TOS 80's Novel Continuity Read Through

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

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's called Bloodthirst, and it's only a sequel to the story arcs of Dillard's original supporting characters, not to the specific story topic of Demons.
     
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  2. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    I'm keeping an eye out for a nice copy of Possession, or at least a relatively un-trashed one. For further down the road. Hopefully that will turn out to be more satisfying than Demons.

    I was afraid that would happen. So: my reflection/review of JM Dillard's Demons can be found at the bottom of the previous page.
     
  3. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Enterprise The First Adventure (Part I)

    Pre-title

    I took a brief, one-book hiatus from TOS 80's novels, and when my reading pile cycled around to Star Trek, I filled in the Trek slot with a modern Star Trek novel published more recently. I had been excited about the promise of Enterprise The First Adventure as a version of the story that shows Kirk take over as captain of the Enterprise for the first time, and takes her out on her first voyage with him in command. The Captain's Oath seemed to offer the same promise, so I thought I would deviate a little from my schedule. There have already been deviations anyway, from the order in which I read the earlier books, to adding in a read-through of The Motion Picture novelization after Dwellers in the Crucible and other 80's novels showed that material in the book version of TMP is incorporated into the novels' continuity.

    At last, I have now reached Enterprise TFA. Time to cross over, back to one of the other realities on the other side, beyond the tear in the wounded sky. Travelling back is easy, with this simple paperback printed sometime in 1986 or after, it's like the drive system that was tested on the Enterprise, a drive system powered by the science of Creative Physics. In the blink of an eye I'm already gone, travelling as fast as the speed of thought. Just like how Kirk and company find that the Enterprise fades around them into the dream-world of another universe, the book Enterprise fades from my sight and the words on the page transforms into the dream-world of another universe...

    Intro

    The first five notes of Michael Giacchino's score for the JJ Abram's movies over blackness that fades into the star fields of space. But it's only a brief musical introduction, paying respects to the Abram's movies for promising an alternative look at TOS Trek, that lead me to a set of books I wasn't ready for when I was younger. And like how the promise of new novels in an alternative setting were suddenly cancelled, the music changes gears abruptly. The sixth note doesn't finish the progression of Giacchino's Star Trek theme, the sixth note is the first higher-pitched ping! of the familiar Alexander Courage Star Trek Theme, which plays out in much the familiar way. As the four-note progression of introductory pings play out, we see spacedock on the left-hand side of our field of view, hovering in space. The doors are in the process of opening, revealing the Enterprise emerging from within. As Enterprise sails into space, it becomes clear that her flight path is still the familiar flight path that we recognize in the usual TOS opening credits. There isn't a voice-over opening monologue by Captain Kirk. The Enterprise's flight path is mostly familiar, except it is the Earth's moon that we see her approach and circle around, before flying off to the accompaniment of the main body of TOS intro theme. Enterprise is on her way, with Captain Kirk in command.

    A Gateway to the Past, Many Journeys are Possible

    Enterprise TFA benefits from having read Vonda McIntyre's previous Star Trek novels; The Entropy Effect and the novelizations for the second and third films. Enterprise TFA sees Hikaru Sulu anxious to be assigned to Captain Hunter's border patrol ship, the Aerfen, much in the same way he leaped for the chance (...again...) in The Entropy Effect. There's a nod to Scotty's extended family in a somewhat humorous scene where Scotty tells fellow officers about how excited he is to be an uncle. Although knowledge of Scotty's relationship with he niece from The Search For Spock puts a little bit of a dampener on the humor of the moment. Snnanagfashtalli is mentioned earlier in Enterprise TFA, but McIntyre plays coy about it for a while, not mentioning names until near the very end, where Snarl participates in a cultural dance with several other fellow felinoids.

    One benefit of reading McIntyre's novels in publication order is to see how see she expands her ideas about Klingon culture. After feeling a little baffled trying to figure out what McIntyre was suggesting in her novelization of TSFS, Enterprise TFA very straightforwardly outlines what is only hinted at earlier. After reading Enterprise TFA, revisiting scenes featuring Valkris and a conversation between Saavik and Maltz in TSFS novelization have new meaning.

    The Need of the One

    So this is one of those ones that I've been really excited about, and had a long running curiosity over. It is one of so many Star Trek novels from the 1980's that I picked up, was keen to read, yet couldn't quite make a it past the early parts. This one has that exciting draw of promising to show how things unfolded during Kirk's first mission as captain of the Enterprise. There's also the added curiosity regarding how well Enterprise TFA is received in reviews, given how well liked Vonda McIntyre's previous ST books are. I've been wondering what makes this book such a deal breaker.

    Writing about it now, after finishing it, I can see many things that are problematic, that mitigate against other things that are good or had the potential to be very effective. Somewhat early on I hit a point were I realized it would be a bit of a slog. When I encounter elements in a story that seem to be jarring, I will try and figure out what their place is in the book. Are they an example of symbolism, or part of developing a theme, or showing parallels between characters, or is the author trying to play against literary techniques to create a narrative world that doesn't always have meaning? Usually this keeps my mind busy and happy with a book that is a bit of a struggle. And it seemed like there were elements throughout the book that fit into the patterns (or else I read into them too deeply). At the very least, I found Enterprise TFA more satisfying compared to JM Dillard's Demons. Or less disappointing.

    I'll start at the beginning, and see where that takes me. There's a 20-page long prologue, which I think might as well have been a full-length chapter. It's very introspective and a little melancholy. It seems well organized and balanced between a couple of characters. And it doesn't help as a guide for expectations; it didn't prepare me for the chaos of the main narrative, and I found it misleading as a look into what the rest of the book would focus on. This is a book about people thinking they know where they are going, getting disorientated and wrong-footed before having their expected direction interrupted, and how they give a wrong impression in their new situation. I guess.

    In some ways, the book itself kind of gives the feeling of being deliberately constructed to seem one way, and then being disrupted by an outside element in a meta-textual way. There is a Klingon subplot that kicks off in the prologue, but it seemed to me that if you cut out all the scenes of the Klingon storyline, which are short and sparsely scattered, when you reached the 60% point of the book, you would have a novel which is basically a Star Trek slice-of-life story. McIntyre could have maybe merged the Vaudville performance at the 219 page mark with the one happening in the last chaper, filling it out with another 20-30 pages. One more writing revision to tightening up the character arcs and you would have a Star Trek slice-of-life novel that is about the same page count of the average TOS 80's Continuity novel, comparable in length to Mindshadow or Crisis on Centaurus or Dreadnaught!

    One might complain that this isn't what a fan would really want with their Star Trek novel. But the novels sometimes have had the room and opportunity to give readers a sense of what a normal, “boring” day of regular duties on board the Enterprise is like. Generally the TV show doesn't go too deeply into this kind of thing. But the little relaxed moments are kind of nice. I like it when some of the other novels start off with a scene of the characters off-duty in the recreation area or Rec Deck. People say this kind of thing isn't interesting, but those are moments where a reader can feel like they are inside a character's head, on board the Enterprise. When mundane things can happen on the ship, it makes the ship feel more believable, relatable and real.

    Of course, what an author does with that everyday space still matters. Enterprise TFA is good for focusing on characters. However, I experienced E: TFA as disjointed and uneven. After the prologue presents Hikaru Sulu very prominently, we lose the sense of Sulu reacting to being posted on the Enterprise where he doesn't want to be. @Damian made a good point in his review of the book a few months back, there isn't a sense of how the activities he is involved in gradually or abruptly make him re-think his situation. Janice Rand is introduced into the story abruptly, and dominates the focus of the story for a period of time before disappearing into the background, with a short eleventh-hour wrap up scene in the last chaper. It was nice to see Rand, or a version of the character; but it was frustrating seeing moments throughout where Rand could have been included. A little bit of thought and work could have included Rand in a way that would thematically resonated with the backstory McIntyre created for Rand (or maybe Rand's backstory could have been tweaked to some extent to resonate within the context of the crisis of the latter portions of the book). Uhura seems to get the most evenly focused attention throughout the novel, never dominating or disappearing to the extent that these other characters do. I think Uhura probably deserved a modest scene of her own in the prologue.

    Also in the Prologue we are introduced to Koronin, a renegade Klingon. She sounded like a promising protagonist. Unfortunately, Koronin suffers in one of the worst ways as a character who seems full of potential, ends up looking bad because the author is giving everyone uneven focus. Her worst moment is when Koronin launches her fighter forward to try and intercept a delegation of characters trying to come board the Enterprise. But then suddenly she sits immobile, seemingly indecisive. It provides a moment of tension for arranging the safe arrival of a delegation of visiting characters to the Enterprise, but after that moment of tension is spent, and the author has more important things to focus on, Koronin is left inactive in the sight of her crew. This is not a good look for Koronin or any Klingon, yet somehow it doesn't feel like Koronin is to blame for this. Why couldn't McIntyre have given Koronin a little more direction? In much the same way that Koronin is a prisoner of her desire to enact vengeance or lash out against two civilizations that have wronged her family, she is also a prisoner of an author who isn't able to use her effectively. I was glad and relieved for Koronin when she is able to escape from the narrative she is trapped in.

    Later I will post material exploring parallels and symbolism, and wonder if I read to deeply into it all. Also: "Why is there a flying horse in there?" "I'll explain later."
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
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  4. jaime

    jaime Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I’m kinda looking forward to you hitting Metamorphosis. I remember thinking it was awesome, but I have never Re-read it.
    (And Imzadi, but everyone has an opinion on that one.)
     
  5. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Wow, Metamorphosis! TNG may be a ways away. I'm sort of approaching the halfway point of my current list, after which there are some that I streamlined out of my list. After that I have a list of books that are transitional books, which I've prepared TNG novels into the mix.

    As it happens, Metamorphosis is part of the TNG mix. I sort of read most of it when it first came out, skimmed other parts. It wasn't a proper read, and it would be nice to go back and do it right. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed the Vulcan Science Academy Murders, and I'm hoping that the inclusion of the early TNG novel Survivors will lead to Metamorphosis being a more satisfying and successfuly revisitation. What I do remember about it was a really awesome quest that Data goes on in the early chapters, which really pushes his capabilities as an android and enduring an alarming amount of damage that the television series usually wouldn't show. And I enjoyed how Data's adaptation to life in a changed state is done in a slice-of-life way, too.

    I read Imzadi back in the day properly, and I personally really liked it. I always like seeing the Guardian of Forever, and I like how it is shown to be used (I prefer that depiction to how Reeves-Steven's Federation shows it going silent and unresponsive). I liked the spectacular non-linearity of it (and how subversively each section of time is titled), I liked the romanticism of the storyline on Betazed, and I got a kick out of the weird Terminator-vibe of the later part of the novel. I don't know how I would feel about reading it nowadays, but I've kept the book available to read again. As a general rule, I really like Peter David's writing. I'm surprised I didn't get further along at a faster pace with the New Frontier novels, maybe I was afraid it would be too much of a good thing. Or eventually hitting a book that ruins the success ratio.
     
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  6. jaime

    jaime Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Imzadi is canon xD
     
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  7. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Enterprise: The First Adventure (Part II)

    Parallels

    The introduction of Amelinda Lukarian and her Vaudeville performers made me wonder if I should be looking at parallels between that group and the Enterprise crew. It mainly got started when Lindy and Kirk are directly compared as very young people who have found themselves as the leader of a large group of people. I didn't try to hard to make direct comparisons with the rest of the Vaudeville characters but stuck with the general parallel to see if that would be satisfying.

    I ended up feeling a little frustrated with Lindy, because she is initially introduced to us the readers and Captain Kirk at a very vulnerable moment. It's a bad, uncomfortably tense meeting between the two. It hits at a moment when we start to see Kirk reacting in an alarming way to very nearly everything happening around him. After Kirk and Lindy start to relate to each other better, Lindy seems to have much more poise and self-assurance, which made me feel bad for Kirk as he continues to be wrong-footed and put in circumstances that aren't really his fault—although how he reacts are his responsibility. Because I felt bad for Kirk, it made me a little irritated that Lindy is shown to be so awkward in her first scene, but then so much more at home with herself after that point. There is dialogue that hints that the Vaudeville show is somehow in dire straits before they locked in a contract to do shows for distant Starfleet outposts. However, after her early scenes there is never any evidence of the Vaudeville crew having very nearly come to an end.

    One thing that did resonate while keeping in mind the idea of thematic parallels between different groups was the idea of what is backstage, or behind the performance. Some of the performers have a stage persona, and a normal everday one. We see this with Lindy, and we are told (but not shown) this is the case with the Vaudeville troup's dog trainer. As for the backstage element, I wondered if it was reinforcing the idea of the everyday routine of the Enterprise crew that we tend not to see in as much in a television episode, yet see more of in the novel format. I felt like the early half of the novel was a slice-of-life narrative, a look at the backstage of what usually happens in a Star Trek story where the characters find themselves in the middle of an adventure or story right away.

    Something that I really liked about the Vaudeville group is how they don't just passively perform their shows, they proactively coax outsiders into participation, even if it's temporary. They go beyond the idea of audience participation to the point where new people they meet become part of the Vaudeville crew and show. I thought this was a fun and interesting meta examination of the Star Trek format itself; how new characters are introduced for each new story, whether they are crewmembers we've never seen before, or completely outside of the Enterprise chain of command. Although the presence of the Vaudeville company side-by-side with the Star Trek crew in the context of TOS's crew first forming created what felt to me a small, destabilizing effect on the Enterprise crew. Unless the idea is that the Enterprise crew learns to do what the Vaudeville crew always does, by being inclusive and fluid.

    The exercise of looking for parallels between groups leads to misconceptions when applied to what the novel calls the worldship, and it's inhabitants from the First Contact storyline. Trying to understand the worldship and it's flyers had me empathizing with the tendency of other characters within the book coming to the wrong conclusions from early impressions.

    Symbolism

    I've come across so many reviews constantly asking about what is the point of Athene, the flying horse? Usually when I come across elements in a novel that I am struggling with, it helps for me to try and figure out if the element in question is symbolic of something, or is reinforcing themes that have been developing throughout the narrative. So I tried that approach with Athene to see if it would help me figure out the purpose of her. I think I figured out a possible answer, but it's possible I'm reading into it too much, which I have certainly done before.

    Partly what informed my speculation about Athene derives from passages in Christopher Bennett's novel The Captain's Oath. In TCO Captain Kirk romanticizes the Enterprise by comparing her to Pegasus in flight, with the nacelle struts like a tableau of wings poised in mid-flight ready for a powerful down-stroke (roughly paraphrasing here). In Enterprise TFA Athene is briefly compared or alluded to as been a similar idea to Pegasus, but she's a "real-life" creature genetically engineered to somewhat resemble the idea of Pegasus, but is technically designated as a Equiraptor.

    So Athene is an attempt to create the reality of Pegasus, but within her genetically engineered make-up comes a number of complications. Mixing the genetic material of a bird with a horse changes the animal's needs and desires, psychology and physiology. Athene is a little bit carnivorous, liking meat where normally it is not common for a horse to do so (I'm not very familiar with horses, to be honest, so please bear with any mistakes I make); as a result of the genetic combination, Athene's dietary preferences have been influenced by her bird-of-prey genetic material. Athene is also unable to fly with the wings she has in normal Earth-type gravity. However, Athene has the instincts of an animal who expects to be able to fly, and the inability to do so erodes at her psyche and eventually drives her and other hybrid Equiraptors like her into insanity.

    So I speculated that it might be helpful to try and think of Athene as representing the Enterprise, in a sense. Or alternative, as symbolically representing the Enterprise and her officers and crew as a whole. Or even all that, and basically an embodiment of TOS Star Trek in overall storytelling format. Roughly speaking, the idea of the Enterprise is a ship at sea, transposed into an outer space setting. Or, to consider the officers and crew, are meant to represent diversity of human ethnic backgrounds, as well as including non-terrestrial sentients; a combination of elements that usually unthinking instinctive reactions would say do not go together. As for the storytelling format of Star Trek TOS, it is a hybrid storytelling format, with the Horatio Hornblower novels, science-fiction literature, and Wagon Train television as sources of inspiration mixed together.

    The book cover for Enterprise TFA talks up the idea of the Enterprise on her 5 year mission as the stuff of legend, but I tried to remind myself that Vonda McIntyre might not necessarily have had that in mind. But with Athene the book presents us with an animal who fits the image of Pegasus, a creature of legend, but then gives us information about the complex needs of the animal in "real-life". As the book progressed, I asked myself if Athene's reactions to and rapport with Kirk would parallel his progress at being accepted with his officers and crew, and also see if it paralleled the general sense of how all the characters are interacting with each other.

    So we see that Kirk isn't completely in a good state of being when he first encounters Athene. He is somewhat intoxicated, leaving his judgement a little bit off. But it also feels like it has remove his ability to filter himself as well as maybe he would like. Additionally, recent traumas are still causing him to question his capabilities. His first encounter with Athene has the animal reacting to him badly, she becomes skittish and needs the intervention of several others, people who know her or have good information about what she is capable of. Kirk reacts to Athene aggressively and with a sense of entitlement. It is almost as if he feels entitled about the Enterprise, but at the same time on some level doesn't want to take command of this ship of the line.

    After the Enterprise is underway, Kirk still continues to have problems here and there, interacting with his officers and crew. There are some particular problems with his interaction with Janice Rand, which impacts on his interaction with others on the bridge. At some point around this time, Athene starts to show signs of gangrene in her hooves, because the shuttlecraft floor deck is too hard for her, and she needs to be able to move and stand on soil. Without careful nurturing of the environment, the beginnings of infection and sickness are in danger of taking root.

    Things start to turn around when Kirk is able to direct Janice Rand and the rest of his people to troubleshoot the issue of Athene's environment. Soil and vegetation are arranged to give Athene more soft ground to stand on, and the gravity on the shuttlecraft deck is adjusted to provide the opportunity for Athene to move more in accord with her instincts. This team building exercise seems to work wonders for the crew, they are finally working together to accomplish something greater. And Athene is very nearly ready to fly...almost. She has a more solid base to work with, and can test herself to a limited extent, accomplishing long hops with her wings drawing out the length of her jumps. It reminded me a bit of Robert Wise's statements in the his commentaries about The Motion Picture, when he elaborates about how the Enterprise starts out with her systems in an unfinished state, and the ship almost goes to warp speed; but it is only when Mr. Spock returns that the engine's balance equations are finalized and she is able achieve stable warp speed, after which the Enterprise has no technical problems in that first movie that aren't the result of outside forces.

    So Athene is given care in a way that provides opportunity for the Enterprise officers and crew to work together to make sure that Athene's potential infection will fade and not take root, and even more, almost gets her to the point of being able to fly. And she is even receptive to having Jim Kirk ride on her. It is almost as if Athene's acceptance of Kirk is symbolic of Kirk and the Enterprise being very near to realizing their potential as a joint force.

    The first contact situation with the Flyers and their worldship is the final missing element. It is one thing to build a team, it is another to test that team against outside environments and forces. There are a lot of moments where Kirk is trying to figure out the best response for each aspect of the developing situation, when should he react instinctively, when should he act cautiously, when should he surrender gracefully and when should he throw caution to the wind and do something really audacious. Athene will benefit from the open spaces in the worldship, but needs to be guarded against the danger of a prowling Klingon renegade who might attack an any moment. And once Athene is able to push her abilities and be able to fly, shortly after Kirk is able to show he has the ability to react instinctively and direct Athene to help him take action and save a life. Which Kirk then is able to do again immediately after, at the controls of the shuttlecraft. With the people around him able to make the right choices under his guidance they are able to save lives on a very large scale.

    One moment that gave me what I thought to be confirmation of what Athene symbolizes is when Kirk guides Athene to rescue Spock. He has injured his knee during the course of the book while pushing and testing himself to make sure he is up to the challenges he is afraid he will face. At the same time, Athene has injured one of her own legs while pushing herself to do something that she had never previously done before. The book draws what I thought was meant to be a pretty clear parallel, even though they're both injured, when the moment is right they are ready to take off and do this amazing thing, an image taken out of legend, and use that ability to do what the universe needs them to do.

    The last major thing we see Athene do is participate in a show that is part of an ambassadorial peace effort. Athene flies effortlessly, and puts the Klingon delegation on edge. This doesn't cause the peace effort to break down, but if Athene is symbolic of the Enterprise under the command of Captain Kirk, then maybe we are seeing that the Klingons are put on notice that the Enterprise is out there, and they will not have an easy time with her and her crew.

    To be concluded. Next I look at the books connections with other books in TOS 80's novels, which mainly is connections to the Vonda McIntyre novels.
     
  8. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    The Needs of the Many

    Enterprise TFA returned me to the world of Vonda McIntyre's Star Trek novels; however, even though there is a lot that is familiar in McIntyre's world building, I ended up feeling like the book is a little disconnected. It has something to do with the way Captain Kirk is characterized. There are, still, many elements that felt like nice payoffs for having decided to read McIntyre's other works in publication order.

    Family Issues

    In Enterprise TFA Kirk is depicted much more hotheaded than I ever expected to encounter. I know he's supposed to young here, the youngest captain in Starfleet. I guess this is the beginnings of the version of Kirk who is eventually shown to have been a borderline criminal case before finding direction in Starfleet. I liked it fine when I read Best Destiny years ago when it first came out. It was okay when it reemerged in the first JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, although I felt unsettled by that movie's novelization hinting that Kirk had actually done time in prison. I don't feel comfortable with that. And lately, I've kind of gone off this concept of Kirk's pre-Starfleet days, and just in time for Enterprise TFA.

    The way Kirk is around his family when they arrive to celebrate the ceremony that places Kirk is command took a lot of the fun I had hoped for out of the book. There's a little bit of the warmth that one might expect, but it's soured by little things like Christopher Pike seeming to react disapprovingly of their presence. Then there's a kind of weird effect in Jim Kirk's rapport in the presence of his brother, Sam, and his mother Winona. It's as if he starts acting like a young kid around them again, rather than the full-blown starship captain I would have expected. I feel really bad for the kindly grand-uncle figure Kirk has in Admiral Noguchi, who seems to be doing amazing work of trying to be conscientious of morale and the needs of Starfleet personnel; slow to anger and yet Kirk pushes him to it.

    It's a very uncomfortable reading experience to see Jim Kirk push the boundaries of courtesy, and get called out by his mother. It's nice to meet her here for the first time (even though I encountered her when I read Best Destiny). Here we get a hint at how Jim's father seems to have had trouble in a similar capacity; we get a picture that George Kirk sabotaged his career in Starfleet. This isn't the picture I got of him from reading Final Frontier and Best Destiny, so these feel like a disconnect right along with Jim Kirk's character. I was surprised to discover that the family is still reeling a little from George Kirk having died recently. It isn't as if I was expecting this novel to confirm the 2009 Star Trek movie's backstory that George Kirk lived to proudly see Kirk named as captain of the Enterprise, I kind of rejected that line in the movie. I was actually under the impression that George Kirk had disappeared on some unknown, mysterious deep space mission.

    Anyway, even though it isn't much fun having Jim Kirk's mother around just so she can scold him, it is nice to get a sense of Jim's brother, Sam. He's very likable, and nicely supportive yet willing to challenging Jim if it's healthy to do so. I'm impressed that he got Jim to finally vocalize why Jim seems so out of sorts and out of character. Reading the book made me feel real sadness over Sam's inevitable fate as a throwaway character in an often dismissed television episode. It's too bad we only have Sam Kirk for the early chapters, however I'm glad McIntyre made the effort to include him.

    Kirk's Injury

    According to Enterprise TFA, during the ill-fated mission to Ghioghe, his right knee is badly injured, all but destroyed, and requiring advanced medical care and physical therapy. This feels very similar to the knee injury that Kirk received in battle while serving on the Farragut, as depicted in the novel Crisis on Centaurus. In Crisis, Kirk's knee is also basically destroyed and required advance medical care; on that occasion it is very nearly pioneering medical procedures that restore Kirk's knee, which memorably leads to Jim Kirk's first meeting Dr. Leonard McCoy and an extended shore leave on Centaurus.

    Both novels present this as a very serious injury that Kirk is lucky to have recovered completely from. A look back at Crisis didn't yield information about which knee he injured in that book. So either Kirk has had his right knee all but destroyed and completely restored twice, or both his knees have been destroyed on different occasions. Both novels don't rule each other out, but I kind of feel left with a sense of two books depicting different fictional versions of a “real” injury that happened to the “real” Captain Kirk at a point early in his career. I kind of prefer the Crisis on Centaurus version better, because the meeting with McCoy and shore leave on Centaurus was cozy reading for me; although McIntyre makes great use of the injury in her book as a reoccurring element that Kirk perpetually worries about, without getting getting proper care for. If anything, the injury and the way Kirk deals with its threat of relapse throughout felt very true to Kirk's character. Which was somewhat reassuring after Kirk's character extremes from earlier in the book.

    The Rumaiy and Kumburanya Klingons

    The thing that jumped out most for me was how Enterprise TFA builds on what is in TSFS, particularly with regards to Klingons. While reading TSFS I tried to assemble what McIntyre hints about Klingon society, although the hints were just vague enough that I couldn't gauge all the nuances I wanted to. It reminded me of having many puzzle pieces that I couldn't make into a complete picture after finishing The Final Reflection, although I get the sense that McIntyre has her own ideas about Klingon culture quite apart from TFR. It makes sense that McIntyre doesn't spell out all the details of what she's conceptualized for the culture in the novelization, as the main job of that book is to refresh people's memory of the movie when they aren't able to re-watch it easily.

    It was a little shock to the system that in a couple passages throughout Enterprise TFA the author spills the Klingon cultural details she's had in mind in very straightforward exposition, rather than tease it out gradually. All of a sudden, the hints and clues from TSFS novelization are given very clear context. One might almost conclude that it would be better to read Enterprise TFA before reading the novelization for TSFS, if one wants to understand the Klingon culture right away. I personally don't mind the experience of trying to figure them out while reading TSFS, and being able to revisit TSFS with new understanding.

    The early details that adorned Koronin made her more interesting than she turned out to be. I immediately thought I recognized similarities to Valkris from TSFS. The cultural ideas about the Rumaiy are really intriguing, particularly the practice of Rumaiy of higher social status veiling their faces and not deigning to give out their names to people they regard as barbaric or of unworthy station. I ended up with the retroactive conclusion that Kruge and his crew were all or mostly Rumaiy. This makes a small moment like when Kruge does identify himself to Kirk by name as having greater significance and impact, particularly when considering that Kruge of all Klingons is the one who has the most devastating impact on Kirk's life, from a personal standpoint. To go by just the movies, you might conclude that Kirk never learns his name, and ended up never wanting to know.

    I liked having Enterprise TFA confirm and clarify and reinforce a lot of the other trappings introduced in TSFS, like the life-disks that record a Klingon's combats, trophy fringes, and blood swords. It had more impact seeing what happens to Koronin's blood sword, I felt pity for the loss of her stature in more ways than one, and was able to empathize with Kirk's instincts to seeing her predicaments in the last chapter.

    Curiously, although Koronin is set-up to be the standout Klingon character, another Klingon character actually intrigued me more. Even though a big deal is made about higher-status Rumaiy not revealing their names to unworthy barbarians, we never learn the name of the director of the oversight committee. This is the character who finds himself in the position of urgently needing to recover the prototype Klingon fighter that Koronin stole. I got the impression that the director is Kumburanya. He needs to recover the fighter because his own son lost the thing, and in true Klingon spirit he throws off having learned that his son was killed recently; he's more concerned with saving the rest of his family from the disgrace that will result if it is learned that his son's vices resulted in losing the prototype fighter. His office is decorated with bone, some of which may be the bones of enemies and individuals he has punished.

    And yet, some of the trappings that surround him seem like they are misleading, just like so many of the first impressions throughout the book. He respects the veiling and namelessness of his Rumaiy spy, and he shows mercy to someone with information that could be damaging to him and his family. Throughout the rest of the book, he comes across mostly as a reasonable Klingon. He's quick to impose himself, but he doesn't follow through on a lot of the menace and danger he establishes up front. He may grab Kirk by the collar and hold him up with his feet dangling, but with his words he is double checking the danger posed by the worldship and confirming that Kirk basically saved the Federation and Klingon Empire. He fires on the Enterprise one moment, but apologizes hastily but seemingly genuinely when Kirk confronts him with logic. He is still a flawed character, and it is easy to understand moments when Kirk objects to how he treats a prisoner, but I was left feeling like I wanted to learn more about the nameless director of the oversight committee.

    I have mixed feelings about his continued chasing after Koronin. Actually, they aren't mixed, as I said earlier I'm glad she escaped. I'm also glad that the director can still save face for his family. It seems like everyone is a winner in this book, from a certain point of view. This is impressive, given that Klingons are involved, and it looks as if no one was killed. If anything, the presence of Klingons draws attention to the fact that no one is killed within the pages of the book.

    I actually like that Mcintyre made the effort to do this with her final original Star Trek novel. She did a great job with the novelizations of the second and third movies in the early 80's, but as a combined block of narrative TWoK and TSFS are heavy with the weight of death, grieving, melancholy, and consequences. Enterprise TFA still deals with some weighty emotional issues, and toys with the idea of being badass with the Klingons, but I finished the book with the impression that it wants to do what the fourth movie, TVH, ends up doing as a response to TWoK and TSFS. And then of course, Mcintyre's contributions to Star Trek literature ends with her novelization of TVH.

    The Dimensions of Creation Make Our Future Choices Limitless

    From here, someone reading through Vonda McIntyre's Star Trek work exclusively could finish off with TVH novelization. I think I'm going to hold off of that for a little while, and at least read it before I reach the novelization for the fifth movie.

    At the time of writing, I have seen/read/revisited many of the other versions of the Enterprise's first adventure under the command of Captain Kirk: The Captain's Oath, and the 2009 Star Trek movie (although I haven't read the novelization for that film yet). I want to give the DC Comics Volume 1 Annual due consideration, and give fair comparison or ranking.

    Next on the publication order list, which I'm following a little more closely now, is Battlestations! The sequel to the silly but fun novel, Dreadnaught! As much as I like Diane Carey, I knew she could be corny sometimes, and Dreadnaught really has that in spades. I chose to deliberately have more Trek novels between Dreadnaught and Battlestations, so I wouldn't feel oversaturated by the world of command-track Star Fleet officer Piper, and I'm glad for the intervening space I left. Now I feel ready and enthusiastic to see what happens next with Piper and her crew.
     
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  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That appears to be from Crisis on Centaurus, judging from Memory Beta. I have the impression I'd come across it before somewhere, but it isn't in the writers' guide or the Concordance, and The Making of ST just says his father is dead.

    I came across an interesting tidbit on Memory Alpha -- apparently the first draft of "Conscience of the King" said that Kodos had executed Kirk's father, but they wrote that out because they didn't want to lock themselves in too much regarding Kirk's past (presumably in case some later freelancer sold them a cool idea about Kirk's father).
     
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  10. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    If that’s what MB says, MB is wrong. It’s from the epilogue to Carey’s Final Frontier.

    I can’t find any reference in Crisis on Centaurus to Kirk’s father.
     
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  11. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    It's weird how the idea Kirk's father went missing on a deep space mission is so elusive. I thought I'd been watching out for it like a hawk while reading through these books, but I missed anything in Crisis on Centaurus. It's like a Star Trek novels' urban legend.

    I think I've been able to chase something down in Crisis. In Chapter 9, Above Centaurus. As Kirk and Sulu fly out in a shuttlecraft, Kirk thinks about his dad having "Volunteered for duty on Hellspawn...and died there." That's a surprise to me, this must be the third time I've checked in that book. And despite that persistent impression of George Kirk's fate, there are two books now that corroborate that he has died at some point before or during the 5 year mission.

    Eerie that the missing in space version of the story is so elusive.
     
  12. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Aha! Thank you for drawing my attention to Final Frontier! This makes sense now. It's one of the earliest Star Trek books I've read, when I was really young. And I've read it several times since. No wonder that version of George's fate has been so persistent for me. Nice to finally pin that down.
     
  13. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    Hah! That's what I get for searching for "George" and then "father" in Crisis, but not "dad".

    Still, a different fate than Carey's:
    "George Kirk remained in Starfleet to serve as Sandorsen’s military adjutant and adviser, which enabled him to remain near or on Earth until his elder son, George Jr., entered the Graduate Academy of Biosciences and his younger son, James, entered Starfleet Academy as a junior midshipman. Shortly thereafter, he was on board a Federation vessel on special diplomatic assignment when the ship mysteriously disappeared with all hands."
     
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  14. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Battlestations! By Diane Carey

    Intro

    Something about the book, it's cover and subject matter, triggers my memory of it associated with the time of the movie era of TOS, even though the book is technically set during the more classic period. I remember seeing it as a new book being released, sometime around TSFS and TVH. Therefore, the track Stealing the Enterprise from TSFS soundtrack is the music that suggested itself.

    The opening moments that accompany Dr. McCoy's jailbreak in the movie conjures up action imagery of Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Piper in the middle of a sailing ship race. Then the music shifts to a musical cue that I generically think of as “The Starfleet Heroes” which seems like the main theme for the Enterprise crew in an action moment; for Battlestations it makes a nice cue for Piper and crew entering a ground-based hanger bay and coming into view of the ship that Piper names the Banana Republic.

    The music transitions to a four note motif that asserts itself several times in a furtive manner at first, and eventually seems associated with the Excelsior. My read of the track as used in the movie is a sense that the Enterprise officers are sneaking around Starfleet in the dead of night, hoping to avoid “waking” the sleeping dragon of the Excelsior, which guards the gate through which they have to escape. For Battlestations, that furtive, sneaking quality works well for the main characters movements around the compound of rogue scientists. The first quiet rendition of the four-note cue and we see a still image of the compound for a moment, then the next moment we see a very understated overlay of Excelsior's blueprints fade in briefly. A version of the Transwarp drive system is hidden in the compound, and the shadow of the future ship briefly haunts the proceedings. Another play of the four-note furtive cue, and we see a few still images of Piper and her friends hiding and sneaking through the compound, just out of sight of the guarding mercenaries.

    The original Star Trek theme is heard in its build up as Kirk and his bridge crew awaken the Enterprise and back her towards the space doors, for Battlestations we get brief glimpses of the Enterprise, a flash image of an ugly tug-ship with a tractor beam locked on the Enterprise's nacelle strut, and finally a couple flash images of Piper and a rogue scientist scrambling to plug Transwarp components into the Enterprises engine room as the original Star Trek theme reaches it's apex. The track ends with a musical storm and flash of strange, wavy forms of light; the capabilities of Transwarp are in a raw state at this point in Star Trek's timeline, the effects and aftereffects a dangerous and frightening unknown.

    A Gateway to the Past; Many Journeys are Possible

    Diane Carey's two novels featuring Piper are pretty user friendly, as long as you start with Dreadnought! Although I know others have read Battlestations first and still understood it okay. For a more full effect of continuity accumulation, one could make sure to read The Final Reflection and Vonda McIntyre's novels prior to Battlestations publication, in the order the were originally published. But Battlestations offering of continuity details from those books are Easter eggs, fun, but not impacting on a readers basic understanding of the story.

    The Need of the One

    I started in on this book right after finishing the first Horatio Hornblower novel, Beat to Quarters/The Happy Return. This made the early nautical action sequence a little bit more easy to navigate and understand, although there were still a small handful of terms that I had to look up that CS Forester did not use in his novel. I didn't plan it that way, but it did make the reading more easy to get into.

    I made an earlier prediction with this book that Diane Carey novel would include some preachy soapbox moments, just as those that awkwardly clutter the otherwise highly entertain previous novel, Dreadnought! To a certain extent I was wrong, Carey does a significantly better job of not letting those moments become obvious; they seemed more organically smoothed into the story progression of Battlestations, though the opinionated quality of Piper and her author still manifest here and there. It is most noticable when the culture of Argelius is rendered into a form ripe for judgement and criticism.

    There was a trade-off though. While I didn't perceive opinionated lecturing as intrusive, Carey's efforts to impress on me the significance of moments in her story did seem more intrusive, and dragged my enthusiasm down. It is to Carey's credit that she wants to make sure that the characters get their moment to shine, but there's always that extra emphasis that Carey adds in that just isn't needed. It's cool and fun when the author plays with a lighting effect, or a character stance, creating an effective visual in the mind's eye, but sometimes those moments are smaller than they need to be. So the overall effect of the book is exaggerated melodrama. Is this the way Piper views the world? It seems exhausting.

    Battlestations works really well as a sequel to Dreadnought, for the most part. I get the sense that Dreadnought was written as a one-shot, without plans for a sequel, yet Battlestations is able to pull elements that might have been hiding within Dreadnought, extrapolate and expand them into a new story in a satisfying way. Carey takes the Rittenhouse conspiracy, and develops on the idea of the science team that was involved. Then she is able rationalize how the science team reacts to the aftermath in a believable way that kicks off a new story. I really enjoyed that. The turn around time for things to develop into this latest crisis is a bit short, but if one can set that aside then this is still a fun idea to see playing out.

    I also like how Carey seems to pick up on potential structural issues within this story, which seems to prompt her to add something in to make up for it. The way the story plays out, Sarda doesn't reconnect with Piper and her other friends for quite a while, but Carey gives a nice, lengthy flashback featuring Piper and Sarda in a mini-adventure that established their rapport. It's nice to have a third Piper and Sarda story in short story form, sandwiched into a chapter of this second novel, which will be their last appearance. I usually don't find flashbacks off-putting, and the fact that I already know (as far as I know) that this is the last voyage for Piper and Sarda, I really appreciated having this extra story of their experience during a Star Fleet Outlast competition.

    One thing that I did miss was how independent Piper is in Dreadnought. I liked how she intersected less frequently with the familiar TOS characters in Dreadnought, and interacted more with her own small band of original characters. In Battlestations, though, there's a lot more involvement from Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. As much as I love McCoy, and even more so after reading the novels I have been over the last couple years, I felt like I didn't necessarily want him to be there for as long as he is. Dreadnought established quite well that Piper and company don't need that crutch, so I was surprised to see familiar characters more involved here when there was opportunity to expand outward. I could even have been on board with seeing a different Star Fleet ship than the Enterprise getting hijacked in order to be used as a test ship for the Transwarp drive system. I guess its a hard quibble to make given the context of Piper being a member of the Enterprise crew, and much of the events that are unfolding have been set up on Captain Kirk's orders.

    My favorite line in the book is when Dr. McCoy asks, "Is the Enterprise the only ship in the quadrant, again?"

    Another minor complaint is that I had difficulty understanding the rationale of some of the scientists for agreeing to steal the technology that they've created. Sarda says he caves to emotional blackmail, but Piper easily explains to him how his, uh, “alternative” logic isn't logical enough, or something. A new Vulcan character, Perren, also baffled me by the logic of his motivation. Perren is almost an interesting character, but I didn't understand his motivation enough to be interested...I only understood him enough to be irritated at some of the actions that he takes that are illogical and seem stupid. There is one moment where he implies that he could turn the tables on Ursula Mornay, the leader of this rogue science team, but the novel never gives Perren the dignity of a Vulcan showing what leverage he has to change Mornay's assumptions about him.

    Despite my complaints, I overall enjoyed the story, except for the weight of it's melodramatic prose, which slowed me down significantly. There were things happening that didn't need emphasis, and I wish the author would trust her readers to give credence to the significance of certain story beats on their own terms, rather than beat us over the head. It certainly didn't need to take 20 pages just to reprogram the computer of Piper's ship...just so that Piper can set course for the destination they are already headed towards! I get it and respect the idea of how determined Piper is, it's certainly admirable. But it doesn't need 20 pages to get the point across.

    The Needs of the Many

    The Might-Have-Been Piper Saga

    I was aware going in that this is the last Piper novel. And as I finished Battlestations, I wondered why. My best guess is that after Diane Carey was finished with her next project, Final Frontier, and then helping to start TNGs novel line, Richard Arnold's restrictions about not using recurring original characters who were not the main characters from the original show were in place by then. I was intrigued to find one of the Memory wikis had information about follow up books that were planned, citing an issue of Starlog Magazine:

    “Carey and Brodeur are planning to bring them [Piper, Sarda, Scanner, and Merete] back in a novel called By Logic Alone, and a projected two-book series, The Federation Mutiny. However, neither project is yet on Pocket Books' publication schedule.

    In By Logic Alone, Piper struggles with her own primitive prejudices while Kirk matches wits with the only nemesis that he truly feared. The Federation Mutiny deals with a major upheaval in Starfleet that ultimately causes Kirk to accept promotion to Admiral, a post he had previously resisted. Carey notes that, Mutiny is actually James Kirk's story, in which Piper will be dragged along behind as usual.”

    --Starlog #159, October 1990.

    So, two planned storylines for Piper, one of which would have been a two-parter. I've read somewhere that some residue of the plan for why Kirk ends up promoted to Admiral is partly salvaged and used for The Lost Years, where Nogura works hard to convince Kirk to accept promotion because he (Nogura) wants to rebuild the public's trust in Star Fleet, after being tarnished by the Rittenhouse Scandal. The Lost Years is one several books that I made one or two attempts in the past to read, and was determined to eventually read properly, which falls within this reading project (others include Enterprise TFA and Strangers From the Sky). I remember reading the early parts of The Lost Years, and feeling like I was missing something when it referenced the Rittenhouse Scandal. In all honesty, I think that reference and a scene featuring a character named Tomson and her security staff put me off. On reflection I think I let myself be more daunted by what I thought I was missing that I needed to.

    I think it's great that there was definitely a plan for a couple more Piper novels. On the other hand, it might have been really problematic if they were also conspiracy-within-Star Fleet stories. Dreadnought did the trick impressing me that the Rittenhouse conspiracy was sweeping in scope. Battlestations effectively explores the long shadow cast by Rittenhouse, but I think to carry on with that thread might be going a bit far. Christopher Bennett suggested that I give space between the Piper novels and JM Dillard's numbered Trek novel, Bloodthirst, because of a shared story element of conspiracy among high-ranking Star Fleet personnel. Conspiracy stories are fun, and particularly when mixed into Star Trek's optimistic, positive vision of the future. But too much paranoia would weigh heavily on the overall outlook.

    Transwarp

    One of the fun things about many of these 80's novels is how they've carved out territory between the ending of TOS and the first movie, and throw out hints of the technological/visual transition. One thing I really enjoyed about this book is how it takes the Transwarp drive technology that will be new and cutting edge in TSFS film and de-evolves it to examine where it is at in it's earlier development phase. Much like how TSFS has the Genesis project as a focus for espionage, Battlestations has the Transwarp technology as the McGuffin that multiple hostile governments covet. It was satisfying to see the idea explored in a different way than what we see (or read) in TSFS story. The scientists have actively made their invention the centerpiece for chaos and loss of life. The Star Fleet heroes have to infiltrate a compound where the stolen technology is being kept. And unlike TSFS which has one Klingon ship face-off with a couple Starfleet ships, in Battlestations the Tholians, and Romulans, and another mystery ship from a government or organization we will never know about are part of the conflict. The Klingons show up too, both on the ground and in space; and it's not just one type of Klingon. All of this is part of what the story tells us is a Cosmic Scramble; a term which sounds more like a breakfast item someone would order at a space-restaurant rather than an exciting life and death struggle between agents of multiple aggressive factions.

    Transwarp seems nearly ready, here. This works with Christopher Bennett's conjectural timeline that Battlestations is very near the end of Kirk's run as captain of the Enterprise before the massive refit in TMP. The timing seems to work well with the idea of a more elongated tour (a pre-TMP second 5-Year Mission), and the idea of a shorter period of time between TMP and TWoK, as suggested in Vonda McIntyre's novelization of TWoK. If Transwarp is nearly ready, then one might think it would be installed in TMP refitted Enterprise, but instead it goes to the Excelsior, the next generation of Star Fleet ship.

    There's a weird dimensional-quality to Transwarp here, which feels somewhat akin to the way Gene Roddenberry describes the new and improved warp drive in TMP novelization, where there is a lot of anxiety about getting balance equations right for crossing a dimensional threshold. Although admittedly maybe conventional warp was always like this. I like to think here that maybe TMP refit gets a modest, downscale version of what eventually becomes Transwarp in its perfected form as deployed in the Excelsior prototype. Manadala Flynn's starship, The Magellanic Clouds must also have received a higher-grade version of this drive, given that TSFS talks about how it's gone as far as visit a neighboring galaxy!

    As of reading Battlestations, with the perspective of pretending that TNG isn't on the horizon, this makes TOS feel like it is brimming with vitality and it's growth potential overwhelmingly exponential. There is no need to assume that today's transwarp drive is just re-labeled as warp drive in the future, or alternatively that in some undefinable way Transwarp drive was a failure down the road. The next generation as extrapolated from the 80's novel continuity feels different in some intriguing ways.

    Klingons

    This book pays off well for readers who have been reading all the books (or in my case, it paid off well for having read The Final Reflection, Dwellers in the Crucible, The Search For Spock, and Enterprise: The First Adventure). The Klingons haven't just sent ships representing their empire as a unified Komerex, Battlestations suggests that they are somewhat...khest'n fractured, in the face of the temptation of Transwarp.

    Hot on the heels of Enterprise TFA this book includes reference to the Rumaiy side-by-side with Klinzhai, here described as racial tiers or racial strains. It's really fun and satisfying to have these Easter eggs build a sense of a larger continuity, even though it's a bit surface level here. Carey doesn't make use of details, so there aren't any faceless, nameless agents making an “appearance”, and there isn't any extrapolation, interpretation or elaboration to add about Rumaiy. It's just a fun little name-check. This is perfectly understandable, since this book is coming right after Enterprise TFA in actual publication order. I wouldn't be surprised if this was an editorial addition at the last minute, but it would be impressive if this was something coordinated between the authors and editor.

    Diane Carey even adds a couple of her own new racial strains alongside the Klinzhai and Rumaiy, although there is no mention of the Kumburanya (although maybe the Wijngan or the Daqawlu is an alternative name for Kumburanya?)

    In terms of progression, I wonder about the overall picture of the Klingon Komerex. In Battlestations, the empire is not unified in it's scramble for the Transwarp, but years later, by the time of TSFS only one ship is sent after the Gensis technology, under a crew that seems heavily Rumaiy-leaning (consider that Rumaiy is a minority that is discriminated against by a Kumburanya majority). Maltz vehemently denies that Kumburanya are in the acendency over Rumaiym” and considers the Federation's information about Klingon culture to be oversimplified.

    “No Matter How Many Times They Rebuild This Ship...” --The Wounded Sky, Diane Duane.

    One thing that I am getting used more, having read several of these novels, is how authors take the liberty of really doing a number on poor Enterprise.

    Battlestations makes me think about is Dreams of the Raven, and DotR makes me think about the major moments in novels where Enterprise is really in a bad way and...bent out of shape. In Battlestations, Kirk makes light of it that one of the warp nacelles is bent out of shape, compared to the dire, ongoing emergency situation that pervades Dreams. This also reminds me a little of how Kirk takes a similar knee injury in different books. In Battlestations the left nacelle strut is mangled very close to where it connects to the nacelle. I couldn't pin down specifics about whether it was the left or right side nacelle strut that got bent in Dreams, but I remember having the impression it was the left-side one.

    As far as the general state of the Enterprise as a hybridized version of TOS/movie era, Diane Carey seems to lean a bit more classic, like JM Dillard. Carey is a bit more generalized about, say, the bridge configuration and the location of stations. My mind's eye was seeing the more classic version, but retaining the alcove science station that I prefer, which is a visual that feels like it works well with Spock's reserved nature. Carey alludes to all kinds of readouts in proximity to various stations that had my mind scrambling a little. I ended up concluding that an early version of the Tactical/Weapons station has been added to the bridge, just behind the extra forward turbolift exit that the animated series added.

    Returning to the Enterprise's general state of repairs, I like how Diane Carey is showing that the Enterprise and her crew are returning to Earth and setting off on missions from there more often. It fits with the feeling of this being closer to the end of the Kirk's tenure as captain of the Enterprise before TMP. Kirk is comfortable enough shuttleing back and forth to plan recreational activities on Earth. I kind of figure broadly that the Enterprise, at a technological halfway point, is operating closer to home because she is on a tighter maintenance schedule, because some of the newer technologies are maybe an awkward mesh with the older systems. Enterprise may have some of the newer comforts, like an expanded Rec Deck, but Scotty maybe has more work on his hands (maybe that makes him happy!). If Enterprise is getting to the end of her life in the old Constitution-class configuration, and has had a some extra years extended to her life by adding and jury rigging new equipment in, it makes sense that eventually things come to a breaking point and the Engineering staff and Star Fleet eventually want to renew the entire ship from top to bottom. It makes it a little bit galling though that Vonda McIntyre shortens the passage of time between TMP and TWoK in her novelization of the second movie, so that only a small handful of years after the Enterprise becomes practically a brand-new ship, she suddenly becomes regarded as a flying death trap. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of the refit-Constitution variant as a design failure, after the thematic build up of renewal that TMP presents us. I really like the movie-era look, visually.

    The Dimensions of Creation Make Our Future Choices Limitless

    ...although in this case, I think I will stick with the reading order, and continue on to Deep Domain. For now, a little bit of a rest from reading, and some catch up now that Star Trek Discovery Season 2 is out on home video, as well as a final comic story to read to close out the Excelsior-era of Star Trek TOS DC Volume 1. The end of the Excelsior stories in the comics leads to the fourth, TOS movie, The Voyage Home, which I think would have been coming out close to the time that Battlestations was published. I didn't deliberately pace my reading to sync up, but it's nice to contemplate watching TVH during the holiday months near the end of the year, as a cheerful and celebratory movie experience for a festive season.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
  15. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Spaceflight Chronology

    2026-2050

    So I have to admit, I expect these entries are a hard sell to anyone who visits the thread to read my thoughts as I follow the adventures of TOS throughout the 80's novels. I write them to help me remember (although I don't sometimes, anyway), and I post them as a reminder to myself that I'm keeping this going, and to share with other ST fans. It keeps my reading goal in mind.

    I've been giving myself a little bit of space with the novels. I don't want to burn out on them, and I figure I'll be more excited about Deep Domain when I get back to it, a little down the road.

    Overview

    Having skimmed backwards and forwards through the book in between actual focused reading of the material in order, I gathered a vague impression that the 2026 through 2050 generation of spaceflight travel was marking time until the end when Humanity makes first contact with the basically human alien race that live on Alpha Centauri. There's still plenty of work to do with colonizing the solar system, to keep things interesting. I don't remember if I had already skim read in passing that this was all about humanity consolidating it's presence throughout our local system, but I had that specific word, “Consolidate” in my mind and was surprised when the first paragraph says exactly what I expected.

    There's a Venus terraforming project which involves moving asteroids with the desired material to impact Venus with the goal of introducing water and speeding up the planet's rotation. It sounds like a project needing a lot of personnel, and a lot of hard work. I figured the book would suggest maybe 70 or 80 years to start seeing the earliest results. More on that just below.

    One neat bit of synchronicity between the SFC and the novels is where the asteroid belt becomes an industrial center, which encourages pollution heavy industry to move off Earth and enable the Earth to clean up the environment. I was excited to read in Dwellers in the Crucible that the Vulcans do this in their star system, too, and I wondered if Margaret Wander Bonanno got the idea from this book, or came up with it independently (or if it is from scientific speculative literature of the 1980's).

    Timeline and Ships

    The main thing I'll comment on about the timeline segment is that the Venus terraforming project practically bookends this era. 20 years to begin seeing tangible results on Venus. Results meaning an actual person is able to land and do a survey at the “coldest” location on the planet. That's awfully fast; wouldn't it be nice if that was actually possible, in that kind of time. Hellish Venus terraformed within your lifetime! Wow.

    My favorite bit is 2034, which establishes the United Nations Solar Fleet. This is awesome, because this is an organization that is a protype/forerunner of Star Fleet (or Starfleet, depending on which book you are reading). I'm glad this appears in the overview and timeline, but I really wish this had received a log entry to provide more information.

    The timeline and ships section is also give a visual overview of the ships that are in their heyday for the given era, as usual. One thing I like seeing while reading through the next segment (2051-2075) is that the Companion-class companion is shown continuing it's role into that next bracket of years. I haven't seen that a lot in this book so far, but it makes sense in a real-world sense.

    Visually I liked the look of the very striking Galileo-class ship, with it's prominent spherical prow. The Magellan-class also appealed, and I wanted that to be one of the frontline explorer ships; I was disappointed that it turned out to be “merely” a passenger liner type ship. I guess it's superficial to comment on the spaceships that I like the looks of. I'm always on the lookout for the other major standout ship type, though...

    Ship Profiles

    I've noticed that throughout the SFC book, in every bracketed era of years there is at least one ship class that we can look at and say, “Oh, that's the Enterprise counterpart of her day.” It was fun to discover the DY-100s and the DY-500s were that for earliest times in the book, which we usually associate with Khan's Botany Bay sleeper ship.

    For this era we have the Columbus-class. The Icarus is the lucky ship that makes the first First Contact with the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. I made the assumption that another ship, called the Adameve, was also a Columbus-class ship, but looking back through the book it doesn't seem to be clearly established. It's an easy assumption to make because the Icarus and the Adameve are grouped together in the overview summary and both have very similar mission profiles. As far as aesthetics go the design isn't my favorite, being roughly conical (with a number of other conical ship designs in the following era). But the aesthetics don't matter much, as the Icarus got the job done.

    Log Entries

    There are two major log entries that I was particularly interested in. The first one is about SETI receiving a broadcast transmission of intelligent origin from Sagittarius. This entry is interesting because it also has information that is included in retrospect; that the transmission wasn't originally translatable, and only understood a hundred years later with the use of duotronic computers. This entry excited my interest in roleplaying game scenarios (or just story hooks in general), because I like the idea of this first transmission of an intelligent signal received by humanity given a Star Trek spin. According to modern ST canon, Sagittarius is in the Gamma Quadrant (or at least, this is what Memory Alpha tells me). The translation of the signal doesn't leave much room for exploration and mystery, as it lays out the scenario pretty clearly as the advanced race that already knows it is in decline, and broadcasts information about their history and culture. It felt heavily implied that the civilization was long gone by the time the transmissions were even received. I would love to see a story that comes out of this entry, the expedition to the world that sent us our first intelligent extraterrestrial message. Or alternatively, this would be a fun one run as an RPG scenario.

    The other major entry of note is Humanity's First Contact. Beyond the scope of this book, a game of musical chairs starts to happen with Humanity's First Contact; will it be the Alpha Centaurans, or the Vulcans, or the Orions or Andorians...or finally the Vulcans? Which is the official one, and which is the secret one, and which version never happened? The SFC book gives us the Alpha Centaurans, and when I read the entry out of this book a year or so ago, I was really excited about them. I'm still excited to learn about what Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens come up with for them in their novels. However, there's a sense with this book of a near perfect scenario for the Human race growing into their role in the galactic stage that has given me a little bit of a sinking feeling. Look at how perfectly it goes: we get a nice, safe warm up with a radio transmission, followed by a First Contact with aliens who practically are Humans at Alpha Centauri; then we meet the Vulcans who are a little weird but still pretty relatable...and then we get a mild challenge with the drastically belligerent yet also friendly Tellarites!

    I'm less excited about the Alpha Centaurans nowadays, because they are so like Humans that they might as well be Humans. Which makes this version of First Contact seem a little less ground breaking and monumental. And Zephram Cochrane is thrown in at the end of this era, and he's ready to go with his Warp theory and equations. And the Alpha Centaurans are so human-like, and First Contact goes so well, that the Alpha Centaurans are readily willing to share this new drive system concept with a potentially competitive species without much reservation. I've had this conversation on other threads, and I can't fight the conclusion that it's pointless to have the Alpha Centaurans be so exactly like humans, just so that Zephram Cochrane can be an Alpha Centauran who is basically human. This is a moment where the book is trying too hard.

    So, this is a nice, friendly chronology where so much is going so right. Sometimes it's a nice to take a break from the actual reality, that somehow seems to have gone wrong, and sometimes I feel flickers of resentment for the SFC not anticipating how horrible the direction of history can turn sometimes. Setbacks in this book don't feel like setbacks when reality feels like a one step forward, two steps back kind of existence.
     
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'd say it's from rather earlier than that, as it would've had to be since it's in a 1980 book. Certainly the idea of moving heavy industry to space was being seriously discussed in scientific circles in the '60s and '70s.


    Err, no... Sagittarius is a constellation in Earth's sky. Meaning it's a set of stars that are all in a certain direction from Earth and close enough to be seen with the naked eye, so they're pretty much all in local space, mostly within a few hundred light years, up to several thousand. (They'd be mostly in the Alpha Quadrant, with maybe a few in Beta, since the center of the galaxy is in the direction of Sagittarius.) What Memory Alpha mentions is the Sagittarius Arm of the galaxy, aka the Carina-Sagittarius Arm, which is named after those constellations because the part of it that we can see passes near or behind them. But like all the main spiral arms, it loops pretty much all the way around the galactic disk, with parts in all four quadrants in Trek Terms.
     
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  17. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Ah, gotcha. That makes sense about industrial relocation off-planet coming from earlier.

    As far as the locations of the transmission in question, I don't know what to say. Sometimes I wish I could love Astronomy, just like with many other branches of science. I don't have the head for science, and that's really frustrating and discouraging sometimes. :sigh:
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
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    Basically, it just means that it came from roughly the direction of the center of the galaxy. Although that doesn't say anything about its distance. (Really, though, given that we're relatively near the outer edge of the galaxy, and given that stars are much more densely packed in the inner parts of the galaxy, it is statistically more likely that we'd detect an alien transmission from someplace relatively close to the center than from anywhere else. Maybe the writers of the SFC were aware of that.)
     
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  19. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    That's helpful and very interesting to consider, thank you! :)
     
  20. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Deep Domain

    As far as I know, this is the first story I've read by Howard Weinstein, a writer who I am aware has written a lot of Star Trek, in novel form and in comics. I was very curious about what his writing style would be like; and I had maybe a little trepidation. Deep Domain fore me is one of those stories that I had high hopes for...and was very happy and relieved that the hope and expectation was met, just not in the way I expected. Why did I have such high expectations for this random ST novel, number 33 of a series of novels most people would write off as a pulpy tie-in?

    I have memories of seeing it in the stores, a short time after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had come out, and was accepted and popular in the mainstream. I was already on board with ST generally, but TVH movie was something that I could talk about with almost anyone. TVH left a strong afterglow within me, and not long after Deep Domain showed up in the stores. I think that cover art is a very good advertisement for a book that came out in aftermath of TVH, and the image has haunted me for years. I'm surprised I never read it before, but I'm pleased it made the list. It's nice to satisfy a long delayed curiosity, and have it turn out to be a real pleasure.

    Intro

    An aerial flyover of the Akkallan ocean is accompanied by the more calm middle section of the end credits for TVH. As we fly over the ocean, we see Akkallan sea-going craft congregating, as a giant Chorymi harvester ship slowly approaches from above. However, we continue past that, and a little further along we see that triple-fluked tail of a triteera waving just above the water's surface. We fly past. A short way further, and a Federation sea-shuttle, the Cousteau, shoots past us from behind. Suddenly, we are matching speed with the Cousteau, in her slipstream, and we follow her as she plunges right into the ocean and continues to dive, practically without stopping. The churning water barely settles down, and we catch the briefest glimpse of a humanoid form with webbed hands and feet, backdropped by a vast underwater mountain.

    A Gateway to the Past; Many Journeys are Possible

    I found Deep Domain to be pretty user friendly; requiring no knowledge of any other ST books I read. It has some really nice subtle nods to it's spiritual sibling story, TVH.

    The Need of the One

    I really enjoyed Deep Domain. It was a welcome return to the movie-era that I am very fond of, particularly the “trilogy” section of the movie era. Howard Weinstein's prose was very agreeable, and surprising to me in a way. He occasionally uses watery or aquatic language, metaphors, and turns of phrases; sometimes even between Enterprise crew while on board the ship. Weinstein does it in a subtle way, not over playing it, but it's noticeable and contributes to the overall feel of the book.

    I really like the poetic, artistic imagery Weinstein paints. The coloration of the Akkallan world nicely matches up with the cover artwork. I'm one of those types who delights and celebrates rainy days, in the right circumstances. In the real world, the weather actually turned overcast and rainy over the last week and half, which complemented the setting inside the book. One of the reasons I like rainy days is that simple pleasure of settling in, indoors, in a nice comfy chair with a cup of tea and a good book. I was able to enjoy the fullness of this synchroncity of the weather for the second half of the book; I let the crew of the Enterprise deal with the weather of Akkalla and it's people.

    Structurally, Deep Domain often threw me for a loop. One of it's weaknesses is how it shifts focus. At first it seems like Spock and Chekov are going to be a major focus on one end, with Kirk's search for them as a parallel storyline. I was surprised that Sock and Chekov disappear from the story for a long stretch of time. To Weinstein's credit, he kept me entertained with the direction he took the story instead, but I was left with a feeling that he started out intending to take the story in one direction, but decided on the fly that he would focus the story differently; leaving early scenes between Spock and Chekov as fragments of an alternative approach to the story that were left in.

    A lot of objections that I might have had to the novel seemed to get random hand-waving in my mind. There's a freedom fighter character who is introduced early on, followed later by the introduction of a different character in Akkalla's academic community. The Academic alludes to relative who has gone missing. I've read and watched enough stories to the point that my instincts connected these two characters; I could have written it off as cliched, but on this occasion I instead congratulated myself on anticipating the connection. At another point in the story, I had hoped an aspect of Akkallan culture would be explored, when hints emerge to suggest that Akkallan religion intervened in the natural life-cycle of the Akkallan people. I felt a little disappointed that some of the religious history didn't get explored, but only because it seemed to me that so many other aspects of the Akkallan world were so well developed and satisfying. Yet another different path the book takes from what I expected is a search for a supposedly mythical life-form that has been hidden from the awarness of the main Akkallan population. Rather than finish the search these mythical beings, the book goes in a different direction that for me evoked the feel of the movies Splash, and The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

    The final moment where the story goes off in an unexpected direction, but still managed to get a pass for me, is the ending. There's the ending of the story, which is abrupt and rushed. All the information is there, partly in that trusty standby, a captain's log entry; which is always great for heavy exposition. The missing scientists are no longer missing, the government is course-correcting, all is well in academia, and two adversarial planets are going to have their terraforming and energy needs squared away. After the actual end of the story, there is about five or six extra pages that depicts a version of the moment that Kirk gives up the Enterprise, Spock is talked into accepting command as captain of the Enterprise, and Chekov is sent off to be first officer of the Reliant. I don't object to this second ending, for admittedly superficial reasons; I just really enjoyed seeing a version of this status quo's set up. Objectively, as much as I enjoyed the book, there isn't much set up to this ending. There's some talk of Kirk getting tired and feeling the burden of starship command, and worry about losing another crewmember weighing on him heavily in his first scene. There's kind of a connection made, with Kirk wanting to do teaching after dealing with characters from academia, but that feels a little tenuous. Spock's actions don't seem to connect to the next step of Kirk wanting to see him higher up the command chain, and Chekov's role also does not feel connected to him being promoted and transferred. I liked the ending of the novel purely because of nostalgia for the movie-era.

    For some reason Deep Domain tapped into my interest in tabletop pen n' paper roleplaying games. Maybe it's because I've been following the current ST RPG a little more closely, lately. Maybe it's the world-building in Deep Domain, or the sense that the story could have gone in so many different directions, and the sense that it might have been written on the fly and did have it's narrative trajectory periodically re-directed in the middle of the writing. After the search for Spock and Chekov ends and they return to the ship, the later progress of the story suggested an alternative version of events where Spock and Chekov could have been shown making their way to the mainland on their own, and maybe learning details of Akkalla's myths and religion from the Cape Alliance or the Collegium (or even better, both, and piece together the puzzle from both sources), and then added their clues to what the Enterprise learns about Akkalla while searching for them. The world-building and alternatives that I sense buried in Deep Domain make it the kind of novel I would happily adapted for a roleplaying game, to see how players might play the scenario out differently. I don't often think this about most books that I read.

    The Needs of the Many

    As much as I enjoyed the book, I acknowledge that it's faults are there, very easy to spot. And yet somehow I didn't care, feeling that as long as I didn't hate the ending, I would be forgiving. The last three ST books from the 80's that I've read (Demons, E:TFA, and Battlestations) were a rough patch, I have to admit, even though I was still able to enjoy some aspects of them. Deep Domain felt like it made a lot of progress though it's story, compared to Demons, it felt more steady with it's character work (although there is still some unevenness) than E:TFA, and thank heavens that it does not try too hard to impress me like the overconfident Battlestations.

    Deep Domain reminded me of something I take for granted about modern ST, the way it's rules for First Contact work. I had a flash of the tendency to apply a modern understanding of ST to this novel's situation, when I tried to puzzle out how Akkalla is a world that is a member of the Federation. It was interesting to wrestle with this. How did the Federation get involved with this world? At one point I thought back to a joking speculation I made when writing about Dwellers in the Crucible, about the 80's novel continuity being somewhere between canonical Star Trek's timeline and one of the Mirror Universes. This Federation is perfectly willing to make contact with pre-warp civilizations, and invite them to become Federation member worlds; even though this could be cynically interpreted as having undertones of imperialism, it's still meant to be a benevolent and well-meaning Federation. I joked that this continuity's parallel track is much closer to the canonical Prime timeline, than to a Mirror timeline. Ultimately, it's just a little joke that I don't really mean seriously.

    Returning to the question, why is Akkalla a Federation member world? One answer I came up with was that the Federation science team is the crux of the matter, and there's is some undefined urgency for science teams to study watery worlds like Akkalla. Somehow the need is so great that the Federation considers the trade worth it, given what the Federation can offer Akkalla. It's puzzling that Akkalla don't consider the benefit of asking the Federation to intervene and discourage Chorymi raids.

    In the end, I decided not to worry about it too much. The important thing about Akkalla is that it needs to be a Federation member world...so that the Enterprise crew can do what they do best. I enjoyed Akkalla as a reflection of and commentary on our world. I mulled over the nature of Akkalla as an alien world, and was able to rule it out as an Earth colony by virtue of it's very intriguing history, which goes back thousands of years (before the couple hundred years of Humanity's spaceflight chronology); but ultimately I pictured the Akkallan people as more or less human, with one hidden difference that is eventually revealed.

    I don't know in what capacity this book joins in the fold with the other 80's novels on my list, for the most part. I suppose I'll learn partly it's place in Time For Yesterday. It will be interesting to see if Deep Domain's depiction of when Kirk gives up the Enterprise before the events of TWoK matches up with Strangers From the Sky's depiction of the pre-TWoK era.

    One superficial continuity detail I can comment on, given that I will be including the novelization of TFF movie as a lead-in the The Lost Years, is the moment when Spock learns about the ins and outs of camping out and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Deep Domain has a really charming scene early on between Spock and Chekov, in which Chekov explains about the camping out, and roasting marshmallows. Like with many minor continuity moments like this, I don't care about the discontinuity, or ruling out one story or the other based on small details that don't fit together. I really enjoyed the early scene in Deep Domain, and I have always enjoyed the campfire scene in TFF movie. I think the version in Deep Domain works a little better, because it doesn't have a weird joke about “marsh mellons” that is confusing and isn't really paid off or explained.

    The Dimensions of Creation Make Our Future Choices Limitless

    I've already skipped the novelization for The Voyage Home, but I plan to get back to it, at least some time before I reach the novelization for The Final Frontier. I read Dreams of the Raven years ago and I liked it, but I will probably revisit it later on. The next one I will tackle is Strangers From the Sky.