Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paperback Rider!

Bookworm's Book Club Presents:

Dirty Harry #1: Duel for Cannons  by "Dane Hartman"  (Warner Books, 1981)  I put the author's name in quotes because like almost all "men's adventure" series books, that's a house name with more than one author writing the books. There were originally paperbacks of at least the first four Dirty Harry movies (I'm not sure about The Dead Pool), and this was a secondary series of books that came out between The Enforcer in 1976 and Sudden Impact in 1983. It ran for 12 books, not too shabby. This first book starts out near San Francisco as an old friend of Harry's is stalked and killed by a psychotic hitman wielding a .44 Magnum, just like the one carried by our Inspector Callahan. Harry chases a very obvious trail first to Los Angeles, where he gets into some misadventures on the Warner Brothers lot (that's the studio that made the Dirty Harry movies) with a couple of in-jokes to lighten up the action a bit. Then it's off to San Antonio Texas where Harry soon realizes everyone, including the police, are on the payroll of local politico H.A. Stryker, and that he'll have to stay on his toes if he wants to stay alive. He then goes on the offensive to avenge his friend's death, which is when Stryker and his men realize why he's called Dirty Harry. It ends about four times as Callahan and the hitman continually duel it out with their .44's, but no one could say "Hartman" didn't pack this one with action. All in all, not bad - the author has mostly captured Clint Eastwood's voice and mannerisms with his literary version of the filmic hero, and if you liked the movies, you'd probably enjoy this.

Star Trek-The Next Generation: Do Comets Dream?  by S.P. Somtow  (Pocket Books, 2003)  S.P. Somtow is the pen name of Somtow Sucharitkul, the rather interesting screenwriter of The Laughing Dead and Burial of the Rats. Here he tries his hand at a TNG novel, and it's a little different, to say the least. The Enterprise is off to visit a planet threatened by a comet heading right for them for the last 5000 years. The alien race feel this is a predestined "reboot" they have to go through, and that a new version of their race will spring up from the ashes of the old. So Picard and company have a big dilemna: they can save the planet, but what will that do to the alien culture, and what about the Prime Directive? Somtow starts off with the aliens, and I wasn't much hooked at first, but I hung in, and when the action switched to the Enterprise, I found myself getting more absorbed. The author really seems to have gotten Gene Roddenberry's idea for Picard and crew - that they are a very benign bunch who believe the best of others and work well together. This idea seemed to hamper the TV writers a lot, as they complained there could be no drama if the crew couldn't squabble. But Somtow pulls it off, and his scenes set on the starship are well written. (And as always, I checked: Data used no contractions that I saw). Once the Federation types start interacting with the aliens, the story takes a big turn I wasn't entirely invested in, with several characters living through a bio-organic holodeck style adventure from the aliens' past that shows them what they need to know to solve their problems in their present. But this is a chunk of the book, probably a third or so of the total page count. And it was not what I was looking for in a Star Trek story, so I "fast forwarded" (aka skimmed) quite a bit through these passages, slowing back to normal reading speed when that segment ended. All in all, worth a read for anyone looking for some new Star Trek action waiting for the next movie to come out.

Thanks for dropping by the book club, til next time, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

1 comment:

  1. Novel tie-ins: Hit or miss territory, that.

    I was a big fan of the Trek books back in the day. I really enjoyed the Blish books, Alan Dean Foster's entries, and AC Crispin and Diane Duane.

    Then Next Gen took off and things got wonky. We had some strong stories (Peter David did wonderful work), but in my opinion, they couldn't keep up with demand, so rather than pacing themselves and sticking with writers who knew the characters, they reached outside the family and picked folks (brand names) who'd written commercial fiction, and were hungry for the work, more so than exploring the worlds and characters.

    I suppose the plots were okay, but the stories lacked heart.

    DS9 and Voyager eventually faded, Enterprise never took off, and sans TV to fuel sales, the books dried up.

    They took the goose that kindly deposited those golden eggs, starved her, and pumped her dry. Brilliant.

    There are some very good novelizations, of course. The Andromeda tie-ins I've read are well done. Keith R. A. DeCandido and Ethlie Ann Vare, in particular, constructed nicely imagined plots and they're true to the characters.

    And another bright spot on the horizon: Ann Crispin has a Jack Sparrow novel coming out in the spring. It will explore Jack's back story, much as she did with Han Solo a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away.

    Final thought: It may sound like I'm approaching this as if it's new territory. It isn't, of course. The peaks and valleys in movie tie-in quality have been around as long as there have been books made from movies--or movies made from books.