Tag Archives: murder mysteries

Book Review – Star Trek: Death Count by L. A. Graf

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Last week we stopped off in the Marvel Universe for a fun trip down memory lane. Today’s destination promises to be fairly exciting, even though it is a voyage forward rather than backward in time. Once again we return to the Federation of Planets for another adventure aboard the famous U.S.S. Enterprise, readers!

Aboard Sigma One, a space station a few days from the Federation/Orion border, Captain Kirk has gone out to dinner. Scotty and McCoy have whisked him off to a Scottish restaurant aboard the station in order to help him unwind. For the past three days, which were supposed to be used for shore leave by the crew, the men and women aboard the Enterprise have been pestered almost to death by four auditors from the Auditor General.

It seems the Auditor General has teams of auditors surprising starships throughout the fleet with on-site inspections. For the last three days the crew of the Enterprise has been running efficiency drills to prove they are following the regulations properly and can react to a stiuation as fast as possible, with the clipboard-wielding inspectors looking over their shoulders the whole time. In the process these four individuals have, unsurprisingly, made themselves an enormous nuisance to the crew.

This has put everyone aboard the ship on edge, meaning those who can grab shore leave are not letting it pass them by for any money. While Scotty and McCoy help Kirk relax, Chekov has convinced Sulu to help him try and beat a record set by another ship’s crew on the station’s piloting simulator. After failing the simulator’s sixth level, the door opens automatically, allowing Uhura to ask how much longer the two men plan to continue playing.

My Star Trek Scrapbook: Sulu and Chekov...BFF!

Sulu answers the question by getting out before Chekov can reactive the machine. He then leads his two best friends to a plant shop he has already visited three times so far. On the way there the three bump in to some Orion police officers in riot gear. Since they are out of uniform, the men merely push past them instead of goading the Starfleet officers into a fight. Not long after they enter the plant shop, however, an Orion policeman comes to “inspect” the premises for something/someone.

His “inspection” consists mostly of wrecking the store owner’s property. This infuriates the businessman, who attacks the alien with a broom. Chekov and Sulu intervene on the man’s behalf after he is tossed across the room, earning the latter a free gift of plants, pets, and the lily pond they need to survive and be happy. Unfortunately, Chekov’s gift is entirely different; the Orions cast his actions as assault, leading Sigma One’s security forces to throw him in the station’s brig.

Meanwhile Kirk, Scotty, and McCoy’s relaxtion proves to be premature. Like a troubadour leading his not-so-merry band, the head auditor arrives at the restaurant, fuming about being barred from the Enterprise. Kirk is sanguine until he learns that he has new orders to go to the Andorian/Orion border – with the inspectors in tow.

Tense once more, Kirk goes to speak to the commodore in charge of the station, a friend whom he helped to promote to his current position. The commodore explains that since an Andorian scientist named Muav Haslev – who was developing some kind of technology for the Andorian military – disappeared from their space, the Andorians have blamed the Orions for the incident. The Orions claim they had nothing to do with his vanishing act, but no one believes them. And even without definitive proof, the Andorians are spoiling to pick a fight with the Orions. The sector between the two is heating up and threatening to embroil the Federation in a war with Orion, which is a neutral stellar nation.

Kirk is fine with this part of the assignment; he has done this kind of thing before, and knows how to handle it. His problem is the auditors. While traveling to the Andorian/Orion border is dangerous enough for him and his crew the way things stand now, taking four civilians (one of whom is extremely annoying and has a superiority complex) into a possible war zone isn’t his idea of a smart move.

Dog Star Omnibus: Captain's Blog pt. 92: The Enterprise ...

But as he soon learns, neither assignment is negotiable. The ship that was supposed to take the auditors next and deal with the Orion/Andorian issue at the same time recently suffered a containment breach of its warp core. Though the damage could have been much worse, it is bad enough; the vessel may never be spaceworthy again. She’s barely able to limp to Sigma One with the help of tug shuttles.

This leaves Enterprise to carry out the mission – exasperating auditors and all. Once Chekov gets out of the brig and boards the Enterprise with Sulu and Uhura, the ship heads for the border….

…Only to be struck by a burst of radiation that sends her instruments haywire. Sulu just barely manages to keep the starship from warping straight through Sigma One after the radiation scrambles the helm. The computer turned the Enterprise back toward the station thinking it is open space.

Returning to their normal course, the Enterprise gets under way at last, only to be intercepted a short time later by a disguised Orion destroyer. Following on its heels is an Orion police cruiser, whosse captain is intent on arresting Chekov for the incident back at the station. Upon learning the details of the confrontation on Sigma One, Kirk realizes the Orions set him up to get his security officer. After a brief word with the Orion commander, he has the Enterprise continue on to the border.

As he knows all too well, though, missions that begin this badly don’t get any smoother the longer they last. So when a transporter accident turns out to be a triple murder, Kirk isn’t really surprised, just angry and determined to find the culprit. But how can he catch a sabatour while keeping four number-crunching civilians determined to nose their way into vital systems safe and out of the way? The answer is…

An Oral History of Star Trek | pufflesandhoneyadventures

…Not for me to tell! If you want to know how Death Count ends, you will have to read it yourself. It is a good book, but unlike most L. A. Graf novels, it doesn’t include Uhura’s direct perspective of events. The three points-of-view explored in this novel belong to Sulu, Chekov, and Kirk. That is a fairly unusual choice for L.A. Graf. Normally, the writers using this pan name include Uhura’s viewpoint along with Sulu’s and Chekov’s to explore their characters, while giving fans a view of life from “below decks.” Kirk’s POV is included to show how he regards the three younger members of the “Enterprise Seven” as officers and people.

For some reason, Death Count breaks this pattern. While it is not irritating or a loss in any sense of the word, it does make one wonder. I only note it for the curious and for those L.A. Graf fans who have not managed to acquire this story yet.

Until next time, readers: “Second star to the right and straight on til morning!”

Death Count (Star Trek, #62) by L.A. Graf

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Book Review: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah

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Guess who’s back…. (Cue the eerie music.)

Yep, your humble blogging host is once again at work providing you with entertainment, readers! August was a busy month, so forgive me if I seem a little out of practice here. It should clear up once I get rolling.…. 🙂

All right, today’s focus is The Vulcan Academy Murders, by Jean Lorrah. Before I describe this story, I have to tell you that one of the things readers of Star Trek fiction should keep in mind is that most of it is non-canon. Part of this is due to the fact that those who write novels for ST can never seem to get on board with each other to figure out where they can slip their stories into the official timeline. Some write stories set in the exact same time periods; others create stories set in wildly different decades or eras. It can be a little confusing to the uninitiated at first, and it can be irritating to the more experienced readers as time goes on. (I speak from experience. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing in these fictional quarters!)

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The other reason is that, unlike Star Wars, Star Trek’s timeline is rather skeletal. Chronologically, you have Star Trek: Enterprise, followed by the original series, followed by the original films I-VI, followed by The Next Generation. Then they’re all capped off with Star Trek: Voyager – or they were, last I checked. So while there’s a lot of room for stuff to happen in between these different stories, since no one has bothered to define the cut off limits or to explain how many years have elapsed, authors who are Star Trek fans just shoot darts at the timeline trying to hit it. L. A. Graf generally sticks the landing, as mentioned in this review here, but others tend to throw wide of the mark.

Jean Lorrah is one of these authors. While she is clearly a passionate Trek fan who greatly admires the Vulcans, her grasp of the timeline appears to be a bit… vague. At the very least, she didn’t give readers much of a hint as to when her story was set; all I can say for sure is that it takes place before we see Doctor M’Benga aboard the Enterprise. Her writing style also left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong – she doesn’t write badly. But she could definitely have been clearer in her descriptions.

Okay, now we can discuss the story. The Vulcan Academy Murders starts out with the Enterprise battling a Klingon warship, which does not survive the fight. But before it is destroyed, it does inflict some serious damage on Kirk’s vessel, specifically the Auxiliary Control for the photon torpedoes. The two officers on duty there – Pavel Chekov and Carl Remington – manage to fire the kill shots before succumbing to a gas leak caused by a lucky hit from the Klingons.

Chekov is fortunate in that he comes through the battle ill but intact. Remington, on the other hand, is in serious trouble. Though McCoy manages to save his life, the boy’s voluntary nervous system is completely paralyzed. He can’t move – not even to open his eyes. McCoy fears that, even if Remington pulls through this initial battle, he may remain paralyzed and in bed for the rest of his life.

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Spock’s mother, Amanda

With no other way to confirm his mental health, Spock performs a mindmeld to see if Remington is still self-aware. Confirming that the boy is indeed conscious and able to reason, he explains that there might be a viable treatment which will save Remington’s life and sanity. Spock’s own mother is undergoing the same experimental cure on Vulcan; as it turns out, she was suffering from a degenerative disease that occurs in humans when they have lived in alien environments for long periods of time.

Up until now, there has been no means of curing the disease. But a human doctor on Vulcan who had this illness developed a treatment for himself that saved his life. It’s working on Amanda now, and it should be able to cure Remington, too. Since Enterprise is in need of repair, Spock invites Kirk and McCoy to come to Vulcan with him and Remington for “shore leave.”

Once there, they learn that a Vulcan woman is undergoing the same treatment after an regrettable accident with some machinery. Leaving all three patients in their force-field encapsulated regenerative tanks, Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Sarek, and the two doctors in charge of the project go out to dinner. One of these doctors is the human who invented the cure, Dr. Daniel Corrigan. The other is his Vulcan partner and friend, Sorel.

Dinner is a fine affair, but just as they’re about to pay the bill and head home, Sorel stiffens and clutches his chest. He can sense that his wife, T’Zan, is in danger of death. Rushing back to the Vulcan Academy, despite their best efforts the guys are not able to save Sorel’s wife. She dies in the medical room.

Though Corrigan immediately blames himself for this, Kirk openly suspects foul play. Over the next few days, he begins investigating the matter, believing that someone wants to sabotage the cure. When Remington dies as well and a fire is set in the Academy, Kirk’s suspicion that a murderer is loose becomes the only logical explaination for the cascading disasters….

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…And that’s all the spoilers you’re going to get, folks! 😉 My lips are now sealed – though I will add that, when researching this book to see if it was something I would enjoy, one of the reviews I read was written by a woman who said she had figured out the villain by page fifty. This blogger was hoping to beat that record when she started reading, and she did. I fingered the killer on page 49 and, despite a period of doubt, was proved right by the end. Haha! 😉

While I liked The Vulcan Academy Murders, as I said above, I did have a few problems with it. The writing style isn’t my favorite, and though it became tolerable after awhile, it still grated on my nerves from time to time. I must say that the method by which the author described Vulcan telepathy and how they form romantic, psychic connections was done well. It was entirely plausible and believable.

But I really didn’t like the way she handled Kirk. In some scenes he was fine, but in others Lorrah seemed to be actively dumbing him down. That was annoying; I like Kirk. He’s the best of Star Trek’s captains, and anyone who disrespects him in a major way (such as by poor writing) gets on my bad side. So long as he is portrayed well by an actor or a writer, I’m happy. But if the writers make him less than he is, as Lorrah did on a couple of occasions here, that leads me to give the book an automatic demerit.

Despite these objections, The Vulcan Academy Murders is a good story. If ST fiction isn’t your thing, or if my minor problems with this tale have convinced you that you would not enjoy the story, then you will probably want to avoid the book. But if you like Star Trek, a good mystery, and want to see Kirk look somewhat stupid, then this book might appeal to you.

Until next time, readers: “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning!”