Spoiler Alert

Spoiler AlertSpoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (Website, Twitter)

Genre: romance

Setting: mostly San Francisco

I read it as a(n): paperback

Source: public library 

Length: 403 pp

Published by: Avon Press (6 Oct 2020)

Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

April Whittier is a fandom nerd, and proud of it. She writes fanfiction about her favorite show in her free time, and she loves cosplay. She has never really shared her true identity with her online friends, though, because she is worried they will reject her for being fat. When she decides she wants a change in her life, she posts an image of herself on Twitter in full cosplay regalia. Many people are very kind and supportive, but there are the inevitable fat-shaming assholes who bully her. The lead actor of the show she loves, Marcus Caster-Rupp, sees it happening online and decides to ask her on a date to dinner. She cautiously accepts, not sure if she is interested in what she sees as a PR stunt. When she arrives at the restaurant, April is stunned not only to find that the two of them have instant chemistry but that Marcus seems to have a much deeper side to his personality than his vapidly narcissistic public persona implies. He also has secrets, the biggest of which is that he is the friend who has been beta reading all her fanfic for years. Marcus found that out by accident and doesn’t know what to do with the information. Cue things going right, then spectacularly wrong, and adult angst.

So I really do not read romance. I read this one to tick a box for a couple of reading challenges I’m doing for 2021. I picked it because I am intimately familiar with fandom and fanfic and cons and everything associated with geekdom so I thought it would be somewhat more tolerable than the usual romance novel. I was surprised to find that not only was it tolerable, but I actually really liked it! I think that proves fandom just makes everything better, right? Yes, you know what is going to happen in the end. Yes, there is angst and some silly stuff. But April and Marcus are both really well developed characters and have complexity and depth. They are not both hot young things. They are 35 and 40, respectively, have had their share of relationships in the past, have lives outside of each other, and are thoroughly independent. I liked it. I didn’t ever think that either of them was a sucker or codependent or pitiful. 

A big part of this book was how accepting April was of her body. She didn’t feel shame for being fat, and she learned how to stick up for herself if people started fat shaming her. The book showed that it isn’t just the skinny people who can have a HEA or a relationship with a conventionally attractive person. Marcus thought right from the moment he saw April’s coplay picture on Twitter that she was beautiful and genuinely didn’t seem to understand why others didn’t think so as well. He loved her body, which is terrific, but not necessary because April already knows she’s hot. I loved seeing the body positivity, though. 

The secondary characters are also pretty well developed, though some more than others. There is a blurb at the back of the book that indicates two of the secondary figures will be getting their own book in summer of this year, so that is nice since I liked one of them a great deal. I may or may not read it (I probably will), but either way, I’m glad the author is getting established in her field. Based on this book and her author bio, she seems exactly like the kind of person I want to be friends with. 

Overall, a delightfully geeky love story that should appeal to anyone who knows what it’s like to belong to a fandom family.

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.