Posts Tagged With: Peter David

One Knight Only, by Peter David

oneknightonlyWhat’s Bob?  Our Bob?
Right.  Bob Kellerman.  Your head speechwriter.
What about him?  Is he all right?
Not at the moment, no.  Did you tell him that you were going to toss the text of the State of the Union address and just ‘wing it’?
I might have done.
That would be the speech he’s been working on twenty-four/seven for the past month?
That’s as may be, but why?  I was just joking.  He must have known that.
Sir, you know Bob.  He takes everything literally.  He’s been lying on the couch in his office for the last hour with an ice pack, moaning that his life is pointless.
-President Arthur Penn and Chief of Staff Ron Cordoba


A little over a year ago (as of this writing), I put up a review of Peter David’s book, Knight Life.  At the time, I mentioned that I was certainly hoping that a sequel would happen (as was rumored).

It happened.

One Knight Only picks up quite some time after the events in Knight Life.  For starters, Gwen D. Queen is now Gwen Penn, Arthur’s wife (and in case you missed Knight Life, understand that Arthur Penn was once Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons).  Arthur himself is now the President of the United States, thanks in part to very good publicity after a terrible event in New York City when he was mayor.  Merlin, who had always been by Arthur in the past, is now a small statue in a corner of the Rose Garden after coming up second-best in an altercation that is explained in more detail as the book continues.

As the story opens, Arthur is getting ready to make his State of the Union speech; part of it involves announcing a treaty with the country of Trans-Sabal, the last country that had been willing to give sanctuary to the terrorist behind the events in NYC (a man named Arnim Sandoval)-as well as making a few off-the-cuff comments.  However, tragedy strikes as Gwen is struck down by an assassin, leaving Arthur to make some hard choices as to what to do next.  In the meantime, the knight Percival is working for his king as a presidential aide who goes where he feels he’s needed-and while he’s in South America, he comes upon a man named Joshua, who’s older than he looks (and he’s not young anymore); not the Joshua you may be thinking of, but someone who has been touched by the Holy Grail.  Percival finds himself wishing to see it again-and perhaps in finding it again, understand what fate may await him in the future.

And in a way, what Percival finds leads in to a significant portion of this book:  something that will bring his king to another who thinks of himself as a High King-and one whose age makes Arthur look like a tot.

Where to start?  Well, there’s a number of good things about this book.  I loved the loophole in the U. S. Constitution that Arthur used to justify a Presidential run to himself and a couple of select others (still shaky, obviously, but he did have some help from Merlin).  I didn’t see the true identity of the High King coming, and that’s always a pleasant surprise (and I won’t ruin it here).  And the general attitudes of Arthur have carried over from the first book, a blend of righteousness and a hint of arrogance; well, he is a king, after all, and still having a little trouble with the idea of representative government.  But he’s still trying to do the right thing.  I also really enjoyed the role of the characters who are not a version of the Arthurian mythos, but are just everyday folks doing their jobs and being friends-from Ron Cordoba, the White House Chief of Staff who knows who Arthur is, to Nellie Porter, who attends to Gwen, and is a pretty sharp cookie.  And I can’t neglect Miss Basil, who isn’t quite who-or what-she seems; and she is most definitely not nice.

I expect that some folks might have a little trouble with the NYC event.  While it isn’t exactly 9/11 (and there’s no evidence that this has occurred in the setting of this book), it’s close enough in general atmosphere that some folks might find it very uncomfortable.  Plus, the general attitude of Arnim Sandoval is awfully close to what we see a lot of in the news of late.  Keep in mind, though, that Peter David’s never shied away from “uncomfortable” in writing his books, not only in these books but in his Star Trek books and his Sir Apropos books.  Also keep in mind that he’s also got a very interesting sense of poetic justice in his books.

One Knight Only doesn’t have the same feel as Knight Life, mostly because the first book had been about Arthur finding his place in the present day, and this one is about Arthur actually doing something in the present day.  He’s more in a position to change the world and make it a better place (in his point of view, of course), and one cannot doubt that he’s highly motivated to save his wife and take a personal sort of vengeance upon the author of his troubles.  While it’s not exactly what I’d want to see in a President in real life, it makes for entertaining fiction.  And there’s a couple of interesting consequences that could leave the door open to a third book if he wants to write it.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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Knight Life, by Peter David

knightlifeMerlin, by all the gods that’s it!  I shall become president of the Soviet Union of America.
-Arthur Pendragon, who needs a little more study time


The story of King Arthur and the Round Table is pretty much ingrained into the public consciousness.  Certainly it’s a story with many of the classic fantasy elements-a king trying to forge a kingdom where (to borrow a phrase) might is used for right, but a wife’s love for the king’s best friend signals the end of his dream.  Okay, well, that was my interpretation, in a nutshell.  Various scholars have various opinions, and I’m not here to debate them.

What I am here for is to review a rather interesting book.  Knight Life isn’t exactly what one would call unusual; many authors today have mined the Arthur legend, set in just about every conceivable time frame.  What make this book unique is the strategy taken.  But I’m skipping ahead.  Let me take it from the beginning.

The book opens up with Morgan Le Fay, in the modern day.  Time has, shall we say, not been kind to her.  Her one joy in life has been to occasionally look in upon the imprisoned wizard, Merlin (through the magic of her television set).  In despair, she is all ready to take her own life…except she notices that the prison is empty.  Suddenly, Morgan has a reason to live!  (Not exactly a noble reason, but what can you expect?)

Shortly after, a fellow arrives in New York City, wearing a full suit of armor…yes, it’s the King…and while he doesn’t have the same level of culture shock one might expect, he is still somewhat bewildered by it all.  But with the aid of Merlin, he decides to once again try to change the world.  However, Britain isn’t quite what it was in his time, and he’s not quite ready for national leadership…so he’ll start small-he runs for mayor of NYC.

In the process, other faces from the past pop up; a young woman who looks awfully familiar named Gwen D. Queen, and Moe Dreskin-a fellow who knows Arthur quite well indeed…and I had to feel a little sorry for him given the pretty bad position he’s put in…!  Even more dangerous, Arthur has to deal with the press, his political opponents, and the cynical nature of New Yorkers.

This was an interesting book, as I’ve already noted. Knight Life was written by Peter David some time ago, so this is almost a reprint; but the author has redone things in this book to “fix” it.  Not having ever seen the original version (in fact, I’d never even known he’d written one!), I have no idea what might have changed.  I never felt that I was reading dated material, though (unless you count some of Arthur’s political views).

Knight Life is not an action packed book; while it has a couple of scenes, those are not the strengths of this book.  It’s all about watching Arthur try to run for political office in a city that wouldn’t believe the truth about him if someone told them; it’s about Arthur trying to pursue the woman who seems ready to repeat history with him; it’s about the diabolical plans of Morgan Le Fay, hoping to put a final finish to her most hated enemies.  And it’s about a man from the past looking at present day society and comparing their attitudes towards life with his…and the differences aren’t as clear cut as one might think.

The introduction to the book hints that David is preparing another novel, which will be a sequel to this one.  I sincerely hope it happens, because I found Knight Life to be an enjoyable read; it was an interesting take on King Arthur-one that doesn’t rely upon the might of the sword, but on the ability to make people believe in him.  And that’s something that any politician should envy.

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New Frontier Omnibus, by Peter David

newfrontSometimes you simply have to assess a situation and say, “Dammit, it’s me or no one.”  And if you can’t live with no one, then you have to take action.
-Captain Mackenzie Calhoun of the U.S.S. Excalibur


Lately, it seems that Pocket Books has begun leaning towards Star Trek books that are more or less independent of the four main franchises (for those not in-the-know, that’s the Original Series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).  According to the releases slated for this year, we’ve got a book that builds on the New Earth set of books, and the beginning of Deep Space Nine novels that take place after the series finale.  But these probably wouldn’t have been possible without the New Frontier books.

Peter David’s been writing Star Trek for a long time (at least as far back as the fifth original Next Generation novel), and has been regarded as a fan favorite.  That put me in a favorable frame of mind when there was the announcement that there would be a series of four books in 1997 that would take place with “a new ship, a new crew, and a new mission”.  With House of Cards, Into the Void, The Two-Front War, and End Game, readers were treated to the exploits of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the U.S.S. Excalibur.  These books were later re-released as a single collected edition.

The early portion of the book takes place in the past, showing the early life of the boy M’k’n’zy of Calhoun, on the planet Xenex, leading a revolt against a race called the Danteri; an incident on the planet Thallon with a Vulcan woman named Soleta and another Vulcan of considerable fame; and Dr. Selar (formerly of Picard’s Enterprise), returning home to Vulcan to deal with Ponn farr.  After that, though, we hit the present time-chronologically sometime shortly after the events of the movie First Contact.  A sector of space (221-G) has fallen into anarchy, due to the fall of the Thallonian Empire.  It is decided that the Federation should send a ship for humanitarian aid and exploration into Thallonian space.

The crew is a diverse one; Calhoun is a bit of a maverick, which is pointed out by a number of officers in Starfleet.  Elizabeth Shelby (seen in the Next Generation episodes “The Best of Both Worlds”) is a strict, by the book officer, but she has a past with Calhoun.  Zak Kebron is the Brikar security officer, who gets some of the best lines in these books, in my opinion.  Soleta and Selar get a fair amount of attention, due to a subplot that I wouldn’t want to ruin for anyone.  And these are just the characters who get the most time in these books, with a single, non-Starfleet addition, who just gets along quite badly with Kebron.

I had pretty high expectations for these books, and Peter David didn’t disappoint.  His past books have blended humorous moments with some deadly serious material, and for the most part he’s mixed them well.  He also has a reputation for exploiting the history behind the various Star Trek franchises.  He continues to do so here; this is probably what has contributed to the continuing success of the New Frontier novels (now up to 11 books and with at least one more scheduled in ’01).  But a word of warning:  this probably isn’t a series that should be started with someone who has no clue about Star Trek.  This is a series whose appeal is tied directly to the reader’s familiarity with the entire Star Trek line.

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Star Trek: Gateways, by Assorted Authors

Let us go and be brilliant, my friend.
-Ensign Thirishar ch’Thane to Lieutenent Nog, both of Deep Space Nine


Have a seat, and get comfortable; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride….

There were a pair of Star Trek episodes-one on the Next Generation, and one on Deep Space Nine-which featured devices from an ancient race known as the Iconians.  Specifically, there were devices called Gateways that could teleport individuals across interstellar distances.  Both the Gateways, for various reasons, ended up as rubble by the end of those episodes.  And now, they’ve inspired a massive Star Trek event, which crosses over all the franchises that have appeared in novelized form (except for Enterprise, for obvious reasons).  From the Original Series to the Next Generation, from Deep Space Nine to Voyager, and even the novel-only New Frontier and Challenger books-they all fall into the grand storyline called Gateways.

So why am I reviewing this all at once, instead of as separate reviews?

The main reason is that some of these books tie pretty close together.  In fact, all of the latter-era books happen at roughly the same time.  One of the best moments in these books is the conference between the leaders of various ships and stations; in the appropriate book, we see the same meeting under different points of view.  While I moderately loathed the method, the event itself was a great scene.  And a minor reason is because all of the books ended on a cliffhanger, with a number of major characters stepping into a Gateway to find “what lay beyond”.  Cute, huh?

So, I am presenting a series of mini-reviews.  I could, I suppose, do full reviews on each, but then I’d be until next year getting these done, and that’s just not happening.

The Original Series:  One Small Step, by Susan Wright

This takes place in the last moments of one of the third season episodes, “That Which Survives”.  One of the events of that show was the fact that the Enterprise had been flung a long, long, long way away.  That serves as the jumping point for this series, as Kirk and company attempt to unravel the mystery of the race of the Kalandans, who apparently all died out.  This seems to be disproved, however, by the arrival of a group of aliens masquerading as the Kalandans.  The truth is that this race is the Petraw, and they seem to be more along the lines of pack rats than any technologically advanced society.  So we get two groups of beings attempting to unlock the secret of the Gateway here.  I rather liked the book on the strength of the fact that this didn’t involve saving any worlds or galaxies, but simply attempting to understand a dead race, and keeping the technology out of the wrong hands.

Challenger:  Chainmail, by Diane Carey

This book is a follow up of the New Earth novels last year.  Commander Nick Keller explores an alien ship that his first mate and bosun ran into and promptly disappeared into.  Diane Carey has always written a good read, in my experience, and she manages to cover the presence of an alien race (or not so alien) on that ship and at their homeworld.  At the same time, though, the political situation between Keller and the allied race of aliens known as the Blood Many takes a bit of a hit.  Keller is so obviously unprepared for being a captain in the Starfleet mold, as he tries to hold together this alliance while staying loyal to his friends and shipmates and trying to figure out the mystery of the ship, its inhabitants, and its cargo.  This was probably one of the stronger books in the Gateways series, and worth picking up for its story alone.

The Next Generation:  Doors into Chaos, by Robert Greenberger

The first of three tightly-interwoven books, it sets up the situation in this era:  the Iconians have seemingly returned, and they have offered their Gateways to the highest bidder.  The bad news is that to prove their intentions, and to sweeten the pot, they’ve opened up all of their Gateways.  This has caused a great deal of problems across Federation space, not to mention the Klingons, the Romulans, et cetera.  The mission of the U. S. S. Enterprise and her crew is to muster up support for a coalition of governments to face the Iconians and to find out the truth behind this offer.  The crew splits up for this, to cover more ground quickly.  I anticipated this book more than any of the others (except for the next one), because the Iconians were of great interest to Jean Luc Picard, and I expected that anything about the Iconians was going to center on the good captain.  All the same, it did feel a little flat to me; probably because there were just too many supporting characters flying around, and it was beginning to get difficult to keep track of them all.  Still, it was a fairly solid book.

Deep Space Nine:  Demons of Air and Darkness, by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Tying directly into the events of the previous book, and following the events of Section 31-Abyss, we find that there are three major plots rolling here.  One, naturally, is the ongoing question of the Gateways, as none have been spotted anywhere near Bajor.  The second involves an effect of the Gateways, as one appears to be dumping large amounts of theta radiation to an inhabited world (fans of Voyager might have a pretty good clue here, although it’s explicitly pointed out in chapter one).  The third involves Quark, and his negotiation with the Iconians on the behalf of the Orion crime syndicate.  And through it all, a number of subplots from the DS9 series of novels continues to unfold, from Shar’s family problems, to Kira’s attempts to deal with her Attainted status.  It’s close, but I’d have to say that this was the strongest of the Gateways books; in such a close race, I stick with my favorite series.  But as I said, it was a real close call.

Voyager:  No Man’s Land, by Christie Golden

Still locked in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway suddenly finds herself trying to cross a region of space that is decidedly hostile, in a natural sense-asteriods, singularities, and red giant stars.  Then things get really interesting, as a bunch of Gateways start opening all nearby Voyager, including a Hirogen vessel; not all of the vessels are really friendly, and Janeway has her hands full getting various starships to follow her across the “no man’s land” while trying to figure out how to get these people back to their own regions of space.  While I considered this the weakest of the books, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad; a sort of murder mystery takes place during the book, as well as the discovery that one of the races involved are slave-lords.  Still, there are aspects of the book that seemed outright silly to me.  It does make sense with the final book in Gateways, but as a single novel….

New Frontier:  Cold Wars, by Peter David

The Gateways are even a problem in Thallonian space, which requires not one, but two starships to investigate:  the Trident, with Captain Shelby, and the Excalibur, with Captain Calhoun, her husband.  This book kicks off as many of Peter David’s books-someone ends up getting killed.  There are a pair of Gateways on two different worlds, brought by mysterious benefactors; the problem is that the inhabitants of these worlds hate each other, and were engaged in exterminating each other before the former Thallonian Empire separated them by locating them on different worlds.  Starfleet’s goal is to investigate the Gateways in Thallonian space, and at the same time, stop the cycle of violence breaking out between these worlds.  This was the other contender for the best of the bunch; while the cast of characters are beginning to be so many as to be unwieldy (two different starship crews!), David still tells a good story within the framework of this mega-storyline, while still being able to tell a stand-alone tale.  Fans of the original animated series get a special bonus as well in this book.

What Lay Beyond

I can’t really say too much about this book without spilling major beans.  I can say that this is a collection of short stories that finish the cliffhangers for each novel, and each features the assorted captains, commander, and colonel of these books.  Since I can’t go into details, I will at least let you all know my preferences, from least favorite to most (surprisingly, it doesn’t necessarily follow my opinions on the previous books!).  Original Series, Challenger, New Frontier, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Next Generation.  The reason for this order has a lot to do with how these stories followed up on the events that closed the novels.  Some made more sense than others, and some I ranked higher because they made great sense.

Final thoughts:  as far as it goes, it was a pretty decent set of books.  I am, however, extremely annoyed at the fact that I had to pick up a hardcover to finish the books.  It doesn’t really affect me all that much, but than again, I tend to read all these books!  For folks who only follow the Original Series, or Voyager for example, it might be a little upsetting to realize that to get the whole story, you need to buy a hardback (or wait a year until it hits paperback) to finish the story!  I really wish they hadn’t done it that way, because I think it was done mostly as a marketing ploy.  Just my opinion.  But if you decide to pick up these books, with the understanding that they all conclude in What Lay Beyond, and with an intention to read all the books…well, Trek has had worse stories to work with.

(2015 note:  this will likely be the post with the most tags attached.  Whew!)

Categories: Deep Space Nine, New Frontier, Star Trek, The Next Generation, The Original Series, Voyager | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tong Lashing, by Peter David

tonglashingComforting to know that, no matter how far I go in my life, I always seem to wind up exactly in the same place as before.  Why is that, Mordant?  Why do people take an instant dislike to me?
It saves time.
-Apropos and Mordant the drabit


Well, Peter David’s Apropos has been in the traditional fantasy adventure, and in a barbarian horde kind of adventure.  Now, Apropos goes into the cheesy Asian fantasy adventure (you may have seen some movies that qualify) in Tong Lashing.  At this point, if you are still reading this, you’ve most likely read the previous two books and decided already if you like the general tone of this series of books (and if not-stop reading this!!  Read the first two books, or at least the above reviews-then come back).  All warnings that applied to the last two books still apply to this one.  With that out of the way….

After the conclusion of his last adventure, Apropos wants nothing more than to get out of the area of Wuin without somebody recognizing him and introducing him to the pointy end of the sword.  He’s accompanied (temporarily) by the weaver Sharee and a creature named Mordant.  However, the two of them want nothing more than to go on a quest of noble note-and Apropos, being somewhat more interested in staying in one piece, doesn’t.  So he parts ways with them and travels away from Wuin by boat.  Given his luck, it should come as no surprise that Apropos ends up in a shipwreck, and eventually comes to rest in a land known as Chinpan.

It is here where he begins to find himself at peace with himself, living as a farmer in the village where he washed ashore.  He even meets a master of the ancient arts of Zennihilation whom he hopes will teach him how to live with himself, because he can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that something bad is about to happen.  Which goes to show that Apropos has a great future in store for him as a fortune teller.

And then, things get interesting.

Once again, David puts together a book that looks at the other side of heroic adventures-specifically, the side that doesn’t want to be involved with them and gets sucked into them anyway.  Apropos goes up and down society’s ladder in this book once again; although not quite as lofty in status as a Peacelord, and certainly not nearly as secure.  We get a load of puns in this book as well, from the names that Apropos bestows upon the villagers (Kit Chin, Double Chin), to the Anaiïs Ninjas (and once you meet them, you’ll get the joke) to the leader of the Forked Tong (a pun in itself), which really isn’t something I plan to reveal on a kind-of-all-ages web page.  But as often the case with David’s books, the humor is laced in with a deadly seriousness that gives the reader insight on Apropos’s mental state-in spite of the ridiculousness, he himself is not a funny person, and is getting very tired of the way his life is turning out.

Now, what about the story itself?  Well, it flows pretty nicely.  There’s a few subplots of interest, such as how Apropos got shipwrecked to begin with (and longtime fantasy readers will easily spot which fantasy characters are getting skewered on board), the building of the Imperior’s house at the outer provinces (and how it turns out), the true secrets behind Zennihilation, and most terrifyingly of all-meeting Apropos’s true love…and as many know, the course of true love never did run smooth.  Apropos shows a surprising sense of purpose throughout much of this book; one could even say he’s driven by a sense of-dare I say it?-conscience.

The grand finale of the book is everything you’d expect from Apropos, given how the last two books ended up; and while it may seem as if this is the end of the Apropos series, there’s plenty of room for at least another book here.  Tong Lashing doesn’t have anything unexpectedly new, but neither does it feel stale.  In spite of what the character himself may think at times, there’s still plenty of life in Apropos.

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The Woad to Wuin, by Peter David

woadNo, I’m not so ambitious as to endeavor to take on the entirety of the Steppes in one grand orgy of violence.  Rather, I was thinking of attacking a dozen at a time and achieving my goal that way.
So you would embark on a twelve Steppe program, then.  A canny choice…
-Peacelord Apropos and Suliman the Magnificent (of Steppe Thirty-Nine)


Sometimes, you can’t even get away from it all in peace.  Sometimes, you just get to set out on The Woad to Wuin.  Wait, that’s not quite right, is it…?

Apropos has gone into hiding with the spell weaver Sharee after the events in Sir Apropos of Nothing; however, due to events only somewhat beyond his control (and a part of the most twisted parody of Lord of the Rings that it’s been my pleasure to read), he parts company with her and sets up shop in a tavern.  Strangely enough, he seems to enjoy it (well, as much as Apropos enjoys anything; readers of the last book will remember that his attitude towards life can’t be considered “sunny”).  Things start going south on him, though, when a Visionary stops by at his tavern.  This Visionary is one of a unique bunch of people; one of the fellows who writes those powerful prophecies that always seem to come true, even though they’re horribly obscure.  This fellow, though, is unusual because he’s a bit more literal.  Against his better judgment, and perhaps not completely seriously, Apropos gets a reading.

That’s when things start happening with appalling swiftness.  Before he knows it, he’s fleeing for his life, reunited with Sharee, and pursued by Lord Beliquose-a man who speaks in only one volume, LOUD-and his…well, something called Bicce.  Near dying, he falls unconscious in a wasteland…and wakes up to what must be a dream.  A dream in which he is a warlord (well, Peacelord; there’s a good reason for that title).  A dream in which he is grinding the land of Wuin under his heel.  But it’s apparent quickly that it is real, and he has no idea how that happened, or what to do about it.  Well, not right away, anyway.

The character of Apropos hasn’t changed too much; he’s not fond of the concept of Destiny, and is caught up in events that he really doesn’t have a stake in…unless, of course, you count getting killed.  The opening of the book is somewhat bent, but I’ve been known to have a twisted sense of humor too, and the Lord of the Rings riff qualified perfectly.  I was waiting for something really painful to happen to Apropos at the end of that sequence (I am NOT going into detail here; use your imagination, but remember that my warnings concerning Sir Apropos of Nothing hold true here, if not moreso).

The parts of this book that really stand out for me is after Apropos awakens to what appears to be a very different reality.  The character undergoes a startling transformation in personality from Apropos, the loser, to Apropos, the Peacelord of Wuin-to something else, due to discoveries made in the process.  I found it entirely believable given what we already knew of Apropos, and (perhaps) it wouldn’t be hard to believe that the same transformation could occur to anybody.

We also get to meet a couple of characters from the last book as well.  While Entipy doesn’t make a personal appearance, we do get to see a kind-of avatar of her (I’m being kind).  Sharee, of course, is back, and pops in and out of the general plot, and generally trying to make Apropos think about things he’d rather not.  And a certain wandering king pops up, who represents the big red flag to our protagonist.

The finale comes with a number of unexpected twists (well, some of them; I only could guess at one of them), and hints at more “adventures” to follow-much to the dismay, undoubtedly, of Apropos. The Woad to Wuin was a fun read, and I think I enjoyed it a bit more than the last book-probably because it didn’t have to cover all the same ground on who Apropos is.  This one took us into the plot pretty quickly; and when you add David’s skill at mixing humor and seriousness into a story, you come up with a pretty good book.  If you like Sir Apropos of Nothing-or even felt kind of neutral for it-you may want to give Apropos a second chance.  If for no other reason than to watch the character squirm at finding himself a conqueror.  It’s good fun.

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Sir Apropos of Nothing, by Peter David

aproposGood night.  Thank you for not burning the pub down.
-Apropos to Entipy


A word of warning:  this is not a book for younger readers.  I’m serious.  There’s enough questionable subject matter here to compel me to remark on this.  I was seriously considering starting a rating system for my reviews after reading this.  For the time being, though, I’m going to stick with simple advisories like this one.

Okay.  To the review:  Sir Apropos of Nothing is not a story about a knight, although our protagonist is named Apropos, and he is a squire to a knight.  But roughly half the story is his pre-squire days, and the other half…well, let’s just say it takes place free of any knights.  Apropos is a son of a tavern wench, and is told constantly as he’s growing up that he has a Destiny.  Not that his mother really has any grasp on what that might be; it’s just a strong belief, even though her son is half-lame and a decided scoundrel.

In the fullness of time (another way of saying I don’t want to spoil chunks of the book), Apropos goes to the court of the King Runcible, in the hopes of finding his father (not in a good way), getting “justice” for his mother, and get a lot of money in the meantime.  Instead, he gets put under the tutelage of a senile knight, and sent out to escort the Princess Entipy from a convent back to her parents.  In the process, unsurprisingly, things don’t go quite as expected.

I am careful not to refer to Apropos as the hero of this book; in fact, in spite of what some folks have said in reviews elsewhere on the net, I really don’t find him that likable a character.  He’s only slightly better than some of the other folks in this book.  Knights, and chivalry in general, really get dragged through the mud here; to be sure, that’s probably more historically accurate, but you’d think there’d be a few characters with redeemable qualities.  (Actually, there is one character, but I’ll keep that to myself).  Apropos himself is a liar, cheat, and selfish to the extreme.  Peter David does a decent job in making the reader understand why he is the way he is, though; with enough backstory, it makes Apropos’s actions understandable, if not always admirable.

There’s other interesting characters in here as well.  Besides some stereotypes, such as various tavern wenches and squires who only pretend to the honor that knights espouse, we have a king (not Runcible) whose kingdom exists wherever he travels; a warlord who’s over-the-top bad that you can almost hear a little voice screaming “Eeeeeeevviiiiiiill”.  And Entipy is a twist on the stereotypical princess in a direction I haven’t seen before; I’m almost certain no other book has had a royal princess who may be a psychotic arsonist.  Finally, there’s Tacit One-Eye, who certainly seems at the beginning to be that typical Hero of Destiny, who unfortunately gets sidetracked by encounters with Apropos.

While there’s a great deal of serious subject matter here, Peter David also laces the entire book with the humor that is so often displayed in his other works.  If you hate puns, you’ll really groan at some of the ones that pop up in this book.  There were several points where I could see the puns coming a mile away.  People who have read other books by this author will undoubtedly feel right at home with this book.  Sir Apropos of Nothing is a decent enough book, although a little darker than my usual fare.  All the same, if you’re looking for a fantasy novel with a slightly darker edge, this one’s for you.

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New Frontier: Books 1-4, by Peter David

Sometimes you simply have to assess a situation and say, “Dammit, it’s me or no one.”  And if you can’t live with no one, then you have to take action.
-Captain Mackenzie Calhoun of the U.S.S. Excalibur


Lately, it seems that Pocket Books has begun leaning towards Star Trek books that are more or less independent of the four main franchises (for those not in-the-know, that’s the Original Series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).  According to the releases slated for this year, we’ve got a book that builds on the New Earth set of books, and the beginning of Deep Space Nine novels that take place after the series finale.  But these probably wouldn’t have been possible without the New Frontier books.

Peter David’s been writing Star Trek for a long time (at least as far back as the fifth original Next Generation novel), and has been regarded as a fan favorite.  That put me in a favorable frame of mind when there was the announcement that there would be a series of four books in 1997 that would take place with “a new ship, a new crew, and a new mission”.  With House of Cards, Into the Void, The Two-Front War, and End Game, readers were treated to the exploits of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the U.S.S. Excalibur.  These books were later re-released as a single collected edition.

The early portion of the book takes place in the past, showing the early life of the boy M’k’n’zy of Calhoun, on the planet Xenex, leading a revolt against a race called the Danteri; an incident on the planet Thallon with a Vulcan woman named Soleta and another Vulcan of considerable fame; and Dr. Selar (formerly of Picard’s Enterprise), returning home to Vulcan to deal with Ponn farr.  After that, though, we hit the present time-chronologically sometime shortly after the events of the movie First Contact.  A sector of space (221-G) has fallen into anarchy, due to the fall of the Thallonian Empire.  It is decided that the Federation should send a ship for humanitarian aid and exploration into Thallonian space.

The crew is a diverse one; Calhoun is a bit of a maverick, which is pointed out by a number of officers in Starfleet.  Elizabeth Shelby (seen in the Next Generation episodes “The Best of Both Worlds”) is a strict, by the book officer, but she has a past with Calhoun.  Zak Kebron is the Brikar security officer, who gets some of the best lines in these books, in my opinion.  Soleta and Selar get a fair amount of attention, due to a subplot that I wouldn’t want to ruin for anyone.  And these are just the characters who get the most time in these books, with a single, non-Starfleet addition, who just gets along quite badly with Kebron.

I had pretty high expectations for these books, and Peter David didn’t disappoint.  His past books have blended humorous moments with some deadly serious material, and for the most part he’s mixed them well.  He also has a reputation for exploiting the history behind the various Star Trek franchises.  He continues to do so here; this is probably what has contributed to the continuing success of the New Frontier novels (now up to 11 books and with at least one more scheduled in ’01).  But a word of warning:  this probably isn’t a series that should be started with someone who has no clue about Star Trek.  This is a series whose appeal is tied directly to the reader’s familiarity with the entire Star Trek line.

Categories: New Frontier, Star Trek | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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