Friday, April 25, 2008

A sequel and a prequel

V2whitewhiteCollision Course

This school vacation, I've managed to squeeze in the reading of two hardcover novels, of in the science fiction media genre - d'uh - and both of them rather controversial in their approach, yet very enjoyable... despite some frustrating faults.

First up was Kenneth Johnson's long-awaited novel of his long-promised sequel to "V". Now, although I already knew that this novel, set twenty years after the first mini-series ended, would be ignoring both "V: The Final Battle" and "V: The Series", there was nothing in the book to introduce such a premise. A little unfair to fans, I think, especially as picking up an old copy of AC Crispin's "V" novelization would present a thick book where the entire second half was overlooked. At the very least, a text summary of the first valid-for-the-novel "V" instalments would have been appreciated.

Although the Visitors, as of "V: The Second Generation", have been cruel overseers on Earth for two decades now, not a lot else has changed. The Visitors' technology does not seem to have advanced much in twenty years; they are still processing humans into hibernation pods, siphoning our water supply, and the alien motherships have black and white security monitors. Why do the reptilian invaders continue to wear false human skins, and why do new arrivals from Sirius also adopt human names? Why does "nice alien" Willy still make dreadful malapropisms after so many years living in the USA - and why has Martin gone two whole decades in the Vistors' Fifth Column of turncoats without being discovered?

The action of "The Second Generation" also seems to be centred on now-inland San Francisco; Los Angeles is rarely even mentioned, although it was the focus of so much of the story in the various TV episodes. The book doesn't really get into any character's head for very long; a lot of the action is described in much the way as it would have appeared in the teleplay Johnson was expanding into regular prose.

Freedom fighter human leaders Juliet Parish and Mike Donovan are featured players, as expected, as is the sultry, manipulative Visitor, Diana. Diana is joined by a new rival, Jeremy, and the supposedly mysterious Sirian Leader - whose gender is kept unmentioned, on purpose, for much of the story arc.

Unfortunately, humans and Visitors who appear in "V: The Second Generation" are sometimes humans and Visitors who died heroically in either "V: The Final Battle" or "V: The Series". Robert Maxwell, Willy's girlfriend Harmy (she did die in the second mini-series, didn't she?), and Fifth Columnist Martin, are all alive and kicking in "V: The Second Generation". Other characters, such as Robin Maxwell, Leader John, Brian, Steven, Daniel and Elias, who could have all been featured, or at least mentioned by the novel, are essentially ignored, or glossed over.

There is also an annoying overuse of names. There is a Charles and a Nathan, but these are definitely not the Charles and Nathan of "V: The Series". There is a new Visitor, Shawn, but there is mention of missing human, Sean Donovan, Mike's son. Instead of the hybrid Starchild, Elizabeth (of whom Johnson did not approve), there's a new halfbreed character, Ruby - and she's been named after an elderly character, from "V", who is said to have died. In addition, there are many other halfbreed teenagers, and these are treated in very similar ways to the Newcomers of Johnson's similar allegorical TV series, "Alien Nation".

Despite my many misgivings, the action certainly comes thick and fast. Three insectoid aliens in hominid guise, representatives of the powerful, vengeful race, known as the Zedti, attempt to use the hapless, weary humans' ongoing dilemma to resolve their own feuds with the reptilian invaders.

With the addition of the Zedti, there is certainly lots of promise for a new ongoing series of episodes, telemovies or a sequel mini-series. However, I'm sure ignoring huge slabs of "V: The Final Battle" and "V: The Series" would be ultimately confusing for many viewers, unless there is to be a remake of the first "V" mini-series to accompany any new stories.

I've also just finished "Star Trek: Academy: Collision Course", by William Shatner, with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. This hardcover received extremely mixed reviews when it came out last October, so I put it beneath several other novels.

While it is well known that Shatner's previous nine-part hardcover saga (of Kirk's return from death beyond "Star Trek: Generations"), the so-called "Shatnerverse", has always operated within its own, ummm, pocket universe, this new prequel-to-TOS novel doesn't necessarily quash anything canonical (ie. onscreen, live action material), although it certainly stretches a few "fanonical" friendships.

I usually enjoy Star Trek hardcovers very much, but I began this one with great trepidation. Not many people online seemed to like it. Essentially this novel ignores most previous ST novels, especially the ones about Kirk's father, and Kirk Sr's career on the Enterprise under Captain Robert April. But the premise is intriguing, if not requiring suspension of disbelief. We see both teenaged Jim Kirk and teenaged Spock consorting with criminals, being shunted of to Starfleet training without a fair court martial, not to mention seemingly numerous links to young Kirk's very traumatic experiences under Kodos the Executioner, long before the secret events of "The Conscience of the King" (TOS) are revealed.

As Vulcan Ambassador Sarek, and Eugene Mallory - son of a redshirt we already know will one day die under then-Captain Kirk's command - discover, a little logic can go a long way when solving a crime. Annoying though,

And deja vu!: despite my many misgivings about this hardcover as well, the action in "Collision Course" certainly comes thick and fast. A real collision course, actually. People may have slammed it for ignoring "Final Frontier" and "Best Destiny", two very strong George Kirk Sr stories by Diane Carey, but there's also lots to enjoy.

There'll be frustrations no matter what. Jim's Dad is called George Joseph "Joe" Kirk is this one! And, for those who disliked "Star Trek: Enterprise", the TV series prequel to TOS, you may well be tetchy about Academy buildings named for Archer, Tucker and Mayweather - and even a non-"name drop" for Hoshi Sato and her husband, via their little great grandson! (It pays to read the fine print!) For those of us who are fans of Enterprise, it's a nice bonus. I should note that Shatner's regular ST novel co-authors were staff writers on "Enterprise" during its fourth (and many say, best) season.

This is a novel with a new, but still valid, take on the Sarek/Spock relationship. And it's about an extremely troubled, very different Jimmy Kirk, one far removed from the Kirk we met in previous prequels to TOS, (and sure to be overruled by the upcoming ST XI) but after the Tarsus IV experiences related in "Collision Course", who can blame him?

If you can make it through the first four or five chapters, it's easy to keep reading! I went into the book expecting it to be horrid, based on all the negativity it seemed to garner, but I was surprised how involving it became.


De said...

I was wondering when I'd see your review of V: The Second Generation. Good to know I wasn't totally alone with some of my misgivings about the novel.

I still need to read Shatner's last trilogy before I dive into his new one. My favorite so far has been The Return, which I thought set a pretty high standard for action in Trek novels.

Therin of Andor said...

Did you realize there's now also "V: The Original Miniseries" by Kenneth Johnson & AC Crispin (Tor, Nov 2008)?

It's a re-presentation of Crispin's novelization of "V", with an all-new epilogue by Johnson, which ignores "V: The Final Battle" and sets up new characters and events for "V: The Second Generation".