WWW Wednesday – 24 July 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

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The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom (Hardcover)

I’m currently halfway through this book and hoping to finish it off in the next day or so.  I have been really looking forward to this book for a while, especially after Sidebottom’s previous book, The Last Hour.  So far it has not disappointed and I am really enjoying it.

Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett (Audiobook)

I am only a couple of hours into this but it is quite an interesting Star Trek book so far.

What did you recently finish reading?

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Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn (Trade Paperback)

Knight of Stars by Tom Lloyd (Hardcover)

King of Assassins by R. J. Barker (Audiobook)

What do you think you’ll read next?

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Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor (Trade Paperback)

Dark Blade by Steve Feasey (Trade Paperback)

I am currently working on a young adult column for the Canberra Weekly, and I am planning to feature the two books above as well as War of the Bastards by Andrew Shvarts.  It should make for a good column, which will be published in two weeks.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 22 July 2019

I’ve been lucky enough to receive a small but interesting collection of books in the last week from several publishers.  I am extremely excited about a couple of these books, but all of them sound extremely good and I hope I get the chance to check them all out.

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

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This is the book I am probably most excited about.  Howling Dark is the sequel to Empire of Silence, one of my favourite books from last year.  I have been looking forward to this book for a while, having featured it in one of my Waiting on Wednesdays and my recent Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 Releases list.

I only just got Howling Dark in the last day and was extremely happy when I received my copy.  However, I also got a nice surprise when I saw that Ruocchio mentioned my blog in his acknowledgements.  This was an amazing honour and I am glad that he enjoyed my review of his initial book.

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I am looking forward to checking out Howling Dark as soon as I can, and I am sure that I will really enjoy it.

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes

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This is a pretty amazing sounding historical murder mystery.  I absolutely love the idea of a murderer stalking a medieval castle while the inhabitants are stuck inside avoiding the plague and I am sure this will make for an incredible story.

Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati

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Another interesting sounding murder mystery.  At over 600 pages long, Where the Light Enters is a pretty massive read, but I think that it could be worth checking out.

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

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I have been getting into some Star Trek tie-in novels in the last year, including Available Light and The Way to the Stars, and The Captain’s Oath sounds like it could be another enjoyable read.

The Collaborator by Diane Armstrong

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The final book I got, The Collaborator, sounds like it is going to be a powerful piece of historical fiction, and I look forward to reading this deep and dramatic narrative.

Overall, I think that this is a pretty good book haul.  Each of the titles mentioned above have a lot of potential and it looks like I will have some excellent reading in my future.

WWW Wednesday – 17 July 2019

I’ve seen a few bloggers I follow participate in WWW Wednesday recently and I thought it would be an interesting and fun new meme to take part in. WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

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Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn (trade paperback).
I am about halfway through this book at the moment and it is pretty awesome. I loved the first two books in this series, Thrawn and Alliances, and Treason looks like it will do an amazing job finishing it off.

King of Assassins by R. J. Barker (audiobook).
I am finally getting around to reading another book on my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2018 list by checking out the audiobook version of King of Assassins. I’m one-third through this audiobook at the moment and I am really enjoying it.

What did you recently finish reading?

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The Kremlin Strike by Dale Brown

Nothing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer

A Capitol Death by Lindsey Davis (review to follow soon)

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am not entirely sure. I have a massive pile of books sitting at home at the moment and I want to read all of them, but for the sake of this question I have narrowed the list down to the top five I am currently considering:

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

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Angel Mage by Garth Nix

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Guardian of the Empire by Kylie Chan

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The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

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The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

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I honestly have no idea which one I am going to read next; they all sound pretty epic. What would you like to see a review of the most? This selection is likely to change at any moment for a variety of reasons, so don’t be surprised if the next book I end up reading is something extremely different.

I hope you enjoyed my first foray into WWW Wednesday; I know I did. I am planning to do this regularly from now on and I look forward to seeing what you think about the books I reading or planning to read and review in the near future.

Top Ten List – What Upcoming Television Shows could Replace Game of Thrones?

Like many people, I spent last night watching the Game of Thrones finale. While many are currently debating the quality of the final season, and will probably keep debating it for many years to come (I think I’ll keep my own opinion about this final season secret for my own safety), you cannot deny the impact that this show has had on worldwide television.

We are living in a moment of time where there are some incredible television shows out there, and the cultural impact and popularity of Game of Thrones is partially responsible for it. Not only did the show introduce the world to a whole new group of actors, many of whom are going to be major stars for years to come; it also showed world that television can be just as big, if not bigger than movies. Game of Thrones contained a huge amount of CGI, drama, dialogue and action sequences that put many major films to shame, and the quality of the CGI and action improved when the show’s budget ballooned out. I would argue that the popularity of shows such as Game of Thrones has encouraged more actors who gained fame in movies to jump back into television shows, often to great effect. It is also interesting to note that the success of Game of Thrones has allowed for more fantasy shows to be made, as studios were more eager to back fantasy series, such as American Gods, after seeing how many people were interested in Game of Thrones. Now, with Game of Thrones gone, there is a substantial void in the television line-up that many networks are working to fill.

That’s where this article comes in. Ever since the end of the show has been announced, I have been wondering what television show is going to step up and be the next big epic television show. What is going to be the next Game of Thrones? As it happens, there are quite a few big and intriguing television shows on the horizon and this is a Top Ten List that I came up with that talks about which series I think have the most potential to fill the void left by Game of Thrones.

This sort of an article is a bit of a departure from what I usually write about; however, I’m going to justify it by saying that most of the shows I will be talking about are adaptations of books or comic books. I will be excluding shows that have already been airing for a while, although I did consider some of the sequels, prequels of spin-offs that have been announced. I am not saying that future seasons of shows such as Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods or The Walking Dead are not epic; it’s just that I am more interested in what new stuff is coming out. I admit, this is also a bit of a list of shows I am probably going to watch in the future, but I think they could all have the potential to emerge from Game of Throne’s significant shadow.

  1. Upcoming The Lord of the Rings Television Show

For the No. 1 position, I put the show that many people think has the most potential to outshine Game of Thrones, the new planned television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Without a doubt, The Lord of the Rings has to be the most iconic and popular fantasy book series of all time. The book series have already produced some incredibly epic movies, as well as the somewhat enjoyable The Hobbit movies. Naturally, any television show based on The Lord of the Rings books is going to be massive, and there is so much potential for massive battles and elaborate sequences, especially if the series is done right. Added in to that is the fact that the various production companies (mostly Amazon) are pouring some serious money into the show, and it will apparently be the most expensive television show ever made, taking the spot currently held by Game of Thrones.

There are not too many details about the show at the moment. A press release indicates that the show will look at “previously unexplored stories based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s original writings”, which indicates that they will be looking at stuff set way before the events of The Hobbit. Many people believe that this could mean that the series will cover Sauron’s first attempt to take over Middle Earth in the Second Age, as well as the forging of the One Ring, and you have to admit there are some amazing storylines that could be explored there. There is currently no release date for the show, nor has anyone been officially cast, but I think that no matter what happens, the sheer potential and appeal of The Lord of the Rings, as well the massive production budget, will turn this into a show really worth watching, and one which will prove to be the biggest challenger to Game of Throne’s reign as biggest television show of all time.

  1. The Mandalorian

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Now, this may be because I am a massive Star Wars fan, but oh boy, oh boy, am I keen for The Mandalorian. The Mandalorian is an upcoming live-action Star Wars television show, set to be released on 12 November 2019 as one of the starring shows of the new Disney+ streaming service. Set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the show will be set in the outer reaches of the galaxy and focus on the criminals and bounty hunters living out there. The show will primarily focus on the Mandalorian, a lone gunslinger with the iconic Mandalorian amour and weapons that Bobba Fett made famous.

While some of the latest Star Wars movies have been less than stellar, there have been some outstanding television shows, books and comics set in the Star Wars extended universe (check out my reviews of some of these here). The Mandalorian will be the first Star Wars live-action television show and has a huge amount of potential. Not only is Disney pumping in $100 million for the first 10 episodes but the show is being written and produced by showrunner Jon Favreau, whose previous production credits include Iron Man, The Jungle Book and The Lion King. They are also bringing in some significant talent to act and direct the various episodes. Favreau is directing an episode, but so is Takia Waititi (whom I worship after Thor: Ragnarok), Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Crow.

Let’s also talk about the cast: you have Game of Thrones and Narcos star Pedro Pascal as the titular Mandalorian, which is going to be pretty awesome, even if he’s wearing a helmet for most of the show. You also have Gina Carano, from Deadpool, as the female lead; Nick Nolte; Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito; Apollo Creed himself, Carl Weathers; as well as a bunch of other great actors, including Taika Waititi voicing a murderous droid, which should be fun.

All of these add up to one hell of a show, and the recently leaked trailer and footage look pretty damn awesome. Expect movie quality graphics here, as well as some top-level acting and direction. I was extremely tempted to put this as my No. 1 show, and I am so very keen to check this out.

  1. Watchmen

Watchmen

Watchmen, by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins, is considered by many to be one of the greatest comic book series of all times, and HBO is pinning their post-Game of Thrones future on a television adaptation of the series. Most people would already be familiar with Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation of the series (which is a bit mixed, but I liked it), and this upcoming television adaptation has some real potential as well.

Set to be released in late 2019, the new Watchmen adaptation already has a large and impressive cast put together, including Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson and Jeremy Irons. Not a lot of plot details have been revealed, although I believe it is going to be set after the events of the comic series and movie, especially as Jeremy Irons is playing an older version of Ozymandias. The first trailer showed a group of people dressed up like Rorschach, and it is possible they want to reveal the truth told in Rorschach’s journal that was sent to the New Frontiersman. I also believe that part of the plot will be pulled from the current series, Doomsday Clock, minus all the DC characters.

If done right, this Watchmen show can easily become one of the top shows of 2019, and the showrunners can take the series pretty much anywhere they want to. With the huge comic book fanbase already interested in this show, expect Watchmen to attract a huge audience.

  1. Upcoming MCU series

Quite honestly, nothing is hotter at the moment than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Avengers: Endgame only just recently blowing everyone’s mind and getting closer and closer to becoming the highest grossing film of all time, fans are eager to see where the story goes from here. For many of the characters, their story will be continued not in a movie but in a television show on Disney+, which I am jointly making my No. 4 choice. I admit I am cheating a little here, but as it is likely that these series will be somewhat connected (I am sure there will be crossovers and the like) and Marvel are creating a massive television universe, I am going to look at them together.

There are currently four planned live-action shows set to be released in 2020 and 2021, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki and a currently untitled Hawkeye series. There is also an animated Marvel’s What If…? series that will air on Disney+ but will not be connected to the other series.

With cast members from the movies leading each of these shows, there is no way that this will not be an amazing bit of television. By themselves, each of these shows has more potential than any other comic book television show currently out there thanks to their connection to the MCU, but when considered together these shows will be incredibly awesome. Expect Disney to spring for all manner of cameos from the MCU for the series, as well as some other impressive casting decisions (what big-name actor isn’t going to want to get involved in this?). I am also looking forward to seeing where all of these characters go after the events of Endgame, and there should be some awesome storylines happening here.

It looks like my Marvel comics/MCU addiction is going to be well taken care of in the next few years, and I am really looking forward to each of these shows, although I have some slight concerns about how much I’ll enjoy WandaVision. I think I am looking forward to Loki the most, mainly because Tom Hiddleston is just outstanding as the character. The Hawkeye series and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will also be great, and I am especially keen to see how Falcon and Bucky go without Cap holding them together (hoping for a bunch of Chris Evans cameos there).

  1. The Witcher

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You can bet your bottom dollar that Netflix is more than keen to get in on the fantasy game, especially after losing all their Marvel series. They actually appear to be set to have one of the first series to fill the hole that Game of Thrones leaves in the fantasy genre with their adaptation of The Witcher. Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher books are a well-loved series, especially in Europe, but their adaptation into the outstanding videogame series of the same name has also made them an extremely popular series in America.

The Witcher series follows Geralt of Rivia, a magically empowered monster hunter who wanders the land by himself, shunned by most other people. He encounters all manner of people on his journey, including a mysterious princess and a powerful sorceress, and he is constantly fighting for his own survival. As a result, this is a television series that can take its story practically anywhere and can adapt stuff from the books and games, as well as making new storylines as required.

The series is set to be released later this year, and the lead role has already been filled by Superman himself, Henry Cavill (who rocks the character’s trademark silver hair fairly well). I am a fan of this series (check out my review for the last The Witcher book here), and I have a feeling that this could be a massive series. It’s definitely going to have a huge and varied audience, with casual viewers, fantasy fans and gamers all keen to see this. I have not seen any footage of this show yet, but if the creators can get some good storylines and graphics going with this show, it could easily become one of the best fantasy television series on the market.

  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (Live Action)

OK, before I talk about this, let us just agree that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation, The Last Airbender, never happened. OK? Good!

In my opinion, Avatar: The Last Airbender is easily one of the best animated shows of the last 20 years. Featuring some first-rate storylines and a style heavily inspired by Japanese anime, Avatar is set in a world where certain people, known as benders, have the ability to control the various elements: earth, fire, air and water. Only one person, the Avatar, has the ability to control all four elements, and they take up a peacekeeper role for the various nations. But when the Avatar, a young airbender called Aang, disappears, the ruler of the Fire Nation engages in a genocidal war against the other nations, wiping out the Air Nomads and all the airbenders. After being trapped for 100 years, the still young Aang emerges and, with the help of his new friends, must train in the remaining three elements in order to become powerful enough to oppose the Fire Nation.

Netflix announced they were doing a live-action remake of this series last year, and fans were excited to finally get the live-action version of the show they deserved. Both of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are set to be executive producers and showrunners, and if anyone can produce a great Avatar live action series, it is those two. They have already announced that they will be casting a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast, which is already a huge step ahead of Shyamalan’s movie.

The series is currently set to be released in 2020, and I think it will be one of the best shows of next year. I absolutely loved the animated show and cannot wait to see where DiMartino and Konietzko take this series. This is one that will appeal to a younger audience than the other shows on this list, although all those people who are already fans of the animated series are bound to watch this as well. I think this new Avatar adaptation will be an easy hit, and if the creators can replicate the magic of their animated series, then this could be massive.

  1. Game of Thrones spin-off series

I cannot talk about potential successors to Game of Thrones without mentioning the various Game of Thrones spin-off shows that are currently being planned by HBO. I know some people might not be keen on these after the last season of the main show, but there are a huge number of spinoff shows out there that proved to be very successful, and if any series is capable of producing an iconic spin-off series, it is Game of Thrones.

There are currently three Game of Thrones series in early production at the moment. Two are currently being written, although their setting is yet to be confirmed. George R. R. Martin has suggested that some of these new series would be based on stories from his companion book, Fire and Blood, which chronicles various stories about the Targaryen dynasty. Readers can possibly expect stories about their initial conquest of Westeros, their fight to maintain it, the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, or perhaps an adaptation of the Tales of Dunk and Egg.

There is also one series that is currently being filmed. This series is going to be a prequel series set around 10,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, in the Age of Heroes, and is likely to focus on some of the major events that occurred during this time, such as the foundation of some of the great houses and the first time the White Walkers attacked Westeros. This series has already pulled together a massive cast, with Naomi Watts as the lead. A huge range of up-and-coming British talent has also been cast, as well as a few veterans like Miranda Richardson and John Simm (Queen Mab and the Master in Westeros, should be interesting). I’m not sure when this series will be released, but if they are filming at the moment, expect a 2020 release.

I honestly do not see why these series could not be just as awesome as Game of Thrones, and I am sure that many fans will be keen to see different periods of this fantasy world’s history. I think that the writers of this series will really have to up their game in the face of the criticism of Game of Thrones season 8, and it remains to be seen whether there is a certain fatigue from Game of Thrones fans that affects viewer numbers for this show.

  1. Snowpiercer

For the eighth show on my list, I am looking at the upcoming television adaptation of Snowpiercer. This show might be a tad too niche and out there to fill the Game of Thrones gap, but I think it has the potential to appeal to a certain audience. Snowpiercer is an adaptation of a 1982 French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, which was previously adapted into the 2013 movie Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans. This show will be a fresh adaptation, unrelated to the movie, aside from the overarching premise of humanity escaping frozen conditions on a giant moving train. There will also be similar themes of class warfare, social injustice and the examination of politics aboard the train, as well as certain secrets coming to the surface.

Snowpiercer has already put together a pretty massive and impressive cast, including Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, and the various character descriptions that have provided sound like a lot of fun. The show is set to premier in 2020, and I think that Snowpiercer could turn into quite an entertaining and popular series.

  1. Star Trek: Picard

There has been a bit of a Star Trek television revival in the last few years, with Star Trek: Discovery coming out in late 2017, and several additional series planned for the horizon. While Discovery has had a pretty solid run, the show that many Star Trek fans have been looking forward to is Star Trek: Picard, which sees the return of Patrick Stewart in his most famous role of Jean-Luc Picard.

Picard is set to be released later this year and will be set 18 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. Plot details about this series are still a bit vague at this point, but it sounds like in the intervening years Picard has left Starfleet, possibly under controversial circumstances. However, events such as the destruction of Romulus (as shown in the 2009 Star Trek film) have forced him back to Star Fleet. Not only will this story focus on Picard’s present but it will also act as a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation, showing why Picard is no longer the captain of the Enterprise. It also sounds like this will be a much darker story, with more morally ambiguous supporting characters and a much more different Picard.

Out of all the upcoming Star Trek series, this has to be the most interesting one, and the one most likely to attract a massive following. Having Patrick Stewart return is a real coup for the Star Trek creators, and I am really interested in seeing how much the character has changed. This one promises to be a really good show, and I think it has some real potential to be one of the best Star Trek shows of all time.

  1. The Kingkiller Chronicle.

I finish my list off with a show that I think could be as popular as Game of Thrones if it gets off the ground. I previously mentioned how much I loved Patrick Rothfuss’s epic book series The Kingkiller Chronicle, which is probably one of the best fantasy book series out there at the moment.

A planned television adaptation has been in the works for some time, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda attached as an executive producer and composer. Unfortunately, like the third book in The Kingkiller Chronicle, an adaptation of this series has yet to appear, and no real details about it are available at the moment. I’m a little uncertain if this one will actually happen, and if there were some more details this would be way higher up on this list. Still, if it does eventuate, I think it could be absolutely amazing and could be exactly what those fantasy fans waiting for the next Game of Thrones are looking for.

 

Honourable mentions:

Y

Based on the amazing series, Y: The Last Man by comic legend Brian K. Vaughan, Y is set to be released in 2020. I loved the comic, which features a post-apocalyptic world where every male mammal, with the exception of one human and his monkey, suddenly died. The comic it is based on was pretty epic, but a promised adaptation of this series has been in development hell for years. If this one does get released next year, it should prove to be very good and attract a large fanbase.

Good Omens

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Out in a few days, and featuring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, this one should be really fun, but it might have a much more limited audience than most of the other shows on this list.

Star Wars: Cassian Andor series

Another upcoming Star Wars series, this planned series which will appear next year on Disney+ will act as a prequel to Rogue One and fill focus on the character Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna. A spy thriller with the complex character of Cassian Andor sounds incredibly awesome, especially as Alan Tudyk is set to return as the voice of K-2SO. I think The Mandalorian will be bigger at this point, but I am sure this will also be incredibly fun and pick up a lot of viewers, provided we are not saturated by Disney live-action series at that point.

 

I hope you enjoyed my list. What shows do think could be the next Game of Thrones. Let me know if the comments below.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light by Dayton Ward – Audiobook Review

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (9 April 2019)

Series: Star Trek

Length: 11 hours and 59 minutes

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For my latest review, I dive back into the massive universe of extended books that surround the Star Trek television and movie series, with the latest novel from legendary Star Trek fiction author Dayton Ward.

When I reviewed my first piece of Star Trek fiction, The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack, a couple of months ago, I mentioned how substantial the extended book universe around Star Trek was. With a huge number of series that cover various points of the Star Trek universe and over 840 novels to accompany the various movies and television shows, there are so many additional stories and characters out there for dedicated fans to enjoy. Star Trek tie-in novels and comics were not something that I had really gotten into before The Way to the Stars, but after enjoying it, I thought that Available Light would be a good opportunity to expand my knowledge of the Star Trek universe. I also decided that I would try my first Star Trek audiobook; I chose to listen to the audiobook format of Available Light, narrated by Robert Petkoff.

Quite a large amount of the extremely large Star Trek extended universe can be attributed to the author of this book, Dayton Ward. Ward is a prolific author who has been writing Star Trek fiction since 1998 with his inclusions in the long-running Strange New Words collections of Star Trek short stories, becoming the first author to contribute to three separate volumes of this series. Since then he has written more than 20 additional inclusions in the Star Trek universe, including last year’s Star Trek Discovery: Drastic Measures, which made my Top Ten list of Books I Wish I Read in 2018.

Available Light is the latest book in a series of novels which are set after the events of the last Star Trek: The Next Generation film, Nemesis. Available Light takes place in the year 2386, set seven years after the events of Nemesis and continues to follow the adventures of the USS Enterprise E, under the command of Captain Picard. Ward has written the last three books in this specific Star Trek series and Available Light continues several of the storylines established in these previous novels.

For over 200 years, covert organisation Section 31 has policed and protected the United Federation of Planets from the shadows. Following the designs of an artificial intelligence, Control, Section 31 has committed attacks, assassinations, political interference and all manner of illegal actions to preserve the security of the Federation, without any oversight. However, thanks to the actions of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character, Dr Julian Bashir, all of Section 31’s secrets have been published and are now out in the open for everyone to see. With the entire Federation of Planets now aware of Section 31’s actions, the Federation government and Starfleet move to arrest and prosecute all known Section 31 agents for treason against the Federation.

While numerous crimes and atrocities have been revealed, perhaps none is more controversial than Section 31’s assassination of Federation President Min Zife following his secret deposition by a group of Starfleet officers. More shocking is the revelation that one of the Starfleet officers responsible for the illegal coup d’etat that unseated Min Zife was none other than Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the USS Enterprise E.

While the politicians and remaining commanders of Starfleet argue about the future of Picard, the Enterprise continues its exploration of the distant and uncharted Odyssean Pass. The Enterprise has come across an incredibly large and ancient spaceship adrift in the middle of nowhere and apparently abandoned. When the Enterprise’s away team boards the ship, they discover that the ship might not be as abandoned as first believed. As Picard and the Enterprise attempt to help the mysterious beings who inhabit the ship, they find their plans complicated by the arrival of a band of salvagers with designs on the massive ship.

I really enjoyed Available Light, as Ward presents the reader with a compelling adventure in space that really reminded me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ward goes deep into the Star Trek lore to produce an intriguing story for the fans, and it was quite interesting to see how the events of Available Light help shape the wider Star Trek book universe. The book makes exceptional use of advanced science and a large amount of action to make the story even more interesting and fun. I especially enjoyed the various wonderful examples of ship-to-ship combat that occurred throughout much of the book, and I found them to be extremely entertaining and exciting. Overall, this is a pretty fun read, although there are some issues when it comes to its intended audience and the distribution of its two main storylines.

One of the things that I always try to cover when reviewing novels related to movies, television shows and video games is whether a book is suitable only for fans of the original media or whether readers with limited background knowledge of the franchise will be able to appreciate the book. Available Light falls into the category of books which is primarily aimed towards those readers with some knowledge and appreciation of the Star Trek franchise, especially those who are fans of the books, as Ward makes use of a number of storylines that originated in other books. For example, Available Light continues to showcase the Enterprise’s exploration of the region of space known as the Odyssean Pass, which has been covered in Ward’s last three novels, Armageddon’s Arrow, Headlong Flight and Hearts and Minds. It also dramatically follows storylines started in David Mack’s 2004 novel, A Time to Heal, which detailed the assassination of Min Zife, and his 2017 Star Trek: Section 31 novel, Control, which featured the publication of Section 31’s secrets. The book also contains a huge number of references to previous Star Trek adventures that happened in other books, the movies and the television shows. This does not just include those works associated with The Next Generation, as events from other shows, such as Deep Space Nine, are also heavily referenced. As a result, fans of these existing pieces of Star Trek fiction will have a much deeper appreciation for what is going on, and they may already be invested in the storylines that have been established in these previous books.

Dedicated fans of The Next Generation television series and movies will probably be surprised about the extensive storylines established in these books. Since the events of Nemesis, the books included in these series cover a huge range of adventures and character developments of the crew of the Enterprise. Those Star Trek television and movies fans coming into this book will be surprised at events like Picard and Beverly Crusher getting married and having a son. These fans should also be prepared for the fact that only a few of The Next Generation’s main characters are really featured in Available Light. While Picard, Worf, Geordi La Forge and Beverly Crusher are still aboard the Enterprise, major characters such as Deanna Troi, Data and Wesley Crusher do not appear at all, while the character of William Riker (now an Admiral) only appears in one chapter. In their place, several new, original characters have taken on their roles and become point-of-view characters for the Enterprise. While these characters are quite intriguing, fans of the original crew may be a little disappointed not to see how the missing characters are going. Ward has also included some characters that appeared in minor roles in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. These include Admiral William Ross (who appeared in 13 episodes of Deep Space Nine), Worf’s brother Martok (who also appeared in Deep Space Nine) and Philippa Louvois (the Judge Advocate General from The Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man). Not only are these characters quite interesting in their own right, but there are some significant developments for some of these characters that fans of the franchise will be deeply intrigued to see.

That being said, while a large amount of the story is quite heavy on Star Trek lore, references and tie-ins to previous storylines, Ward does an exception job making this story accessible to a wide range of readers. I am not a particularly dedicated Star Trek fan and I only have an average knowledge of the lore and the various series and movies. However, I was able to follow the story quite closely, as Ward did a fantastic job explaining and describing the events that occurred in the previous storylines and episodes that Available Light’s story follows on from. While some readers whose knowledge of Star Trek is lesser than mine might struggle a little with the book, I feel that Ward has made this book extremely accessible to most readers. However, this book will really appeal to those readers who have a prior appreciation of the Star Trek franchise.

I should mention that that this book, like many licensed Star Trek novels, is not actually considered to be canon in relation to the television shows or movies. While some books, such as the recent Star Trek Discovery books, are considered to be canon (indeed, events in The Way to the Stars were mentioned in the show), Available Light and the books that it follows on from are not. That means that events that occur in this book are unlikely to affect what happens in upcoming movies or television shows, such as the upcoming show featuring the return of Captain Picard. While reading a non-canon book like this might not appeal to some fans of the franchise, I still quite enjoyed the story, and I am intrigued to see how this separate Star Trek universe will continue.

Available Light features two separate storylines that mostly remain separate from each other. The first storyline focuses on the fallout of the events of Control, including the revelation about Section 31’s actions and the attempts by the Federation to round up and prosecute all those who worked with or for the covert organisation. The second storyline focuses on the Enterprise as they encounter the new alien ship and the various inhabitants of this new region of space. Despite the huge amount of detail used to describe the Section 31 part of the book in both the official synopsis and the synopsis I wrote above, this storyline only really takes up around one-third of Available Light, with the remaining two thirds focusing on the Enterprise and her crew. I found both storylines to be extremely fascinating and a lot of fun. The Enterprise storyline felt like a classic episode of a Star Trek television series, with the crew working together to explore an intriguing phenomenon and overcome the odds to save an innocent party. The Section 31 storyline is also really cool, and I really enjoyed seeing what happens when the existence of this organisation becomes public knowledge.

While Ward does try to bring these two separate storylines together, such as by examining Picard’s guilt at the role he played in Min Zife’s ousting and assassination and having it affect his actions in the Enterprise storyline, I did at times feel like I was reading two unrelated books. I really think this would have been a better book if Ward had focused on only one storyline. I would have really loved a book completely dedicated to the aftermath of the Section 31 reveal, including having Picard stand trial for his crimes, and I am sure that the story of the Enterprise discovering the massive ship could have been even better with some additional storytelling. Instead, the story of Picard’s trail will occur later this year in David Mack’s upcoming novel, Collateral Damage. While it was slightly disappointing to find out that Available Light’s Section 31 storyline was mostly included to set up a future book, it was still really interesting and helped created a book that was a lot of fun to read.

Ever since Section 31 was first introduced, it has been a deeply intriguing plot point. The idea of a secret Federation security organisation that goes against nearly everything that Starfleet stands for is really clever, and it opens up a lot of possibilities. Section 31 is getting a lot of focus at the moment, as not only did they appear throughout the second season of Star Trek Discovery (which utilised the AI program Control, who appeared in several novels linked to Available Light as an antagonist) but there are apparently plans to do a Section 31 television series featuring Michelle Yeoh’s character from Discovery. As a result, it was really interesting to see this book universe version of Section 31 start to unravel in Available Light. The shock and outrage that results throughout the book are deeply intriguing, and I really liked seeing how the Federation and Starfleet reacted to the news. This really was a cool plot point, and I am extremely curious to see what happens to the organisation in future books.

As I mentioned before, I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Available Light. At just under 12 hours in length, it did not take me too long to get through this book, and I found it to be a great format to enjoy the intriguing, Star Trek based plot. I did find that listening to the story helped me pick up a lot more of the previous storylines and Star Trek references that Ward had littered throughout the book, which probably gave me a better base to enjoy the story. I found Robert Petkoff to be a really good narrator, and I really enjoyed the way that he told the story. Petkoff does a pretty good impersonation of the male characters from The Next Generation, including Picard, Worf and La Forge, and I found his Picard voice to be extremely convincing. Petkoff also did a great impersonation of Vulcan and Klingon characters throughout the book, and I thought the voices he attributed to these alien characters were quite excellent. As a result, I would strongly recommend the audiobook version of Available Light, and I am extremely glad it was the version of the book I chose to enjoy.

In the end, my second dive into the Star Trek universe was a little bit of a mixed bag. While there are some great and enjoyable story inclusions throughout Available Light, this is a book that is more aimed towards extremely dedicated Star Trek fans and features a split story that at times is more concerned with setting up future books rather than standing on its own. But I found the storylines explored within the books to be a lot fun, and I had an absolute blast listening to this captivating Star Trek tale. I am still really keen to check out additional Star Trek novels, and I hope to see where the various plots explored in this book go from here.

Star Trek Discovery: The Way To The Stars by Dr Una McCormack

Star Trek Discovery - The Way To The Stars Cover

Publisher: Gallery Books (Trade Paperback Format – 8 January 2019)

Series: Star Trek Discovery – Book 4

Length: 276 pages

My Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Get ready to dive into the extended Star Trek universe with The Way To The Stars, the latest tie-in novel to the franchise’s current show, Star Trek Discovery.

While most people would be familiar with the iconic Star Trek television shows and movies, some may be unaware that there is an extremely rich and extensive Star Trek universe across a variety of different media formats.  This is particularly true when it comes to the vast number of Star Trek novels which utilise the franchise’s massive universe.  Since 1967, during the run of the original Star Trek television series, a bevy of authors have contributed to this extended universe by creating a huge number of novels made up a range of different series and publishers.  There are now over 840 Star Trek novels, not only complementing the various Star Trek movies and television shows but also creating a series of new adventures.

With the announcement of the latest Star Trek television show, Star Trek Discovery, in late 2017, a new series of related novels was commissioned for release around the same time.  This new series focused on several of the characters featured within Star Trek Discovery, providing intriguing character history and a series of new, exciting adventures.  The first book in this series, Desperate Hours, was released in 2017, days after the premier episode of Star Trek Discovery.  These books have so far covered several of the show’s key characters, including Michael Burnham, Saru, Gabriel Lorca and Philippa Georgiou, while a fifth book out later this year will focus on Christopher Pyke and the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  I actually have a copy of the second book in this series, Drastic Measures, on my bookshelf at home, and I have been intending to read it for some time.  I will hopefully get to that, and the other books in the Star Trek Discovery book range, at some point in the future.

I have to admit that I am more of a casual Star Trek fan and I have more of a preference for Star Wars (and with that, I lose several Trekkies reading this review).  That being said, I have watched a number of the movies and I am really enjoying Star Trek Discovery at the moment.  This book is the first actual Star Trek novel that I have had the pleasure of reading, and there are several cool-sounding upcoming Star Trek novels that I am probably going to try and check out.

The Way To The Stars focuses on the character of Sylvia Tilly, the young, brilliant and awkward Starfleet cadet and essential member of the U.S.S. Discovery’s crew.  However, when she was 16, years before she joined Starfleet, her life was going down a different path.  The daughter of a high-ranking United Federation of Planets (the Federation) diplomat, Tilly finds herself under intense pressure to succeed.  Forced by her domineering mother to abandon her love of science and engineering to pursue a career as a diplomat, Tilly is shipped off to an elite off-world boarding school.

Forced out of her comfort zone, and continuously micromanaged by her mother, Tilly begins to crack under the pressure until, for the first time in her life, she rebels.  Escaping the school and embarking on a dangerous off-world trip, Tilly seeks her own path in life, which will eventually lead her join Starfleet and adventure out into the stars.

The Way To The Stars is the fourth entry in the Star Trek Discovery book series, and it is written by veteran science fiction and tie-in novel author, Dr Una McCormack.  Dr McCormack is an expert when it comes to the novelisation of popular science fiction television shows, having written a number of Doctor Who tie-in novels throughout her career.  Dr McCormack also has a large amount of experience when it comes to the Star Trek extended universe, having authored several novels that continue the adventures of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine television series.

This book was a little different to what I anticipated it would be.  Rather than featuring an action-packed adventure with Starfleet like the previous books in the Star Trek Discovery series, The Way To The Stars mainly focused on Tilly’s school and family life.  While this was still a very interesting and enjoyable read, I kept expecting pirates, aliens or some sort of antagonist to drop in and take over the school, forcing Tilly to use the engineering skills that her mother and school friends were so dismissive of to save the day.  So it was a tad disappointing to find this book only contained a mostly school-based story, more concerned with Tilly’s studies, her overbearing mother and her problems making friends.  Do not get me wrong; there are a lot of fun and enjoyable elements to these parts of the story, and the later part of the book in which Tilly runs away from school and tries to make her own way in space are very interesting.  It was, however, somewhat lighter than what I was expecting from a Star Trek novel, and its tone and writing style reminded me more of a young adult school novel.

That said, this was still a very enjoyable novel as Dr McCormack does an amazing job of bringing one of Star Trek Discovery’s most entertaining characters to life while placing her in a fun and interesting coming of age story.  The author makes great use of the Star Trek elements to tell her story, and I found it fascinating to see the advanced interplanetary schooling (rich boarding schools are rich boarding schools no matter what planet they are on), as well as Tilly’s adventures on human planets and ships outside of Federation space.  The latter parts of the book set on the Starfleet ship were fun, and it was great to see the adventures of a scientific ship, as well as Tilly’s contributions to their voyage.  The resultant first contact that they make was interesting, and it was cool to see elements from the part of the story set in the school come into play during this bit.  Overall, I did have a lot of fun reading The Way To The Stars, and found it to be a very well-written story with a lot of intriguing elements to it.  I really got into the story and managed to read it in only a couple of days, so many people should have fun reading it.

One of the things that I did like about The Way To The Stars was the way the author brought the book’s main character, Tilly, to life.  Within Star Trek Discovery, Tilly, as portrayed by Mary Wiseman, is a fun, brilliant and neurotic character who serves as the show’s moral centre and heart.  Despite mostly being a kind and thoughtful person, Tilly is regularly able to take control of a situation and act in a command capacity, often with humorous results.  I felt that Dr McCormack’s portrayal of Tilly within this book did an excellent job of either showing that these were already existing qualities/personality traits or else examined the first time that Tilly ever showcased these traits.  It was really good to see where Tilly came from and the sort of influences she had in her life to turn her into the character that is so beloved in the show.  As a result, The Way To The Stars is an excellent coming of age story, and I really enjoyed the way that the author wrote the character within the book.

This book is strongly related to the Star Trek Discovery television show; however, I do not believe that too much pre-existing knowledge or fandom experience is required to enjoy The Way To The Stars.  Dr McCormack has an inclusive writing style and I believe that anyone with even a basic knowledge of Star Trek will be able to pick this book up and enjoy the fun story within.  It should go without saying, though, that those people who are fans of the Star Trek universe will get a lot more out of this story.  This is especially true for fans of Star Trek Discovery, who will appreciate this deeper dive into the protagonist’s backstory and the examination of her early life.  I believe that The Way To The Stars is considered to be a canon story within the Star Trek universe; however, I doubt that the events within will have any impact on the show.  Still, it is quite an interesting inclusion that will really interest those who have come to enjoy the characters of Star Trek Discovery.

Star Trek Discovery: The Way To The Stars is a fun and enjoyable tie-in novel that does an amazing job of examining the past of a key character of the show.  Dr McCormack creates an interesting coming-of-age story that will appeal to hardcore Trekkies and casual science fiction readers alike.  I quite enjoyed my first foray into the Star Trek extended universe, and I am planning to try and get some of other Star Trek books coming out later this year.  Stay tuned to see me go further beyond the final frontier.