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Protectors – Review

51gcPN47wnLOriginally posted at Trek.fm

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

-Sarah Williams, English poet

When we last left Voyager and the Full Circle fleet, Kathryn Janeway had returned from the dead and helped defeat the Omega Continuum, but at a very high cost. Protectors  picks up right after the events of The Eternal Tide and thrusts Janeway and the fleet into uncharted territory, both emotionally and physically. Beyer, with her usual deftness, weaves a much-needed story forVoyager while never losing sight of who the characters are. Her work here is outstanding, leaving every fan on the edge of their command chairs anticipating the next book in this trilogy.

BASICS

One of Beyer’s strengths in writing Voyager is an inherent knowledge of the characters and their potential. She used the previous four books to create vivid characters that jump off the page, making the reader exclaim, “I always knew the show could have been like this!” This book is no exception. The character of Janeway is brought to the forefront of the story as she is recalled to the Alpha Quadrant to face a battery of tests and evaluations in light of her resurrection. Beyer uses this to her full advantage, stripping Janeway to the bone and rectifying years of inconstencies. Counselor Cambridge says it best when he tells Janeway, “You could try to avoid this work for the rest of your life, Kathryn. But do that and I promise, eventually, it will bring you to your knees.” Janeway is forced to look at her life, her choices, and comes to terms with them.

What works so well here is the illustration of self-examination. Beyer uses Janeway’s personal and professional reckoning, as well as Tom Paris facing his past decisions, to show the ways in which our pasts can be something to fear but also prepare us for the future. We all have things in our lives that we are not proud of or wish we could take back. Gretchen Janeway tells Kathryn, “Just remember, regrets are powerful, but they are also lousy companions.” The past should teach and instruct — not cripple — and Beyer uses these characters to remind us of this important lesson.

CONCLUSION

Protectors is a slower book than The Eternal Tide, but the pace is needed. Janeway becomes a fully-realized character who will now be known for her depth rather than her inconsistencies. She has finally become the character fans always knew she could be, but never was on screen. Characters from Voyager that were so under-utilized, like Harry Kim and Chakotay, are given many shining moments and have become more than their one-note selves from the show. Beyer has also created a fascinating new Delta Quadrant group known as the Confederacy of the First Worlds, which is sure to be a foil for the Full Circle fleet.

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The Decline of the American Book Lover:

354750466_1383346651The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

Why Classic Movies Have Terrible Trailers:

imgpulp20fiction1Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, originally released in 1994, has aged gorgeously. It’s one of those rare films that can be watched and re-watched for 20 years and remain as shocking, vivid, and irresistible as the year it was released.

The 1994 trailer, however, now seems corny and dated by comparison.

Porn and Future Marriage:

Indulgence in pornography is not a problem that only young, unmarried boys face. It’s an epidemic that stretches into the realm of men who are married and women of all kinds (young or old, married or not). However, this post is aimed particularly toward young, unmarried men. The reason I am speaking to this particular group is because I know from firsthand experience the complications that this addiction causes for young men and their future marriage.

On TV: BBC’s Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse”:

673acbad-274c-42fe-96c5-83aabb26bf5e_sherlock-season-3BBC’s Sherlock has become one of my favorite shows on television, and it was immensely fun having some new material and quelling the peremptory curiosity left by the end of last season. It was genuinely enjoyable seeing Holmes back on the screen, even though, last night, Sherlock’s self-absorbed callousness was especially in-your-face – sort of making me wonder why I like BBC’s Holmes at all. All of his flaws were on high display, and they were made all the more irritating by his inability to apologize. And yet he remains compelling, not just immensely likeable, but even lovable, an obsession for some viewers (myself included) which the showrunners not-so-subtly parodied with The Empty Hearse Fan Club. And Sherlock’s disdain for them parallels Moffat’s condescension to the his viewers, opening the episode with a wild bungee jump and James Bond-esque kiss of Molly, followed by a breezy departure. Certainly some viewers would enjoy such action-hero panache, but we’re made to understand, early on, that this conventional smoothness isn’t, at all, who Sherlock is.

Peaceable Kingdoms – Review

cvr9781476718996_9781476718996_hrOriginally posted at Trek.fm

The Fall comes to an end with Dayton Ward’s Peaceable Kingdoms, and this series just might have been the most ambitious multi-author story Treklit has ever attempted. With the heart of the Federation on the razor’s edge of destruction, it is up to the crew of the Enterprise and her allies to uncover the mystery shrouding Pro-tem president Ishan as well as the assassination of President Bacco. As the hourglass empties, Picard finds that the answers he’s getting may be worse than imagined. Ward delivers a rousing conclusion to The Fall, as well as sets the stage for the future of the 24th century.

The Enemy Within 

In recent history, the Federation has lived on the edge. This has caused a reaction in many people of wanting it to stop, to protect themselves and feel safe. The ends begin to justify the means and optimism quickly turns to cynicism. Ishan is the embodiment of that. He is a man who, when faced with adversity, turned to survival as the highest value. But, as Star Trek as shown us, survival is nothing if it means sacrificing a civilization’s evolved and enlightened status. What is so smart about the series is that the enemy was not the Typhon Pact, but someone within the Federation, showing us that even the best things can be corrupted if not for constant vigilance. Wars and rumors of wars have an impact on a society and it becomes easy to lose sight of humanity’s greatest ideals in the face of annihilation. But it is through the dedication to the principles of the Federation that Picard, Riker and the other heroes of the story show us the importance of doing what is right, even when it is difficult, or else all that is truly good will be lost. The Fall has helped realign the 24th century and, in turn, has given us a mirror to evaluate ourselves. In the end, that is what Star Trek has always been about.

Conclusion

Ward does a great job of answering some lingering questions that have been floating around in the 24th century novelverse. It becomes clear that Picard and Crusher are far from retirement. Also, Crusher is given a prominent role in the unraveling of Ishan’s past. The dialogue is snappy and the character interactions are some of the best parts of the book, most notably Picard with Worf, as well as Picard with Chen. With The Fall’s end, the 24th century is ready to face the unknown once again. Anticipation for stories about DS9, the Aventine, Sisko, Bashir, the Titan and so many others have this reviewer on the edge of his seat.

Best Books I Read in 2013

7126The Count of Monte Cristo

Dumas writes with ease and this book cracks on at an always entertaining rate. The characters sparkle and the themes of life, love and revenge never go out of style.

Favorite Quote

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”

TheNightCircusThe Night Circus

I was intoxicated by this tale of two magicians that are involved in a competition against each other, unaware that it is the person they love most. Hauntingly beautiful, The Night Circus will have you page turning till there are no more pages, then wishing for more.

Favorite Quote

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”

photoOne Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

Grace, grace, God’s grace, it is what it is all about. This timely reminder that God has done for us what we could not and therefore all we need to do is rest in his grace, is the perfect antidote to a world that is broken and overrun with performance-based living throughout it’s entirety.

Favorite Quote

“Unfortunately, this is the way that so many Christians live: searching high and low for something we already have, trying to earn something we’ve already been given, forgetting that everything we need, we already possess in Christ. Or perhaps it’s not that we forget, perhaps it’s that we prefer having ‘elf on the shelf’ keeping track of our every move. It makes us feel safer. We would rather work under duress than live under freedom. Yet this is precisely why we need to hear, each and every week, the basic good news that because of Jesus’s finished work, we already have all of the justification, approval, significance, security, freedom, validation, love, righteousness, and rescue for which we desperately long – and look for in a thousand things that are infinitely smaller than Jesus”

9781414339351_p0_v2_s260x420C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

From my original review -

“This is a terrific biography that also dives into many of his most important books and looks at them critically. For anyone looking to understand Lewis and his works this is a wonderful place to start.”

9780525952459Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Keller has been very influential in my life through his writings and this book was no exception. He does a wonderful job of walking through the cultural understanding of suffering, the challenges of suffering on the Christian faith and then the last section of the book is the practical applications of faith in the midst of suffer. This is one of the finest books on this subject I have read.

Favorite Quote

“The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that.”

I-Do-and-I-DontI Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies

From my review (and I was right, it is on the list) -

“I highly recommend this book for film buffs and the novice. I also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in marriage. This book will leave you with a better understanding of the way marriage is seen now and give a context for why that is. This is one of the best books I have read this year and am certain that it will be on my top 10 list at the end of the year.”

Favorite Quote

“It was a supreme irony that moviegoers could be conned into believing in romance that lead to happy endings in one kind of movie, and then be shown that what came after happily-ever-after was pretty awful…and yet still be conned all over again into believing that the awfulness could be fixed, made new, and restored to the point of the original happy ending. (And of course, be conned even further into going to more romantic comedies.)”

Smith_Elizabeth-the-QueenElizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

A fascinating look at a woman who has been queen for over 60 years. For such a public figure, Elizabeth has done a remarkable job of keeping herself private. Smith cracks open the palace to give an in depth account of her amazing life.

 

71IGT31I9aLInsurgent

This is the second book in the Divergent series and my favorite. The first book sets up the story, world and characters, the second is able to dive into each of these in more depth. Roth fleshes out her main character much more in this second installment, making it the best of the series.

Favorite Quote
“May the peace of God be with you,” she says, her voice low, “even in the midst of trouble.”
“Why would it?” I say softly, so no one else can hear. “After all I’ve done . . .”

“It isn’t about you,” she says. “It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift.”

star-trek-the-fall-the-crimson-shadowThe Crimson Shadow

From my original review -

“When a book transcends genre, it reminds you that great books are just that: great books. The Crimson Shadow does this fantastically. The best in science fiction, as well as Star Trek, has always been about us, our struggles and problems allegorized in a palpable medium. Una McCormack’s continuation of The Fall is brilliant.”

Favorite Quote
“But you understand, don’t you, that the institutions don’t matter? The Obsidian Order, Central Command, the True Way, Starfleet, empires, unions, federations-these are names and names only. They are tools. They count for nothing if the purpose is flawed. That was my mistake for a long time – confusing the purpose with the instrument….The truth is that the institution flourishes only when the people who comprise it flourish. And if the people are sick, the institution will be sick.”
Comment and tell me your favorites! Follow me on Goodreads to keep track of what I am reading.

The Poisoned Chalice – Review

Originally Posted on Trek.fm

USE_ST.Fall_.Poisoned_.Chalice_.Cvr_“There is rot at the core of the Federation…and we are going to put it to an end.” — William Riker

The penultimate book in The Fall has been released and The Poisoned Chalice continues the story with distinction. James Swallow’s entry is filled with action and suspense as the crew of theTitan and some familiar faces try to unravel a seemingly endless tapestry of lies and misinformation. With the heart of the Federation at risk, the stakes have never been higher.

IN THE PALE MOONLIGHT

The Fall series has been rife with connections to our own world, and The Poisoned Chalicecontinues on this grand Trek tradition. As Riker digs deep into the mystery that is pro-tem President Ishan, the rabbit hole continues to grow. The Titan and her crew find themselves facing a Federation as topsy-turvy as Wonderland. With secret executive orders and the disappearance of political prisoner Julian Bashir, the heart of the Federation seems to be rotting from the inside out. Swallow uses the realities of Cold War Europe, as well as War on Terror tactics, to create a rich and compelling story.

The Federation has been beaten down, and because of it, has begun to push agendas “…based on fear instead of hope.” The wars have created a generation that has know only fear and terror on all sides. Self-protection has become the highest virtue for many, which has slowly eroded the very things the Federation has held most dear since its inception. Swallow crafts a mirror for the 21st century in the 24th century — one that may reflect the worst of what we’ve become.

CONCLUSION

The Poisoned Chalice will have you on the edge of your seat for the entire read. Swallow gives us just enough to satiate us in this political/action thriller until Dayton Ward’s Peaceable Kingdoms is released at the end of December. There are so many great character moments for Riker, Troi, Vale, Tuvok and the Andorians, giving growth to some of the best-loved Trek characters. This is a standout novel, using the best of Trek storytelling to challenge the reader as well as entertain. This book is rated 10 out of 10 Andorian Atlire-class escort cruisers, since the one in this book is named after me, the Mat-Rus. (Thanks, James. I am eternally in your debt.)

A Ceremony of Losses – Review

star-trek-the-fall-a-ceremony-of-lossesThe full review can be seen at Trek.fm

“The Path of Light can only be found by those who brave the Road of Storms and weather its ceremony of losses.”

The Federation stands at a crossroads. In the wake of President Bacco’s assassination, thetenuous peace between the Typhon Pact and the Federation is on the edge of a knife. With new sanctions against the people of Andor (who succeeded from the Federation three years ago) being implemented by hawkish pro-tem President Ishan, political machinations have never been higher. The future of Andor, whose people are a hundred years from dying out are pawns in an intergalactic chess match. It falls to Thirishar ch’Thane and Julian Bashir to risk everything to save Andor and maybe even the Federation from itself.

The Crimson Shadow – Review

This is a portion of my book review for Trek.fm. The full review can be found there.

When a book transcends genre, it reminds you that great books are just that: great books. The Crimson Shadow does this fantastically. The best in science fiction, as well as Star Trek, has always been about us, our struggles and problems allegorized in a palpable medium. McCormack’s continuation of “The Fall” is brilliant. With part of the story concurrent with David George’s book and the second half dealing with the aftermath of Federation President Bacco’s assasination, McCormack creates suspense on every page as the the Khitomer Accord alliance between the Federation and Cardassia hangs by a stembolt.

Second Chances

After ten years of negotiation, Cardassia is poised to break out of the past as the withdraw of Federation troops is about become a reality with the deal that Bacco and Garak have reached. Yet, trouble is brewing on Cardassia Prime as old factions push an even older agenda: Cardassia first. Cardassia grapples with the pains of doing the same things over and over again and expecting a better result, only to have the past repeat itself. This leaves the Cardassian people with a choice of saving their souls by learning from the past or annihilation through civil war or outside force. In the same way as Germany post WWI and WWII had a choice, so do the people of Cardassia. McCormack draws on past and recent history to bring us face to face with the challenges we still face today. Personally, nationally and globally, the issues are the same. Are we are own worst enemy, doomed to repeat mistakes or will we learn and change, forging a better future? This is the test that Garak and all of Cardassia faces.

The rest of the review is at Trek.fm

Revelations and Dust – Review

Revelation_and_Dust_solicitation_coverThis is a portion of my book review for Trek.fm. The full review can be found there.

“The Fall” is the epic new 24th century miniseries that closes out 2013 for Star Trek Books. David R. George III had a daunting task with this first entry: 1), create the new DS9; 2) set up the series to follow; 3) continue the ongoing DS9 saga that started in “Avatar” over 12 years ago; and lastly, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Emissary.” The book performs all of these tasks exceptionally well and leaves readers on the edge of their seat in anticipation.

 PAST TENSE

The mythic nature of DS9’s storytelling has helped it transcend the time period which it was created and still speak freshly into succeeding generations’ lives. There is hardly a better example of this than DS9’s premiere episode “Emissary.” George uses the scenes where Sisko encounters The Prophets and teaches them about corporeal nature as a well as linear time in conjunction with where he left Kira at the end of “Plagues of Night.” Kira finds herself face-to-face with Sisko, yet it is him from the past. The Prophets allow Kira to see his first interaction with them. Kira experiences Sisko’s pain as he is forced to relive the memories of losing Jennifer.

It is in the retelling of these scenes and Kira’s newfound perspective on her friend that the power ofDS9 shines through. The lessons that Sisko learns from The Prophets is just as important today as it was when it first aired. Everyone can get stuck in the past, lost in the memories of things done wrong or lost because of tragedy. It can become one’s identity and a defining moment, ruining the future because one is stuck in the past. George does a service to all fans by reminding us of this powerful truth, all while subtly moving Kira’s story along. Find the rest at Trek.fm

C. S. Lewis – A Life – Review

tumblr_mft42lRZw61qcx6sno1_500“It actually seems to me that one can hardly say anything either bad enough or good enough about life” C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis has been one of the most popular authors of the 20th century. He is still one of the most read authors in the 21st century; from children’s books in the Narnia series, to science fiction, to apologetic works, his influence has lived on. So how did this man, an atheist in his early life, become the patron saint of mere Christianity? What drove him and what was the thought process behind his greatest works? Who was Lewis? Is there a need for another biography of him when he has been written about by so many, including his good friend George Sayer as well as Dr. Alan Jacobs?

Alister McGrath’s new biography, C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet is much needed in my opinion. He meticulously read everything that Lewis had ever written in chronological order, “…so that the development of his thought and writing style could be appreciated.” Because of this he is able to challenge some long held assumptions about Lewis as well as reveal more clearly the thought process behind many of Lewis’ most famous works.

McGrath does not shy away from the truth of Lewis and his failings. Lewis has been such an icon in the Christian community for so long that he has almost become a saint. This book helps bring Lewis back down to earth, revealing a flawed man who had pain and struggles aplenty. By doing so, the writings of Lewis actually become all the poignant when they are put into the context of his life.

This is a terrific biography that also dives into many of his most important books and looks at them critically. For anyone looking to understand Lewis and his works this is a wonderful place to start.

You can also check out this great review at The Gospel Coalition.

The Weight of Worlds – Review

The_Weight_of_Worlds_coverThis a portion of my full review at Trek.Fm

“It would appear, Captain,” Spock said with a trace of amusement, “that your reputation precedes you.”

Once again, the Enterprise and her crew are on the edge of the final frontier and it is the only ship standing between the Alpha Quadrant and a crusading invasion that will stop at nothing to convert the entire galaxy to their truth. It’s up the entire crew to make sure that doesn’t happen before the gravity of the situation gets out of control.

WHAT IS TRUTH?

Secluded on the fringes of Federation space, the Ephrata Institute is under assault from an unknown alien force. The institute is one of the Federation’s leading centers for academic study.The Ialatl, a mono-culture race, appear through a rift in subspace and announce that they have come to save our dimension from the end of all things and bring the weight of the truth to secure salvation for all. What follows is a classic Original Series tale with a big theme.

The Ialatl claim that they have cornered the market on truth and must spread that truth by force if necessary. The Ialatl come from a dimension where they are the only intelligent life. Their faith and unity have created a society of wonder and scientific advancement. The commitment to the truth has given them harmony until the discovery that there was another dimension that has no knowledge of the “truth.” Author Greg Cox uses this to ask one of the biggest questions that there is: “What is truth and is it universal or contextual?” The answer has never been simple, but this book gives the reader the opportunity to think deeply about the question.

The second thing that this question of truth brings to the story is the idea of proselytization. Religions all over the world have often resorted to extremist crusades and jihads to force “unbelievers” into belief with very little effectiveness. Even in the 23rd century, living out one’s beliefs with conviction, authenticity and well-reasoned arguments is still the best way to convince someone of your way of thinking. It’s the way the Federation works — no jihads, just conversation — and it’s effective.