Favorites Friday: Star Trek Novels

Niche appeal on this one, I know…but I’m justifying it to myself because I know I have some Star Trek fans out there.  *waves to you all*

I’m a big fan of Star Trek, especially The Original Series; the first serious novel I ever wrote was a Star Trek one, during high school.  I still think that writing Star Trek fanfiction during formative years of my writing was valuable in a lot of ways, especially writing Spock.  He has such a distinctive voice–he doesn’t talk remotely like anyone else in the story–and I think that taught me so much about stepping into a character’s voice.

I now find myself quite capable of assuming another character’s speech patterns when necessary in writing either dialogue or narration.

See that?  ^ That was Spock’s voice.  But I’m digressing–I didn’t actually mean to write about writing Star Trek, but rather about reading it–though it is in a way relevant, because the biggest turn-off for me in a Star Trek book is when the characters sound wrong.  So, here are several that got it right:

First Frontier by Diane Carey and Dr. James I. Kirkland

The Enterprise finds itself the sole unaffected point of a change in history, trapped in a galaxy where humanity never evolved and the Klingons and Romulans are warring themselves into extinction.  Kirk and his crew eventually realize that someone stopped the asteroid that should have wiped out the dinosaurs, and they have to go back in time to set things right.  First of all–Star Trek and dinosaurs, how fun is that?  🙂  It’s an exciting story with excellent characterization, especially of Kirk, and there’s beautiful writing.  And they didn’t descend to cheap dinosaur devices–no riding a brontosaurus or having a direct fight with a T-Rex.

Prime Directive by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Kirk is accused of breaking the Prime Directive, Starfleet’s highest law, which mandates non-interference with less developed races.  Of course, he does that all the time on the TV show, but in this case a planet’s population was destroyed.  Kirk and most of the regular characters are tossed out of Starfleet.  One by one they begin making their way back, through channels more and less savory, to the planet where it all ended, to find out what really happened there.  The Reeves-Stevens have a remarkable ability to write a plot that is crushingly tragic, then sprinkle in a lot of hilarious one-liners, and somehow make that work brilliantly!  You know you want to read this just to find out what makes Dr. McCoy say, “I’m a pirate, not a doctor,” or to learn why Spock gets involved with a student protest group in Berkeley called Students for the Stars for the People.

The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh by Greg Cox

Cox traces Khan Noonien Singh, genetic superman and villain of The Wrath of Khan, from childhood in the 1960s, through his domination of large portions of the Earth, and into his eventual exile.  Gary Seven is pitted against Khan, and a large number of other Star Trek characters who might have been on Earth between 1960 and 2000 are pulled in as well.  There’s a frame story about Kirk and the Enterprise, but it’s the story in the past that’s really compelling.  Cox does an incredibly brilliant thing here, in that he takes everything Star Trek said back in the sixties about the second half of the twentieth century, and finds ways to make it work with actual history.  You don’t remember Khan conquering the world?  Most people never knew about it.  Cox includes an Afterword where he goes through the book, chapter by chapter, explaining what was real and what was Star Trek (that nuclear meltdown?  Real.  The Indian government says it was an accident, but WE know that Khan was involved).  Dan Brown could learn something.

Mudd in Your Eye by Jerry Oltion

Harry Mudd, everyone’s favorite conman, is back again, android Stella in tow, apparently bringing about peace between two planets.  Kirk is skeptical, to say the least, and sure enough, all is not as it seems.  War breaks out again between the planets, and quite a number of major characters are killed…but of course, all is not as it seems.  This book does falter a little in that we don’t get any really good resurrection scenes (and I always thought the point of “killing” a character was to get the emotional pay-off when the other characters realize they’re alive) but it’s still a really funny Star Trek book with some good plot twists.  And I owe Oltion a debt of thanks–at one point Kirk imagines if he and Harry could have been friends, and inspires a whole plot thread in my Star Trek novel.

Doctor’s Orders by Diane Duane

Dr. McCoy grumbles at Captain Kirk one too many times, and Kirk leaves him in command while he beams down on a routine scientific mission.  When Kirk goes missing, it’s up to McCoy to command the ship, facing hostile Klingons, Orion pirates, and some very mysterious aliens.  I love McCoy, and this is McCoy at his finest.  There’s also a great line in here (which of course I can’t find right now)–in the midst of all the problems, McCoy still manages to score a point in an argument with Spock; he reflects that it would be a poor day indeed if he couldn’t manage to needle Spock a little.  This should be engraved on a plaque for every Star Trek writer–if they’re not needling each other, it’s not Star Trek.

So there you have it.  My personal favorite Star Trek books.  And now all you Trek fans who I know are out there: what are your favorites?  I haven’t found a new really good one for a long while, but with so many books, I don’t know where to start trying!  All suggestions very welcomed.

6 thoughts on “Favorites Friday: Star Trek Novels

  1. ensign_beedrill

    *waves back*

    I’ve read a couple of Star Trek books by Diane Carey and I liked them, though they were more about original characters than established ones. And I have to agree with you on The Eugenics Wars. I never got around to reading the rest of the series, but I loved the first one. It’s really neat how Cox tied history together and made the Eugenics Wars from Star Trek plausible. The book is definitely on my “best of Star Trek novels” list as well.

    The problem with Star Trek novels is… well… it’s hard to find a good one. And I have a problem with weirdo aliens, which seem to get roped into the novels so often. A sentient refrigerator with removable parts? Come onnn. (I’m serious.) This is not Star Wars, it’s Star Trek, where aliens are generally humans with plastic stuck on their faces. Mmmkay? And you’re right about the characters sounding wrong being a turn-off. I’ve come across that, too.

    But I still read them because… I want to find good ones and there isn’t any new Star Trek to watch. Star Trek books have actually made up the majority of my reading for the past couple of years, because I adopted this view that if I read one in a series, I’d read all in a series. Well… some of the series I’m reading are cross-connected with other series, which are themselves interconnecting with other series. It became a much more duanting task than I envisioned!

    My “best of” list:

    Pathways and Mosaic by Jeri Taylor. The latter is a story of Janeway’s life before she became Voyager’s captain, and the former is a collection of stories about each of the crew’s lives before Voyager. I could hear Janeway’s voice in Mosaic, so plus points from me.

    Homecoming and The Farther Shore by Christie Golden tell the story of what happens after Voyager returns to Earth. Homecoming even helped me with my SATs! I was reading it the night before the test, came across a word I didn’t know, and looked it up. The next day, that word was on the test. Woo. Golden continued the story in another series, but the ending of that was so unsatisfying that I hesitate to recommend it. It was a series of two books and it really felt like it needed to be three. Indeed, I waited for a while for the third book to come out before I realized there wasn’t going to be one, and I wonder if it was planned and then axed.

    The Eugenics Wars by Greg Cox, but you already knew that.

    Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Cardassia: The Lotus Flower and The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack. I love Garak and Cardassians. McCormack loves them the way I do. She creates a really good world for them, and considering it isn’t seen too much in the series, she makes it real, and you find yourself thinking, “Yes, of course it would be like this.”

    The first novel takes place after Deep Space Nine ended and is a part of the DS9 relaunch that continues the DS9 story. It’s mostly about politics and terrorism and Cardassia trying to rebuild its society after the war. The novel itself is split into two stories (neither having anything to do with each other), one set on Cardassia and one set on Andor. Can’t say I really like the relaunch’s interpretation of Andorians, especially after getting so familiar with them in Enterprise. But I think the relaunch started before Enterprise.

    The second book takes place over a long period of time from the early days of DS9 to after the series ended. It follows the story of Rugal from the episode “Cardassians.” He was a Cardassian orphan raised by Bajorans, sent back to Cardassia to live with his real father, and then we never heard about him again. It’s a really cool look at Cardassian society and it’s great to have a continuation of the story started in “Cardassians.”

    And… I think that’s it. No more that stand out off the top of my head, at least. Right now I’m going through the New Frontier series by Peter David. It’s got some interesting characters. I actually started it many years ago and stopped about five books in because I just wasn’t getting into it. I restarted it again at the beginning of this year because I kept hearing good things about it and thought I ought to give it a second chance. I’m getting further, and it does seem better now, but it’s still… not something I would read if it weren’t Star Trek if you know what I mean. ( Or maybe I’d like it better if it weren’t Star Trek, hah.) It’s a crew of some original characters and some one-off characters from The Next Generation on a new ship, and is basically like another Star Trek series only as books and not television. I’m on the eleventh book right now. The one-liners are great, I mostly like the character interaction, and Captain Calhoun is a very Kirk-like character indeed. But it seems a bit farfetched at times and if I have to read one more time about how Calhoun’s eyes are purple I might just fling my book across the room. And the made-up pronouns for the dual-gendered Hermat character get so annoying. But it’s a mostly fun series that spends a lot of time on character development. I wouldn’t say it’s great, but it’s above average.

    On the “avoid” list:
    Windows on a Lost World by V.E. Mitchell. Kirk and crew get turned into crabs and their animal instincts cause them to fight each other over mates. I’m not even kidding.

    1. Wow, I am overwhelmed…in a good way! I’m also dying to know which book featured refrigerator-like aliens… I always thought one of the strengths of Star Trek is that they create aliens who are internally complex, rather than relying on fancy external effects. They look less dramatic, but they have developed cultures and histories and a unique view on the universe.

      Thank you for the MANY suggestions! 🙂 I love when you write entire blog posts in response to mine. Now I just have to figure out which ones to try…

      1. ensign_beedrill

        It was one of the stories in The Lives of Dax. It was supposed to be Curzon Dax’s story, but it was really about Ben Sisko, which was somewhat annoying. Now I’ve had more time to think back on it, the entire race weren’t refrigerators. But they were all biological parts of their ship… one of which was a refrigerator.

        Great point about developing cultures rather than effects. Not that both aren’t possible, but I always liked that about Star Trek. I have a problem when a show suddenly takes a turn into an area that is not right for it. Like when they brought aliens into Indiana Jones. I like aliens. I like Indiana Jones. I don’t like them together.

        Entire blog posts? I just call it rambling, lol. Star Trek is one of those things I could just go on about.

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