are trying to unravel the mystery of the subspace tunnels that the Borg are using to attack the Federation.  While there they witness an overwhelming attack.  This was a "Holy Crap" moment in the story where I did not pause for a moment to begin reading the final book in the series.

What I learned from this tale was to trust David Mack; he has mad skills as a novelist and there is nothing in the books that doesn't pay off further along.

Read this trilogy; it changes everything about Star Trek literature.  From this you really get the sense that the plots are moving forward again.

Omnibus edition cover.
David Mack


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Interphase Book 1 - by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, a short storyreview.

The fourth installment in the Corps of Engineers series was a cracking read.  The USS da Vinci is sent to Tholian space to recover the Defiant, a Constitution class starship lost in a spacial anomaly 100 years previously.

Its the job of the da Vinci's captain and crew is to figure out a way to pull the derelict ship out of the anomaly.

This being a two-parter; things go terribly wrong just as the team is making progress.

This story was so well written with good dialog and a plausible situation.  Dilmore and Ward always turn out entertaining page-turners.  This one felt like it could have been a television show; it was very cinematic.  Some of the best sequences are the moments when the crew beam over and make it to the classic bridge.  There are some cringe-worthy moments as the away team discover the ship is not only a museum piece but also a tomb.

These stories were once sold individually, today they are collected in omnibus volumes.  Pocket Books are taking full advantage of the ability to split the two parts into separate volumes, ensuring sales of the next book.  But I don't mind it a bit since most of the stories are of such high quality.

Read on people.

Dayton Ward (left) and Kevin Dilmore (right)

Omnibus cover art.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Report #106 - The Edge by Rudy Josephs, a Starfleet Academy novel

Book 30 of 52
Page count - 249

At last a story with a believable plot.

According to Wikipedia and Memory Alpha this is the second book in the series.  However, it reads like the first one. I guess that publishing has the same kinds of pressures as broadcast TV can have, where they feel compelled to release stories out of order.

In any case, this was the only book in the series that treated the characters like cadets and did not allow them to venture out of believable circumstances.  In this novel we find some students are prepared to take dangerous chances in order to compete and excel in the grueling environment of the academy.

In the 2009 movie, we see Kirk meet McCoy for the first time on the shuttle that takes them to the academy.  The film then cuts to "three years later," ignoring their time there completely.  In this book we get to see what happened the moment they stepped off the shuttle. We are also treated to see the major characters' first personal encounters with each other.

Leonard McCoy is central to this book, which makes me very happy since he's my favorite character from the movies.

This is the book that makes me wonder why the whole series could not have been structured this way.

NOTE - Unfortunately there is no web presence for this author.