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!

TOS 50 Book Mission # 15 – “Elusive Salvation”

With 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.

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.

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.

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.

TOS 50 Book Mission # 7 – “The Modala Imperative”

I found myself in need of a quick read before the new Star Trek novel, “The Latter Fire” by James Swallow arrives in my mail box this week. Just enough time for a graphic novel.

Star Trek: The Modala Imperative is a 8 part graphic novel (OK – a comic book) published in 1991 that spans 80+ years. The first 4 parts involve the TOS crew while the final 4 parts pick up 75 years later with the TNG crew.

Although this story pans two Enterprise crews Doctor McCoy and Spock are the true stars here. The Modala Imperativetends to play this fairly straight as these characters are the most involved because they’re in both legs of the story, but in each story the spotlight is shared equally among the main cast the same way it would be in an episode of Star Trek. The first part focuses on Chekov, Kirk, Scotty, Bones, Spock, Sulu, and even Transporter Chief Kyle, with moments set aside for Uhura and several other characters. The second part focuses even more equitably on Picard, Troi, Spock and Bones, as well as giving attention to Riker, Data and Worf.

The first half of the story is reminiscent of the episode “A Private Little War”. Here we find a potential Federation candidate’s fascist faction has been armed by a mysterious benefactor with advanced weaponry. Unfortunately, it is all that Kirk and Chekov (and their rescue team of Spock and McCoy) can do to get back off of the planet without breaking the Prime Directive, and the source of the weapons remains a mystery for another one hundred years. It’s not until a celebration for the 100th anniversary of Modala’s entry into the Federation that the suppliers of the weapons show their faces, and it’s not the Klingons: it’s the Ferengi!

Perhaps more interesting than the plot – which is good, but is standard episode fare – is the arc for the characters in question. This is Pavel Chekov’s first away mission, and he is dealing with issues ranging from nerves to hero worship of his Captain. Throughout the first four issues Scott, Sulu and Kirk all lend their hands to help Chekov develop, while McCoy, Kirk and Spock debate the wisdom of taking him along on this particular mission. The end result is a great story for Chekov in addition to a standard one for the more seasoned officers.

The second story is about aging. McCoy fears he might grow irrelevant, and he even implies that the existence of Data indicates that Spock himself is becoming outdated. Unfortunately, this leg of the story is hurt by the fact that Bones really is pretty pointless in a crisis at this point. At close to a century and a half, there is not much he can do to defend himself. He’s not needed for any medical situations, either; the most he does is to influence morale simply by being his abrasive self. Bones and Spock do bring up the age-old “Kirk vs Picard” debate, but they cop out by choosing “Spock” as the answer.

Here are Spock and McCoy, reunited at last in the pages of issue #2 of the second Modala series:

The first story is significantly better than the second. Not only does it focus entirely on its regular cast members of its own show, but it also provides character development for Chekov that his character rarely enjoys. The second story, on the other hand, focuses more directly on guest stars Spock and McCoy, with nobody on the TNG crew really developing in a way that they would not on an average episode.

All in all, this is a good story for fans of either series to pick up.  The story is well paced, exciting and really captures the feel of both series to a really good extent.  The art, while not great, especialy in the second half of the graphic novel, is still good enough to make the action and characters feel like their real life counterparts.

TOS 50 Book Mission #2 – “The Starless World”

Book #2 on my one-year mission to read as much Star Trek as possible as my way of honoring what Star Trek has meant to me, ironically during my first 50 years (as well) takes me to 1978’s “The Starless World” by Gordon Eklund. I read this one back in high school so I forgot almost everything about it.

The Story

While charting black holes and stellar masses near the Galactic core, the Enterprise manages to rescue Thomas Clayton, a Starfleet washout who now is an independent scout for the Federation. Amazingly enough, Clayton is aboard a Starfleet shuttlecraft from the starship Rickover which disappeared some two decades earlier. Clayton is completely insane; he has explained he is doing his god’s bidding. While beginning an investigation into this mystery, the Enterprise is suddenly drawn into a Dyson sphere where they encounter a Klingon ship.

After a brief exchange of hostile words (their weapons don’t work), Kirk, Uhura and Sulu beam down and encounter the only remaining inhabitants: short, plump, white chimpanzee-like humanoids. After befriending Ola by stopping her from becoming a carnivore’s dinner, she takes them to her village of Tumara where they are soon joined by McCoy and Spock who are forced down to the planet’s surface by the deranged Clayton. Spock is increasingly of the opinion that Ay-nab, the sun of the Dyson sphere known as Lyra, is a superintelligent being. There is also a rather odd and unnecessary sub-plot of Uhura meeting her father, one of the crew of the Rickover who are now little more than zombies whose souls Ay-nab feeds.

My Thoughts

Gordon Eklund does a really good job of telling a science fiction story first, then a Star Trek story which I really appreciate. The Star Trek novels written before the films were launched almost always have this kind of science fiction first plot point. Maybe it’s because I love classic science fiction that thsi appeals to me. That being said this IS a Star Trek book after all and for the most part works as a classic episode type story. However there are a few errors here and there (the Enterprise is a Constellation-class ship, for one, and Spock uses way too many colloquialisms for a Vulcan). However, Eklund really does manage to craft a credible and weird world. The theme of a star being an intelligent being is not new to Eklund, and it harkens back to his Nebula-award winning novella (co-authored with Gregory Benford) and later revised novel “If the Stars Are Gods.

During this year long Trek Book Mission I hope to delve into a couple of the original Bantam books (1970-1981) that were released prior to the films. This is because these books, for the most part really capture the feel of simply reading a lost original Star Trek episode. The authors of the books pre-1980 only had the original TOS episodes to draw from which sometimes, I find refreshing.

TOS 50 Book Mission #3 – “Devil World”

My year long mission to read nothing but Star Trek books as my way of celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary continues…

My 3rd Star Trek book in this crazy year long reading mission finds the Enterprise crew on shore leave at Starbase 13. No shore leave actually leads to a vacation for the crew and this one is no different. On leave Kirk quickly encounters a young woman who follows the philosophy of Jainism which is “to harm no living creature, no matter how small”. To this effect, she wears a face mask so as not to inadvertently swallow an insect and kill it. The woman is searching for her father, who turns out to be a Starfleet officer who left the Federation for the Klingon Empire some years before.

In the meantime, the starbase commander asks Kirk to take on his son as a personal steward, as the young man has washed out of Starfleet Academy, and needs direction in his life.

Through the commander, Kirk also learns more of the story of the woman’s father: he had been stranded in space in only a survival suit for nearly a month before being rescued, and had moved to the Empire on promises of his own planet, since contact with any creatures is now painful to him.
Now, it is learned that the man has travelled to Heartland, a quarantined planet, where the colony started 40 years ago had withdrawn, with every colonist turned mad. The inhabitants of the planet, a dying races called the Danons, resemble satanic creatures, with reddish skin and forked tails. Kirk takes the Enterprise to retrieve the unauthorized personnel. Complications ensue.

This is a somewhat better outing than Eklund’s first Trek novel, “The Starless World” which I read just prior to this one. Here Kirk is again a bit out of character, while Spock and McCoy are portrayed fairly well, but other characters such as Scotty and Sulu show little character at all. Chekov at least tells Russian stories, but there are few telling character touches, as if the author was obviously unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the characters.

Again, the plot is interesting, but the writing is very different then the later Pocket Books (post 1981). As I mentioned before when talking about the Star Trek Bantam Books the authors only had 3 seasons of the original series to go on. No movies and only a few other books written prior to use as fodder. Maybe it’s my age but I tend to enjoy these older Bantam novels because most of them really have the feel of a TOS episode.

The Murder of James Garfield

I know that this is a technology blog and I do often find myself reading great science and technology books, however I believe it is equally important to never forget the past. There are countless stories to be explored that I never grow tired of looking into our past and I highly recommend you give it a try. I actually I have found that learning about people and events from the past can have a calming and centering effect. As we all seem to be in perpetual motion these days, stopping and gleaming the past can actually have a de-stressing effect. So give it a try, maybe with the book I discuss here.

James Garfield. Do you know who he is? If you posses an average knowledge of history you will probably respond with something like this. “Was he a president or something?” That’s it. Not much more is probably known about Garfield and that is pretty distressing. In Candice Millard’s recent book, “Destiny of the Republic – A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” she attempts to right this wrong.

This is a fascinating true story of an American who broke the chains of poverty through hard and honest work. Garfield went on to start a family build a home of a farm after saving his money, and continued to better hilself with self-education and would eventually leave a profound mark on this nation. Garfield loved his family and he loved his books. One reporter remarked after interviewing Garfield in his home during the 1880 presidential election, “wherever you looked you were presented with a book”. When the Civil War erupted in 1861 Garfield left his family and served the Union and rose through the ranks to General. Towards the end of the war Garfield was elected to Congress without campaigning or asking for the office. His reputation was so strong the office came to him. After entering Congress everyone around him could see that Garfield was honest, fair and open minded in everything he did. Eventually he found himself tangled in the tumultuous presidential election of 1880. Running for the Republican Nomination was Ulysses S. Grant (third term), James G. Blaine and John Sherman. The nomination process went on for 2 days, ballot after ballot failed to claim a winner. Although Garfield, who had just won an Ohio Senate seat was working hard to get Sherman the nomination support slowing ebbed in his direction. Garfield did not want the nomination and worked hard to oppose it. However everyone was tired of the “party politics” at that point and Garfield’s reputation was un-like anyone running. Garfield was nominated against his wishes and at the end of the second day was awarded the nomination. As was his work ethic, Garfield who was very uncomfortable with the nomination worked hard for his country and went on to defeat another Civil War hero for the presidency in 1880, Democrat Winfield Scott.

Evil lurks all around us. At the same time Garfield was succeeding at everything he tried Charles E. Guiteau was failing. Guiteau attempted it seems everything. From obtaining entrance into college, law work, writing, theology, politics and even marriage he failed miserably in all of them. Guiteau most likely failed at everything because he was insane. During the 1880 election standing on a street corner Guiteau reportedly made a corner speech supporting Garfield. Because of this, Guiteau believed he was “owed” a political job from Garfield. After the election Guiteau haunted the White House and even met the president once, which was not unusual at the time. An office job was refused of course which led to Garfield’s murder at Guiteau’s hand only 2 months after the election.

There is so much more to this excellent book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to escape into the past for a brief time and learn something about our 20th president, James A. Garfield.

OH, I Almost Forgot
If you take the time to read this book you will be angered and upsept that Garfield should have survived the gunshot he sustained. The doctors so botched the work he suffered in misery and slowly died. A tragic fate he surely did not deserve. Just wait until you learn about that!