Book Reviews – July 2015

As mentioned previously, I’m transitioning to a monthly round-up of book reviews to hopefully reduce the amount of non-gay-erotica book reviews on this blog.  And it’s a good thing, because this month I almost exclusively read Star Trek books!

Here we go!

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic

Christopher L. Bennett

An original novel continuing the saga of the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise—featuring Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the Enterprise!

Years ago, Jonathan Archer and T’Pol helped unearth the true writings of Vulcan’s great philosopher Surak, bringing forth a new era of peaceful reform on Vulcan. But when their discovery is seemingly proven to be a fraud, the scandal threatens to undo a decade of progress and return power to the old, warlike regime. Admiral Archer, Captain T’Pol, and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour investigate with help from their Vulcan allies, but none of them suspect the identity of the real mastermind behind the conspiracy to reconquer Vulcan—or the price they will have to pay to discover the truth.

Meanwhile, when a long-forgotten technological threat re-emerges beyond the Federation’s borders, Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer attempts to track down its origins with help from his old friend “Trip” Tucker. But they discover that other civilizations are eager to exploit this dangerous power for their own benefit, even if the Federation must pay the price!

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: I’ve really come to enjoy Bennett’s Enterprise novels — which is a feat as I’ve never been a true lover of Bennett’s books (though I’ve always respected his ability as a storyteller) nor a true lover of the Enterprise series (as I felt that the TV show took it in the wrong direction and then the books followed suit).  Through this ongoing Rise of the Federation series, Bennett has created a series of stories that I’m coming to absolutely love, and I’m coming to really enjoy Bennett as a writer.  Uncertain Logic takes the Enterprise crew in a few good directions — one that explores a tumultuous time on Vulcan (and thus explores Star Trek’s history) and another that follows up on an episode that featured a new technology/culture (and thus explores new ground).  Bennett does a fantastic job of writing the characters from TV as well as creating believable original characters and then putting them all in thrilling scenarios.

Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned: Part 1

Peter David

The first installment in a brand-new three-part digital-first Star Trek: New Frontier e-novel from New York Times bestselling author Peter David!

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur are back, picking up three months after the stunning events depicted in New Frontier: Blind Man’s Bluff. Calhoun’s search of Xenex has failed to find any survivors, and now he is bound and determined to track down the race that killed them—the D’myurj and their associates, the Brethren—and exact vengeance upon them. His search will take the Excalibur crew into a pocket universe, where he discovers not only the homeworld of the D’myurj, but another race that shares Calhoun’s determination to obliterate his opponents. But is this new race truly an ally…or an even greater threat?

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the New Frontier series.  I LOVED it at first, but then slowly lost interest in the characters.  I felt that with the books being a year or more apart and being so disconnected from the rest of the Star Trek universe made me lose a little interest.  As well, I felt the writing weakened as the series went on, becoming a little more comic book-like rather than Star Trek-like… which does make some sense since David writes a lot of comic books.  The Returned, though, is a return to the very strong storytelling that earlier books in the series have featured.  David manages to pull in almost all the characters that have wandered off over the years — and without it coming across as fan-wank — and puts them all in a new and interesting plot.  My only beef, though, is that the book is broken into three parts.  It would be okay if each part stood on its own, but that’s not the case — it was clearly one book that was split into three equal parts.  I will, of course, read the next two parts as soon as they come out, despite my dislike of this sales tactic.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sacraments of Fire

David R. George III

The latest novel in the ongoing Next Generation/Deep Space Nine expanded universe crossover, from New York Times bestselling author David George!

Days after the assassination of Federation President Nan Bacco on Deep Space 9, the unexpected appearance of a stranger on the station raises serious concerns. He seems dazed and confused, providing—in a peculiar patois of the Bajoran language—unsatisfactory answers. He offers his identity as Altek, of which there is no apparent record, and he claims not to know where he is or how he got there. A quick scan confirms the visitor is armed with a projectile weapon—a firearm more antiquated than, but similar to, the one that took President Bacco’s life. But the Bajoran liaison to the station believes that Altek has been sent from the Prophets, out of a nearby wormhole. The last time such an event occurred, it was to reassure Benjamin Sisko of his place as the Emissary. For what purpose has Altek now been sent out of the Celestial Temple?

My Rating: 5/5

My Review: I’ve seen a few complaints on Goodreads of how this book is mostly summary of previous events… but I found it incredibly engaging and captivating.  While I freaking love the DS9 series, I find that so much has happened over the years that I don’t remember huge pieces of it, even though it’s constantly referenced.  Half of this book takes place in the book’s past and provides a wonderful retelling of events, but from a different perspective than previously seen.  The other half takes place in the book’s present and carries the narrative forward (albeit a little slowly).  I have come to think of David R. George III as the George R. R. Martin of the Star Trek universe.  George’s books are slow moving, but addictive… and the major twist, like in any of the Song of Ice and Fire books, takes place in the last chapter, leaving the reader begging for the next book.  My appreciation for George runs deeper than that, though.  Of all the writers of DS9 that I’ve read, George is the only one that seems to really understand the soul of the series and really makes it shine through.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow

Dayton Ward

An all-new novel of The Next Generation expanded universe from the New York Times bestselling author!

It is a new age of exploration, and the U.S.S. Enterprise is dispatched to “the Odyssean Pass,” a region charted only by unmanned probes and believed to contain numerous inhabited worlds. Approaching a star system with two such planets, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew find a massive alien vessel, drifting in interstellar space for decades. Sensors detect life aboard the derelict—aliens held in suspended animation. Thought to be an immense sleeper ship, the vessel actually is a weapon capable of destroying entire worlds…the final gambit in a war that has raged for generations across the nearby system. Captain Picard is now caught in the middle of this conflict and attempts to mediate, as both sides want this doomsday weapon…which was sent from the future with the sole purpose of ending the interplanetary war before it even began!

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: Dayton Ward is an author I just don’t get.  I don’t know if it’s just a matter of reader preferences or what, but I’ve never really understood the appeal of his books.  His earlier works are heavy on description and in need of an editor to tighten up his run-on sentences.  This book, though, is a lot better in that respect — but I still don’t get the appeal.   A large part of it, though, is not Ward’s fault.  Ward can only work with what he’s been given — and by this I mean the characters in the present cast of TNG.  A number of new characters have been added, but they have not been portrayed consistently across the different authors’ representations of them.  (Whereas noted above, the new Enterprise and DS9 characters are VERY real, but the TNG ones don’t seem to be as true.)  This is not a problem with just Ward’s books — all of the TNG books featuring Chen, Smrhova (or however it’s spelled), or any of the other half dozen characters whose names I can’t remember have been equally lacklustre for character portrayal.  So, Ward is already at a disadvantage due to other writers’ inability to properly build characters.

The plot is another matter.  It’s an interesting one, though slow-moving at times… and it gets a little convoluted at the end.  I read along without worrying too much about keeping the details straight — I got the gist of it.  This book would have greatly benefitted from tightening up the middle and then using the saved word count to expand in the last third.

Overall, it was a little weak in spots, though it was definitely a much stronger novel than Ward usually writes.

Perfect Tackle

Turner Kane

When Guy Holbrook moves north to play rugby professionally, he finds the other players more than ready for some rough action, both on and off the field. Gritty, brutal and primal, this explicit novel by the author of the popular soccer story Man On! is once again aimed at guys who love jocks in all their glory.

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: This book was fun, though it was largely written in passive voice with great swaths of passive voice and summarized action.  The sex scenes save the book, somewhat.  There’s a real lack of tension since everyone is sort of happy-go-lucky and the stakes are spectacularly low.  However, the idea that gay orgies can save the soccer team was a cute idea.


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