Star Trek 7 Review

As all listeners to the main show know, I’m relatively new to Trekdom.
I’ve seen roughly sixty eps and five movies of the more than six hundred episodes and dozen or so movies.
Also, folks who know me know that I always go looking past what appears on the screen to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of the various characters and universes that tickle my fancy.
In that regard, why should Trek be any different?
Let’s figure out together what I think of this book, because it’s a bit more complicated than normal.

As per usual, this should be taken as your official ***SPOILER WARNING***

Published in July 1972, this book is a short story collection that adapts 6 episodes from Star Trek’s original 1966 series into prose.
Now 1st of all, I have to say up front here that I have never watched any of the Episodes that are adapted within this book, and in my research, I found that author James Blish apparently hadn’t either, and boy does it show a few times!
According to Wikipedia, Blish reportedly wasn’t a fan of the TV series, but the books paid well and kept him afloat.
Never is it more apparent that he didn’t watch the show than when he writes of people slamming doors in frustration aboard the Enterprise.
Even I, in my limited (but ever growing) Trek knowledge know that the doors on the 1701 are automatic!

The 6 episodes he adapts are “Who Mourns For Adonais?”, “The Changeling”, “The Paradise Syndrome”, “Metamorphosis”, “The Deadly Years”, & “Elaan Of Troyius”, the most famous of these episodes (at least from my feeling) being Metamorphosis.
I’ve heard a lot about this one after watching TNG eps and watching all 4 of the TNG era movies.
Zefram Cochrane, the man who was responsible for humanity’s warp travel and introducing Earth to the galaxy at large makes his very first appearance.
Here, still alive after more than 150 years after he was presumed dead, is the dude being kept alive by a malevolent energy force on a far flung planet.
It’s interesting to see how this character went through such a change between this and the TNG era.
As I’m hopeful the episode itself does, this adaptation gets across that he truly is a legend in the universe, and it’s fun seeing how Kirk and the other icons that the audience watch form before their eyes interact with a character like that.

There are some batshit wacky stories in these here hills too, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad.
For instance, Who Mourns For Adonais?, where we learn that the Greek gods were real aliens who craved our devotion, then left Earth when humankind turned our backs on them.
It’s a pretty clever exploration of our mythologies and where they may have come from.
Another great example of wackiness is The Deadly Years, where the landing party of The Enterprise is infected with a rapid aging disease that calls into question the mental facilities of the commanding officers.
It’s a solid sci-fi exploration of aging and experience.
Both stories are way out there, but both are fun and interesting.

To start wrapping up, I think the weirdest thing about this book is that it yet again points out the huge difference between 60s TV and modern TV shows that I’ve talked about many times in regard to Scooby, and it’s never meant as a slam.
Not a one of these stories runs over 40 pages, and while reading it’s hard to believe these stories filled an hour of TV at any point in history.
While they are great stories, there’s a lot of hallway walkin’.
And I’m not quite sure if the lack of detail is a result of the time or Blish’s alleged disinterest.
But my most important take away after reading this is that while I’m only halfway through Season 1 of TOS, I know for I certain have more high quality stories to watch.
Because if a dude who doesn’t even like it can pull this much fun out of it, the actual episodes have to damn good.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Death Warmed Over Review

I’m not gonna bullshit you here: I’ve been talking up this series since Episode 37 (nooch!) of The Main Show and Ep 88 is on the cusp of dropping in the next fortnight or so.
To put it bluntly, this is a Dan Shamble book, so you know damn well that I love it.
Now if that’s all you came here to find out, that’s all good, man!
Sincerely, I thank you for taking the time and visiting the site.
Take a look around and read some of our other features, reviews, and articles, I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

But if you’re still here, if you want to know exactly why I love this book, let’s dive into it, gang.

As per usual, this right here is your requisite ***SPOILER ALERT***

Still reading?
Okay, groovy.
Now for those keeping score, this is the very first Dan Shamble novel, but this was not the first that I read.
I was curious after reading the third book first if reading them chronologically would make an impact on how the world unfurls and since it’s been a while and I’ll be rereading them all in order I’ll be better able to answer that by the time I write my review for book three.
I’ve also wondered how this origin story plays out in context too, and the answer is pretty damn well.

We meet Dan a month post mortem, he died when some sneaky prick snuck up on him and blasted his brains all over the sky…or at least the alley that he was walking through at the time.
We’re quickly introduced to his world and learn about the string of coincidences that caused all monsters and mythological creatures to come to life (a.k.a. The Big Uneasy) ten years ago, which include a particularly perfect planetary positioning, a copy of the Nerconomicon, and a virgin with a paper cut.
We meet his ghost girlfriend, Sheyenne, and find out she was killed by a poisoned drink not long before Dan himself got popped in that alley, and that they suspect their murders are connected as he was investigating hers when his went down.
His partner in Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, Robin Deyer, is introduced to us as a lawyer that fights for her clients as if they were her family, never backing down from the struggle of Unnaturals and their still murky rights and privileges.
In short, Kevin J. Anderson sets up the entire world of the Unnatural Quarter efficiently and effectively.

I take the Stan Lee approach when I write these reviews, every review is somebody’s first.
Now I know I have talked about a fuck ton of Mr. Anderson’s work in these reviews, and certain phrases tend to pop up time and time again.
But that doesn’t make them any less true.
The dude is one of the most economical writers I know of.
In every book of his I read I never feel like I’m muddling around in an ocean of words waiting for him to dive in and drag up from the depths some deeply hidden objective like I have with other writers whose work I’ve reviewed.
You can tell he’s having fun, but he’s not wasting pages with some boring story about some random dude that our main characters once passed by and never did, or will, see again.
If he mentions a character or place, you best be damn skippy that off handed mention is gonna mean something or play into the story later.

Unlike a TV detective, Dan & co are always juggling multiple cases at any given time.
For this first go round the Chambeaux & Deyer gang’s caseload includes trying to get a divorce settlement finalized favorably for a monthly werewolf client who happens to be married to a former adversary of Dan’s, a nervous Vampire who keeps receiving threats from an anti-monster hate group and whose neighbors are disappearing, a witch whose sister was transformed into a pig due to a typo laden spell book, a family whose drunken uncle won’t stop bothering them now that he’s died and returned as a ghost, a mummy who doesn’t want to be museum property, trying to track down a giant creature that’s smashing windows all over town, all while trying to solve Dan & Sheyenne’s own murders.
All of that is jam packed into just about three hundred pages.

Look, gang, the bottomline here is that I love a good origin story and this is a damn good one.
After just a few chapters of Dan’s Noir-ish narration, you understand exactly how this world works.
I’ve said many times that this series feels like The Addams Family, The Munsters, and a great detective show like The Rockford Files or Monk were thrown into a blender, and I stand by it.
It’s odd, mysterious, fresh, interesting, quirky, fun, and enthralling every step of the way.
It’s a great pick me up, and it great if you want something that fits the Halloween season that isn’t super heavy, because while it may be a story of death and monsters, it has a solid heart under all of that necrotic flesh.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Fantastic Four: Redemption Of The Silver Surfer Review

In my experience, Marvel’s First Family has, no pun intended, a rocky history outside of the four color realm.
I’ve read a few novels over the years that have been dull, to put it lightly, and, though I enjoyed the first two, the movies have been been generally derided by the vast majority of fans.
So going into this, I was a wee bit worried.
But were those worries unfounded?
Let’s find out, gang!

As per usual, consider this your official 22 year ***SPOILER ALERT***

Michael Jan Friedman is a dude whose work I have always dug.
I will admit I haven’t read all of his books and stories, but what I have read has never disappointed me.
The Marvel stuff he has written has always left me feeling like this is a guy that spent his time wallowing in comics and nerddom (a fact I also noticed while reading his X-Men/Star Trek The Next Generation novel, Planet X), this book does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
To put it plainly, he fuckin’ gets it, man!

It’s beyond obvious from the jump that he knows these characters well. Specifically Silver Surfer, who he quickly and economically gets across the back story and guilt of.
For those who may not know, this is a dude that spent too many years condemning entire planets, races, and civilizations to death for the devourer of worlds, Galactus.
Silver Surfer has spent all the years since he broke away from Galactus trying to balance the scales in anyway he could, which gives us our title and a solid A-plot that’s deftly disguised as a potential B-plot.

Which leads me to my only real, and admittedly minor, issue with this novel.
The Surfer is the star of this book, he’s not a guest in any sense, but our titular heroes do feel almost like guest stars.
I don’t hate that Norrin Radd is in the spotlight at all, but it does feel a bit like the Fantastic Four title was used for the wider general name recognition.
And believe me, it works perfectly to hook you in!
But I did finish the story wishing that I had gotten at least 1 chapter that focused on the FF together before the trip to the Negative Zone and maybe one at the tail end just to beef up their presence a little.

The fact that the Negative Zone and it’s inhabitants haven’t been the focus of one of the movies is a damn shame, and this book is full of all the evidence you could need to support that.
Reed, Ben, and Johnny are prompted into the alternate universe when an old foe, Blastaar, sets hostages up for slaughter right near their outpost in the zone.
Blastaar lures them in, not for a fight this time but for their help, having felt their combined power first hand, to defeat a coming threat – a destroyer of worlds, much like Galactus, named Prodigion.
The trio decide to look on as Blastaar tries to destroy Prodigion’s ship and crew as something feels off.
Johnny is injured and taken aboard the vessel, Sue and the Surfer show up to help, and things get even more complicated than any of them were led to believe.
The turns in this are great.
Prodigion going from villian, to hero, and back and forth again until his final reveal leave you with a great sense of mystery and suspense until the end.

Bottom line: Surfer’s story is suitably heartbreaking and involves a chance at happiness, and the aforementioned redemption, he has so desperately craved for the 1st time in ages and it’s handled with the care and ease of somebody who has the writing and in universe experience to give it the weight it deserves without being laughable.
If you are a fan of the FF and their supporting characters, snap this up if you stumble across a copy.
Now I’m gonna go searching for more of Michael Jan Friedman’s TNG work.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out Review

For those that may not know or remember, Monk was a USA Network TV series about a modern day Sherlock Holmes (with, somehow, more idiosyncratic quirks) and his assistant Natalie (for our purposes, Watson) who were consultants with the San Francisco Police Department to solve various murders and mysteries.
It ran for 8 seasons, and the series finale for this show even held the record for the highest rated single episode of television for a while.
In short, this was a major TV intellectual property, so of course there was a series of novels based upon it.

This particular book is the 10th original novel in the series, and it was written by a man that worked on the show and wrote all of the previous 9.
After working with a character for that long, one would imagine that not many could handle the world and its inhabitants better.
So let’s dive in and see just how good of a handle Mr. Goldberg has on Adrian Monk and his universe.

As per usual, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

The short reply is that Lee Goldberg may need surgery to ease up his grip on Monk, because 10 books in it’s still vise like.
The dude knows the ins and outs of every nook and cranny of Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, & Disher.
He knows every inch of their minds, quirks, assorted little ticks, and attitudes.

Here’s what happened: Monk gets fired as a consultant with the SFPD due to budget cuts again.
All the while one of the biggest trials in the history of the Bay Area is about to begin for a man, Bob Sebes, who stole billions in an insane ponzi scheme that fleeced thousands, one of that group being Adrian Monk.
Jobless and penniless, and with all of the witnesses that can put the palindromicly named Sebes in prison dropping like flies, Monk can’t help but solve the murders…no matter how much Natalie tries to stop him and save their jobs.

The genius of these books is that, again in Holmesian tradition, Natalie plays our narrator.
Now, in the series, there was no narration, so you might think it would be a bit jarring to suddenly go so intimately into a character’s mind and read their every thought.
But not at all!
Natalie, though often meek on the show, has the best position to tell you every detail of the mystery and then give you moments to cool down and mull over the progress and frustrations of the story when she’s away from Monk that an omniscient narrator would make feel cold and detached.
And you get to see more of her fiery side, which makes her a more fleshed out character and improves/shades Traylor Howard’s already great performance.
It was the perfect choice from the start of this series and it continues to serve it well 10 deep.

Much like his brother Tod (read my review of Tod’s novel Burn Notice: The Reformed HERE to see exactly what I mean), Lee has the ability to translate the characters from the screen to the page with impeccable precision.
Which makes me wonder what was in their water growing up, how the hell did it bring forth such skillful writing talent?
The dudes know how to tell an extended story (compared to the shows these books are based on) and not have it feel stretched too thin to meet a page count or not spin its wheels on any unnecessary down beats that bore.
Just out of curiosity, I have always wondered how many episode scripts these novels equate to?
It feels like 2-3, but I am interested to find a hard answer just for a better understanding of the content they provide.

So to wrap up, Monk has always been a tragic and tortured character, and while that is a bit more exaggerated in these books than it was in the show, these stories are a great way to understand and spend more quality time with a character that spent 8 years and more than 100 episodes showing us that it’s okay to be flawed or damaged.
It’s okay to be different or weird.
It’s okay to be…you.
You just have to find your path and your Natalie to help you keep your shit together, gang, cause it’s a jungle out there.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown Review

This book ended up being the final novel released in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, aka Legends, timeline.
I have no clue if Joe Schreiber knew at the time he was writing it that he was the penning the swan song for an entire line of continuity or not, but none the less he was swinging for the fences.
The question at this point is did he get it over the wall or did he swing wild and fling his bat at the pitcher, slamming him in the face and unleashing a torrent of blood, causing a bench clearing brawl the likes of which have never been seen before or since that will go down in history as…I may have gotten carried away just then, and I don’t even like baseball, but I think you see my point…let’s answer that question in less gory detail.

Consider this your official ***Spoiler Alert***

Sidious sends Maul undercover into a prison to meet with a mysterious weapons dealer to get a device to further one of his many secret plans and bring forth the Sith takeover we all know is coming.
Through algorithmic match making, this prison is a hub of fights and high stakes betting that brings the attention of the galaxy and some of its more seedy underworldy types.

This is the 3rd and final of Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars novels and I’m trying to decide if this is better than the 1st or not.
The race is so damn tight.
Death Troopers brilliantly handled Han & Chewie appearances while mixing in some kickass Zombie attacks.
This has Maul, Sidious, Plagueis, and Jabba in Pre-Phantom Menace action.
He has a way of dealing with these legacy characters that makes them feel less like untouchable art pieces and more like action figures that are going to get beat up and thrown back in the toy box for the next writer to take out and toss around for a bit, and I mean that in the best possible way.

His handling of Maul is great, displaying the pure stoicism of this brutal fighter is spot on.
Sidious takes lightsabers and the Force out of the arsenal of the horn headed apprentice, to keep his dark side allegiance secret, and it gives us a great insight into how his mind works and how he has been trained to adapt.
We see a new detective side to him as well as we follow him chasing down leads and rumors in the prison, hunting the arms dealer and coming to multiple deadends.
He almost comes off like The Punisher in that respect, and I loved it.

There are twists aplenty, and not a one had that all too familiar feeling of “are you seriously gonna try this hokey shit?” that can often be found in books/story that try to be too clever or deep for their own good.
They all have an air of “aw hell, why didn’t I see that coming?” to them.
One unexpected twist I’ll share is when Darth Plagueis shows up and starts undermining the plans of Sidious, confronting him about it to pretty much let him know he’s aware of the ongoing shenanigans, and then he cooly moves past it to discuss the grand plan for the approaching Sith takeover.
It’s tense as hell and almost worth the price of admission alone.

Tip to tail, this is a damn good book.
And while I enjoy the new main continuity, I hope at some point in the future that Disney/Del Rey will open the door and let the EU/Legends continuity thrive again.
Because if this is the level of story they were pumping out at the end, there were plenty more great stories to come.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.