TOS 50 Book Mission # 19 – “Legacies Book 2 – Best Defense”

My TOS Book Mission in celebration of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary continues with David Mack’s “Best Defense” which is part 2 of the special Legacies series.

Legacies is a trilogy celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Spanning decades and several captains of the early Enterprise. The first novel, “Captain to Captain” by Greg Cox was and excellent start to this trilogy and of course left off with a major cliffhanger. “Best Defense” is just as action-packed, if not more so.

As the crew of the Enterprise tries to reclaim the Transfer Key (stolen in Book 1), the crew must deal with a mystery and stop a war from breaking out with the Klingons. Meanwhile, Una tries to rescue her old crew mates from a bizarre alternate universe. This story is full of suspense, political intrigue, and family drama which in many ways I enjoyed even more than the first in the trilogy. There was much jammed into this fast-paced story and for the most part it all works very well. We even get to see Dr. McCoy’s estranged daughter, JoAnna as well as Sarek who is trying to make peace with the Klingons. Oh and we even get to see Councilor Gorkon (Star Trek VI) which is great fun.

The story leads up to a cliffhanger and very much sets the tone for what is sure to be a exciting conclusion, “Purgatory’s Key” which arrives later this month.

Happy 50th Star Trek.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 18 – “Legacies Book 1 – Captain to Captain”

This year I have truly enjoyed delving into old & new Star Trek novels as my little way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. The three book “Legacy” series which launched with Greg Cox’s “Captain to Captain” brings with it much promise as a Trek universe spanning adventure.

The cover art really sets the tone of the story in “Captain to Captain”.

This first novel did not let me down and it was one that I could not put down.

The best part of this novel is the character of Number One who only appeared in the original pilot “The Cage” and as part of flashbacks in the Original Series episode of “The Menagerie.” There wasn’t much character development in “The Cage” but in this novel the character is fully fleshed out and three dimensional. The entire time I was reading this story I could picture Majel Barrett as the character.

The story itself was very interesting and included a great sub-story involving Robert April, a captain with little backstory in the Trek Universe other than being the first captain of the USS Enterprise. Overall, this is a great Star Trek story to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Original Series. I look forward to reading the next two novels.

Oh and slugs were terrifying!

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 16 – “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”

My year long Star Trek Book Mission continues and I went back to 1979 and Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. I last read this book about 30 years ago but I still remember enjoying it way back then because it added so much back story to the first Trek film.

Gene Roddenberry’s novelization does a great job providing background and context to the events that are played out on the screen. This book actually moves along at a fast clip, and while it isn’t written with a lot of style it does accomplish what it sets out to do: fill in the blanks that might seem to be missing in the film.

Needless to say, the book and the movie have the same plot and the book remains engaging throughout due to the insight it gives us into the characters’ thought processes. Gene Roddenberry is able to do things in the prose format which the movie was not able to do, such as presenting the opening attack on the Klingon ships as a thought transmission from Starfleet Command which Jim Kirk receives while visiting the Library at Alexandria (which Gene correctly predicted would someday be rebuilt). We gain much more insight into the civilization of 23rd-century Earth, and into the characters and how they have changed since the end of the original series, than the movie gives us.

Roddenberry also covers instances of technology and commentary never mentioned within canon, including Starfleet cranial implants and Kirk’s views on a rumored romantic relationship between himself and Spock. The introduction, written by Roddenberry from Kirk’s point of view, should be mandatory reading for anyone involved in future movie/series material, and is almost worth the purchase price in itself.

This is a great novelization of the first Trek film and I enjoyed reading it again.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 15 – “Elusive Salvation”

25814484With Dayton Ward’s latest time travel adventure “Elusive Salvation” we are treated to 4 centuries of Star Trek – spanning several Trek time periods.

The story opens with the crash landing in the Arctic in 1845 of a ship by a race known as the Iramahl who are fleeing the oppression of a race known as the Ptaen. Flash forward to 2283 where an unidentified object is spotted approaching Jupiter station that eventually is determined to be an Iramahl ship which is looking for its missing people who may or may not be still alive some 4 centuries later.

To locate the crew in the past, Kirk sends a message to Roberta Lincoln (see the classic episode “Assignment Earth” who is living in the 1970’s to see if she and Gary Seven can help locate the lost Iramahl crew.

Dayton Ward, as he did in his previous novel of this series, “In Histories Shadow” does an awesome job of mixing parts of the past & present (star Trek) with a fascinating tale of oppression while at the same time drawing on episodes of three (yes 3) Star Trek series which make for nice references throughout the adventure. The book is a very easy read and an enjoyable one up through the breakneck finale which will take your breath away.

This is a very worthy book to be included as part of the 50th anniversary Pocket Book run which is occurring throughout 2016. The Star Trek novels released throughout 2016 should pay homage to the best of Star Trek which “Elusive Salvation” surely does.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 14 – “Death’s Angel”

What I Am ReadingFor my 14th Star Trek book read this year I traveled back to 1981 for Bantam’s final Trek adventure before Pocket Books took over the franchise.

Kathleen Sky’s, “Death’s Angel” describes a rather, for the Enterprise, disturbing incident on one of its many planetary surveys. It also describes a rather disturbing incident during what promised to be an interesting and necessary part of being near one of the two Empires who greatly desire our region of space. While others have commented or complained regarding the content, the big problem was one of explaining without doing so, how an entirely new (to us) agency was spun up and taking control of that situation. The Federation’s government model resembles its own model that of the UN, and as such the charter contains provisions for every single aspect of governance. And that includes an investigation agency that runs concurrent with the components of Star Fleet who also have their own.

One of the cool things in this story is the incredible amount of truly alien – aliens. Just check out this roster of the ambassadors travelling on board the Enterprise in this adventure. (Thank You Memory Alpha!)

Agnatha of Jezero

A lamprey-like being who required a special tank to survive aboard the Enterprise. He was a strong opponent of the peace treaty until his death.

Damu of Chiroptera

An ambassador who reminded Capt. Kirk of a Terran vampire, due to his appearance and his species’ custom of taking nourishment from mammalian blood. The inhabitants of Chiroptera harvested their blood from stock animals, as opposed to killing for it like the vampires of lore. Damu was neutral on the issue of the treaty.

Edentata of Tandenborstel

A retiring armadillo-like ambassador who kept to himself during the entire voyage. His position on the treaty was neutral.

Hotep of Djoser

A polymorphite whose slight shape-changing abilities were directly related to the amount of energy he consumed. He was neutral in regards to the peace treaty, as his sole interest in this mission was the amount of food he could eat.

Karhu of Hanaja

A large bear-like ambassador who intentionally magnified his ursine characteristics to appear less threatening. He was in favor of the peace treaty.

Naja of Dalzell

A feathered snake-like diplomat who was opposed to the peace treaty, partly due to his dislike of Romulans. Before the truth of the Death Angel was discovered, his death was attributed to his advanced age of 157 years.

Neko of Gyuunyuu

A large grey felinoid with violent tendencies who was strongly opposed to the Romulan treaty, partially because of his extreme dislike of all Vulcanoid species.

Rovar of Hemiptera

An insectoid who had a strong dislike of the Romulans and therefore opposed the peace treaty. He died of massive self-inflicted wounds after a visit from the Angel of Death.

Sirenia of Cetacea

An amphibious humanoid who was romantically involved with Ambassador Agnatha. She was in favor of the peace treaty.

Sarek of Vulcan

A representative of the Federation Council and the lead ambassador on this mission. He was the strongest supporter of the peace treaty, but spent most of the trip ill in his quarters.

Si-s-s-s(click) of Gavialian

A blue crocodilian who supported the peace treaty. As is customary of his people, Si-s-s-s(click) enjoyed “persona games,” in which he would adopt the characteristics of a specific fictional character or genre. During his stay on the Enterprise, he adopted the personas of Don Juan the romantic, Sherlock Holmes the detective, and Sam Spade, a character from an archaic Terran detective film called The Maltese Falcon.

Spiracles, a Gyomorian

A slender, winged creature who suffered from heavy oxygen intoxication in the atmosphere of the Enterprise. His people cocoon into a chrysalis form when threatened. Originally neutral in regards to the peace treaty, he became a supporter of it after his visitation from the Angel of Death.

Telson of Manteiga

A member of the Federation Council and a grandmaster chess player who supported the Romulan/Federation treaty. He bore a strong resemblance to a three-meter long Terran lobster with a bright yellow carapace.

This was an enjoyable novel which like many of the early Bantam books has the feel of a TOS episode.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 13 – “Perry’s Planet”

Perrysplanetcover

If you look very closely at the character here he is obviously wearing the uniform from the first motion picture,

Here we have another early Star Trek novel written before any of the films. Like many of the novels written prior to 1981 this story feels like an episode, which is really cool. 

The crew of the Enterprise is dead-tired and badly in need of shore leave. As they pick up scientists for transfer, they prepare to head to Starbase 6 for needed rest and repairs. While stopped briefly to make some adjustments to the failing dilithium crystals, they are suddenly attacked by a Klingon warship that seems to come out of nowhere. When the threat is averted, the Klingon captain appears on the screen, and swears a blood oath to kill Kirk in revenge for killing his brother.

With that now hanging over his head, Kirk must divert to a planet in an un-surveyed sector, that has sent an application for admission to the Federation. As it is deemed that this must be answered without delay, the Enterprise is diverted there. After beaming down, Kirk and company find themselves unable to commit the smallest act of a violent nature. A virus has been created on Perry’s Planet, which acts to disable the individual when the biochemical buildup to violent action is begun. With the Klingon ship in wait for them, the consequences could be disastrous.

Jack Haldeman is the older brother of Joe Haldeman, noted science fiction and Star Trek author, and an accomplished short-story writer on his own merits. Jack Haldeman crafts a strong if short tale here, which seems to have been expanded from a short story idea. Haldeman effectively uses the characters, and keeps them in character, including giving some quality time to Scotty,

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 12 – “Vulcan!”

My TOS Book Mission finds me traveling back to 1978’s “Vulcan!” by Kathleen Sky for my 12th Star Trek book this year.

Kathleen Sky wrote 2 Star Trek novels for Bantam Books, this one (1978) and two years later (1980) she would pen Bantam’s final Trek adventure, “Death’s Angel” before Pocket Books took over the contract. An interesting factoid here is that her husband, Stephen Goldin also wrote a Trek novel for Bantam Books, “Trek to Madworld” in 1979.

On to the story.

The Galactic Magnetic Field is moving and it is causing problems. It is this field that determines the boundary of the Romulan Neutral Zone. But its shifting will soon take the planet Arachnae into Romulan space and the Federation powers are in a tizzy. Having never cared much about the planet before, Federation officials want immediate action to find out what the wishes of the planets citizens want. The Arachnians are spider like creatures, but are they animals or are they sentient peoples that have the right to self determination. To that end Kirk and the Enterprise crew are sent to a nearby Star Base to pick up noted scientist Dr. Katalya Tremain, an expert in exobiology.

Katalya, along with Spock, will beam down to the planet to determine what the state of the Arachnians really is. However, upon beaming up to the Enterprise it is found out that Katalya has a severe bigotry against Vulcans in general. An ugly character trait that taints the good Dr. Tremain’s reputation. Dr. McCoy tries his best to get to the core of her hatred but fails in his efforts. And like it or not, over much protestation, Katalya is forced to share responsibility for the mission to the planets surface.

On the planets surface Spock and Dr. Tremain go off to explore a cave that has been discovered and may lead to the Arachnians. While gone the rest of the landing party is attacked and all are lost leaving Spock and the Dr. alone. They can’t be beamed up because the Romulans have arrived to take possession of the planet. And now Spock has been attacked and he will die unless shields are lowered so he can get medical help. It is during this time that Dr. Tremain must face the true origins of her bigotry or Spock will die and most likely herself as well.

This is a well written story done in the tradition of the original Star Trek series. There are odd moments and dialog from time to time in respect to the character’s interactions, but that can be forgiven. The Bantam Books suffer from this just a bit because the stories were written before the films which added more depth to the characters and the universe in which then reside.

Another thing I liked about this particular story is that it takes a close look at a topics that most people are not very uncomfortable with: bigotry, prejudice and the nature of racial hatred.

In the end this is a well written Star Trek story that feels like it could have been a top notch episode, which makes sense because it was apparently submitted by the author to Gene Roddenberry for the 4th season of Trek…. but we all know what happened there.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 11 – “The City on the Edge of Forever – The Original Teleplay written by Harlan Ellison”

This is a great graphic adaptation of a classic original Star Trek story that has a long history for those who call themselves “Trekkie’s”.

Much has been written and debated over the years about this particular Star Trek episode. As for my side of the debate, Eillison’ original concept could never have been filmed in the 1960’s due to the lack of technology (and money) that would have been necessary to ssee his original version on the screen. In addition the social mores of the time would never have permitted this past the TV censors. yes in late 1960’s TV you could depict prejudice if done just right, but drug addiction and dope pushers were not permitted on television society of the time

“The City on the Edge of Forever – The Original Teleplay written by Harlan Ellison” is simply a brilliant masterpiece of science fiction and I believe it could be made as a computer animated movie today with the original cast – and I believe it is possible to use the recorded voices of the original ST:TOS actors who are no longer with us.

What particularly struck me about this adaptation is that we see Spock willing to kill Kirk in order to keep history on its right course, and we get to see Kirk’s reaction to Spock’s rather emotional logic behind his willingness to kill his captain and friend. We also get to see Yeomen Janice Rand in a stronger role, and she assumes command of the landing team at one point.

“The City on the Edge of Forever – The Original Teleplay written by Harlan Ellison” is no doubt different then the aired television episode and in some ways it is indeed better – however I would not say it would have made a better Star Trek episode; yet both have their merits.

Harlan Ellison’s version as written here as a graphic novel is no doubt better science fiction then the original episode mainly because it has a greater depth and shows the souls of all characters with equal flawed grace.

But is it better Star Trek? This debate – among fans may never end.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 10 – “Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man”

This book is really misnamed. It is not an account of a Shatner’s fifty year friendship with Leonard Nimoy. By Shatner’s own admission, he did not truly become friends with Nimoy until the making of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979 which was about thirteen years after the two men met on the set of Star Trek. Also by Shatnber’s own admission their friendship actually ended a few years before Nimoy’s passing. Shatner reports that he never knew what it meant to be or to have a friend. This book is not an account of a fifty year friendship. It’s an unauthorized biography with a few personal remarks thrown here and there. This may be of interest for anyone interested in Leonard Nimoy who has not read much about him. For anyone who considers himself a fan who has read a lot about him over the many years, the book holds very little new, which was very disappointing to me.

I must say I was excited when I heard Shatner had “wrote” a memoir regarding his friendship with Leonard Nimoy, who was (and is) responsible for one of the most fictional characters of my life.

The book reads as though Shatner sent his ghost writer out to research Nimoy. This must have been done as soon as Nimoy had passed, as the book was completed and advertised within three months of the passing. It was not of course released until the anniversary of Nimoy’s death.

The information in the book comes from many sources: the Mind Meld DVD, Nimoys’ autobiographies “I Am Not Spock” and then his about face “I Am Spock”, his son Adam’s book, the many books about the making of Star Trek, Shatner’s own book “Up Til Now” among many others. Much of it reads as though whoever wrote it had simply paraphrased Nimoy’s IMDB credits into history. Also very surprising is that much of it is factually inaccurate. Much of it, if you already know anything about Star Trek and Nimoy, is frankly boring. Shatner did speak movingly and personally about the death of his wife and the support he received from Nimoy (most of which was in his own autobiography already) but most of the book was the recounting of details and incidents which had been researched from other sources freely available to the public.

By his own admission, Shatner does not “remember much”, which probably is the reason this book reads so “well researched” but not really – truly from the heart.

Shatner says he has trouble relating to others. This is clear from the book. My opinion is that this book is not truly a personal account of his friendship with a much missed man as the title suggests. In the end it is a heavily researched biography, with a personal note put in at the end to express his love (whi I believe he does have) for Leonard Nimoy.

In the end what you have here is a relatively reasonable if not mediocre biography, but it is not what the title says it is.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 9 – “The Latter Fire”

In this most recent Star Trek novel by James Swallow you have a little of everything that works in the TOS universe. You could also say that here Star Trek meets “The Plnate of the Apes” and “Godzilla”. So what would not be to like.

This is also the first time I’ve read about the transition of Chekov from the Command track to the Security track (where he ends up when TMP debuts in 1979) and his replacement, Arex (who arrives in 1973 with TAS). For those of you who watched the animated series, Arex is the red alien with three legs and three arms who mans the navigation position. He, along with other characters from the animated series, offers different personalities and insight into Starfleet, the Federation and our crew.

New blood, new ideas. Overall the story is solid and plays our in a very big way while at the same time feeling very much like a episode as well. The Enterprise deals with not only the Syhaari, but two other races, in a show down to prevent the destruction of the entire system and its inhabitants. The adventure here deals with tthe ypical problems of humans, just infused within other races.

Greed. Lust, Pride. Desire. Envy. Ignorance, and most of all Fear drive this story.

What makes this book unique is that the Syhaari, though quite intelligent, have lived in isolation for their entire lives until they go beyond the “Veil” that surrounds their system. They finally take those incremental steps beyond their system and find stars and darkness and it sparks the desire to know more. This leads them to an encounter with the Enterprise and years later with another encounter with the Enterprise, but this time in a more advanced state of exploration.

James Swallow displays the charm and flair of the classic series perfectly throughout this novel. Especially the dialogues between the familiar characters – particularly the amusing banter between Spock and McCoy. And also on the animate series is nodded to here and the story settles between the last episode of TOS and the first episode of TAS. The action itself is well paced, and the book kept my interest from start to finish. You are have here two competing nations working together at the end of the story to avert a terrible catastrophe celebrates Roddenberry’s underlying philosophy. That alone makes the novel a wonderful reading experience for any Trek fan.

 

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