Battles and Journeys Through the Stars

A double-feature today.  I recently read a Star Wars book and a Star Trek book, and it seemed natural to put them together in a post.  I don’t have a huge lot to say about either, so why not group up?

Star Wars: The Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre

This is one of the Star Wars books I read long ago, although stumbling over it at the library was a stroke of blind luck, as I certainly didn’t remember the title or author!  I did recognize the plot, though.

Han and Leia’s children (five-year-old twins, Jaina and Jacen, and three-year-old Anakin) are kidnapped by a cultish group that wants to bring back the Empire.  Leia takes a ship in pursuit, disguised as a bounty hunter.  Meanwhile, unaware of the kidnapping, Han and Luke are off investigating rumors about a lost group of Jedi.  They find an old flame of Han’s, and a bizarre creature (even by Star Wars standards) with healing powers and malevolent intent.

The point of view moves between Leia, Jaina and Han, which I found a little disconcerting at first, but I got used to it.  The different plot threads eventually link up, in a way that’s somewhat far-fetched but does work.

The characterization was good here and, like with Star Trek books, I always enjoy books that let me revisit old friends (so to speak).  It was fun to see Leia go off to be heroic without the guys, and I really enjoyed Jaina’s point of view.  As I discussed in my review of Ender’s Game, Jaina is a very smart, brave little girl–who nevertheless seems like a little girl!  I thought that was very nicely done.

I’ve complained about Star Wars books usually being about mopping up the last traces of the Empire, and to some extent that was what happened here…but the group that kidnaps the kids could just have easily been a weird cult with no Empire connection, so that didn’t bother me too much.  The details of it were very different than just being yet another battle.

All in all, a fun Star Wars adventure–not fantastic or Earth-shattering, but a light, fun read.

Star Trek: How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford

I’ve been wanting to read more Trek books, and I’ve been seeing this one in used bookstores for a while.  Doesn’t the cover look good?  It makes you want to know why Kirk’s wearing a suit–and why he has that expression!  I haven’t read Worlds Apart Book 1, but as far as I can tell from a plot synopsis, they have no significant connection.

So I dived in here based on the cover and a recommendation–and sadly, the book wasn’t quite up to its promise.  It actually read a lot like fanfiction–in good ways and bad.  It started so well, eating breakfast on the Enterprise, where Kirk inexplicably wound up with blue orange juice and McCoy grumbled about early mornings.  Then we jump to a survey ship whose computer seems to be an escapee from a Douglas Adams book, and where a mix-up floods a shuttle with peppermint milkshake.

It’s silly and fun and it’s like fanfiction, where writers are more willing to push the boundaries of what’s reasonable for the sake of a laugh.  Believe me, I was the queen of that when I wrote fanfiction.  I flooded the Enterprise with orange juice–twice.

But then the book went too far.  It’s a very, very thin line between really funny, and dragging your characters out of character and into a universe that is, dare I say it, just too illogical.  (And I won’t swear that I never crossed that line myself!)

The actual plot centers around a human-colonized planet, where massive deposits of very valuable dilithium have been discovered.  Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, the Federation and the Klingon Empire can compete for rights to develop the planet.  The Enterprise and a Klingon ship both arrive on the scene for a diplomatic mission.  They beam down into a small town apparently populated by lunatics who can’t quite decide if they’re in a Hitchcock film, a Laurel and Hardy silent comedy, or a Gilbert and Sullivan musical–complete with characters randomly bursting into song.

What works for Gilbert and Sullivan doesn’t work in a Star Trek novel.  Putting song lyrics into the middle of scenes is just odd.  In fact, the whole book is odd, and made worse by the regular characters not quite acknowledging just how odd it all is.  They do think it’s weird, but not to the extent they should.  It’s too bad because there are some funny parts in here–Scotty challenges a Klingon to an honor match of golf, for one example.  The whole novel finally winds up with a food fight.

Part of me wants to love that–but a bigger part of me says that there’s no way Kirk and a Klingon captain, in their right minds, would actually end up throwing pies at each other.  Ford had a good idea here–and then I feel like he ran too far with it.  I love funny Star Trek stories and I love slapstick humor and I might have accepted much more of this if it really had been fanfiction–but it’s not, and I expect something different from published novels and this one just didn’t quite ring true to me.

But that’s all right.  I’ve been asking everyone I can think of for recommendations on Star Trek books to read, and I have MANY more to explore!

6 thoughts on “Battles and Journeys Through the Stars

  1. Re your review of the Star Trek book: maybe writers in that genre are like romance novel writers – it’s more important to keep churning them out rather than writing really well-thought-out stories. Good description of exactly why the book didn’t work for you.

  2. I read The Crystal Star years ago and barely remember it, although I do remember that I enjoyed it. I went through a phase that lasted from middle school until midway through high school where I read as many of the Star Wars extended universe books as I could get my hands on. 😀
    Popping over to your review of Ender’s Game now, since I finished reading it last week.

      1. I thought that the Bounty Hunter trilogy was pretty fun. It deals with what happened to Boba Fett after he fell into the Sarlaac Pit in Return of the Jedi. I can’t vouch for the writing style in any of the books though since I read them so long ago.

        1. I feel exactly the same way! I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was around twelve, and now I don’t feel like I can comment on the writing because it was so long ago and I was so much younger.

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