Today I Read…Star Trek Into Darkness

Into DarknessToday I read Star Trek Into Darkness, the novelization of the movie, written by Alan Dean Foster.

Captain James T. Kirk and his crew are just getting used to their new starship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, when a survey mission to a planet protected by the Prime Directive goes awry. After First Officer Spock writes his report to the admiralty, Kirk is demoted and Spock is transferred.

However, a terrorist attack by a renegade Starfleet officer cuts their punishment short, as Admiral Marcus sends the Enterprise to the dangerous Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS to retrieve John Harrison, with 72 new torpedos in their weapons bay–torpedos unlike any that Chief Engineer Scott has seen before, and that no one is willing to explain to him. The secrets keep piling up–who is John Harrison, and what is he after? Why is Admiral Marcus so intent on his death? What exactly do the new torpedoes do? And can Kirk and Spock learn to work together, without any fistfights?

This thrilling adventure continues the story of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and her five-year mission–to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no man has gone before.

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I’ve mentioned before how much I love Star Trek. I saw the movie hoping I’d love it, and I did (although I’m still a little disappointed that the rumour that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Gary Mitchell wasn’t true, since I think that would have been a fascinating and compelling story). I’ve also talked before about some of the problems involved in novelizations. However, while Reawakened novelized 22 hours of a first season, Star Trek Into Darkness tells the story of a two-hour movie, which is much easier to do. In addition, as far as I know Reawakened is Odette Beane’s first book, while Alan Dean Foster’s name is familiar to any science fiction fan as the author of more than one hundred books, including ten novelizations of Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture Photostory, and the 2009 Star Trek movie novelization. He has also written in other properties including Star Wars, Transformers, the Alien movies, and many different movie novelizations.

While Into Darkness is (spoilers!) itself a revised version of The Wrath of Khan, it was criticized for staying too close to the source material. A good novelization is a delicate balancing act, since it has to be the same story as the movie, with the same events and the same lines, while still being a book, and going deeper into the characters’ thoughts and motivations than the movie has time to do. Foster does his usual excellent job of fleshing out the characters, showing the reader what they think as well as what they say and why they do what they do. He successfully retells someone else’s story, enhancing it without changing it. He puts his stamp on the story without making it his story. This is an excellent addition to the Star Trek fan’s collection, and a good book for people who’d rather read their story than watch it.

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“Uneventful.”

Though Kirk had to strain to hear it, the single word was perfectly intelligible. As to what it signified, he had not a clue. “Admiral? Sir?”

Reluctantly abandoning the view, Pike pivoted and seated himself at his desk. The silver-headed walking cane he set aside was smooth and functional, engraved. A new one, Kirk noted with interest. The admiral had amassed an impressive collection. Waving a hand, Pike activated the readout before him and spent a moment studying it. Eventually his gaze rose to meet Kirk’s.

“That’s how you described, in your captain’s log, your survey of the world its inhabitants call Nibiru. Uneventful.”

His attention on the admiral, Kirk missed the look cast in his direction by his science officer. It was as close to an expression of pure astonishment as a Vulcan could muster. With barely a shrug, Kirk indicated the readout.

“You know me, sir. I like my reports to be concise. Senior officers are confronted with so much information these days that I’d be the last to overload a captain’s log with excessive detail. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time going over—”

Pike interrupted the younger officer’s amiable disquisition. “That’s all right, Captain. I’m not put off by detail. I tend to find much of it more enlightening than excessive. Some of it proves to be quite interesting, in fact.” He waved a forefinger at the readout. “Take the report’s subsection on planetary geology, for example. Tell me more about this supervolcano. Supervolcanoes are very interesting structures. According to the data, this one was situated directly above a conjoining of three continental plates, a unique geologic nexus that was further destabilized by a number of proximate major earthquake faults. A very unstable tectonic situation; one might even say volatile. Sufficiently volatile, one could conclude, that if the volcano were to advance to a highly eruptive state, it might set off a series of quakes that in turn could severely jostle the relevant trio of continental plates. The resulting catastrophe could wipe out all life on that part of the planet. Certainly all higher life.” His gaze narrowed. “If it were to erupt.”

Kirk smiled understandingly. “Let’s hope it doesn’t, sir.”

The admiral did not smile back. “Something tells me it won’t.”

“Well, sir,” Kirk demurred, “‘volatile’ is a relative term. Far from scientifically specific. Anything is possible in such a situation. Maybe our data was off. We weren’t at Nibiru long. Under such circumstances, a lot of data has to be gathered as quickly as possible and refined later. Information needs to be adjusted in light of additional study. Even data relating to a supervolcano that might at first glance appear to be on the verge of a violent eruption.”

Pike nodded slowly, pausing a long moment before responding. “Or—maybe it won’t erupt because Mr. Spock detonated a meticulously crafted and custom-designed counter thermal Rankine wave device inside it right before a civilization that’s barely discovered the concept of the wheel happened to see a starship rising out of their ocean.” His gaze shifted to the science officer. “My apologies for the somewhat condensed summary of your report, but that is the way you describe it, is it not?”

Sudden understanding hit Kirk like a chunk of falling meteorite as he whirled on his first officer. “You . . . filed a report?”

“Following exploration of a new or lightly contacted world, all individual starship sections are required to file a full report.” He favored the familiar figure seated beside him with an unblinking stare. “Why would you assume Science would not do the same?”

“I thought you would, of course, but I assumed you’d run it by me first. Why didn’t you tell me?”

His voice flatter and more machine-like than usual, the science officer responded in a tone that only slightly mimicked the voice pattern of his friend.

“I incorrectly assumed you would tell the truth in your report.”

Kirk’s expression tightened. “I would have if not for the inconvenient exception I had to make in order to save your life. Or did you decide to omit that from your report because you considered it an ‘excessive detail’?”

“On the contrary,” the science officer responded, “I took care to include it along with all related information. It is something for which, on subsequent reflection, I am immeasurably grateful, and the very reason why I felt it necessary to take responsibility—”

Kirk would have none of it. “And that would be so noble,” he broke in, “if I wasn’t the one getting thrown under the bus, Pointy!”

Both eyebrows rose. “‘Pointy’? Is that an attempt at a derogatory reference to my—?”

“Gentlemen.” The admiral’s legs might not work as well as they once had, but there was nothing wrong with his voice. Both younger officers went silent as the senior officer rose from the seat behind his desk, utilizing his cane for support. “As you’ve clearly forgotten, please allow me to remind you: Starfleet’s mandate is to explore and observe, and if necessary, to defend. Not to interfere. The Prime Directive is the first thing new cadets memorize—not the last. No matter how stressful the circumstances, I find it difficult to believe it could be forgotten. Or worse, overlooked.” He eyed them meaningfully. “The Prime Directive supersedes everything, gentlemen. Even initiative.”

Spock responded. “Had the mission that we set ourselves gone as planned, Admiral, the indigenous sentient species of Nibiru would never have become aware of our interference. Or our presence. The operation was designed from the outset to preserve every aspect of the Prime Directive.”

“That’s a technicality.” Pike was plainly displeased by the science officer’s response.

“I am Vulcan, sir. We embrace technicality.”

“Sir, if I can be allowed to explain—” Kirk hurriedly injected.

Not hurriedly enough, as Pike glared hard at the Vulcan. “Kirk, shut up. Are you giving me attitude, Spock?”

Unfazed, the science officer continued. “I am expressing multiple attitudes simultaneously, sir, each one of which can be differently parsed. To which are you referring?”

Sitting back in his chair, the admiral began tapping the fingers of one hand on the desktop. “Logic should serve to illuminate, not complicate. Your attempt to substitute ambiguity for clarity is misguided. Out. You’re dismissed, Commander.”

Spock hesitated, cast an indecipherable look at his friend and superior officer who had not been summarily dismissed, and wordlessly departed. Behind him, he left a quietly furious Kirk and a thoroughly exasperated admiral of the fleet.

Pike started to say something, paused, chose to reload with different ammunition. “Do you have any idea what a pain in the ass you are?”

Kirk kept his reply as even as possible. “I think so, sir.”

The admiral nodded slowly. “Good. That’s progress, I suppose. Now, tell me what you did wrong. What’s the lesson to be learned here?”

Without glancing back at the doorway or cracking a smile, Kirk replied stone-faced. “Never trust a Vulcan?”

Pike’s frustration as well as his irritation came through plainly in his reply. “You can’t even answer the question without injecting impertinence. Despite what it says on your record, I have to keep reminding myself that you’re actually a starship captain. If not for your last-minute heroics in saving Earth from . . .” His voice trailed away, momentarily lost in memory of a recent near-catastrophe. Then he straightened in the chair. “What it boils down to is that you lied. You lied, Kirk, on an official report.”

The younger man’s reply was impassioned. “The intent was to observe the relevant rules to the letter, sir. Which we did. Had we not proceeded with the designed mission, it is highly likely a developing intelligent species would have been wiped out. Or at least had their maturation set back hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Even worse, there was a distinct possibility that if we had held back, there would have been no interference with the Prime Directive, because you can’t interfere with a species that’s been rendered extinct. The decision to chance revealing our presence was wholly mine. Mr. Spock disagreed, and was ready to disagree to the death.” His expression twisted. “My saving his life caused him no end of anguish, or the Vulcan equivalent thereof. Though I believe he has since come to terms with still being alive. With a Vulcan, one can never be sure of such things.”

Pike was not appeased. “You think the rules don’t apply to you because you disagree with them.”

“With all due respect, sir.” Kirk spoke deferentially, all trace of snarkiness gone. “I thought that’s why you talked me into signing up in the first place. Why you took a personal interest in my progress. Why you gave me your ship.”

The admiral sighed. Only when he spoke again did his fingers cease drumming on the desk. “No, I gave you my ship because I saw greatness in you.” He hesitated. “And now I see you haven’t got an ounce of humility.”

Unwavering, Kirk met his mentor’s gaze. “What was I supposed to do? Let Spock die?”

“You’re missing the point.”

The younger man’s voice rose. “I don’t think I am, sir. What would you have done?”

“I wouldn’t have risked my first officer’s life in the first place. You were supposed to survey a planet—not alter its destiny. You violated a dozen Starfleet regulations and almost got everyone under your command killed!”

Kirk refused to back down. “Except I didn’t. You know how many crewmembers I’ve lost since—”

“That’s your problem,” Pike harshly interrupted. “You think you’re infallible. You think you can’t make a mistake. There’s a pattern with you, that rules are for other people.”

“Some should be,” Kirk muttered.

Pike ignored the comment as he continued. “And what’s worse is using blind luck to justify your playing God.”

Both men went silent for a moment before the admiral continued, more quietly. “Given the circumstances, this has been brought to Admiral Marcus’s attention. He convened a special tribunal, to which I was not invited. You understand what Starfleet regulations mandate be done at this point.”

Kirk did not, but as he pondered the alternatives open to such a tribunal, a terrible realization slowly began to dawn.

Pike confirmed it. “They’ve taken the Enterprise away from you. And they’re sending you back to the Academy.”

When he could finally speak again, Kirk tried to defend himself, even though deep inside he was beginning to realize that the decision, along now with everything else, was beyond his control. “Admiral, listen . . .”

“No.” Pike was having none of it—frustrated, hurt, and angry, he seemed no longer inclined to listen to anything his disgraced protégé might have to say. “No, I’m not going to listen. Why should I listen? You don’t listen to anyone but yourself. No, I can’t listen!” Realizing his efforts were futile, Kirk went silent.

“You don’t comply with the rules,” Pike continued more calmly. “You don’t take responsibility for anything. And you. Don’t. Respect. The chair. You know why?”

His next words fell on the already stunned Kirk like a hammer.

“Because you’re not ready for it.”

 

Polar Chill this weekend!

Polar ChillFor anyone who is in the Toronto area, this weekend is the Polar Chill relaxacon, presented by the TCON Promotional Society, the group behind Toronto Trek, Polaris, and the upcoming Reversed Polarity. Come out, chill, and actually spend some time in the pool. There will be a pool party Friday night, a trip for Dim Sum Saturday, and a trip to Canada’s Wonderland Sunday, as well as traditional panel programming (because nerds love to talk about nerdy things!).

On Saturday I’ll be leading the discussion “Was the Book Better?”. Talk about your favourite books-turned-into-movies, or your least favourite. Which one was better and why? Or were they both good for different reasons? And to anyone who says the book is ALWAYS better, I have two words for you: Princess Bride. Both the book and the movie were awesome, and I defy anyone to  disagree.

On Sunday, I’ll be leading the discussions “Anatomy of a Villain”, where we talk about our favourite villains and just what makes them the evil overlords of our hearts; “Elementary Dear Sherlock”, talking about the many new versions of Conan Doyle’s famous detective and why is he undergoing such a renewed surge of interest; and “Closing the Gates of Hell: Supernatural Season 8″, where we can dissect the latest season (Castiel! Bobby! Garth! Benny! Charlie! Kevin! Sam! Dean!).

Some of the other panel topics will include a debate between vampires and zombies, and who is the top monster nowadays; Marvel Phase 2, which has now begun with the release of Iron Man 3; a Doctor Who primer, for anyone interested in learning more about the madman with the blue box; a sci-fi themed game of Cards Against Humanity; Doctor Who and Star Trek Scene-It games;  a retrospective on our old home, the Regal Constellation hotel; discussions on Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness; and a round of ConClue: who’s been murdered this time?

Come say hi!

OLA Festival of Trees 2013 review

*UPDATE*: Pictures of the Festival are finally up here and here.

So last week I volunteered at the Ontario Library Association’s Festival of Trees in Toronto, and I had a blast!

The Festival of Trees is a two-day event to celebrate the Forest of Reading program, which aims:

  • To encourage the children, young people and adults of Ontario to enjoy reading
  • To develop recognition for Canadian authors and Canadian books
  • To contribute to the financial stability of the Canadian publishing industry
  • To provide teacher-librarians, librarians, library staff and parent volunteers with a meaningful tool for improving literacy in schools and libraries
  • To respond to community interest and needs

(from About the Forest)

The program is divided into different categories:

For School-Aged Readers

  • Blue Spruce™Awards (primary – Grade 2 picture books)
  • Silver Birch® Awards (Grades 3-6 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Silver Birch Express™ Awards (Grades 3-4 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Red Maple™ Awards (Grades 7-8 fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • White Pine™ Awards (high school fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • Le Prix Peuplier (picture books, less text, simpler subject matters, beautiful picture books perfect for read alouds)
  • Le Prix Tamarac (chapter books from 100 to 250 pages, smaller text with little or no illustrations, more complicated verb tenses and vocabulary)
  • Le Prix Tamarac Express (shorter chapter books maximum 100 pages or more mature picture books, larger text with pictures, simpler vocabulary and verb tenses)

For each program, readers are encouraged to read all or a selection of the books, and then vote on their favourite. For the school-aged programs the readers must read a minimum of 5 books to be eligible to vote.

For Adults

  •  Golden Oak™ Awards (adults learning to read, ESL, fiction)
  • Evergreen™ Award (adults of any age, fiction, non-fiction)

(ibid)

So, my days.

Wednesday

We had to be there waytoobloodyearly (defined as before noon, but more specifically about 8 am) for the volunteer orientation. Toronto rush-hour traffic and construction season, oy. I’ve never been to the Harbourfront Centre before, but it was a nice venue. It was raining when I arrived, but someone bribed the weather gods and it stopped right when we were supposed to open, so both of the days the weather was just beautiful–sunny, not too hot, and not too windy even though we were right on the water.

There was a lot of different activities going on–author and illustrator signings, all kids of workshops, games, the various awards ceremonies, a hula hoop tent, a book trading zone, a book store, booths from OWL magazine and the Toronto Zoo, the Story Wall where students could create a story together, each person writing the next line, the Graffiti Trees where students could write comments on Post-Its for the authors, a craft tent, face painting, a clown making balloon animals, a paddle boat ride…

Wednesday morning I was assigned to the tattoo station (yes, they were temporary tattoos), and I was really glad that there wasn’t much wind–I didn’t want to go running after the papers!  Then in the afternoon I was on the ring toss game. The kids had to throw a frisbee onto a pylon–it was actually pretty hard, especially with the wind off the lake! If they managed to get one on, they won a free book, so the game was pretty popular.

OLA Festival of Trees May 15, 2013

Yes, I wore that tattoo on my face all day long, including when I walked around Toronto and when I went to the theatre later.

(Then I saw the new Star Trek movie Into Darkness with some friends, which despite starting late and the IMAX not working, was terrific, but not the point of this post. Still, new Trek, geeker joy! And with added lovely Benedict Cumberbatch goodness!)

Thursday

Thursday was busy, since we were short-handed, and had even more people. There were 6,000 tickets sold for the 2 days–2,000 people attended Wednesday, and 4,000 people attended Thursday. Fortunately the kids were all really well-behaved, enthusiastic about everything and ready to have fun (and not be in school for a day)!

We started with another volunteer meeting, since several people were new to the event–I don’t think that many people were able to volunteer both days. Then I was on bus duty, making sure that the school buses dropped the kids off in the right place and directing everyone to the right door to get in. There was a ton of construction right in front of the Harbourfront Centre, as well as the Centre’s maintenance people with vehicles and big recycling bins and so on right at the entrance, but even though the kids were excited they were pretty good about listening when we told them to hold up and wait for the road to be clear.

Then I went back to the ring toss, which was even busier than the day before. I was asked at the last minute to go to the hula hoop station because they needed someone to help supervise the area–make sure the kids stayed on the grass and didn’t wander into the walking paths with the hoops, make sure they didn’t stand on the hoops and break them, no throwing the hoops, watch out for other people, that kind of thing. Luckily I didn’t actually have to teach them to use the hula hoops–I’m terrible at it! Instead there was a girl, Isabella Hoops, who taught them all kinds of neat tricks.

For the afternoon I was asked to be the workshop volunteer for Evan Munday, the author of the nominated book The Dead Kid Detective Agency. (You can find his blog post about the Festival and the workshop here.) I introduced him to the audience, counted the attendees, made sure he had everything he needed to present, and watched the workshop to make sure it went smoothly (and to see what happened).

He set up a mystery using characters from his book, and the kids had to ask questions and figure out who the culprit was from among the suspects. It was all I could do to keep my hand down and let the kids ask the questions. (Ok, I did raise it once, when he was asking them what are the parts of a mystery story–with the age range attending, no one knew what a red herring was). It was a great workshop, everyone had a lot of fun guessing whodunnit, and Evan Munday was a lively and interesting presenter. It was the last event of the day, so he agreed to stick around for a few minutes afterwards and sign books. Then we had to clean everything up quickly and let the Centre people have their building back, and we were free.

It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I went and volunteered. I wish it had been around when I was in public school! Honestly, the sole problem that I had was that there was so much going on and I was so busy working that I wasn’t able to see much. I did walk around on my breaks and look at things, but I missed all of the awards presentations. I would like to say congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, and thank you to everyone who attended–the kids loved meeting them and getting their books signed and the chance to ask questions and participate in the workshops. And a big thank you to all of the organizers and volunteers–I’ve worked a lot of events, and this one went incredibly smoothly. I didn’t notice any serious problems, even though we were short-staffed on Thursday. Everyone jumped right in and did whatever needed doing.

I’m definitely going to keep an eye out to help with next year’s festival.

PS. I will add links to pictures from the festival as soon as they pop up on the Forest of Reading website.

PPS. LOOK WHAT I FOUND ON THE GRAFFITI WALL! AND THERE WAS A BLONDE IN A UNION JACK RUNNING AROUND THE NEXT DAY!