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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Star Trek: Legacies Book 1: Captain to Captain - A Number One Book About Number One!

Star Trek: Legacies: Captain to Captain by Greg Cox

Is there a Star Trek fan that doesn’t know that it is the fiftieth anniversary year for the first airing of this, one of the most beloved and influential television, movie, and literary phenomenons to every exist. Well, perhaps there might be one or two. Star Trek hit the airwaves on September 8, 1966 with the first episode called The Man Trap on the NBC television network. What followed was the stuff of legends; I am sure that there is not a single person in the civilized world that doesn’t know what Star Trek is in some form.

On the literary side, we were promised a trilogy of novels, the first of those, Captain to Captain by Greg Cox, is the subject of this review.

In 2267, Captain Una (better known as Number One from the Menagerie, and played by Majel Barrett) comes aboard the Enterprise in her small, but powerful starship Yorktown. The reason she gives for her arrival is to pay a visit to her former crew mate, Spock, but she has another agenda in mind as well. While Kirk and crew go about their business of running the Enterprise, Una breaks into Kirk’s quarters and steals an item known as a Transfer Key, to simply The Key. This device is apparently so dangerous that it has been passed from Enterprise captain to captain to keep secure in his/her quarters and even Starfleet Command knows nothing about it. After a chase, which Una has apparently planned very well, it is up to Kirk to retrieve the device, but he must keep it a secret from everyone except for Spock, who also knows about the Key.

Flashback to 2249. Under the command of Captain Robert April, the Enterprise achieves orbit around Libros III where they discover a pre-industrial civilization that is being displaced by an alien race called the Jatohr. The alien race is not only exploiting the Usildar, the indigenous race on Usilde (as the Libros III is called by the natives), but they are reforming the face of the planet. When the then Lieutenant Una leads her first landing party to see what is taking place, they find themselves captured and all but Una are sent away from the planet to no one knows where, or whether they are alive or dead. With the help of a sympathetic Jatohr scientist, Una secures the key and the Enterprise escapes.

Forward again to 2267, Una has made it her mission to find and rescue her lost crew mates from 2249. She has the key and manages to find the help she needs to complete her task. Finally, the Key is back in safe hands, but there is a twist. But then, isn’t there always?

Captain to Captain was a fun look at events that involved two eras of Star Trek, one of which I know very little of. I enjoyed reading the exploits of Una, who appeared in TOS known only as Number One. She apparently was given that name because she was the best at everything that she did. While appearing in the TOS two-part Menagerie episodes, we saw an emotionless and logical character, much like Spock became in the series. This story shows that she does indeed try to control her emotions, but isn’t always successful as some very disturbing circumstances arise for her. Finally, her loyalty for her lost friends drives her to act in ways that one wouldn’t expect.

Creg Cox's story is well written and is a fun read. It centers mostly on Una, but does also include many members of Enterprise crews from both 2267 and 2249. All of the characters behave as one would expect in the Star Trek universe and there are some fun exchanges between characters. I recommend Captain to Captain as a fine opening to the three part Legacies series honoring the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. It is going to be fun to see where the rest of the series takes us.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Remanence (Confluence Book 2) By Jennifer Foehner Wells - Excellent An Thoughtful Sci-Fi

Remanence (Confluence Book 2) By Jennifer Foehner Wells

Not long ago, Jennifer Wells posted on Twitter that she noticed a marked uptick in the sales of her first book entitled Fluency released in 2014, and which I reviewed on this blog. I tweeted back that it was perhaps due in part to my review which is the second highest hit-getter on this blog. I was kidding of course (about my blog increasing sales, not about Jennifer's book being in 2nd place), and realize that Fluency needs no help from me because it is just that good. Almost immediately, Jennifer tweeted back that I needed to read the second book and subject of this review, Remenance. It had taken me completely unawares that there was another book in this series and don’t know how I missed any announcement of its release.

Remanence picks up nearly where Fluency left off with Jane Holloway commanding the Sectillian starship that was accidentally discovered to be hanging around in our solar system for some time. Jane Holloway, along with other crew and her commander were sent by NASA to learn what they could, assuming that the Speroancora was a derelict. What the crew of the Providence (NASA’s name for the capsule sent to investigate the alien craft with a crew of six) was a ship that was abandoned by sentient life with the exception of Ei’Brai, the ship’s Kubodoran Gubernaviti (a squid-like being that takes part in the administration of Sectillian ships including the navigation and other duties of the vessel while being bound by yoke to the ship’s commander), and some very nasty and hostile creatures called the Nepatrox.

After taking several jumps, the Speroancora arrives at Antelle, a habitable moon orbiting the planet Sectilia. Upon arrival, it is discovered that the system has been devastated by the Confluos Gigantus, a predatory insect that eats everything in it’s path and is adapted to space travel to move through the galaxy seeking ecosystems to devour. The people of Atelle have learned to survive, but the once thriving and highly technological species has been thrown back to roughly the stone ages. Then there is also the constant threat of the nepatrox that is trying to eradicate what is left of the population on Atelle as well as the visitors from Earth. When their shuttle is disabled on Atelle, the crew of the Speroancova is stranded and forced to dodge the nepatrox, learn new customs, avoid breaking taboos, and figure out how they are going to get back to their mission.

With all of that going on, there is a threat to Earth itself that has to be dealt with.

Once again, as she did in Fluency, Jennifer has produced a work of Sci-Fi literature that is to be enjoyed by any reader that enjoys well written, detailed, and emotionally charged stories that keep one guessing. At every page turn there is something new and fresh and exciting, but at the same time doesn’t feel rushed or glossed over. The main protagonist of the story, Jane Holloway, is a fantastic strong character in the tradition of Ellen Ripley of the Alien movies, while at the same time being fair and compassionate. Through her telepathic connection with the ships kubodoran navigator, Ei’Brai, Jane feels almost everything that he feels and she has made it her mission to return him to his home. At the same time though, Ei’Brai also has a little tendency to get in the way because he can see and feel everything that Jane sees and feels which strains her relationship with the engineer, Alan Bergan. Alan is brilliant but he also has a temper and is not afraid to let it show, especially when Ei’Brai gets into his thoughts, but even more so when he get into Jane’s thoughts during more intimate moments (which are tastefully written, however I would say that this story would be rated for older teens to adult).

Two scenes in the book stand out as fine examples of Jennifer’s skill as an author. Both the descent to and ascent from Atelle were classic Sci-Fi scenes that included edge-of-your-seat excitement and suspense. Routine operations became unsure for the crew and on one occasion a chapter-ending cliff hanger wouldn't allow me to close the book; I just had to read one more chapter, but this was the case for the entire book. It seemed that no matter how skilled the crew, there was always something that got in the way of an easy success and the members of the crew had to come up with some innovative ways to problem solve in the face of what felt like certain doom.

Looming over everything was the constant and very dangerous threat of the neaptrox that turned up no matter what was happening and at one point, it looked like we would lose at least a couple of characters before they could accomplish their task. The nepatrox are as relentless as the Borg on Star Trek and even more dangerous. I honestly found myself looking over my shoulder wondering when they would turn up again, figuratively speaking, of course.

For most of the story the main antagonists are the environment the crew finds themselves in, but also their own lack of knowledge. A more tangible antagonist comes on the scene a little later that seems to be so angry and vengeful, it will stop at nothing to assure the destruction of all life in the galaxy.

The story simply flows, but one cannot think that there wasn’t a lot of homework done on the part of the author. Jennifer has indeed researched and taken what she learned and put it all together in a fantastic voyage of discovery, character development, emotional involvement, and just plain good storytelling. I recommend Remanence as an outstanding piece of Sci-Fi literature that very stands on its own, but would also recommend reading the first book in the Confluence series, Fluency. The author does include a synopsis of the first book in the series, but not reading Fluency would mean that a reader would miss the genius of this author. Remember, it isn’t always getting to the end of a journey that is important, but rather, how one gets there.

I instant messaged the author and asked if there were plans to another installment of the Confluence series and received the following response...

"Yes, the next book will be titled Valence and will be releasing next Summer!

Further, Jennifer offered...

"I will be releasing another book in October (2016) called The Druid Gene. It is in the same universe as Confluence but with new characters and different challenges."

Some things to look forward to!

Well, there it is...

Qaplah!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

1-800-Henchmen: First Shot By Katherine Wielechowski - A Fun Novelette By A Talented Aspiring Author

1-800-Henchmen: First Shot By Katherine Wielechowski

I have been attending meetings of the Central Nebraska Writers Guild for a year and have met some brilliant writers. One of those is the young woman who is an aspiring author named Katherine Wielechowski, a very friendly person and a writer who shows great promise if this first released publication is any indication of what will come in the future. Anyway, while running through my Facebook feed, I saw a post from Katherine giving away the second of her four novelettes in the 1-800-Henchmen series for one day only, so I grabbed that one and bought the other three as well, not really sure what to expect.

1-800-Henchmen: First Shot centers on Alfie Vihar, a young man that is days away from high school graduation and looking for a job that hopefully pays more than fifty dollars a week. Answering an ad for Resources, Inc., a company that is apparently hiring a summer intern. Alfie secures an interview with Mr. Kadish, who is awaiting his arrival. After Alfie gives his memorized stock interview answers, Mr. Kadish prompts Alfie into giving him some real answers to a few rapid fire questions. We learn that Alfie is an aspiring writer that speaks three foreign languages, two of which he learned to impress girls, and the third, Chinese, so he could understand the Chinese cursing that is used frequently in his favorite television show, Firefly. Kadish tells Alfie that he is not quite the right fit for the summer internship, but he is qualified for another opening at one of the company's other divisions.

When Alfie reports for his first day of work, he has no idea what he has gotten himself into, but soon finds out that he either has a dream job for an eighteen year-old, or he is in so far over his head that he may not measure up. He finds that he has gone to work for the Henchmen, a quasi-mercenary group that aids whomever hires their services to accomplish their missions, for good or evil. Funny thing is that all he really wanted to do was earn enough money to go backpacking around Europe, but his first adventure finds him traveling all the way to Beijing, China!

What came through this novelette for me was that Katherine has a huge talent for character development. RIght from the opening, I found Alfie to be someone that I would like to know. He is a nice young man who has a tendency, as most eighteen year-olds do, to speak before his brain is engaged. He obviously has a good brain and an ear for languages. Even on his first mission, he and his team is looking for what might be his specialty, to what talent he posses that will add to the team he has been assigned to. Alfie has a good home life in a middle-class family that is close. His best friend is a girl that he has apparently known for quite some time, however they are not romantically involved, which I find very refreshing.

Even the supporting characters in this story have some degree of fine character development. For instance, Mr. Kadish, whom Alfie only briefly visits for his interview, is alive and very real. Brief descriptions of Alfie’s Henchmen team mates are packed full with great visual clues that make them also jump off the page, appearing as personalities as opposed to simply being supporting cast.

All in all though, I found that as I read, I wanted more. While the first three-quarters of the story was full of marvelous character development, as well as brief but detailed well written descriptions of things and places, I wanted more story on the hero; I wanted more on Alfie’s training and more on why the villain was plotting an attack with a nuclear weapon on Beijing.  I would have liked more on how the fight went before the UN soldiers and the super heroes arrived on the scene to break up Huanxiang’s (pronunced wone-she-ow) little party. In short, the last quarter of the story felt rushed.

Nevertheless, this was a fun story that gave me pause numerous times to laugh. At 47 pages, it is easily read in a little over an hour and is well worth the effort. I look forward to reading the next three installments of Alfie’s adventures with the Henchmen. This is a fun piece of writing and is a fine example of seeing growth in a talented writer. As someone who reads a lot of heavy science fiction, I found that this was a nice break from my usual fare and it gave me pause to laugh a little. I recommend First Shot for it lighthearted tone and interesting characters.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!