Review: Watching the Clock by Christopher L. Bennett

Review: Watching the Clock by Christopher L. BennettWatching the Clock (Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations #1) by Christopher L. Bennett
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction, space opera, Star Trek, time travel
Series: Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations #1
Pages: 496
Published by Pocket Books on May 1, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBetter World Books

There’s likely no more of a thankless job in the Federation than temporal investigation. While starship explorers get to live the human adventure of traveling to other times and realities, it’s up to the dedicated agents of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations to deal with the consequences to the timestream that the rest of the Galaxy has to live with day by day. But when history as we know it could be wiped out at any moment by time warriors from the future, misused relics of ancient races, or accident-prone starships, only the most disciplined, obsessive, and unimaginative government employees have what it takes to face the existential uncertainty of it all on a daily basis . . . and still stay sane enough to complete their assignments.
That’s where Agents Lucsly and Dulmur come in—stalwart and unflappable, these men are the Federation’s unsung anchors in a chaotic universe. Together with their colleagues in the DTI—and with the help and sometimes hindrance of Starfleet’s finest—they do what they can to keep the timestream, or at least the paperwork, as neat and orderly as they are. But when a series of escalating temporal incursions threatens to open a new front of the history-spanning Temporal Cold War in the twenty-fourth century, Agents Lucsly and Dulmur will need all their investigative skill and unbending determination to stop those who wish to rewrite the past for their own advantage, and to keep the present and the future from devolving into the kind of chaos they really, really hate.

My Review:

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective point of view, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.” At least according to Doctor Who.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I spotted their TARDIS, or at least a TARDIS, somewhere (or somewhen) in the mass of confiscated time travel detritus stored in the Department of Temporal Investigations’ Vault on Eris. But I could be wrong. Or it might not be there now. Or then.

The thing about time travel, is that it messes up any sense of past, present and future, in the grammatical sense as well as every other way, more than enough to give anyone trying to talk about it – or write about it – a terrible and unending headache.

Just ask the folks at the Federation’s Department of Temporal Investigations, whose entire existence, across space and time, owes itself to Starfleet’s pressing need to clean up after Jim Kirk’s all too frequent messing about with time.

I really want to make a Law and Order reference to “these are their stories” because it does kind of work, even if DTI Agent Gariff Lucsly’s affect and mannerisms owe a lot more to Joe Friday in Dragnet.

The story in Watching the Clock combines two elements and both go back and forth in time more than a bit. Time which always seems to wibble just when it’s expected to wobble – and very much vice-versa. Seemingly ad infinitum and always ad nauseam.

The biggest variable often seems to wrap around who is getting the nauseam this time around.

As this is the first book in the Department of Temporal Investigations series, and that’s an agency that appears – often in rueful commentary – in several episodes across the Star Trek timeline without being the center of any incident – after all, DTI are more of a cleanup crew than an instigating force – a part of this book is to set up the agency, its primary officers, and its place within Starfleet.

Which results in more than a bit of that wibble and wobble, as the case that Agents Lucsly and Dulmur find themselves in the middle of is also in the middle of both the actual case (even if they’re not aware of it) and the Trek timeline, so the story needs to establish who they are, how they got to be where (and when) they are, and who they have to work with and against.

But the case they have before them – also behind them (time travel again) – is rooted in the Temporal Cold War, which seems to be heating up again. Assuming concepts like “again” have meaning in the context of time travel. Someone is operating from the shadows, manipulating the past in order to keep the Federation from defeating their aims in the future.

Which sounds a lot like what the Borg were attempting in First Contact. As it should. When it comes to time travel, this has all happened before, and it will all, most certainly, happen again. And again. And AGAIN.

Escape Rating A-: I picked this up because last week ended with some really frustrating reads. I was looking for something that I was guaranteed to be swept away by – no matter what. (I started the next St. Cyr book, What Darkness Brings, but it was too soon after the previous. I love the series, but like most series reads, I need a bit of space between each book so that the tropes don’t become over-familiar.)

It’s been a while since I read one of the Star Trek books, but I have a lot of them on my Kindle because they are one of the things Galen picks up when he’s looking for a comfort read. So there they were, and I hadn’t read this series. Although now I will when I’m looking for a reading pick-me-up.

There’s always plenty of Trek nostalgia to go around, and I’m certainly there for that, especially in the mood I was in. Howsomever, as a series set in the ‘verse but not part of one of the TV series, this one needed a bit more to carry this reader through all 500ish pages. Because that’s a lot, even for me. Especially when I’m flailing around for a read.

Watching the Clock combined the kind of buddy cop/partnership story that works so well in mystery – and this is a mystery – with that lovely bit of Trek nostalgia with a whole lot of thoughtful exploration of just what kind of a mess time travel would cause if it really worked.

Because the idea that going back in time would “fix” history, for certain definitions of both “fix” and history, sounds fine and dandy in fantasy but in SF just makes a complete mess out of causality and pretty much everything else.

(If you’re curious about other visions of just how badly it can go, take a look at One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The Tchaikovsky story, published a decade AFTER Watching the Clock, looks back on their version of a time war from the perspective of a battle-scarred, PTSD-ridden survivor and it’s not a pretty sight. But it is a fascinating story – also a lot shorter exploration of the same concepts as Watching the Clock.)

So, if you’re looking to get immersed in a familiar world while reading a completely original story set in that world, Watching the Clock is a fun read and Lucsly and Dulmur and all the members of the Department of Temporal Investigations are interesting people to explore it with. I had a ball, and if you’re a Trek fan you probably will tool.

If the concepts interest you but Trek isn’t your jam, check out One Day All This Will Be Yours.

Review: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Review: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose ClarkeShadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: media tie-in, science fiction
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Pages: 304
Published by Pocket Books on July 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

An original novel based on the acclaimed Star Trek TV series!
The USS Enterprise has been granted the simple but unavoidable honor of ferrying key guests to Betazed for a cultural ceremony. En route, sudden tragedy strikes a Federation science station on the isolated planet Kota, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard has no qualms sending William Riker, Data, and Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher to investigate. But what begins as routine assignments for the two parties soon descends into chaos: Picard, Worf, and Deanna Troi must grapple with a dangerous diplomatic crisis as historic artifacts are stolen in the middle of a high-profile ceremony…while nothing is as it seems on Kota. A mounting medical emergency coupled with the science station’s failing technology—and no hope of rescue—has Doctor Crusher racing against time to solve a disturbing mystery threatening the lives of all her colleagues….

My Review:

This caught my eye for a number of reasons. I was more than a bit surprised to see it pop up on Edelweiss, because the Star Trek media tie-in books in general don’t make many appearances on either Edelweiss or NetGalley. After all, the audience for them is built in, to the point where reviews probably don’t make much difference.

But it kept calling my name because it filled a bunch of niches in my reading brain. I was looking for something SFnal after the excellence of A Psalm for the Wild-Built and Project Hail Mary last week. I’m still in the mood for competence porn, and Trek fiction at its best has always scratched that particular itch. The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, whether or not there’s a “bloody A, B, C or D” or even E in the name, have always been the best of the best.

This is a world I could sink into from the very first page. I’ve known this place and these people for a long, long time, after all. And the title was intriguing because there’s a long history of Trek borrowing from Shakespeare, going all the way back to the 9th episode of the 1st season of the Original Series, whose title, “Dagger of the Mind” comes straight out of Macbeth.

So the copy of The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works that Jean-Luc Picard keeps in his quarters, or the still ironic reference to not having “experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon” are far from the first times that the Bard has been referenced in Trek.

The 1960s assumption that if Shakespeare was still being performed and read 350 years after his death that he would still be considered a classic another 350 years in the future – when the Original Series was set – still seems like a good bet.

All of the above is a long way of saying that I got trapped into this story for the title, which is, as you might have already guessed or remembered, a quote from Shakespeare, specifically from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended…” I found myself wondering what the quote, or the context of the original play, might have to do with this particular story. So here we are. And that, I think, relates to another Shakespeare quote, this one from The Tempest.  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

And doesn’t that require a bit more explanation?

Very much like one of the episodes of any and all of the Trek series, there’s an A plot and a B plot in Shadows Have Offended. Sometimes they did plot and subplot, but I’m not sure that either plot here is subordinate to the other.

The A plot follows Picard at a diplomatic function on Betazed. Picard may be an excellent diplomat, but the pomp and ceremony that is a huge part of the Betazed culture leaves him totally cold – although the Betazed Ambassador Lwaxana Troi does her best to warm him up by embarrassment as she’s been completely unsuccessful at every other method she’s tries – and she’s tried them ALL.

Lwaxana ropes Picard into participating in the ceremony, while she gets to watch her daughter, the Enterprise’ ship’s counselor Deanna Troi, while she attempts to figure out if Deanna and Worf are in a relationship or not.

But the ceremony goes haywire when the cultural artifacts that are scheduled to be displayed are stolen, leaving Picard on Betazed attempting to calm the agitated diplomatic horde while the Enterprise goes off to catch the rather surprising thief.

The B plot is where the title quote comes into play. On the way to Betazed, the Enterprise dropped Commander Riker, Doctor Crusher, Data and a couple of scientifically inclined junior officers on a planet that is being evaluated for a new colony. Glitches have arisen at the last stage of the evaluation so the scientists on station have requested more hands on their rather sandy deck to see if they can resolve the remaining issues and sign off on the colonization effort.

Picard’s part of the story feels lighthearted throughout. Not that the stolen cultural artifacts are not important, not that the diplomatic mission he’s been roped into isn’t necessary, but no one – except possibly the thief – is going to die on this unexpected mission. There will be a lot of hot tempers, there’s a lot of potential political fallout but the stakes always feel a bit small – at least relative to Riker and Crusher’s mission.

Because the colony that needs to be signed off on is for a large group of refugees whose planet has been wiped out. They have no home and need one rather desperately. But the glitches aren’t just minor glitches, and the more the newly expanded group looks into them, the more desperate things get.

Either the planet is trying to communicate with them, or the planet is trying to kill them. And it might succeed at the latter if someone doesn’t figure out the former before their shelter is destroyed, and their equipment, including the food replicators and communications, have ceased to function. There are no ships currently available to rescue them, so they are on their own with a dwindling supply of food and a group of people who keep passing out and screaming. Including the android Data.

It’s up to Crusher to figure out what is making both the people and the equipment “sick” before it makes them all dead. And that’s where the Shakespearean references become all too relevant.

Escape Rating B: It’s difficult to review this, not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I’m part of its built-in audience. It doesn’t reach beyond those of us who love Trek and want to dip back into it again. In that, it succeeds admirably as it feels like reading an episode. The entire thing painted itself in my brain without a single hitch. If that’s what you’re looking for, and I kind of was, it does its job very well. If you’re looking for more general SF, I highly recommend Project Hail Mary, which is sort of how I got here in the first place!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-5-20 + Giveaway

Sunday Post

Today is my birthday. And it’s weird to be celebrating a birthday without even the possibility of going out for dinner. It’s not that I generally make a big deal out of it, but it just feels strange not to be able to mark it much at all. And to know that by the time we can go out again, it will be too far in the past to make any sense. This makes all those childhood birthdays when I couldn’t have a party and cake because my birthday often fell during Passover seem like wild extravaganzas in comparison. (Passover this year starts on Wednesday, so I did miss it this year!)

Today is also First Contact Day in the Star Trek Universe. In that version of what would be history, Earth’s known “First Contact” with an alien race will occur on April 5, 2063 when the Vulcans observe Earth’s first warp flight. If this sounds familiar at all, that’s because it’s the event that the Borg are trying to prevent in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. Probably my second favorite of all the Star Trek movies, after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And this might be a GREAT day for a rewatch.

But to completely mix my favorite SFF metaphors, while today may be First Contact Day, it is my birthday and, just as every day this past week. it will be a Hobbit birthday. Meaning that I am giving presents instead of getting them. Today’s giveaway is another Barnes & Noble $25 Gift Card, but all of this week’s giveaways are still open, and will be until the end of this coming week.

Live Long, and Prosper!

Current Giveaways:

$25 Amazon Gift Card in the Blogo-Birthday Celebration
$25 in Books in the Blogo-Birthday Celebration
$10 Amazon Gift Card OR $10 Book in the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop
$25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card in the Blogoversary Day Giveaway
Any book by Duncan M. Hamilton
Any book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series by C.S. Harris
Any book by M.L. Buchman

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Snow Much Fun Giveaway Hop is Viki S.

Blog Recap:

Early Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway
A++ Review: Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton + Giveaway
Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop
A+ Review: Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris + Giveaway
A Review: Condor by M.L. Buchman + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (386) + Giveaway

Coming This Week:

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
Matzah Ball Surprise by Laura Brown (review)
Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine (review)
Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer (review)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Leonard by William Shatner with David Fisher

Review: Leonard by William Shatner with David FisherLeonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner, David Fisher
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 278
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on February 16th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles, in a new science-fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.
Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.
As much a biography of Nimoy as a story of their friendship, Leonard is a uniquely heartfelt book written by one legendary actor in celebration of another.

My Review:

Yesterday was NASA’s Day of Remembrance, in honor of all those who lost their lives in the quest for space, particularly the tragic losses of Apollo I and the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

Because so many people have entered the space program and the aerospace industry because they fell in love with the idea of space travel while watching Star Trek, William Shatner’s semi-biographical, semi-autobiographical book about his friendship with the late and very much lamented Leonard Nimoy seemed like an appropriate book for this week.

shatner nimoy youngTo this reader, it felt as if the book, while purporting to tell the story of Leonard Nimoy’s life, ends up combining autobiography with biography. These two men knew each other very well for a very long time, came from somewhat similar backgrounds, and found themselves yoked together, whether they liked it or not (and sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t) by their performances in what everyone expected would be a short-lived TV program.

Instead, Star Trek became a phenomenon and none of the lives that it touched were ever the same. Particularly theirs.

Because Star Trek altered the trajectory of both their lives in ways that were both bizarre and profound, this book also serves as a personal recollection of the production of the original series. While many of these stories have been told before, it is still interesting to hear them again from someone who lived through those events.

A group which gets smaller and smaller every year. Dammit.

The other story that is told here is that of the life and occasionally hard times of a working actor in what is now considered the “Golden Age” of television. There is never a good time to be an actor. It’s a lot of tiny parts, short run work, and cab driving (in Nimoy’s case) or waiting tables or some other job that can be dropped and picked up on the whim of a casting director.

And even though these stories are now more than 50 years in the past, that struggle still resonates. The reader can see how those years formed the characters of the men who performed those iconic characters, and how much those characters both represented pieces of their core selves, and how much those characters influenced who they became.

For a fan, this is a fascinating story, all the more so because it rings so true in the author’s voice.

Escape Rating B+: Sometimes I talk about what I think about a book, sometimes I talk about what I feel. Fair warning, this is one of those “feelie” reviews.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the end of the original series. I watched some of those early episodes with my dad, so there are a lot of memories tied up in this for me. Also, the stories that Shatner tells at the very beginning of the book, about his and Nimoy’s shared background as first-generation Americans (or Canadians) in Jewish immigrant families is also the story of my parents’ generation. With very little alteration, my mother could tell similar stories.

As a fan, I read a lot of the “making of Star Trek” books that came out in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the stories that Shatner relates were also a part of those books, but they are told slightly differently from one participant’s perspective than they were in those more “reporting style” books. Different both in the sense that we all remember things differently, and that it seems as if Shatner glosses over some of his behavior that drove his colleagues crazy at the time, and for years later. Some of the more contentious incidents seem to have faded from memory a bit.

We are all the stars of our own stories, possibly in this case more literally than for the rest of us.

This was a book where I both read the book in ebook, looked at the pictures in the hardcover, and listened to the audio. I would have the audio on in the car, and then pick up with the book at lunch and after I got home. One of the things that comes through on the audio is that the author often sounds tired. He frequently ran out of breath on the longer sentences. I kept wanting to tell him to take a breath in the middle, or grab a glass of water. I wanted to be there as he told his story.

shatner nimoy laughing lateIn the end, this is a book for the fans.It is way more about the history of Star Trek than any other single topic. As a fan, I found the story interesting and often charming. Perhaps I should say “fascinating” as Spock often did.

For readers who are not fans, or for later readers who are looking to find out what all the fuss was about, this is not a book that analyzes the influence of Star Trek or its characters on pop culture and the explosion of science fiction into movies, TV and mainstream literature. That’s a book for someone else at some other time.

But for those of us who loved those men and the show that they created, and which created them, this book is a marvelous way to remember them both.

As his most famous saying goes, Leonard Nimoy lived long and prospered. And he is missed.

Stacking the Shelves (153)

Stacking the Shelves

I didn’t get a lot this week, probably a good thing. But the one book I want to highlight is the Dark Beyond the Stars anthology. It’s a collection of space opera short stories written by women. While that would interest me anyway, I was alerted to the book by an article at The Mary Sue. It seems that there is an Amazon reviewer troll who used his review of the book to claim that women are incapable of writing good space opera, and oh by the way, he has some space opera that he wrote that is inherently better because he’s a male writer and space opera is, and I disgustedly quote, “a purely male domain.” This is purely bullshit as any reader of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga will heartily attest. My own personal protest to this idiocy was to buy the book. It was well worth $5.99, (and it would have been worth considerably more) to poke this troll in the eye with a sharp “buy this book”.

For Review:
Harvest Moon (Moon #4) by Lisa Kessler
Roth (Hell Squad #5) by Anna Hackett
Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz

Purchased from Amazon:
Dark Beyond the Stars by Blair C. Babylon, Annie Bellet, Elle Casey, Ann Christy,Patrice Fitzgerald, Autumn Kalquist, Theresa Kay, Susan Kaye Quinn, Sara Reine, Rysa Walker, Jennifer Foehner Wells
These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One (These are the Voyages #1) by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn
These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two (These are the Voyages #2) by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn
These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Three (These are the Voyages #3) by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-13-15

Sunday Post

Last week’s schedule fell completely to bits by the end. Hopefully this week will hew a little closer to my intentions from this end of the lens. But sometimes, no matter my best inentions, a book just doesn’t do anything for me, and I drop it. Sometimes the feeling is temporary (I loved both Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh and Heartmate by Robin D. Owens on the second go around, but felt very ‘meh’ about both of them on my first try). But sometimes its permanent, and I can never make myself go back. And of course, sometimes it’s not me, it’s the book. Either it turns out not to be for me, or just plain awful. Not that I haven’t occasionally finished some of those when I think it’s going to make a scathingly funny review.

And sometimes I bounce off of one book because there’s a different one calling my name so loudly that I can’t get a stray thought in until I read it. Has this ever happened to you?

paris time capsule by ella careyCurrent Giveaways:

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Wildest Dreams by Robin Carr is Anita Y.

autobiography of james t kirk by david goodmanBlog Recap:

Labor Day 2015
B+ Review: Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey + Giveaway
C- Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
D+ Review: Ryker by Sawyer Bennett
B+ Review: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman
Stacking the Shelves (152)



rebel queen by michelle moranComing Next Week:

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (review)
Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean (review)
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (review)
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman (review)
Penric’s Demon (World of the Five Gods #3.5) by Lois McMaster Bujold (review)

Stacking the Shelves (152)

Stacking the Shelves

I have never read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but I have heard enough about it that I knew what it was about. It’s about cancer cell research, with a dose of medical ethics. Which meant that I was beyond puzzled and well into flummoxed when I read that a woman in Tennessee was claiming that the book was pornographic and that not only should her 15-year-old son not have been assigned the book in school, but that it should be banned from the local school district.

As far a this woman is concerned, the information about the subject’s cervical cancer, which does include the information about her cervix and vagina and that all women have them, is too graphic for a high school student. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that someone thinks that a woman discovering she has cervical cancer should be called pornographic. Considering what happened to Henrietta Lacks and the cells harvested without her permission or consent, I’d use other words. Pornography isn’t even in the same hemisphere.

I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for Banned Books Week later this month.

For Review:
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Burn it Up (Desert Dogs #3) by Cara McKenna
Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11) by Michelle Sagara
Dark Secrets by Rachel Caine, Cynthia Eden, Megan Hart, Suzanne Johnson, Jeffe Kennedy and Mina Khan
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell
Heart Legacy (Celta’s Heartmates #14) by Robin D. Owens
The Paladin Caper (Rogues of the Republic #3) by Patrick Weekes
The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic #2) by Patrick Weekes
Target Engaged (Delta Force #1) by M.L. Buchman
When the Stars Align by Jeanette Grey

Purchased from Amazon:
The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman (review)
Captured in Ink (Art of Love #3) by Donna McDonald
Diplomats and Fugitives (Emperor’s Edge #9) by Lindsay Buroker

Borrowed from the Library:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Review: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman

autobiography of james t kirk by david goodmanFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Star Trek
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Date Released: September 8, 2015
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk chronicles the greatest Starfleet captain’s life (2233–2371), in his own words. From his birth on the U.S.S. Kelvin, his youth spent on Tarsus IV, his time in the Starfleet Academy, his meteoric raise through the ranks of Starfleet, and his illustrious career at the helm of the Enterprise, this in-world memoir uncovers Captain Kirk in a way Star Trek fans have never seen. Kirk’s singular voice rings throughout the text, giving insight into his convictions, his bravery, and his commitment to the life—in all forms—throughout this Galaxy and beyond. Excerpts from his personal correspondence, captain’s logs, and more give Kirk’s personal narrative further depth.

My Review:

I bounced off of two fairly serious books, and found myself staring at today with nothing to post. I gave up my attempts at serious for the week and turned to the book that was calling my name, loudly and with 60s theme music. As the 49th anniversary of the debut of a quirky little science fiction TV series called Star Trek occurred this week, it seemed like a fine time to dig The Autobiography of James T. Kirk out of my TBR pile.

Just in case you’re wondering, this is the story of the first James T. Kirk. Or perhaps the “Original Kirk”, in line with the naming convention of referring to the 1966-1969 series as “The Original Series” or TOS.

The framing story that sets up the book is interesting in and of itself. It is purportedly edited from a recording that Kirk made at Memory Alpha just before his “death” on the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B. Kirk was a ceremonial guest at the launch, but ended up saving the ship and being swallowed by an energy vortex when the ship was attacked. He saved the day (again) and was lost, presumed dead.

James T. Kirk in 2371

Memory Alpha really exists. It is the name of one of the Star Trek wikis. Fans know that Kirk was not killed on the Enterprise-B, but was lost in the Nexus vortex and returned to real space-time to finally die while helping his successor, Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise-D, save the universe from a madman intent on destroying the universe. Again. (This is the plot of the movie Star Trek Generations in a very tiny nutshell.)

Kirk’s last words were, “It was… fun. Oh my…” This Autobiography is a fleshing out of exactly what it was that was so much fun. And sometimes so much tragedy.

While the book is part of the convention of fiction that is written as though its protagonist was a real person, in the same way that the Sherlock Holmes stories are purported to be written by Dr. John Watson about his friend Holmes and merely edited by Conan Doyle, this book can be read as a fleshing out of Kirk’s biographical entry in our version of Memory Alpha.

It takes all of the incidents that are known from the series and movies, and turns them into a complete portrait of a fictional life. Because the story is told from Kirk’s perspective, we see things that we did not see on film. Kirk was so often a “cowboy”; cocky, self-assured, sometimes self-absorbed, and always coming out on top with a smirk or a smile. Through his eyes in this autobiography, we see all the times when that was an act, that the outward confidence often masked an inwards doubt. And sometimes a bit too much hubris.

A James T. Kirk, Starfleet Academy photo is shown in this undated handout photo provided by CBS, September 4, 2015.  REUTERS/CBS/Handout via Reuters
James T. Kirk, Starfleet Academy graduation photo

The other thing that this book does well is put some meat on the bones of the story we heard bits of but didn’t see – both his childhood and the years after his retirement from Starfleet. In the episode Court Martial, there is a recitation of all of Kirk’s many, many medals and awards. In the book, we see how he got those awards, without him talking about them directly. We read about the tragedy that led to Kodos the Executioner (The Conscience of the King), and the insanity of the Axanar peace talks. And there is plenty of information, and plenty of regret, in Kirk’s relationship with the son he virtually abandoned.

While the story does touch on some incidents from the TV episodes, it does not become a catalog of them. Only the incidents that impacted on the life of this fictional person get any mention. So we read his perspective of The Doomsday Machine and Obsession, but not The Trouble With Tribbles. And the inclusions and exclusions feel right.

Escape Rating B+: This is, without a doubt, a book for the fans, especially fans of the original series. For readers like me, who loved that show and remember it with extreme fondness, it is an absolute treat of a book. I read it in one sitting, mostly with a smile on my face. And occasionally with a pang in my heart. Which makes it a difficult book to rate. I loved it and was lost in it, but that has as much to do with my own nostalgia rather than it does the book.

For those who loved this show, even with its many faults, the throw away treatment of the events in the laughably awful movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, is guaranteed to bring a chuckle.

On the other hand, this book is no way to introduce anyone to Star Trek: The Original Series. And possibly not for fans of the reboot who are wondering what all the fuss is about. But for those of us who already know what made this show so marvelous, this is a chance to slip back to a universe we all remember with love.

Live long, and prosper.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-22-15

Sunday Post

The Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop ends 3/29, so you still have plenty of time to get lucky with a bunch of wonderful bookish giveaways.

This weekend is the official beginning of Spring. In Atlanta, it has been 70 and sunny, and 50 and rainy, all in the same week. We’ve had both the air conditioning and the furnace on, sometimes on the same day. If there’s one thing that Spring means, it’s changeable weather. I’m starting to think about getting a lounge chair and reading in the backyard for a few weeks, before it gets too hot here.

On this first weekend of Spring, I want to leave you with a little ditty that always makes me smile.

Spring is sprung,
Fall is fell,
Here comes Summer
And it’s hotter than…
Last year.

Current Giveaways:

Lucky-Leprechaun-Hop-2015The book of the winner’s choice (up to $10 value) in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
3 copies of Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks
2 ecopies of Romantic Road by Blair McDowell

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley is Anne.

cranky ladies of history by tansy rayner roberts and tehani wesselyBlog Recap:

Guest Post by Author Blair McDowell on The Real Romantic Road + Giveaway
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
B+ Review: A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
B+ Review: Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks + Giveaway
B Review: Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine by Scott Harrison
A- Review: Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely
Stacking the Shelves (127)

blink of the screen US cover by terry pratchettComing Next Week:

A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett (review)
Shadow Ritual by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne (blog tour review + giveaway)
Unchained Memory by Donna S. Frelick (review)
Idol of Bone by Jane Kindred (review)
The Kill List by Nichole Christoff (blog tour review)

Review: Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine by Scott Harrison

star trek original series shadow of the machine by scott harrisonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Length: 99 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: March 9, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

An e-novella set in the Original Series universe—taking place immediately after the events of the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

After its recent encounter with V’ger, the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned to dry dock to finish its refit before commencing its second five-year mission. The crew has been granted a two-week period of shore leave before preparations for their next voyage begins. Shaken by their encounter with V’ger, Kirk, Spock, and Sulu travel to their respective homes and must reflect upon their lives—now forever changed.

My Review:

Star_Trek_The_Motion_Picture_posterThis short novella is not exactly a story. Instead, it reads like three character profiles of people we know well. We see Kirk, Spock and Sulu at a pivotal point in their lives – the immediate aftermath of the V’ger incident portrayed in the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

It is also, for each of them a meditation on the place that is called home, and a glimpse into their relationships with people that we know of but are not necessarily familiar with.

The poet Robert Frost once said that, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Which does not mean that you necessarily want to go there, that you want to stay, or that it still feels like home to you.

For Jim Kirk, it is not a place that he wants to go; for Spock, not a place he wants to stay, and for Hikaru Sulu, not a place that feels like home to him.

Jim Kirk is called back to his family farm in Iowa. (“I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space”) His nephew Peter is being raised on the family farm, by Jim Kirk’s aunt and uncle, making Abner and Hanna Peter Kirk’s great-aunt and great-uncle. We’ve met Peter once before, in the episode Operation: Annihilate. His father, Jim’s brother Sam, and his wife Aurelan were killed in the invasion of the energy suckers. Only Peter survived.

Peter seems to have lost his way, or been lost in the black depths of depression after V’ger. He thought he was safe on Earth, but it has just been brought home to him, and everyone on Earth, that there is no such thing as a safe place. The teenaged Peter has lost interest in any future, and Jim’s Aunt Hanna hopes that something he might say to the boy will bring him back. That both is and isn’t the way it works.

Spock returns to Vulcan to tie up the loose ends related to his abandonment of the Kolinahr ritual at the beginning of the V’ger incident. Everyone he meets assumes that Spock plans to return to the ritual, but in meeting V’ger, he discovered that his human (and emotional) side has as much value as his logical and Vulcan side. He has been denying his own place in the IDIC principle (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) in his mistaken attempt to become fully Vulcan, which he is not.

In meeting with both his human mother Amanda and his Vulcan father Sarek Spock’s new knowledge of himself helps to further heal the family rifts that were apparent in the episode Journey to Babel.

Last, but in this case not least, Hikaru Sulu comes home to await the birth of his daughter, and while he is awed by the love and responsibility of becoming a new father, his partner also makes him aware that she understands him as much as she loves him. She is making a home for herself and their daughter, knowing and accepting that Sulu’s life is and will always be in space and not on Earth.

He discovers that he has a home, but it is not truly his.

Escape Rating B: While I enjoyed this, it is not so much a story as it is a visit with old and dear friends. The character portraits in this novella are definitely for the fans – there isn’t enough story to draw in anyone who is not already very familiar with Star Trek.

While this is an original work, there were quite a few points where the dialogue between the characters felt spot on – I could hear their voices in my head, including those that we will not hear again. For that gift, I thank the author.

Star Trek GenerationsThe bit of the story that was most original was Sulu’s story. He is not featured in as many of the stories as might have been – the Original Series was much less of a true ensemble than Next Gen, but in this case we learn a bit that has not been known before. Demora Sulu appeared in Star Trek Generations as the current helmsman of the Enterprise B, and Kirk greets her as Hikaru Sulu’s daughter – but no one ever knew anything about her mother or where she came into the story. This is that story, and it is illuminating.

I originally picked this book after reading and reviewing The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell. That true space science story had so many resonances with ST:TMP that I couldn’t resist reading a V’ger story. After the news about Leonard Nimoy’s death, I moved the book as far up the schedule as I could find a slot. It is only coincidence (but an excellent one) that this Sunday (March 22) will be William Shatner’s 84th birthday.

Live Long and Prosper.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.