Saturday, March 03, 2012

Catching up on some reading

I have a shameful confession to make: I don't automatically read every Star Trek novel as soon as I comes out. Sometimes I let them wait. It may be because I'm on a binge of some other kind of book, or because it's part of a trilogy, or because I just have too many other books to read... well, anyway, I've read a few Star Trek books recently.

Shattered Light coverShattered Light is the third volume of the Myriad Universes series, presenting three short novels set in alternate universes. Like the other two, it's a fun and inventive read with very good work from David R. George III, Scott Pearson, and the team of Steve Mollmann and Michael Schuster. George's story features two key changes from TNG continuity as we know it: Locutus dies, Data's "daughter" Lal doesn't. From those two points the storyline takes a progressively darker turn, with a focus on Riker and Data in particular. Mollmann and Schuster look farther back in time for their point of divergence, with a Vulcan where Surak's philosophy never took hold. Demora Sulu is stranded on Vulcan, and her father Hikaru comes to her rescue as part of an Andorian-dominated Starfleet. Finally, Pearson's tale, modeled loosely on Citizen Kane, looks at the life of Nilz Baris from "The Trouble With Tribbles," taking a typical TOS bureaucrat and telling a surprisingly involving story about his life, Federation colonizing efforts, relations with the Klingons, and the mysterious Arne Darvin. Mirror universe stories are always a good way to explore character, putting familiar faces in unfamiliar situations, but this goes above and beyond by making the reader care about someone much less familiar than the likes of Riker, Data, or Sulu.

Garth of Izar coverI've had Garth of Izar, by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski, sitting around unread for nine years, for a couple of reasons. "Whom Gods Destroy" is hardly one of my favourite episodes and I hadn't been eagerly awaiting a sequel. Second, while I haven't particularly disliked other Trek books by Sargent and Zebrowski, I haven't been particularly impressed by any, either. Anyway, it was a fairly typical old-school TOS novel that could have been published in the 1980s or '90s. It's a standalone with no real surprises. If there's one thing I'd criticize, it's the portrayal of the Antosians. Maybe I'm forgetting something from the episode, but I had a hard time buying the mechanism presented as the basis for the shapechanging ability, or some of the uses for it in the story. I didn't mind Garth's character development through the book; there were some nice touches and some playing around with the question of whether he really was cured. Not much development for the regulars, though. And the dialogue didn't always ring true. I can't say I'm kicking myself for not having read this earlier.

Errand of Fury book one coverNow, this was a pleasant surprise. I remember really not liking Kevin Ryan's previous trilogy, Errand of Vengeance, for a few reasons. So when this one was hit by sliding schedules, I just let the books pile up and gather dust. But it was much more enjoyable than I expected. There are still a few things I might grumble about, but basically it's a solid take on the events leading up to and culminating in "Errand of Mercy." The original characters seem to be a bit better developed than the ones I remember from the first trilogy. The situations allow for some good action sequences and a bit of suspense. Unlike Garth of Izar, it feels true to the original series but its frequent use of viewpoint characters far from the Enterprise helps make it feel more in line with more recent Trek novel storytelling. It's possible that this trilogy's been helped a lot by having low expectations rather than being a very strong story well told, but I don't think that's all there is to it. It may be that the longer gestation for this trilogy (published in 2005, 2007, and 2009 instead of over two months) helped Ryan polish it a bit more. Errand of Fury isn't one of those gamechanging events like Crucible or Destiny but I suspect the average TOS fan would enjoy it.

Rings of Time coverAnd now for something a little more recent. Like the books above, Greg Cox's Rings of Time has its roots in a particular episode, and like most of the above it's an original series five year mission story. This time around the source material is "Tomorrow is Yesterday" and its reference to Shaun Geoffrey Christopher's role in the first Earth-Saturn probe. I've occasionally been turned off by Cox's tendency to throw in as many in-jokes and continuity references as he possibly can into his books, and there are a few here, but I found this story felt a bit more tightly focused than, say, the first two Khan books. (There were some references to those books, but they made sense in context.) There are two storylines set at different times: one set aboard Christopher's ship, one aboard the Enterprise. Eventually some distinctly parallel events begin happening around a couple of similar gas giants centuries and light years apart, and then the stories come together with a bit of time travel and mental transference. What I enjoyed most was the Christopher stuff. It had something of a 2001/2010 feel, that near future solar system exploration focus with some strange goings-on. If I have a quibble this time, it's that I'm not sure a certain character was absolutely essential from a plot perspective. It was too obvious too quickly that the parallels in the storylines included the mysterious female character featured in each one, nor was the ultimate explanation of who she was much of a surprise -- but she brought a certain spark to several scenes, so I can't complain too much. Overall this book was a lot of fun, another counterpoint to the fans complaining that the Trek novels are too dark and grim these days.


Post a Comment

<< Home