In Ice Trap, Captain Kirk and his crew are dispatched to icebound Nordstral to investigate a mysterious outbreak of insanity only to quickly discover that there is much more going on than they first supposed. A team of research scientists have already disappeared - and even the otherwise friendly natives have no clue about their whereabouts. While Kirk and McCoy take on the medical mystery, Uhura and Chekov lead a team composed of Enterprise crew and untrustworthy outsiders in the frozen tundra to find the scientists. But with the planet undergoing massive instability, both teams risk never coming back alive.
LA Graf has a great sense of pacing and paints an impressive picture. The landscape is so barren and cold that I had to layer on extra sweaters just to get through some of the scenes. As it true with Star Trek books, the author (actually a pen name for two, possible three collaborators) gets most of the cast correct, but falls a little short on one. Chekov is so intense and rigidly capable in Ice Trap that he almost seems like a different character from the lovable TV version played by Walter Keonig. This is more than made up for by the attention paid to McCoy (whose childhood secret is revealed) and Uhura, who plays a meaty role in this outing.
Summary: Ice Trap is a great book filled with thrills and chills - sorry, had to do that - and feels just like one of the original Star Trek movies (by which I mean the even ones, not the odd). Highly recommended.
Character Ratings: Except for Chekov (who is an excellent character in this, but just didn't feel like the original), all As and Bs.
Book vs. Movie: Captain Blood
This series attempts to answer the age-old question: read the book? Or wait for the movie?
The Book: Captain Blood, (1922) by Rafael Sabatini.
The Movie: Captain Blood, (1935)starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone and directed by Michael Curtiz.
Plot: Doctor Peter Blood is a retired Irish adventurer who is falsely condemned of traitorous activities during the Monmouth Rebellion in England. Condemned to slavery, he is sent to Port Royal where he is purchased by the cruel Colonel Bishop, and falls in love with the Colonel's lovely, kind, and strong-minded niece, Arabella. When a chance Spanish raid on Port Royal offers Peter a chance to escape, he takes it and goes on to become one of the best known (and most principled) pirates of the Caribbean. His daring exploits and clever campaigns become the stuff of legends, but Peter has left his heart behind in Port Royal. Can the man whose ingenuity is world-renown ever find a way to clear himself and win the heart of the girl he loves?
Unlike Sabatini's other pirate novel, Sea Hawk, the movie follows the plot book very closely. Energetic acting by the charming leads, Curtiz's fast-paced direction and action-packed script doesn't attempt to hide the brutality of war, slavery, and piracy, yet still manages to make Blood a sympathetic character that you root for. In short, it's a great movie.
But time constraints caused some of the book's events to be edited out, including most of great pirate exploits in the book. Also, Arabella Bishop suffers in the movie. Sabatini wrote likable, strong women and Arabella is no exception: she is fair-minded and not afraid to stand up to either Peter or her peers, whether it's tending to sick Spanish soldiers or telling off some of the most powerful men in the room. She is as strong a character as Peter, though secondary. De Havilland's role is reduced to a somewhat petulant, one-note character, who is too proud to admit when she is in the wrong. A shame, really, when the real Arabella was a truly refreshing, smart character.
Conclusion: Toss-Up - Read and Watch
The book is epic and fun, and though it suffers a little in prose (English was not Sabatini's first language and it shows a little here and there), the characters are engaging, the action exciting, and the plot is entertaining. The fact that I've read it three time might just show you how much I like it.
The movie is a classic - big ships, big action scenes, good fencing scenes, grand drama, star-crossed lovers, top-notch directing, a solid soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and it made stars out of then-unknowns Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
Both the movie and the book were enormously successful when they debuted and with good reason - solid entertainment like this doesn't come too often.
“A man must sometimes laugh at himself or go mad--Few realize it. That is why there are so many madmen in the world.” - Captain Peter Blood
Captain Kirk and his crew (minus Spock, who is on leave) are assigned to a rather routine mission: transporting diplomats in the middle of tough negotiations. Things get tricky when one of the wives of the party is Kirk's old girlfriend - who would like nothing better than to renew the acquaintance (wink wink) -, while another diplomat insists on gifting Kirk three wives. Just when things couldn't get more awkward, an attache is murdered and the prime suspect is one of Kirk's own crew.
A rather dull outing, lightened with occasional humor, but most of the action is focused on a unusually dithering Kirk, confounded by the rather simple murder situation. This might be explained by the fact that the book was originally written during the Enterprise first five year mission and was rewritten to be set after the first movie, but a weak plot is still a weak plot. The answer to the mystery is so obvious, especially to a crew with the Enterprise's experience, that I found myself shouting, "It's a blood shape shifter, you meatheads! Not like you haven't seen that before!" and wishing that Mr. Spock would just come back already.
Summary: Weak plot, poorly constructed mystery, but good prose. If you'd only time for one quick read, skip this and go for Prime Directive or Yesterday's Son.
Character ratings: Voices (inflections, etc) all Bs. Actions and motivations, all Cs.
When a star ship disappears in the Taygeta V system, Captain Kirk enlists the help of a prominent, but tempermental musician and two Klingon warship to help him investigate the phenomenon. The anomaly may be linked to the semi aquatic creatures who live on Taygetian. But with the restless Klingons on one hand, human hunters decimating the Teygetians on the other, and an expert who may succumb to illness at any moment, Kirk might just run out of time...
This isn't the best in the Star Trek series, although the author has a good sense of the original characters, and their speech patterns are pretty spot one (see below for individual analysis). The new characters suffer from lack of depth, especially the villains, who employ every cliche short of twirling their mustaches. A bonus is that Uhura gets more screen time than usual: unfortunately, most it is spent mooning over the expert, a new character who is more irritating than fascinating.
Summary: Tears of the Singers is quick, fun, with a good pace, but rather silly with a heavy-handed moral about animal rights. Good when you need a book to fill an hour or so.
Character portrayals (author understood character, good voice, etc)
McCoy: B (Voice - B-)
(Sulu and Checkov were not in this enough for analysis)
"Moved me close to tears" is not something you would normally write about a Star Trek book, but A. C. Crispin's Yesterday's Son had me reaching for the tissues by the last page.
When Spock realizes that he left behind a son on the planet Sarpedion (see the 3rd season episode All Our Yesterdays, TOS), he uses the Guardion of Forever (see 1st season episodeThe City on the Edge of Forever, TOS ) to retrieve him. Only by the time they find the boy, Zar, he is 28, too old to be easily explained as Spock's son. As the newly-formed family struggles to bond, a Romulan attack threatens the Guardian - and the galaxy as the crew knows it.
This was A. C. Crispin's first novel and it is an impressive debut. Strong writing, good characterizations, and a heartbreaking family drama sets this short novel above the rest. Highly recommended.
Character ratings: All 'A's
Because what's the point of reading a really good book without telling everyone about it?