Star Trek: Countdown

Star Trek: CountdownBuy this book in StoreStardate 64333.4: A threat to Romulus is detected by a mining ship commanded by a Romulan named Nero. A supernova with unique properties is consuming everything in its path. Ambassador Spock, now the Federation’s formal ambassador to Romulus, urges the Romulan Senate to treat this threat with the utmost severity, but his pleas fall on deaf ears – at least at the highest levels. Spock’s proposal of a means to stop the all-consuming supernova captures Nero’s imagination, and Nero is willing to pledge the resources of his mining ship to gather the decalithium Spock’s plan requires. This also means leaving his wife – about to give birth to a son – on Romulus, but Nero is swayed by Spock’s promise of help. Despite interference from Reman pirates – a situation which is resolved in Nero’s favor by the timely arrival of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Captain Data – Nero’s crew gathers the material necessary and heads for Vulcan. But both Nero and Spock are unwelcome on Vulcan: the Romulan is considered a security risk, and Spock is considered a traitor, until Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard steps in to clear the obstacles in their path. But even Picard’s influence cannot sway the Vulcan Science Council: they give the supernova threat no more credence than the Romulan Senate. Nero races back to Romulus to evacuate his family, only to see the planet destroyed before his eyes. Enraged, Nero decides that the trip to Vulcan was a Vulcan/Federation plot to delay his mission to save Romulus, and when Nero’s ship, the Narada, recovers surviving members of the Senate, Nero kills them, feeling that they too betrayed the Romulan people with their indecision. Using information acquired from the Senators, Nero takes the Narada to a top-secret Romulan facility called the Vault, where he acquires adaptive technology for the Narada and sets forth on a mission of vengeance. Ambassadors Spock and Picard, Captain Data, retired Commander Geordi La Forge and Klingon General Worf combine forces to try to stop Nero’s unquenchable thirst for revenge, as well as the spreading supernova threat. Only one of these goals can be met – and though Spock succeeds in preventing the supernova from spreading further, he finds that the resulting cosmic energies unleashed may have given Nero a way to take his quest for revenge into the past. Spock pursues the Romulan into the past, knowing that it can only be a one-way trip.

Review: Considered the “official prequel” to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, “Countdown” sets up Nero and Spock as we see them in the movie, and gives us a taste of the future from which they hail. The story also shows us where the TNG characters are in relation to all of this, and helps to tie the movie’s story in to the existing franchise. As is typical of material in the “expanded” Star Trek universe, there’s no indication that IDW was under any pressure to pay any attention to what’s going on in the increasingly cataclysmic post-Star Trek: Nemesis novels by Pocket Books, and some readers may be just fine with that. The comic even ties off some of the developments introduced in Nemesis itself, and in some cases it minimizes their impact or erases it altogether – again, perhaps not something that anyone will mourn. Read More

Star Trek: The New Voyages

Star Trek: The New VoyagesOrder this bookStory: A collection of short stories about the journeys of the starship Enterprise and her crew.

Review: It’s hard to realize nowadays, when fan fiction is so prevalent (some would say invasive) but in 1976, the idea of finding a broader audience for fan fiction (outside of the meager readership of fanzines) was a fantastic notion. Without the all-powerful, all-seeing Internet, the only hope for fanfic writers would be the outlandish idea that Paramount themselves would allow a professionally published collection of such stories. But that’s just what Paramount did. They were about to launch the regular series of Star Trek novels with “Spock, Messiah!” and, perhaps, “Star Trek: The New Voyages” was an easy way to get material out to the public while the more professional work was being finalized. (They also upped the ante by getting Gene Roddenberry and the principal cast to write introductions, maybe as a way to take the curse of fanfic off.) Whatever the reason for the book’s publication, it’s good to know that this isn’t the first properly published Star Trek original fiction (having been preceded by junior novel “Mission to Horatius” and James Blish’s “Spock Must Die!”) as it is one of the most embarrasingly amateurish collection of nonsense ever to get the “official” stamp of approval. It basically proves that fan fiction hasn’t changed all that much in thirty years: it stinks. Read More

Star Trek: Voyager – The Farther Shore

Star Trek: Voyager - The Farther ShoreOrder this bookStory: With Borg assimilation slowly spreading in viral form on Earth, and Voyager’s holographic Doctor accused of having a hand in a violent “holorevolution,” suspicion is cast on Voyager’s crew. Admiral Janeway is already putting plans into action to free the Doctor, Seven of Nine and Icheb, in the hopes of not only clearing their names, but putting them to work solving the Borg mystery. With help from Lt. Commander Data, who has ostensibly arrived to provide legal counsel in the Doctor’s fight for recognition as a sentient, Janeway and her reunited crew retake Voyager and prepare for the fight ahead, when a shocking discovery is made: a new Borg Queen is behind the assimilation virus, and has been working on it for years – from within Starfleet itself.

Review: Picking up from the end of “Homecoming” and barreling toward the story’s conclusion without pausing for breath, “The Farther Shore” continues to complicate the immediate plotline for Voyager’s crew, but is clearly setting up problems for them to tackle down the road. Read More

I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol / 12 Days on the Road / Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Book titleOrder this bookStory: Three books tell the story of legendary punk band the Sex Pistols.

Review: My fascination with the Sex Pistols began with my brother giving me the documentary The Filth and the Fury for either my birthday or Christmas one year with the cryptic words “You don’t know you want this.” He followed that up with John Lydon’s autobiography, “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”, but I just couldn’t get into it, not getting past the first few pages before I put it down. But about a year later, I acquired a different book on the Sex Pistols by their US tour manager, Noel Monk; “12 Days on the Road”, the story of the band’s raucous career-ending tour. With its much more visceral feel and crazy stories right off the bat, it was much easier to get into. So after finishing that, I went back to “Rotten” and then bought original bass player Glen Matlock’s autobiography “I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol”. Three very different perspectives on the story of the band lead to three very different books. Ultimately, they compliment each other, helping to give a more rounded view than any one book would have done alone. Read More

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. Read More

The Dune Encyclopedia

The Dune EncyclopediaOrder this bookStory: A collection of essays on various aspects of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, written as an in-universe encyclopedia.

Review: I never read “Dune”. Oh, I tried. How I tried. But Herbert’s dense writing was simply impenetrable to me at an age when I was reading everything. My brother had read the books and it was the fact that he had them that made me try to read them in the first place. I found the stories fascinating, but simply could not get into the novels themselves. (The passage of time has robbed of the memory as to whether I had seen the movie or not.) But then my brother got the book that seemed to solve my problems: “The Dune Encyclopedia”. Read More

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. Read More

Phoenix Without Ashes

Phoenix Without AshesOrder this bookStory: A young man named Devon finds himself ostracized from his community of Cypress Corners because he dares to defy the Elders. It has been decreed by “the Creator” that Rachel, the woman Devon loves, is to marry another young man, Devon’s childhood friend, Garth. After learning that the Elders have been manipulating the judgements of “the Creator”, Devon is sentenced to death. But he escapes to the hills, where he finds a portal to an extremely perplexing place filled with shiny walls and technology the likes of which he has never seen. He learns that what he thought was the world was merely one of thousands of ecopods that house the remains of the human race. These pods form The Ark, a gigantic ship built to bring a cross-section of humanity to a new world, safe from Earth’s impeding destruction. But Devon also learns that something has gone horribly wrong. Hundreds of years earlier, a disaster struck the Ark, diverting it from its course and sending it instead towards the heart of a star. Devon decides to return to Cypress Corners to find help in saving the Ark and all that remains of the human race. But will they listen?

Review: Phoenix Without Ashes is an adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s original pilot for a television series called The Starlost. In a nutshell, The Starlost was a television series that Harlan was hired to create. After quickly falling into his typically antagonistic relationship with the producers, Harlan left the show, disowning it and publicly declaring his contempt for it. His original script was reworked for the first episode and Harlan later allowed author Edward Bryant to adapt that original script into novel form. But far from serving to highlight why Harlan’s script is superior, it only serves to highlight how little it takes to make Harlan feel that his work has been ruined. Read More

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. Read More


BanacekOrder this bookStory: Freelance insurance investigator (a “ten percenter”) Thomas Banacek tackles one of his most intriguing cases, as a high-profile professional football player disappears from under a tackle pile-up in front of a sell-out crowd and millions of television viewers.

Review: Banacek was a part of NBC’s popular “Mystery Movie” series that followed in the footsteps of Columbo and the other series that pioneered the genre. It proved to be quite popular and lasted two seasons, only being cancelled when star George Peppard decided to back out rather than earn more money that would count towards his then-impending divorce from actress Elizabeth Ashley. While never reaching the success level of Columbo (due to its short lifespan), Banacek nonetheless is a well-remembered series, but one that totally escaped my notice until a DVD release was announced in 2007. So when a copy of the series’ only novel, “Banacek” turned up at a local thrift store, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. Read More