Tag Archives: sci-fi books

Book Review – Star Trek: Traitor Winds by L. A. Graf

Image result for traitor winds by l.a. graf

Well, we have been to the Witch World, Newfoundland, and a toy castle from England. Let’s see what is going on in the United Federation of Planets, shall we?

I gave this book as a gift to a friend, so I do not have a copy of it with me as a reference. Please forgive me if I mess up some of the details, readers. 😉 The novel, written by the ladies who use the pen name L. A. Graf – “Let’s All Get Rich And Famous!” – takes place in the interim between the end of the original series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Kirk has become an Admiral some time before this book starts; McCoy is enjoying being a crotchety, grounded Earth doctor; Spock is away on Vulcan, and Scotty is aboard the Enterprise, which has been docked in orbit for a refit.

Meanwhile, Sulu is working as a test pilot for a new shuttle with a cloaking shield in White Sands, Arizona. The project is top secret, but he has told his best friends – Uhura and Chekov – all about it anyway. After all, if they cannot keep a secret, who can? At the same time, Uhura is teaching a communications class at Starfleet Academy and Chekov is going to the Security Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Of the three Chekov has, as usual, gotten the short end of the stick. He wants to be a Security Officer so he can gain the experience he needs to enter the Officers’ Academy which Kirk attended. Kirk was admitted to this school at a young age because he was a special case. Chekov is special, too, of course, but the guys in charge have deemed him too immature to enter the school at this time.

This has stung his pride so badly that he has decided Security is the only place to gain maturity. Unfortunately for Chekov, one of his classmates absolutely hates him. This man’s name is Leong, and he has been in Security for quite some time. He thinks all Starfleet officers are flash and splash; that they do not have the mettle to take on real threats. Because Chekov is not as graceful or fast as he is, Leong can outmaneuver and whip him easily in practice fights. There is nothing wrong with Chekov, who has faced worse opponents in deep space and lived to tell the tale. It is simply that he cannot keep up with Leong when it comes to speed.

Chekov does not see it that way, though, probably due to a combination of the Officers’ Academy’s vitriolic rejection letter and his natural Russian pessimism. He rarely has any fun at the Security Academy, and he has almost no friends there. The only bright points in the whole mess are the occasional dinners he has with Uhura and Sulu when they leave their much nicer jobs out west to visit him on the weekends. Then they all get to sit down, reminisce, and relax at a nice diner, restaurant, or café somewhere in Annapolis.

The latest dinner includes McCoy and Dr. Piper, the physician for the Enterprise before Kirk took command. The dinner is merrier than ever, and Chekov gets an offer from Dr. Piper he cannot refuse. Dr. Piper is working on finding a way to treat injuries caused by Klingon disruptors. The problem is, no one at Johns Hopkins University knows how to fire the one disruptor they have. Starfleet officers who have faced Klingons in combat are not exactly lining up at the door to shoot it, either.

Knowing how bad a disruptor injury can be, Chekov jumps at the chance to help. It is only later that Piper confides in Chekov the real reason he wanted to hire the ensign: he thinks a traitor in Starfleet is trying to steal the disruptor. Afraid to trust anyone at the University, since those attached to the project might be compromised, he hired Chekov because he served under Kirk aboard the Enterprise. If Kirk trusts him, that’s good enough for Piper.

Unfortunately, as Chekov learns too late, Piper is right about those attached to the disruptor project being compromised. Unable to get to Dr. Piper in time to save him and, robbed of the recordings proving what actually happened, Chekov ends up on the run from the authorities after he is accused of killing Dr. Piper. Though Uhura and Sulu know this is not true, Starfleet’s top helmsman soon has other things to worry about. The plans for his stealth shuttle have been copied and stolen, and the Navajo engineer helping him to test the shuttle has gone missing.

The engineer is blamed for the theft, naturally, but Sulu finds this hard to believe. His faith in his friend is rewarded when he is testing the shuttle some days later. During the test flight Sulu finds a message from the engineer embedded in the shuttle’s systems. Through the message, the engineer warns him that someone in Starfleet has turned traitor and stolen the plans in such a way that either the engineer or Sulu would take the blame. To take the heat off of Sulu, the engineer ran off and hid in a place only the Navajo can find.

He left the message because he wants Sulu to know someone is out to get him. And Sulu has a feeling he is not the only target. The theft of the plans, the disappearance of the disruptor, and now Chekov’s supposed murder of Dr. Piper have happened too close together to be coincidence. They were both senior officers aboard the Enterprise, so whoever the traitor is, Sulu can only assume that he is trying to black Admiral Kirk’s name by framing him and Chekov for treason.

Star Trek: Traitor Winds is a good standalone Trek novel. It rotates through the POVs of Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Kirk. Spock is the only member of the Enterprise Seven absent from the story, while Christine Chapel and Janet Rand get guest appearances. As a high stakes race to the finish, Traitor Winds is one of the best. Engage that warp drive of yours, readers, and search this novel out. It is worth the read!

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Book Review: The Witch World Trilogy by Andre Norton

About a year ago, maybe two, I covered Andre Norton’s famous first Witch World novels: Witch World and Web of the Witch World. As you may remember, those books detailed the arrival of Simon Tregarth to the Witch World from Earth. After several adventures in this new world, Simon married the Witch Jaelithe who, though she was cast out of the Witches’ Council, retained her Power after marrying him.

These next three tales, which are crucial to understanding the timeline and references in all future Witch World novels, continue their tale in a new form…

Three Against the Witch World

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Three Against the Witch World is set after the Kolder War, at the very end of the year. Told from the point of view of Kyllan Tregarth, he describes how his mother, Jaelithe, gave birth to triplets. This was astounding because no one in the Witch World had ever had more than two children at once. Not in recorded memory, at least; if it ever happened before, it is lost in the Witch World’s ancient history.

But the birth was difficult, leaving Jaelithe lethargic and nearly catatonic for an entire year. This nearly drove Simon mad, and his work on Estcarp’s border with Karsten came dangerously close to killing for killing’s sake. Only when Jaelithe recovered did he calm down.

And the children? There were three: Warrior, Sage, and Witch. Kyllan is the warrior. He reached for a sword hilt when he could only crawl. The first born, Kyllan is not prone to asking questions or thinking on ancient mysteries. He is a man made to face the present moment, the desperate hour of battle.

Kemoc, the second of the triplets, is the Sage, the one with all the questions. He pries into records, old knowledge, and wants to learn anything and everything. Kaththea, the third triplet, was born almost immediately after him, and so the two have always been closer to each other than to Kyllan. Though not displayed in her early life, Kaththea has the same gifts as her mother; she is the Witch.

With Karsten maintaining its aggressive stance toward Estcarp, Simon and Jaelithe have to spend almost all their time on the border. Thus they rarely interact with their own children, whom they leave in the keep of their old friend, Loyse of Verlaine, the wife of Koris of Gorm.

The children’s only real mother is Anghart, a Falconer woman who left her village after her own deformed son was killed. The Falconers cannot tolerate weakness of any kind in their ranks because of their harsh lifestyle as mercenaries. And so, like the Spartans of old, they traditionally dispense with any child that is crippled or somehow blemished – even by, say, a large red birthmark splattered across their face. So Anghart is cold and distant to all in the keep. Only the Tregarth triplets, whom she cares for as her own, know her true warmth and nature.

Anghart may be the only one, aside from Jaelithe, who perceives the special tie among the triplets: though three distinct people with their own strengths and weaknesses, the Tregarth heirs have a mental link that lets them meld into a cohesive whole. On instinct, they do not display this ability openly or use it often. It is private, for them alone…

But when Kaththea accidentally intercepts a message sent by a Witch to the Council, asking for aid, their bond activates in response to the urgency of the summons. Captured by Karsten raiders, the Witch called her Sisters for help, and Kaththea was in the line of communication. She and her brothers immediately used their special connection to find the Witch and then help the Borderers save her.

But in doing so they revealed Kaththea’s talent. The Witches do not care for men, and because Jaelithe had left the Council, they did not test her daughter to see if she had the Power. With this rescue of the Witch, however, Kaththea’s Power has been revealed to them. The Council demands the right to test her and, if she proves to have the Power, to take her as a novice who will someday become a full-fledged Witch.

Although they almost never spend much time with their children, the Tregarths are no less protective of their offspring than any other parents. They flatly tell the Council that Kaththea is off-limits and will not be tested. But the Council is patient, and when Simon goes missing two years later, Jaelithe chases after him once she has found his location with the help of their children’s Power.

Years later, despite their parents’ best attempts to guard them, while Kyllan and Kemoc are with the border guards, the Council strikes. Sensing Kaththea’s cry for help, her brothers take off immediately to protect her. It takes the two of them a couple of days to get to the keep, where they find Anghart, barely alive. She stood by her foster daughter to the last, throwing herself between Kaththea and the Witches. When she would not be persuaded to move, they tore her will to live from her with their Power. Though she has the will to live long enough to tell Kyllan and Kemoc what happened and to advise them on how to rescue their sister, she dies two days later.

And so the Tregarth brothers remain Borderers, protecting Estcarp from attacks committed against their nation by Karsten, biding their time until they can find a way to save their sister. In one of these skirmishes Kemoc’s sword hand is injured and he has to be sent to Lormt to recover. When he comes back, he tells Kyllan he has learned where their sister is and where the triplets may hide from the vengeance of the Witches: in the East.

Why is this so special? For all those in Estcarp save Simon and his three children, there is no East on the map. There is not even a recognition of the word in the minds of those Kemoc has asked about the East. It is as if something blocks them from traveling or even thinking in that geographical direction.

So the brothers rescue their sister from the Witches’ training grounds and take her East – where they upset many balances, meet new allies, and find bitter, monstrous foes…

Warlock of the Witch World

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The sequel to Three Against the Witch World, this novel is from Kemoc’s perspective. Living in the Valley of Green Silences with its people, his brother, and his sister, Kemoc leads raids against the evils that prowl the Eastern land known as Escore. Kyllan has married a high lady among the People of Green Silences – Dahaun – but Kemoc and Kaththea as yet have no such heart-ties.

Until a man named Dinzil arrives with his people to join in the Valley’s defense. Kaththea and he get along right from the get-go, and he is well known by reputation among the People of the Valley, not to mention well-liked for his charm.

The only one who cannot stand him is Kemoc. It is not that his sister, with whom he has always been close, is showing favor to the man. That bothers him, but not in the way you might think. The reason that it bothers him is that he instinctively dislikes Dinzil. He cannot find a reason for his aversion; he only knows that every time he gets close to the guy, he has to restrain the urge to grab for his sword. The fact that Kaththea and Kyllan do not have this problem, and that Kaththea is dazzled by Dinzil, only makes matters worse for the Sage.

Dahaun figures this much out through observation and asks Kemoc what his problem is. Kemoc admits that he does not want to speak ill of an ally, nor does he want to accuse a man without proof. He only knows that something about Dinzil feels wrong. He cannot say it any other way.

Unlike his siblings, Dahaun accepts Kemoc’s instinctive assessment of the man. She knows Dinzil’s reputation, knows that he has been vouched for by others as a servant of the Light. But she is not willing to dismiss the second Tregarth youth’s concerns out of hand. Instincts can be as good as knowledge or reason; sometimes, they can be even better than those. In this case, she thinks he may be right and promises to keep as close an eye on Dinzil as she can.

Later, Kemoc and one of the men in the Valley go to visit the Krogan, humans mutated centuries ago by Adepts in magic so that they can live in water, not to mention weave spells using it. The catch is that the Krogan cannot survive long out of water. If they travel too far away from any source of water, salt or fresh, they will die. Don’t bring ‘em to the desert. 😉

At the lake the Krogan call home, Kemoc meets Orsya, one of the Krogan women. Later on, the Krogan emissary states that his people wish to remain neutral. Though of the Light and not allied with Darkness, they are tired of war and just want to be left alone.

Kemoc and his guide/commander leave the lake peacefully. But on the return journey, Kemoc is separated from his friend by a flood. It is not a natural flood, either; Kemoc feels as though this flood was conjured up by something or someone of the Dark. He gets back to the Valley eventually – only to learn that Kaththea, distraught at his disappearance and her inability to find him by mind touch, has gone with Dinzil to use that man’s “means” to locate him.

Though no one else is worried, Kemoc sets out almost at once to find her.   His every instinct is screaming that this was a trap set for his sister, and he has to find her before she is killed. Or worse….

Sorceress of the Witch World

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The final book in this trilogy of Witch World novels is from Kaththea’s point of view. After the events of Warlock of the Witch World, Kaththea was left in a childish, not-quite amnesiac state of mind. She has had to relearn everything, and her memory has come back slowly. Soon, though, the only things she does not truly remember are what she did while she was with Dinzil.

Nevertheless, her dabbling and subsequent mind wipe have left her open to the wills of the Dark things that roam Escore. Finally, she can stand the nightmares no longer. She decides to go back to Estcarp to find a surviving Witch to retrain her in the use of her Power.

The plan goes awry, though, when an avalanche separates her from her brothers in the mountain pass that leads back to Estcarp. Alone and unable to contact her brothers due to her weakened mind bond with them, she can only hope that they are still alive and that she will be able to return to them and the Valley.

That idea seems destined to die when a primitive man finds her and takes her back to his tribe – which turns out to have an old, old, old Witch guiding it around Escore’s myriad dangers.

Although she does not like being in this tribe or her separation from her brothers, Kaththea instantly recognizes that this Witch can help her regain control of her Power. This arrangement works well enough – until the old woman appoints Kaththea her replacement in the tribe’s society, seconds before she topples over dead!

Trapped with a tribe she does not want to lead, Kaththea slowly breaks free of the spell holding her to these people. When her attempt to safely guide the tribe ends in a massacre, Kaththea escapes, with only her most bitter enemy for company as she searches for a way back to the Valley.

The search is hampered not simply by those who are hunting the two women, but also by the magnetic pull of magic coming from an abandoned Adept’s castle. Unable to resist the pull, Kaththea and the other woman enter the castle and pass through a gate into another world –

It is through these events that Kaththea becomes the Sorceress of the Witch World.

Wow, that was a longer post than I had intended to write. Whew, I did not realize how much I would have to say to whet your appetites, readers! I think I will sign off now and let you look up these books yourselves. ‘Till next time!

Book Review – Star Trek: The Covenant of the Crown

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Any Star Trek fan worth his salt will be able to tell you about the episode The Trouble with Tribbles. Tribbles, overgrown living puff balls, are soft, furry, harmless creatures that breed faster than rabbits. One of the things which make this episode so interesting is that it was written by a fan of the original series. That fan’s name is David Gerrold. And he wrote and sold The Trouble with Tribbles to Gene Roddenberry and the rest when he was twenty-three years old.

But Howard Weinstein did one better. He wrote a short, fan fiction story for his high school science fiction magazine called “The Pirates of Orion.” Later, in 1973, when Star Trek was made into an animated television series, Weinstein rewrote the story and sold it to the series creators. It became the first episode for the second season of the animated Star Trek series, retaining its title. Why is this important?

Howard Weinstein sold the story to the studio when he was nineteen and in college. That’s why it is important; he was the youngest writer for Star Trek ever, a position he may still hold. I cannot say for sure that he does, but it seems reasonable to assume this. At least, of the original fan base, he is the youngest writer they ever had, fan or otherwise.

Anyway, his love of Star Trek gave him the desire to become a science fiction writer. “The Pirates of Orion” was his first major success. The Covenant of the Crown, a novel set in the Star Trek universe, was his second.

In this story, McCoy is hiding in his room, curled up on his bed. Why?

It’s his birthday. And he is feeling old.

Captain Kirk is trying to talk him out of the room, and he finally convinces McCoy to get up and move by saying he wants the doctor to bait Spock while the Captain plays chess with him. They head down to the rec room on deck seven, Kirk opens the door….

On a dark room.

Thrusting McCoy into the room, Kirk watches the lights turn on and the crewmen pop up from behind the tables and chairs, shouting, “Surprise! Happy Birthday, McCoy!”

With this mission successfully completed, Kirk stands off to the side with Scotty to watch the festivities. Then he and his Chief Engineer feel the Enterprise kick into a higher gear. They make for the comm. as Spock calls Kirk to the bridge.

Star Fleet Command has called the Enterprise to Starbase 22 for a secret mission. Eighteen years ago, the planet Shad was thrust into a civil war due to Klingon meddling. Why? Shad is home to an ore known as Tridenite, a clean, efficient source of energy. The planet supplies twenty other planets with this vital ore. Half those planets are Federation, the other half are neutral. And they are all right next door to the Klingon Empire.

If Shad falls to the Klingons, they can take the entire sector because they will have control of the Tridenite.

Eighteen years ago, Lieutenant Commander James T. Kirk convinced Shad’s King, Stevvin, to escape Shad to protect his wife and daughter. It was supposed to be an exile of a few months, but it turned into an exile of eighteen years, during which time the queen died.

But the king and his daughter are alive. And with the Loyalist forces on the brink of winning the war – and falling apart as they try to divide the spoils before they even win – it seems it is time for the king to go home.

And he wants to; he really wants to go home. And Kirk wants to take him and his daughter home, to make up at least a little for leaving them stranded on an exile planet for eighteen years.

There is just one problem. The king’s daughter has a diabetic-like condition. She needs shots of a special serum, or she will die in a matter of hours. She is not physically as strong as she could be as a result. And the king himself, Stevvin, is dying.

Bonus points, McCoy and the king’s daughter start doing the Romance Two-Step. And if that did not complicate matters, throw in a few Klingon agents and a traitor in the King’s entourage, and you have a story filled with intrigue, romance, and danger. A little humor is added as Chekov tries to lose ten pounds he gained invisibly.

The Covenant of the Crown is a very good Star Trek story. With forewords by Howard Weinstein and David Gerrold, it also offers a window into what Star Trek fandom used to look like.

If you can, readers, find yourselves a copy of The Covenant of the Crown. If you do not like it, I am sorry to hear that. But I think it is a fantastic, fun story. It is at least worth one reading.

Live long and prosper!

Book Review: Forerunner Foray by Andre Norton

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And we are back in one of Andre Norton’s amazing stories, readers! Today’s title is one of her space novels, Forerunner Foray. This story focuses on a girl with the talent of psychometry.   For those of you who do not know, psychometry is the ability of someone with extrasensory abilities to see the history of any object they touch. The “sniffers” in the film Push are psychometrics. They touch an object, handle it, and can tell who used it before they picked it up. There are other characters in other stories that can do the same thing. Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, for example, was a psychometric. This was not through any special skill of his in the Force but due to an inherent ability in his humanoid species.

Parapsychology and telepathy are standbys of Andre Norton novels, which you probably know by now, readers. Forerunner Foray is set in the far future, on a world called Korwar. A pleasure world, the wealthy come here to play, while the poor live in a place amid the splendor called the Dipple.

The Dipple began life as a “temporary” refuge for people fleeing some sort of war – or series of wars – in the galaxy. Gradually it turned into a permanent camp of poor people. It is a little like the Undercity on Taris in the Knights of the Old Republic game. If you are sent down there, you stay there, unless you are only visiting. No one born in the Dipple ever gets out on their own, either.

Ziantha was lucky. Her telepathic talent and psychometric ability attracted the attention of one of the highest members of the Thieves’ Guild: Yasa, a feline/humanoid Salarika. Yasa plucked Ziantha out of the Dipple and had her taught everything she needed to know to become a skilled thief. Because of this and the oath Ziantha took to become part of the Guild, Yasa as good as owns her.

At first, though, Ziantha does not really seem to mind this. Especially as she goes on her first major “foray” into the apartments of a member of the Guild who was kicked off-world. Yasa wants some information from the data cubes this guy keeps in his treasure rooms. What is the safest way to get the information without his knowledge? Psychometric readings.

So Ziantha is sent to retrieve the information on these cubes. She gets in safely, finds the cubes, “downloads”’ the information from them into her mind, and heads out…

Only to stop by a table filled with, presumably, other valuable artifacts. I say presumably because the one which has caught Ziantha’s mental eye is a nondescript lump of clay or stone. Whatever this thing is, it is dragging her attention toward it.

Ziantha reaches out to touch it, then snatches her hand back. These apartments and rooms are the property of a head honcho in the Thieves’ Guild. Just because the government caught him in illegal dealings and kicked him off of Korwar does not mean the booby traps littering his residence have been deactivated. If she so much as touches that object, she could set off an alarm.

And so Ziantha does not pick the object up as she desires. She instead escapes back to Yasa’s villa and delivers the information safely. The mission is so successful that Yasa promises Ziantha whatever she wants as a reward. While considering this in her rooms, Ziantha realizes that what she really wants is that lump of clay.

So she goes back to get it – and the adventure begins.

Forerunner Foray is a complicated story. You have to follow Ziantha carefully or you will get lost as her adventures take her out of herself and, perhaps, even out of time. During the course of her adventures, she learns what she is really made of – and what it means to be free.

That’s all you will be getting out of me, people! If you want to know more, then you will have to go on your own “foray” to find a copy of this novel to peruse at your leisure. This is as far as I am taking you. Happy hunting!

Book Review – The Time Traders: Firehand by Andre Norton and P. M. Griffin

Image result for The Time Traders: Firehand by Andre Norton and P. M. Griffin

If the names Andre Norton and P. M. Griffin look good together, then that is because these authors collaborated several times on novels set in Andre Norton’s universes. From the Witch World to the Time Traders, P. M. Griffin co-wrote a number of stories with Miss Norton. To the best of my knowledge, the only books she has written on her own are her Star Commandos series. I have not been able to read any of those yet, but hopefully I will get that chance in the future.

Firehand is a novel set in Miss Norton’s Time Traders series. Now, I have not read the series all the way through. Heck, I have not even read the first book in the series! Firehand was my introduction to it.

From what I can gather, the Time Traders are units of time-traveling Terran agents who work to ensure that history either remains the same or yields better results than it did previously. But they are not doing this for economic gain. That is, at best, a side benefit. No, the Time Traders’ main mission is to protect the Terran timeline and the histories of its allies/potential allies from the interference of strange aliens called Baldies.

Baldies get their Terran nickname from their bald heads. None of these aliens have tried to be friendly or to make first contact with the Terrans. Mostly, they have either tried to eradicate them or to control them.

Ross Murdock, the young time agent, encountered these aliens in Earth’s Bronze Age on his first time-trading mission. The Baldies, powerful telepaths, at one point were working hard to take control of his mind and bend him to their will. Running for his life, Murdock could not afford to sleep. Sleep would mean his conscious mind was relaxed, which would mean he could not maintain control of himself. So the Baldies could have him sleepwalk all the way back to their camp or into a river where he would drown, and he would be none the wiser until it was too late.

So Murdock kept moving, becoming more and more exhausted as he fled the aliens. Exhaustion, of course, is a threat as well; the more he tired, the more likely he would fall unconscious or collapse into sleep. This would leave him vulnerable to the Baldies’ telepathy as well.

Ross is not a man who submits to domination willingly. In order to stave off sleep and keep the Baldies out of his mind when he rested, he set a fire. Then he put a brand in the fire, took it out, and burned his own hand with it.

That was at the start of his career as a Time Agent. By the time of Firehand, he has been on at least a couple of other missions, gaining more experience and getting tougher by the day.

This latest assignment to the planet Hawaika, though, looks to be his last. With fellow agents Doctor Gordon Ashe and Karara Trehern, Ross had to destroy the time gate to save Hawaika’s future. Now, they are all trapped in Hawaika’s past.

Not that Karara is too unhappy about that. Melding with ancient Hawaikan magic before the final battle, Karara has become something other than human. To leave Hawaika now would be a death sentence for her. But to stay would be equally bad for Gordon and Ross.

Thankfully, the Time Traders have no intention of leaving their highly trained, very expensive agents stuck in the past. Karara they have to leave behind in time for the new history to remain the same; but Ross and Gordon are coming home…

….To face yet another historical crisis. This time, the world they have to save is the Dominion of the Sun-Star Virgin. When they saved Hawaika, something went wrong in the Dominion’s past. Now that world is reduced to a glowing cinder.

So Ross, Gordon, and former Time Trader weapons instructor Eveleen Riordan are going back to Dominion’s past to fix this mess.

And that’s all I am writing, fellas. If you want to know the rest, hunt up the Time Traders series or skip straight to Firehand. As I have said elsewhere, Miss Griffin is a superb writer. Her work on Firehand is not necessarily of the same caliber as her work on Seakeep and Falcon’s Hope from Storms of Victory and Flight of Vengeance, respectively. In fact, if you are paying attention you will see some similarities between those stories and Firehand.

However, the similarities do not cause too much of a problem for me. If anything, they just show the writer’s preferences. Every writer has some favorite plots, names, animals, character types, or worlds, etc. Who am I to jump all over P. M. Griffin for being normal?

In a while, Crocodile!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail series

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To this blogger’s great distress, I have not read many Timothy Zahn works which were not written under the auspices of Lucasbooks. What can I say? The man writes great Star Wars stories!

But, while he may be best known for those novels, Timothy Zahn does not confine himself to this beloved niche. He has written many of his own books and has a couple of series going, with his own characters, histories, and tech.

One of these is his Quadrail series. This series focuses on one Frank Compton, a detective who works for the aliens that run the Quadrail. The Quadrail is an alien-built galactic space train that travels through the galaxy at the speed of light. How humanity became aware of it, I do not know. I have read only three books in the series so far, and those are The Third Lynx, Odd Girl Out, and The Domino Pattern.

Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series

Frank’s main enemy in the series is the Modhri. The Modhri is a kind of hive mind entity which infects people – aliens and humans – with tiny organisms. These organisms are undetectable to the host, and they would only be seen in a very thorough microsurgery operation. Through these colonies of organisms, the Modhri can view what the hosts view and take control of them – motor functions and minds both – any time he feels like it.

And there is not a darn thing the hosts can do about it, in part because they can never remember what happened while they were being controlled. They are the typical living robots who have no idea they are anything but normal.

Why is the Modhri doing this? Galactic domination, of course – he has the power to achieve it, after all. Why not use it?

Frank has been fighting the Modhri for some months now with the help of Bayta, a half-human, half-alien hybrid who is perfectly up to date on a zillion different scientific facts but whose social skills are severely stunted. It is hinted that she and Frank are rather charmed with each other. ‘Course, when a girl-guy team saves each other’s lives often enough, that tends to happen.

I am not going to spoil more than I already have. Frank Compton is, now that I think about it, rather like the wizard/detective Harry Dresden, from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. Except that Frank has to deal with aliens and tech instead of magic, fairies, and angels. Not sure which world I would rather have, though I think aliens are a mite less intimidating than angels.

Both Frank and Harry have a snappy sense of humor, they both deal with threats the general public is unaware of, and they have no problem referencing popular culture – though Frank’s pop culture is mixed with aliens and space travel, so it does not hit home quite as frequently as Harry’s does. The two characters probably display this kind of humor as a way of dealing with the stress of fighting things no one else knows about. I have to say that this is one of the reasons why I enjoy characters such as Frank Compton and Harry Dresden so much.

Well, readers, you will find no more spoilers here! Go ahead and find the Quadrail series. I hope you enjoy it!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

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Book Review: Star Trek: The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey

The Great Starship Race

Well, I did not begin posting about Star Trek fiction as soon as I had hoped.  But better late than never, right?

Today’s focus is Star Trek: The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey.  If you were to type the title of the book into the search engine of my blog, you would come up with several quotes from the novel posted here.  Not nearly so many as you would get if you typed in The Cherokee Trail, but you would get a good number nonetheless.

The Great Starship Race takes place in the Original Star Trek series timeline.  It focuses primarily on Kirk and his point of view, with occasional shifts to McCoy’s perspective.

But The Great Starship Race actually begins from the viewpoint of Valdus, a Subcenturion on the Romulan ship Scorah.  The Scorah and its supporting Swarm are out patrolling a sector of Romulan space when they stumble across an old spaceship with barely any warp capabilities.  Picking up the ship, they find five aliens aboard, aliens sent on a mission of exploration from their homeworld in the hopes of finding other life in the galaxy.

The aliens are friendly.  They fall all over the Romulans, they are so happy to learn they are not the only intelligent beings in the galaxy.  But when the Romulan commander tries to get them to reveal their planet’s location, things fall apart.  Somehow, someway, the nervous fright of the five aliens aboard the ship drives all the Romulans into murderous rages.  They kill each other and destroy the Scorah

All of them die except for one:  Valdus.  He is the only one to escape the conflagration, the only one to come back to sanity.  He is therefore the only one to realize how dangerous these aliens are to the Romulan people.

Fast-forward eighty-six years.  The Federation ship U.S.S. Hood, under the command of Captain Kenneth Dodge, made contact twelve years earlier with the people of Gullrey.  Now, twelve years later, the Rey are about to be accepted into the Federation.  And they are so happy about it that they are throwing a party, which will hopefully become an annual event:  the first Great Starship Race.

Among the competitors are four Starfleet ships – including Captain James T. Kirk’s U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701.

Captain Kirk is looking forward to the race on several levels.  Races are part of sailing history, so as a historian he is naturally happy to be participating in a race, the way that the sailing captains of the past once did.  On another level, he is looking forward to showing off his ship – his “favorite girl.”  And how can participating in a race not be fun?

He finds the answer to that question soon enough, when they are on their way to Starbase 16.  The starting line of the race, Starbase 16 sends a frantic call to the Enterprise about a Romulan heavy cruiser which has crossed the Neutral Zone.  It is headed for the base and transmitting interstellar truce.

What, you ask, is the Romulans’ reason for violating the Neutral Zone between Federation and Romulan space?  Oh, nothing really important – they just want to join the race.

If it were not such a dangerous situation, Kirk would laugh about it.  But a Romulan heavy cruiser in Federation space, whatever their proclaimed reason for entering, is no laughing matter.  He finds it even less funny when he meets the commander of the Red Talon:  Valdus.

And Valdus is none too happy when he sees Kirk.  Loathing using view screens for first meetings, Valdus sees something in Kirk’s eyes that disturbs him.  He knows Kirk is not a man who will give up, and that could be a problem.

As for Kirk, he can tell by looking at Valdus that the Romulan is not here to just run a race.  He knew that before he saw him, but seeing him convinces Kirk that there is something else to Valdus’ desire to join the contest, some dangerous ulterior motive.  And it has something to do with the Rey, whose planet is the finish line of the competition…

That is all I am telling you, readers.  The Great Starship Race is a really good piece of Star Trek fiction.  I think that it was one of the first Star Trek novels which I read.  The entire Enterprise Seven is present and accounted for, though Chekov gets short shrift in the dialogue and action departments.  Still, he is there.  That is what counts.

I do not know if Diane Carey wrote any more Star Trek fiction.  I think she did.  Either way, The Great Starship Race is a Star Trek story which I highly recommend to you.  So warp on over to the nearest library and see if they have a copy!  If they do not, then you should request it.  This is a story that ought to be on at least one set of library shelves!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian