The 2012 Science Fiction Experience

The first book about little aliens the humans call the Fuzzies.

Publication year: 1962
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Peter Ganim
Running Time: 6 hrs and 28 minute

Jack Holloway is an old prospector looking for valuable sunstones on the alien planet Zarathustra. The sunstones are fossilized jellyfish and the arid planet also has land prawns which Jack detests. One day when he returns to his shack, he finds a small, hairy, and cute being in his house. Jack calls it “Little Fuzzy” and feeds it. The Fuzzy has taken Jack’s chisel and uses it as a tool. The Fuzzy also brings his family to meet “Pappy Jack”. Jack tells about them to his friends and the local xenobiologist who are fascinated by the little creatures. They seem to be very intelligent and so the humans are trying to prove that they are sapient.

Unfortunately, the company can exploit the planet only as long as the planet doesn’t have any native sapient people. So Victor Gregor, the owner of the company, wants to keep the fuzzies classification as animals.

The book centers around the question of if the Fuzzies are sapient or not. The humans don’t have an official definition of sapience but many think that being able to use fire and communicate with speech should be the main requirements. Interestingly (because it’s in a book and not real), there’s been a case where a woman who killed her baby had tried to prove that the infant hadn’t been sapient yet, but that didn’t work.

Jack Halloway is a paternal figure to the fuzzies and he’s very protective of them. He’s got loyal friends who are also very concerned about the fuzzies’ future. All of these people seem to be kind and benevolent. They are curious about the creatures but don’t want to harm them or even annoy them. They just want to at first to study the fuzzies and then to prove them sapient. In contrast, the company people are only interested in the fuzzies’ possible impact to their bottom line and are willing to do anything, including murder, to prevent the fuzzies being found sapient.

The humans have a way to know when a person is telling the truth. The device is called a veridicator and is used in courts instead of swearing an oath. It’s, of course, very convenient but was used interestingly with witnesses who have to first be honest with themselves before being able to be honest to the court.

Unfortunately, for me some of the things near the ending were very convenient. Otherwise, this is a charming and thoughtful, if simplistic, short book and I might look up the sequels.

A stand-alone scifi book which is a re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I haven’t read Little Fuzzy but it’s part of the audio book so I will listend it soon.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Running Time: 7 hrs and 19 minutes

Jack Holloway is an independent contractor for ZaraCorps. He and Carl are looking for valuable minerals to mine from a planet without natural intelligent life. The planet does, however, have a lot of various animals, some of them quite dangerous. Jack is a disbarred lawyer who enjoys working all by himself, with Carl. He tends to speak before thinking so he doesn’t really have any friends and has pretty much alienated everyone at ZaraCorps’ local base, even his ex-girlfriend.

Jack has trained Carl, his dog, to set off explosives against ZaraCorps’s regulations and when Carl blows up yet another site, the whole cliff wall collapses. This is against all environmental regulations which ZaraCorps has to follow. Chad Borne, a ZaraCorps’s representative, is furious and fires Jack. However, the collapsed cliff wall has a big stash of sunstones, one of the most highly prized luxury items in the universe. They come from fossilized jellyfish. Because Jack isn’t working for ZaraCorps anymore, technically he owns the find. Borne agrees to give Jack 0,4% of the profits instead of usual 0,05% as a contract prospector.

When Jack returns to his house, which is outside the base, he realizes that a cat like creature has somehow gotten into his house. Except that the cat thing walks on two legs. Jack dubs the creature a fuzzy. Soon, the fuzzy brings more of its kind with it to Jack’s house and Jack decides that they are a family and names them accordingly. The fuzzies seem to be very intelligent. Jack talks about them to his ex-girlfriend Isabelle who is a biologist for the company. She thinks that the fuzzies could be intelligent. If they are, they would be a huge problem for the company because it can mine the planet only so long as there’s no native intelligent life forms on it.

The story is written in a very humorous way in tight third POV. Jack is a witty main character which is a good thing because he isn’t very likable. He seems to enjoy irritating other people, he lies when it suits him, he has no problem undermining his ex’s career, and he’s greedy (well, okay, who wouldn’t be?). Yet because of the humor, this isn’t obvious.

Sometimes he does inexplicable acts of kindness such as feeding the first fuzzy and saving it from Carl. He himself doesn’t know why he did it. Later, we see that he has some morals and lines he doesn’t cross which makes him a bit more palatable.

Most of the secondary characters are corporate employers who want to protect their job or who bully other people because they can. Most of them are quite unlikable. Isabelle is a notable exception to this with her idealistic views of environment and treatment of other people. And Carl is of course a great character, loyal to his master and friendly with others.

Near the start of the book there are a few infodumps. However, they are entertaining to listen to, so they didn’t slow the book down much. We’re told about the human workers on the planet and about the various laws ZaraCorps has to obey. For example, ZaraCorps doesn’t do science as such, just exploitation of the various planets because scientific research doesn’t produce money.

We are told the humans have encountered a few alien species but only two of them have been proven to be intelligent. With both of them the key was that they could talk. I find this fascinating and possibly very human-centric because it’s possible for species to communicate in other ways than speech. Of course, it’s a completely different issue if humans want to give intelligent status to species which doesn’t communicate via speech or how effective such communication would be when building an (advanced) society.

One of the book’s themes is how humans would treat other planets (strip mining) or other species (badly). Then again, people also treat each other miserably. There are glimmers of hope but as a whole it give rather a pessimistic view of the human race as focused on themselves only and on the individual level, getting as much money as they can and the rest of the universe can go to hell.

I enjoyed Wheaton’s narration. He reads quicker than many of the other narrators I’ve listened to so far and sounds very enthusiastic. However, at time it was a bit surreal because I was reading Star Trek books at the same time. 🙂

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.

The third and final book in the trilogy. It’s part on the Sci-Fi Challenge in the Aliens/starships category.

Publication year: 1979
Format: print
Page count: 265
Publisher: DAW

The book starts soon after the startling events at the end of the previous book, Faded Sun: Shon’jir. Sten Duncan has proven to other humans that he has turned fully into a mri and left the human ship orbiting Kutath. He starts a long and painful trek back to the camp.

Meanwhile, the humans don’t know what to think. Admiral Koch commands the three humans ships Flower, Saber, and Santiago. They have followed the mri for long years to their ancient home world Kutath and they’ve seen dead worlds during their journey. The humans are convinced that the mri are the ones who destroyed the worlds. Combined with the forty years of war against the mri, the humans are quite suspicious of them. However, they can also see that the ancient cities on the surface of the planet aren’t inhabited and that the mri are likely a nomadic people living in tents, so they aren’t willing to just destroy the mri. Unlike their allies, the regul.

The regul are a non-violent species who have employed the mri as mercenaries sometimes against the other regul houses and most recently against the humans. However, the humans and the regul have signed a peace treaty and are investigating Kutath more or less together. The regul are in serious trouble: at the start of the journey they had only one mature adult and lots of younglings. The younglings can’t make decisions; they just serve the elders. Because of this biological imperative, the oldest of the younglings have started to mature which is a long and painful process. It matures as a male and a group of three other younglings mature as females. However, they don’t have any elders around to advice them, so they will have to decide what to do on their own, surrounded by the flaky humans and with the threat of the mri.

On the surface of Kutath the last two remaining mri, from the army employed by the regul, have taken over one of the planet bound mri tribes. The tribe resents the fact that the newcomers have killed their kin and tribe leader she’pan, and yet they have to obey the newcomers and trust that their new leader knows what she’s doing. Hlil and Ras are two mri who were very close to Merai, who was killed, and they both have their reservations. Niun, the tribe’s new warrior leader, worries about the distance between him and the tribe, and starts to even fear that someone might assassinate him. However, he fears most that someone will kill Duncan who is an outsider and none of the other mri have ever seen a non-mri before. The non-mri are despised by custom. He’s also afraid that the regul will just wipe out the whole tribe with space ships. However, the new she’pan calls herself the leader of all mri and she has a plan.

This is a satisfying ending to the trilogy. All three cultures clash while they are trying to understand each other. All of the cultures are quite different and they all wonder if they can trust or understand each other. The regul are non-violent, at least against other people; they kill their own younglings casually. The regul also don’t lie and because they remember everything, they don’t have much written records. They find both the mri and the humans quite baffling. The mri cling to their old traditions and notions of honor which have stayed the same even throughout the several millenia which the mercenaries and the planet bound mri have been apart.

There isn’t much violence in the book but there is a lot of tension. The characters are flawed in their own ways which makes them very human, no matter if they are mri or regul or human. We also find out about the history of the mri. Both the humans and the regul realize that this isn’t an isolated incident but likely will decide the fate of the mri, and also the relations between the humans and the regul for years to come.

The first book in the SF Mars trilogy. It’s part of my Sci Fi Challenge as a modern classic.

Publication year: 1992
Format: Audio
Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Richard Ferrone
Running Time: 23 hrs and 52 minutes

Red Mars is a tale of colonization of Mars which is an international effort and so very political. The characters talk about politics, revolutions, various religions and cultures. In other words, it’s not a mystery or a thriller, and it moves quite slowly. It has a lot of characters but to me the most interesting character turned out to be Mars itself.

In 2026, the Ares was sent to Mars with a hundred scientists who would be the first Mars colonists. Fifty men and fifty women journeyed for almost a year to the red planet. About the first half of the book is set on Ares during the journey. People being people, they form cliques, love triangles, and romantic couples. Apparently, most of the selected scientists are single and all of them are over 30, most in their forties and fifties. Still, they form couples and clicks like high schoolers. They also work on simulations and various other things, but they don’t really have much work to do as such. When they get to Mars, they will start building.

The characters themselves feel secondary to the ideas. There is a core group of characters whom we follow but I felt quite detached from them. They have love triangles and cliques which I didn’t feel where necessary at all and made them seem like teenagers instead of people who have already lived half their lives. They also know that they aren’t going to come back and yet nobody seems to miss the people they have had to leave behind; none of them have kids or siblings or even good friends? None had beloved pets?

They are celebrities on Earth. They are interviewed before the journey and during it.

Politics is clear even in how the scientists are selected. There’s a group of Americans who have a leader of their own and a group of Russians with their own leader. They have different living quarters and political views. During the journey, a few scientists question if they are going to go through with the building as they were instructed or try something new. Some also don’t want to change Mars too much while others support a full scale terraforming. Near the end, when other people come to Mars, there’s also the tension between the original one hundred who have already lived without a capitalist system, and the big corporations who want to exploit Mars and humans, as well. Poor people are sent to Mars to work. The originals aren’t happy with that.

Robinson also includes the treatment of women by various cultures. There’s not criticism of the way that Western women have to conform to certain looks and use of make up etc. In Russia, women are apparently hugely overworked; raising children while working full time. Some of the secondary characters are Moslems who have moved to Mars and are apparently keeping their women in their cultural way: illiterate and kept at homes.

… “But it’s slavery, isn’t it?”…

“Isn’t it?” he said, helplessly feeling the words bubble up out of his throat. “Your wives and daughters are powerless, and that is slavery. You may keep them well, and they may be slaves with peculiar and intimate powers over their masters, but the master-slave relationship twists everything to it. So that all these relations are twisted, pressured to the bursting point.”

“The laws are there to read, and to watch in action, and to me it looks like a form of slavery. And, you know, we fought wars to end slavery. And we excluded South Africa from the community of nations for arranging its laws so that the blacks could never live as well as the whites. But you do this all the time. If any men in the world were treated like you treat your women, the U.N. would ostracize that nation. But because it is a matter of women, the men in power look away. They say it is a cultural matter, a religious matter, not to be interfered with. Or it is not called slavery because it is only an exaggeration of how women are treated elsewhere.”

The characters make a point to show later that the Moslem women on Mars have some freedoms but they don’t show it to the outsiders and apparently they are happy to stay that way. However, this book was written in 1992, twenty years ago, and this matter is just as relevant today.

I quite enjoyed the colonization itself, although the repetition and large chunks of descriptions can be a bit tedious. I also enjoyed some of the political and religious debates which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

After the halfway point, a new twist is introduced: a treatment to extend life. I really liked it and the complications it brought.

The book doesn’t really have an ending. It just stops. I’ll likely continue with the series at some point.

The comic book collects two miniseries and one one-shot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Perchance to Dream is a four issue miniseries.

Written by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Artists: Peter Pachoumis, Lucian Rizzo
Publisher: Wildstorm
Publication date: 2000
The story starts with Data experiencing a vivid dream about being alone on the Enterprise when it’s on a collision course with a planet. The starship is destroyed and Data wakes.

The Enterprise is called to the planet Damiano which has only recently joined the Federation. The new Governor-Elect Ra’ch B’ullhy’s sexual orientation is different from the mainstream and she has been receiving death threats. The Enterprise has been sent to help the Governor-Elect’s security. While most of the Damiani apparently couldn’t care less about the Governor-Elect’s private life, there is a group which cares a lot and have vested interest in killing B’ullhy before her inauguration. B’ullhy’s chief of security is not happy about the Enterprise staff but once Worf finds a bomb in an area which should have been secure, the Damiani security chief is happy for the help.

Worf and his security team manage to block some assassination attempts and the main villain is so frustrated that he takes out his last ditch weapon: a psychic weapon which uses the victims’s own fears against them so that they dream only nightmares and see hallucinations when they are awake.

A few people come to Deanna about their nightmares but she doesn’t have time to investigate it. The last issues focuses on Captain Picard and a side of him which is hardly ever explored, and I enjoyed it more than the rest of the story.

The Damiani look like humans, except that they have horns growing from their heads. We are told that they have three biological sexes and that the norm is to have three sex partners at the same time. B’ullhy has just one and the traditionalists resent that, calling her a pervert.

I didn’t really care for the art and one of the reasons was that it was very hard to tell the various Damiani apart. There are a lot of Damiani with different agendas running around and all have the same skin color, green, the same hair color, black, and even the same hair cut, a crew cut. Also, most of them wear the same formfitting uniforms of black and blue. I understand that the security people had to wear them but the civilians wear something similar, too! When they are among the Enterprise crew with different skin tones and hair colors, the contrast is striking.

The story is about what fanaticism can drive people to do.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Embrace the Wolf is a one-shot.

Written by Christoper Golden and Tom Sniegoski
Artists: Dan Hoover, Troy Hubbs, Jason Martin
Publisher: Wildstorm
Publication date: 2000

The Enterprise has been ordered to investigate the situation of Encoh 7. The Enochians are known for their peaceful and harmonious society but recently there has been rumors of extreme violence. When the Enterprise arrives, the crew finds out that the rumors are true: the world has been almost decimated and the people have turned against each other. An away team beams down to investigate.

The minister of interior, who has killed a lot of fellow Enochians, says that there was a cold presence in his mind. Unfortunately, the others think that he’s just raving.

Soon, Dr. Crusher beams back to the Enterprise and inside her is an energy being who has taken control of her. It moves into the computer and takes control of some of the systems.

This was a good story and the most memorable scenes were in the Holodeck. The being recreates Sherlock Holmes’ London on the Holodeck and the crew try to outwit him. Data appears as Holmes and some other bridge officers get to play in London, too. However, the story is rather bloody.

It’s a continuation to one of the classic Star Trek episodes but I haven’t seen it. The art is serviceable but it didn’t wow me.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Killing Shadows is a four issue miniseries and set on Enterprise E, after the series ended.

Written by Scott Sienin
Artists: Andrew Currie, Bryan Hitch, Chris Chuckry
Publisher: Wildstorm
Publication date: 2000

Several hidden Starfleet science bases have been attacked without any survivors. However, now Starfleet knows that the attackers were the legendary assassin group called the Bodai Shin and they have targeted another Starfleet scientist. The Enterprise is orders to keep Dr. Norugi safe. Unfortunately, the doctor refuses to come on board, fearing that the isolated environment of a starship would make it easy to kill him. So, a team has to beam down to the planet Nydaris to protect him. Data and Picard meet the doctor and try to persuade him but the doctor will not change his mind. Instead, they are attacked in a crowded restaurant. Fortunately, Picard has a few allies on the surface. One of them is quite familiar but the other is unexpected. At the same time, the Enterprise is attacked by several smaller but powerful vessels. Also, the Bodai Shin can beam aboard the Enterprise, through their shields.

The story centers around a huge team of assassins called the Killing Shadows, Bodai Shin. They are feared around the galaxy but most believe that they are just a legend. Quite soon, they are said to be modeled after the ninja. I agree that ninja are cool; however, as far as we can tell, the members of aren’t human. Why would a non-humans species copy the ninja? I’m also in the dark about the motivations of the unexpected ally although I was delighted to see that person. The secondary story line is about Data getting used to his working emotion chip. He explores various human feelings, such as grief and anger.

I would have liked to know more about the small planet where the story is set. Nydaris has a rotation which keeps one side of the planet to the sun and the other towards space at all times. The city where the story takes place is on the night side and it’s said in the story that the city never sleeps, that while some colonists are sleeping, the others are working normally. Without a day cycle, this makes sense to me. The away team also uses civilian clothing instead of their uniforms.

In my opinion, this story has the best art; most of the characters are easily recognizable.

Overall, this was an ok collection but nothing special with the possible exception of the last issue of the first story. Travis Charest did some gorgeous covers for the first miniseries and the one-shot.

Written by Alan Moore, Leah Moore (Bad to the Bone)
Artists: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, and various artists
Collects Tom Strong 15-19 with the original covers and concept art.
Publisher: America’s Best Comics
Publication date: 2004

The first issue has one story and the last one has three stand alone stories. The other three issues are a long and mightily epic story arch.

Tom Strong is a “science hero” who protects Millennium City from all sorts of nasty people. He’s also a scientist, and invents and engineers a lot of handy stuff. Dhalua is his wife and Tesla is their adult daughter. Solomon is Tom’s old friend and a gorilla.

Ring of Fire!” starts when a large hole is blown from the ground up into the middle of the Stronghold. Poor Pneuman has partly melted trying to save Tesla from being kidnapped. Tom is able to salvage his memory tapes and sees a burning man taking Tesla down the hole. Tom, Solomon, and Dhalua put on the transparent but really tough gemsuits which were last seen in issue eight. They descend down to the hole for quite a while until they reach the bottom where a rock wall has collapsed. Tom uses his molecular agitators which allow them to just go through. On the other side, they encounter lava people and Dhalua theorizes that they have evolved there just like their own life evolved on the surface. They have kidnapped Tesla.

I guess this is another tribute to pulp age comics where a girl is kidnapped and she ends up swooning over her kidnapper. Tesla didn’t swoon, though, but it’s still quite cheesy. However, I quite like the character of Val Var Garm so I guess I can forgive this one. 😉 Last time I was irritated with the gemsuits because Tesla was wearing one and it was transparent and she was kneeling inside it with very little clothes on. This time, the whole group is doing the same, although both Tom and Solomon are wearing full t-shirts while Dhalua’s shirt leaves her midriff bare. Sigh.

The next issue says that is has “the most outrageous new America’s Best character yet”, the Weird Rider. The story “Some call him the space cowboy” introduces a space faring Old West character. The start of the story is told from his point of view when he’s parked in Venus and meets the Modular Man (who was last seen in issue two). After a brief fight, the discussion establishes that the Weird Rider is from Earth, despite having a third eye and riding a small, motorcycle like space craft. He mentions that Earth is in danger.

Meanwhile on Earth, Tom is getting used to the idea that he’s no longer the only man in his daughter’s life (and since she’s in her sixties, that a lot of getting used to); she now has a boyfriend Val. Val is just learning English and the customs around him. Tom is frustrated and when a strange man sets down into the city and seems to be threatening the locals, he takes out his frustrations on the new guy. However, it turns out that the Weird Rider is in fact friendly. Tom apologizes and takes him, and some members of his Strongmen fan club, to Stronghold and they talk. A massive army of ant people is coming to Earth to conquer it!

In the next issue, Ant Fugue!, Tom gathers up allies against the onslaught. We get to see some familiar faces from previous issues and Tom even goes to Venus to talk to the Modular Man. Near the end of the issue, the five kids from the Strongmen club decide that they want to help somehow and mess with the one small space ship which was left over.

The battle is joined in the next issue, The Last Roundup.

I throughly enjoyed the three issues. The story is, of course, simplistic; the ants aren’t given a voice at all. Our heroes speculate that they simply want to use Earth as a plantation with humans as slaves but we don’t really know that. They are essentially a faceless enemy. Still, our heroes rally against them and get to be heroic. I also found it great that the idiot kids are in fact behaving idiotically and not saving the day, as I briefly feared. I also enjoy a large cast of familiar characters and here almost every character we’ve met comes back and work together. Although I don’t remember Svetlana X who seems to be Russian’s defender. I really enjoyed her character; she’s very strong and durable, and adventurous. The comic doesn’t have many characters like her.

The small space craft which are used in this story are, of course, absolutely ridiculous. They usually seat just one but can accommodate five kids when they have to. They resemble space motorcycles but the Weird Rider talks about them as if they were horses. In fact, this story has several characters who talk weirdly; the Weird Rider talks all the time in supposedly Old West accent and word choices, Svetlana has a Russian accent and doesn’t really grasp the idioms correctly (“Tom, I hope Dhalua is not urinated with me, for coming with you while she keeps to the saucer.”), and Val has trouble with English word order. (By the way, considering that the first two times we saw Val he didn’t speak a world of English, it’s really unlikely that he would have learned it so quickly. Of course, this is a comic book.) Still, this doesn’t make the comic harder to read, but to me at least, is highlighted the differences of the characters.

The last issue has three stories. “Electric Ladyland! ” is drawn by Howard Chaykin. Dhalua is kidnapped by a robot when the Strongs are having their one night out. Of course, Tom follows her and finds a secret underground society of women.

”Tom Strong’s Nemesis Paul Saveen: Bad To The Bone ” is written by Leah Moore and focuses on Saveen’s last day out in the desert. It’s rather poignant and fitting to the character.

The Hero-Hoard Of Horatio Hogg!” is made completely of cheese! Tesla and Tom are signing comics starring themselves when they are sucked into a comic book. It’s actually an interdimentional prison which just looks like a comic book and several other science heroes are already trapped in there. It’s cheesy fun with very cheesy dialog: ”Ha, ha, ha! Why not look closer, moppet of might, and see for yourself!” ”Fools! You’ve clearly reckoned without the dimensional dexterity and super science of Horatio Hogg, collector of champions, and now you must serve your time in my pulp paper prison!”

The collection is great fun for anyone who likes classic super heroes in a science fiction setting. I would recommend reading the two previous collections first, though.

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