Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Book Report: Star Trek: Dark Victory by William Shatner with Judy and Gar Reeves-Stevens (1999)
Another Star Trek book "by" William Shatner (see also Star Trek: The Return). This one is the middle of a trilogy, so I'm in a world of challenge already. I've missed much of the set-up and back story, and brother, that book must have taken plenty. Not only do we have nods to all of the Star Trek series to that time (even Voyager), but the book deals with the universe from the "Mirror, Mirror" episode of the original series, so there are doubles of some of the characters in play.

In the book, Kirk chases his alter-ego, the emperor from the dark universe. Then Kirk's new bride, a Klingon-Romulan hybrid(!), is endangered. Then they go off in space.

Come on, does the plot really matter? We're here to see an episode with familiar characters, and we get it. We also get a little of space origins philosophy and a bit of nature/nurture stuff with the alternate universe musings, but it doesn't detract from the story too much. At least no one is writing papers on it and holding conferences about it instead of, I don't know, leading with his phaser.

Okay book, but you should really be careful about plucking a book from the middle of a trilogy. I should be, but probably won't take care in the future, either.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: SOBs: Gulag War by Jack Hild (1985)
Now this is premium 80s pulp fiction. The bad guys are obvious, and everyone aside from a few academics and maybe Teddy Kennedy agreed the Soviets were the bad guys. In this book, the mercenary band Soldiers of Barrabas (SOBs, you see) go into Siberia to rescue a dissident scientist.

The book deals with the way which the team gets into Russia--through a phony computer deal that lands them in a tank factory. They steal a plane and fly to Siberia, engaging in a fight for their lives as they try to find on emaciated political prisoner from a haystack.

It moves quickly, lights on some of the characters, and jumps between scenes to create adequate suspense. The author isn't afraid to sacrifice series characters to make a point that there are bullets flying and this is war-ish.

Good stuff. I look forward to others in the series. I see they're going for $30 each on Amazon, but I know somewhere where I can get them for a quarter (nyah, nyah!).

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, November 06, 2009
Book Report: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (1961, 1987)
As you might recollect, this book was made into two films. One was made in the Eastern bloc the year I was born; the other starred George Clooney and was made in 2002. I haven't seen either, but I remember it was a big deal because it represented something of the pinnacle of Eastern European science fiction.

The result is a mixture of Event Horizon, The Forge of God, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. All it lacks is aliens bare of anything but a bowler.

To recap: a scientist rockets out to a scientific station orbiting the planet Solaris, which has an ocean which might be a sentient thing inscrutible to humans. The scientist finds out that his mentor has committed suicide, and that his two fellow residents of the space station fear phantasms apparently spawned by the ocean below. Soon, his ex-girlfriend who committed suicide begins to appear to him.

Gimlet said, "i liked lem's idea that alien intelligence is probably incomprehensible to us, and vice versa." I tell you what, kids, it's not just the alien intelligence that is incomprehensible to me. The actions of the people on the station don't rise above the level of "healthy cyphers" either. Instead of huddling together, one locks himself in the lab with whatever phantasm the ocean spawned for him, the second drinks himself blind and pops up sometimes to counsel the protagonist, and the protagonist goes to the library and researches 80 years of scholarship regarding the planet while musing about his relationship with his ex. Who is there, partly, recreated from his memories by the ocean below.

Instead of trying to communicate through the avatars, the scientists try to dispose of them (we're told) and go mad. We're not told what they're supposed to represent, what the others' phantasms are, or anything like that. No, the scientists, when they come together, theorize and then make up experiments. Then, the book sort of ends when the protagonist's phantasm gets some degree of self-awareness and 'kills' itself.

Frankly, it's not the sort of book that I prefer to read, and I only got out of it the ability to say I've read it and that I've grappled with the author's point. I had more trouble grappling with the author's writing, though. You cannot blame the substance on the translator.

So if you're a Serious Student of Eastern European or Science Fiction Literature, it's probably for you. Otherwise, stick to the Star Trek novels.

Books mentioned in this review:

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."