TOS 80's Novel Continuity Read Through

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Desert Kris, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Spaceflight Chronology

    2001-2025

    Generally, I've thought that I'm genial, forgiving and flexible; willing to suspend my disbelief. Yet for some reason as I made my way through the second section of the timeline covered by the Spaceflight Chronology, I found myself inexplicably nitpicking more than I am used to. I found it difficult to gauge whether some of the things that caught my critical eye were reasonable or not. I still enjoyed going through it and mulling over the implications of each entry chronicling the alternative evolution and development of the Star Trek universe.

    Overview

    So I know that with the timeline being shorter and setting TOS much much earlier than was later established, there is going to have to be rapid progress for the human race as they venture into space. I got the impression that the first segment of time has us skip a major space station as a stepping stone, and establish a colony on the moon. There is the Power Transmission Satellite, which made me think because it's being called a satellite, it is unmanned; but maybe it is?

    Well, so the overview for this 25 year segment talks about L-5 “Industrial Complexes”, which I had to bounce around a little to find out that these are space-cities orbiting Earth. And then I got distracted trying to flip back and forth and see if these constructs had any artwork to illustrate what they were supposed to look like, and nothing jumped out, until I resumed reading the book properly, left to right...and lo and behold I eventually reached the log entry for the opening of the first L-5 orbital city.

    I marvelled at how quickly the moon opened up additional colony complexes, and then Mars had it's initial colony established; and generally the work of colonizing the solar system is just plowing ahead at full steam! All this is within a 25 year space of time that we are in the middle of right now, in real life.

    I got confused about the description of how proof of extraterrestrial life is discovered, when there are two separate discoveries about a year or two apart. I'm not sure if it's the way it is worded, or I'm misunderstanding it willfully. There's Shaun Christopher's expedition in the Lewis and Clark finding evidence of mining patterns on two of Saturn's moons, but there's also the physical discovery of fossilized insect-like life on Mars, long dead. The overview left me with this weird impression that credit for the discovery was oddly placed, but then again I still can't account for why I was on the warpath to nitpick.

    The overview announces the first birth in space, and the first death in space; and also recounts a major tragedy.

    Also, homesteading for the solar system is kicked off.

    Honestly, there's so much going on here, it seems like there's too much going on in such a short 25 year period.

    Timeline and Ships

    Although I felt a little impatient making my way through the first segment of time, it proved it's worth by providing an important baseline in an unexpected way. When I started to peruse the new ships, I found myself wondering about the length measurements at one point, so the payoff was being able to reference the size measurements of ships that exist in real life with these fictional ships. The Space Ferry isn't my favorite design, and it isn't helped by artwork showing it from a different angle in the ship profile section, but I was quite surprised to learn the size of it, compared to say the U.S space shuttles.

    A random observation, here, although I quite like the DY Ships, aesthetically speaking my favorite of the new ships is the Aventeur-class ships, I really like the look.

    The timeline provides enough fragments of the continuing developmental history of the DY-series ships, they just really didn't have the luck in a sense. They wanted to replace the DY-100's with a 300 series, and the 300's just flunked out. So...they brought the 100's home and upgraded them into the 500 series. And then one of those 500s had a catastrophic incident that showed that there were still problems in the end, anyway. I like the tidbit about how the DY-500's started doing 3-year exploratory missions just outside of the solar system to test human crews' capability for long voyages. It makes me think of the Enterprise receiving one of it's major upgrades before going on a 5 year mission.

    Ship Profiles

    I don't know if I have much more to comment on, regarding this section. I like the Aventeur-class ship, and some of my research on the class, and the Lewis and Clark, lead me to Greg Cox's TOS novel The Rings of Time; I shall look forward to reading that in the future.

    I had a bit of a chuckle about how the ships of this era are using something called Magnetohydrodynamic generators to generate power for their systems. All I could think about was the fictional Russian submarine Red October.

    Log Entries

    I almost neglected commenting on the documentation about the space initiative; which foreshadows the space homesteading initiative that comes hot on its heals. It also establishes the ships of the human race as the Solar Fleet.

    The entry about the first child born in space just made me worry a lot for this poor kiddo. Jules Ashworth is born on the moon in low gravity, and the medical Doctor proudly announces this historic first and commends the parents for bravely making the decision to remain at the moon colony. Too bad the poor kiddo doesn't get a say in this. I have no idea if this book will give any follow up for what Jules' future holds for him, and I'm not trying to be cynical but he's got a lot on his plate. The history books have carved out his place in history, and I wonder how he eventually would feel about that as a person who has a life to live without the baggage of being a living, breathing historic first. Also in the back of my mind are the studies of the rigors of zero-G and low gravity effects on humans over long periods of time, even with specialized exercise equipment to try and minimize problems like muscular atrophy. To say nothing of speculative exploration on a human's development in low gravity in a novel like Leviathan Wakes, where troubling new health problems become apparent. Welcome to the final frontier, kiddo!

    Having teased at the beginning of homesteading the solar system, the ambitious programs kicks into gear. People have to go through a 5 year training or residency, and get a ticket to travel out to whatever place they claim. I wish there was more information about some of the individuals and groups that went for it. I imagine that a single individual has his or her hands full just with the training program, and making sure to accumulate all the equipment and resources necessary to colonize space. I'm thinking that small communities were formed on Earth, before they even set out. I'm sure that each individual would have to be very self-sufficient, but I'm imagining that colonizing space requires cooperation with other colonials no matter how multi-talented any one of them was.

    The log entry for the Lewis and Clark's expedition to Saturn is an exciting and eerie one, had a feel that made me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey. They find evidence of mining on Saturn's moons. I wonder if this is left a mystery, or if it's followed up on later in the Chronology...although I think I prefer it as a mystery. I am reminded of how TNG has a scene where it is explained that the Federation blocks off local planets, moons and systems that are in close proximity to intelligent life that might eventually become capable of space travel; so resources of those local planets are preserved for mining and colonization and so forth. It's a bit anachronistic to apply that concept to the situation here in the Chronology, as part of material for a TOS only version of continuity; yet at the same time it makes me wonder about those aliens who mined the moons of Saturn. Is that characteristic of their ethics, or did they visit before humans existed; or did they have to mine for resources for emergency purposes?

    And then we get to the entry where hard evidence of life is found on Mars. But again it's confusing, because the entry for the Lewis and Clark's expedition is the entry right before this one. I'm not sure if I'm just having difficulty understanding the meaning behind the wording of these two entries; if they are more precise that I'm able to interpret them.

    The final entry I will comment on is the tragedy of the UNSS Courageous. The DY-300's didn't work out because of design flaws; so they upgraded all the DY-100's into DY-500's. But here we see that there are still very severe safety problems, that costs the lives of the Courageous's crew. Actually, that gets back to something of the critique that I see. Why was I in a nickpicking mood for this section? I still can't figure that out. This entry qualifies it as the worst tragedy in spaceflight and space travel up to that point. Which implies other previous ones that aren't included or chronicled. I can understand the problems of leaving room within the book for entries that cover new material and new situations, and the first section that covers the first 43 years necessarily had to be packed and abbreviated for how much it had to cover. Yet I wondered about the exclusion of an early real life spaceflight-related tragedy, such as the Apollo 1 fire. I'm not arguing in favor of a version of the SFC that is doom and gloom; but tragedy in the course of space exploration is one of the aspects of Star Trek's optimistic future.

    So this second section of SFC leaves off with the hint that interstellar travel is already in the works, with unmanned probes exploring the void as a seeming prelude to manned flights, as well as the manned duration missions to gauge humans ability to cope with long space voyages. All this within 25 years. I kept thinking to myself that it almost seems like a clockwork chronology, running to the timing and pacing necessary to get to a specific point in the right amount of time. It raised questions for me about the realities of setbacks that delay hazardous and expensive programs for decades or more.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I wonder how the SFC version of that stage of human space colonization compares to the equivalent history presented in David Gerrold's sole original Trek novel, Bantam's The Galactic Whirlpool. It was published 10 months after the SFC came out, which makes it unlikely but not inconceivable that Gerrold was aware of it. But I think they're probably very different, and both are just drawing on the same proposals for L5 colonies and the like that were developed in the 1970s, as spelled out in Gerard K. O'Neill's seminal 1976 book The High Frontier.


    There were only 12 years between the first artificial satellite and the first Moon landing. The generation that grew up then would've expected space travel to advance quickly, which is why TOS posited an Earth-Saturn probe and interplanetary sleeper ships in the late 20th century, and why Lost in Space had interstellar colonization underway by 1997. But in the decades since, we've seen the pace of space travel slow to a crawl, so that kind of rapid progress now seems implausible. It's sad, really.


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetohydrodynamic_generator


    Well, if they were mining for water, it would be far more abundant and easy to obtain in the moons of Saturn than if you tried to lug it out of Earth's powerful gravity well, and then the Sun's. Although the same goes for any of the giant planets' icy moons, not to mention the millions of comets out there. (Stories about aliens coming to Earth to steal our water are really, really dumb.)

    Finding evidence that some form of life existed at some point is a different matter than actually finding fossilized organisms. Tire tracks are not a car.
     
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  3. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    I'll have to keep an eye out for The Galactic Whirlpool, for the sake of comparison. I hadn't realized there was overlap between the Bantam novels and the uh, Timescape...? Pocket book...? series of novels. I haven't ever tried any of those, but got a recommendation for the Mudd's Angels volume to complete the three volume 1991 reprints of the episode novelizations.

    Curiosity made me google, and I came across a wiki article that indicates the "L" in the L5 designation is for Lagrangian points. The diagram indicates an Earth orbit, but much further out than I would have thought, just from reading the SFC log entry.

    That perspective helps, thanks! Some of the old Doctor Who episodes have advanced projections for moon bases and other world colonies, too. This is sad, makes me feel a little glum. We're stuck in the wrong timeline.

    I ended up putting more effort in with the next section of time, when the SFC starts talking about drive systems using deuterium, which I swear sounds familiar from something I read in a Star Trek book long before starting this reading project (I can't for the life of me remember which ST book, though). I found myself reading an article about Heavy water. It made me wonder about those fluid pipes in the Kelvin-verse Enterprise that Scotty ended up swimming in.
     
  4. GaryH

    GaryH Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I LOVED unspoken truth
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    There wasn't. Aside from the TMP novelization, Pocket wasn't able to publish any Trek novels until Bantam published the last one commissioned under its license, which was why The Entropy Effect didn't debut until June 1981, two months after Bantam's Death's Angel. Pocket could publish the SFC before then because it wasn't a novel, but was a technical/"nonfiction" book.
     
  6. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Star Trek The Motion Picture...A Novel

    I excluded the novelization for the first ST movie for a couple of reasons. It wasn't on the original list of alternative continuity novels published throughout the 1980's as outlined in the Continuity of Days Gone By thread. I had already read TMP novelization by Gene Roddenberry years ago, and figured I remembered it well enough to get by. Also, I've seen the movie quite a good number of times, finding in generally likable and relaxing, when I'm in the mood. However, as my read-through has gone on, I kept finding myself referencing back to it and doing research on Memory Beta for material it introduces, characters and situations that have been picked up on in later novels.

    It was all the references to Gol that kept cropping up, for starters; even visiting Memory Beta for a refresher on it seemed inadequate. I figured that I could drag the book out of storage and read the relevant passage and I would be solid. And then the Deltans kept appearing; and other little things that aren't necessarily nods to the movie, but specifically nods to the novelization of the movie. Even after finishing Dwellers in the Crucible, and seeing some of the continuity notes on the Deep Space Spine blog's review for Strangers From the Sky, I felt some reluctance.

    I figured after Dwellers, I would start to read in a little more strict publication order, but given a little time to reflect, I felt that I wanted to include TMP. My own choice as a reader, with the 80's Novel Continuity books as a starting point, and eventually as a springboard for other ST novels; TMP feels like it belongs. I recommend it for anyone else who might want to try reading the 80's Continuity books, TMP is a book that provides helpful groundwork. I regret just a little that I didn't catch it before reading Dwellers, but all is not lost. By the time I had cycled back around to ST in my reading schedule, I was ready; and the residual reluctance had fallen away.

    Opening Credits

    So here I think I will retcon one of my own previous novel reflections. I gave over TMP opening theme to The Entropy Effect, but I think we'll put it in it's proper place here. The opening of the movie, that wonderful theme, where it belongs. **See appendix about The Entropy Effect below

    A Gateway to the Past; Many Journeys are Possible

    Before TMP was the original television show, naturally. However, I can offer a little more, there are a couple of intriguing nods to the episode “For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky.” It's helpful to know the particulars of Spock's backstory, so “The Naked Time” “Amok Time” and “Journey to Babel.” Those are major ones I can think of off the top of my head. I have no idea if TMP novelization references any of the books from before.

    The Need of the One

    So I actually really got a kick out of rereading this. I like TMP, and the book works well as a complementary and supplementary work, and I'm sure worked brilliantly as a “home media” replacement for having it on video back in the day, even though we don't need it for that as much now. It creates some satisfying alternative visuals, and sometimes really put me in the head of James T. Kirk as he moves through the environment of the Star Trek setting.

    It starts with two introductions, one by James T. Kirk addressing the readers, and then Gene Roddenberry who seems to be both in-universe and out of it at the same time. Kirk is insistent that this story be told to a higher standard of verisimilitude that previous depictions; teasing that the Star Trek show itself exists within the fiction setting. This is a lot of pomp and circumstance to kick off the major motion picture based on the original television series, but it impressed on me how this was written from the standpoint that this is The movie, and there might not even be any others after this.

    After I finished the novel, I thought back again on the intro. I wondered when it was written; how long after the events it depicts? Kirk has some very opinionated thoughts about Admiral Nogura, and I wonder how that went down in the aftermath of the novel's publication? I wonder what Nogura thought of it all.

    And then the actual narrative starts, although the introductions have laid some groundwork for it. Some of the ideas about New Humans and Starfleet's success rate with their exploratory starship missions give a curious impression. It's hard to articulate, but the novel gives an impression that Starfleet is in a more pioneering phase than some of the television stories suggest it is. This makes me question my assumptions about how many Human colonies we can conclude are out there. We see many planets with people who look exactly like us. The show has the Enterprise operating in part to support a network of worlds that have a certain amount of harmony and cooperation between them. It feels like there is a disconnect here, why are all the space missions Starfleet is launching ending in disaster? If all the space hazards and temptations are seeing all of Starfleet's ships being destroyed or subverted in such a way as to never return, how is the unity between worlds even being maintained—and how are those other worlds themselves not being destroyed, too?

    There's an interesting physical trajectory happening here, starting us off on Earth in a leisurely situation and moving through Starfleet headquarters to the ship, then outbound through the solar system on the way to meet the ominous threat of an Intruder. At first it baffled me why the book goes into the level of detail that it does about these places, but then it occurred to me that this is the prose version of what the movie does; showing us places in the Star Trek universe that had never been seen before. They never visit Earth in their own modern time during the series. In the movie we see it, and the novel offers in words on what goes on there. Understanding Earth tells us what is at stake from the Intruder's menace. I think there might have been an opportunity to tie it in more effectively to the Intruder's revealed heritage.

    As for the New Humans, I was fascinated with them for a while, but I think that after revisiting this book, they've lost their luster. They seem to be regarded in the public as more elevated, more evolved, and are living in a communal way that is left a bit unfathomable. Earlier impressions from a previous read (and subsequent skim-read revisitations) gave me the impression that they are able to mentally join in communal groups, but that may not necessarily be the case. The downside of their “elevated” state of being is that they seem to be encouraging Earth to be more insular; using their political sway to discourage Starfleet exploration missions. They seem kind of self-absorbed. I don't think they're as elevated as we are led to believe. On the other hand, there's hints of similarities between the New Humans and most Deltans. There's the suggestion that Deltans have or had the capability to do extensive space travel, exploration, and colonization, yet most are more interested in communing with the rest of their race and remaining on the Deltan homworld, with only a rare few venturing to live and work in space.

    The book increases the emphasis on how problematic it has been to ground Kirk from starship command, to the point that there's genuine professional medical concern about Kirk's health. The story's emergency re-ignites Kirk's command instincts and he comes alive, but it's just a jumpstart, a good portion of the novel is devoted to Kirk reflecting constantly on his actions, trying to figure out if he's doing things right. This gets us into his thoughts, and I wondered at times if the book was playing with the idea of Kirk as an unreliable third person narrator, particularly with the way he sometimes reacts or overreacts to actions and responses he's sees from Will Decker. There's one or two moments of frightening paranoia.

    While Kirk becomes questionable as a narrator, the prose of the novel itself is shaky. The prose has a weird relationship with the setting and the inner thoughts of the characters. There are moments of random exposition that are questionably tangential; they are moments that are seemingly so distracted from staying focused that it seems like the prose is actually distracting and disorientating the characters themselves. Kirk gets distracted by the expositional prose the most, to the point of having to ask characters to repeat themselves. The prose even distracts itself while Spock's shuttle tries to dock with the Enterprise, and confuses itself about what it was original wanting to talk about, and ends up contradicting whether or not the Enterprise is a heavy cruiser or not. I suppose readers could just chalk it up to bad writing, or this version of Star Trek is badly destabilized and V'Ger's transcendence causes little chunks of continuity to break off and pass through to another side of the wounded sky.

    Despite the odd writing style, I did enjoy reading the book again. There are lots of little moments, like when Kirk is riding in the turbolift, and his thoughts got me close to feeling like I was riding the turbolift through the Enterprise and knowing where each vertical or horizontal shift fit with Kirk's sense of location within the ship. The departure of Earth actually swept me up in the moment of what it might have been like during earlier versions of the Enterprise leaving on one of her long missions, and put me in the mindset of this being the first book of a regular series of Star Trek novels, even though I've already been reading them more regularly of late. I wasn't even trying very hard to sink myself into that context, the book somehow managed it while I had it in the back of my mind. There was this wonderful moment of feeling what it would be like to be on the Enterprise, feeling the excitement of launching from Earth on a long term mission, with a little bit of the claustrophobia being within the confines of the ship, and a twinge of worry about how homesick I might become for Earth after enough time has passed.

    Kirk's journey to rediscover himself as a starship commander had one particularly notable moment. There was some nice set up with the perils of Kirk being in the wrong mindset being hinted at...here it feels like the reverse of some of those other starship commanders like Ron Tracey and Matt Decker getting space madness or whatever from the traumas they experience. In Kirk's case, he is frighteningly on the threshold of insanity from the whiplash transition out of a traumatic ground assignment. There's a really good argument between Kirk and Bones about his command fitness, after he called Decker out for countermanding an order. And this is after Kirk has been pushing the readiness of the Enterprise to the point where the Enterprise herself is part of the mission's dangers. There's an eerie moment is when Kirk starts to feel disassociated from himself; in his mind he is evaluating his instinctive defensive reactions, while he is physically threatening Dr. McCoy with violence. This is was one of the scariest moments in this story, when Kirk has lost control of himself.

    It seems appropriate, given that in the past I found TMP to be a surprisingly unnerving movie. The power of the Intruder to casually destroy anyone approaching, even those trying to be friendly, the Blaster Beam of the soundtrack that heralds the travelling cloud. The Enterprise herself is a terrifying ship, when operating the normally mundane transporter and warp drive systems may result in horrifying ways to die. I would also like to credit the original alert klaxons from the theatrical version of the film for how disconcerting they are, nothing in the movie/story is safe.

    One thing I liked seeing was the variations of dialogue from what I'm used to in the movie. I seem to half remember something from the Shatner Movie Memories book that talks about how dialogue was switched between characters in some places. More interesting, though, is some of the expositional dialogue is jettisoned and conversations are re-purposed with some of the nuances of the characters' relationships being unspoken. The conversation between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy just after Spock has returned being a more notable moment, with the characters making each other aware of how they are hurting each other. The conversation in the officer lounge establishes that Kirk and McCoy just know that Spock was trying to master “a discipline” at Gol; Kirk and McCoy might not even be familiar with the word “Kohlinar” for all we know, and they might not even know that he broke faith to rejoin his crew mates to meet the Intruder. These are subtle changes that I did enjoy, even as the core components of the conversation is still covered, that Kirk feels the need to tell Spock that he is under orders to report whatever mental contact Spock has with the Intruder.

    I had fun imagining the different visuals that the novel paints with it's prose. The book gives a different feel for the Enterprise's interception with the Cloud, there's a regular sense of high-speed motion that would be hard to convey in the movie, but it makes the Enterprise feel dynamic and nimble. There's a beautiful passage of prose that gives the picture of Enterprise riding the waves of energy-cloud as she starts to fly into the cloud. And Sulu keeps poised to instantly slow the Enterprise's forward progess when they catch sight of a clearing or objects within the cloud.

    The character of Will Decker is a little bit hard to get a handle on, but the novel gives a little more that is interesting. He is said to have an affinity with the New Human movement, being familiar with them through his mother's upbringing. I got the impression that after Decker's initial reaction to being booted from the captain's chair by Kirk, Decker seems to take it in stride—but this also may be my own reaction to actively distrust Kirk's inner thoughts for a time. The novel does well with the relationship between Will and Ilia, and conveys a more pronounced emotion reaction to Ilia being data storage patterned and subsequently replaced by an identical probe. Decker felt more upset about this in the book.

    I wish the book had gotten in to Decker's head a little more, but I'm glad that it does to a small extent. Decker goes through an extraordinary amount of stress and trauma, and the novel makes an effective tragedy out of losing him. One of the most fascinating things that I remembered from the first time I read the book is how he tries to establish a rapport with V'Ger through the Ilia probe, at the risk that the probe might be able to successfully replicate the fatal effects of a Human-Deltan intimate joining. It turns out, the Ilia replica can, and Decker is basically dying during the last part of TMP's story as they discover what is at the core of V'Ger. Reading it this time around, I was struck by Decker taking such an extreme risk, but it's hard to know if he would have made the same decision to put himself in jeopardy if he hadn't already been enduring the setbacks, pressure and heart break the mission brings him personally.

    To touch on the revelation of what V'Ger started as, and it's transcendence into a higher form of life, I want to comment on the story of the movie itself. I can only speak for myself, but I quite like the reveal of the Human-built Voyager 6 probe as the humble beginnings, and wouldn't have been able to predict it from the name V'Ger. Even if I had ever been able to guess, the movie establishes such an overwhelming scope of what V'Ger is, massive ship or probe, sourrounded by an even more massive energy-cloud, and the movie shows how small the Enterprise is compared to it--after showing us how big the Enterprise is.

    I've never been in the camp that the reveal of V'Ger's origins were predictable, or a rehash of the television episode “The Changeling.” I like both stories, and they have a very different take on a very similar idea, it's true. I honestly find it fun to see a core story idea that is explored in different ways, with different events leading to the core idea, and a different outcome or resolution of the core idea's conflict. Change enough details and the “same” story has a lot of mileage, so I am glad to have both “The Changeling” and TMP. TMP re-uses story elements of “One of Our Planets is Missing” rather nicely in combination with the whole mutated/evolved Earth space probe idea, too.

    I like how the book presents the Voyager 6 probe as a primal brain, or a primordial aspect of a greater brain. I appreciated how McCoy gets to be part of the landing party that visits V'Ger's core and is able to conceptualize Voyager 6 and V'Ger from a medical/anatomical standpoint. An alternative is also presented as well, the Voyager 6 amphitheater is shown to be a place of religious significance, a temple or altar. I was delighted by this idea that the conclusion of the story is an improvised, jury-rigged religious experience for a machine intelligence. It's nice that the old trope of Kirk talking a computer to death is completely reversed, instead a machine intelligence is helped to achieve apotheosis.

    I'm glad that the book wraps up rather quickly. Yet it also seems a bit rushed. After the deliberate pace of getting the Enterprise operational on-the-go, and the beautiful description of the Enterprise flying into the cloud, the moment of transcendence at the end is personal and small scale, focusing on Decker and Ilia finding peace, which is nice. However the transcendent explosion of the V'Ger vessel is rushed and glossed over. Roddenberry had it in him to paint several beautiful visual moments for my mind's eye throughout the rest of the novel, but he doesn't quite match the exhilaration of the movie's climax. The novel functions well as a complementary and supplementary work, but it can't replace the visual of V'Ger's energy-wave explosion into a higher plane of existence, followed by the Enterprise's modest emergence from the heart of it.

    I love how Kirk takes hold of the moment with a little bit of insolent boldness towards the Admiral who doesn't have his—Kirk's—best interest in mind. You're welcome for saving your life, and the planet Earth. Request to debrief at Starfleet headquarters denied, thanks for the Enterprise back! And they fly off.
     
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  7. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A novel.

    Part II

    The Needs of the Many

    I think I went through a laundry list of characters and situations that carry over from TMP novelization into the books of the 80's continuity in my reflection for Dwellers in the Crucible. I was making a case for myself at the time for whether I should just reference TMP or go all out and read it properly. Admiral Nogura, Lori Ciana, senseceiver, locations on Earth that Kirk visits. Practically every novel that features a long enough visit to the planet Vulcan name-checks Gol and the fact that Kohlinar things happen there.

    One of the first things that stuck out to me in terms of information about the overall narrative trajectory of TOS era is details about the chronology, and the impact this book has on how we might regard Kirk's mid to late career in Starfleet.

    There's enough information here to jot down timeline notes...which I did, for comparisons sake. It's seems like good information that holds up, with the caveat that I am terrible with numbers. A little disappointingly, this book falls in the camp that the five year mission was just that, 5 years; some of which the television show covered. No hint that there are more years beyond, even as far as to include an entire second 5YM prior to TMP. I suppose it's not a big deal, since the authors pick and choose the continuity background of their novels in accordance with their own preferences, or whatever works best for the story their novel tells.

    Looking at the novelization as book 1 of a series of ongoing novels where authors might eventually take advantage of the freedom to create new characters who will be able to undergo transformative personal journeys, the future would seem to lie in stories taking place during a post-TMP mission. This doesn't rule out standalone stories between TOS episodes, or 4th or 5th year stories set after TOS and TAS episodes. There's a small thing that the novelization for The Wrath of Khan does, that combined with this book, kind of felt to me like a constricting of the narrative possibilities. I'm glad though that books like Dwellers in the Crucible don't take some details to heart, and make room for a status quo that might not exist if adhering too strictly to what the movie novelizations outline.

    I'm struggling with wanting to save it for TWoK, but I think I will dive in. TMP novelization balances out Kirk's obsessive behavior over returning to a starship command role by making the point that it will be medically healthy for him to be put back in that job, physically and mentally. It comes with a medical recommendation from McCoy and a few other medical doctors' corroboration. The work that this book does in accentuating the importance of Kirk's return to the command chair is overturned in a cursory way in TWoK novelization, which says that Kirk gives up command very shortly after the V'Ger incident. While I very much like the movie era of TOS, I do not like Kirk's indecisiveness that sees him bouncing up and down in his career. I was disappointed when I read this small tidbit in TWoK, but the emphasis in this book makes the overall effect worse, much more frustrating.

    Deltans, Mental Rapport, Isolation, and More Highly Evolved Lifeforms

    The Deltans are introduced here; their cultural identity as a more sexually mature species compared to humans (and a number of other Star Trek races, too, I assume) is established. The book also begins a reoccurring narrative pattern of Deltan characters being present among other characters as a source of heightened sexual tension before eventually being killed in tragic and/or horrifying ways.

    My perception of Deltans as a species in this book is partly informed by the earlier concept of the New Humans. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but the New Humans are developed as what Humans might become or the direction they are striving to guide Human social development: they are focusing inward or eschewing individualism in favor of mental rapport and what almost sounds like collective mind-joining, as if to make themselves more of a hive-mind. Their efforts mean that they are less interested in space exploration and colonization, and content with remaining settled on Earth. I can't tell if they are actually advocating a Back to Earth movement similar to the one that manifests in and is fought against in The Final Reflection, but it feels a little similar. By the time the Deltan culture is explained, I felt like there were strong parallels between the way the Deltans are and the way New Humans want to be.

    The Deltans are also more focused inward, and preoccupied with mental connection with others of their race; and most are disinterested in travelling the galaxy and interacting with a galactic community. Deltans are considered a rare presence within the galactic community; although the book gives a somewhat diminished sense of galactic community, despite what the movie visually depicts. Starfleet is the organization that gets the most mention, but I don't recall seeing any reference to the Federation. The movie shows the Enterprise full of crew members from all kinds of different alien races but for all we know from the book they might mostly be human. The character on the bridge who vocalized discomfiture over Kirk's takeover from Decker isn't described at all, you might well conclude he is human (or New Human from having seen the movie). Add in Spock's retreat into seclusion on Vulcan and his desire to purge his humanity. We get a picture of different races that mostly want to stay with their homeworld.

    I even thought in passing about TOS episodes where powerful races are introduced, who regard themselves and are regarded by others as more highly evolved, and they mostly stick to one planet. For some reason the ones who got themselves into trouble going that route presented themselves in my mind; the Talosians or the sentients in “Return to Tomorrow.” The races whose inward focus toward high-level mental evolution left them on one barren world, in danger of dying out.

    I suppose TMP story gives the sense of individual members of races who are striking out away from their races to join together on ships like the Enterprise and save their races from their complacent notions of evolution. As if these too settled worlds are dangerously inclined towards isolationism, and they need a bunch of cowboys roaming around in starships, providing a link between each other, and occasionally giving some settlements a reality-check or a good shake-up. The ones who explore are the ones who are actually going to hold the key to transcending to another plane of existence.

    An Almost Totally New Enterprise

    This is a small point, but I was glad to have some insight into the design philosophy of the recreation deck as it appears in TMP. It's visual presence is retained in some of the comics I've been reading from the era, and it's the version that appears in my mind's eye when I read The Wounded Sky and My Enemy, My Ally. I was surprised and pleased that it appears in the novelization for TSFS. However, I wish I had had a better understanding of it's physical presence as this large open space, described in TMP novelization as a kind of town square for the Enterprise crew. That rational seems to make sense to me, I can see how it could help the crew keep their sanity a little better on long voyages. This is one of those passages that I wished I had read before or remembered better, when reading the other books in the series that I've already gone through.

    I like how everyone's log recordings and notes have gone into the redesign, so everyone now has their station perfect. This is their dream Enterprise, in theory.
    Final Thoughts

    I'm glad I reread this one, and hope that re-familiarizing myself with it will continue to pay dividends as I read further through the early novels.

    Next Voyage

    “The Dimensions of Creation Make Our Future Choices Almost Limitless.”--TMP novelization, page 250 , Gene Roddenberry

    **Appendix: Retconning the Intro theme and visual for The Entropy Effect

    To The Entropy Effect, I'll replace the straight black background and theme with an opening title sequence that is still inspired by the first movie. The track will be the Leaving Drydock theme from TMP soundtrack, accompanying visuals that echo the Enterprise's launch. In TMP it's the refit version of Enterprise that launches, but for The Entropy Effect it will be the Phase II Enterprise or the hybrid Enterprise of the novel continuity flying along the same course to depart the solar system.
     
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  8. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Mindshadow by JM Dillard

    Intro

    The imagery is of a moving tableau, a nightclub/bar kind of scene, with psychedelic lighting. Captain Kirk and McCoy are grooving, 60's style, with the book's major guest character, Emma Saenz. Emma moves back and forth between them, when she is closer to Kirk she winks at McCoy, and then she switches and moves closer to McCoy and winks at Kirk. The music they're grooving to is that “Spooky Girl” song, the version with lyrics, dedicated to the book's own spooky girl, Emma. In the background is a high table, where Spock is seated, but collapsed face-down on the table. Spock's head is wrapped in bloodied bandages, and one hand clutches at a bottle, the top of which is smashed off. The shattered remnants of Spock's bottle is labelled “Cliff-Jumper.” Shady characters move about in the background, silhouettes with pointed ears.

    A Gateway to the Past, Many Journeys are Possible

    Mindshadow is a user-friendly entry point for the 80's novel continuity. Unless you want to be strict about publication order, and read Vulcan Academy Murders first, to give that book it's due as a major return visit to Vulcan (Yesterday's Son has a brief visit, but Spock doesn't stay very long at all in that book). Knowledge of the relevant television stories is a huge help with this book, Amok Time and Journey to Babel and Yesteryear at the very least; the Enterprise Incident gives a sense of context for how the televised adventures have given Star Fleet a technological advantage that hasn't just disappeared.

    The Need of the One

    Mindshadow was a fun Star Trek novel that I really enjoyed reading. I've always enjoyed JM Dillard's prose, and I was happy to see that the storyline of this book progresses in a mostly coherent way. There are occasional leaps ahead, and a feeling that in some cases more time should have passed for the characters to realistically accept newer situations becoming normal. A quick example is how Spock receives a bad injury during a landing party excursion, and hardly any time has passed before somehow the information has been passed along to Star Fleet, a specialist requested, and all of a sudden Dr. Emma Saenz shows up. The turn around time for these events is an early moment that stretched my ability to believe the story, raising many questions. Why didn't important Enterprise crew have notification that another ship arrived to visit the Enterprise and beam over new personnel? Shouldn't someone approve the arrival, and receive Emma as she arrives in the transporter room? It's weird to see Captain Kirk surprised by the random arrival of someone new like this. It feels like a conversation needs to happen between the bridge crew, the captain, and the new Security chief.

    The book starts out really nicely, with the ill-fated landing party. They are visiting another paradise planet, and want to offer protection to the planetary population. I really liked seeing things kick off with a landing party, although they don't end up spending much time on the planet, much to my surprise. This is just where everything goes wrong, the rest of the book is on the Enterprise, and more planet-side action happens on Vulcan rather than this new planet, Aritani.

    I like the sense of the book exploring the possibilities of how things might have to change. Spock falls off a cliff and gets his head dented in! The newly arrived specialist, Emma Saenz, gives some of the best-case and worst-case recovery possibilities for Spock. A replacement for Spock arrives to fill in, called Varth Regev. The most interesting thing about Varth is that he comes from a colony world called Radu, which was populated by non-militant, non-warlike people from “the Klingon system.” Other than a brief scene between him and Sulu, he doesn't make a strong impression. Spock eventually returns to Vulcan to seek expert medical attention and mental re-training. The book flirts with the idea that this could be an indefinite stay, yet I felt a sense of comfort following Spock home.

    There seemed to be something spiritual about this story, having Spock returning home in this way, maybe because it was the first book of this series that I read that had this happening, featuring Vulcan as a major setting. Maybe it has to do with Joseph Campbell's monomyth ideas of the hero's journey, and the moment of a hero's return home before setting out again. Although I have seen the animated episode Yesteryear, I didn't remember the visuals of Spock's home from that story, so the image that appeared in my mind's eye is drawn from Dillard's description in this book and what my own mind could make of it. Even though I have since re-watched Yesteryear, my mind's eye picture of Spock's family home has endured and reappeared for Vulcan Academy Murders and more recently when I was reading Dillard's next TOS novel, Demons. I found myself wondering if I would have a different image in my head if I had read the Academy Murders novel first.

    Dr. Emma Saenz (beware spoilers ahead)

    Spooky girl is really quite an extraordinary character, for all the roles she has in the book. I think she's an interesting character, but she's also creepy. After making it obvious to any given reader (at least, to this reader) that Emma may not be the best specialist to administer treatment to Spock, the author gave me some relief by having McCoy recommend sending Spock home to Vulcan and his family home. And then one of the most memorable images of the book happens, where Spock is packing, and for some reason Emma is there in Spock's quarters, hovering and observing. I'm not sure if this was a logical moment, but it was deliciously creepy.

    Anyway, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's not enough that she doesn't seem to have Spock's best interest at heart. She draws McCoy into a weird soap opera-ish relationship triangle, gaslighting them both. This sounds silly, but I thought it was funny; disturbing but funny.

    There's so much going on beneath the surface though, that it's hard to get a sense of who this character truly is at the end. She's way too many things, I think. She's a doctor, for starters, or is so talented as to pull off a completely convincing cover. Does she count as a real doctor? Well, she's published at least one paper together with a Vulcan colleague who seems legitimate (we meet said Vulcan, who ends up training Spock, and there doesn't seem to be reason to doubt that he is what he seems to be). But it seems she's also Star Fleet intelligence, if I am recalling correctly. That's pretty impressive, and seems to be a lot of work right there. However, she is also a Romulan, successfully infiltrated into society on the Federation side of the border, and has to take medications (and who knows what other steps) to hide her heritage. She's also Romulan intelligence, I guess. So she's a double agent? In addition, within Romulan society, she is part of a rebel group opposed to the Romulan government and the Praetor. Does make her...I don't know, a triple agent? What kind of background checks or loyalty proofs did she have to go through, to establish herself in all these organizations and factions? How much is she getting paid to do all these jobs, and how is she not going crazy juggling the conflicts of interest?! She might as well have a multiple personality disorder...which might actually help her through switching roles the way she does. I'll bet her ears feel like hell, having them constantly being chopped off and glued on again all the time.

    The Needs of the Many

    Spock's Brain

    A major event in Mindshadow is the injury Spock received after risking a jump off a cliff, to avoid certain death from another threat. He suffers a major head trauma, and Dr. Saenz and McCoy discuss some of the more bleak scenarios for Spock's recovery. This is one of those small moments where I wondered if it would have been more or less effective to have read The Vulcan Science Academy Murders, which talks about Spock's Psi-rating; his father Sarek is low-level, yet somehow his half-human son has a really high rating. Moving past incongruities between Jean Lorrah and JM Dillard versions of Star Trek, and you might come away with a progression of being introduced to the idea that Spock had a very high Psi-rating, which makes the potential tragedy of Spock's head injury in Mindshadow more impacting.

    I revisited the book to remind myself about the actual nature of Spock's head injury. McCoy says that the left hemisphere of Spocks brain received significant damage (his head is rather grisly described as being slightly caved in). McCoy says that damaged brain cells can and are repaired, but destroyed cells cannot be replaced with any kind of cloning techniques. The left hemisphere of the brain is defined in this story as being for language, “some memory, mathematics, analysis...and logic. Dillard has really hit Spock at his core, this is everything that makes Spock who he is.

    Most of Spock's recovery efforts focus in on retraining himself in the Vulcan Mind Rules. For some reason, the idea of the mind rules sounded familiar to me, as if I had come across it in one of Dillards other books, so I paid more attention to it. What the mind rules are blurred a bit during my reading of the novel and after, so I revisited and compiled information for my informal compendium. Here is what I collected on the discipline:

    The Mind Rules—Training that enables Vulcans to shield individual thoughts from other telepaths, or block out thoughts and emotions of other individuals in close proximity. The training helps to reduce the natural psionic rating to a lower level. Training may also aid concentration and clarity of memory.

    So, my initial impressions are a little off; this injury doesn't seem to impact on Spock's Psi-rating, as far as readers are told. The issue is control of Spock's rating, and his ability to successfully dampen his natural talent. Which means that Spock's high Psi-ability causes him more pain and discomfort than another Vulcan would experience. The process of writing this out here has changed my initial assumptions about the long term consequences after the end of this book. There aren't really lasting ramifications; I spent a period of time wondering if other books would have unplanned, uncoordinated supporting evidence that Spock was doing less spectacular mind type tricks leading into and through to the movie era. It doesn't stick, though, this is like the Vulcan inner eyelid. It's no more traumatizing than having his whole brain scooped out of his head.

    Still, the accident destroys some of the brain cells, that were never restored. Spock is able to retrain himself to reassert his mental shielding, and it feels like even if there are other things that need retraining, it would be a routine matter for Spock to compensate for. I imagine there remains scarring on his scalp (though this would be invisible underneath his hair) and evidence of the breaks in his skull would show up on a detailed medical scan. Of course, this damage would be entirely undone after the body is restored by the Genesis wave effect.

    The Enterprise

    Over the course of reading two of Dillard's novels so far (a review/reflection for Demons is pending) it seems that Dillard is favoring a more classic version of Enterprise. Still, the Enterprise has a handy bit of technology that fits well with an idea that the accomplishments in earlier adventures accumulate and manifest directly on board. In Diane Duane's book's the Enterprise gets the first Horta out of Star Fleet Academy. Dillard establishes that the Enterprise has her own cloaking device.

    “The Enterprise Incident” gave Star Fleet a working model to develop their own type, but if I recall correctly there is dialogue in the episode that indicates that there is a limited window where Star Fleet can make use of cloaking technology before the Romulans and Klingons make better ones; and with knowledge that Star Fleet has access to the technology, the Romulans and Klingons can develop detection technology to render whatever Star Fleet develops as obsolete. This tight timeline doesn't prevent the possibility that cloaking technology is used by Star Fleet as far along as The Undiscovered Country.

    I think its neat that there are a small handful of books where the Enterprise is depicted as outfitted with her own cloak, if it's needed. My impression from reading several of Dillards books now, including the novelizations is that this is a standardized feature for some Star Fleets ships for a period of time. I definitely remember it being mentioned in the novelization for The Undiscovered Country, and thought it sounded familiar when I read it there; however I couldn't chase down any reference in The Final Frontier novelization.

    Scotty makes clear here that the power drain is significant for them, and costs them the ability to use other ship systems. Showing the cloaking device's limitations from the standpoint of the familiar Star Fleet characters made it easier to imagine enemy ships coping with the same or similar issues.

    Ingrit Tomson

    Introducing the Enterprise's newest security chief! This seems like a really important shipboard security position that a couple books have made important. The original show didn't need it, but I imagine if they had a regular character in the role, you could do something more dramatic than an endless parade of redshirts who beam down with the regular characters just so they can get killed. It's good several authors have locked in on the potential of this role...except that different authors might want to have their own character. Mandala Flynn serves in the position for a brief period of time, but we don't see her do anything extraordinary as part of her security duties before she's moved on, her ambition taking her to other postings. Puttering around Memory Beta brought to my attention that My Enemy, My Ally had another security chief, but I don't remember the character at all.

    Ingrit Tomson, however, is the security chief who sticks around and has a substantial stint. Other authors apparently latched on to the character and started to use her in their books, rather than introduce someone new. How did Mindshadow accomplish this? She starts appearing in other author's books with Chain of Attack, I guess, and that's after her second appearance in Demons. That's the best information I have on Ingrit, other than my own reaction to her debut.

    I found Tomson to be a fun character, and she seems well defined in her first book. I got an impression that Kirk is a bit galled by what she does and pushes for in her duties. Even though she has nerve in her interactions with Kirk, Dillard presents her as capable of being rattled by situations that make her appear incompetent, whether or not she is actually culpable. Maybe this is why I didn't get annoyed with her pushing back in her interactions with Kirk. I've seen moments where Kirk pushes his officers and makes assumptions about their capabilities because of circumstances beyond their control. So I found it satisfying that Tomson asserts authority over what she has control over, and pushes Kirk to give her authority that will override his own in a security matter.

    There's this wonderful situation that arises during the course of a murder investigation that has Tomson target Scotty as a potential suspect. I suppose I could have been annoyed that Tomson wasted time with Scotty, who obviously isn't the murderer, when she should be finding the real perpetrator. Yet I felt there was so much charm in having this situation where Kirk defers security authority because he feels heckled by Tomson, only to have it come back to bite him when he finds he now has to allow Tomson to arrest Scotty. The outcome of this scene is hilarious, with Kirk going “Oh, God...”, feeling guilty towards Scotty, Scotty deliberately shaming him as he's dragged off, and Tomson feeling downright smug! I found this whole scenario endearing, actually, seeing it as just a bit of quirky fun, and it's a great laugh from how all three characters are reacting to the situation. So this really won me over for Dillard's security chief. As I understand it, the character was based on a person she knew personally and was annoyed by in real life; but the character that Dillard establishes in this book seems very likable, in an exasperating kind of way, and made me want to see more of Tomson in future books.

    The Dimensions of Creation Make Our Future Choices Limitless

    I think with this book, you could follow up right away with Demons, by the same author. Crisis on Centaurus is technically the next one on the publication order list (which I've read, and will do a reflection later within the format I've established for books in this marathon). I have recently read Demons, and so I went back and did a reflection for this book, Mindshadow, as a lead-in to my reactions to Demons. Having read Demons, I'm excited to have reached Enterprise: The First Adventure, following a little more closely in publication order. Before E:TFA, I plan to write about Vonda McIntyre's novelizations for The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, to bridge material that McIntyre develops between The Entropy Effect and The First Adventure.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I figure it's just because the editor at the time was encouraging more inter-novel continuity.

    Although there were still plenty of discontinuities. I remember being annoyed that the Dillard books made ShanaiKahr the Vulcan capital and ShiKahr just another city, unlike the Lorrah and other books that made ShiKahr the capital. (Although Dillard's approach probably made more sense, since the city as depicted in "Yesteryear" didn't look that big.)
     
  10. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or the Vulcans could be just as efficient in organizing a government as they seem to be with everything else (and even having a capital city, the government could be decentralized to some extent). A capital city doesn't need to necessarily be the biggest city. Washington D.C is far from being the largest city in the U.S. Olympia, the state capital of Washington state is quite a bit smaller than other cities in the state like Seattle or Spokane.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^True enough, but the idea of Spock's hometown just happening to be the capital feels like small-universe syndrome to me. I mean, I guess it kinda makes sense for the ambassador to live in the capital, but it adds more texture to the planet and the culture if not everything of note happens in a single city.
     
  12. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    I think I like Dillard's idea that Spock's family home isn't the capitol of Vulcan, there's another city/settlement. One of my favorite passages from Mindshadow is after Spock has landed at the capitol and he walks through the desert in the dead of night. It's a dangerous journey, that he takes in stride. And then Amanda gives him hell for not letting them know so they can give him a ride home from the spaceport.

    I really enjoy that quite a few of the books I've read keep visiting Vulcan. I like reading these different interpretations of that world, and seeing new towns/cities/settlements added to give the world more scope.
     
  13. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I really like Dillard's 1980s novels, but haven't read them for decades; I should go back. I remember liking Ingrit and all the other characters she introduced.

    I believe the Enterprise also had a cloaking device ready to deploy in Dillard's Resistance.
     
  14. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    They've been real page turners, just about every time. The only time I ever struggled was when reading through the novelization for DS9 Emissary, and I think that's just because I had the episode recorded, and I was starting to go off novelizations in general, especially if home video was easily available.

    As far along as Post-Nemesis TNG! I like that Dillard has this as an option the Enterprise crews can rely on if they need it.
     
  15. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Have you read @Dayton Ward's Vulcan travel guide? If you like Vulcan it's definitely worth a read.
     
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  16. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    That's a good question!

    I have definitely flipped through it a couple times when I've seen it at the bookstores. I liked seeing the global map layout, and got a kick out of some of the writing I skimmed. The material about Mount Seleya made me smile.

    I hemmed and hawed about it, but I can't say why I haven't snagged it yet. Seems a shoe-in for an instant buy. I didn't snag the Klingon Empire travel guide, either, but The Klingon Art of War I jumped at right away. Maybe I'm keen for something like The Klingon Art of War, for Vulcan (The philosophy of Surak)? I haven't ruled out getting the Vulcan Travel guide, mind, just holding off for a little bit.
     
  17. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Sorry it took me so long to respond, this thread got pushed down the page before I got back to this section of the boards, and I lost track of it.
    I have both books and they are a lot of fun, I highly recommend them.
     
  18. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    No worries. I think I held off on the Vulcan book on the grounds of keeping my head in TOS 80's continuity space, so I don't confuse continuities when I get to a book like, say, Spock's World. That rationale doesn't work, given that I'm reading through the DC Volume 1 TOS series, which has overlap yet is also it's own continuity. Also given the fact that individual books have their own continuity (except when the author decides to give a nod to other novels), I can't really make a case about confusing myself with too many contradictory continuities. The final nail in the coffin is that I've decided to hold off on reading Enterprise: The First Adventure and read The Captain's Oath. And then I'll go back and read E:TFA for comparison as well as returning to my 80's continuity reading schedule.

    It's nice to be all out of excuses. I saw it in the store again, today, so I decided to go for it. Thanks for the recommendation! :cool:
     
  19. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Demons by JM Dillard

    Intro

    We see space, and the stars, and the edge of a planet hovering on the edge of the frame. There isn't a musical theme, just the kind of ominous rumbling and rippling sound. In the distance we see an object hurtling toward us. It seems to slow as it's features become more clear: it is the circular container for demonic things that will infect and possess people. It flares with light briefly, and flare illuminates lettering around it; the container becomes the “O” in the word Demons. The light flare fades, and the word Demons is only present for barely a flicker moment, but you know you saw it because the after-image has stayed behind, in your mind.

    The demon container seems transparent for a few moments, like a crystal ball, we see the shadow of movement and images of things that maybe we don't want to see. And then the container becomes solid again, shoots past us, and drops gracefully towards the planet that looms large on the edge of vision. The container dwindles to almost a speck, and we see the streaking red of a re-entry burn...and then we think maybe we see several other re-entry burn streaks as well...

    The Need of the One

    Demons has turned out to be one of the most frustrating, disappointing books I've read in my exploration of the early Star Trek novel continuity. Even though Dillard's prose is as readable as ever, and I found myself plowing through the book, I started to get a sense before the halfway point just how much this book wasn't going to measure up.

    There was so much potential here that just gets squandered, I felt. The book returns to Vulcan, which was fun to visit in Vulcan Academy Murders, and a place of relative spiritual comfort in Mindshadow. Demons also had potential as one of my favorite types of Star Trek stories, where the Enterprise is taken over by hostile forces (I love By Any Other Name, Day of the Dove, Star Trek V The Final Frontier and Star Trek: First Contact as examples of this trope), yet this is one of the least interesting stories of this type I can think of off the top of my head. The forces taking over the Enterprise are touted as beings of malevolence and horror, but doesn't come close to the chills Day of the Dove suggests. We meet Sarek's brother, and Spock meets the high priestess of the Kolinahr community at Gol for the first time. Spock sees his family and homeworld in immediate danger. We get to see a little bit of shuffling around with the security staff under Ingrit Tomson's command. For the second book in a row we get a major guest protagonist who is a female, who seems to be in a quasi-romantic triangle with two of the big three; this time it's Spock and McCoy. None of this seems to work. How did this go wrong? It amazed me that I found the book so readable, yet the whole work is such a bafflingly empty construct.

    Anitra

    The guest protagonist Anitra gets quite a striking introduction, and her character seems designed to test a readers patience, and seems to be trying to overturn the expectations of fans who are hyper-alert for the Mary Sue trope. I try not to let awareness of this trope interfere with how I evaluate new characters introduced by writers, and Dillard gives an explanation behind Anitra's extraordinary seeming competence: having a high Psi-rating, she has the cheat codes to all the other characters' thoughts. She can regulate and fine-tune her interactions with another character, or read off exactly how a character expects her to do a shipboard task, and in this way easily establishes relationships to her satisfaction as well as display an unnatural level of competence. Does her psi-rating cheat successfully subvert her potential categorization as a Mary Sue...? I miss Spooky girl quadruple agent Dr. Emma Saenz and all her gas-lighting shenanigans.

    Prelude to a Movie Novelization

    Something about Demons gave me the impression that this book is the perfect audition for later getting the gig of novelizing the fifth Star Trek movie. We are introduced to Sarek's previously unknown brother, Silek (he's Sarek's brother brother. Dillard must have made this up. Silek couldn't possibly be Sarek's brother because I happened to know for a fact that Sarek doesn't have a brother). Well, okay: introducing Silek, Sarek's brother. Dillard gives a little bit of tantalizing backstory, harkening back to Sarek and Amanda meeting, and this is one nice little bright spot in Demon's narrative. But it seems like a lot of work to establish Silek, given how much he is a part of the rest of the story...I'll bet Silek doesn't exist anywhere else outside of this novel. Other elements that probably suggested that Dillard is the perfect writer for The Final Frontier's movie novelization include regular characters not acting like themselves and turning on their fellow crewmembers who haven't been possessed/hypnotized/ect, and the aforementioned takeover of the Enterprise.

    It seems that Dillard does better when she is given a story that's already been worked out (however flawed it might be) and is able to expand on it, and rationalize problems that other viewers/readers might pick up on if given the chance to reflect. Yet she seems to struggle with where to focus her emphasis as she progresses a story that she is building on her own. Demons at times lurches forward in it's narrative and at other times treads water with repetitive or boring incidents. Spock takes Anitra to meet his parents while on shore leave on Vulcan, then suddenly they're settled in as guests at Sarek and Amanda's home without the actual introductions. We don't get foreshadowing or lead-in to the Enterprise takeover, and then suddenly it's already happened. Characters take turns being possessed and then are not possessed, and the effort to re-take the Enterprise circles in a narrative holding pattern where no one can get a foothold (until the last 50 pages, when suddenly the story is lurching forward again to wrap it up).

    Deleted Scenes?

    There were enough story jumps that it made me wonder if there were scenes that had been written that were later chopped out of the novel's manuscript. As I mention just above, Spock goes to visit his parents. According to Dillard's interview in Voyages of the Imagination, Demons started from the concept of Spock meeting with Sarek and coming to a shocking realization that Sarek is somehow no longer Sarek. But this core idea is obscured, and their first meeting doesn't happen, so we as readers don't get to see Spock reacting to his initial suspicions. The book could have benefited from a couple of scenes foreshadowing that control of the Enterprise is being taken by some mysterious phenomenon. Throughout the book the characters who remain themselves predominantly focus their attention on Scotty as the main threat, which expands beyond the threat of how quickly and efffectively Scotty will be able to break into the auxiliary control room and subvert or override it's functions. Scotty becomes the de facto leader of possessed crewmembers, but he is a largely absent, hinting that there are scenes missing. And towards the end we see Scotty and Chekhov (Dillard is still spelling Chekhov's name this way, as late as 1986!) waking up and shaking the cobwebs off, surrounded by evidence of whatever mayhem they were getting up to while possessed, and I was left with the sense of a prior scene that could have been laden with tension and the danger one or both of them faced before they are rendered unconscious. It could have been a tense scene, but because it was deleted or never written, there isn't a corresponding sense of relief after a tense build-up. It even feels like Scotty and Chekhov's deleted scene could have had a small subplot that culminates with them ending up where they are at.

    The Horror of Running in Circles

    There's a constant replay of a small group of characters who pause to take stock, and tell one of the characters how they are going to split up and one of them is going to be left behind. I've seen this sometimes in a horror story, but I started to feel like something had gone wrong when I noticed it happening over and over again. I expect the bulk of a horror story to be the lead in and lead out to peak scare moments; but the bulk of the second half of this book is the lead in and out of these arguing scenes about separating. Uhura is told she is to stay behind on the Enterprise, which is just a horrible and horrifying moment that makes it feel like Uhura is actually being mistreated, being left behind in a frightening situation in danger of an agonizing death. Then McCoy is part of a three-member landing party and ends up getting told to stay behind something like four times throughout the second half of the book. And it's the same boring argument, the same inevitable “McCoy follows after them anyway” outcome. I wanted to scream. The real horror of JM Dillard's Demons is not her scary, sadistic demons; no, the real horror is the repetition of the same scene replayed over and over again.

    There are a few bright spots. Dillard's prose is almost always works perfectly for me; word choice and phrasing just works for my brain, my mind doesn't stagger and flipping the order of her words around, it's naturalistic for me. The early moments of troubleshooting how to take back control of the Enterprise are fun, before the story gets the characters stuck circling around in a holding pattern. The other bright spot is a character who is the major anchor for this book with the rest of TOS 80's novel continuity.

    The Needs of the Many

    Ingrit Tomson

    Ingrit Tomson, and the changing rotation of her security staff, is one of the major points of interest for me with this book. Tomson was very effectively established in Mindshadow, and Dillard takes the character in what I felt were some genuinely interesting directions. The execution is still a little bit choppy, like the rest of the book, though, but the overall effect still comes across.

    I like how she gets to have a relationship, defying generic expectations of what her character is capable of, and it's so true to her character that she is only willing when professionalism and the potential for conflicts of interest are a non-issue.

    It still manages to go wrong, and then we get to see what's really possible. After giving her a few wonderful spotlight moments side-by-side with Kirk taking back control of the Enterprise, and learning a little about what alternative career paths she was interested in, she requests a moment away from that spotlight in order to contemplate committing a terrible atrocity.

    Having lost someone who was really important to her, she moves to take revenge on the crewmember who killed her love while being possessed. This is a standout moment from the unfocused messiness of the rest of the novel, because Dillard makes sure readers know that Tomson is aware that the possessed crewmember is not responsible for their actions while possessed, and that crewmember is no longer possessed as Ingrit goes to face that person. Tomson has even run through the scenario in her mind, she's worked out that she can do this while the rest of the Enterprise crew's possession-status is in flux; so she can take revenge by murdering someone and not get caught.

    This was quite an extreme moment for this character, and I certainly wouldn't have expected this kind of thing so soon. The scene between her and her target crewmate, Stryker, was satisfyingly harrowing. Most of the rest of the book was so frustrating, but this scene with Tomson leaves me with some hope that Dillard will carry this over in the subsequent books that she writes, that feature Tomson.

    This is one of those small moments that I've been hoping for with this sequence of books. It's one of the things that is possible when authors are able to keep using their own original characters as part of the extended Enterprise crew, but it's hard to say there's been a lot of development in that regard, throughout the books I've read so far. Diane Duane established a couple of regulars, but nothing jumps out at me that takes her original characters into extreme situations that test the baseline of what we think we know about those characters. Vonda McIntyre's original characters are a difficult prospect to see developed in new stories and situations given that McIntyre ended up doing the movie novelizations; so we get an idea of where Mandala Flynn has gone in her career path, but we don't get to actually spend time with Flynn in normal or extreme circumstances. Piper hasn't returned yet (I'll see where she's headed a few books from now...but I'll bet she's still going to be preachy about her political beliefs).

    T'sai

    T'sai makes an appearance here. T'sai is the name of the priestess who presides over Spock's Kolinahr ceremony; according to Memory Alpha her name comes from the novelization of TMP. Good thing I added it to my list, and read it recently! Memory Beta indicates that she returns in Dillard's novelization for The Final Frontier movie, and The Lost Years. It's been recommended from a fellow poster here that I include The Final Frontier novelization for story connections to The Lost Years. It's nice to see this character gets some more use in the books, and will have to see what Dillard makes of T'sai. Unfortunately, not much is made of the first meeting between her and Spock, and maybe it doesn't matter. While I was reading the book I got excited that this would be a moment where the book would lift itself out of the disappointment that I was feeling. With the passage of a little time, I felt that maybe it's okay that the meeting isn't made out to be so much of a big deal, it's just a meeting between two people, who will later on meet again in different circumstances that are more significant.

    The Enterprise

    It became very obvious closer to the end that Dillard is depicting the Enterprise in a more classic TOS way, without much hybridization between television and movie eras. The real give away was a one-page ship-to-ship battle towards the end of the book, which has Tomson get thrown around a little on the bridge. Dillard makes very clear where Tomson's starting and endpoint is, when she is loses balance; it reads very much like the television configuration of the bridge.

    This didn't stop me from “seeing” a little bit of hybridization in my mind's eye, sometimes unintentionally. There's an opening scene where crewmembers are off-duty socializing in the Rec room; and I didn't even have to force myself to see it as the movie version's Rec Deck, it just happened naturally. Maybe it's a default tendency from it happening in Diane Duane's novels, yet factor in that the novelization for TMP is fresh in my mind as well. I'm primed to make use of that Rec Deck set in my mind's eye.

    Some of the corridor scenes and the transporter room appeared in movie configuration; I kind of forced the corridor scenes, but the transporter room felt more natural in it's movie look. I couldn't force the auxiliary control rooms appearance since there's a clear TOS series visual to draw on and there's no corresponding movie counterpart as an alternative; however Dillard describes it in a way that my mind had to augment the room's visual anyway.

    A Brief Thought Regarding Uniforms

    The cover art shows Spock and McCoy in the movie-era uniforms that people seem to like calling the monster Maroons, although the actually story is more in the classic time-frame. I had a thought though, given how this book is included with other novels where visuals can be open for readers to make their own interpretation. I thought it might be fun to visualize the maroon uniforms as dress-uniform for the universes of the 80's novel continuity, during the 5YM era and the 2nd 5YM era. Demons didn't really have any moments to deploy this idea in my mind's eye though. I'll save the idea for later, if it ever pops up.

    Final Thoughts

    It's gives me no pleasure to say that Demons is the most disappointing and frustrating of TOS 80's novels I've read to this point. It's painful for me, actually, because I enjoyed Mindshadow quite a bit, and have read and like so many of Dillard's novelizations. Usually I've avoided making an overall declaration that I feel a book is good or bad or average overall, I'll just talk about the component parts that I thought were done well or didn't work for me. Unfortunately, most of Demons just didn't work for me. I actually feel a little ambivalent about Bloodthirst now, but there's a bunch of novels before I get to that one, enough time to let my gut reaction to Demons fade. I'm still interested to see where Tomson goes from here, given what I've learned about the character's skill set and what she kind of darkness she might have been capable of for a brief moment. And I still feel hopeful about The Lost Years.
     
  20. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2011
    Better watch out. “Demons” had a TNG sequel called “Possession”. (And according to Memory Alpha”, TOS #37 “Bloodthirsty” is apparently a sequel as well.)
     
    Desert Kris likes this.