Book Reviews: Sci-Fi, Mystery, and Teen Girls

“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me!”
“That doesn’t speak well for your husband.”

A Star Trek novella taking place somewhen after the third movie, it features the Enterprise ferrying diplomats to a meeting—old plot—and investigating a mysterious transmission, sending a shuttle with Spock in charge—old plot—to check things out. It’s even the same shuttle, Galileo; thankfully the similarity to the old Original series episode is noted in-universe.
Other than updating how Spock has progressed as a leader from the first time the Galileo crashed—it does that a lot—there’s really not much here. Redshirts die, Spock tries to keep the rest of them and McCoy alive. That part is very similar to the original episode as well; it also reminds me of one of the better books of the possibly thousands of Star Trek expanded universe novels, Uhura’s Song. The most intriguing notion here is having Spock and Saavik be telepathically linked because of their rumored Pon Farr on the Genesis planet, but that’s really the only new thing I saw. Even the diplomats whining that they’re going to be late is recycled.
I want to say that the similarities to previous plots are part of the 50th Anniversary thing, but the author mentions he came up with this story when he was pitching Voyager. I’m sure I would have liked it a whole lot better if I didn’t have this overwhelming feeling of having seen it all before.

This Long Vigil
A lone watchman on a generation ship is coming to the end of his run. He’ll go back into stasis and someone else will be awake for a while, but he’ll never be “alive” again. And there’s the problem: having experienced real life, how can he go back to “sleep” knowing he’s never going to feel it again?
Dan the AI bore some similarities to HAL 9000—yes, I just saw 2001 yet again—so I was a little worried toward the end, but thankfully it didn’t go in that direction. Most people on this ship are born, live in stasis, and die all without a moment of consciousness, which simply sounds horrible, but they don’t know any better. . . or anything at all, really. Having to pick his successor no doubt made things worse, though considering how lonely it must be—the ship even makes the babies!—it’s surprising he doesn’t go crazy, and actually makes his final choice all the more inevitable.
I’m thankful the author chose to keep this short; others might have bloated it, but this was all he needed to tell the story.

Dark Web
Snow plow driver up in the frozen reaches of New York state finds a dead kid on the road. From there we flashback to the family moving from Florida to that snowy locale before launching into the police investigation.
The cop investigating the murder is a mess; seems like no mystery these days is complete without a damaged sleuth. Also like most investigators in literature today, he spends most of his time chasing the wrong guy. Even when he’s right it’s by accident, because he was thinking something else when he latched onto the suspect. The best part for me was, after getting used to instant results on television—especially from Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds—how the book shows the reality of computer forensics, where it may take as long as toxicology to find out anything useful.
I felt like this is more convoluted than it needed to be. There’s a subplot for the snow plow driver and the cop—possibly from a different book—that didn’t really figure in the story. Couldn’t help but think I should have enjoyed this more.

The Teen Girl’s Survival Guide
Not sure a guy my age has any business reviewing a book aimed toward teenaged girls, but I felt that there might be stuff in here that could apply to older women who’d missed this boat, as well as men. I was right.
The first part is all about knowing yourself, and once you do, leaving your comfort zone. After that it becomes about communication, which is really the gist of this book. Basically college-aged girls tell their life experiences to make it easier for the younger ones reading this. After each there’s a section on what can be learned from those stories, which comes off a little preachy and too much like a textbook as it basically summarizes what’s been said.
Best quote: “If you give them a chance, lots of kids will give you help if you ask for it. And when you reach out for help, it gives them a chance to be the “expert,” and who doesn’t like that?” And the best advice: Being a good friend is the key to social success. It’s tough not to say that these things are rather obvious, because a lot of people, especially teenaged girls, aren’t that introspective. But at the very least it has some sections that help cut through the drama, showing that not everything is as bad as a fragile mind might make it out to be.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(Movie, not novelization—that’s still to come)
JJ Abrams is clearly better suited for Star Wars than Star Trek. Took me about three minutes to fall in love with Rey. Special kudos to the FX people; I had no idea that Maz was completely CGI.


Book Reviews: Triumphant, Psychological, Naughty

Is This Seat Taken?
A short tome describing some people—a few famous, most not—who achieved success, mostly in business, at an advanced age. Basically a paean to perseverance—or stubbornness—it gives the history of each person’s struggles and ultimate triumphs.
I wonder if this was intended to be a textbook, for at the end of each chapter there are “takeaways,” as though addressing points that are going to be on a test. I should have thoroughly enjoyed this book, but there’s something that’s keeping me from loving it, and I can’t put my finger on it. 2.5/5

Huntress Moon/Blood Moon
For fans of Criminal Minds, here’s a story told in two parts where the criminal—your mileage may vary on that word for her—is far more interesting than the pursuer. It’s truly amazing how a story with so little action can be so thrilling, from a psychological viewpoint.
At its most basic, a former member of the BAU, still in the FBI and station in San Francisco, is on the hunt for that rarest of birds, a female serial killer. When it’s found out she’s actually the only survivor of a more common serial killer many years before, the psychological profiling really gets cooking, and is what makes these two books really fascinating. As an added bonus, that old case is what made the FBI agent, a kid at the time, pursue this career. There’s also plenty of interesting—on all sides of the moral spectrum—characters throughout; I wouldn’t mind reading more about the female member of the FBI team, for I feel she could have her own series, or at least have some stories told from her point of view, she’s so well-drawn and enchanting.
Reviewers like to say you can enjoy the second book without having to read the first, but I don’t think that’s the case here. I accidentally started on the second one first, and quickly wondered why all this description of previous events was being told rather than shown. Once I checked and saw I had the wrong order, things fell in to place, especially the relationship between the two protagonists.
My only beef—more of a pet peeve—is when the FBI agents attempt to speak Spanish; maybe the point is to show they’re not very fluent, but it’s still irritating to find the wrong tense and gender so often. But that’s hardly anything to cry about in what is really a captivating story. 4/5

Naughty Girl’s Guide to Las Vegas
Exactly as described: a list of naughty things for girls to do in Vegas. Hotels, lingerie shops, topless pools, strips clubs, dominatrixes, and classes of all kinds are covered here. Gets a little repetitive, as there are only so many ways to describe racy material. Can be useful for men wanting to but gifts for their sweeties, as in gift cards or classes. 3.5/5