Tag Archives: Star Trek

Collision Course

As you may already be well aware, William Shatner wrote several entertaining-despite-their-self-indulgence novels about the future of James Kirk, who thanks to various authorial tricks is functionally immortal. You couldn’t take them as high drama, but except for the last one you could mostly like them. Anyway, another two and a half years have passed, which made me due for reading his Kirk prequel novel, Collision Course. The series it was evidently meant to be spawning is not in evidence anywhere, so I suppose that means the book didn’t do too well. I theorize that this is a result of the previous book’s badness rather than any particular flaw of the current one, because honestly it was exactly what you would expect it to be. Which is not to say it was without flaws: far from it. But there are enough of them out to have a pretty good idea of whether you like Shatner’s vision enough to make up for his excess, so nobody could really buy it not knowing exactly what they’d be getting, is my point.

As for said prequel, here’s what it does. It takes teenaged Jimmy Kirk and slightly less teenaged Spock and chronicles their first meeting and the start of their friendship. See, there’s a plot involving stolen dilithium, stolen Vulcan cultural artifacts, and an army of killer children, and they end up in the middle of it due to possible complicity from Spock’s father and Jimmy’s Academy girlfriend, non-respectively. Also, there is a link to Kodos the Executioner, so that’s nice for longtime fans. And as usual, he gets a lot of things right through his many years of time spent in Kirk’s head. The only thing he particularly gets wrong, in fact, is that it’s a little too perfect. All of the important protagonist and antagonist players are involved in the plot from start to finish. There’s no tightening web of intrigue, no choice to get involved. As a result, everything is too pat. Which didn’t make the storytelling less good, but it did constantly take me out of the story. Pity, as it was a quick, engaging read except for that.

Star Trek

MV5BMjE5NDQ5OTE4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTE3NDIzMw@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Obviously, you are aware of this movie, and you’ve probably already formed your own opinion. And anyway, I’d be leery of spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it. In theory, this constrains my review by quite a lot, but I figure it leaves me free to talk about what I really wanted to anyway. But, first things first. Did I like it? Enough to see it three times on opening weekend. Did it have flaws? I can think of a couple offhand, one extremely nitpicky and one that, absent, would have failed to feel like a Star Trek movie anyway. Plus, I think I’m willing to claim that at one point, there was actually an insufficient amount of technobabble. Was it accessible to non-fans? I feel as though it really was, and the reviews I’ve heard from non-fans (and in one case, an actively anti-fan) have borne this impression out. So you should really go see it, if this has not already occurred.

Because what J.J. Abrams made here was a philosophical, character-driven action movie, and really, how many of those do you think exist? Of the ones that exist, how many do you think aren’t insufferably smug about it? This right here is a narrow field to occupy! Action: ’cause, you know, space battles and laser gun fights. Character-driven: the driving forces of the story are all based in interactions. Kirk and McCoy’s friendship. Kirk and Spock’s rivalry. Spock’s relationship with his human mother. Nero’s irrational impulse for personal rather than systemic revenge. (He’s the bad guy.) Philosophical: take a group of people that shook the foundations of the Federation (and, projecting outward less than you’d think, the galaxy) and drastically change their history. Okay, many of the changes were not drastic, but one was, and there are clear, subtle ripples from there even before the main plot of the movie takes over. And then explore the question of random chance versus unalterable destiny.

I liked that by the end of the movie, the history of the Federation is vastly divergent from the one that fans of five TV series and ten movies know. And I like that it’s not going to be “fixed.” It was a bold move that I think is going to pay off in spades for the future of the franchise. But as much as I approve of that, I absolutely adored watching as, moment by moment, destiny pushed beloved characters into roles that they had fallen into by seeming happenstance in the original timeline. This new Trek may have surprisingly non-causal time travel that never really existed in “my father’s” Star Trek, but it also has some modicum of fate. And that’s kind of cool.

Captain’s Glory

296484I got around to the end of the most recent Shatner trilogy finally. I guess I read the last one two and a half years ago? Long enough that another one has already come out, but as usual, I can wait for used with no stress. Anyway, I was pretty high on it and the last several before it. Unfortunately, Captain’s Glory is not so good. I mean, it has good dramatic Trekky scenes in which ships face off, Starfleet personnel gamble with fate at high stakes, and so forth. And the prose has no problems[1]. But the ex machina not only had too much nonsensical deus, there wasn’t even a boring epilogue in which the author clarifies what we would have been able to piece together ourselves in a better book. Now I have to downgrade it self-indulgent tripe all over again.

The plot was alright, though, prior to that bit at the end. Due to an invasion that’s been hinted at for books now, the Federation (and most other Alpha Quadrant denizens, if not further afield) is losing warp capability. What with sublight being a little slow on the galactic scale, this would be bad. So now there’s a race against both time and gradually failing technology to forestall invaders that, as of page one, only a handful of people even believe exist. See? Except for the last thirty or so pages, that would have been pretty cool. Instead (spoiler alert), James T. Kirk’s history-making semen is once again called upon to save humanity. Yay?

[1] I know that sounds like backhanded praise, but come on. The prose was never going to amaze anyone; it’s a Star Trek book.

Captain’s Blood

Along with some equestrian obsession I don’t fully understand and a successful re-invention of himself as a kitsch icon, Bill Shatner (yes, that one) has been spending his time in collaboration with a couple of other writers going about the business of crafting Buck Rogers in the 25th Century stories, only with James Kirk instead of Buck Rogers. To be fair, this makes a lot more sense than if it were actually Buck Rogers, because there’s really no link there.

I can appreciate this desire, I think more than most. I know what it’s like to get inside the head of a character and then feel like I could tell more stories about the character after everyone else is done. The problem, of course, is that Kirk eventually died. Inevitably, the bringing him back to life and putting him back in play in the new Federation part of the story was complete tripe, because of the degree of self-indulgence required. (If another person had written exactly the same thing, would I be calling it self-indulgent tripe? Well, since I maintain that nobody else would have done, I’m giving myself a free pass.)

Here’s the thing, though. Once you get past the two books worth of that, there have been about four more since (and at least one more next year) that have been on the high end of the Star Trek novel spectrum. I know this is not a high mark to reach, but I’m already on record of reading treasure and trash with equal abandon, and this stuff is by no means the trashiest.

Which brings me to the latest book, the middle-of-a-trilogy Captain’s Blood. It has a lot in common with the first book of the trilogy, Captain’s Peril. Both wrap hints of an extra-galactic invasion force that are sure to pay off in the final entry around the meat of the plot, two murder mysteries. This one is more engrossing by virtue of the size: The murder in question is Spock, blown up in the midst of a unification speech furthering his efforts to bring the Romulans and Vulcans back together. Naturally, Kirk, his old-school pals who managed to still be alive into the 24th century with him, and his next generation chums gather together to investigate.

That covers the first couple of chapters, and, well, the twists and turns are well enough plotted out that I’d prefer not to dig deeper. Like I said, after you get past the self-indulgence bit, he (and his under-writers, I expect) writes some pretty good books. Plus, the next book with the extra-galactic invasion will probably be self-contained, just as these two have been, and that will save you really a lot of time over reading the 21 or so volume Star Wars extra-galactic invasion series. (I don’t even know if I’m serious there, so probably it’s not worth asking.)