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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-15 21:19
The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Flowers of Vashnoi: Vorkosigan Saga (English Edition) - Lois McMaster Bujold

Ha, a new Vorkosigan novella - entirely in Ekaterin's PoV, set concurrently with "Captain Vorpatril's Alliance", i.e. before Miles inherits the Countship.

 

When Ekaterin and Enrique set out to test their new radiation bugs in the fallout zone of Vorkosigan Vashnoi, they stumble across a long-lost secret.

 

Take "Mountains of Mourning", a new use for the butter bugs, the establishment (and surveillance) of a fallout zone, Ekaterin and Enrique confronting the Vorkosigan backcountry... stir... and sit back. Distilled from this mixture is a tragic story, again a conflict between past and future and quite a lot of introspection into the question of how long past events remain in our memory, but unfortunately it doesn't carry the impact of earlier novellas. Maybe because Ekaterin is an outsider and therefore more of a commentator than actual participant, maybe even because the story isn't actually over at the end. It's barely begun.

 

In short, while it's good to revisit beloved characters, I'm not sure whether this story actually needed to be told... retold in a way...

 

 

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review 2015-05-07 09:24
Star Trek: S. C. E.: #14 Caveat Emptor by Ian Edginton & Mike Collins
Star Trek: Caveat Emptor - Ian Edginton,Mike Collins

The da Vinci picks up a Ferengi daimon and learns that a newly bought computer wreaked havoc on his merchant ship.

 

This is actually quite a nice story involving lots of Ferengi Rules of Acquisition and nods to TOS continuity. There Ferengi disdain towards clothed women, towards the Federation attitude of peace and equality - and myths of a Ferengi heretic that preached fair trade and friendship over profit... well, I guess every society's paramount philosophies are another's nightmares.

 

Other than that, this story doesn't advance any crew-related subplots. It's a standalone novella, definitely better than the previous part, but still lacking of any more complicated issues.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-04-30 08:49
Star Trek: S. C. E.: #13 No Surrender by Jeff Mariotte
Star Trek: No Surrender (Star Trek: SCE) - Jeff Mariotte

The da Vinci is called to stabilize a prison platform in orbit around a planet applying for admission to the Federation. And one of the prisoners is Gold's old friend Bradford who left Starfleet after learning of their former commanding officer's corruption (see TNG's "Too Short a Season").

 

The premise of this novella is sound, and I thought we finally might learn more about Gold's background. But unfortunately it doesn't live up to this promise at all. After wasting page after page on technobabble in getting the platform stabilized, only about 10% of the novella are left to cast the planet's authorities suddenly in a very dark light, and to leave the plot's main attraction, Bradford, largely in the shadows, rather painting him as the caricature of the disgruntled officer seeking revenge than go into in-depth characterization. That's way too simplistic, a black and white ending, too little exploration of the various motives... in short, a story that builds up to a load of nothing instead of using the opportunity to get to the meat of the characters which the SCE so desperately needs.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-01-05 15:31
Star Trek: S. C. E.: #3 Hard Crash by Christie Golden
Star Trek: Hard Crash (Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers) - Christie Golden

Hard Crash is essentially the conclusion to the 110-arc - and hopefully, to Geordi's visit on the da Vinci.

 

The da Vinci is called to investigate and, if possible, shut down a giant ship that's apparently crashed on purpose on a peaceful planet. What looks at first like a new variation of Borg ship becomes the story of the relationship between a pilot and a sentient ship that cannot cope with the loss of said pilot. 110 links with the ship and gets it to realize that it can function alone as well, much as he himself realizes.

 

The second part of this story is much stronger than the first. What is a run of the mill investigation becomes a bittersweet story about loss, grief and continuing on despite those feelings. 110 in the end refuses to return to Bynaeus, losing his designation. He's now called Soloman. And the ship takes its pilot home, and perhaps will continue exploring space on its own after that because it won't accept another partner/pilot.

 

As I said, the story itself works quite well, as does 110's characterization. But much feels a bit like repetition of the second part of this series. We already had 110's identity crisis, and it was already quite clear back then that he wouldn't return home. So it's a bit of a redundancy here, that's, I suppose, unavoidable when back-to-back stories are written by different authors. The same applies to Gomez's cacao-incident and her doubts about being able to work with Geordi. They have worked together well for 2 books already, so why shouldn't they be able to now in the third? And why does everyone call Geordi "Lieutenant"? The correct rank is Lt. Cmdr. or abbreviated Commander.

 

Gomez and her second in command within the SCE-command structure, Kieran Duffy, might resume their relationship, so that's another interesting facet for future stories, as is the long-distance relationship of the ship's linguist Bart Faulwell. It's good to see the crew fleshed out slowly but surely, and also fleshed out in a way that's reminiscent of the old IDIC-motto.

 

Overall, Hard Crash is a quite emotional story, that's good to read and advances the personal story arcs. But it contains certain idiosyncracies that threw me out of the reading flow. Therefore, the whole story gets an average rating.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-12-19 16:07
Star Trek: S. C. E.: #2 Fatal Error by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Fatal Error - Keith R.A. DeCandido

Fatal Error is the second book of the SCE-series and deals with the aftermath of its predecessor.

 

This time, the da Vinci is called in for help by a super computer itself which runs everything in a planetary system, starting with weather management, transportation, communication - you name it. The computer is malfunctioning, the planet the moon it's located on, is orbiting, in chaos, the clerics whose task it was to maintain the computer murdered... all but one. Just one ship on the planet works without the computer's influence, and the planetary leader and the one surviving priest try to get to the moon. Meanwhile, the da Vinci dispatched an away team on the moon, including the now solitary Bynar 110 who on the one hand doubts his utility without his parter, and on the other hand struggles with his species' customs to rebond as soon as possible. The away team makes contact with the damaged computer... and a dozen hostiles.

 

One point in favour of this novella is its author. I simply love DeCandido's tongue in cheek-humour. I was practically rolling on the floor laughing when I read of the hardships of the planet's leader who actually had to leave her house and walk for 10 minutes... something that she's not used to because the computer, Ganitriul makes such trivialities as leaving your home, unnecessary.

 

The other highlight is 110's evolution as a solitary being. We are introduced to a deeper insight into Bynar society - where I have to wonder how bondmates are chosen in the first place. 111, who tragically died in the first part of this series, was the love of 110's life. Rebonding, as is customary, goes against 110's grief - but to not rebond means to be an outcast. Interestingly, the decision isn't openly made yet, but 110 discovers that he can function alone, that he's still worth something. And I guess that makes it obvious what he will choose.

 

The plot itself with the damaged computer reminds me a bit too much of TOS episodes where a computer runs a whole society and somehow malfunctions. This time the splintergroup sabotages the computer to end its reign over the planet, but I guess, it's due to the shortness of the story that the background can't be explored any further.

 

In short, this part was quite a bit stronger than the first one, and I'll definitely pick up the next installation. But I have to admit that I still have to get used to the format of novella and its inherent constrictions in the story-telling. I just finished a novel that could have easily been told in less pages - this story could have just as easily been expanded on to a true novel.

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