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review 2019-08-18 12:09
For science!
Starfarers - Vonda N. McIntyre

I still take the wide range of the cast as the best part of this.


If you take the "scientists car-jack a self-sustaining space base and go exploring" plot thing away. Because you can't say that isn't all-around BAMF and likely the main reason why one would land in this series. (Oddly enough, it was not my case, but the fact that it was listed in a Tor article about books with older women in a central part of the plot).


And that's a maybe... I still like the fact that is scientists, mostly older, and mostly women characters, that compose the cast on a freaking space heist. For science!


Anyway, that comes late in the book. Mostly, we build on the political climate and the personal motivations that lead to that situation, and if you want action packed and get bothered by very flawed characters the book will loose you before then. I felt like shaking most of the people inside those pages more than once, and enjoyed myself immensely.


I though there was a lot of unbelievable political naivete in the alien contact expert (wouldn't you have to be good at politics, social studies and what-not for that?) and some stereotyping is going on that makes the whole feel a bit pulpy. But it's good pulp and I'm still wavering between four and five stars.

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text 2019-08-18 04:10
Reading progress update: I've read 190 out of 280 pages.
Starfarers - Vonda N. McIntyre

So far I'm loving the widely diverse cast and relationships, and all the way characters rub awkward, sometimes awesome, sometimes sweet, often making me impatient (and in Griffith's case, like wanting to maul him till death) and all around very human.


And there are these bits:


“Every time the argument about evolution comes along again, I start wondering what would happen if it were true that god invented fossils to fool us with. What if god’s got a sense of humor? If I were god, I’d plant a few fossils that wouldn’t fit into the scheme, just for fun.”
“And that’s what these are? Does that mean you’re playing god?”
“Artists always play god,” Crimson said.
“Don’t you believe in evolution?”
“That’s a tough word, ‘believe.’ Believing, and knowing what the truth is — you’re talking about two different things. Human beings are perfectly capable of believing one thing metaphorically, and accepting evidence for a completely different hypothesis. That’s the simplest definition of faith that I know. It’s the people who don’t have any faith, who can’t tell the difference between metaphor and reality, who want to force you to believe one thing only.”


That had me laughing and remembering Good Omens, and also parallels some of my vaguely agnostic thoughts.


Or things like this:


Under ordinary circumstances, they would never have had a hope of buying their house. Nobody living on ordinary incomes — even three ordinary incomes — could afford to buy property.


Which is wildly unfunny by how real it is.

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review 2018-05-17 21:11
The very model of a modern Star Trek novel
The Entropy Effect (Star Trek: The Original Series #2) - Vonda N. McIntyre

When it was originally published in the summer of 1981 Vonda McIntyre's book represented something of a new frontier (if you'll forgive my use of the phrase) in the Star Trek franchise. Though the second entry in Pocket Books's series of Star Trek novels, it was the first original story they published (the first book in the series was the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture). As such, it represented an effort to develop the franchise, rather than the more half-hearted adaptations of the Bantam Books series in the 1970s.


If the series's editors wanted to use the first original novel to set expectations, it is difficult to imagine choosing a better book than this one. McIntyre's novel opens by setting the stakes, as while studying a naked singularity that suddenly appeared in a warp lane, Spock discovers that the universe has only a century remaining before its demise. Before he can verify his data, the Enterprise is summoned to a nearby planet to transport a dangerous prisoner for rehabilitation. The prisoner turns out to be Spock's old physics instructor, Georges Mordreaux, who was convicted of murder after the disappearance of several people, all of whom Mordreaux claims had been sent back into the past. Though skeptical of Mordreaux's claims, Spock investigates Mordreauxs claim after the physicist suddenly appears on the bridge and kills Captain Kirk all while supposedly detained in a guarded and shielded room on the ship.


As this description illustrates, McIntyre's novel is not short on plot. Yet it is her characterization that is the strongest part of the book, as she develops both the familiar figures from the show (most notably Hikaru Sulu, which started a welcome and long-overdue trend of giving the secondary characters background and depth and even first names!) and and her original creations into plausible and well-rounded people. The mystery itself adds to the book, as it helps keep the reader engaged until its last pages. And while some of the logic in the story may not hold up well, the book overall makes for a great read, one that set a high bar for the novels in the series that followed.

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text 2018-05-17 15:48
Reading progress update: I've read 83 out of 224 pages.
The Entropy Effect (Star Trek: The Original Series #2) - Vonda N. McIntyre

Just reached a Kirk death scene that was better than any Shatner could have pulled off.

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text 2018-05-13 06:11
Going back to basics!
The Entropy Effect - Vonda N. McIntyre

I'm still chewing my recent experience with reading a Star Trek novel over in my head. the reason, I suspect, was a combination of disappointment with the book and the sense that this was because of the heavy burden imposed by the author of dealing with over a half-century of accumulated backstory. Perhaps this is unfair to Dayton Ward, considering that it was the very idea of a Star Trek novel set in its universe's past that drew me to it in the first place. Yet I can't help but think that Ward over-egged the pudding, at the expense of the story.


In that respect Ward's novel differed from what I remember about the other Star Trek novels I've read in the past. They seemed so much simpler than Ward's book, with the focus on their focus on the things that matter most in a novel, namely characters and plot. They may not have been on the level of Tolstoy, but they certainly were a cut above Ward's effort.


It was while contemplating this a realization dawned on me: I should go back and read the original Star Trek novels. I remember vividly the Pocket Books series they published when I was growing up, and while I didn't read most of them the ones I did I enjoyed. Whether nostalgia is tingeing this is an open question, and one that I suspect will be answered easily enough once I delve into them, but I suspect not. The early novels were written by SF writers who knew their trade well, and who also had the advantage of writing something that was truly fresh in terms of something for Star Trek. Tomorrow I will make a stop at my local used bookstore and see which books in the series they have on their shelves. It should be a fun exercise!

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