Bookshelf (Starburst Reviews) Bookshelf compiled by David Howe
• part of Starburst's monthly Reviews section
Selected from Starburst #274

Selected this month: Stephen Lawhead's The Mystic Rose and a double Star Trek novel, The Genesis Wave

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Star Trek: The Genesis Wave
by John Vornholt • Published by Pocket • Volume One: 308pp paperback: Volume Two: 282pp hardback, both published 8 May 2001 • Reviewer: Anthony Brown

Star Trek: The Genesis Wave

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‘... the plotting remains predictable (with treacherous Romulans and honourable Klingons), and the writing more so...’

It would be difficult to imagine a better subject for a multi-volume Trek event than the planet-reshaping Genesis Wave introduced in The Wrath of Khan, yet somehow John Vornholt’s two-book saga has to resort to routine padding to fill out its meagre 600 page length – and at almost £26 for the original hardback editions, that’s a bit rich, as most of the buyers must be.

Six months after Dr Carol Marcus is kidnapped from the house arrest where she’s been held ever since all knowledge of the Genesis Project was locked away ninety years ago, the Genesis Wave reappears, wiping out populated planets by converting them into ideal environments for something which definitely isn’t human. But a lone shuttlecraft carrying a supporting character from a TNG episode escapes the first disaster and rushes off to warn the next world in line. All to no avail, but they do pick up another survivor, who happens to be a movie character who knows this threat… You get the picture.

Once they’ve got the band together they reach the Enterprise, but the plotting remains predictable (with treacherous Romulans and honourable Klingons), and the writing more so – the way each guest character is left carefully unnamed for four pages after it’s obvious who they are being particularly irritating and formulaic. Whenever the story flags, the mysterious enemy demonstrates an unlikely new ability, or does something stupid like giving away the location of their base by hi-jacking a ship there.

There are a few good points, such as Geordi Laforge’s reflections on how his infatuation with Leah Brahms has stopped him finding love elsewhere. But for a tale where more people die in one disaster than in the whole of the Dominion War, this is horribly lightweight – even in hardback.

Starburst rating: 4 / 10

The Mystic Rose
by Stephen Lawhead • Published by Voyager 435pp hardback • Reviewer: Barbara Davies

The Mystic Rose by Stephen Lawhead

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'Cait’s quest is as action-packed and engrossing as those of her forebears Murdo and Duncan (told in the previous books)...'

Previous volumes of The Celtic Crusades each focused on a different Christian holy relic. It’s fitting, then, that The Mystic Rose, the conclusion to Stephen Lawhead’s historical fantasy trilogy, should climax with the most significant relic of them all: the Holy Grail. It also features a walk-on part by Jesus Christ Himself!

When Renaud de Bracineaux, Grand Commander of the Templar Knights, murders Cait’s father, she vows revenge. A stolen parchment (and a ghostly visit from the mysterious Brother Andrew) reveals the existence of the ‘Mystic Rose’ which the Pope has asked Renaud to retrieve. Determined to beat the brutal Templar to the mysterious artefact, Cait heads via Damascus, Cyprus, and Compostella for the Moor-beset mountains of Aragon, freeing some Norse knights for use as her bodyguards on the way. But a furious Renaud is hard on her heels, and then Moorish brigands kidnap Cait’s whiny younger sister…

The rather static framing device, involving The Brotherhood and their rituals in Edinburgh of 1916, adds little to the story, but Cait’s quest itself is as action-packed and engrossing as those of her forebears Murdo and Duncan (told in the previous two books). Those who use religion to further their own worldly ambitions receive short shrift, and as in Scott’s Ivanhoe, Lawhead gives the arrogant Templars the thumbs down.

By contrasting Cait’s treatment of those she meets with Renaud’s subsequent outrageous behaviour towards them, he deftly uses plot to enhance characterization. His romantic subplot is a little obvious though; when Cait has to choose between bluff, handsome Norseman Rognvald and wily, handsome Moorish Prince Hasan, the outcome is never really in question.

Though the fantasy elements are sparse, they are vital to The Mystic Rose. Lawhead brings the past vividly to life. Read and enjoy.

Starburst rating: 9 / 10

Reviews © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction