Sat, Feb
23
2013

Recent Bookish Adventures

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

Written by Philip Freeman

Another search for well researched yet concise works of history lead me to Philip Freeman’s work — the most recent bio of Alexander the Great I’ve encountered.

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I was not disappointed in choosing this book. This is less a biography of Alexander the Great and more of a sweeping story of conquest, cultural transformation, adventure & astonishment. This is the story of a group of back country & mountainous warriors, whose skill and ambition are distilled into the psyche of one extraordinary man. A man with superhuman endurance, ambition, and yes…vision. This a man who wasn’t simply interested in conquest and control (but make no mistake, he was) — this is a man who craved the next horizon. A man who luxuriated in new ideas, new thoughts, new literature, new cultures & religions…everything new and fresh delighted him to no end. A man who was centuries ahead of his time in looking at a melting pot world. A man who inspired unsurpassed loyalty…and a man who left behind the greatest “what if” questions in history when he died at age 33. Philip Freeman desires to tell this story…and tell it he does.

In 300 plus pages, we cover a campaign, an exploratory journey, and a spiritual quest with deft skill. Just like my other favoured literary historian — Norman Cantor — Mr. Freeman manages not to waste a single word when it isn’t necessary. He encompasses decades and miles with effortless grace, and leaves the reader breathless at the exploits of history’s greatest warrior king & general.

Between this and Mr. Cantor’s own work on Alexander, you have all you need to understand this titan of the human experience. It is definitely worth the effort.


STAR TREK - MY ENEMY, MY ALLY

Written by Diane Duane

Diane Duane has always been a solid Star Trek writer, especially in the early days of the novel series. Her weakest novels are still full of fascinating characters and problems to solve (Dark Mirror), and her best novels are sweeping epics that never forget the human component of Star Trek’s glory (Spock’s World).

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With My Enemy, My Ally, I find myself moving slightly backwards through her canon of Romulan influenced books. I had already read her magnum opus on the Romulan homeworld (The Romulan Way) — a book that, in spite of later TV contradictions, definitely fueled the imagination of many future Star Trek writers. In that novel, a character name Ael was introduced — from her appearance, she was obviously a freelance adventurer, who had disavowed the Romulan government and operated as both a free agent and occasional friend to the Federation in general, and the Enterprise crew in particular. My Enemy, My Ally is the book that properly introduces her…and what a book it is.

In many ways, it’s a prequel to Spock’s World — introducing many of the Enterprise crew members that would appear in that later epic, and reveling in the creation of a truly alien, multicultural crew that wasn’t limited to hominid, humanoid forms…or film & television budgets. Just like Spock’s World, it has a glorious command of both the Original Series regular characters, and all the newcomers — no one is neglected, down to the smallest cameo. Into this mix Ael is introduced, and she is crafted into the most wonderful, passionate, ultimate Romulan character in the entire novel series. Ms. Duane credits Star Trek script writer D.C. Fontana for the inspiration…and I must say, Ms. Fontana would definitely approve of this novel.

Part action-adventure, part riveting character drama, part culture-clash comedy, only a slightly awkward & slow opening pair of chapters keeps My Enemy, My Ally from total perfection. But if there’s one Star Trek novel you want to read, in order to gain the full benefit of a singular Trekkie experience, then this is the novel to choose.

And to top it all off, there’s even a Doctor Who cameo! You can’t top that.