Well, I figured I would dive in and start a book
review column for our newsletter.
It seemed appropriate as the ship’s librarian.
I am hoping to broaden what I review, but I figured I would
start off with something easy …
a review of a new teen series that Simon & Schuster is
putting out that presents the new Star
Trek timeline characters during their Academy days.
Each book centers around a mystery of going on.
The mysteries are a little simpler, since they are presented
for a younger audience, but the writing is pretty strong.
I would say it is written on an upper middle school level with
the storylines and situations reflective of the high school
Please let me know if you have any other themes
you would like me to explore with future newsletter columns. I am always up for a good book, and I definitely love sharing
what I read with others!
The Delta Anomaly by Rick Barba, Simon Spotlight: New York, 2010,
223 pages, 9781442412415.
The Star Trek franchise had a major reboot thanks to the most
recent film, which carried the name of the series as its title, by J.J.
Abrams. Jumping back in time as well as an alternate timeline, the
famous characters that set the stage with the original series are
introduced to viewers during their early years of training at
Books have always played a major role with many Star Trek fans,
and it seems like that will be continuing as their is now a series
being published for teens (young adults) that really focuses on the
characters in events that occurred prior to the film. This is the
first book in the series.
While it is an alternate timeline, much is the same for the original
crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Cadet James Kirk has easy
connections with the ladies and a true talent for leadership. Leonard
"Bones" McCoy is a curmudgeon (though, young for the time
being) with a major talent in medicine. Spock is reserved, yet
knowledgeable as a recent graduate of the Academy.
While Kirk is focusing on a series of team-based roleplaying exams to
show that he is the best in this crop of cadets, a series of murders
seems to be hitting San Francisco in the area around the academy. The
victims seem to be missing organs, but their bodies show no signs of
being cut to provide access to remove the organs. This would seem to
parallel a series of murders that took place decades earlier and
assigned to the "Doctor," and unidentified serial murder who
was never caught.
Jim and Bones, as well as a few of their friends, are able to
intervene when Uhura's Orion friend is attacked. They are able to stop
the girl from being killed. This also provides them with some clues
that will allow the cadet team to sort out what might be going on.
Bones finds a mysterious, ashy substance that is really more than it
seems to be. And some recordings that were captured by 911 calls
captured some spoken words from the assailant that Uhura's talents in
xenolingquistics might provide even more information.
It doesn't take long for McCoy and a team of Federation scientists to
sort out that the ashy substance is not the result of smoke or fire,
but are actually tiny nanobots that are able to slide through the
cells in the body on the orders of the mysterious Doctor. The question
is why the killer wants to do that and who he really is.
Barba has done a nice job of capturing the feel of the original
characters, and the book is filled with sequences of action and
interesting looks into the minds of familiar characters. In some ways,
this helps explain a romantic relationship first explored in the
recent film. The mystery also provides a surprising sneak peak into a
major enemy that was originally introduced in Star Trek: The Next
Generation and further explored in Star Trek: Voyager. That
element is presented by masterfully not made clear until the
concluding pages of the book.
At times, the writing is overly simplistic, even when taking into
fact that the book is written for a younger audience. In
fact, the reading level is probably closer to the upper-elementary or
middle school reading level rather than for older teens. This also
explains why a group of cadets seem to play such an important role in
the mystery when they are surrounded by experts from all fields with
ties to Starfleet and the San Francisco Police Department. With that
said, it is easy to let go of things like that and just sit back and
enjoy the tale.
This is a pretty good premier title to the series. While it could have
been better, it definitely has me looking forward to reading the next
book in the series.
The Edge by Rudy Josephs,
Simon Spotlight: New York, 2010, 149 pages, 9781442414082.
While this is the second book in this new "Star Trek" series
for teens, it really jumps back in time to the point when Jim Kirk and
his classmates are starting off at the Academy. It quickly becomes
clear that their time at the Academy is going to be filled with all
sorts of challenges, both physical and intellectual. It starts off
with a race across the desert in which only one of the plebes, or
freshman, will be winner. Everyone else might as well not matter.
Knowing Kirk as we all do, this will be an important race, but can he
recover from being beaten by an Andorian cadet with a bloated ego?
One good thing about the race is that it gives him an opportunity to
get to know one of the other cadets a bit better, and the two quickly
find themselves with a budding relationship.
Love and academics are not the only thing that will be challenging our
favorite cadets. When one of the new plebes ends up being found dead
by his roommate, previously mentioned egotistical Andorian, Starfleet
gets a little suspicious. His body exhibits signs that he was
suffering from a large number of internal injuries that occurred over
a number of weeks. Bones McCoy notices some indications that this
might be due to the fact that the young man had some sort of procedure
to weaken the young man's pain receptors, allowing him not to be held
back from injuries.
When another cadet, this time a friend of Uhura's, collapses, it
starts to become clear that a number of plebes both from this year and
earlier years have been having different procedures to help them with
the rigorous curriculum at the Academy. Can Kirk and the gang figure
out what is going on and who is doing it before someone else turns up
This book moves a little more slowly than the previous book in the
series. While that one definitely focused more on the mystery at the
core of the plot, this one tries to give the primary characters (Kirk,
Bones, and Uhura) a chance to have some character development with the
characters around them. In a number of ways, Josephs is successful.
Kirk's involvement with his girlfriend really forces him to consider
what will make a successful student, and later a successful officer
and question his rebellious past.
Similarly, Uhura finds herself looking for some quiet space to study
only to run into Commander Spock, providing readers with an
opportunity to see how their relationship got its start in this
alternate timeline that started with the 2009 film. I do have to say I
thought the previous volume was a bit stronger, but that didn't stop
me from finishing this up in just a couple of days in two sittings. It
is definitely worth the read.
Academy: Gemini Agent
by Rick Barba, Simon Spotlight: New York, 2011, 195 pages, 1442413425.
In this third novel in a teen series dedicated to
the Academy years of our favorite Star Trek characters in the
reboot timeline, brings the Romulans front and center. The future Enterprise
crew is finishing up their freshman year at the Academy and are
readying up for the big Zeta mission, an opportunity for everyone to
fill in as "real" officers on vessels during a fictional
assignment. Kirk is hoping to command one of the major vessels, and
everyone else is hoping to have their choice picks as well.
That is made more complicated for Jim Kirk after an odd health scare
that seems to leave him with a missing block of time and some sort of
condition that includes a revving up of his vitals. During the same
time he experienced his blackout, he went missing, and he is accused
of committing various acts that are both illegal and inappropriate for
a cadet to do. This includes a dangerous attack on a fellow student
(Cadet Chekov), who almost dies when his dorm room turns against him.
Woven throughout the tale, is a series of mysterious scenes set on
Romulus in which a scientist that is part of the Jolan movement for
peace is working with an undercover agent on Earth to learn more about
what danger the humans and their Federation allies pose against the
Star Empire. This sets up an interesting counterpoint to the troubles
Kirk is facing because it quickly becomes evident that they are two
sides of the same story.
Uhura continues to find her relationship with Spock developing, though
they are very clearly still friends. With that said, it should come as
no surprise that they clearly are moving beyond the roles of mentor
and student and a mutual respect for each other's talents.
Kirk finds romance, as usual. This time the lady takes on the form of
a young Vulcan woman who has an interesting disposition. Since her
father was an ambassador to a number of different worlds, she grew up
in a less-than-traditional Vulcan home. Without the guidance of her
mother, who died when she was young; her father's busy career, and
constant exposure to other, more emotional cultures, T'Lara often
comes across as being more human than Vulcan.
Starfleet Intelligence starts to take an interest in Jim Kirk as it
becomes clear that the blackouts might be tied to some Romulan
transmissions from Earth. Lt. Caan, acting under the guise of Section
31, becomes involved with the investigation. She is not sure that Kirk
is really guilty of the charges being placed against him. Along with
her help, McCoy, Uhura, and T'Lara will help to find proof that Kirk
is innocent and that someone else is working with the Romulans for
some unknown reason.
It is interesting that this homage to Star Trek has taken on
the form of futuristic mysteries, but overall the trend seems to be
working. The characters are definitely familiar to fans, and the book
does a great job of developing them a little further. The mystery is a
bit simplistic. I was able to figure out the Romulan agent almost
immediately, but I think that the actual mystery is less important in
this case than the opportunity it provides the primary and secondary
characters to develop. I am looking forward to reading future books in