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Old November 16 2013, 03:19 AM   #3
Therin of Andor
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Re: TOS: Ex Machina by Christopher L. Bennett Review Thread (spoilers)

"Ex Machina": Reading it - even though I hadn't thought of doing a sequel to "For the World is Hollow..." myself - this novel felt so much like the style of post-TMP story that I'd always wanted to tell, or imagined seeing at the cinema in the months following TMP's run.

Christopher even ensured that all the wonderful new alien UFP races of TMP were in supporting roles. It still feels as if he'd written "Ex Machina" just for me. (Well, apart from what he did - so well - with one character, LOL, whom I'd already appropriated into my fanfics in the early 1980s.) And, of course, naming an Andorian "Shantherin th'Clane".

There's a great old thread on this novel here:
http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=182237

My original review is here:

"Ex Machina" is a Star Trek novel that finally salutes TMP's alien races with gusto. In fact, this novel is the "TMP Episode #2" I've been waiting for... for 25 years.

Christopher L Bennett 's excellent, fast-paced novel is a highly effective sequel to TMP (and its novelization), and also the poetically-titled episode "For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky". Christopher continues numerous character arcs from TMP (Kirk's guilt and self-doubt; Spock's epiphany about emotions; McCoy's future in Starfleet; even Decker and Ilia's sacrifice) and cleverly links them to important, unfinished business about Natira and the Fabrini (TOS). In addition, the author affectionately continues storylines for Chapel, Uhura, Sulu, Scott, Chekov and Rand, whose aspirations are all barely touched upon in TMP, in ways that are "spot on" and highly logical. Then we learn a little more about Chief DiFalco (TMP), the late Lori Ciana (TMP novelization and "The Lost Years" saga), and even excitable Mr Lindstrom, whom we last saw cleaning up the mess on Landru's planet (TOS). Rounding out the "Ex Machina" cast, we meet almost all of TMP's aliens through individual members recruited to the refitted USS Enterprise by Uhura (just as her counterpart Nichelle Nichols did for NASA) and the late Captain Willard Decker.

"Ex Machina" is a page-turner of a novel. Now, maybe I'm biased, but every time Christopher started to do several entertaining paragraphs about the Rhaandarites, or the Saurians, the Megarites, the Betelgeusians, or the Zaranites (based, often, on a single, sometimes-bizarre line or two of descriptive text originally written by the movie's costume designer for TMP's publicity and production notes), I was well and truly hooked, and happy to be reeled in. Various ST comic book lines over the years have sometimes paid visual homage to the odd TMP alien, but they've constantly been overlooked by the ST novels, barring the occasional mention of a Saurian. But Christopher is most generous in the time he spends developing each race, creating some memorable lower decks and bridge characters to populate the Enterprise. *Spring Rain Upon Still Water* the Megarite is a beautiful character, even if she is perhaps TMPs "ugliest" rubber-faced alien. (Doesn't sound very IDIC of me, does it?) Christopher even utilizes Worene, the unique wolfish alien created by actress and stuntwoman Paula Crist (who was barely visible in the rec deck scene of TMP), and he does so to great effectiveness. (Finally, Worene's species has a name; she's an Aulacri!)

While I often found myself thinking that "Ex Machina" was a novel I should have written myself, I also acknowledge that Christopher is masterfully efficient in his worldbuilding, particularly his explanations for the whys and wherefores of Rhaandarites, Megarites, Betelgeusians and Zaranites. I'm so very pleased with the ideas he has extrapolated about these aliens. Surely, hopefully, Christopher's worldbuilding in this novel will inspire other Pocket ST authors to make full use of Rhaandarites, Saurians, Megarites, 'Geusians, Zaranites, Aulacri, Arcturians, K'normians and turtle-like Rigellians in other ST novels.

I never spent a lot of time pondering the background and themes of "For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky", but Christopher expertly unpeels so many layers from the Fabrini story, developing a believable alien race who went on an incredible journey. He reminds us most vividly how history is written by the victors, and that all written history is open to multiple interpretations. Several senseless terrorist acts in the novel also ring too close to the bone for comfort, due to recent world events in the 21st century.

Christopher hasn't forgotten the science aspect of this science fiction novel, either. I was reminded very much of David Gerrold's body of SF work. No doubt Gerrold was an inspiration, especially since a character in "Ex Machina" is clearly based on the "character" played as a fan extra in TMP.

Now that we finally have Episode #2 of "Star Trek Phase II: Beyond TMP", dare I ask how long we have to wait for Episode #3? And can Christopher write it please?
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Last edited by Therin of Andor; November 16 2013 at 03:35 AM. Reason: more
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