Friday, September 19, 2014

Star Trek: Seekers: 2: Point of Divergence Review

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Seekers: 2: Point of Divergence by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. The book opens by showing the ending events of the previous book, only this time they are told from the viewpoint of the Klingon cruiser  Voh'tahk commanded by Kang rather than the bridge of the Federation starship Endeavour, Events in space soon lead to a skirmish between the two vessels as Endeavour attempts to aid the crew of the crashed Federation scout ship Sagittarius and the Voh’tahk tries to capture some of the Tomol, who live on the planet where Sagittarius crashed, for study. Meanwhile, the crew of the Sagittarius must face off against the Changed, a group of Tomol who are undergoing a coming of age they usually die to escape, whose rapidly increasing power is matched by their growing madness. While the Sagittarius crew struggle to defend themselves and these Tomol who are resisting the Changed, the Endeavour and Voh'tahk form an uneasy alliance to take on the ancient Preserver weapons which have activated to defend the planet. Then the race is on as the crews of the Sagittarius and Endeavour struggle to discover how to restore the Change to what it originally was while fending off the changed. And one officer must decide just how far to go in using the highly classified data he illegally possesses to achieve that goal
I give this book an 9 out of 10. The space battle sequences are interesting, if short, and the ground battles are a lot of fun especially as the Changed grow in both numbers and abilities. Also, there are a number of great little bits of humor in the story. The ending was well done and this book leaves me hopeful regarding the quality of future stories in this sub-series, though it will probably be a long time before Seekers 3 is released. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Doctor Who Recap -- 09/13

In tonight's episode "Listen," the Doctor is talking to himself while alone in the Tardis when he poses a question: What if you're never alone? What if there's a lifeform that has adapted itself to be completely invisible and can never be seen? "What would such a creature want?" Suddenly, he notices a message on his chalkboard: "Listen."

Meanwhile, Clara is on a date with Danny Pink who first appeared two weeks ago in "Into the Dalek." Due to his insecurities, it goes badly and Clara returns home to find the Doctor and Tardis in her bedroom. He reveals to her that everyone has the same nightmare of a mysterious something lurking under the bed and links her to the Tardis in order to go back to the exact moment in time where she had that dream. However, she gets distracted thinking of her awful date, and they end up at a children's home in Gloucester. The Doctor tells her to wait in the Tardis while he has a look around because meeting yourself in the past is dangerous. She goes to do that but gets sidetracked when she meets Danny as a kid (but at this point his name is Rupert). She goes to his room and they hang out under the bed. Without warning, someone lays down on it. They get out from under it and see a mysterious, childlike figure hiding under the bedspread. The Doctor comes in and gives a speech about how fear is a superpower, before instructing them to turn away from the figure. He makes Rupert promise not to look at it, whereupon the figure leaves.

Afterwards, Clara goes back to try and fix her date. She fails and Danny leaves anyway. She returns to the Tardis and finds a man in a space suit which she assumes is the Doctor playing a joke. But when he removes his helmet, we find it's Danny! Not quite; it's actually Orson Pink from 500 years in the future. He's the first human time traveler, but he accidentally got sent to the end of the universe where the Doctor has just found him. The Doctor agrees to take him home, but lies and says the Tardis needs one night to recharge. In actuality, he wants to meet the invisible entities that he believes inhabit the universe at the end of time. He waits in Orson's space/time ship, and when the main door opens, explosive decompression occurs and he nearly gets sucked out. Fortunately, Orson saves him. Unfortunately, those same entities are now apparently trying to break into the Tardis. Clara attempts to pilot it out of there and they end up at a barn where a mysterious boy is hiding out. Clara discovers he's actually the Doctor as a child, and he's scared of everything. She hides underneath his bed and then gives him the same speech he gave Rupert. "Fear is a superpower," she tells him. "Fear makes companions of us all." Inspired, he goes onto become the Doctor, and Clara realizes she's the source of his belief in invisible entities. She explains this to him, and then they take Orson home. Finally, she seeks out Danny and they make up.

I really liked tonight's episode. It was exciting to see Clara as the source of the Doctor's strength and fears, and I'm interested in finding out what happens next. I think "Listen" is a cut above last week's "Robot of Sherwood" and I hope they can keep the show going at this quality.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Alien: Sea of Sorrows Review

This week I decided to review Alien: Sea of Sorrows by James A. Moore. The story opens on New Galveston, a newly terraformed and colonized world which has a problem. While breaking ground on a new city a small area of toxic sands was found. Unfortunately, this poisoned area soon began to spread rapidly destroying all life in its path, becoming known as the Sea of Sorrows. The Interstellar Commerce Commission sends a team including Deputy Commissioner Alan Decker, the protagonist of the story and an empath, to investigate and discover what has gone wrong. Soon after concluding that the planned city which became the origin point of the Sea of Sorrows was built on the site of a long abandoned colony used to mine and refine Trimonite, with the toxins resulting from contamination caused by the refining process being unleashed by the efforts to break ground there, Decker is injured and sent back to Earth. His report blames the Weyland-Yutani Corporation for failing to discover the mines before establishing the colony. Soon after delivering the report he is first suspended from his job then kidnapped by agents of Weyland-Yutani. It seems he talked during his sleep while on the journey back to Earth, He talked about things he couldn't possibly know about, things that were sealed long before he was born. The corporation investigated him and discovered that he is a descendant of Ellen Ripley, who played a key role in halting the company’s efforts to obtain samples of the aliens known as Xenomorphs for study. They explain that her descendants owe the corporation for the damage she caused and offer to write it off if he will join a team sent to the Sea of Sorrows where Weyland-Yutani believes there are Xenomorphs awaiting capture in the mine and the ancient alien city found near it. If not, they will retaliate against him and his children to get the money Ellen Ripley owed them due to her actions. Decker agrees to go and enters the underground mines with a team of mercenaries but things soon go wrong and the mission becomes a desperate struggle to catch a Xenomorph and make it back to the surface alive as an army of Xenomorphs awakens. Decker’s empathic link to the Xenomorphs and the ability to sense them coming that it grants may be the team’s last hope, but the aliens know that he is a descendant of their most hated enemy and will stop at nothing to claim vengeance against her family.
I give this book a 9.5 out of 10. The author did an incredible job of capturing the feel of the best parts of the Alien movie franchise in my opinion. Even the parts of the story which were light years away from the namesake Sea of Sorrows sent chills up my spine at times and I honestly was almost never certain what would come next throughout the tale.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Doctor Who Recap -- 09/06

In tonight's episode "Robot of Sherwood," the Doctor asks Clara where in all of time and space would she like to visit. She sheepishly tells him she wants to see Robin Hood. He scoffs and declares he's just a legend, but nonetheless agrees to take her to that time period. When they arrive, the Doctor is greeted by a man who claims to be none other than Robin Hood. Stunned, the Doctor refuses to believe it and proceeds to battle him with a spoon(?). Robin then takes Clara (complete in resplendent garb) to visit the Merry Men, whom the Doctor insists on getting DNA samples from to prove they're not who they say they are.

Robin reveals the Sheriff of Nottingham is holding a tournament to find the best archer in the land, with the prize being a golden arrow. This, along with the beautiful weather, seems too good to be true. They go to the tournament and Robin and the Doctor take turns one-upping one another with their archery. A fight soon breaks out, whereupon Robin severs a guard's arm, revealing it to be mechanical. The Sheriff's lackeys are robots! Undeterred by this revelation, the Sheriff has them thrown in the dungeon where the Doctor and Robin continue their rivalry with banter. Clara is taken to see the Sheriff, and she gets him to reveal the origins of the robots. The Sheriff says they crashed and have allied with him to repair their ship. He, in turn, wants to use their technology to conquer the world.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Robin break out of jail and discover the castle is actually the Promised Land, the very ship the mechanical man was trying to get to in the season premier. The Doctor realizes everyone around them is a robot, including the Sheriff who then arrives with Clara. Robin takes her hostage and makes his escape from the ship, while the Doctor confronts the Sheriff. The villain confesses to being a robot, and it turns out he was stealing gold from the people to be repair the ship (which has also been leaking radiation, accounting for the unusually warm temperatures in Sherwood). The Doctor tells him there isn't enough gold, but the Sheriff won't listen.

The Doctor leaves and recruits the other prisoners in the dungeon, including a mysterious woman, who proceed to fight the robots by using polished plates to reflect their lasers back at them. He again confronts the Sheriff, this time about Robin Hood being a robot. The Sheriff denies this, and the Doctor realizes Robin Hood is real. Robin then arrives with Clara and engages in a sword fight with the Sheriff. The battle ends when Robin knocks him into a cauldron of molten gold.

They escape the castle/ship, which lifts off, but still doesn't have enough gold to get it into orbit and is now threatening to explode, taking half of England with it. They take the golden arrow and fire it at the ship, giving it just enough gold to make it. Afterwards, the Doctor and Robin have a chat about being legends. Even if you don't plan on becoming a hero, Robin says, "perhaps others will be heroes in our names." The Doctor and Clara board the Tardis, and Robin is greeted by the mysterious woman from the dungeon, who turns out to be his love Marian.

This episode was entertaining, but I found the climax to be a tad absurd. They somehow hit the right spot on the ship a hundred feet in the air with a golden arrow, which just happens to give it just enough gold to get it into orbit, even though the ship was only at 85%? Whatever you say, Steven Moffat.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Star Trek Seekers: 1 Second Nature Review

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Seekers: 1: Second Nature by David Mack. When the story begins, the Archer class scout ship USS Sagittarius under Captain Clark Terrell is exploring the Taurus Reach when it detects an unidentified energy source on Arethusa, a small, and seemingly primitive world. The landing party they send to investigate soon discover a group of the Tomol, a low-tech society transported to the world from wherever their homeworld is in the distant past. Some of the Tomol are throwing themselves into a fire to prevent some terrible change that comes to their people around the age of eighteen. But one woman named Nimur attempts to flee and receives aid from a Klingon scouting party. Soon the Change begins to grant Nimur new abilities, such as teklekenesis and resistance to energy weapons, but also begins to drive her mad even as she tries to gather a following among the Tomol who are due to undergo the Change. Eventually the Sagittarius party discover that the change was artificially introduced into the Tomol gene code by Shedai, an ancient and incredibly powerful race with almost supernatural technological abilities who were overthrown by their Tholian slaves long ago, and whose return was barely prevented a short time before the novel takes place. They also find a Preserver Obelisk which, according to local legend, can defeat the Changed, and realize that the Klingons wish to study the Change process and use it to enhance their own abilities. Meanwhile the Sagittarius engages in a desperate hit and run battle with a Klingon task force led by Kang as the Constitution class Starship USS Endeavour races to reinforce them.
I give this book an 8.5 out of 10. The story is interesting and ties in a lot of characters and plot points from the Star Trek source material into the tale but can still be easily read by someone not  familiar with the series in my opinion. The space battle sequences were enjoyable, even though I wish they were more detailed in a couple of places, and there are enough mysteries left that I’m not sure what will happen next, plus a few things that might be clues to what is going on in the story, or might mean nothing. One point of warning: the story ends on a cliffhanger and I fully expect the second book to begin within minutes, if not seconds of the end of Second Nature.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Doctor Who Recap -- 08/30

Today I'm starting a new segment in which I give a synopsis of this week's Doctor Who for those who missed it. Spoiler alert!

In tonight's episode "Into the Dalek," the Doctor saves an outer space soldier named Journey Blue from dying. He takes her back to her ship Aristotle to find it was a medical vessel but has now been militarized to battle the Daleks. The commander takes the Doctor to see the one remaining patient, and he finds it's a Dalek. However, the prisoner gives a surprising declaration: "Daleks must be destroyed." Somehow this one has realized the rest of its kind is evil. Intrigued, the Doctor and Clara, along with several soldiers including Journey, shrink themselves down and go inside its head, whereupon the Doctor names it Rusty. Rusty explains that even after many years of Dalek destruction, it witnessed the birth of a star and realized life would always prevail. The Doctor, excited about finally finding a good Dalek, proceeds to repair Rusty's radiation leak. Unfortunately, this causes Rusty to go back to normal, and it breaks free of its confinement and starts killing everyone on board the Aristotle.

In order to help the others escape, one of the soldiers named Gretchen sacrifices herself and ends up meeting Missy, the mysterious woman from the season premier. Meanwhile, the Doctor laments that all Daleks are irreversibly evil. However, Clara convinces him otherwise. She believes that Rusty has the potential to be good, and together they journey to its brain to retrieve its suppressed memories and remind it of what it has lost. They succeed, but Rusty looks inside the Doctor's mind and sees his hatred for the Daleks, which it then adopts. Once again convinced that all Daleks are evil, Rusty helps them fight off a Dalek boarding party which arrived when it sent a signal after being repaired by the Doctor. The Daleks are defeated, but the Doctor doesn't consider it a victory; it was achieved through hatred and not goodness. They go to leave, and Journey asks to accompany them on their journey. But the Doctor is through with soldiers after this experience, and refuses.

Afterwards, the Doctor and Clara discuss the question he posed earlier: "Am I a good man?" She replies she doesn't know, but he wants to be, and that's what matters.

I feel this week's episode is solid. It's always enjoyable when the Daleks come to visit, and we got a little more insight into their nature. Peter Capaldi continues to impress as the new Doctor and I think he's going to do repeat. Also, the continuing mystery of Missy is keeping me intrigued, and I can't wait to see where they're going with this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bones of Empire review

This week I decided to review Bones of Empire by William Dietz  The main character of the story is Jak Cato, a genetically engineered empath created by the Uman Empire, which is inspired by the Roman Empire based on its titles and what we see of its sports--though I have no clue why the H in Human was removed-- able to detect disguised shapeshifters by sensing their minds. The book begins with Cato helping to fend off an assassination attempt against his patron on the imperial capital world of Corin. Soon afterwards, Cato attends an Emperor’s Day parade, but when he sees the Emperor, he’s shocked to realize that the supposed Emperor is actually a Sagathi, a species of alien shapeshifters, named Verafti whom Cato thought he had killed. Soon the race to prove that the Emperor is an imposter while evading Verafti’s attempts to kill Cato is on. Eventually Verafti flees and Cato, who knows that Verafti would have hated  every minute he spent as Emperor, and his allies are left trying to discover the Sagathi’s goals. Eventually it is revealed that he had been searching imperial records for signs of other Sagathi that had escaped their quarantined homeworld. More specifically, Verafti is searching for a female named Demeni whom he had fallen in love with. The trail leads to Therat, a small world recently handed over to the neighboring Vord Empire. After convincing the Vord of the danger even one Sagathi on the loose can pose, Cato receives permission to lead a team to the world to hut the Sagathi down but once there he finds himself caught in the struggle between the Vord Government and an Uman resistance movement while being targeted by cultists who believe that Demeni is a goddess.
I give the book an 7 out of 10. It was a very interesting story over all, though it was more of a science fiction detective story whereas I was expecting a military scifi story. Still, what you saw of the Uman and Vord cultures was interesting, though you learn very little about Sagathi society. The ending was mostly happy but somewhat bittersweet. Still, while I didn’t really dislike the book and will read any sequels, they won’t be the top priority of my to read list unless it’s a dry period for books I like. It wasn’t bad but it just didn’t excite me enough to make buying any follow-ups a higher priority than books in several other ongoing novel series.