Book Review: Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett

The saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise. From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

The Captain’s Oath is told from two timelines: when Kirk is first assigned to the Enterprise and his time as captain of the Sacagawea just prior to the Enterprise. The novel jumps back and forth between the 2 timelines, but it’s easy to follow. Some of the crew of the Enterprise doubt their new, young captain. And their mission to diffuse a conflict will test Kirk. And in the past, Kirk has tough decisions to make about the Prime Directive and the fate of an entire race.

While the two unconnected storylines seem a bit strange, it just tells an overall story about Kirk and the man he is. This complex and engaging read. And there are plenty of mystery, suspense, and moral quandaries. Kirk is the one who doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios, but he is faced with several. He’s a rule follower, so it’s always fun to see him bend the rules and give us opportunities to think about what we would do in his place. I always enjoy these “missing years” novels, and this is no exception. TOS fans will definitely want to pick up this one.

SciFi Book Review: Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

An old flame of Jayne Cobb’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help. She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin. Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favorite gun, as collateral that Mal realizes he’s serious.

When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost called Coogan’s Bluff, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up. A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud.

The Magnificent Nine is set after the tv series, but before the movie Serenity. So, the full crew is all here. And this certainly feels like an episode of Firefly and definitely a classic Western. The crew of the Serenity race to help a small town fight off a gang. Jayne has a special history with one of the residents who requests his help, and her daughter happens to be named after him.

This latest Firefly novel is a lot of fun. Besides the crew that we already know and love, there are several interesting new characters. The main villain has an interesting backstory with a bit of mystery. This story has plenty of dangerous villains, suspense, and humor. And a bit of poignant heartwarming drama rounds it out. The flashbacks help move along the current story. And the climactic finale doesn’t disappoint. I love that the series is continuing in novels. And this latest installment is a great addition.

SciFi Book Review: The Kingdom

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Welcome to the Kingdom… where “Happily Ever After” isn’t just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species—formerly extinct—roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty—and what it truly means to be human.

Ana is a bioengineered human, created to be a real Disney-like princess for The Kingdom. She is allowed certain privileges, but then begins to have thoughts and longings beyond her programming. But during a trial, lawyers will try to prove whether or not she is capable of murder.

The Kingdom is a Westworld version of Disneyland. People can visit for an escape into fantasy and see animals that might otherwise be extinct. The story is told from two separate points in time: the “present” as Ana and The Kingdom is on trial for murder and the past as Ana grows beyond her programming and even falls in love. I was captured from the start. The story is full of suspense, mystery, and drama. It’s inspired and beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed this surprising YA novel.

SciFi Book Review: This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

Cat has been surviving in a harsh, plague-ridden world for years. And when a young soldier arrives, Cat doesn’t trust him at all, even when he says he knew her father. When she discovers that she is the key to unlocking the cure, Cat and Cole embark on a dangerous trek to her father’s lab in hopes of saving humanity.

This Mortal Coil is the first in a apocalyptic trilogy. The plague in this novel causes humans to turn feral and zombie-like and eventually explode, causing the infection to spread further. As a unique twist, a temporary cure for the plague is to cannibalize and infected person before they rupture. It’s disturbing, but the darkest part about the story. The danger and suspense is non-stop. With a bit of romance, and a lot of fun plot twists – this impressive debut is was very hard to put down. I will definitely read the next installment soon.

Fantasy Book Review: Spark

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst

Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, and Mina longs for a storm beast of her own. But when the gentle girl bonds with a lightning beast—a creature of fire and chaos—everyone’s certain it’s a mistake. Everyone but Mina and the beast himself, Pixit. Quickly enrolled in lightning school, Mina struggles to master a guardian’s skills, and she discovers that her country’s weather comes at a devastating cost—a cost powerful people wish to hide. Mina’s never been the type to speak out, but someone has to tell the truth, and, with Pixit’s help, she resolves to find a way to be heard.

Mina is a quiet and polite girl. So when she hatches a lightening beast, even her parent’s think it’s a mistake. But Mina has already formed a deep bond with Pixit, and is determined to succeed despite everyone’s doubts. But while training, Mina and Pixit learn a devastating secret. And despite her nature, Mina must speak out to make things right.

Spark is a heartwarming, standalone fantasy novel for all ages. I’ll read anything by Sarah Beth Durst, but this is definitely one of my favorites. The dragon-like “beasts” were like the dragons in the book Eragon, as they communicate telepathically with their bonded human. I’m sure several fantasy series have this take, but I don’t typically read quite as much fantasy involving dragons. The human characters are engaging and believable. And the story is exciting, suspenseful, and dramatic. I didn’t really grasp the idea behind the lightning beasts and how their humans worked in tandem, but it didn’t affect my reading experience. I highly recommend this sweet and inspiring, middle reader novel.

Fantasy Book Review: Stepsister

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe . . . which is now filling with her blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she’s turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she’s a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a bold girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. She cut away pieces of herself in order to become pretty. Sweet. More like Cinderella. But that only made her mean, jealous, and hollow. Now she has a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Isabelle is a surprisingly likable and relatable young woman. She’s naive but has a good heart. She made some bad decisions when her heart was turned against Cinderella, but now she just wants to make amends. But Fate has other ideas.

Stepsister is an inspired take on one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. The story is a bit dark, with forces set against her happy ending. It’s full of suspense, drama, heartache, and a bit of romance. I absolutely loved this incredible story and the engaging characters. This standalone novel is a must-read for fairy tale fans from teens to adults.

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