Friday, January 20, 2017

The Face of the Unknown

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Face of the Unknown by Christopher L. Bennett
Release date: December 27th 2016
Read January 4th 2017


Previous book (The Original Series): Legacies, Book 3: Purgatory's Key

Next book (The Original Series):


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



Spoilers ahead for The Face of the Unknown!

Publisher's description:
Continuing the milestone 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek—a brand-new novel of The Original Series featuring James T. Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the USS Enterprise!

Investigating a series of violent raids by a mysterious predatory species, Captain James T. Kirk discovers that these events share a startling connection with the First Federation, a friendly but secretive civilization contacted early in the USS Enterprise’s five-year mission. Traveling to the First Federation in search of answers, the Enterprise suddenly comes under attack from these strange marauders. Seeking refuge, the starship finds its way to the true home of the First Federation, an astonishing collection of worlds hidden from the galaxy beyond. The inhabitants of this isolated realm are wary of outsiders, and some accuse Kirk and his crew for bringing the wrath of their ancient enemy down upon them. When an attempt to stave off disaster goes tragically wrong, Kirk is held fully accountable, and Commander Spock learns there are even deeper forces that threaten this civilization. If Kirk and Spock cannot convince the First Federation's leaders to overcome their fears, the resulting catastrophe could doom them all!

My thoughts:

This year, with new releases, I'm trying something a little different. Click here to watch my video review of The Face of the Unknown on YouTube, or watch the embedded video below!




Final thoughts:

As usual from Christopher Bennett, we get top-notch storytelling with a compelling link to current-day events. Revisiting the First Federation was fun, and Bennett has succeeded in his mission to create the definitive story about that civilization. The tranya-loving Balok is a fun character, and it was terrific to get a follow-up to Bailey's mission from "The Corbomite Maneuver."
4/5.

More about The Face of the Unknown:


Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

I have a lot of books that were read in 2016 that I have to catch up on. First up is a tale from The Lost Era, all about Captain Picard shortly before the beginning of The Next Generation: The Buried Age by Christopher L. Bennett.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Literary Treks 176: Trek Archaeologists: Michael & Denise Okuda!

The Roddenberry Vault
An exclusive interview with Michael & Denise Okuda!



The 50th anniversary of Star Trek has been a year of celebration of the franchise we all love. What better way to celebrate our favorite science fiction universe than to get glimpses of it that have never been seen before? The discovery of long-lost footage of Star Trek: The Original Series by Trek veterans Michael and Denise Okuda has made this possible!

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson welcome back Matthew Rushing as well as Michael and Denise Okuda to talk about The Roddenberry Vault. We discuss 50 year of TOS, the beginning of the project, the holy grail, timeline, the thrill, the James Blish connection, what's in the set, new scenes, and the gift.


Literary Treks 176: Trek Archaeologists
Exclusive Interview with Michael & Denise Okuda!






Previous episode: Literary Treks 175: The Boogyman
Next episode: Literary Treks 177: The Mirror Universe Saga


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kertrats Productions in 2017

As many of you know, last year represented a bit of a lull for this website. Most of that can be attributed to my focusing on my new YouTube channel, Kertrats Productions. I think I've been able to create a more workable schedule for this year, however, and you should definitely see an uptick in output on Trek Lit Reviews. However, you may also be interested in some of the content on my YouTube channel, especially due to the fact that there will be more Star Trek book content on the channel this year. Look for monthly video review of Star Trek new releases throughout 2017! And check out the video below for a rundown on all of the plans for Kertrats Productions for the new year.



Literary Treks 175: The Boogyman

The Original Series: The Face of the Unknown
by Christopher L. Bennett



When "The Corbomite Maneuver" first aired in 1966, it introduced a number of concepts that became inextricably linked with Star Trek: the wonder of exploration, courage in the face of fear, and the idea that not everything is as it seems. Someone who appears to be an implacable enemy might just turn out to be a friend. This week, we look at a new novel that serves as a sequel to that much-loved classic episode.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther talk about the new TOS novel The Face of the Unknown. We discuss the "puppet", global warming, fear-mongering speculation, Spock's future, the moment in time for the book, and ratings.

In the news segment, we look at the first issue of Stranger Worlds, Boldly Go #4, the Boldly Go #5 cover, and Trek Lit's 50th anniversary.


Literary Treks 175: The Boogyman
Discussion of Christopher L. Bennett's The Face of the Unknown






Previous episode: Literary Treks 174: Trending on Twitter
Next episode: Literary Treks 176: Trek Archaeologists


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Trek Lit 2016: Year in Review



2016: Star Trek's 50th anniversary. A time for celebration, as our beloved franchise passes an historic milestone! So, how did this year's crop of novels stack up? As usual, a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, a very successful year for Trek lit!

There were certainly some excellent stories this past year. Once again, we kicked off the year with a Deep Space Nine novel, Ascendance: the long-awaited revelation of the resolution to the Ascendant crisis from earlier in DS9 lore. From there, the always-spectacular Kirsten Beyer gave us our next Voyager adventure: A Pocket Full of Lies. We also learned that there will be a slight delay before her next novel, but the reason is a fantastic one: Beyer is one of the writers for the new Star Trek: Discovery television series!

March saw a new TOS adventure, The Latter Fire, by veteran writer James Swallow, and April gave us a continuation of the excellent Rise of the Federation series with Live By the Code by Christopher L. Bennett. A much-anticipated followup to Dayton Ward's From History's Shadow was next, titled Elusive Salvation. After that, a Nog/O'Brien buddy adventure by Jeffrey Lang, Deep Space Nine: Force and Motion, which many fans were torn about. I, however, loved it.

Moving into the second half of the year, the 50th anniversary really got going with a couple of epic trilogies. First, the Legacies trilogy celebrating The Original Series, with Book 1: Captain to Captain by Greg Cox, Book 2: Best Defense by David Mack, and Book 3: Purgatory's Key by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore. And finally, the year ended on a very high note with the Prey trilogy John Jackson Miller, set in the TNG post-Nemesis shared continuity: Hell's Heart, The Jackal's Trick, and The Hall of Heroes.

2016 also continued the trend of e-book exclusive novellas, with some fascinating stories in that category. We got an Enterprise-A adventure with Greg Cox's Miasma, a fun DS9 Ferengi romp in Rules of Accusation by Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmann, and the continuation of the fan-favorite series Department of Temporal Investigations with Time Lock by Christopher L. Bennett. I'm very happy to see these e-book adventures continue, and I'm excited to see what 2017 will bring in that arena!


Regular readers may remember my saying last year that my productivity on the book review side of things may suffer somewhat due to my involvement in a number of other projects. Judging by the list of reviews from the past year below, that statement was certainly prophetic! In 2015, I managed to keep up a pace of about a review a week; this past year has seen a substantial drop-off from that. My work on the Literary Treks podcast has certainly eaten up a huge chunk of time, and it looks like it may take even more in 2017, with my co-host Matthew Rushing moving on to other projects. I and my new co-host, Bruce Gibson, certainly have some big shoes to fill! By the way, if you haven't yet subscribed to Literary Treks, you should check it out! We talk about books and comics from all corners of the Trek universe, and even interview the authors behind the books we love! Head on over to Trek.fm and subscribe, or search for Literary Treks on iTunes!

2016 was also a huge year for my YouTube channel, Kertrats Productions. In the past year, it has grown to about 1600 subscribers and 70 videos! A modest showing for YouTube, but I'm hoping to grow the channel more in 2017. Most of the videos are about Star Trek (big surprise there!), and if you want to know the latest in news from the world of Trek as well as episode reviews and interesting discussions, check it out!





Well, without further ado, let's take a peek at the reviews posted on Trek Lit Reviews in the past year. With a definite slowdown from last year, there were actually a few months in which I didn't post a review. While I new that I wouldn't have as much time in 2016, I'm still disappointed with my showing. As you will see in the list below, it's pretty clear that I made a huge effort to play catchup in December! I did get all of the new releases reviewed, but that also means there is a backlog of older novels that I read, but didn't write a review for. Look for those in 2017! Links below to all of my reviews from 2016, and new releases are in bold and marked with an asterisk (which, to be fair, is nearly all of them!).


January

*Ascendance by David R. George III (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin (Star Trek: Enterprise)










February

*A Pocket Full of Lies by Kirsten Beyer (Star Trek: Voyager)
The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (The "Shatnarrative")










March

*Miasma by Greg Cox (Star Trek: The Original Series)
*The Latter Fire by James Swallow (Star Trek: The Original Series)
















June

*Rise of the Federation: Live By the Code by Christopher L. Bennett (Star Trek: Enterprise)













July

*The Star Trek Book: Strange New Worlds Boldly Explained by Paul Ruditis, Sandford Galden-Stone, and Simon Hugo















September

*Elusive Salvation by Dayton Ward (Star Trek: The Original Series)













October

*Force and Motion by Jeffrey Lang (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)













November

*Legacies, Book 1: Captain to Captain by Greg Cox (Star Trek: The Original Series)













December

*Rules of Accusation by Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmann (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
*Legacies, Book 2: Best Defense by David Mack (Star Trek: The Original Series)
*Legacies, Book 3: Purgatory's Key by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (Star Trek: The Original Series)
*Time Lock by Christopher L. Bennett (Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations)
*Prey, Book 1: Hell's Heart by John Jackson Miller (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
*Prey, Book 2: The Jackal's Trick by John Jackson Miller (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
*Prey, Book 3: The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller (Star Trek: The Next Generation)




Best Trek novel of 2016:

As always, picking my favorite Trek novel of 2016 was difficult. There were a lot of great entries this year, including the Kirsten Beyer's A Pocket Full of Lies, Christopher Bennett's Live By the Code, and certainly the Prey trilogy was a huge highlight! I also loved Dayton Ward's Elusive Salvation, and the e-books Rules of Accusation by Block & Erdmann and Time Lock by Bennett were terrific. However, I can only pick one, I'm afraid. As difficult as it is to do that, I have to give Star Trek novel of the year to:

Star Trek: Prey, Book 3: The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller!

In books one and two, Miller set up an incredible story, but it is in book three that it all pays off. This was a fantastic tale that truly celebrated the 50th anniversary of Star Trek! With plot twists and turns that I didn't suspect, Prey was an absolute highlight of the year, with a completely satisfying conclusion that hit all the right notes. In the end, The Hall of Heroes in particular was a celebration of what makes the Klingons great, and a tribute to the grand alliance between the Empire and the Federation. John Jackson Miller, while initially making his name in the Star Wars novel-verse, clearly knows his Trek, too. Props to him for crafting a wonderful tale worthy of song!


Prey, Book 3: The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller: The Best of Trek for 2016!


Well, let's end off by taking a look at what's on deck for 2017 in Trek lit!

January's novel is a TOS adventure by Christopher L. Bennett: The Face of the Unknown, a sequel to the classic TOS episode "The Corbomite Maneuver," a favorite of mine. This was just released in the last couple of days, so look for my review soon!

In February, Dayton Ward continues the voyage of the Enterprise-E in its mission of exploration of the Odyssean Pass in Headlong Flight.

March's novel is David R. George III's newest foray into the world of Deep Space Nine with The Long Mirage. Kira returns from her extended stay in the wormhole, and Quark searches for Morn!



Next up, April brings us the long-awaited continuation of Bashir's story in Section 31: Control by David Mack. This looks to be an exciting novel if the previous entry, Disavowed, is any indication.

May will be a big month for Trek with the premiere of the new television series, Star Trek: Discovery! However, did you know that David Mack is also writing the first tie-in novel, released in the same month? I'm awaiting this one with barely-restrained enthusiasm!

June brings us another TNG adventure by Dayton Ward, Hearts and Minds. He has said that this one relates back to his From History's Shadow series, which also includes the TOS novel Elusive Salvation. Color me intrigued!


June also features an e-book exclusive novella, with Christopher L. Bennett continuing the Department of Temporal Investigations series in Shield of the Gods. Always love this series!

July features another Deep Space Nine novel by one of my favorite authors, Una McCormack: Enigma Tales. Look for lots of Cardassian Garak-y goodness in this one!

Later in the year, we get the next instalment in Christopher L. Bennett's Rise of the Federation series with Patterns of Interference. A strong series in the current Trek lit lineup, these are always fun and excellently written.

Architects of Infinity comes afterwards, the latest in Kirsten Beyer's Voyager series. This series always produces contenders for the best book of the year, and Beyer has yet to disappoint. Great character work and strong plots abound!

You can check out all of the new releases for 2017 by clicking here. You can also pre-order all of them from Amazon! A portion of the revenue generated from the links comes back to Trek Lit Reviews, so you'll be helping out the site! Links are provided on the new releases page.



It's been a terrific year with Literary Treks and Kertrats Productions really taking off, but I am disappointed in my output here on Trek Lit Reviews. I don't think I'll ever be back up to 2015 levels of a review a week, however, I am trying to manage my time a little better, and Trek Lit Reviews is still one of my favorite things to do!

Here's hoping the 2017 is a wonderful year, and I wish everyone reading all the best in the new year!


DFTBA, and Live Long and Prosper, my friends!



Friday, December 30, 2016

The Hall of Heroes

Star Trek: Prey
Book 3 of 3
The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller
Release date: November 29th 2016
Read December 7th 2016


Previous book (Prey): Book 2: The Jackal's Trick

Next book (The Next Generation): Headlong Flight


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



Spoilers ahead for The Hall of Heroes!

Publisher's description:
Continuing the milestone 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek—an epic new trilogy that stretches from the events of The Original Series movie The Search for Spock to The Next Generation!

The Klingon Empire stands on the precipice. In the wake of violence from the cult known as the Unsung, paranoia threatens to break Chancellor Martok’s regime. Klingons increasingly call for a stronger hand to take control...one that Lord Korgh, master manipulator, is only too willing to offer.

But other forces are now in motion. Assisted by a wily agent, the Empire’s enemies secretly conspire to take full advantage of the situation. Aboard the USS Titan, Admiral William T. Riker realizes far more than the Federation’s alliance with the Klingons is in danger. With the Empire a wounded animal, it could either become an attacker—or a target.

Yet even as hostilities increase, Commander Worf returns to the USS Enterprise and Captain Jean-Luc Picard with a daring plan of his own. The preservation of both the Empire and the Federation alliance may hinge on an improbable savior leading a most unlikely force....

My thoughts:

An Empire in disarray, relations between the Klingons and the Federation on a knife's edge, and a usurper who vows to make the Klingon Empire great again is attempting to seize power. And now, even foreign powers such as the Breen and the Kinshaya are getting involved! After an amazing set-up in books one and two, it all comes down to this. How does the final book in the Prey trilogy compare?

The alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire is once again put at risk thanks to the machinations of Korgh.

John Jackson Miller has set a difficult task before himself. Up to now, the Prey trilogy has been wonderfully fresh and intriguing, with plot twists and turns that haven't failed to surprise. Thankfully, in The Hall of Heroes, Miller sticks the landing, and even gets full marks from the judges, if you will indulge my tortured metaphor. Continuing the strong character work and tight plotting of books one and two, book three was an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

One character who is especially intriguing is Shift, seen in the first two books as the Orion assistant to Buxtus Cross. She would often be seen to adopt a guise along with Cross in order to lead the Unsung in their attacks on Klingons and other targets. However, with the death of Cross at the end of The Jackal's Trick, Shift's true allegiances are revealed. Working for the Breen, Shift has been deep undercover in Cross's "Truthcrafter" group, biding her time. I really loved this character. Shift's motivations for joining the Breen and their true egalitarian society make a lot of sense for an Orion woman who has spent her entire life being valued mainly for her appearance. With their full-body suits, all Breen look alike, and that sort of anonymity would be very tempting to someone like Shift.

The Breen, with their philosophy of conformity and egalitarianism, are very alluring to someone like Shift, who comes from a society where looks are all that matters.

As with many Klingon tales, redemption is a motif that plays out in Prey. The crimes of the Unsung are at least partially redeemed by their actions in The Hall of Heroes, and by their continued service after the end of the story. Also, Kahless himself experiences a form of redemption, after having languished in isolation for many years. He once again has a purpose to serve, and his role as Emperor is once again valued by him.

A great lesson imparted in this story is the idea that history should be remembered. The Unsung became such a huge problem partly because they were forgotten by the Empire. Being discommendated made them less than nothing in the eyes of the Empire, and therefore beneath their notice, allowing them to be corrupted by Korgh and his confederates. If the Klingons had felt it necessary to keep track of them, it's likely that these events would not have happened.

In the end, rather than seeing the end of the alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, Prey becomes a celebration of it. While the Federation and the Empire are both very different, it is in those differences that they find strength. A beautiful cameo appearance by a character who had a direct hand in originally bringing the two powers together ties the story up nicely, and cements it as a perfect celebration of 50 years of Star Trek.


Final thoughts:

The end of the Prey trilogy, and the final part of this novel in particular, are supremely satisfying. I feel like it would be difficult to craft an ending that sufficiently matches the high notes of the previous two books, but John Jackson Miller has accomplished that and more. The Hall of Heroes is the highlight of an already great trilogy, a wonderful celebration of 50 years of Star Trek. These books were a lot of fun to read, and I look forward to seeing where both the shared continuity and John Jackson Miller's contributions to it will go from here!
5/5 stars!

More about The Hall of Heroes:


Also by John Jackson Miller:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Coming up tomorrow: my annual wrap-up of the year in Trek Lit! Keep an eye out for the 2016 Trek Lit Year in Review!


Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Jackal's Trick

Star Trek: Prey
Book 2 of 3
The Jackal's Trick by John Jackson Miller
Release date: October 25th 2016
Read November 9th 2016


Previous book (Prey): Book 1: Hell's Heart

Next book (Prey): Book 3: The Hall of Heroes


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

Spoilers ahead for The Jackal's Trick!

Publisher's description:
Continuing the milestone 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek—an epic new trilogy that stretches from the events of The Original Series movie The Search for Spock to The Next Generation!

The Klingon-Federation alliance is in peril as never before. Lord Korgh has seized control of the House of Kruge, executing a plot one hundred years in the making. The Klingon cult known as the Unsung rampages across the stars, striking from the shadows in their cloaked Birds-of-Prey. And the mysterious figure known as Buxtus Cross launches a scheme that will transform the Klingon Empire forever.

Into danger flies Admiral William T. Riker and the USS Titan, charged with protecting the peace forged nearly a century before during the Khitomer Accords. Aided by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise, Riker and his officers scour the stars, seeking to find the Unsung and uncover the truth behind the conspiracy before time runs out.

Yet even as Commander Worf departs on a deeply personal mission of honor, hidden sinister forces seek to turn the crisis to their advantage. And the conspirators’ plans threaten to spiral out of control, jeopardizing the very empire they aspire to rule.

My thoughts:

The Prey trilogy continues in book two, The Jackal's Trick! In this instalment, Galdor (recently revealed to be the treacherous Korgh) has seized the House of Kruge through dishonorable means. His troops, The Unsung, believe they are being led by the legendary Kruge himself. However, "Kruge" is actually a Betazoid con artist by the name of Buxtus Cross. Book one, Hell's Heart, was an examination of the history of Galdor/Korgh, while this book takes a look at what led Buxtus Cross to where he is now.

Cross was a former Starfleet officer who had murdered a fellow officer. Escaping from prison thanks to some skilled "truthcrafters," Cross now leads the troupe as they ply their schemes across the galaxy. "Truthcrafters" are basically con artists who use tricks and illusion to hoodwink unsuspecting victims. Think Ardra from the TNG episode "Devil's Due," who used cloaking technology, transporters, and holography to convince the people of Ventax that she was their version of Satan, returned to collect on an ancient debt. Cross, in his guise as Lord Kruge, has taken control of the Unsung in order to carry out Korgh's scheme. However, he has his own goals in mind as well.

The people manipulating the Unsung have created a cult of personality around their fake version of Lord Kruge.

One thing that stood out to me in The Jackal's Trick is the way in which the Unsung are manipulated. It has a very familiar feel to it. They have an unwavering belief in and support of Kruge, to an extent that is downright scary. It does, however, make a lot of sense. The Unsung are discommendated Klingons, which makes them among the most vulnerable in that society. People who have had everything taken from them can be very easily manipulated. Weakened or oppressed people have always been easy targets of a charismatic leader. Germany's disillusioned population after World War One fell under Hitler's sway, and cults will often target new arrivals to a city because they are cut off from family and may feel lonely and vulnerable. In fact, the Unsung feels very much like a cult. One Klingon in this book says to Worf that it "doesn't matter" that their leader may not truly be Kruge; he is nonetheless "saying the right things." This all seems eerily familiar, which makes it all the more terrifying.

One thing that John Jackson Miller excels at is writing exciting, beautifully visual scenes. There are a few in this book that certainly jump out. At one point, the Unsung are attacking a conference being held at H'Atoria. During the battle, just when you think the Starfleet forces are completely outmatched, Riker issues a coded order and Starfleet troops emerge from beneath the water in a brilliant counterattack. Not only is the sequence amazing to imagine, but it is reflective of part of the story being crafted in this trilogy. Throughout the narrative, Korgh and his schemes makes some headway, seeming to embarrass Starfleet and harm their standing in the Klingon Empire. However, at no point are they completely defeated, and the result is a sort of cat-and-mouse game in which both sides score their own victories from time to time. This makes for an exciting story in which you are never really sure what will happen next.

Admiral Riker and his flagship, the Titan, put in an appearance in the Prey trilogy.

Also fun to see is Riker and the Titan getting some more "screen time." The crossover aspect of these event trilogies are always a highlight, and it's great to see the various crews working together to solve a problem. With the Aventine set to show up in book three, Prey is looking like a more epic story all the time. While maybe not on the level of Destiny, it's still good to see these larger stories being undertaken by the novels.

As with Hell's Heart, The Jackal's Trick ends on a completely unexpected note. In this second book, we learned a lot about Buxtus Cross and what makes him tick, but in book three, it seems as though there is yet another mastermind behind what has been happening. Her story is yet to come...


Final thoughts:

Another strong entry in this exciting trilogy! I'm really getting into the story of Korgh, and once again, Miller has crafted a tale with plot twists that I didn't see coming at all. After reading a few hundred Trek novels in my life, I would not have thought it possible, but there you go. Setting up an exciting conclusion for book three, this trilogy just keeps getting better and better.
4.5/5 stars.

More about The Jackal's Trick:


Also by John Jackson Miller:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

The Prey trilogy concludes in Book 3: The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller!