Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Discuss: Star Trek novels

Karen: When I was a youngster and just starting to read science fiction, some of the first books I picked up were James Blish's novelizations of Star Trek episodes. These were fairly light paperbacks, and each episode was perhaps 25 pages or so in length, basically a short story. It was fun for me to see where the written word diverged from the television episode, or where Blish expanded upon something only briefly mentioned in the episode itself. Plus, the library had most of them.

Karen: Since the time of the original series though, Star Trek novels have become a huge market. Practically anything one can imagine in the Star Trek universe has probably been written about by someone (and this is not even counting the enormous number of  fan-published books). Despite being a big Trek fan,  I never had much interest in reading Trek fiction; I did pick up a couple of books here and there over the years but for the most part was not impressed. The exception was The Final Reflection by John M.  Ford, which looked at Klingon culture back before the Klingons became so very popular. I don't think his ideas became canon, but they were quite intriguing, with the Klingons essentially dividing all races into either conquerors or servitors. When viewed that way, their actions seemed to make more sense, although the brutality remained.

Karen: I know we have some Star Trek fans around here. Have you read any Trek novels? What do you think of them?  


Anthony said...

Even though I am a huge Star Trek fan I haven't read many of the novels. There really isn't any continuity among them the way there is with the Star Wars novels. My favorite of the ones I have read are by Vonda N. McIntyre. These include The Entropy Effect, Enterprise and the novelization of Star Trek 2. Enterprise did contradict some established Star Trek canon but otherwise was an enjoyable read and the Star Trek 2 novelization really helped to flesh out the character of Saavik.
I really should get to the Dominion War and Invasion novels sitting on my shelf as well as Peter David's Vendetta. I thought about buying the Eugenics Wars and
Section 31 novels. Has anyone read any of those ?

dbutler16 said...

I, too am a big Star Trek fan who hasn't read too many of the novels, and pretty much all of the ones I did read were back in high school in the mid-80s. I remember readin one which I think was called "Enterprise" which had a blue cover and was supposed to tell about the first voyage of the Enterprise with Captain Kirk. I also remember remember reading "The ABode of Life", "Black Fire" and "The Vulcan Academy Murder". I seem to remember "The ABode of Life" best, so maybe I liked that one best. I thought they were all enjoyable reads.

The best Star Trek books, though, were the photonovels! I had one for "The Galileo Seven" and one for "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

Anthony said...

I have Black Fire on my shelf too. Never got around to reading it. I love Star Trek 2. I think it was just Star Trek Wrath Of Khan went it first came out. I saw it at least 4 times in the theater. I still have the photostory. One of the pictures of the Enterprise firing phasers during the end battle with Reliant was printed upside down. I think I carried that book around with me until I got Star Trek 2 on VHS.

david_b said...

Well, there's obviously the story behind the ST2 Photonovel. With the dismal success of the first film (with the VERY polished photonovel incidently), Paramount cut down a lot of merchandising to save investments, in case the 2nd movie bombed. It wasn't until they saw the finished print and early test groups that they moved ahead and put out some merchandising, such as the 'quickie' b&w Khan novel, soundtrack album, etc.

I'm a Bronze 'old schooler' when it comes to the novels, enjoying the Blish and Foster novelizations early on (still trying to read/understand 'Spock Must Die'), and still having most of the 1st printings buried somewhere in my basement. I typically preferred the non-fiction books, such as the 'World of Star Trek' and others with pics and behind the scenes stories, along with the Poster Books and Starlog.

Only when bored later on did I spend a quarter at a rummage sale for a '80s novel here or there, although I struggle for the names. 'Enterprise' was good, so was 'Final Frontier', 'Spocks World', and some book about the '4th year' of the original cast, name illudes me.

There was a novel with a cover of Pike and the female doctor/wife standing on the Bridge, can't recall the name, but it was a bigger book with a Pike/Spock adventure, it was quite good.

Like I've said in past columns, once the Trek series got sucked into 'THE FRANCHISE' by the late '80s, all the charm and attraction dissipated. By then they were just 'covers on the rack', along with the latter tradebook comics.

The photonovels were nice to have, such huge coolness before VCRs became household commodities.

Doc Savage said...

Those Blish books are interesting as he wrote based on original scripts and had never seen the show, nor did he get the final scripts. Thus the divergences from the TV versions of the same stories.

I tried to read an original novel or two but they revolved around Mary Sue characters I didn't care about so I
didn't get thru them.

bruce said...

I've read quite a few of the Deep Space Nine novels, as that is my favorite show.

Interestingly, a few of them (including one by Peter David) were written before the show went on the air. So some of the characterization in these early novels is kinda wonky.

Garett said...

I read several of the '80s-'90s novels-- Entropy Effect that Anthony mentioned sounds familiar. Other than that, they've disappeared into my memory banks! They were enjoyable reading with familiar characters, but obviously didn't stick with me.

Karen said...

I recall that I did read one of the books that Shatner "wrote" while on a trip once, where Kirk was returned to life after the events of Star Trek: Generations. I think it had something to do with the Romulans? Obviously it didn't stick with me but was OK for a long flight.

I probably have enjoyed the non-fiction Trek books, like World of Star Trek, much more.And as a kid, I was glued to the Star Fleet Manual (OK, not non-fiction but not a narrative) and the Star Trek Concordance.

Anonymous said...

Like all long-running series, the Trek novels are a mixed bag...some are great, some not so much. I have a couple of the Blish books plus a few older novels (Vulcan, Galactic Whirlpool) and I have about 20 or so of the Pocket Books.

My personal favourites are Yesterday's Son (and its follow-up, Time for Yesterday) by A.C. Crispin, which is about Spock having a son with Zarabeth from the "All Our Yesterdays" episode of TOS. I also like Dianne Duane's books (Wounded Sky, Doctor's Orders, Romulan Way) and I liked Memory Prime (by Judith and Gar Reeves-Stevens), which is kind of a follow-up to "The Lights of Zetar".

Mike W.

J.A. Morris said...

My wife has a few of these, and a few of the recent Trek books by Peter David. I've yet to read any, but I'll probably pull one off the shelf, inspired by this post from Karen.

But I picked up this book at a book fair in '82, in the days before VHS, this book was my Star Trek Bible:

Anthony said...

I read Star Trek The Return as well. OK is the same grade I would give it. It was the first in a line of Shatner penned Kirk novels although the heavy lifting was probably done by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. In it Shatner borrows an idea about the Borg V'Ger connection that I believe was first put out there by Gene Roddenbery after Q Who. ( As I have mentioned before on this blog the only time the Borg have been done justice. ) I definitely picked up the novel because of the Borg connection and have also picked up a few more unread novels because of the Borg as well. Pocket Books sure knows how to market to us Borg lovers. Just a mention in a back cover blurb ( Dyson Sphere ) and we are off to the register to part with our money. I even purchased the Deep Space Nine premiere on VHS because of the opening scene of Wolf 359.
I never read any of the Blish adaptions but read a bit about them in Best Of Trek # 3 in a article titled Alternate Universes In Star Trek. The Blish stories only get about two pages. In the typical, but fun, over analysis of Star Trek fans the author states that because of the errors and references to other works by Blish in the stories the adaptions represent an alternate timeline from the one in the episodes themselves.
Mike W
I also have an unread Yesterday's Son sitting behind me on my book shelf but not the follow-up. I'm also a Guardian fan as well.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm a big fan of the original series, and the only Star Trek books I've ever read are the James Blish adaptations of those stories. I never got into the series in any other way, it just never seemed legit.

Rip Off

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

Recently I purchased, "Star Trek: The Cold Equations". It's trilogy of books about the return of Data and the return of the machine planet from V'Ger. According to the mythology in the book world the works of Flint and Dr. Korby inspired Dr. Soong's work. The author, David Mack is one of the best Trek authors around.

His former trilogy, the "Destiny" trilogy, was about how the Borg were created and almost destroy the Federation. That was an un-put-downable series!

Right now there is a series that is called the "Typon Pact". It is about the remaining planets that survived the Borg War and near destruction of the Federation.

A commenter made reverence to "The Eugenics Wars" series by Greg Cox. That too was a great series worth noting. It was about Khan's rise and fall from power.

Peter David's "Vendetta" is about the first female Borg. This takes place long before 7 of 9.

The Dominion War Books both have Deep Space Nine and Next Gen in the series. They detail the both shows involvement in the war. Next Gen in paticular never had any episodes where they were fighting The Dominion. However in this series they are very much part of the war effort.

The Section 31 series has it's beginnings in the Kirk's era all the way to NG, DS9, and Voyager. The series covers how Section 31 started and it's investigations.

In closing, here's my short list of good Trek novelists:

David Mack
David R. George III
Peter David
Keith R.A. DeCandido
Kevin Ryan
Michael Jan Friedman

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I have also read the Kirk series by Shatner. The books seem primarily the work of Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens. There has been an sequel to the Academy Years that has been long over due and I have to wonder if the sales will permit them to create another one.

It's in no way connected to J.J. Abrams universe. It's one based in the original series era.

The books are noteworthy if you like the character of Kirk. They are breezy quick reads that will get you through a Saturday afternoon. The series even has cross overs with the Next Gen, Deep Space Nine and Voyager crews from time to time. All in all I'd reccomend them to anyone that loves Star Trek.

Here are a few other series of note you may like:

The Captain's Table: 6 book seres
The Lost Era: 10 book series
New Earth: 6 book series
A Time To.....: 9 book series
The Gateways: 7 book series
The Klingon Day of Honor series: 4 books
The Invasion series: 4 books
The Double Helix series: 6 or 7 books
My Brothers Keeper: 3 book series
The Bad Lands: 2 book series
The Brave and the Bold : 2 book series

The books listed above can be found on or in a very good used book store that has sci fi.

Ray Tomczak said...

I've read quite a few Trek novels. As many others have stated here, the James Blish adaptations were among the first Trek books I ever read. Also worth noting are Alan Dean Fosters Star Trek Log series adapting the animated episodes.
Among my favorites are the novelizations of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th films by Vonda McIntire, and her other Trek novels, which have led me to seek out her non-Trek work which includes one of the few Star Wars novels I've read.
I always enjoy Peter David's work and his Trek novels are no exception.
My all time favorite Trek novel, however, is The Covenant of the Crown by Howard Weinstein.

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