“Star Trek” by Alan Dean Foster (2009 Movie Novelization and Audiobook)

I was looking through my old Livejournal and realized I never got around to reposting this here. So to celebrate the release of “Star Trek Into Darkness”, here is my integrated review of “Star Trek” (Movie Novelization) by Alan Dean Foster and “Star Trek” (Movie Novelization – Audiobook) narrated by Zachary Quinto, which was originally published on NewWorlds.ph on 26 June 2009.

star trekStar Trek
Author: Alan Dean Foster, based on the screenplay by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Audiobook Narrator: Zachary Quinto
Read Date: Sometime in 2009
Rating: Novel – 4 out of 5 stars; Audiobook – 5 out of 5 stars

The origins of James Kirk, Spock and the crew of the USS Enterprise from the 2009 film “Star Trek” and how these iconic characters came together in the alternate reality caused by Nero’s time travel. This book is the novelization of the 2009 film of the same name.

* This review assumes readers have at least watched the film. 🙂 *

When I read a novel, I create an independent movie in my mind. I visualize scenes and characters vividly as if I were directing them, and every word contributes to my imaginary screenplay.

Listening to audiobooks, on the other hand, provide me with a completely different kind of entertainment. In a way, they add sound and music to my mental indie film, especially if the narrator delivers an exceptional performance. For a long time now, my personal standard for audiobooks is Stephen Fry’s reading of Harry Potter – all 7 of them. Even though I’ve read each of the books several times over, I still take away something new from the story every time I listen to him.

In the past, I’ve always read the books before listening to their audiobook counterparts. I didn’t realize doing things in reverse will result in an unexpected side-effect; at the time, the books were simply easier to get hold of than the audiobooks.

With the movie novelization of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s Star Trek by Alan Dean Foster, I experienced the novel by listening to Zachary Quinto’s unabridged narration first, so I’m now writing about both the book and the audiobook simultaneously. [Full Disclosure: I’ve listened to the audiobook too many times that I can’t read the book without hearing ZQ’s voice inside my head.]

Foster’s adaptation stays true to Kurtzman and Orci’s screenplay and basic storyline about James Tiberius Kirk, Spock, the rest of the crew of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise, and how their lives were changed by a time-travelling villain who is out for revenge. Foster, however, wrote in several key scenes that were cut from the film [For reference: DVD list of deleted scenes]. They became effective establishing scenes: Spock’s birth, a little more about Kirk’s childhood, certain parts of the Kobayashi Maru arc.

Conversely, there were also scenes that he did not include but were shot for the film and edited out. Why he did not write about Nero and Crew’s time at the Klingon prison planet when it could have been used to give the readers more insight into the Romulans is a mystery to me. He also extended many of the scenes from the screenplay. The discussion between the people on the bridge after Kirk assumed command of the Enterprise became the platform to unravel the intricacies of the parallel timeline plot point. If the final cut of this scene from the film forced audiences to take leaps to connect the dots, the scene in the book will at least help readers grasp the concept at the same time the characters do. A lot of sections were also added to establish relationships and flesh out characters and backstories.

One of the fascinating things about novelizations is being privy to the characters’s thoughts. Foster gives us a lot of these, especially for Kirk and Spock. However, his characterization of Kirk did not quite endear the character to me as the movie did. Kirk does have his moments, but he is abrasive and arrogant for the most part. In contrast, Chris Pine’s portrayal gave that same arrogance a softer edge and a certain vulnerability and charm. I always root for movie!Kirk, but I wouldn’t mind someone hitting novel!Kirk squarely in the face just once. Foster’s Spock was written closer to how the Vulcan was portrayed by Zachary Quinto, though Spock in the novel is perhaps less intriguing. The other characters were better written, most notably Leonard McCoy and Christopher Pike.

I’m not too crazy about the general writing style that Foster employed, but the one thing I specifically loved and he got right is the humor of the film; this really redeemed the novel in my eyes. If I had read this before listening to the audiobook, though, I fear I might have been a bit more disagreeable, so special commendation must be given to Zachary Quinto for his narration.

For someone who is on his first stint as an audiobook narrator, Quinto turned in a remarkable performance. He has a very pleasant voice and good enunciation. His extensive experience as an actor obviously came into play as he gave a lot of thought to how each scene and character will be portrayed, capturing the essence of the performances of his fellow cast members in the film, yet giving each one his own personal interpretation.

Quinto’s narrator voice is appropriately neutral most of the time; omniscient, but never intrusive. However, he adjusts perceptibly to add atmosphere to certain sections. This is best exemplified by the transition from a subdued reading of Spock’s audience with the elders in Vulcan to a more vibrant reading of Kirk’s bar scene in Iowa, you can almost hear the jovial music playing in the room; from the frantic reading of Kirk’s encounter with the monster in Delta Vega to a wistful reading of Kirk and Spock Prime’s mindmeld; from the melancholic reading of the scene between Spock and Sarek to the urgent reading of the strategy session on the Bridge.

The voices he created for the different characters were very distinct, but he never resorts to exaggeration. Instead, he varies the cadence, texture, volume, and tone of his voice slightly to convey McCoy’s gruffness, Kirk’s brashness, Spock’s calmness tinged with emotion, Chekov’s eagerness, Nero’s subtle menace, Pike’s confidence, Uhura’s femininity, and yes, even the monster Polarilla’s growls. My only problem was I could not stop laughing at his portrayal of Amanda Grayson. Quinto also managed the accents of both Chekov and Scotty wonderfully, again, rendering a distinct reading without resorting to parody.

In conclusion, Foster generally did a good job of adapting the screenplay and adding richness to the story we see on film, but there are glaring hits, misses and inconsistencies. Quinto, for his part, pleasantly surprises, entertains, and elevates the novelization to a new level.

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Excerpt from the audiobook:

Miscellany #02: Alternatives

It’s time for another “Every-Flavour Beans” post! :p

Alternative Alamat: Coming 14th December

Paolo Chikiamco (Hi, Pao!) is going to make it easier for me to get into more works by Filipino authors with his new anthology, Alternative Alamat. Rocket Kapre will release the book on Amazon.com, Flipreads.com, and the iTunes store.

Philippine mythology is full of images that ignite the imagination: gods of calamity and baldness, of cosmic time and lost things; the many-layered Skyworld, and weapons that fight their own battles; a ship that is pulled to paradise by a chain, and a giant crab that controls the tides… yet too few of these tales are known and read today. “Alternative Alamat” gathers stories, by contemporary authors of Philippine fantasy, which make innovative use of elements of Philippine mythology. None of these stories are straight re-tellings of the old tales: they build on those stories, or question underlying assumptions; use ancient names as catalysts, or play within the spaces where the myths are silent. What you will find in common in these eleven stories is a love for the myths, epics, and legends which reflect us, contain us, call to us–and it is our hope that, in reading our stories, you may catch a glimpse, and develop a hunger, for those venerable tales.

“Alternative Alamat” also features a cover and interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo, a short list of notable Philippine deities, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.

There’s a list of stories and authors included in the anthology over at Rocket Kapre. [Link]

The Hunger Games movie news

Our local SM Cinemas promises they will be showing the film 1 day ahead of the US release. Apparently, this really is 1 “day and date” ahead, so it’s 22 March 2012, Philippine time.

Lookie at the cover art for all the THG movie tie-ins!
The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Hunger Games (Movie Tie-In Edition)
The Hunger Games Tribute Guide
The World of The Hunger Games

Danny Elfman is out as one-half of the musical scoring team for the film, and James Newton Howard is taking his place. Howard joins T.Bone Burnett on board the multi-album project. While Howard is a solid alternative to Elfman (and yes, I like Howard’s work more), I would’ve liked to see Hans Zimmer or Alexandre Desplat take on something like THG. Then again, since there are roughly 4 months to go and 2 albums to produce, maybe the filmmakers prefer to play it safe.

More Book-to-Movie Madness: “John Carter”

The trailer is out! I saw this in 3D ahead of our screening of The Adventures of Tintin, and it looks like Pixar did a great job on the production design.

It needs better marketing buzz, though, to be honest. John Lasseter apparently didn’t want to use the title of the source material, John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, because JC isn’t quite “of Mars” yet in this movie. Ye-huh, but “John Carter” does not exactly pique one’s interest. It’s not as if he’s James Bond or something…even if he is played by someone like Taylor Kitsch.

At least they didn’t go with the original Princess of Mars. How about: John Carter, Princess of Mars? 😛

Okay, okay, moving on.

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!

They have one in the US! I wish we did, too. We need to change that “it’s like taking a kid to a candy store” expression to “it’s like taking a kid to a book store”. ;p

Other Stories:

Hollywood’s Blood Money: Variety has a piece about Hollywood’s on-going love affair with vampires.

– Now I know how I want my book shelf to look.

– Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have released 6 tracks from their upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. For free!

Why 3D Movies Need to Die. Until they can do better, I say Amen to that.

– JJ Abrams took it back: Benicio del Toro won’t be in the Star Trek sequel anymore. But what about Khan? *dun dun dunnnnn*

Miscellany #01: 24 November 2011

Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)
Anne McCaffrey, a legend in the SF/F community, passed away yesterday. As someone who loves fantasy, I understand what her loss means to the genre and to the people who were inspired and influenced by her works. I must, however, take this as a cue to confess that I have not read any of her books. I know, I know. Feel free to send out your fiercest dragons to hunt me down for this blasphemy (Warning: I wear a Ring of Dragonfire Protection). Or if you don’t have any dragons to send out, maybe you can hit the comments section and send me suggestions for which of her books I should read first instead. ;p

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” clothing line to be launched
I still haven’t managed to get past the first chapter of the book, but I’m excited to see the movie starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. Trish Summerville, the costume designer for the film, is going to launch a men’s clothing line inspired by Mikael Blomkvist’s outfits in the movie, and a women’s clothing line inspired by Lisbeth Salander’s. This warms my little movie geek’s (and my little closet fashion fan’s) heart.

Speaking of fashion, I love Rooney Mara’s dress on the cover of Vogue. 😀

10 Themes Shared by Science Fiction and Historical Fiction
It explains a lot. 😉 [Link to article]

Also, Keith Thompson is ♥, and here’s proof:

Ronreads Interview: Junot Diaz
My friend Ron was very lucky to have interviewed Pulitzer prize winner Junot Diaz during the Manila International Literary Festival. He seems like such a fun guy to talk to (color me envious, Ron!), and I love that he’s taken the time to get to know the Philippines and the Filipinos. [Link to interview transcript]

Open Call for Submissions: “Horror: Fantastic Filipino Fiction for Young Adults”
Hit the link if you’re interested to submit something. [Link]

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon this fun Twitter meme, #bumperstickersforwriters. Here are some of the funnier entries:
– “Support our tropes.” @3rdplacepress
– “I’m not lost; I’m procrastinating.” @katelhunter
– “I just killed someone.” @LisaDMartinez
– “Cut me off and I’ll break your fourth wall.” @IrisBlasi
– “It’s not cheating if he’s only an imaginary lover.” @EbonyMcKenna. I suppose this counts for the #bumperstickersforbookworms meme too, if ever one gets started. :p

Notable Children’s Books of 2011
The New York Times released their Notable Children’s Books of 2011 list a few days ago. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone are on it! This makes me happy.

Other Stories:

Salvador Dali + Walt Disney = Destino
I just had to post this link because the short film that Dali and Disney collaborated on is made of pure awesomeness. You can spare 6+ minutes of your time to see it, right? 😉

Star Trek sequel: 17 May 2013
My Star Trek men in IMAX 3D. World, please don’t end in 2012. That is all. [Link to report + JJ Abrams is seriously considering casting Benicio del Toro]

I hate season breaks
The Vampire Diaries is on season break, so I’ve had to resort to re-watching the first 8 episodes of season 3 and some from the tail-end of season 2 (Klaus walks into a bar and confronts Damon and Alaric…) Sometimes news breaks the monotony: lo and behold, Ausiello comes through with a spoiler!

For the record, though, I see all the other characters as “somewhat less evil” than Klaus even if he is actually more complicated than just plain “evil.” So that description from the spoiler doesn’t really tell us much about Finn. The flashback occurring in the 1400’s, though, makes for more interesting Originals Speculation Fodder and also begs the question: is there a curse on the Petrova doppelgangers that has something to do with brothers falling all over or fighting over them? ;p I wonder if the writers will spin an Elijah vs. Finn angle on this one.

Enough rambling. It’s time to post a gratuitous photo of Klaus. Just because.

Please note that the caption should be read with Klaus' American accent from S03E01. :p | Image Source: The TVD Facebook App

Now, I’m gonna go open my media player and listen to some Coldplay while I work. 😉