Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Literary Treks 219: No Such Thing as a Ferengi Customer Service Department

Deep Space Nine #23:
The 34th Rule
by Armin Shimerman and David R. George III
Exclusive Interview with David R. George III!

MMPB: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Deep Space Nine was known for, among other things, the quality of its writing and the depth of its characters. The care that the writers put into developing each character along with the obvious passion the actors themselves had for the roles made the character development on DS9 second to none. With that in mind, what better way could there be to explore a character in novel form than to turn the reigns over to a prolific writer and a talented actor who knows his own character inside and out?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther welcome author David R. George III back to the show to discuss The 34th Rule, a novel he co-wrote with DS9's Armin Shimerman, whom you may know as Quark! We talk about the genesis of the story, the Ferengi belief system, politics, racism towards the Ferengi, the cycle of violence, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings and where you can find David R. George III online.

In our news segment, we review issue 16 of Boldly Go, the fourth part of the "I.D.I.C." miniseries.

Literary Treks 219: No Such Thing as a Ferengi Customer Service Department
The 34th Rule by Armin Shimerman and David R. George III
Exclusive Interview with David R. George III!

Previous episode: Literary Treks 218: You Oatmeal-Headed Scotsman!
Next episode: Literary Treks 220: Captain's Blood by William Shatner

Friday, February 9, 2018

Prime Directive

Star Trek
Prime Directive by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
First published September 1990
Read December 13th 2016

Previous book (TOS - Hardcover): Spock's World

Next book (TOS - Hardcover): Probe

Spoilers ahead for Prime Directive!

From the back cover:
Starfleet's most sacred commandment has been violated. Its most honored captain is in disgrace, its most celebrated starship in pieces, and the crew of that ship scattered among the thousand worlds of the Federation... Thus begins Prime Directive, an epic tale of the Star Trek universe. Following in the bestselling tradition of Spock's World and The Lost Years, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens have crafted a thrilling tale of mystery and wonder, a novel that takes the Star Trek characters from the depths of despair into an electrifying new adventure that spans the galaxy.

Journey with Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the former crew of the Starship Enterprise to Talin-- the planet where their careers ended. A world once teeming with life that now lies ruined, its cities turned to ashes, its surface devastated by a radioactive firestorm-- because of their actions. There, they must find out how-- and why-- this tragedy occurred and discover what has become of their captain.

My thoughts:

The "Prime Directive" has a storied place in Star Trek history. Also known as Starfleet General Order One, the prime directive governs the interaction of Starfleet officers with other cultures that are not a part of the Federation. The directive is particularly concerned with societies that have not yet achieved warp drive. All effort must be made to prevent interference with the natural development of a planet's society by Starfleet officers, especially if they have not yet crossed this important technological milestone.

Many times throughout Star Trek, various crews have found themselves in conflict with the idea of the prime directive. After all, drama is born of conflict, and it makes sense that the writers of Trek would use this all-important rule to generate story ideas. This means, however, that there are many instances in which our heroes have, if not outright violated the prime directive, at least come very close and have skirted it from time to time.

Because of the events of Prime Directive, Kirk loses command of the Enterprise and must clear his name to get her back.

In this novel, thought by many to be one of the best Star Trek novels ever written, Kirk and his crew are accused of violating the directive in the worst way imaginable, an event that culminates in the complete destruction of an alien society. However, how this came to pass is not immediately apparent when reading this novel. Instead, we join the story after the tragedy has occurred, and see where life has taken our valiant crew since.

Kirk is working as a laborer, having been cashiered out of Starfleet, while the other members of his command staff are scattered around the Federation. Their goal is to ultimately clear Kirk of any wrongdoing in the affair, and Prime Directive follows their efforts to do so.

Eventually, through flashbacks, we get to see what transpired to destroy all life on the planet Talin. On the face of it, it would seem that Kirk and company had some responsibility in the calamity, but of course, we will eventually find out that the ultimate cause is much more complicated and Kirk and company will be exonerated.

There is a lot to love about Prime Directive, and it certainly earns its reputation as one of the best Trek novels of all time. The Reeves-Stevenses have crafted a very compelling story that puts each of the characters in a really interesting place. I would have loved to have seen this story adapted for the big screen, as it has a very epic, cinematic feel to it. The writers of the Kelvin Timeline films have cited Prime Directive as one of their influences, and I can't help but think that I would have enjoyed an adaptation of the novel a great deal more than what we got in, say, Star Trek Into Darkness.

The character work in Prime Directive is excellent, and the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate is particularly well-represented.

The character work in particular is top notch, with the authors capturing the voices of the main characters brilliantly. The holy trinity of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are in perfect form here, and the story feels like it has real consequences to the lives of the characters. My only complaint story-wise is the "side quest" that Sulu and Chekov undertake to get where they need to be in the story; there were times that this particular part of the novel felt a bit ridiculous.

The final piece of the puzzle that solves the mystery of the destruction of the planet Talin was also a highlight of Prime Directive. The force that was ultimately responsible is a fascinating concept, and without spoiling it outright, I will say that the entity that caused the calamity is something that I would love to see explored more. Prime Directive adds much to the lore of the Star Trek universe in ways that were very surprising. Note: for a more spoilery discussion of the conclusion of Prime Directive, check out episode 174 of the Literary Treks podcast, in which Matthew Rushing, Bruce Gibson and I discuss the book in more depth.

Final thoughts:

In many ways, Prime Directive exemplifies the best of what Star Trek novels have to offer. A compelling story with real stakes for our characters, and all brought to life with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens' penchant for crafting a tale that had me turning pages late into the night. A solid 5/5 Trek novel, and quite possibly the best book to give to someone who is interested in reading Trek fiction but has never picked up a Star Trek novel before. Great stuff!

More about Prime Directive:

Also by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens:

My next read:

Next up is my video review of Una McCormack's latest Cardassian epic, Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Literary Treks 218: You Oatmeal-Headed Scotsman!

The Gold Key Archives, Volume 4
Part 2

Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

The voyages of the Starship Enterprise continue as the valiant crew faces off against exotic stellar phenomena, emotionally-stunted geniuses, and corrupt Starfleet officials who aim to ruin Kirk's career! That's right: it's a return to the bizarre other-world of the Gold Key comics!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson review the three remaining issues in the Gold Key Archives, Volume 4. We discuss the mysterious "black hole" phenomenon in "Siege in Superspace," a planet full of kids playing a deadly game in "Child's Play," and Kirk's shocking transformation in "The Trial of Captain Kirk!"

In the news section, we take a look at the Architects of Infinity cover and read the blurb, discuss the news of the new Star Trek: Discovery: Succession comic and review Star Trek: Discovery #2.

Literary Treks 218: You Oatmeal-Headed Scotsman!
The Gold Key Archives, Volume 4, Part 2


Previous episode: Literary Treks 217: Agree to Disagree
Next episode: Literary Treks 219: No Such Thing as a Ferengi Customer Service Department

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Release Day! Discovery: Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward

Star Trek: Discovery
Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward

Going by the currently-available release schedule from Simon and Schuster, we won't be getting many releases this year, so it's doubly embarrassing that I didn't post this on time! However, better late then never as the cliche goes. Yesterday was the official release day of the latest offering from the world of Trek fiction: Discovery: Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward! It has already been showing up on bookshelves around the world, so go pick up your copy today! And check out below for the cover art, back cover blurb, and links to purchase Drastic Measures from Amazon.

Publisher's description:
An original novel based upon the explosive new Star Trek TV series on CBS All Access!

It is 2246, ten years prior to the Battle at the Binary Stars, and an aggressive contagion is ravaging the food supplies of the remote Federation colony Tarsus IV and the eight thousand people who call it home. Distress signals have been sent, but any meaningful assistance is weeks away. Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Lorca and a small team assigned to a Starfleet monitoring outpost are caught up in the escalating crisis, and bear witness as the colony’s governor, Adrian Kodos, employs an unimaginable solution in order to prevent mass starvation.

While awaiting transfer to her next assignment, Commander Philippa Georgiou is tasked with leading to Tarsus IV a small, hastily assembled group of first responders. It’s hoped this advance party can help stabilize the situation until more aid arrives, but Georgiou and her team discover that they‘re too late—Governor Kodos has already implemented his heinous strategy for extending the colony’s besieged food stores and safeguarding the community’s long-term survival.

In the midst of their rescue mission, Georgiou and Lorca must now hunt for the architect of this horrific tragedy and the man whom history will one day brand “Kodos the Executioner”….

Purchase Discovery: Drastic Measures:

Trade Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-Book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Previous Release: Prometheus: Fire with Fire
Next Release: Voyager: Architects of Infinity

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Literary Treks 217: Agree to Disagree

Captain's Peril by William Shatner
(with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens)

Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
MMPB: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Audiobook: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Saving the galaxy on a regular basis is pretty tiring work, and for Starfleet's finest, rest and relaxation is important. But when two legendary Starfleet captains decide to take a vacation on Bajor, it isn't long before another crisis arises, and it's up to Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard to once again save the day.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss the Shatnerverse novel Captain's Peril, the first book in the Totality trilogy. We talk about the murder mystery plot, philosophical differences between Kirk, Spock, and Picard, different ideas about risk, the Prime Directive debate, the huge left turn the story takes at the end, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we discuss a poll in our Goodreads group about where our listeners get their Star Trek novels.

Literary Treks 217: Agree to Disagree
Captain's Peril by William Shatner


Previous episode: Literary Treks 216: He Should Have Served Prune Juice
Next episode: Literary Treks 218: You Oatmeal-Headed Scotsman!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shield of the Gods

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations
Shield of the Gods by Christopher L. Bennett
Release date: June 16th 2017
Read June 25th 2017

Previous book (Department of Temporal Investigations): Time Lock
Next book (Department of Temporal Investigations): 

E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Shield of the Gods!

Publisher's description:
The stalwart agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations have tracked down many dangerous artifacts, but now they face a greater, more personal challenge: retrieving a time-travel device stolen from their own vault by a rogue agent of the Aegis, a powerful, secretive group that uses its mastery of time to prevent young civilizations from destroying themselves. Blaming the Aegis itself for a tragedy yet to come, this renegade plans to use the stolen artifact to sabotage its efforts in the past, no matter what the cost to the timeline. Now the DTI’s agents must convince the enigmatic Aegis to work alongside them in order to protect history—but they must also wrestle with the potential consequences of their actions, for preserving the past could doom countless lives in the future!

My thoughts:

To some fans, "Star Trek" has a very narrow definition: The voyages of a starship named Enterprise, seeking out new life and new civilizations. With Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and more recently, Discovery, that definition has expanded quite a bit, showing that there is room for all kinds of stories within this universe. Ultimately, Star Trek is just a setting; it is a vast playground in which many different kinds of stories can be told.

One of the more abstract settings for Star Trek stories is within the Department of Temporal Investigations. This agency of the United Federation of Planets was established in the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," and has become a source of fascination ever since.

Agents Dulmer and Lucsly are the only two faces of the organization we've seen in canon Trek, but author Christopher L. Bennett has crafted a rich set of stories about the Department of Temporal Investigations in two novels, Watching the Clock and Forgotten History, as well as three (so far) e-book novellas, The Collectors, Time Lock, and the subject of today’s review, Shield of the Gods.

In canon Trek, Dulmer and Lucsly are the only people we've seen from the enigmatic Department of Temporal Investigations, but author Christopher L. Bennett has fleshed out the department and introduced us to a variety of characters who work to maintain the Federation's temporal integrity.

Shield of the Gods continues the story from Time Lock, in which a former Aegis agent, Daiyar, stole an untraceable temporal warp drive from the DTI's vault containing temporal artifacts from across the galaxy and throughout history. The agents of the DTI must track her down and stop her from completing her plan, whatever it may be!

What follows is probably the most introspective, character-driven story so far in the Department of Temporal Investigations series. Christopher Bennett has an uncanny ability to lay bare a character's deepest feelings and motivations in a way that is surprisingly moving. Rather than being a one-note villain, Daiyar is a complex character who evokes real emotions from the reader. I found myself sympathizing with her in her motivations, if not necessarily in her means. She also has a well-defined character arc, which is doubly impressive given the fact that the page count for this novella is significantly less than the average Star Trek novel.

Similarly, this novella dives deep into the character of Ranjea, a Deltan agent of the DTI. This is a character who has been around since the first DTI novel, and whose story comes to a very interesting conclusion in this installment. His ultimate fate feels very Doctor Who-ish, which is certainly appropriate with a series as timey-wimey as this one!

Like Lt. Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (pictured), Agent Ranjea is a Deltan, possessing very strong sexual drives.

Having the e-book-exclusive novellas has been a boon to the more obscure parts of the Trek universe. I don't know that Department of Temporal Investigations is a "big" enough title to maintain an on-going series of full-length novels, but the e-book novella format seems perfectly suited to it. We can only hope that this format will continue after the successful re-negotiation of the Simon & Schuster Star Trek books license (fingers crossed)!

Final thoughts:

There is a lot to recommend this latest entry in the Department of Temporal Investigations series. A huge plot in which civilizations hang in the balance is the backdrop to a very human, introspective story about how individual lives are affected by galaxy-spanning decisions. Overall, a lovely story that makes the reader empathize with the characters in the most surprising ways. An unexpected but touching resolution caps off the story, making me eager for more tales set in this somewhat unorthodox corner of Trek continuity!

More about Shield of the Gods:

Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Next up is a classic from the Trek literary universe: Prime Directive by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Literary Treks 216: He Should Have Served Prune Juice

The Final Reflection by John M. Ford

Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

The Klingons: No other species in Star Trek has gone through so many changes over the years as this race of warriors. In 1984, author John M. Ford set out to write the definitive book about Klingon society, and while Trek canon has gone in a completely different direction since, The Final Reflection still strikes a chord with many Trek fans with its close examination of an alien culture that is the antithesis of the Federation.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson discuss The Final Reflection. We talk about a truly alien culture, the differences between the Klingons in The Final Reflection and Trek canon since, the Perpetual Game, the Federation's duplicity, the novel within the novel, the inspiration that The Final Reflection provided to the creators of Star Trek: Discovery, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we review two new comics: Boldly Go #15 and New Visions #19. We also discuss the apparent lack of new releases from Simon and Schuster in 2018.

Literary Treks 216: He Should Have Served Prune Juice
Star Trek #18: The Final Reflection by John M. Ford


Previous episode: Literary Treks 215: No Pointy Sideburns
Next episode: Literary Treks 217: Agree to Disagree