Catch-Up Round: ALL the Star Trek

42853106._sx318_Star Trek Prometheus: The Root of All Rage  by Christian Humberg and Bernd Perplies 

Her Grace’s rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Alec Newman

Source: my own collection

Length: 08:57:00

Published by: Titan Books (22 Aug 2016)

In this second instalment, the Prometheus is still in the Lembatta Cluster, exploring the strange region of space that is home to the terrorist organization called the Purifying Flame. Something in the region is having a profound effect on the inhabitants there, including the crews of the Prometheus and the Klingon ship Bortas. Local radiation is causing crew members with telepathic abilities to lose their minds, and other crew are feeling hyper-aggressive. The Purifying Flame wants to start a galactic war, which the Federation is trying to prevent and the Klingons seem to desire. 

As with the first book in this trilogy, the second, The Root of All Rage, has some interesting elements to it. I thought it was a little more actiony in terms of Star Trek plotlines. However, it still dragged that plot out too long. There are very obvious analogies to modern-day terrorism that got a bit heavy-handed the longer the book went on. It also still employs a LOT of what feels like very racist language. People are judged based on what they look like and are called red-skin murderers and so forth. It is not in keeping with what Star Trek is about. Including things like that just to allow characters to overcome their prejudices is a lazy way to write and I expect better from Star Trek. 

 

42604905._sy475_Star Trek Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos by Christian Humberg and Bernd Perplies 

Her Grace’s rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Alec Newman

Source: my own collection

Length: 09:59:00

Published by: Titan Books (19 Sept 2016)

In this last instalment, the crews of the Prometheus and Bortas are working to restore peace to the Lembatta region, which was impacted by a radiation that makes everyone violent. While the two crews work together, they are trying to trace a secret weapons facility but find instead that an old being from their past is behind the cycle of violence. Now they have to refocus their efforts to stop it from perpetuating violence throughout the quadrant.

Finally! The last book of this trilogy. I’m so glad it’s over. This whole story really didn’t need three books to be told. It dragged out way too long in places, and I think with better writing and editing, it could have been told in one long book, or perhaps a shorter duology. Honestly, I stopped listening to a lot of this since it was fairly repetitive. 

It got old real quick to have more famous Trek characters making cameos or having a role here at all. It felt like it was an afterthought, adding in things fans love because the rest of the plot was lacking. And as I mentioned in my reviews of the other two books in the trilogy, enough with the weird, racist comments. Constantly describing people solely by their looks – his bright blue skin, his jet black hair, his glowy eyes – got really tiresome. Yes, many being in the Trekverse are described by how they look, but in other authors’ hands, it is merely an observation and doesn’t come across as a character assessment based on those looks. 

I regret using Audible credits and my own cash to get these. I wouldn’t recommend it, and if you must read them, don’t waste your money – just pick it up at the library. 

 

41058420._sy475_Star Trek TNG: Available Light by Dayton Ward 

Her Grace’s rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 368 pp

Published by: Gallery Books (9 April 2019)

This novel continues the plot that has taken over most of the TNG relaunch books, and much of the relaunch books across Trek series overall. In the fallout from Ozla’s explosive reporting of Section 31 and the multitude of ways in which the rogue agency has influenced the events of the Federation, the President has ordered a complete dismantling of 31 and the arrests of its operatives. It is a far-reaching system and players include Admirals Ross, Nechayev, and Nakamura, as well as Capt Jean-Luc Picard. Attorney General Philippa Louvois is in charge of leading the investigation into the charges against 31 operatives. Meanwhile, exploring in the Odyssean Pass, the Enterprise crew encounters a massive, ancient spaceship. They are on board trying to discover where it came from when a ship full of basically space pirates comes along and claims the derelict ship as their own. This triggers the ship to come to life in some new and surprising ways, including taking Tryssa Chen and a boarding party from the pirate ship into the lost depths of the massive ship. 

It sounds a lot more interesting than it really was. I was about 75% of the way through this before I felt it started picking up the pace. Overall, it was an unexpected disappointment. I felt like the A Plot was too drawn out and, frankly, done before, and the B Plot was more interesting and should have been the A Plot. I saw one reviewer who commented that it felt like DRGIII had made a guest writing appearance, which isn’t a good thing. As it was, it was really truncated by comparison to what it could have been. Maybe the next book will have more on the 31 trials and so forth. Right now, the Trek books that are winning for me are ones by Una McCormack and the Discovery novels, mostly because Discovery is still new and exciting and hasn’t been done to death yet. 

Fig Tree in Winter

38465750._sy475_Fig Tree in Winter  by Anne Graue (WEBSITE, TWITTER)

Her Grace’s rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Genre: poetry

I read it as a: paperback chapbook

Source: my own collection

Length: 36 pp

Published by: dancing girl press (2017)

As part of the 2019 Read Harder challenge, I chose this book to complete the task for ‘read a collection of poetry published since 2014.’ I am the first to confess that I rarely read poetry and I am often confounded by it. However, in the interests of full disclosure, Anne is a friend of mine so it felt natural to want to use her book to complete this task; friendship aside, though, I find her poems to be beautifully feminine and strong as well as challenging. 

Anne was the person who taught me what found poetry is. I was delighted to learn this, because it was something I had done for ages and ages, from childhood, and just didn’t know there was a real name for it. I find it to be a really stunning form of art and would like to learn more about it, maybe even try some of my own, just for a new thing to hang on my library wall if nothing else.

I don’t really know how to review poetry. I think that this collection, though, has a strong theme of feminism and lost innocence to it. Many of the poems evoke feelings of nostalgia for our younger selves, for wishing we had known then what we know now, and more than a little disappointment and heartbreak at the way things turn out in the end. My favorite poems in the collection are ‘A World Divided’, ‘the asylum’, and ‘The Cure for Thinking’. These, to me, sum up so much of a woman’s experience that it is a little shocking to find in such a few brief lines.

Architects of Infinity

Architects of Infinity book coverArchitects of Infinity by Kirsten Beyer 

Her Grace’s rating:  out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: mass market paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 388 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (27 March 2018)

**Spoilers ahead!**

In Architects of Infinity, the Full CIrcle fleet is dying for some down time. When they discover a planet covered with biodomes and a wholly new element, Adm. Janeway decides this would be the perfect spot to give the crews some shore leave. Teams comprised of officers who normally don’t interact very much are assigned to the surface to do various experiments and research and still enjoy the pure and uncontaminated areas within the biodomes. The mystery of who built the biodomes and where they went is irresistible to the crews of the fleet. However, the mystery soon becomes rife with danger, placing every crew member in peril.

This was a fun and exciting story overall. I enjoyed seeing the interaction of the various ships’ crews who normally don’t interact a lot. I think that was a good idea for Chakotay to send them off in neat little groups like that. I think everyone learned a lot, which was the point. It was also cool that they discovered a brand new element and dubbed it Sevenofninonium. LOL. 

It was a little disappointing that we never figured out or met the people who created the biodomes were, not really. The whole point of that particular plot seems to have been that there are or were people out there even more advanced than the Federation, Borg, or Krenim, and that the Federation isn’t ready for this kind of tech. OK. That was a long book to read for just that. 

I did not like that a major plot point, the evolution of Starfleet officers as individuals and as units within the fleet, were really glossed over. A big component was that the lower decks crew often feel overlooked or devalued because they were not part of Voyager’s original crew that was stuck in the Delta Quadrant for seven years. I can see how that might happen, or how it might at least seem like it happens, but other than some grumbling amongst themselves, and one conversation about it to a command officer at the end, nothing at all is done to address this topic. Did Devi learn from her actions? Did the command staff figure out they need to let the junior officers learn and do things and receive the same respect as original Voyager crew? We didn’t get to find out. 

Also? I still hate, possibly even more so in this book than in the previous one A Pocketful of Lies, the whole Conlon/Kim pregnancy thing. As I said in the review for that book, it’s the 24th century. Can they not turn off their balls/ ovaries until they are ready to have babies on purpose? In this book, the pregnancy ends up being irrelevant anyway, except to add teenage kinds of angst to the story. Before, the pregnancy was needed to give a potential source of a cure for Conlon’s degenerative condition through fetal stem cells. But then they didn’t get enough and the stem cell harvest was irrelevant in the end. What purpose is there for this? Just a means to have some bizarre pro-life discussion since the fetus, after it gets transported to an incubator, is now a separate being with full rights? Why wasn’t it considered such before, if that’s the route the story’s going to take? Why isn’t it viewed scientifically as a thing with the potential for life but no separate life of its own yet? If it just needed to be swapped into an incubator instead of its mother’s uterus, why was it not a problem then that Conlon wanted to terminate her pregnancy? I find the entire logic behind that flawed in the extreme and badly written. This is not what I’ve come to expect from Beyer’s normally airtight writing at all. 

And then the whole pregnancy/baby/Kim/Conlon issue blows up in the end. Literally. It’s Star Trek, so I’m sure they aren’t really all dead. Maybe. They do kill off major characters aplenty, but I can’t tell if this is just a catalyst for future plot development or if the entire crew of the Vesta really did just flame out. In either event, it really doesn’t sit well with me, given all the drama surrounding Conlon and her illness and the rights of a fetus and whatnot. 

I DID appreciate the medical ethics involved in treating Conlon. I am always down for a good discussion on medical ethics and it was interesting to see how Dr Sal convinced Rhys to give blood, a taboo in her culture, to help find a cure for Conlon using the metaphasic cells in her body. Sal was apparently engaged somehow in ethically questionable practices when it came to Conlon’s actual treatment and based on a previous trauma Sal had experienced with a similar disease 30 years prior. She crossed a line, according to Farkas, the captain of Vesta. I am not so sure she did. She did not coerce Gwyn into donating blood, she didn’t force a treatment upon Conlon, and she told the truth to Gwyn as much as she could have while preserving doctor/patient confidentiality. The harvesting of the embryo’s stem cells also seemed fine. Sal got permission from the child’s father to do it, which is his right to grant since the mother was out of commission. Sal didn’t use the cells on Conlon and was going to wait for her to wake up to broach the subject. There is no real issue, I don’t think, in getting ready just in case Conlon changed her mind. It doesn’t mean it was a line crossed, and yet Farkas raked her over the coals for it. It’s like Star Trek: Snowflake, and I didn’t care for that at all. We can be enlightened and progressive and democratic without going around the twist about every little thing. 

Overall, I liked the exploration portion of this but did not like the actual character studies or commentary. It had potential but fell flat in a big way for me, and as I’ve said before, it is not what I expected from Beyer. Maybe she was stretched a little too thin because of her work on Discovery, which is so fucking cool. I’d prefer her to focus on that (and on bringing back/finding Prime Lorca, please) than on writing more novels if this is the way they’re going to go from here on out. 

Favorite lines:

  • We all have two lives, Counselor: the one we want and the one we learn to live with. I’m content with both of mine.
  • Past failures are not certain indication of future possibilities. If we worked together, imagine what we might learn and achieve in the process.
  • Young Tom Paris had made it his mission in life to taste every delight available from the Federation’s most exotic worlds: the fragrant fields of Artan, the soft packed snow on the mountains of Mons Tianus, the pools of tranquility on Sirangai, and an entire menu of delights on Risa. That day, Commander Tom Paris decided that the waters of an unnamed planet in the Delta Quadrant seen through his daughter’s eyes put them all to shame.
  • Some errors are essential to discovery.
  • “There might have been a time when I found mysteries comforting,” Farkas said. “But not that long ago, I lost hundreds of people to a mystery, and I’m not sure to this day I really comprehend why. The stakes are very real here. They are measured in the lives of those we command. We have a responsibility not to lead them into a false sense of security or complacency.”

“We all do,” Janeway said. “But we also have a responsibility to expose them to the mysteries and challenges that they will have to conquer as we progress in our understanding of the universe.”

  • I’ve always believed that attraction was attraction. I would have been open to finding a partner of either gender. 

 

  • That’s the difference, he decided, between leaders and followers. No matter what, leaders put themselves last. 

 

 

A Pocketful of Lies

A Pocketful of Lies book coverA Pocketful of Lies by Kirsten Beyer

Her Grace’s rating:  2 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: mass market paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 381 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (26 Jan 2016)

I read this ages ago and forgot to post it here. Derp.

Huh. OK, I have some Thoughts about this one. There are spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

First, there were a lot of things that I really liked about this book. Honestly. It had rather a lot of action and adventure and meeting new aliens and all the things we love about Star Trek. I continue to really like seeing the development of people like Seven and Icheb, and I think Liam O’Donnell is just quirky and cool and a very believable character. 

I also am enjoying the continuation of the exploration of the Delta Quadrant. It is like coming home in many ways, but bittersweet, too, since you can’t go home again. 

This novel was…not my favorite, though, because for starters, it was just too busy. Some of the various plots felt rushed. I kind of want more time with O’Donnell and the Nihydron, for example, perhaps fleshed out better in a separate novel, rather than trying to cram it all into one. 

Also, I’m kind of tired of multiverse problems. Like, cool? I know it’s a thing? But maybe let’s not have another Kathryn Janeway who was horrifically tortured and now has essentially Stockholm syndrome because she loves her captor. Ok, to be fair, she didn’t know he was her captor but still. It seems contrived. 

And of COURSE they had a child together. What IS it with Trek characters having babies now? First Picard and Beverly in the TNG relaunch books and now Janeway? I know she’s the Janeway from the “Shattered” episode, but still. DEAR STAR TREK AUTHORS: WOMEN DO NOT NEED TO HAVE BABIES TO BE COMPLETE. Please read Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum. Honestly, what the fuck? At this point, it’s just getting out of character. People can like, or even love, babies without getting all achy in the ovaries and needing to reproduce one of their own. 

Which leads me to my other major peeve with this novel. Nancy Conlon, Harry Kim’s girlfriend, gets pregnant accidentally. Really? REALLY? Are you really saying that these people can travel in spaceships that go faster than light, but they can’t manage to figure out how a rubber works? Or, like, turn their ovaries off until they actually want to make a baby? Come ON. I can’t even. I have a kid. I love her more than anything. But enough with the babies in Star Trek. People don’t have to have babies if they don’t want to, there is nothing wrong with just wanting to have a career you love and friends you love without children, nor are they missing out on anything as Tom and B’Elanna suggested at one point in this book. Frankly, that is offensive. There are many other ways to live a fulfilling life than by getting married and having kids. I really hope the authors – all of them – get over the baby thing soon

Enigma Tales (Deep Space Nine)

Enigma Tales DS9Enigma Tales (Deep Space Nine) by Una McCormack (TWITTER)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: mass market paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 350 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (27 June 2017)

Fan favorite Elim Garak is now castellan of the Cardassian Union. Part of his plan is to open enquiries into Cardassia’s war crimes against the Bajoran people, which may well turn the military against him and is making for some very awkward and tense situations. Enter Katherine Pulaski, who can, and does, make already tense matters into an interstellar incident. She is on Cardassia to accept an award on behalf of her and the team of doctors who solved the crisis of the Andorians’ fertility. The team had included Julian Bashir, who now lives on Cardassia under Garak’s supervision, trapped in his own mind from his previous encounters with Section 31. At the same time, a new head of academics at the University of the Union is to be appointed and the frontrunner is Natima Lang, a darling of the public eye and one of the rare genuinely innocent Cardassians. However, a document uncovered by a researcher may expose that Lang is hiding some of the worst crimes of all.

So, Una McCormak now ranks right up there for me with authors like Peter David for favorite Trek authors. I’m not always a fan of DS9 but McCormack’s books are always really fun and the writing is at an actual adult level. I loved seeing more of the inner life of Garak. He was my favorite recurring character in DS9, as I think he was for many people, so it was great to see lots of him and get inside his head a bit. Really, I think I am not out of line to suggest that ONLY Una McCormack be allowed to write Garak. 

I never liked Pulaski – I was too much a P/C shipper to welcome her onto the show – but in this book, she was a lot of fun. Salty and utterly unrepentant, Pulaski had plenty of moments to shine here, both in diplomatic situations (oh hai, let’s make a diplomatic incident!) to quick thinking and bravery when kidnapped (if she hadn’t been a fraction of a second too slow, she would have totally kicked that guy’s ass), to helping rescue someone else (she WILL hunt you down and find you). She was really a fun element to the story, and for me, it was a very pleasant surprise.

I loved the somewhat more minor but vital plot with Natima Lang. I loved seeing how she stuck to her guns and fought for what she wanted, even going toe to toe with Garak, even though it made her shake to do so. I think his plans for her are putting her talents to much better use than her previous ideas. I hope to see more of Lang and Garak in future books. 

Beyond just the delight of getting to know Garak and Pulaski better, the overarching theme was how societies can recover from the ills of their past and set to rights the wrongs they had done previously. The message rang through strong and clear that no one is above the law, not castellans, not presidents, no one. All the quotes scattered throughout about how literature reflects a society and can lead the way to the cure is really spot on. They reflected the Cardassian Union here, but of course reflect the problems plaguing modern society as well. I thought all those quotes were perfectly timed.

Highly recommended!

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

    • There is nothing quite to compare with arriving on a new world. … Questions form in the mind: What will I see that is new? Will I learn something? Will I be surprised? Will my visit here change me in some small but significant way? 
    • “Popular culture,” said Garak portentously, “can tell us a great deal about a society.”
    • Monstrous behavior speaks for itself.
    • “They’re [genre fiction stories] more interesting than that,” Lang said. “They offer a microcosm for society and, I think, the means to diagnose its ills – and, perhaps, the method to bring about its cure.” “I think you see more deeply than the average reader,” said Parmak. “But I have come to believe that this is what literature always does – reflects back some part of the reader. You see a means to reform society.”
    • “A free and open society,” he said. “It’s the ideal toward which we aim, isn’t it? Even if we don’t always manage it.” “Hey, mister,” said Pulaski. “I think we do pretty damn well.” She looked around the room. “And you know what? I think these folks are doing pretty damn well too.” Parmak raised his glass and clinked it against Pulaski’s. “I’ll drink to that,” he said. Land and Alden raised their glasses. “To the ideal,” said Lang. “Elusive, and perhaps ultimately unattainable. But always worth the effort.”
    • T’Rena tasted the tea. “Not unpleasant.” “Mostly harmless,” said Garak. She looked up at him calmly. “I beg your pardon?” “It’s a quotation from a human classic,” said Garak. Rather a flippant one. He tried to get a grip on himself. 
    • Don’t assume cleverness when a cock-up is the more likely explanation.
    • Newscasts, broadsheets, channel upon channel – there is too much. It keeps a lot of people very busy. Still, I foresee some difficulties ahead. The proliferation of material means that people might start to become selective about what they consume and, if my instincts are correct, they are likely to read only that which confirms what they already know. This means they will never have their ideas tested. I worry that as a result, people will form tight groups around those who confirm their biases, mistrusting those whom they encounter who think differently. 
    • She found that she completely admired [the Cardassians]. They had guts, grit, and determination. To come through this hell, to keep on digging deeper into themselves to find the place where hope lived and to keep drawing from that well, to keep on trying and building and healing. That, she thought, was worthy of her respect.
    • [H]e thinks that “on balance you add greatly to the gaiety of life.”

 

  • Do no harm was a good rule to live by, but Do good with everything you have? That was a great deal better…

 

  • “I admire them [humans] for how far they’ve come. But in one respect they fail. They continue to be convinced of their superiority. But not us.” Garak shook his head. “We will never – I hope – tell ourselves such lies again. And perhaps that is what we have to offer.” 
  • Sometimes, Garak thought, one did not need a confessor. One simply needed to sit and examine one’s conscience alone.

 

 

Star Trek Prometheus: Fire with Fire

Star Trek Prometheus 1 coverStar Trek Prometheus: Fire with Fire by Bernd Perplies and Christian Humberg 

Her Grace’s rating:  1.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Alec Newman

Source: my own collection

Length: 11:02:00

Published by: Titan Books (28 Nov 2018)

After several terrorist attacks claim the lives of thousands, Starfleet sends the ship Prometheus to the Lembatta Cluster, from where the attackers hail. The region is already unstable and the crew of Prometheus are tasked with stopping further attacks and potential galactic warfare. 

I really wanted to like this book. I thought it was rad that an original Trek novel was written in a language other than English at last. But damn, it read like fanfiction. I mean, I suppose all of the novels are fanfiction, but they don’t act like it. Other Trek novels are better written and more engaging. The crew of Prometheus are, frankly, kind of boring. There really aren’t any stand-out characters for me. I kind of wonder if the authors recognized that, weren’t sure quite how to fix it, and so brought in a shitload of cameos by other characters to make up for it. The Klingons were more interesting, which is saying something coming from me since I’ve never been that interested in the Klingons. 

Parts of this also came across as almost…racist? I’m not sure it is that blatant, but the way in which some of the characters were described or spoken to just put me off. If someone said things like that to me or in front of me, I would have told them off. I can’t even think of an example of it anymore – I listened to the audiobook rather than reading it where I could make notes on the pages – but some phrases just set me on edge and not in a good way. Maybe it was a translation issue, I don’t know.

The audiobook thing is another issue. Normally, I love audiobooks. I have never listened to a Trek audiobook, though, since if it’s a book about, say, Lorca, I want Jason Isaacs to narrate it. Or Patrick Stewart for a Picard-centric book, Michelle Yeoh for Georgiou, etc, etc. Since this book isn’t set in one of the actual series with the characters I know and love, I figured it wouldn’t make me mental to have someone who isn’t Jason Isaacs/ Patrick Stewart/ Michelle Yeoh narrating. And in that regard, I was correct. It didn’t bother me that the narrator didn’t sound anything like them. He has a pleasant voice, in fact, and I would probably listen to more of the things he’s narrated. However, it drove me nuts at how many words he mispronounced. It wasn’t a dialect thing, either, or a Britishism. It was just wrong. Like ‘hegemony.’ Got it wrong every time. A few other actual words I can’t think of now. And even words specific to the Trek-verse were wrong. I know, I know, they are made up and not real but even so, can you at least pronounce them like they are in the various series? It’s TAL shee-AR’ not ‘tal SHY-er,’ ‘KIT-o-mer’ not ‘kit-OH-mer.’ … It’s levi-OH-sa, not levio-SAR. I mean, it’s the little things, you know? 

Overall, this is a solid ‘meh’ for me. I like a new Trek book, but this one fell short for me. 

The Way to the Stars (Star Trek Discovery)

The Way to the Stars (Star Trek Discovery)The Way to the Stars (Star Trek Discovery) by Una McCormack (Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 276 pp

Published by: Gallery Books (8 Jan 2019)

Sylvia Tilly is the youngest Starfleet cadet to be accepted into the Command Track program. As she prepares to start her first day in the training program aboard the USS Discovery, she has hidden reservations about her qualifications and ability to do well. This leads to a night of her telling her history to Michael Burnham, starting from her teen years being bullied by a domineering mother and missing her father while he is on a deep space mission. 

McCormack nailed Tilly’s voice in this novel. We see how Tilly has grown into her role on the show, although she still has a long way to go. But this novel shows readers a glimpse into her life before Starfleet, some of the reasons why she is so unsure of herself despite being one of the most promising officers in the fleet. 

Lorca is still my favorite character, but Tilly comes in a close second. I love getting to see her history. Her mother is awful. I think we all know someone like her in some way, and they’re just as awful in person as Tilly’s mom is on the page. Her dad is a good guy but he’s absent when she needs him the most, which is irritating to see just because I know how sensitive Tilly is and it made me feel bad for her. 

Personal growth and evolution from a child to a young adult is always painful, and Tilly really fucked up a few times but she learned from her mistakes and used them to become a better person. She’s a diamond in the rough with the best possible future ahead of her. As Stamets said, Tilly is incandescent. I can’t wait to read more books focusing on her.

Fence, vol. 1

Fence vol 1 coverFence vol. 1 by CS Pacat (website, Twitter); illustrated by Johanna the Mad (Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: contemporary literature/YA

I read it as a: graphic novel

Source: public library

Length: 112 pp

Published by: BOOM! Box (31 July 2018)

Nicholas Cox is something of an outcast, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion. He wins a scholarship to Kings Row Boys School, where he will fight to earn a place on the fencing team. Failure to make the team will result in losing his scholarship. To his horror, he discovers that not only is his half brother Seiji Katayama attending Kings Row for fencing as well, he is also his assigned roommate. Nicholas and Seiji have only met in competition, where Seiji defeated Nicholas by a huge margin. Volume 1 leaves off with the tryouts for the fencing team still ongoing.

I really enjoyed this one. I don’t often read graphic novels, but I picked this one because it fits the bill for two Read Harder tasks, and I like fencing. Not that I’ve ever done it myself, but I think it’s cool, and I have a friend who used to be a competitive fencer. It is maybe one of a handful of sports I can watch without wanting to scrape my eyeballs out of my face through my ears. I generally hate sports. 

I liked the diversity in this book, though it seems that every student at Kings Row is queer, which kind of throws the stats off a bit, I think. But still, I love  the way they all interact with each other. Seems believable for a boarding school. Also, there are lots of kids who are people of color, not just all rich white snots. 

I loved the tidbits of fencing information scattered throughout. I know nothing about it at all, so that was just interesting to me. An educational graphic novel, this. 

There is a lot of simmering romance between several characters, mainly members of the fencing team. I saw that a lot of people ship Nicholas and Seiji, but unless there’s something I missed, they are half brothers so that totally grosses me out. Pair them up with anyone else, but I’ll skip the incest, thanks. 

I plan to read all the rest of this series. It was a delightful surprise for me. 

Forward: Stories of Tomorrow

Forward: Stories of TomorrowForward: Stories of Tomorrow Edited by Blake Crouch (website, Twitter), written by Veronica Roth, Blake Crouch, NK Jemisin (Twitter), Amor Towles (Twitter), Paul Tremblay (Twitter), and Andy Weir (Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrators: Evan Rachel Wood, Rosa Salazar, Jason Isaacs, David Harbour, Steven Strait, and Janina Gavankar

Source: my own collection

Length: 08:24:00

Published by: Brilliance Audio (8 Oct 2019)

This short story collection features six stories on the future state of society. Most are dystopian or post-apocalyptic settings, and others are scary in how recognizable they are. 

I like short story collections written by a variety of authors. There is something for everyone in those kinds of anthologies and, though it’s not typical to like every story included, generally there are a couple gems that make the entire collection worthwhile. I found that to be true for Forward as well. There was really only one story I truly didn’t care for, but the rest, even the ones I didn’t love, all put in a solid showing.

“Ark” by Veronica Roth was maybe my favorite story in the collection. It is a surprising look at a handful of people and their lives in the last days before a world-destroying asteroid is due to hit Earth. I enjoyed the exploration of what makes a place “home” as well as the remarkably hopeful ending.

“Summer Frost” by Blake Crouch was one of my least favorite in the collection, mostly because I don’t care much about AI or gaming. Even so, it was an interesting topic and very well written, which made up almost entirely for any lack on my part. It dealt with themes of identity and awareness as well as what makes us human.

“Emergency Skin” by NK Jemisin was also maybe my favorite story in the collection. It is told from the point of view of an AI embedded in the brain of a man who is sent to Earth to collect vital samples. Earth isn’t what the man was led to believe, and it raises excellent questions about what makes an advanced civilization advanced. 

“You Have Arrived at Your Destination” by Amor Towles is a really intriguing think-piece about what ramifications there might be when we choose the kinds of children we have. It also makes the main character, as well as me, think about his own choices in the past. 

“The Last Conversation” by Paul Tremblay. This was easily my least favorite of the lot. I thought it dragged on and on. It was a story about consciousness and ethics. 

“Randomize” by Andy Weir was a look at the function of the future of computers and they ways in which they can be misused. Set in a relatively benign setting – Las Vegas – it took apart ways people can use technology to do criminal things. It was interesting, but I wasn’t sure it really felt very “future” to me. Other than the quantum computers, there wasn’t much that struck me as being sci-fi or dystopian or post-apocalyptic at all, but it was a recognizable setting that brought an immediacy to the story. 

Favorite stories (in this order):

  • Ark by Veronica Roth. Who knew the apocalypse could be so hopeful? (Tied with Emergency Skin)
  • Emergency Skin by NK Jemisin. What a cool twist! (Tied with Ark)
  • You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles. Who hasn’t thought about designing one’s own children?

Favorite narrators (in this order):

  • Jason Isaacs (Emergency Skin). Though I expect nothing less from him, Jason Isaacs delivered a thoroughly riveting performance. He does tons of accents flawlessly and made the point of view character who narrates the story sound utterly disgusted with its observations. Disgusted, but still funny in that dry manner the Brits pull off so well. I hope Audible uses him as a narrator a LOT more.
  • David Harbour (You Have Arrived at Your Destination). He’s just reading the story, but he puts feeling into it. Nothing overacted or melodramatic, but just a super entertaining narration. 
  • Janina Gavankar (Randomize). Gavankar elevated what I thought was one of the weaker stories in the collection and made it a lot more interesting with her skillful narration. As with Jason Isaacs, she had a broad range of accents and inflections that really brought the characters to life.

Drastic Measures (Star Trek Discovery)

Star Trek Discovery Drastic MeasuresDrastic Measures (Star Trek: Discovery) by Dayton Ward (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 400 pp

Published by: Gallery Books (6 Feb 2018)

***I’m not even going to pretend this post doesn’t have spoilers. It has all the spoilers.***

Drastic Measures takes place about 10 years prior to the Battle of the Binary Stars in Discovery, and focuses mainly on Gabriel Lorca with Philippa Georgiou playing a large key role. Set on Tarsus IV, Lieutenant Commander Lorca is in command of a small outpost on the colony planet. When a large group of colonists from another world are relocated to Tarsus after a natural disaster on their own planet, Tarsus finds itself suddenly infected with a spore which destroys nearly all the colony’s food supplies. Help is weeks away, by which time the colonists will mostly have starved to death. Lorca and his small team at the outpost give all their uncontaminated food to the colonists, hoping to buy some time. But a lack of strong leadership in the colony’s government results in the ouster of the governor Gisela Ribiero, who is replaced by Adrian Kodos, known to the Trekverse as Kodos the Executioner. 

Kodos’ plan is really a final solution. Gathering up those colonists he has deemed to have less value, he and his supporters slaughter 4,000 unarmed citizens in an attempt to save the rest of the colony from starvation. The colony, reeling in shock and grief, is relieved only days later by the arrival of the starship USS Narbonne, bearing Commander Philippa Georgiou and a team of doctors and scientists ready to help the colonists. With medical and food aid now available, Lorca is free to head up the hunt for Kodos, which he takes up with a vengeance because he also suffered a personal loss during Kodos’s “Sacrifice.” 

This entire novel was a nice homage to TOS with the inclusion of a teenage Jim Kirk. The TOS episode “The Conscience of the King” referred to a tragic event in the past life of Kirk. This is that story, but it is solidly anchored in the Discovery cast with Kirk only making a very small cameo in this nice. I thought that was very deftly written. It also fills in a couple continuity gaps from a hazy past event in Federation history deserving of more notice.

Some of the writing seems a little out of character. For example, the massacre on Tarsus IV didn’t really appear to affect Lorca all that much. This is not Mirror Lorca, he’s Prime Lorca. He should have been horrified, maybe even in tears, over the thousands of deaths, especially since his girlfriend was among them. He could probably still do his duty as an officer but it didn’t seem believable that he could just shake it off like that, or compartmentalize things so thoroughly. He is still human, and not from the Mirror universe, which would make more sense with his reactions. There was a lot of telling rather than showing that Lorca was upset, and because of that, it didn’t seem genuine. It was only near the end that we saw him act in a manner that might be consistent with the behavior of a grieving man. Throughout the novel, a lot of the things Lorca said or did were inconsistent with a Prime universe Starfleet officer, which is disappointing because it may not be at all the way Prime Lorca would act if he were to appear in the show. Ahem. I think this is an excellent argument in favor of bringing back Lorca in the series; we only ever saw Mirror Lorca in the show, so we really don’t know who the “real” Lorca is. I would very much like to. I mean, I’d be cool with it in real life, too. Hello, Jason Isaacs…*drool*

B&W Jason Isaacs
Oh, hai there! Image credit: Brian Higbee, Interview Magazine, https://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/jason-isaacs

I thought Ward did pretty well with his portrayal of a younger Georgiou. She was not a captain yet, was clearly not as seasoned or wise as she is in the show, which makes sense. She only made a couple witty jokes, which is sort of a trademark for her in the show. But we could see in this story that she had the potential for that woman we get to know later, and it is always fun to see characters grow into their roles over time. 

I don’t mind that this is a Discovery book only in that there are two characters in this book who are also in the series. It’s called a backstory for a reason. All the characters in any series have a history, if it is a well written and complex world; none of them spring fully formed into the people they are in whatever TV show. So I think some of the lower ratings this book received are unfair and unrealistic. Was it a perfect book? By no means. It had plenty of flaws, perhaps even more than the average Trek novel. Yes, it dragged a bit in parts. Yes, the characters seem off. But I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt because it was likely in the process of being written as season 1 of the show was unfolding. Ward’s portrayal of Lorca as kind of a dick in places seems justified, since that is what we knew for most of season 1. We still didn’t know the characters well yet, and I think Ward did a good job incorporating what we did know with what he wrote. 

But! PRIME LORCA!! PRIME LORCA IN THE MIRROR UNIVERSE!! Who else could it be at the very end there if not Prime Lorca?? OMG please let there be a forthcoming book (or, preferably, books) about Prime Lorca and his stories in the Mirror Universe! Where can I preorder it? Shut up and take my money!

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

  • “It won’t be easy,” said Georgiou. 

“Nothing worth doing ever is.”

  • Lorca said, “Utopia’s easy when everything works and all your basic needs are met. We tend to think we’ve traveled this long path toward peace and prosperity, but take away the necessities of living and it’s a short walk back to our baser instincts.”
  • “Upholding a set of ideals can be difficult, and sometimes it’s damned cruel. Being able to do that, especially during times of adversity and crisis and even great personal tragedy, is the true test of anyone privileged to wear this.” Reaching up, she tapped her chest to indicate her Starfleet uniform. “We’re bound to uphold and defend those ideals, but the harder job is living up to them.” 
  • “…Shannon, don’t you have something for Commander Georgiou?”

Instead of replying, Shannon held up the doll in her right hand. The stuffed Andorian companion now sported two antennae thanks to Georgiou’s repair efforts, and she noted that it had been cleaned since she last saw it. 

“I want you to take him. Maybe he can bring you luck now.”

The simple gesture was enough to elicit tears, and Georgiou reached up to wipe her eyes. “Thank you, sweetheart. I promise to take good care of him.”

  • The paper resting in the palm of his hand, Lorca studied the words it contained. 

Hate is never conquered by hate. Hate is conquered by love.