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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-16 10:02
Star Trek: The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward
Peaceable Kingdoms (Star Trek: The Fall) - Dayton Ward

This is the conclusion of the "The Fall"-miniseries. And come to think of the series as a whole, I still question the decision why the parts aren't numbered on the cover. Especially here, it's an illusion to maintain the statement that every single part can be read on its own without prior knowledge - yeah, that may apply to "Shadow" (and Revelations since it's the first part), but to the others (especially Chalice and Kingdoms) not so much. So why not be upfront about it and put the reading order on the covers?

 

But back to this novel:

 

While it brought the series to an ultimately satisfying (if a bit predictable) conclusion, the only really engaging parts where the flashbacks and the introduction of the Cardassian doctor. Everything else (Enterprise being redirected, Starfleet ships pitched against each other, last minute-rescues etc) felt a bit repetitive after the other parts of the series. "Ishan"'s story was an interesting one, it shed light on the occupation, its cruelty in exploiting Bajor and the Bajorans, and it highlights its last days, the sort of burned earth-policy the Cardassians employed. But to be honest, I didn't quite understand the reason for the identity change in the first place since the Cardassians don't change Baras' features to match the original Ishan's and kill all those who could identify Baras (and the late Ishan) anyway. So while the actual twist worked well, the reason behind it seemed contrived and that wasn't really explored all that well. But then again, I thought it would go in a sort of Iliana Ghemor/Kira Nerys-direction...

 

I also liked the way that exploration should be back on Starfleet's agenda after all the political upheaval. That's what has been missing since well before the Relaunch-novels, as the 9 part series "A time to" that came before Nemesis also dealt with political upheaval and conspiracies on the highest level. So it's time to go "where no one has gone before" again.

 

Otherwise the novel spent pages upon pages repeating itself (and its predecessors) which let my attention wander a bit - never a good sign. I observed the need to endlessly summarize previous chapters in quite a few ST-novels (David R George is another author who employs that manner of story telling...) now, and I wonder why that is necessary as I don't think the readers are incapable of retaining the memory of what they've just read. Fortunately, the action picked up speed in the second half of the novel, but during the first half it was a real chore to wade through those repetitions. I think much of the space used for those "summaries" could have been used exploring the aftermath, Ishan's removal, Bajor's reaction, the actual election (even if the election of the Andorian candidate was a foregone conclusion), even the race to get the information back to Earth/Louvois. Riker's end of the story, his confronting Schlosser, even the part where they got Velk out, all that got awfully short-changed. Why not show the actual events instead of just mentioning them in a conversation after the facts?

 

So, overall this is a rather average novel - it was an entertaining story, but it could and should have been more.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-01 07:36
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow - Una McCormack

This novel is another excellent entry about Cardassia by McCormack and closely follows "A Stitch in Time" and "The Never-Ending Sacrifice".

 

Tthere's a new political movement coming to power, Cardassia First, populist, isolationist, xenophobic, just on the eve of the withdrawal of the Federation from Cardassian soil. Civil Unrest is threatening, just as a Bajoran Starfleet officer is killed. Then Nan Bacco is assassinated, and the withdrawal put into question by the pro-tem UFP president. Garak and Picard work tirelessly to prevent open civil war on Cardassia and maintain the shaky alliance between the UFP and Cardassia.

 

Cardassia is a perfect example for a state that has never really known democracy, just an oligarchy or dictatorship, and now, still fighting the effects of the Dominion War, poverty, pollution etc, it's on the brink to fall back into old systems. I appreciate the matter-of-fact way of story-telling instead of swinging the moral hammer, because, yes, we see this every day, and how many states that only recently embraced democracy have fallen back into the abyss?

 

Garak's one of the most complex figures in all of Star Trek. He's a murderer, a spy, he dragged (together with Sisko) the Romulans into the Dominion War... but somehow he retained or regained a (shrewd as it might be) moral compass. He's not acting out of a need to prove himself or to gain advantage for himself, but for the good of Cardassia. And right now, what he perceives as the good of Cardassia aligns itself with reality. Let's see what happens when he's actually in power.

 

I enjoyed the letters which start almost every chapter, sent and unsent, by Garak to Bashir (and one to Parmak, his closest friend on Cardassia) because they bring insight into his thoughts and anguish. I loved the painting by Ziyal which is sort of his shrine to her and how he uses his memory of her to remain within moral borders. And I love Bashir's one reply warning Garak not to become his father.

 

McCormack leaves the reader to figure out all the emotional intricacies, just as she did in The Never-Ending Sacrifice. Her prose isn't really made for action-sequences, but it's perfect for relaying emotions, motivations... and slowly captivating her readers until they're hooked and can't put the novel down until it's finished.

 

This, together with A Stitch in Time and The Never-Ending Sacrifice is certainly a must-read novel regarding Cardassia.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-01-25 12:12
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Sky's the Limit by various
The Sky's the Limit - Marco Palmieri,Christopher L. Bennett,Greg Cox,Keith R.A. DeCandido,Kevin Dilmore,David A. McIntee,Steve Mollmann,Susan Shwartz,James Swallow,Geoff Trowbridge,Dayton Ward,Richard C. White,Thomas F. Zahler,Bob Ingersoll,Scott Pearson,Amy Sisson,Michael Sc

This is an anthology of stories set within the various seasons of TNG and the movies. Overall a good reading experience, even if the quality of the stories differs.

I read the framing stories, Meet with Triumph and Disaster/Trust Yourself When All Men Doubt by Schuster & Mollmann, as one story - I didn't quite know what to make of the first story until I read the conclusion, got the hint about Tapestry and of course Wolf 359. It's still not one of my favourite stories but it ultimately worked well enough for me.

Acts of Compassion by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore is a good story, but unfortunately not the extraordinary one I'd have liked to read. Maybe it was just too straightforward, no twists in loyalties, no surprises... but it was nice to "see" Tasha once again.

Redshift by Richard C. White is an average story - the downside is that Pulaski's mannerisms were a bit over the top for my taste. At least she got some slap on the wrist until, of course, her ideas about the drills save the day... but throughout season 2 she was the odd one out, she just didn't fit in - and this story does nothing to remedy or explain that fact.

Among the Clouds by Scott Pearson absolutely reminded me of the Temeraire books, the living ships, the aerial battles - a very interesting premise, superbly executed, a definitely fitting contribution to a TNG-anthology.

Thinking of You by Greg Cox... Well, at first I thought "Urgh, Lwaxana *and* Barclay?!?" I never cared too much for either character but Cox managed to play on all the eccentricities of both characters, the duo just works, and add Ro to the mix - and set the whole thing on a holodeck with frogs as opponents, lots of bugs etc, stir well and you get a real page turner. Definitely one of my favourites here.

I also enjoyed Turncoats (by Susan Schwartz) quite much although I have to admit that I quite forgot all the Romulan characters Schwartz and Sherman introduced in their Vulcan's XY books (and I so far haven't even read the Vulcan's Soul trilogy) - so I liked the follow-up to "Face of the Enemy" which is my favourite Troi episode, but I couldn't appreciate all the nods to her created miniverse, something I'll remedy once I had the time to read Vulcan's Soul.

Ordinary Days by James Swallow: I admit to once upon a time watching TNG also because of Wesley - granted, he was badly written, but then I could simply relate to him in a way I couldn't to any of the other characters. Of course, that changed when I grew older and I always hoped to see more of him in the light of "First Duty"... trying to fit in, getting into the wrong group, peer pressure etc. So I very much appreciated this little glimpse into an alternative universe where he's not the genius who lives up to his promise, but rather someone who desperately tries to fit in, to be ordinary, to find his way on a path that's not so clearly defined and makes some poor choices. While the setting intrigued me, I have to agree with Trent that this story ultimately missed the opportunity to actually show the impact of Wesley's decisions. Perhaps the focus shouldn't have been so much on Wesley himself, but on the crew dealing with his choices, questioning themselves perhaps why Wesley made his choices of leaving everything behind, and why Picard and Data die (just because Wesley wasn't there doesn't mean no one else is brilliant enough to come up with ideas that work after all)... I'd have loved to see an Enterprise where Wesley isn't expected to live up to promises of geniality but allowed to be an ordinary adolescent without being forced in a certain direction. One doesn't exclude the other, after all. That's what I, now as a grown-up, criticize most about his treatment in TNG and to a lesser degree in this story. There has to be some sort of middle way between the boy-genius and the rebellious/ostracized Wesley of this story. And I also agree that the ending seemed a bit abrupt, though I really enjoyed reading the way the Traveler influenced Wesley's life up till Dorvan. All the criticism aside, I actually liked "Ordinary Days" quite much... and given the restraints of 30 pages it tells an interesting and gripping story. But I think the premise would have warranted a story of the likes of Myriad Universes.

'Twould ring the Bells of Heaven by Amy Sisson was a bit too predictable a story to me. I thought it obvious that those rings were a lifeform. Troi's angsting didn't quite grip me but at least I wasn't annoyed by it, either - though some of her decisions were a bit too random to actually make sense at the time she made them. And Data's monologue/PoV was a bit too reminiscent of Geordi's of just a few stories before.

Usually, Christopher L. Bennett's writing style doesn't really agree with me - but Friends with the Sparrows was a phenomenal exception. I loved going back to the Tamarans and their language, the use of Data and his emotion chip - and the way some still see him more as a tool than a sentient being... Well, there's nothing to criticize about this story at all. Along with "Thinking of You" definitely the highlight of this anthology.

Suicide Note by Geoff Trowbridge worked well enough for me - but like "Turncoats" I guess I'll appreciate it even more once I've rewatched the relevant TNG-episode.

Four Lights by Keith R. A. DeCandido is a bit the opposite to "Friends with the Sparrows", a story that I was very much looking forward to, but that then didn't quite work for me as well as I had hoped for - perhaps it's the "stylistic quibble"... I'm not fond of a 1st person PoV, neither of present tense used in stories which both distracted me a bit too much of the confrontation between Picard and Madred. Oh, I absolutely loved Madred's mind games, and Picard's obsession but somehow I'd have wished for - well, more of a defeat of Madred's at the hand of Picard, not just Picard's common sense once again reasserting itself. Of course, rationally I realize that Picard practically had no other choice than to step back from the interrogation in order not to lose himself once again, and recognizing that was Picard's victory - but it did feel as though Madred's won again... Ultimately that ambivalence came across in a very poignant manner, but still I found that this story somehow lacked KRAD's usually easy style that just sucks one into the story and doesn't let up till the finish.

'Til Death by Bob Ingersoll & Thomas F. Zahler... well, the picture of Riker running around with a gaping hole in his chest has some merit, but somehow it reminded me a bit too much of Spock missing his brain. But I, too, loved Riker's final message and the way he ultimately defeated his opponent. I have to admit that Riker's not my favourite character, he's too much overshadowed by Picard and, especially in the movies, Data - but I always loved his ability to think beyond the obvious and to turn disadvantages into advantages... as he does here. And kudos to the writers for not going down the most obvious road and pair him up with Deanna on this mission but with Crusher. And so, a story that I had lost all hope for right at the beginning turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.

I enjoyed On the Spot by David A. McIntee quite a bit - definitely not because of the little plot to destroy the Enterprise, but... well, it's a simple story, set in the aftermath of Data's death, and it actually deals with this aftermath. Worf lost a friend (and 2 others with Riker and Troi's transfer), he's suddenly dealing with a job that he never wanted... and then there's Spot, a cat that finds itself on loose ends. Both, Spot and Worf are creatures of habit - and both find themselves in new situations and don't quite know how to deal with that. Spot's, of course, only the focal point, the real development's with Worf - and I have to say that I definitely find this development credible and well told.

~~

 

review originally written in 2009

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-01-24 14:14
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations: The Body Electric by David Mack
The Body Electric - David Mack

Plot:

Wesley, now a Traveler in his own right, discovers a terrifying machine at the galaxy's core, a machine which creates random wormholes and pulls entire star systems through it to feed a massive black hole. Neither the other Travelers nor Q can offer a solution, so he asks Picard for help in this crisis which could change, and destroy in the longterm, the whole galaxy.

Meanwhile, Data is faced with a terrible choice in his quest to resurrect his daughter.

Review:

I expected a bit more of this final part, to be honest. Again, it was a page-turner, but it wasn't as emotionally engaging as I had hoped.

The main adversary wasn't really terrifying to me in an emotional sense because, even with his record, Mack wouldn't destroy subspace and thus render any further stories moot. To me, the impact of the destroyed worlds got a bit reduced by the multitude of death and destruction in Destiny. So, the only question was who he'd sacrifice to sacrifice the situation. Somehow I feared it would be Data, but fortunately it wasn't. *g* But I wouldn't have put it passed him to shock us readers by such a move. The rest of the machine-plot contained a bit too much technobabble for my taste, and I'm just happy that there wasn't some kind of deus-ex-machina solution, i.e. Wesley hyper-warping the thing to another galaxy or into the blackhole etc. but a solutions that satisfied both sides.

I enjoyed seeing Wesley again, and I loved the scene with Q, but I was a bit perplexed by the crew's nonchalant reaction to him. I mean it's not every day a being like a Traveller pops in unannounced. Of course, I don't know if he made any appearance in another relaunch novel, but I got the impression that no one has seen him since that Riker/Troi-wedding visit-fiasco. So I'd have loved to see a scene with him being introduced to Rene and dealing with Picard being his stepfather. And it kind of bothered me that the rest of the crew called him Wesley or Wes (Smrhova), despite their knowing him for little more than a day (at least, that was my take on the timetable in this book after Wes warps the E-E to the machine). It's a bit the same issue I had with the crew and Data's interaction in Silent Weapons.

On to Data whose part was to me the most interesting one - small wonder, since I only picked up this trilogy because of what the cover for part 1 suggested would happen. Was there really any question as to whom he would sacrifice, given the choice between Rhea and Vaslovik (sorry, he'll always be Vaslovik to me *g*)? Of course, I'd have loved to see them be together, after all Data deserves a loving partner as much as anyone. But this was his chance to bring his daughter back to life - and maybe prevent any future offspring from suffering from the same flaws. And I think any parent would choose like that. I was surprised, though, that Vaslovik found it within himself to still help Data. What a loss it would have been if sacrificing Rhea had also robbed Data of his most heartfelt wish.

As emotional and heart-wrenching as this situation was, I feel kind of cheated that Lal's return's just got dealt with in the epilogue. As I said, to me Data and his mission were the glue that held this trilogy together - so I'd have loved to see this reunion in more detail. And actually I'd have loved if this had happened on the Enterprise with Data and Lal being among friends happy for them.

As for Data torturing Vaslovik... Even if it was apparently mainly for show (though, what kind of "secrets" did Vaslovik reveal?), he still inflicted injuries and submitted to being blackmailed - though, he must have known that doing so doesn't necessarily save Rhea. Or did this play into his hand in questioning Vaslovik after all?

On another note: Didn't Picard and Beverly agree on 3 or 4 more years at maximum on the Enterprise in Silent Weapons? Then why does Picard tell Worf that the wait for Picard to leave the Enterprise (and therefore to Worf's own command) could be a long one? OTOH, I definitely didn't get that "ready to settle down"-vibe from Picard any more which is kind of strange shift when it was so strong still in Silent Weapons.

Finally, I'm looking forward to what's in store next for especially Data and Lal. But it's kind of funny that all 3 most senior officers of the TV-series now have children. I can already see the next generation of Enterprise officers forming. *g*

As for this trilogy, to me the highlight definitely was Soong's sacrificing himself for Data. Unfortunately, the following parts didn't quite live up to the emotional impact of this moment. But Mack at least accomplished something: He got me interested in TNG-novels again, especially by leaving Data's future open.

 

~~

 

review originally written in 2012

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-01-24 14:12
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations: Silent Weapons by David Mack
Silent Weapons - David Mack

Plot:

While on a routine research mission, Geordi is contacted by Data who calls for help. He got arrested on Orion for an attempted break-in into their bank, one of the most secure buildings in the galaxy, and murder of an Starfleet Intelligence officer. The evidence, the bank's sensor data indicating a Soong-type android strongly suggests his involvement. And so, the race is on to clear him and uncover what's really going on on Orion... who's behind it and why.

Review:

First of all, it was a much easier read than PoM, certainly because there was no present tense or 1st person-PoV. There was enough adventure and quick action to make this book into a page-turner. But even though, it lacked the emotion depth of the last part of PoM. Again, I repeat what said in my reaction to PoM: Maybe that's because I'm a mere casual reader who has no knowledge of the prior parts of the TP. Granted, this book could be read on its own, but there's a lot of contextual information that's only hinted at - and not knowing the details IMO distracts and minimizes the pleasure of reading the story. I've often said here that I'd wish for some kind of "What happened earlier" in the books, especially in books connected to each other. But the way it was I didn't quite get the Breen's apparent obsession with that propulsion system, leading them to literally throw away the Soong androids which really could have secured them dominance if used wisely. And of course, the intricacies of the whole political situation escaped me almost entirely.

My reaction to Piniero's death was... indifferent, again. Frankly, I'd have felt more if Wexler had been killed and then used as a traitor.

I found the character moments on the E-E much more interesting. First of all, there was no real dealing with Worf's loss. Of course, Silent Weapons occurs a couple of months after PoM, but still, save for some problems with Smrhova which were mentioned in passing (because their actual interaction was quite limited), he was pretty much sidelined to putting some of the clues together. Except for 2 or 3 mentions of Choudhury, it was like nothing ever happened - which reenforced my red-shirt point of view. I'd have wished for more here.

OTOH, I quite liked Smrhova's portrayal, but I guess her ambition and her need to prove herself, coupled with her badass attitude could lead to troubles in the near future.

I didn't quite get what Beverly's problem was. Honestly, somehow I thought *she* let it go to her head that she's "the captain"'s wife and shouldn't quite worry so much about Rene. It's not news, after all, that Picard has troubles keeping his relationship with a woman under his command and his duties as officer apart - that was the issue why he and Darren separated in "Lessons" after all. Back then, his focus was on his career. The only shift in attitude from Picard was that now he's ready to resign himself and put the relationship above his career. So, what does that tell about Beverly and her perception of their relationship? And why does she criticize Picard? After all, she could have put herself between "Piniero" and Bacco as well. And if one goes one step further: What if Rene had been there? Would she really have expected and accepted Picard sacrificing his son? This was a "Change of Heart"-kind of situation. And actually, considering that his first officer has a mark on his record for that incident with Jadzia, perhaps Picard and Beverly should have made plans to prevent such situations (not going on away missions together etc). Well, the signs are there that they will leave the E-E in the near future... Who knows what will happen then to stories set on the E-E...

Finally, I was a bit disappointed by Data's role here. I loved the way he contacted Geordi and had confidence that his former colleagues would come. Then again, save for grins, smiles and his overall human appearance his return to being the Data of old, solving puzzles, making use of his android speed, felt a bit too convenient. Especially his integration into the entirety of the Enterprise crew during the "think tank"-parts. I mean, they all know of Data, they might have heard of his return... but they don't know him and at least displayed no obvious curiosity towards him. To me that seemed a bit too much like business as usual.

I hope the 3rd part will continue Data's storyline (as the epilogue suggests it will), and in doing so be a bit more emotionally engaging than this novel. I realize that most of what I've written here is critical, but, overall, Silent Weapons is a good book. However, I'm not satisfied with good.

 

~~

 

review originally written in 2012

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