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Jason of Star Command 1: Mission to the Stars

Jason of Star Command 1: Mission to the StarsOrder this bookStory: As Jason, Professor Parsafoot and the crew of Star Command deal with the arrival of a new leader, Commander Stone , an ancient evil has returned to the Galaxy. But Dracos, Galactic Dictator from the distant past, isn’t the only surprise in store, as Jason comes across Samantha, a mysterious alien whose origins and motivations are unclear.

Review: For those of you unfamiliar with Jason of Star Command, it was a Saturday morning live-action sci-fi show by renowned production company Filmation. Spun off from (and replacing) their existing show, Space Academy, Jason took on a more serious tone and tried to capture some of the excitement and spectacle of a little film that had been released the previous year, Star Wars. The show was surprisingly good, with special effects far and above anything else seen on TV in 1978. (They honestly put Space: 1999 to shame in that department.) After a season as a fifteen-minute segment on Tarzan and the Super 7, the show was upgraded to a full half-hour standalone show. “Mission to the Stars” is primarily an adaptation of the first few episodes of the second season. But even though it follows the plot fairly closely, it fails to capture the spirit of the show. Continue reading

Ashes Of Victory

Ashes Of VictoryOrder this bookStory: Honor Harrington’s triumphant return home from her miraculous jailbreak from the prison planet Hell, deep within enemy territory in the People’s Republic of Haven, becomes a rallying crew among her own people on Mantocore and Grayson – and a massive public embarrassment for Haven, whose officials not only claimed to have executed her, but created “news footage” of the event to prove it. The two remaining top leaders on Haven are not only trying to dance around that issue, but they find themselves growing increasingly wary of their own hand-picked Secretary of War, whose charisma could command more respect from the military than Haven’s own leaders do. Honor is taken off of active duty as she recovers from the brutal injuries she suffered on Hell, but this also clears the way for her promotion to admiral and an opportunity to teach advanced tactics at the legendary Saganami Island Academy. As Honor shapes the future of Manticore’s military, other events are set into motion that will change the future of both sides of the war.

Review: “Ashes Of Victory” has a feeling of being a pause in the ongoing Honor Harrington saga…albeit a pause where a lot manages to happen. The moment Honor is relieved of active duty to recuperate, rather than being patched up and sent back into battle, you know that “Ashes” isn’t going to be a typical book in the series (if indeed there is such a thing at this point). David Weber spends a lot of time behind enemy lines, setting up monumental events from the Haven side of the story, and certain tactical advantages on Manticore’s side that have been built up since the previous book turn out to be something of a red herring. Continue reading

Hitchhiker: A Biography Of Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker: A Biography Of Douglas AdamsOrder this bookStory: Author (and SFX Magazine co-founder) M.J. Simpson references a wealth of interviews with “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” author Douglas Adams – and his friends and associates – to paint a fairly complete picture of his life as a science fiction icon, creative thinker, advocate for the popularization of science and technology, and staunch avoider of deadlines.

Review: “Hitchhiker” is a book that Adams fans probably love or loathe…depending largely upon whether this is the first biography they’ve read of their hero. Years and years ago I was extolling the virtues of Neil Gaiman’s “Don’t Panic”, which, to be fair, is only partly a biography but is also a history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide franchise. However, considering that Adams was intimately involved with Hitchhiker’s Guide up to the time of his death, it seems unlikely that anyone could really tell one story without having to tell the other. Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Avatar: Book Two

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Avatar: Book OneOrder this bookStory: The discovery of an ancient prophecy about 10,000 deaths before the birth of the Avatar – the son of the Emissary – worries Kira and Ro. When Vedek Yevir is summoned to investigate the ancient book, he instantly denounces it as the writings of a Bajoran heretic cult that turned away from the teachings of the prophets. But Kira isn’t so sure – all of the prophecies thus far have come true. She doesn’t have time to worry about it, however, when a new crisis arrives – the Jem’Hadar soldier who claims to have come to DS9 under orders from Odo breaks out and goes on a killing spree, making his way toward the station’s reactor core to overload it. Commander Vaughn, having just arrived aboard the recently-docked Enterprise-E, helps Kira to prevent the station’s destruction, but the two only survive with the help of another Jem’Hadar who claims to be on the same mission. A Starfleet attack force masses in anticipation of a new Dominion War, unless the new Jem’Hadar arrival can prove what he says to be true – and Kira unleashes chaos on Bajor by revealing the forbidden prophecies to the general population…only to discover that the prophecy of 10,000 sacrifices has already come to pass.

Review: I was sharply critical of the first volume of the two-book “Avatar” because it seemed like it was all setup. Book two is all payoff, and it really does redeem the story as a whole. Maybe this is a better relaunch for Deep Space Nine than I was really capable of giving it credit for after reading only the first book. Continue reading

Doctor Who: Made Of Steel

Doctor Who: Made Of SteelOrder this bookStory: Martha’s journeys with the Doctor are exciting, but she wants to drop in and check on her friends at the hospital where she worked before stepping into the TARDIS. When the Doctor and Martha arrive, they find they’re not the only otherworldly visitors around – Cybermen appear out of thin air and attempt to kidnap them, but the attempt fails. But the Army also wants to talk to the Doctor – Cybermen have been on the move, stealing electronic gear from retail stores and military supply depots alike. The Doctor realizes that these are Cybermen that must have been constructed from local material during the invasion of Canary Wharf, so, untouched by “voidstuff,” they wouldn’t have been sucked back into the Void. When Martha is abducted by the Cybermen, the Doctor – with military backup – goes on the offensive.

Review: There’s something about a Doctor Who story written by Terrance Dicks that fits like a comfortable old shoe. As the script editor of the series during the Pertwee years, Dicks had the unique opportunity to become the chief writer – by default – of the Doctor Who novelizations in the 1980s, writing prose versions of dozens of the TV stories that didn’t have much more of a page count than this. So in that respect, “Made Of Steel” is back to Target Books basics. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – Homecoming

Star Trek: Voyager - HomecomingOrder this bookStory: After Voyager’s spectacular return to the Alpha Quadrant, Captain Janeway and her crew have mere days en route to Earth to readjust to life as they once knew it. Amid subdued ceremonies at Starfleet HQ, Janeway is promoted to Admiral, and several of her officers – including Tuvok, Tom Paris, B’elanna Torres and Harry Kim – receive promotions as well. The standing charges against the Maquis crewmembers are dropped and each is offered an opportunity to resume their Starfleet careers at their previous ranks (an offer Chakotay prefers to sleep on). The heavily modified Voyager is immediately impounded by Starfleet Command so that its unusual technology can be studied. The holographic doctor is annoyed to find that virtually no one pays him any attention in this new environment, while Seven of Nine is just as annoyed to find herself at the center of attention. Voyager’s crew scatters to new lives and new assignments, but when a fanatical hologram rights activist launches a full-scale revolution – inspired by the doctor’s holonovel – and several incidents of spontaneous Borg assimilation befall unsuspecting victims, Starfleet brings Voyager’s crew together again…to arrest and detain them on unspecified charges.

Review: I think I’ve stated, more than once, a faint annoyance with most “licensed property” fiction. With the “reboot” of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Pocket Books had a chance to get daring, and a few years later, Pocket got the chance to do it again with the now-decommissioned Star Trek: Voyager. And this time, they got it right – “Homecoming” is not just an inventive way to continue Voyager’s story past the television series’ irritatingly lame finale, but the book also does one Mr. Roddenberry proud by using its 24th century setting to address serious issues that were just beginning to make themselves known in the post-9/11 21st century. Continue reading

Babylon 5: The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski

Season One (Vol. 1 & 2)

Babylon 5: The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski: Season One (Vol. 2)Babylon 5: The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski: Season One (Vol. 1)Order this bookStory: Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski republishes the scripts from the episodes he wrote; in addition to the shooting scripts, Straczynski provides a brand new introduction discussing each episode and the series in general. Photos and memos are also included to provide a look at the show’s development.

Review: These two books are part of a planned 14-book series of script collections that Straczynski and his partners are publishing through CafePress. They include only the scripts that Straczynski himself wrote, which he has the rights to republish due to Writers Guild rules. It’s a pretty simple presentation, right down to the bare-bones cover, but the books hold together well, the typesetting’s legible, and the copy-editing is better than on some of the academic books I’ve read recently, so I have nothing against the do-it-yourself approach. The scripts themselves are the heart of the books, and if you don’t already know if you like the episodes in question, this book is not for you. (I did, so I guess it is.) Continue reading

Boarding The Enterprise

Boarding The EnterpriseOrder this bookStory: A lively mixture of SF writers (many of them with connections to the original Star Trek) and other essayists look back to the dawn of Star Trek, dissecting the original show to ponder its meaning, and stepping back to analyze the meaning that the Trek phenomenon has taken on over time. Contributors include David Gerrold (who also co-edited), D.C. Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Howard Weinstein, Eric Greene, Michael Burstein, Robert Metzger, and several others.

Review: I’ve been an admirer of BenBella’s Smart Pop books for some time now, enjoying the variety of ways of looking at their subjects that the standard-issue scattershot of writers brought to the table for each book. Sure, there are the occasional bone-dry essays, and there have been a few occasions in the past where attempts at humorous essays flatlined like badly-written internet humor. Generally, though, I look forward to the more-or-less factual essays, examining their subjects from an angle that I might not have previously considered. And if there’s an occasional essay from someone who’s worked on the show, that’s icing on the cake that elevates it slightly above the other “Unauthorized! And Uncensored!” books about various pop culture phenomena that are already on the market. When you look at the short list of honest-to-God Star Trek luminaries lining this book’s table of contents and credits, it’s clear that “Boarding The Enterprise” has hit something of a home run. Continue reading

Star Trek: Mission To Horatius

Star Trek: Mission To HoratiusOrder this bookStory: The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is growing restless after months without shore leave. Unfortunately, a distress signal has been sent to Star Fleet from the Horatius system and Captain James T. Kirk and the Enterprise are given the mission to find out which of the distant planets of the system has sent the message and help if they can. When they arrive at the system in question they find three planets colonized by humans, all in various stages of stunted development. Travelling to each one by one, the crew of the Enterprise try to determine who is the victim and who is the aggressor.

Review: “Mission To Horatius” has the distinction of being the first original Star Trek novel, published two years before James Blish’s “Spock Must Die”. It is also the only one published during the show’s original run. Reflecting the view of the day that Science Fiction was meant for children, “Mission To Horatius” was printed in a hardcover format similar to the “Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” novels (and proudly boasts of being an “Authorized TV Adventure” on the spine). Continue reading

The Star Trek: Voyager Companion

Book titleOrder this bookStory: The journeys of the starship Voyager are explored through extensive synopses of every episode.

Review: First, a note about how we approach things here at Even the stuff that we don’t really get into, we realize that someone, somewhere, probably adores. When it comes right down to it, it’s just our opinion anyway, and everything is somebody’s curate’s egg. We really try not to pan something relentlessly. That being said, readers should be forewarned that, in this reviewer’s honest and fair opinion, The “Star Trek: Voyager Companion” sucks. I cannot believe Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, or Viacom Licensing let this turkey hit a printing press in this form. Continue reading