Saturday, 30 September 2017

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



Title: Star Trek 12
Author: James Blish & J.A. Lawrence
Published: 1977
Chronological Period: 2266 - 2268

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
Published: 1989
Chronological Period: 2268

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.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Star Trek 7 - James Blish



Title: Star Trek 7
Author: James Blish
Published: 1972
Chronological Period: 2267 - 2268

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.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Star Trek: Uhura's Song - Janet Kagan



Title: Uhura's Song
Author: Janet Kagan
Published: 1985
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
"Uhura's Song" by Janet Kagan is an Original Series novel set on the planet Eeiauo where the Enteprise is attempting to help the planet’s feline inhabitants battle a plague. Things soon become worse however when the disease jumps the species barrier and begins to spread to other planets. Before long it becomes clear that a song Uhura learnt from an Eeiauoan diplomat in her early career may hold the secrets needed to stopping the disease as it hints at a cure in the Eeiauoan past. The Enterprise’s crew therefore work hard to try and unravel the truths hidden in the song.

Kagan’s writing and pacing are spot on and I have to say that the standard is much higher than quite a few other Trek novels I have read. Her excellent writing is supplemented by the creation of a wonderfully complicated new alien culture. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the cultural differences affected how the Federation and the Eeiauoans interacted with each other. The ability to properly develop a one off alien species is without doubt one of the real advantages that the novels can have over the TV series and this is a prime example.

It was also great to see Uhura use her linguistic skills and emotional intellect to make a significant impact on the outcome of the story. I suppose, the title of the book should have given away her importance but it was still good to see her get some proper character development. Her interactions with Spock were particularly wonderful to see and really helped showcase her character.

Whilst it was good to see Uhura get an important role in the story, she was overshadowed by another character which annoyed me. Namely the far too perfect, Dr. Evan Wilson. Seriously… she is beautiful and feisty enough to entice Kirk, smart and intellectual so she can challenge Spock, able to compete with Sulu at swordplay and is a wizard with the computer. It was all too much for me, especially when I am not sure was even needed as everything she did could have been handled by various different crew members.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel and much better than the previous two Trek novels I read by Robert E. Vardeman. It really was a pleasure to read this and if it wasn’t for my annoyance with Dr. Evan Wilson it probably would have been up there as one of my favourite Trek novels to date. In the end though, I would advise any Trek fan to go give this book a read, just for the joy of seeing Uhura in all her glory.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Star Trek: Mutiny on the Enterprise - Robert E. Vardeman



Title: Mutiny on the Enterprise
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Published: 1983
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Mutiny on the Enterprise” by Robert E. Vardeman is one of the early Star Trek Original Series novels published by Pocket Books. The story follows the Enterprise which is sent on a mission to deliver a diplomatic team in the hope of halting hostilities between two worlds despite being long overdue a break for some maintenance actions. However, when Kirk rescues a stranded space-traveller called Lorelei on the way, he gets more than he bargained for as she appears to cast a spell of pacifism over the crew, risking both the mission and Kirk’s control of the Enterprise.

As with Vardeman’s other early Trek novel, “The Klingon Gambit” this book really wasn’t one of my favourites. Basically, the main characters don’t feel right and the story is at times overly complicated with far too much going on. The only passing marks the novel gets is that the premise of the story itself is quite interesting and Vardeman’s writing is acceptable enough but this wasn’t enough to make this an enjoyable read.

Another issue I had with the story is the way in which Lorelei is attempting to stop the Enterprise’s mission on the premise of pacifism. In my head, it was quite clear that if the Enterprise did not get involved there would be a war so whilst I appreciate there was the chance that violence could result from the Enterprise getting involved; it seemed there was more chance of this happening if the mission was abandoned. Therefore, sabotaging the mission to me was a form of passive aggression and therefore not pacifist.

Overall, this is a rather weak Star Trek novel which an interesting premise which is badly executed in a clumsy and overly contrived way. I would only recommend this novel for those of you out there like me who want to read every Trek novel.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Star Trek: The Klingon Gambit - Robert E. Vardeman





Title: The Klingon Gambit
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Published: 1981
Chronological Period: 2268

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Klingon Gambit” by Robert E. Vardeman is an Original Series Star Trek novel which is set firmly during the first 5 year mission period. The story follows the Enterprise as it is ordered to Alnath II where a Klingon ship is suspected of murdering the crew of a Vulcan science ship. Meanwhile an Archaeological team down on the planet refuse to leave despite the continued threat of the Klingons. Before long both the crews of the Enterprise and Klingons being to act irrationally and the risk of a major interstellar incident looms.

The first thing I noted was how short this novel is, at only around 160 pages long it isn’t the most in-depth or extravagant story. It feels more like one of the Bantam Star Trek novels which isn’t surprising when you realise that this was only the third Star Trek story released by Pocket Books. The issue with the short length however means that the book doesn’t always flow very well and issues with the passage of time abound. An example of this is that when Kirk asks for a Security Team to be assembled it seems to happen almost instantly. The author is basically racing through the story and not thinking about how to show at least some level of passing time.

Another problem with the book is that the characters are all over the place. I will admit that part of this is due to the interference of an outside force but the various out-of-character actions are still rather irritating. Unless, the plot of a Trek novel is clever, well-crafted and paced correctly, I think removing that ability to understand and appreciate the characters we all know well diminishes the book. In the case of “The Klingon Gambit” I didn’t think the story was good enough and therefore losing the characters I know reduced my enjoyment quite substantially.

The next issue I had with the novel relates to the time in which it was written. The Klingon’s themselves are missing a lot of the nuances and enhancements which were introduced in later series and novels. They are basically all brutes, who only operate for their on self-gain and are clearly just bad! In addition to this issue, some of the writing itself feels rather racist, sexist and xenophobic. It isn’t always the most comfortable of reads for a modern reader but as long as you can understand the context of when it was written, it can be ignored.

My review has been very negative so far and in simple terms I have to say that this wasn’t a very good Trek novel. However, in an attempt to highlight some positives I will say that there is a decent idea within the plot which I did find interesting at times and I still managed to finish it. Unless you are desperate to read every Trek novel I wouldn’t necessarily bother with this one.