Una McCormack - Shastrix Books

Una McCormack

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Wonderlands

Wonderlands

Una McCormack

26th June 2021

Una McCormack’s second Star Trek Discovery novel, and the eighth overall, aims to fill the gap in Michael Burnham’s story between the first two episodes of season three. I’d say this book is spoilery up to and including episode two though, so probably best to watch the third season before reading.

The book follows Michael as she settles in and begins to explore, with her new friends, while she waits for Discovery to find her. It does a lot of world building, particularly of the life and work of the couriers, and explores a lot of themes that feel reflective of real-world life, including isolation at both the individual and societal level.

I found the narrative to be fairly slow going - the book has surprisingly long chapters, and I think this made me feel like I had to really commit to reading each session, rather than just dipping in and out. I was a good halfway through before it suddenly occurred to me that this was mirroring the structure of a season of Star Trek: Discovery - a relatively small number of episodes, each telling a story, but adding up to one big overall arc.

I did have to take a break in the middle to read something a bit faster paced, just to get myself back into the swing of reading, but then when I returned I felt much more comfortable and able to flow through the final chapters with ease.

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The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway

The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway

Una McCormack

19th December 2020

I’ve kind of ignored the autobiography series of Star Trek novels until now, because I’m generally a fan of the Pocket Books novel series, and these are published by Titan. However the lure of Una McCormack as the ‘editor’ drew me to get this, the Kathryn Janeway entry in the series.

The book contains a first-person set of reflections on what’s probably one of the most interesting lives in Star Trek. Many anecdotes from the character’s childhood are contrasted with events from the TV series, and the years spent lost in the delta quadrant are covered with an interesting take of nostalgia mixed with some commentary that we wouldn’t get in a different format.

McCormack’s details of the personal thoughts of Janeway are the most delightful aspect of the book. There are a lot of little comments which show a great deal of thought, references that reflect upon our 21st Century lives (and I’m sure some that I missed!), and moments designed to add new levels of depth to the character that’s only possible in this memoir format.

My only disappointment was that I felt it wrapped up too abruptly. I was hoping to see more about what happened for the character after the end of the TV series, but the details here are few, and it almost felt as if the character’s view was that life was more mundane from that point forward. However it’s plausible this was done intentionally, because we now know that Janeway’s television story is not yet complete, and the book might have wanted to avoid being contradicted by canon too soon.

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The Last Best Hope

The Last Best Hope

Una McCormack

20th March 2020

The Last Best Hope is the first tie-in novel for the new Star Trek: Picard TV series, in which we return to the era of the Next Generation to find out what’s been happening some 25 years later. The novel serves as a prequel to the series, and fills in the detail of some of the events 14 years earlier, charting how the effects of events depicted in the 2009 movie affected this, the prime timeline, and led directly to where me meet Picard now.

Although the novel was published after episode 3, I think it’s best read after episode 4 - as it covers a lot of the detail of things that are alluded to in the first four episodes, and could be considered a spoiler if you’ve not seen these already. Arguably, you might want to watch episode 5 first too, but I think it works well after episode 4.

I maintain that Una McCormack is one of the best Star Trek authors out there, and I was incredibly pleased to hear she was writing this. It’s an amazingly well told tale of incredibly difficult times, and she successfully weaves in Star Trek’s classic parallels to today without it seeming in any way forced. The characters leap out of the page in a way that’s almost greater than they do on TV - the background really helps in engaging and empathising with them in the TV series too.

I have to be a little disappointed that the new TV series effectively erases a good chunk of the storyline that I’ve enjoyed reading in the novels over the past decades, and this book sits solidly in the new canon, though there are a few small nods where possible. I’m glad however that the reason the novel continuity has ended is positive - that we have a new TV series which is quite possibly the best written Trek yet.

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The Undefeated

The Undefeated

Una McCormack

23rd June 2019

I am a big fan of Una McCormack’s tie-in novels, and so when I saw that she had written an original work I made sure to pick it up and read it immediately.

The novella tells the story of a journalist in a universe where a galactic colonial power seems to be in its end days, and through the story of her life we also see the story of the civilisation.

McCormack’s world building is excellent, with a slow reveal of more about the civilisation through an elongated flashback, and character interaction, and leaves me feeling like there are plenty of other potential opportunities to explore this world - though I didn’t feel they were lacking from this story.

Very much recommended.

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The Way to the Stars

The Way to the Stars

Una McCormack

28th April 2019

The fourth novel based on the latest Star Trek series, Discovery, is the first written by a woman, and I’m slightly surprised that sums wasn’t asked to write one sooner, both because the show has made a point of focusing on its female characters and creators, and because Una is probably the best Star Trek novelist currently writing.

This book tells some backstory for the character Tilly, a cadet when we first meet her on TV, but here a high schooler. It draws on a number of character moments dropped into the series, particularly Tilly’s relationship with her mother, and creates an excellent story intertwining coming-of-age, boarding school, space adventure and much more.

My favourite of the Discovery novels so far - not the same sort of adventure as the earlier three - but much more fitting for Tilly and in keeping with McCormack’s usual trick of telling a character story that’s incredibly engrossing. A must read for anyone who loves Discovery and Tilly, and recommended for everyone else too.

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Enigma Tales

Enigma Tales

Una McCormack

26th July 2017

Una McCormack, probably my favourite of the current crop of Star Trek authors, returns to Cardassia for this excellent and deliciously Cardassian tale.

Doctor Pulaski is visiting Cardassia to receive an award, but events start to unfold in interesting ways as Garak moves toward retribution for the crimes his people committed during the occupation of Bajor, and new details about those crimes start to come to light.

I can hardly believe how complex this story is, weaving in threads from across DS9 and earlier novels with the richness of Cardassian society. Both drawing on previous adventures and doing some worldbuilding of her own, McCormack paints an amazing picture of a world growing form its past. I love some of the clever symbolism that weaves in around flowers, art and literature, particularly the focus on the enigma tales, and how these reflect back into the plot. I also loved the setting in a Cardassian university, clearly something the author is well aware of herself, and this really comes across as something there's a deep understanding and appreciation of.

The presentation is good too. The chapters are long, and interspersed with letters written by Garak, which serve to develop both character and, subtly, plot. The tone is quite casual in places (especially the start) which gives another feeling of Cardassia, as it's reminiscent of Garak's storytelling in the TV series.

In case it's not clear, I think this book is great, and I hope for many many more from McCormack. I would strongly recommend reading David Mack's novel 'Control' first though, as one of the plot strands here follows on directly from that novel.

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The Missing

The Missing

Una McCormack

11th February 2015

Finally! A new DS9 novel! But is it? We're well into the second DS9 relaunch by now, and there's a big continuity gap sitting in the wings waiting to be filled in between the two. This story really focuses on three known characters, all of them based in or around DS9, but really Ro, Crusher and Pulaski are all Next Generation characters.

The story is about separation from family, a theme which fits really nicely with the selection of characters that McCormack has pulled together, and the numerous plot strands that weave together here. It's also about strong female characters, though I only realised that a few days after is finished reading it. I'm not sure if that says more about the author's subtlety or my own blindness to such factors, and if the latter whether that's a positive thing or a negative.

So I must admit that I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a bit more DS9 focused, and that the plot was really a gathering of multiple parallel strands rather than a single main narrative. However Isis enjoy the visit to the station and find McCormack to be one of the best writers of real character in Trek.

I look forward to more from the series, from the author, and more Cardassians please!

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Other reviewed books

The Crimson Shadow
The Never-Ending Sacrifice
Brinkmanship

Unreviewed books

Hollow Men
Royal Blood
Worlds of DS9 Volume 1

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