Monday, June 22, 2009
Northwest of Earth is a collection of the tales concerning the space-ways faring rogue, Northwest Smith. Descriptively, one's first impression is that Smith is the prototype for Han Solo. Ray-gun at the hip, leather outfit and scarred face, Smith is an outlaw of the solar system. These stories, written during the Weird Tales heyday of the 1930s, feature the typical solar system of a dry Mars and jungle Venus, but both quite habitable and populated by various races.
While Smith is pure space opera character, though, these stories are not. These stories read far more like Clark Ashton Smith's weird stories. The planets are full of ancient mysteries, lost races, strange civilizations. Smith constantly encounters cosmic horror style antagonists, not aliens. The only time the ray-guns blaze are when dispatching an ancient monster. No shoot-outs here, nor any spaceship dogfights. The stories have far more atmosphere than action.
So, as a different, scifi take on atmospheric weird tales, the Northwest Smith stories are worth a read.
But, as a pure adventure space opera read, Northwest of Earth are not the stories you are looking for.
On a side note; this collection comes from Paizo's Planet Stories line. They have put many old tales into print with more to come. Check them out if you haven't!
Friday, June 5, 2009
After viewing the new Star Trek movie, my wife declared "That's not how the Kobayashi Maru test went!"
Of course, it didn't - the altered timeline took care of that.
The KM test was introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It is a test of character for budding Starfleet officers, where defeat and death are the only option. We learn only that Cadet Kirk "reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to win". Those are the only details ever offered.
I do not know if the novels are as canon to the Trek universe as the Star Wars novels are to Lucas' universe. But, some are fun "what-ifs" that fill-in holes. I've read some good Trek novels, and some that weren't much better than low-tier fan fiction.
This novel informs us of what really happened during that test. My wife had the book and I decided to read it.
The premise is simple. Kirk, McCoy, Scott, Sulu and Chekov are stranded in a shuttle accident and pass the time revealing how each, in turn, dealt with the infamous test.
Without giving away spoilers, I will say that this book was good, not great. It had some fun moments and some moments that were too "touchy-feely" for Trek.
Cadet Checkov's solution to the K.M. scenario
Cadet Sulu's introduction to Federation and galactic politics.
Cadet Sulu's solution to the K.M. scenario
Cadet Scott's solution to the K.M. scenario
Cadet Kirk's solution to the K.M. scenario (just didn't believe it)
Kirk being more fatherly than commanding
Cadet Checkov's follow-on "test" (more like an episode of Survivor than an officer training exercise)
Author telegraphic justification. McCoy literally states, "That's so in character!" after Kirk reveals how he beat the K.M. scenario. Sulu states that his solution is neither funny nor clever before he even begins his flashback.
In fact, Sulu's story is poignant as it tangents off the relationship between Sulu & his great-grandfather and his great-grandfather's death. It's not a bad B-line, but it's more of an downer than an upper.
It's a quick read, not a bad way to pass some time for a Trekker if you find it at a used book shop.