February 2012

The second in a nine book series about Star Trek: TNG crew before the movie Nemesis.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 296 plus an excerpt from the next book in the series
Publisher: Pocket Books

At the start of the book the crew of Enterprise-E is in a bad place after their return from the disastrous tour on the Rashanar Battle Site. Captain Picard has been relieved of command and is in the custody of Counselor Colleen Cabot of the Medical Mental Health department. Riker is the acting captain but he’s unable to keep the crew’s spirits up and many have requested reassignment. LaForge is thinking of retiring and Data has been ordered to hand over his emotion ship because the Admiralty is afraid that the chip will unbalance him. The Ontailians want Picard to admit to murder or they will leave the Federation.

Picard is stationed on the Medical Mental Health’s holodeck where he has lived like a recluse. He accepts a deal so that he won’t be sent to prison and that Starfleet will avoid a public trial. However, Wesley is determined to help with his Traveler powers. Wesley visits a few key people and tries to convince them that Picard did the right thing and that something very dangerous is lurking in the Rashanar Battle Site. Wesley is concerned that his meddling will cause the other Travelers to strip him of his powers but he can’t just observe dispassionately. He goes so far that he takes Picard’s accuser at the inquiry, in the previous book, to Rashanar to show him what is going on there. He also takes Cabot to a similar journey and soon enough they persuade the Admiralty to send the Enterprise back to Rashanar to investigate it, unofficially. However, Riker is still the acting captain during this undercover operation and Picard is just a passenger. Cabot is also going because Picard is still her patient.

The Ontailians aren’t happy to see Starfleet, or especially the Enterprise, to return to the site, so the crew must disguise themselves. They end up getting an old shuttle and sending four people in it to scout the site. Picard, Cabot, tactical officer Vale, and Wesley in disguise as Ensign Brewster put on civilian clothes and try to blend in with the looters on the battle site. It’s very dangerous.

There’s also a side plot with Data. One of the admirals wants to insert a chip in his head to replace the emotion chip. The Admiral doesn’t tell Data what the chip will do and it’s all really fishy. LaForge is rightly very concerned and Wesley interferes to get Data out of the Engineering section intact. Maybe this will be explored further later.

Cabot has a passionate romance with one of the established characters. She’s also a significant point-of-view character to the point that she seems to be the main character. She starts out the book as a competent Counselor who doubts Picard’s story but not his sanity or capability as a captain. As far as I can tell, she’s never left Earth. However, once she’s on the Enterprise, she quickly shows a strong adventurous spirit and she has no trouble handling the suspicious and rowdy looters of various races. This seemed quite abrupt change to me. I had no problem with the romance but I wished to see more of the regular cast.

I tend to love stories where the (highly capable) Starfleet officers are out of their element (such as Gambit 1 and 2) and this was definitely such a book. Picard and Vale disguise themselves as looters and try to get information out of the other looters. I enjoyed this even though Cabot steals their thunder somewhat. I also enjoyed Wesley’s reluctance to show himself to his friends because he feared that the more he showed himself, the sooner his powers would be gone. In that respect, the ending wasn’t satisfying.

I was a bit surprised that the Ontailians apparently got no trial and no punishment even though they destroyed a Starfleet ship in the previous book. It just wasn’t mentioned and somehow Picard got accused for that. We did get to know more of the Ontailians in this book and their culture seems to be, for once, quite different from the modern Western one, which was a pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them.

The plot is wrapped up in this book, except possibly the issue with Data’s emotion chip.


Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Books That Broke My Heart A Little.

I haven’t read many of these lately but here goes:

1, Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns
2, Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon
3, Lois McMaster Bujold: Cryoburn
4, Marie Brennan: A Star Shall Fall
5, Rachel Caine: Thin Air
6, Jaqueline Carey: Kushiel’s Avatar
7, Seanan McGuire: One Salt Sea
8, Robin McKinley: Deerskin
9, Brandon Sanderson: the Hero of Ages

In most of these books very bad things happen to characters I love or the plot is set in a way that you can see the train wreck coming but have to read anyway.

I reviewed Karen Wyle’s Twin-Bred in October and liked it a lot. Now Twin-Bred is part of KDP Select. Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for free, at least from now until May 10, 2012 or so, and everyone will be able to download it for free from Amazon on this coming Wednesday and Thursday, February 15th and 16th.

The first in a nine book series about Star Trek: TNG crew before the movie Nemesis.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 284 plus an excerpt from the next book in the series
Publisher: Pocket Books

The book starts with Wesley. He will have to choose for the final time if he will be a Traveler who will witness things but not get involved or he can return to his mortal life. He chooses to be born again as a Traveler, but afterwards he sees a vision of Enterprise-E’s destruction.

Enterprise-E has been assigned to the Rashanar Battle Site which is a veritable graveyard of star ships and their crews. One of the most fiercest battles in the Dominion War was fought there and now some unexplained phenomena happen there. The starship Juno has been assigned there for the past year and her captain Jill Leeden warns Picard that the site is far more dangerous that he had been told. However, Picard is confident that his experienced crew can handle it and is looking forward to puzzling out what is really happening. Juno’s job is to retrieve the dead for proper burials and identification but the looters are a constant problem so they haven’t had time to research the strange gravity anomalies or floating antimatter which also make sensor readings unreliable.

However, Picard soon finds out that Captain Leeden was right. A whole race of human-like looters, called the Androssi, are determined to steal what they can get, in addition to the Pakleds and some other races. Picard chooses to investigate personally the husk of a Galaxy-glass starship. He takes Data and LaForge with him on his captain’s yacht. Unfortunately, the husk has been occupied by a pair of looters who manage to poison Picard and steal the yacht. Captain Leeden is not impressed and things only go downhill from there.

The second half of the book is a court room drama where Picard has to defend his actions. The book ends with the whole crew in dire straights but from their own Starfleet and not so much from an outside threat.

The book introduces a new non-humanoid race called the Ontailians. They have only recently joined the Federation and their world is closest to the Rashanar site. Four of their vessels are patrolling the site against the looters. They look and move like sloths which was an interesting idea but we don’t get to know much about them.

The main point-of-view character is Captain Picard but other Enterprise crew are also point-of-view characters, as is one of the looters. However, we don’t get a glimpse into the Ontailians.

The book is pretty grim for a canon Star Trek: TNG book with just a couple of Starfleet ships fighting desperately against a whole fleet of looters and other weird thing happening on the battle site. We’re also told that several worlds are withdrawing from the Federation because they’re unhappy about how badly the Dominion War went. The Admiralty is also shown in less than flattering light.

Unfortunately, I found some of the characterization to be a bit off. For example, I’m very surprised that Riker let his captain go to the unexplored husk in a clearly dangerous area, even with Data and LaForge. Also, Crusher should have insisted on seeing Picard immediately after he got back on board instead of meekly waiting until he came to see her. Both of these are plot points later which is unfortunate because now it felt that the writer had to resort of a plot which made the characters idiots.

For some reason Vornholt tried very hard to avoid repetition, including such standard repetition as characters’ names and the verb “said”. I also really didn’t care for the use of “skipper”.

The Rashanar site was pretty exciting and there was a constant feeling of danger when the crew can’t rely on their instruments as usual. We also get to see quite a few familiar secondary characters such as Admiral Nechayev, whom I like a lot, and Admirals Ross and Nakamura. I was also happy to see Wesley again.

Everything was left wide open in the end.

A novella set in the Disappeared universe. It happens during the book The Recovery Man and compliments it nicely. However, it can be read as a stand alone.

Publication year: 2010, first published in Analog in 2009. It’s available at Smashwords.
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 87
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Hadad Yu is a Recovery Man; he finds things that other people want him to find. He assumes his clients have lost them or they have been stolen but he makes a point never to ask about it. Now, he has a possibly very lucrative job. A very wealthy woman wants him to find a rare flowering fidelia and bring it back to her still blooming. Yu suspects that the tree the flower is attached to might be sapient but he doesn’t ask or think about it too much. The terms are generous but Yu has only one chance to recover the flower; if the flower withers or something else happens, Magda Athenia will make sure that Yu will never work again in the Earth Alliance.

Things seem to be going well. Yu has trained with specialists so that he knows everything possible about the flower and after three years he has managed to track down the one place they are blooming. He’s approaches the place carefully, manages to secure the flowering fidelia, and smuggle it out of the planet. He contacts Athenia and confirms a meeting. But then a disaster strikes: the mysterious Black Fleet tracks him, breaches his space ship, and steals the flower. The client is furious and makes good of her threats.

Desperately, Yu travels to the alien Gyonnese for whom he has worked before. To his surprise, a high ranking group of the aliens meets him almost immediately and offers him a lucrative job. They have been hunting down a human woman who is responsible for killing thousands of their larvae. The woman was convicted to lose her child to the Gyonnese but the child died. However, now the woman has another child who apparently is a clone and therefore outside the jurisdiction of Gyonnese who care only about “originals” and not clones who, for them, aren’t real. But the Gyonnese strongly suspect that the mass murderer has fooled them and her original child hadn’t died at all. They want to hire Yu to take the child to them and serve justice. Yu is originally skeptical but when he views the case, he become convinced that serving the Gyonnese is the right thing to do, and he accepts.

Yu is the central character in the story and the only point-of-view character. He’s skilled and competent in his job, but a loner. While Yu often doesn’t care if his work is legal, he does have moral code. He doesn’t recover people, until he agrees to this job. He takes care not to hurt anyone but he doesn’t really think through to the consequences of his actions, especially about the possible consequences to other people. He often works alone and when he works with someone, he keeps them at a distance and doesn’t really know them at all. Yet, when he decides that one of the other characters doesn’t really care for their child, he has nothing but contempt of that person.

Apparently, Yu knows the Gyonnese better than most other humans and he sympathizes with them more than the woman he’s sent to recover.

Yu’s side kick/employee is Nafti who might be a comic relief. Nafti is a strong man who is supposed to carry out Yu’s orders but he isn’t very bright. He’s also a hypochondriac who worries about everything concerning his health. He’s cruel which is, of course, less funny. In fact, Yu has to stop him from hurting people a couple of times.

I listened to Recovery Man a couple of years ago but I remembered how it ended. Still, the novella contained enough new stuff to keep me guessing and entertained.

A new book in the Diving universe! It’s the third book in the series after Diving into the Wreck and City of Ruins. Some spoilers for those two books.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Jennifer van Dyck
Running Time: 9 hrs and 49 minutes

Boneyards opens five years after the end of City of Ruins. The crew of the Ivuar has had a rough time when they are adjusting to their new life. Some have resigned and left, and a few have killed themselves. However, some are still working for their Captain Coop. Boss has employed Coop and his crew, and together they are trying to find out what happened to the world Coop knew. They are also doing their best to keep all technology out of the hands of the Enterran Empire. They are researching all clues they can find about the Dignity Vessels and sector bases which where functional five thousand years ago. What or who destroyed a society powerful enough to build them?

About half of the book focuses on Squishy. Twenty years ago she used to work for the Empire researching Stealth Tech but when she realized just how dangerous it was, she quit and left for wreck diving. She worked for a while with Boss. When the story starts, she’s infiltrated a Stealth Tech research station in order to destroy their work in the hope of saving lives of innocent people. Squishy is also a doctor and she cares a lot about other people’s lives. A lot of Squishy’s story is told in flashbacks some 20 years, back, some a year back. Unfortunately, this was sometimes a little hard to follow in the audio book when I can’t just flip a few pages back, but I enjoyed learning about Squishy’s back story in more detail.

Most of the characters from previous books return and I enjoyed their interaction. However, the book doesn’t advance the overall plot about the anacopa drive much, except for the ending. I also enjoyed a lot that the time displacement wasn’t dealt with easily, as it usually is in Star Trek type stories. Instead the people are stranded and some are rather desperate because of it. Some, such as Coop, are trying to focus on their work and a few couldn’t handle it at all.

Both Coop and Boss are leaders but they have worked together for a while and have a comfortable working relationship, but their personal relationship isn’t as comfortable. They are lovers, but they haven’t revealed that to their crews and Boss doesn’t even think of him much. They don’t interfere with each other’s crews. Coop’s people are military and they don’t sometimes like the way that the civilians work or can argue with their leader.

Most of the characters are single minded in their goals and they are often also paranoid loners. Boss is somewhat more comfortable with her leadership position than before but she still wants to do everything herself. Boss’s crew and the crew from the past work together but sometimes one side lacks information that it very obvious to the other and this causes conflict.

I liked the book a lot but it wasn’t as good as the City of Ruins. However, the ending promises really interesting things to come.

Written by Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, Geoff Johns
Artists: Jerry Ordway, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, John Paul Leon, Dave Stewart
Collects Tom Strong 20-25 with the original covers and concept art.
Publisher: America’s Best Comics
Publication date: 2005

The first three issue have an alternate universe story about Tom Stone. The rest are stand-alone issues.

Issue 20 starts in Tom’s lab where a mysterious, wounded woman is talking to a man whom we don’t see but who is clearly Tom Strong. She tells the tale of “How Tom Stone Got Started”. Tom Strong’s mother Susan had dated a genius scientist Foster Parallax. Ultimately, Susan chose Sinclair Stone but Parallax gives her a locket which contains chronium. Later, when Susan and Sinclair are boarding the ship they’ve hired, Susan is delays for just a few seconds and “Things went one way, rather than another.” The storm is slightly different and so Sinclair dies and the black sailor, Tomas Stone, is stranded with Susan. Tomas and Susan end up together and Susan gives birth to Tom Stone. They raise the boy together among the local tribe.

Tom goes to US and after he’s done a few heroic rescues, he encounters Paul Saveen. Instead of being enemies, the more compassionate Tom suggest that they work together. And so Saveen and Stone become great science heroes. They return to Attabar Teru to Tom’s parents. Tom brings his fiancee Greta Gabriel and young Dhalua is heartbroken about it. However, Paul notices that and makes his own advances on Dhalua. In the end, Dhalua marries Paul and Greta marries Tom. Tom and Paul become the premier science heroes of Millenium City. Most notable, Solomon and Pneuman are missing.

In the next issue, “Strongmen in Silvertime”, the dynamic duo continues to fight familiar foes and mostly rehabilitate them. In the finest alternative universe traditions, the characters are some what different but recognizable: Tesla is the daughter of Dhalua and Paul, and she’s dating a young man whose “father” is a villain in the usual universe. Many of Strong’s villains have joined the ranks of heroes and there’s a great parody about the usual superhero team ups and how they tend to end up fighting each other even though they’re all supposed to be on the same side.

In the final issue “Crisis in Infinite Hearts” the utopia falls because of human mistakes.

I’m a fan of alternative universes so I thoroughly enjoyed this story, although it was a shame that it had go. Of course, it’s pretty hard to write about utopias villains are rehabilitated instead of returning to their villainous ways every few issues. 😉

Issue 23 is “Tom Strong in Moonday”. Svetlana’s husband Dimitri has disappeared during a mission on the Moon and the Strong family are helping to look for him. They are putting up sensor all over the Moon so that they can have a bio-active net which should be able to notice any living things. When putting up a sensor, Val disappears and Tesla is frantic. Meanwhile Tom tells Svetlana about his earlier journey to the Moon when he dreamed about bat people. Only, it might not have been a dream.

The story starts with Tesla and Val at the site of the monument to the Moon landing. Tesla says “They flew up here in this like, really primitive bucket. It must have taken real guts…” I think that was a real nice touch. It’s always nice to have stories in the Moon. I also enjoyed the banter between Svetlana and Tom, and earlier with Dhalua and Svetlana. I also really enjoy it that there’s no sexual tension between Svetlana and Tom.

However, I didn’t really much care for the bat people sot the story was a mixed bag for me.

Next is “Snow Queen” where a group of men are drilling a new tunnel and end up releasing a woman who seems to be made of ice. She turns out to be Tom’s first love, Greta. Tom saw how Doctor Permafrost killed her, except that he didn’t kill her, he put her on suspended animation. In 1928. Now, Greta is back and lots of things have changed in the world, but not for her. Tom tries to help her and introduced her to his family.

This was a good story and rather different for a super hero tale. It’s clearly meant to be continued at some point. It’s introspective but far too short to show us how Greta feels about the situation.

The last story is “Tom Strong’s Pal, Wally Willoughby”. Wally is a huge fan of Tom Strong and he’s come all the way from Buffalo to meet him and become Tom’s new friend. Unfortunately, he has a lot of bad luck; first the bus he’s on, has a flat tire. Then he meets a couple of kids from the Strongmen of America and asks them to introduce him to Tom Strong, but they refuse.

Meanwhile, Millenium City is plagued with rain falling from a clear sky. Then the Strongmen kids have been sucked into their yearbook alive and a giant jelly donut is blocking a high way.

This was a strange and wacky story even by Tom Strong’s standards. Unfortunately, I’ve read a couple of similar stories so it didn’t seem very original.

You get the most out of the first story, if you’ve already read previous issues and are familiar with the characters and the world. So, if you’ve read the earlier collections and enjoyed them, this one is worth reading. However, it’s not a good place to start the series. Overall, I enjoyed the previous collections more.

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