Monday, 28 July 2014

Book Report #101 - The Gemini Agent by Rick Barba a Starfleet Academy novel.

Book 25 of 52
Page count 195

Another installment in the Starfleet Academy series of Young Adult novels set in the JJ Abrams version of Star Trek. 

I actually like these books since they show Kirk as a goofball twenty-something with all the glimmers of the adult he will become. 

Strangely I've been reading the series backwards, this is book 3 and my earlier review was book 4.  This is because I've been reading the books as I've received them from the library.  The books can be read in any order but I usually like to start with the first. 

This book was quite good with quick pacing and a nice twist ending.  The Romulans are the Big Bad in this one and the author captured their methods very well. Romulans are known for their deceptions, spying and covert missions.  The stretch in the plot was how this involved Kirk or, more precisely, why it involved him. If you're going to influence an enemy would you target a student or would you go after are person in power?

The conclusion explained the reasoning employed but I was still left thinking the plausibility was a bit suspect.  That being the only fault in the story I can say that it was a fun read and I'm glad I opened the covers.  The author's ability to capture the Chris Pine version of Kirk and McCoy's voice is to be celebrated.  I just love McCoy in this new version of Star Trek.

There was one exchange between Kirk and McCoy that I just loved; it occurs very early in the book.

McCoy just glared at Kirk.

"You're over that aviophobia thing, Right?" Asked Kirk distractedly. 

"You mean the fear of dying in something that flies?" said McCoy.  "No."

"Ah, so that explains your surly demeanor."

"I'm always like this."

Dialogue always made Star Trek special and this book kept that tradition alive.

This was definitely a likable story even if the plot was a bit weak.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Belly of the Beast, a Star Trek SCE story by Dean Wesley Smith

The original cover art of the story.
I've known about the Star Trek SCE (Starfleet Core of Engineers) series for years; I've even read a few.  They first saw the light of day in 2000 just when eBooks were in their embryonic stage.  Proving, once again, that science fiction fans are early adopters of new tech.

Most of the stories have been collected in omnibus volumes; I've purchased the first one called, Have Tech, Will Travel that contains the first four stories.

Story #1 kicks the series off with a bang.  We are dropped right into a battle involving Captain Jen-Luc Picard's Enterprise and an enormous ship of unknown origin.

The Enterprise is involved in a long-duration battle with this ship that resembled the Death Star of Star Wars fame, but with two rings; one running pole to pole and the other along the equator.  With a bit of luck the Enterprise disables the vessel.

Now it's up to the Starfleet Core of Engineers to survey the ship and to acquire as much knowledge the can about the species that constructed it.  This is where Captain Gold and his ship the USS da Vinci come in; they are the flag ship of the Core of Engineers and are tasked with being "fixers" for Starfleet.  It is also here that we catch up with a minor character from the TNG TV series; ensign Sonya Gomez, who famously spilled hot chocolate on Captain Picard, she is now a Commander and head of the SCE team on the da Vinci.
USS da Vinci

The alien ship is so big the crew nicknames it The Beast.  At first look the ship gives every impression that it is a cruise ship; filled with luxury suites and the rings are discovered to be promenades that are transparent from the inside.  Every indication show that the ship could hold thousands of people but there is no one to be found.  A thorough search is begun and I can tell you there is something lurking deep in the centre of the thing.  Oh, my god - yuck!

This was a terrific story and one that will immediately make you want to read the next installment.

It's always good to see the universe of Star Trek expanded to include new characters and ships and to see more of Starfleet.  I've always been a fan of Star Trek and I'm happy there is more of it to experience.

Dean Wesley Smith's website is HERE.

The cover art of the omnibus edition.
Dean Wesley Smith

Monday, 21 July 2014

Book Report #100 - The Assassination Game by Alan Gratz

Book 24 of 52
Page count 320

This is the first book I found that is based on the new series of movies made by J.J. Abrams.  It fits nicely in the time line of the first movie where we were not shown Kirk's experiences at the Academy.

I don't ordinarily turn to teen fiction simply because - I'm not a teen.  But I thought I'd give this one a go, and you know what?  It was a blast.

There is a lot going on in this book; there are aliens on campus who get tangled up in some political intrigue when a couple terrorist attacks take place.  There is the threat of war and throughout the story there is a cool game of tag being played. 

It took me a few chapters to get into this book and, to be honest, there were no surprises here.  You could guess the villain quite quickly but that was okay too.  What I got was the paper equivalent of a popcorn movie.  It was just plain fun.

The author should be commended; I think he got the voices of each of the characters spot on.  I was particularly taken by Leonard "Bones" McCoy.  I am a massive fan of Karl Urban; I just love his version of the character and the author got him just right.

He also portrayed Kirk very, very well.  The whole cast is well represented here and I certainly recommend it for anybody who likes the new version movies.

Alan Gratz blog is HERE.

Alan Gratz

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The More Thigs Change by Scott Pearson - A short story review.

Fantastic cover art.
At first I was going to include this as part of my Book A Week Challenge but since the story comes in at around 90 pages, that would have felt like a bit of a cheat.

I grew up with Star Trek during it's re-run phase from the 70's and 80's and always loved Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

This was an eBook original set six months after the events of Star Trek The Motion Picture.  You know the one; where V'ger (Voyager 6) comes back to Earth.

In this story we find Dr. Christine Chapel in a shuttlecraft with Spock as they are transporting an ailing Commissioner Audrid Dax to a Trill ship for medical attention.

This is mostly a character piece exploring the relationship between Chapel and Spock.  Fans will like the expansion of the story of Chapel's love for Spock that was touched on in episodes of the TV series.  It also does a nice job of establishing the Trill species into Star Trek lore.  I believe we first got to know the Trill during the Deep Space 9 TV series.

Along the way they encounter some trouble, as you might expect, and come under fire by some unidentified (until the end) villains.

The author did an admirable job of character growth, interwoven with some good action and dialogue.

I felt the author's writing was so strong that he could have very easily expanded this to a novel-length story and found myself wishing that was the case.

Like they say; "Leave them wanting more."

Visit the author's website HERE.

Scott Pearson

Monday, 14 July 2014

Book Report #99 - Star Trek DTI: Forgotten History by ChristopherL.Bennett

Book 23 of 52
Page count - 346

I recently discovered an entire suite of podcasts dedicated to the Star Trek universe; TREK FM.

Trek Lit has been the one show I started listening to in earnest, it is hosted by Christopher Jones and Matthew Rushing.

In some side comments Rushing mentioned how much he liked the Department of Temporal Investigations series of books. This series tries to link together and explain the consequences of specific time travel events in the Star Trek universe.  I purchased this book on the strength of Rushing's enthusiasm.

I had my first "Oh, cool!" Moment by page 13 when a starship, of Federation design, is discovered drifting within a temporal anomaly.  She was fitted with the original engines of the first variation of the Enterprise.  Remember how the Enterprise was given new engines in the first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture?  Ever wonder what happened to the old ones?  Me neither, but it's cool to think something had.
Top: original design for the TV show.  Below: from The Motion Picture.

Chapter 3 from page 55 to 81 completely blew my mind!  Which, sadly, means I didn't understand a word of it.

I read the first half of the book the day I started it.  By about the middle, things started to get complicated as we traveled between timelines and alternate realities.  The techno-babble became thick and unavoidable. I put the book down and didn't get back into it until a few days later, by which time I had forgotten some things and was lost.  I kept reading and fell back into it but, I've got to say, give yourself a good block of time to read it, since a continuous read is best for it.

I'm sure my fractured reading of the book played against my enjoyment of it but it WAS a bit confusing; there was so much tech-talk and movement between timelines that I found it overly complex.  The tying up of loose ends was very entertaining but I saw that I missed a lot after reading the acknowledgments where the author listed every source of inspiration for the book.

Obviously I am not the geek I think I am.

Would I recommend the book?  Well, sure...  I had inconsistent reading opportunities and the book required more attention than I gave it.  I'd have to say; if you can give the novel the attention it deserves, then you're going to like it.

Christopher L. Bennett.

Trek FM can be found HERE.

Christopher L. Bennett's website is HERE.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Book Report #98 - An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield.

Book 22 of 52
Page count - 282

Sticking to space I decided some non-fiction would be a nice choice.  I've been a fan of Hadfield's for a while now.  There are only a handful of Canadian astronauts out there; he made the best of his career and simply glowed Candian-ness.

The book itself is just wonderful.  It was not what I expected - a simple memoir explaining his career.  More valuable, to the reader, he explained his attitude and work ethic.  It wasn't just about his accomplishments but how he did little things; how hard work, determination and a willingness to simply do what is needed were the keys to his success. 

His positive and simple message made me feel like I was not living up to my potential.  I decided to emulate his attitude and started to "sweat the small stuff" and to "aim to be a zero" which are the titles to two chapters that made strong impressions on me.

There is plenty of space stuff to keep anybody interested in space exploration happy but the personal ethics presented make this book special.

Below is a YouTube clip promoting the book.  It does a good job of showing the value of reading it.

Chris Hadfield's Wiki page is HERE