Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Star Trek - Log One

Author: Alan Dean Foster
First Published: 1974
Pages: 184pp
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

It wasn't too long ago that I reviewed another book by Alan Dean Foster. Splinter of the Mind's Eye was his story based upon the intent of George Lucas to produce a lower budget sequel to Star Wars if it didn't do well in theatres. Well we know how that panned out, so Foster's Star Wars sequel remains a quirky novel in the expanded universe for fans of the franchise.

Before Lucas approached him, Foster also took on what was to become another science fiction cinematic and televisual franchise. Star Trek: The Original Series had been cancelled fours years previously (in 1969) but was proving immensely popular via syndication. This resulted in the shows creator, Gene Roddenberry, to decide to continue the series in an animated form. To the delight of fans, much of the original cast returned to provide voice-overs for their original characters. Show writers David Gerrold and D. C. Fontana characterised The Animated Series as a fourth season of The Original Series.

Star Trek: The Animated Series, aired as "Star Trek" and as "The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek" from 1973 to 1974 consisting of 22 episodes over two seasons. Set in the 23rd century, with Earth as part of a United Federation of Planets, it followed the adventures of the Starfleet vessel USS Enterprise as it explored the galaxy.

Oath of Blood - Wolfs Head #1

Author: Arthur Frazier (aka Kenneth Bulmer)
First Published: 1973
Pages: 108pp
Publisher: New English Library

Any book that opens Page One with a man being skewered by the broken mast of a sailing ship in the middle of a storm has to be good right? Well, I'm happy to say Oath of Blood by Arthur Frazier lives up to its gory opening scene and delivers a fantastic little novel about the clash of the Saxons, Normans and Vikings during the 11th century (1066 to be precise).

Arthur Frazier was one of many pen names used by the prolific Kenneth Bulmer. He authored many classic novels and much-loved series such as the science fiction of Dray Prescot (as Alan Burt Ackers), the maritime exploits of Abercrombie Fox (as Adam Hardy),  Roman adventure The Eagles (as Andrew Quiller),  U-boat adventures (as Bruno Krauss), Falklands war novels (as Adam Hardy) and adaptations of the TV series The Professionals (as Ken Blake).

I have had mixed experience reading Bulmer recently. I wasn't impressed with Dray Prescot - you can read my review here. But I had a better time reviewing the Adam Hardy opener for Strike Force Falklands. I'm glad to report with Oath of Blood he has finally won me over with his writing - this is a tour de force of a novel, brimming with authentic detail and history of the period. He introduces us to characters that make an impression and seem very real. The action is bloody, visceral and dirty with maiming, decapitations, severed limbs and brain-splattering axe fights scattered throughout. But mixed into the mayhem is a story of love and friendship which promises an epic story to come.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

The Man with a Thousand Names

Author: A. E. Van Vogt (aka Alfred Vogt)
First Published: 1974
Pages: 141pp
Publisher: DAW

Well this was an interesting read. Something a bit, er, different from what I was expecting. If you have never read a Van Vogt science fiction book, be prepared for a Marmite experience!

 A. E. Van Vogt, was born Alfred Vogt, in Manitoba, Canada in 1912. Raised by descendants of Dutch lineage, he became one of the most recognisable names in Sci-Fi literature and influenced such writers as Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison. During the course of his writing career he became one of the most popular figures of the 20th century's Golden Age of science fiction.

However, this was not the genre that Vogt began with. His first foray into the literary world started with true confessions stories for pulp magazines such as Tue Story. He changed track by the end of the thirties and inspired by the Astounding Science Fiction magazine and James W. Campbell, submitted a story entitled Vault of the Beast which was rejected. However, with encouragement and a further submission, his first published sci-fi story for the same magazine was called Black Destroyer* which appeared in the July 1939 issue.

Vogt quit his job and went full time as a writer in 1941. His most famous novels were written in a purple patch between 1941 and 1944. Most of these appeared in serialised form in various magazines before being released in paperback. He moved to California in 1944, and took on his pen-name as his legal name whilst applying for American citizenship.