Posts Tagged ‘tie-in fiction friday’

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Star Trek #3 The Klingon Gambit

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home to move in with my grandmother, which means I had to go through the stuff I accumulated throughout the first portion of my life and then abandoned when I went out on my own after college.

There was a lot of it.

A good majority was Star Trek-related–action figures, ship models, tons of roleplaying stuff, and books. LOTS of books. Nonfiction books about how the series were made, nonfiction books like The Physics of Star Trek (and Biology, and Metaphysics…), and most of my collection of the fiction books. Most of mine are Original Series, which was always my favorite series to read from, with the odd one or two from Next Gen or DS9 or Voyager (I did have a lot of the New Frontier books, which is Next Gen era but on a different ship with different characters, though some of them had appeared one off on various episodes).

Actually, until I was an adult, I’d only ever seen one or two Original Series episodes. My appreciation for the series came from the movies and the books. And I did love those books.

But the Original Series books are a mixed bag. Not a lot of quality control. Some are amazing. Some are godawful. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

So this brings us to The Klingon Gambit, Star Trek #3, by Robert E. Vardeman, published in 1981. I admit I picked this one out because it was one of the thinnest of the bunch, but it turns out the font is really small and so it’s somewhat hard to read. I am unfamiliar with Vardeman’s other works (except I’ve probably read his other Star Trek novel) but he’s apparently written quite a few fantasy series (usually writing with other people) and was nominated for a Hugo for best fan writer. If his other stuff is worth reading, let me know–I’m not sure this particular novel was a good display of his potential storytelling.

(I tried to write a Star Trek novel once, when I was 16 or 17 or somewhere in there. Despite my great love of the series, I couldn’t seem to get anyone in character and gave up after the first chapter.)

The premise of this novel is that the Enterprise is sent to Alnath II to investigate the death of a shipful of Vulcans. All the Vulcans are dead in their beds, with no sign of any issues–there should be no reason for them to be dead, but they are. A Klingon dreadnought is in orbit, and the fear is that they’ve developed some new weapon. There is also an archoelogical team on Alnath II, investigating a large, complex pyramid that seems to be the only remains of what was once a technologically-advanced civilization.

This is not one of the better Original Series novels. Several characters feel out of character (there is a subplot where people are acting out of character, but this is apparent even when that subplot is not in effect), and I feel like perhaps the author was a little bit amused about Star Trek in general. I noted, for example, that every time someone uses the transporter, we had to focus on the fact that their atoms were scattered and then reformed back on the planet. In general, some of the terminology just feels slightly off.

Now, this is probably just from me looking back from the future. The Original Series is not the best on continuity, and it wasn’t until Next Gen and later that a lot of the worldbuilding for the universe was solidified. Next Gen didn’t start until 1987, so this significantly predates that. It was probably hard to figure out what exactly was going on back then.

I also found the plot pretty predictable, and also somewhat close to at least one, if not two, Original Series episodes (as a kid, having not seen those episodes, maybe I liked this plot better). Also Kirk seemed to not be suffering from one of the major plot issues despite the rest of the crew doing so, and if he had been, maybe the stakes would have been a little more interesting.

So, would I recommend this particular book? Not really. It’s not great in Star Trek terms, though it does at least use Star Trek plot elements, such as the Klingons and Andorians. It got better as it went on, but it still wasn’t strong in either plot or character. There’s definitely better books out there.

Read this particular Trek novel, Squiders? Thoughts?

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Only Human (Doctor Who)

Doing a little better than a year and a half between posts, eh?

For Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary back in 2013, they put out a collection of books, one for each Doctor, that were special 50th anniversary re-releases. It was all very shiny but expensive, so I decided I would buy one book, though at this point I don’t remember my selection criteria. Did I buy this one because it was the one for Nine, who was my favorite Doctor at the time? (I now am also fond of Twelve. And Two.) Did I like the plot write-up the best? I’m not sure.

Anyway, I ended up with Only Human, written by Gareth Roberts, and initially published in 2005. The shiny 2013 re-release cover looks like this, in case you’re interested:

Only Human Cover

The basic premise is that the Doctor and Co. (in this case, Rose and Captain Jack, ♥) pick up a time distortion and trace to a Neanderthal being about 28,000 years out of place (in this case, modern day England, 2005). The distortion is caused by a primitive and dangerous time machine called a rip engine, which makes it so people who use it can’t go back to their original time. So the Doctor and Rose bop back in time to see if they can’t find this rip engine back 28,000 years ago while Jack is left to teach the Neanderthal how to adapt to modern life (not like Jack is terribly familiar with 2005 either, great planning).

The story is mostly Rose and the Doctor doing their thing back in the day, interspersed with diary entries from Das (the Neanderthal) and Jack. Das’s entries are hilarious and easily one of my favorite parts. While I would not call this high writing in any form, the interactions between Das/modern life, Rose/past humans, etc., are all very well done and also funny. The characters are also mostly spot on though a little thin in places.

This was a quick, fun read–only 253 pages. It reads like a Nine-era episode and has about the same depth as one. If you are familiar with Doctor Who/the Ninth Doctor, I’d recommend it. I’m not actually sure that someone who wasn’t relatively familiar with the show would have any idea what was going on. But maybe I’m not giving people enough credit. Aside from the characters and the TARDIS, there’s not a lot of mythology included.

Read Only Human, Squiders? Read any other Doctor Who books that you really enjoyed?

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Spider-Man Emerald Mystery

Do you remember that we were doing this, Squiders? Because I checked, and the first and only time I’d done it before was in January…of 2015. So much for it being a regular sort of thing! But here we are again.

Bit of backstory as to how this title came to be in my possession. You guys know I’m not that big of a superhero person, and Spider-Man is not one of my favorites. He is, however, the larger, mobile one’s favorite (probably because he was the first superhero the larger, mobile one ever really saw). He’s been into Spider-Man since before he could talk. He’s got a ton of Spider-Man clothes and shoes, we’ve watched the really terrible ’60s animated series, there’s various Spider-Man toys everywhere…

Anyway. When he was still fairly small, we were at our local coffee shop/gameporium, which also happens to have a community bookshelf, where you can bring a book and take a different one home with you. There was a Spider-Man book, which I dutifully showed to him. He, being about 2, showed great excitement, and then…ripped the cover off.

Toddlers are dangerous for books.

Anyway, I felt like we had to take it since he’d defaced it. I taped the cover back on and it’s sat on our bookshelf for a few years. And since I feel like I have to read all books in my possession before they leave my possession, here we are.

Now, Dean Wesley Smith is a familiar name–I’ve definitely read some of his Star Trek books, though it’s been a while.

Emerald Mystery was a short, easy read. The book’s got 200 pages in it, but quite a few of those are blank or have illustrations on them in between chapters. It’s told first person from Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s point of view.

When I introduced the concept of Tie-in Fiction Friday, I wondered if one had to be familiar with the franchise in order to enjoy the books, or if you’d be lost. This book reinforces that, to some extent. I mean, I know the Spider-Man basics, from poor Uncle Ben to Mary Jane to radioactive spiders to the fact that all the Marvel superheroes exist in the same universe (important, since Spidey has to make a call to the X-Men at some point). But I still felt like I was missing some things. I wasn’t familiar with some of the villains or events that were referenced at times. It didn’t make the book unreadable or confusing, but it did make me feel like I wasn’t the intended audience, which is probably not something you want to do when writing a book.

Interestingly, there’s a chronology of Marvel superhero books in the back, and there’s quite a few authors I recognize there, such as Peter David and Diane Duane.

Peter is Peter. Not a lot of characterization there, but I suppose that’s not really important. The most interesting character in the book is Barb Lightner, a PI helping Spider-Man with the case. It’s not a particularly complex plot, about on the level you’d find in an hour-long television episode.

Would I recommend this book? Not sure. Having never read another Spider-Man or other superhero tie-in, I have no idea how this ranks in terms of quality. It’s not an amazing book, but if you’re looking for a quick read that doesn’t require a lot of thinking, this will do.

Read any Spider-Man books, Squiders? What’s your favorite tie-in property?

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Star Trek #8 Black Fire

Here’s something I’m going to try out on and off throughout the year, Squiders. I think there’s a bit of stigma against tie-in fiction, to some extent. And I don’t mean a book that gets made into a movie (though one could argue that there is some stigma against the movie, in such cases), as that’s a completely different case, but a book that’s based off a movie or a TV show or a video game or whatever.

Why the stigma? I think a lot of people see tie-in fiction as just a way whatever company is trying to milk more money from whatever the source material is. Books get “cranked out” by the dozens, farmed to random writers, continuity may or may not be observed, etc.

But how bad are they really? No doubt it varies wildly from franchise to franchise, and also within franchises, but I thought I’d give some a try. I’ve got a ton of Star Trek books I haven’t read since I was a kid, ditto Star Wars (though, do we bother with the new movies erasing the EU?), a Doctor Who ebook, a ton of D&D books (that my husband bought me to help me understand the universe better), and, if we get really wild, I’ll read back through the Myst books which I remember being excellent (…a long time ago).

Should be fun, if nothing else.

So, to start us off, today I’m offer Star Trek #8 Black Fire by Sonni Cooper, written in 1983. Amazon tells me she also published some romance novels in the ’80s, and has put out some other books in the last few years.

Black Fire was one of my favorite Trek novels as a kid. What I remembered most going into reading this was that Spock spends a significant amount of time being a space pirate (named Black Fire, hence the title). So, there’s the premise for you. Spock. Space pirate.

Well, in actuality, the space pirate part is a much smaller portion than what I remember. The book holds up better than I expected it to, but it still is a little lacking in characterization (not capturing the characterization of the original series characters so much as expecting the readers to know them well enough to fill in the blanks). The plot is still fun, and perhaps the weaknesses in characterization are to avoid making the twist ending too obvious.

She gets bonus points for her Romulans. (I love the Romulans and am always pleased when they’re properly portrayed.)

Is this a good novel? I think without being familiar with the source material, a reader would be extremely lost. That’s probably true of most tie-ins, I would think. Is it a good Trek novel? I would put it middle of the range. I read another Trek novel, Enterprise: The First Adventure, a few years back, expecting it to be cracky goodness, but that was actually a much stronger book, both from a Trek novel and a general novel standpoint.

Verdict? Okay. A quick read. Very trek-y. Read Enterprise: The First Adventure instead. There’s no space pirates but there is a space circus.

Read Black Fire, Squiders? Have any tie-in books you’d recommend?