Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Solitude: Dimension Space Book One by Dean M. Cole - Excellent Apocalyptic Science Fiction!

Solitude: Dimension Space Book One by Dean M. Cole

I get a lot of ads on my Facebook timeline for books to read. As a matter of fact, I get so many that if I tried to read every book that appears, I would be backlogged on reading for months. So I am very selective on the ads I look at and check into. Recently, I started seeing an ad for a new novel by Dean M. Cole entitled Solitude. The cover art was appealing and the blurb about the book caught my attention...

“Can Humanity's Last Two Unite? Solitude: Dimension Space Book One The Martian meets I Am Legend and Gravity when Earth's last man discovers that the last woman is stranded alone aboard the International Space Station. If you like action-packed, page-turning novels, you'll love the electrifying action in this apocalyptic thriller.

Astronaut Angela Brown, commander of a diminished crew aboard the International Space Station and fellow astronaut Bill Peterson are on an EVA to perform maintenance on the station’s solar panels when they receive a call from Mission Control to observe a phenomenon of light that is sweeping across the planet knocking out communications as it passes. It is soon determined that a state of emergency exists and that the astronauts have to abandon the ISS and make an emergency return to Earth. Unfortunately for Angela, she is not able to get on the Soyuz capsule for the return trip and is left behind with the promise of rescue at a later time.

Meanwhile at NASA’s Glenn Research Center near Cleveland, Ohio, Astronaut Mark Hennessy and Army helicopter pilot Vaughn Singleton are testing a new propulsion system when they see a bright flash of light, and their communications with their support crew goes dead. They realize that something has happened when they move outside the testing facility and see commercial aircraft crash-landing at the nearby Hopkins International Airport. As the two begin to investigate what has happened, Mark is killed leaving Vaughn on his own. He soon discovers that he is the only person left alive on the planet as he travels to his mother’s home in Boulder, Colorado.

With her limited supplies on the ISS diminishing, Angela goes about the business of survival and Vaughn does the same on the planet. They both believe that they are the only humans left alive and as they begin to lose hope of ever finding a solution to their problem, a famous ad slogan sparks a memory in Vaughn that could mean hope for both he and Angela.

Solitude is a well written story that is light on the scientific jargon while being heavy on character development and detail in describing the action that is taking place during the story. There is plenty of opportunity for the author to throw in a lot of acronyms from NASA-speak that wouldn’t further the story at all, but that is not the case here. We get just enough technobabble to let us know what is important to the characters, lending a clarity to the prose without clutter. The two main protagonists and what they are doing as they get into and out of situations, and there is where the detail lies in Solitude.

On the ISS, Angela is dealing with a shortage of supplies because of a failed resupply mission to the station. She has to make due with what she has on hand, and as she does, she performs tasks that are logical and that make sense to the reader. As a physicist, she devises a way to supply the station with power when the solar panels are no longer viable. There is just enough explanation so that anyone with an acquaintance of basic high school physics can understand.

Vaughn, on the other hand, is faced with having virtually unlimited resources, but in some cases, he has long distances to travel to get to what he wants or needs. At the same time, he is trying to wrap his head around the fact that he is totally alone which begins playing with his mind causing him to become a bit eccentric in his behavior. Vaughn became my favorite character in the story because of his personal growth as the pages turn. He starts out as a bit of a negative character who has never really taken advantage of the opportunities that have come his way. He could have become an astronaut, but he had too many things going against him when those doors were open to him. In the beginning, he comes across as one of those kind of people that tries to put together a kit without looking at the instructions first, just winging it as he goes along, and usually getting in trouble or failing at the task. As his adventure as the sole survivor on Earth unfolds, he learns that there are procedures to be followed and impulsiveness is not something that works well. His impulsiveness almost kills him a couple of times, but he learns his lessons well as the story unfolds.

Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction stories are among some of my favorite to read, and this one is a great one. The descriptions of the characters, the places they go, the things that they do, and the things that they see are spelled out in enough detail to paint mental pictures and ignite the imagination of even the most casual reader. Solitude is one of those that should appeal to a wide audience because of the writing style of the author. It is easy to understand and immensely entertaining and fun, and comes complete with a cliffhanger ending and the promise of another book to follow in late 2017.

Author Dean M. Cole is a “Commercial pilot by day, author by night. Originally from Texas Dean Cole lives all over the world as a traveling international pilot. Writing from locales as remote as Equatorial Guinea and romantic as Paris’ Champs-Elysées.  A combat veteran, he served in the US Army’s First Cavalry Division as an Apache Attack Helicopter Pilot.” Quoted from the author’s web site.

Solitude: Dimension Space Book One receives my highest recommendations as a fine bit of work in the genre.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Edited By Benjamin Arrowood

Sunday, March 5, 2017

DeForest Kelley: Up Close And Personal By Kristine M. Smith - An Astonishing Book!

DeForest Kelley: Up Close And Personal; A Harvest Of Memories From The Fan That Knew Him Best By Kristine M. Smith


A while before I started writing this blog, I read several biographical books on many of the actors from Star Trek. Some of those included books about George Takei, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, James Doohan, Grace Lee Whitney, and DeForest Kelley. It is unfortunate that I wasn’t writing my blog at the time I read those because there are no posts about them to direct you to.

More recently, I learned about a new podcast from The Cosmic Potato Network called The Prime Direction. On that show, the host, Shawn Wray, interviews Star Trek fans about their experiences as fans of the franchise and how their lives have been affected by it. One of the people interviewed was the author of the object of this review, Kristine Smith. This is a great interview and well worth the time to listen. There are several other interviews to be found at The Prime Direction, including mine, if I may be allowed to toot my own horn a little.

First of all, what DeForest Kelley: Up Close and Personal is not; it isn’t an expose with stories about off stage fights or bits of dirty laundry involving the cast and crew of the Star Trek television series or feature films. If that is what you are looking for, it’s probably best if you just skip the rest of this blogpost and move along.

What this book is about is how a young woman met her idol and, without pushing the issue, became friends with Mr. Kelley and his wife, Carolyn; a friendship that lasted for over 30 years.

When Kristine was fifteen years old, she was introduced to Star Trek by her dad, who insisted on absolute silence in the house when the show was on. Here is where she first discovered and was most drawn to Dr. McCoy and the man that portrayed him, DeForest Kelley. Not long after, she learned that Mr. Kelley would be appearing at the Wenatchee (state of Washington) Apple Blossom Festival and made plans to go and meet the man that was rapidly becoming her idol. Upon arriving in Wenatchee, Kris and her friend who was along for moral support, shamelessly waited near the limousine that would carry Mr. Kelley and Carolyn through the parade for the festival. When the honored couple appeared and mounted the car, and after some screwing up of her courage and some encouragement from her friend, Kris finally approached and asked for an autograph. From that beginning, what follows is an amazing account, strictly from the author’s point of view, of what it was to be friends with Deforest and Carolyn Kelley.

There are numerous stories of encounters at conventions with some hilarious antics perpetrated against numerous people, including Mr. Kelley. There are accounts of meetings and even phone calls that happened over the years. While many celebrities seem to be up so high that they are unreachable, Kristine’s account of their friendship brings the star that is DeForest Kelley down to Earth in such a way that as I read on, I felt as though I also was getting to know him as well. And what a treasure the man was.

What I learned about Mr. Kelley and Carolyn is that while he was a huge star and a fine actor, he was also a wonderful human being that cared about people and that he appreciated all of the love and admiration he received from fans. He reciprocated the feelings for him in the warmest possible ways as the masses of his admirers descended upon him at numerous opportunities. All the while, as far as he was concerned, acting was how he made his living, and to the people he touched, he remained just a regular guy.

While there is really no downside to what is in the pages of Close Up and Personal, there are  some difficult times that are chronicled. About the last 25% of the book is a chronicle of loss. While tastefully written so as not to be overly graphic, the time of Mr. Kelley’s death is brought to us in some detail complete with ups and downs as he battled cancer that was slowly taking his life. During this time, Kristine had been doing two jobs but seemed to be able to do them with vigor and energy. It gives me some comfort that she was there in the last weeks to make his passing as comfortable as possible, with as little pain as possible. Mr. Kelley deserved that after all he had given us, his fans. To Kristine, he was a mentor who encouraged her to achieve beyond herself.  He was there to help when she needed it, and he was her guardian angel. But, she was also all of that to him, and more.

I give my highest recommendations for reading DeForest Kelley: Up Close and Personal no matter what the reason; whether you are a Trekkie looking to learn more about a key cast member, or just someone looking to read a good book. Mostly what you will learn is about what true friendship means.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Edited By Benjamin Arrowood

The Enemy Within By Scott Burn - Young Adult Sci-Fi At It's Finest

The Enemy Within by Scott Burn

It is a huge rush when an author reaches out and asks me to read their work, which is the case with Scott Burn and his new story, The Enemy Within. Released in August of 2016, it has enjoyed numerous four and five star reviews on Amazon as well as Goodreads.

Enemy opens with a look at a troubled 17 year old, Max, who is having disturbing visions of destruction by fire. Having just ran away from a deplorable existence in foster care under an abusive alcoholic, he decides that he has nothing left to live for and attempts suicide. After being caught by law enforcement and being stabilized in a hospital, he is transported to an institution where he comes under the care of a doctor who begins to bring Max out of his shell. Even though Max finds the institution a safe and beneficial place, he is still compelled to escape.

Meanwhile, another group of three 17 year olds gather at an amusement park and wonder where a fourth member is and why he hasn’t arrived at the appointed time.

Elsewhere, a satellite monitoring station finds that there is a new satellite in orbit of the Earth and learn that there is no evidence of a launch anywhere. When Colonel Jasper of the U.S. Army orders that the new satellite be investigated, the bird that is sent to take pictures is destroyed before it reaches the objective. Of course, Jasper sees this as an act of war and begins an investigation to learn the intentions of the satellite, which is beaming transmissions to certain places on the planet.

The three youths, Vincent, Noah, and Jamie are somehow connected to Max and when they liberate him from the institution, they find that they all have much in common with each other. One thing they all share is that they are all connected with the new satellite, which they call “The Eye,” and that they will all die very soon unless they are able to change the planet’s atmosphere just slightly to accommodate their requirements as human/alien hybrids.  While it all seems quite innocent, as time goes on, there arises a far more sinister agenda in the works.

Author Scott Burn takes the old sci-fi trope of alien invasion to a different dimension in The Enemy Within. Missing from this is an all-out open takeover by aliens in ships with superior weapons, or aliens landing and pretending to be benevolent benefactors buying our confidence only to lull earthlings into compliance. This story is about a very quiet and patient attempt to remake the planet into a place that is useful to them by creating four alien/human hybrids, each one with special skills, and quietly take over an unsuspecting population.

My favorite part of this story is the misdirection that the author uses for a character in the book that starts out appearing to be the main antagonist in the story and eventually turns out to be right in the end.  This journey, however, is marred with an atrocity that is carried out on a somewhat large number of people, and then said character justifies it by using a version of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” as an argument to commit out an out murder. I found this disturbing, but I can also see this happening in the real world. At any rate, just when I got to the height of hatred for the one character, we get the meaning of the title of the story when it is revealed that the actual antagonist is not who we are at first led to believe it was. This is brilliantly done and I was caught completely unawares and enjoyed it immensely.

The main character of Enemy, Max, starts out looking like someone who is desperate to just end his life because he has not only been having disturbing visions of an apocalypse by fire, but has lost all hope of just being able to function in a society where all the chips have been stacked against him. By the end of the exposition of the story, Max becomes a very likable young man who has found a purpose and begins to move forward and grow. I think that many young people would not only be able to relate to Max, but also be able to see that no matter how bad things seem at the time, there is always someone else that is worse-off than one believes themselves to be.

The Enemy Within is touted as a novel for young adults and I think it is well written for the young readers because the pace is very fast and always moving forward. I found myself not wanting to stop reading once I started because there was really no stopping points in the story.  However, if you are considering suggesting this story to a young person, be warned that one character has a huge problem with alcohol abuse, and as I mentioned before, there are a few scenes that are quite disturbing. At the same time, a well grounded young sci-fi fan in the middle to upper grades in high school should get a lot of enjoyment here.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Edited By Benjamin Arrowood

Friday, March 3, 2017

Tales Of The Dominion War Edited By Keith DeCandido - A Must Read for Deep Space Nine Fans!

Tales Of The Dominion War - Edited by Keith DeCandido

Of all of the Star Trek television series, my favorite is Deep Space Nine because of its reflection of how humanity might behave were we actually to travel to the stars. Other Star Trek series were all aboard ships that had strict command structures that depicted life in the military that was governed by a set of rules and regulations. Once in awhile, someone might step outside of the command structure, but they were usually brought back into line by the end of an episode. However, on DS9 it was a whole different idea. Set on a space station, Starfleet is invited to govern, rather than set up a normal command structure. There were all sorts of races visiting the station at any given time and events didn’t fit into Starfleet’s ideal military situation. So this left a lot of room for characters of the series to have to improvise and adapt to various situations that fell outside of the normal Star Trek trope.

During the last two seasons of Deep Space Nine, there was a struggle for control of the Alpha Quadrant of our galaxy between the Federation, the Klingons, and later, the Romulans against the Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant, the Cardassians, and the Breen.  It was an all out battle that saw the fall of many worlds and many lost their lives. Some of the best episodes of the series happened during those two seasons.

Tales of the Dominion War is a collection of stories that took place away from the main action depicted on the television show but were referred to or talked about on the main show. Keith brought together a group of authors that took those snippets of stories and fleshed them out into some of the finest Trek stories I have ever read. The titles in the book include…

  • What Dreams May Come by Michael Jan Friedman
    • A vorta feels secure on a world where the Jem’Hadar are setting up a supply depot, but all is not what it seems.
  • Night of the Vulture by Greg Cox
    • An entity that TOS fans are familiar with returns.
  • The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned by Keith DeCandido
    • A debate in the Romulan Senate takes a turn when news is received.
  • Mirror Eyes by Heather Jarmin and Jeffrey Lang
    • A Romulan agent posing as a Vulcan on DS9 is exposed.
  • Twilight’s Wrath by David Mack
    • Some awesome backstory on Shinzon’s rise to power.
  • Eleven Hours Out by Dave Galanter
    • Picard and Deanna Troi attend graduation at Starfleet Academy when things go very wrong.
  • Safe Harbours by Howard Weinstein
    • McCoy and Scotty find safety in an unlikely place.
  • Field Expediency by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
    • Sensitive information is at stake and a group of Starfleet engineers work to protect it.
  • A Song Well Sung by Robert Greenberger
    • Klag’s story fighting the Jem’Hadar.
  • Stone Cold Truths by Peter David
    • A Hero from Peter David’s New Frontier series tells his son a tale from his adventures during the Dominion War.
  • Requital by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangles
    • A survivor from ARR-558 cannot let go.

This is not a new collection of stories with the book being released in 2004, but don’t let the fact that I am twelve years late deter you from reading a collection of some of the best Trek writing I have ever read. Every story is preceded by where in the timeline it is set and an overview of the author’s work up to the time this volume was released. And, as a bonus, Keith includes a complete timeline of events of the Dominion War that in itself is worth the price of the book.

All of the stories in this volume are of the highest quality, as is usual with the pantheon of authors Keith gathered together.  Anyone who knows the saga of Deep Space Nine will recognize and appreciate the contents of this book and I consider it must reading for DS9 fans.

Well, there it is…


Qaplah’!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood

Saturday, February 11, 2017

1-800-Henchmen: Three Times Unlucky by Katherine Wielechowski - It's Not Easy Being A Henchman

1-800-Henchmen: Three Times Unlucky by Katherine Wielechowski

Alfie Vihar is a member of a crack team of henchmen that work for Resources, Inc., a company that hires out henchmen to whomever needs them to do a job, good or evil. Alfie is a member of Team 9, and in this installment, they are sent to help a pair of super heroes defeat  the biggest threat they have faced since Alfie joined the team.

Three Times Unlucky opens within hours of where the last book, Double Lives, Double the Fun, leaves off. Team 9 is getting a briefing from Commander Gibson, who compliments the team on their handling of a nuclear terrorist they put down in Canada. The team is allowed to leave. Alfie uses his time off to accompany his sister Ruth and his best friend Tessa to the local museum to see new exhibits there. As the trio move from one building to another, a storm arises and causes the building to collapse. Alfie, Ruth, and Tessa are not injured in the collapse, but several people are trapped and hurt, so Alfie works to help those he can. When he receives a phone call from Gibson, Alfie is in the middle of rescuing a man trapped in the rubble.

As soon as he is able, Alfie heads for a meeting where he learns that the storm is not a natural phenomenon, but it was created by a new super villain calling herself “Trade Wind.” Gibson explains that Team 9 is going to be sent out to help super heroes Forcefield and Bullet defeat Trade Wind before she can do any more, and more severe damage.

The first two books in the series, First Shot, as well as the second one mentioned earlier cover most of the exposition of the series as they introduce the characters and shape them into real people. I have mentioned in previous reviews what a gift Katherine has for writing characters that one can really care about, and how real they are as people. Well, the exhibition is over now and the characters that I enjoy are getting put into situations in this story that feel dangerous. They are written so well, what might seem ridiculous becomes plausible.

One of the main parts of this story is the author beginning to explore more details of the character’s interpersonal relationships. Alfie seems to be hitting it off pretty well with another member of Team 9, but there are twists and turns along the way. This causes Alfie and Ray, the other team member in question, to come to an impasse in which they will be reexamining their relationship. At the same time, Alfie discovers something about Tessa that is disturbing to him and will also possibly result in a change in relationship.

In any case, the author has really ramped up the action in this series, and over the three novelettes, has shown huge growth as a writer of fiction. Three Times Unlucky is a well paced and fun story to read, especially if one is looking for an escape from reality for a little while.

I recommend that if you are considering reading this series, be sure to start with 1-800-Henchmen: First Shot followed by Double Lives, Double the Fun before reading this segment!

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Star Trek: Legacies: Best Defense (Book 2) By David Mack - Another Outstanding Adventure From David Mack!

Star Trek: Legacies: Best Defense (Book 2) by David Mack

Best Defense is the second of a trilogy of novels set in the original series universe in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The first book in the series, Captain to Captain was penned by Greg Cox and was reviewed on this blog, you can read that review here. Before I talk about Best Defense, I will briefly recap the events of the previous installment of the series. There be spoilers here, so read on at your own peril.

The USS Enterprise under the command of Robert April visits a planet known as Usildar to the inhabitants. Una, known more commonly to Trekkies as Number One, is charged with learning more about the planet when things go terribly wrong and several members of Una’s landing party are disappeared by an invading force called the Jatohr. Actually, those that have been disappeared have been sent to an alternate universe.

Now, flash forward to Kirk’s Enterprise where Una arrives to pay the ship’s crew a visit, or so it seems. Actually, Una has made it her sole ambition to save the members of the April Enterprise crew and bring them back from the alternate universe. In order to accomplish her task, she first has to obtain an object known as the Transfer Key which has been passed from Enterprise captain to captain over the years, and is kept hidden in the captain’s quarters from all but the ship’s commander and the first officer.

After a chase, Kirk is convinced that Una’s cause is just and allows her to go to the alternate universe to find her lost crewmates, but when Kirk takes the Transfer Key back to the Enterprise, his yeoman, Lisa Bates leaves with the Key and is taken aboard a Romulan vessel, the Velibor.

Picking up where Captain to Captain leaves off, David Mack opens his part of the story by revealing that Lisa Bates is actually Sadira, a human working for the Romulans as an agent for the Tal-Shiar, somewhat like the KGB of the Romulan Empire. She now has the Key and is ready to use it against anyone to complete her mission, which is to make sure the Federation and the Klingons go to war, which would be in violation of the mandates of the Organians (TOS season one, episode 27, “Errand of Mercy”) who tell the two governments that they are to negotiate a peace or be destroyed. It is the wish of the Romulan Empire that they force a fight between the two enemies that will take the Federation and Klingons out of the way, making them the dominant power in the quadrant.

On Centaurus, Ambassador Sarek faces a delegation of Klingons led by Councilor Gorkon (Later to become Chancellor of the High Council) where negotiations are not going anywhere. A little later, Gorkon disappears causing even more uneasiness within the Klingon ranks as they believe that the Federation is responsible for a presumed murder. Both sides call on reinforcements and a Klingon ship along with the Enterprise arrive on the scene and tensions escalate even further.

Meanwhile in the alternate universe, Una finds her crewmates and takes measures to rescue them and make the rendezvous that will take her and them home, but she is unaware of what awaits her as she struggles with the Jatohr to make it on time.

All the while, Kirk not only has to keep the Klingons at bay, but he also has to retrieve the stolen Transfer Key and stop the Romulans from forcing the Orgainians to make good on their promise at mutual annihilation. Then he still has to make it to the rendezvous on Usilde in time to Rescue Una and her band.

Best Defense is a very tangled web that author David Mack unravels with his usual clever writing style that is easy on the mind while keeping the action moving nonstop. From the moment I opened this book, I hated putting it down to get back to reality and found myself picking it up at every possible opportunity to catch as much as I could at every sitting.  At no time did I find myself not engaged in the story that had plenty of banter between characters, mostly on the serious side due to the urgency of the story. After all, the stakes are very high when one remembers that, at the end of the day, the Organians are taking an interest in the outcomes of the negotiations between the two Alpha Quadrant superpowers.

Everyone in the story behaved as expected as far as the familiar characters from the Trek universe are concerned, but there were a few characters included here that I was not previously familiar with. One such example is Joanna McCoy, daughter of Dr. Leonard McCoy, who is, in this story, a real chip off the old block. She is every bit as stubborn and compassionate as her father, and maybe even a little more so. Another character that Mack introduced was Elara, a spy for the Orion Syndicate (who is also very interested in the elimination of the Federation and Klingons). Elara poses as a waitress for the catering service during the peace talks and has bugged every possible area she can to gather information for her handler who is only known as the Red Man.

While I enjoyed every bit of this story, I particularly found myself fascinated with the activity aboard the Romulan ship. I would never have imagined that a human Tal-Shiar officer would be allowed to usurp power outside of the command structure the way that Sadira was able to for much of the story. The tension that Mack wrote into those segments of the story were truly palpable and I found myself wanting more. I found it ironic that I was hoping that the Romulans would put Sadira in her place despite the power that she could wield as a political officer. She had absolutely no respect for the command structure of the ship, which was manned by very capable officers. Further, Sadira had no compassion or concern for the lives of the people onboard the Velibor, as she was willing to sacrifice anything to complete her mission. She is a truly deplorable character and made the rest of the Romulan crew looks like they were from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Well written and so well told, that alone was worth the price of the book.

Not all was seriousness though. At one point in the story, Joanna was being held hostage by Elara as she went to make her escape after being found out. While she believed she had the upper hand, Elara asked for some items, including food, water, and a portable toilet. When Engineer Scott delivered the toilet, he told Kirk that it was rigged to deliver a stunning shock to Elara when she sat on it. A booby trapped biffy! My only disappointment was that she never had the opportunity to use it and I was deprived of the opportunity to read the author’s description of that scene; I’m sure it would have been incredible.

I enjoyed this installment of the Legacies series and am looking forward to seeing how the seeds planted in Best Defense are grown in the third and final book in the series. I highly recommend this novel for its nonstop forward movement and smooth transitions between scenes, as well as a magnificently written story.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood