Since his resurrection thanks to the Borg in the novel The Return, James T. Kirk has embarked on many adventures in the 24th century, often alongside Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. However, all good things must come to an end. Kirk faces his most dangerous enemy yet and fights for all he holds dear: his family.
In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther talk about the Shatnerverse novel Captain's Glory. We discuss Kirk's tendency to go it alone, the plot against Starfleet, Kirk vs. Picard, the nature of the Totality, the connection to the galactic barrier, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.
In our news segment, we talk about the book Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats and review the comic Boldly Go #17, issue 5 of the I.D.I.C. miniseries.
Spoilers ahead for The Siege! From the back cover:
When Deep Space Nine is forced to curtail entry to the wormhole due to increased graviton emissions, an air of biting tension settles over the station. But when this anxiety leads to the murder of an Edeman religious leader, Commander Benjamin Sisko and Security Chief Odo realize they face a larger problem. The missionary is only the first to die; soon Sisko and Odo have more lifeless bodies on their hands and a killer who strikes without motive. Then, both the Edemans and the Cardassians arrive threatening to destroy the station unless the murderer is given to them for retribution. Now in order to save Deep Space Nine and stop the killing, Odo must try to destroy a powerful assassin who is the only link to his mysterious past.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went on the air in January of 1993, and The Siege, the first original novel set in the DS9 series, was published just four months later. This means that the author, Peter David, had not seen any completed episodes prior to beginning work on the novel. In fact, he only had access to the series bible and scripts for the first few episodes. I therefore find it quite remarkable how well he was able to capture the tone and the characters of what, at the time, was a huge departure from the Star Trek we knew and loved.
The Siege is certainly a dark story, dealing with a murderous shapeshifter roaming the station and killing visitors and residents in a number of horrific ways. However, in true Peter David style, there is a great deal of humor present in this novel as well. This can make the story seem a little tonally disjointed at times, but for the most part, I think the balance works. Some readers may be put off by the violence present in the story, and it is indeed graphic at times. However, I feel like it works in the context of this novel.
There is also a B plot to the story, in which a group of religious missionaries are on the station attempting to convert followers to their beliefs. The son of the head of this group is stricken with a life-threatening illness, and Dr. Bashir of course wants to do everything he can for the boy. However, the child's father, Mas Marko, will hear none of it. One of the tenets of their religion is the belief that their god wills all things to happen. Anything that occurs "naturally" is his will, and it is heresy to go against it. Seeing this illness as their god's will, the family will do nothing to intervene. This, of course, does not sit well with Bashir, who goes to great lengths to convince the family to allow him to treat their son.
Dr. Bashir finds himself caught up in an ethical dilemma, and he responds as you would expect of the naive season 1 Bashir!
This plot reminded me a great deal of a first season Babylon 5 episode, "Believers," in which a similar situation is dealt with. Dr. Franklin must choose between saving a boy's life and honoring the wishes of the parents who believe the treatment involved contravenes their religious beliefs. These stories end in different ways, but both are tragic for the people involved.
I do have one problem with how this plot is resolved, and that is that we do not see any fallout from Bashir's actions. For all of his good intentions, he does violate Starfleet protocol as well as the prime directive quite flagrantly. I would have liked to have seen some consequences, even if it was just one of Sisko's quite effective castigations.
Once again, I want to call out Peter David's excellent grasp of the characters in this novel. This being the first DS9 original novel, I would have expected the characterizations to be all over the place. Rather, David has managed to capture their voices quite well. There are a few misses here and there, which is to be expected, but there are far more hits than misses overall. Kudos to Peter David for crafting an excellent story that fits very well in Deep Space Nine's first season! Final thoughts:
A well-crafted, interesting story. The Siege can get a bit dark at times, but that is offset with Peter David's typically humorous writing. The characters are very well represented, especially given this novel's place so early in the creation of the Deep Space Nine television series. A lack of payoff to some of the plot elements doesn't detract too much from an otherwise excellent story. More about The Siege:
Tarsus IV: A name that will live in infamy throughout the Federation. The site of a horrific crime perpetrated on its population: the cold-blooded killing of four thousand colonists, fully half of the population of that distant world. For Lt. Commander Gabriel Lorca, this event has a deeply personal connection, and he will not rest until he has brought the criminal Kodos the Executioner to justice.
In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson are joined by author Dayton Ward to discuss his latest Trek novel, Discovery: Drastic Measures. We talk about the Tarsus IV massacre, mirror Lorca vs. prime Lorca, the fate of Governor Kodos, other characters who were at Tarsus IV, the book within the book, a surprise "after the credits" chapter you might have missed, and wrap up with what Dayton is working on now and where to find him online.
In our news section, we talk about an incredible deal if you're interested in catching up on the Vanguard novels!
nuqneH! Bored of standard vacations to places like Risa or Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet? Want to discover a unique and ancient culture not bound by standard niceties and social mores? Then Qo’noS and the vast Klingon Empire are for you! This one-of-a-kind travel guide will give you all the information you need to plan, enjoy, and survive your trip to the very heart of Klingon territory, from an overview of Klingon history to tips on what to wear (fur and leather are very popular) to a glossary of important phrases like “mamI' DaneH'a'? nItebHa' mamI' DaneH'a'?” (Would you like to dance with me?). Every major location in the Klingon Empire is covered in-depth, with tips on where to eat (you’ve not lived until you’ve eaten Klingon skull stew), how best to get to and from your chosen destination, and what to do if you find yourself challenged to a bat’leth battle to the death. Locations include the homeworld Qo’noS and its famous locales such as the First City, the Caves of No’mat, the Hamar Mountains, and the city of Krennla, plus neighboring moons Corvix and Praxis, and many, many more must-see areas. The book also features exclusive maps and illustrations that bring to life the Klingon Empire and form the perfect reference guide for any visitor. So what are you waiting for? Qapla’!
Travel Guide to The Klingon Empire by Dayton Ward - Reviewed! - YouTube
This book makes The Klingon Empire come alive! Beautiful illustrations and great prose written in Dayton Ward's trademark wit make this a perfect addition to any Trek fan's bookshelf. There are tons of great easter eggs and references for the fan who knows his or her Star Trek backwards and forwards, but this is a great book for the more casual fan, too. More about The Klingon Empire travel guide:
Vulcan: more than any other fictional world within the Star Trek universe, this desert planet has captured the imaginations of Trek fans since we caught our first glimpse of it in the Original Series episode "Amok Time." We know a lot about Vulcans through Spock, Sarek, and the handful of other Vulcans we have met in Trek over the years, but what are the people of that world really like? What is the history of that alien world, and how do they view us, the illogical, emotional neighbors that might threaten their logical view of the universe?
In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther are joined by Earl Grey's Justin Oser to talk about a beloved classic Trek novel, Spock's World. We discuss the two tracks the story follows, the nature of Vulcans, a series of Vulcan TED talks, the diversity of the Enterprise crew, the Enterprise's BBS, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.
In the news segment, we talk about the recent announcement of a new TNG mirror universe comic that follows up on last year's Mirror Broken series.
Retired and happily in love, Kirk believes his adventuring days are over. But as he returns to Earth for the first time since his apparent "death" upon the Enterprise-B, events elsewhere in the galaxy set in motion a mystery that may provide Kirk with his greatest challenge yet.
The Enterprise-E, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, is exploring an unstable region of space on a scientific mission of vital concern to Starfleet when they discover the last thing they ever expected to find: a lonely, battle-scarred vessel that is instantly recognizable to every member of Picard's crew. Five years after being lost with all hands in the Delta Quadrant, the Starship Voyager has come home!
The commander of Voyager, one Tom Paris, explains that Captain Kathryn Janeway and half of the original crew is dead, but if that is true, who is the mysterious woman who has kidnapped Kirk back on Earth, pleading with him to assist her against a threat to the entire Federation?
All is not as it seems, and soon Kirk is forced to confront the hideous consequences of actions taken more than a hundred years prior, as well as his own inner doubts. After years of quiet and isolation, does he still have what it takes to put things right-and join with Captain Picard to save the lives of everyone aboard a brand-new Enterprise?
An unforgettable saga peopled by old friends and ancient enemies, Star Trek: Spectre propels Kirk on a journey of self-discovery every bit as harrowing as the cataclysmic new adventure that awaits him.
Once again, the 24th century is in danger, and once again, only James T. Kirk can save it!
Spectre is the first book of William Shatner's Mirror Universe trilogy, and again this book series features the retired captain being brought back into service to counter a new threat to the safety of the Federation. It seems, of course, that he is uniquely suited to countering this enemy and winning the day, all while the "next generation" of starfleet sits in the wings, seemingly impotent against the threat of the mirror universe. Picard, for instance, loses the Enterprise to the enemy who has ventured into our universe from the mirror universe, and falls victim to them a number of times, having to be rescued by Kirk on a few occasions. He even finds himself irresistibly attracted to Kirk's wife, Teilani, because she's just that beautiful and alluring. Or her pheromones are in overdrive because she's pregnant. Could go either way, actually.
Of course, it's William Shatner's world, and you're all just playing in it!
Still, it is quite frustrating when Kirk is the one to solve all of the problems with the TNG crew sitting on sidelines saying the equivalent of "I dunno." With that being said, there is a lot to enjoy in this "Shatnerverse" outing.
First, I love the "mirror" debate as it is presented in Spectre. Is someone who has our face and our DNA the same as us deep down, shaped solely by the different experiences they have had in their lives, or are they two fundamentally different people? Star Trek Nemesis attempted to tackle this question with Picard and his clone, Shinzon, to limited success in my opinion. I much prefer the juxtaposition in Spectre between "our" Jean-Luc Picard and his Mirror Universe counterpart. The idea that someone exactly like myself in every way except for our life experiences could turn out to be a cold-blooded killer is a chilling thought, and Spectre plays with that idea quite well.
Spectre handles the "dark reflection" for Picard better than Nemesis does, in my opinion.
Part of the reason that Kirk is so willing to become involved with the mirror universe again is his feeling of responsibility for what has happened there. In the century since his initial visit in the TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror," the Terran Empire has collapsed, defeated by "The Alliance," a pact that consists of the Klingons, the Cardassians, and later the Bajorans. Kirk feels that this was due to his attempt to convince Spock of the illogic of the empire, and the mirror Spock and Janeway believe this to be the case as well. Kirk's speech at the end of "Mirror, Mirror" convinced mirror Spock to dismantle the empire by becoming emperor and instituting a number of reforms. However, I disagree that Kirk is responsible. The denizens of the Mirror Universe had their own decisions to make, and pinning everything on Kirk is unfair. I mean, sure, Kirk's speeches are legendary, but I think that taking sole responsibility for the fate of an alternate universe is taking it a bit far. I instead agree with the Spock of "our" universe, who says to Kirk, "Jim, can you honestly believe that a handful of words you exchanged with my counterpart can have led to such far-reaching consequences in the mirror universe?"
Regardless, Kirk sees it as his responsibility to right the wrongs of the past and help steer the Mirror Universe onto a better path, and Spectre is the first chapter in a story that will force Kirk to come face to face with the greatest enemy he has ever faced: Tiberius, his mirror universe counterpart who is a powerful megalomaniacal tyrant, and will surely be an incredibly formidable opponent.
He is, after all, William Shatner deep down as well, isn't he? Final thoughts:
Spectre, like most of the novels of the Shatnerverse, suffers a bit from the ego of William Shatner, in my opinion. It seems that Kirk has to be superhuman and can never have an equal among the people around him. And fair enough, it's written by William Shatner (along with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens), and his face is on the cover, so it's understandable the story has to be centered on him. However, the TNG crew's "voices" never seem to ring true for me, and the idea of Kirk being this awesome this late in his life strains credibility as the books go on. However, there is enough to like in this novel that I can give it a safe three out of five stars, and the story itself was interesting enough to make me want to pick up the next book, Dark Victory. More about Spectre:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Enigma Tales by Una McCormack Release date: June 27th 2017 Read July 7th 2017 Previous book (Deep Space Nine): The Long Mirage Next book (Deep Space Nine): Gamma: Original Sin
Spoilers ahead for Enigma Tales! Publisher's description:
Elim Garak has ascended to Castellan of the Cardassian Union...but despite his soaring popularity, the imminent publication of a report exposing his people's war crimes during the occupation on Bajor looks likely to set the military against him. Into this tense situation come Dr. Katherine Pulaski—visiting Cardassia Prime to accept an award on behalf of the team that solved the Andorian genetic crisis—and Dr. Peter Alden, formerly of Starfleet Intelligence. The two soon find themselves at odds with Garak and embroiled in the politics of the prestigious University of the Union, where a new head is about to be appointed. Among the front-runners is one of Cardassia’s most respected public figures: Professor Natima Lang. But the discovery of a hidden archive from the last years before the Dominion War could destroy Lang’s reputation. As Pulaski and Alden become drawn into a deadly game to exonerate Lang, their confrontation escalates with Castellan Garak—a conflicted leader treading a fine line between the bright hopes for Cardassia’s future and the dark secrets still buried in its past...
Click here to watch my video review of DS9: Enigma Tales, or click play on the embedded video below!
TREK LIT REVIEWS: DS9: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack - YouTube
Another winner in Una McCormack's catalog! She has crafted a compelling story that goes, at times, to some very dark places, but that is offset by a great sense of humor. McCormack captures the voices of the characters magnificently, especially Garak, which is no surprise. McCormack has become a master of writing for the enigmatic Cardassian tailor/spy/leader of Cardassia! More about Enigma Tales:
In front of a crowd of thousands of Romulans, Ambassador Spock is apparently killed in a terrorist bombing. Captain James T. Kirk, retired, is enlisted by Starfleet to lead a team to Romulus to investigate. However, not all may be as it seems, and this particular mission will have consequences that stretch throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and with a very personal connection to Kirk's own family!
In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson discuss the Shatnerverse novel Captain's Blood, the second book in the Totality trilogy. We talk about Spock's apparent death, Reman society, Kirk's son Joseph, the threat of the Totality, crews of different generations coming together, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.
In the news this week, we discuss the release of the latest Discovery novel, Desperate Measures by Dayton Ward, and review the most recent New Visions comic, "Isolation."
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.
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.
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: