John Vornholt - Shastrix Books

John Vornholt

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Masks

Masks

23rd January 2019

A Star Trek: The Next Generation novel from (probably) the late 80s - set during the second season of the TV show (as evidenced by the presence of Dr Pulaski) and seeing Picard and several of his crew marooned on a planet where an old Earth colony has evolved into something resembling mediaeval Europe.

The plot is interesting and keeps moving at a good pace - there’s multiple threads going on and lots of the characters get to play. However it also feels a bit odd - there’s a visiting Ambassador who is typically troublesome, and this feels like it’s a bit of an over-used Trek trope.

John Vornholt has, following this novel, written quite a few Trek novels, several of which I’ve read - but it’s quite clear in this one that he’s in his early days of familiarity with the TNG crew. There are some elements which are clearly just things that the series hasn’t addressed yet, so they weren’t contradictions at the time of writing - but others (such as using the letters JG in ‘Lieutenant JG Worf’ as if they are the character’s initials rather than part of his rank) that wouldn’t slip through the net today.

So, not a perfect novel, and one that feels slightly dated having seen what the whole of TNG is like (well, to date) - but still an entertaining one that’s worth reading even if you aren’t a completionist.

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A Time to Die

A Time to Die

2nd October 2009

In the second book of this nine volume series, the first of the five stories is concluded. After breaking Picard out of jail, Wesley and the crew return undercover to the site of their disgrace to solve the myriad mysteries of the former battle site.

After the first novel was focussed on Picard, I had assumed that the cover image would indicate which of the NextGen crew each book would be about. By my reckoning that made this a Data book - but it isn't. This is definitely a Wesley book, reuniting him with his former crew and wrapping up his storyline which began in the previous novel. Many readers may be offended by this, as Wesley is traditionally not the best loved member of the crew, and Vornholt makes a tongue-in-cheek reference to this. I however am still a fan of Wesley, particularly as he was by far the closest character I could relate to while growing up watching the show (I too was a child genius who often saved the ship). This book shows Wesley as a young, insecure adult with little idea of what direction to take in life, and explores him pushing the boundaries of his abilities to stave off the destruction he has foreseen.

This novel is an interesting mix; part adventure, part mystery, part homecoming and part love story. Star Trek isn't known for its love stories, and with good reason. Te romance seems terribly sudden, forced, and a little amateur. One of the characters involved spends the first part of the novel lying to the other, before abducting her. It felt uncomfortably forced, and I am left feeling that it was done merely to leave a door to putting the toys back in the box at the end.

I was also disappointed in one particular passage towards the end, where the narration continues as normal for several pages before revealing that what it describes is just a character's imagination running away, and then replaying the scenes properly. Overall it was an okay book, although the solution was quite obvious from early on.

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Buy book: UK
A Time to be Born

A Time to be Born

28th September 2009

I've read this book once before, but never continued onto the rest of the series. Now I have them all lined up ready I thought I would give them another chance, especially given how much they are referenced in the later continuation novels.

The first instalment sees the Enterprise assigned to a starship graveyard filled with unidentified anomalies, alien scavengers, and ships destroyed in the Dominion War. When things go catalytically wrong the crew head back to earth for court martial.

The point of this series is to bridge the gap leading up to the film Nemesis, and Vornholt sets several of the unexplained plot points in motion, particularly for Crusher, Data, and Wesley, who for me at least makes a welcome return. He also makes good use of a number of guest characters from the TV series.

The plot is fairly straight forward, although there are some parts where events are a little tricky to follow, particularly when set around the spatial anomalies. The second half turns a little towards the legal drama genre, which is quite irritating as the characters we're aligned with are kept in the dark.

The novel has a disappointing lack of conclusions, which I suppose is justifiable as half of a duology, but it would have been nice to have some points settled rather than everything hanging over. Overall a pretty standard trek novel.

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Buy book: UK

Unreviewed books

Antimatter
Contamination
Gemworld book one
Mind Meld
Quarantine
Rogue Saucer
The Dominion War book one
The Dominion War book three
The Genesis Wave book one
War Drums

Top books

  1. A Time to Die
  2. Masks
  3. A Time to be Born