All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek by Dave Marinaccio
This is one of those delightful books you read—not to learn something—but to reminisce about a great television series and to ponder why it has had the impact it has. I think it spawned a whole bunch of similar books that deal with the philosophy, the science, the ethics, the economy, etc. of Star Trek and other series. This one doesn’t pretend to be that profound. Instead it simply notices how the series has impacted a great many aspects of the author’s life and how it’s characters can serve as role models to help you figure out what to do in just about any situation. Mostly it is just a lot of fun.
Trekonomics by Manu Saadia
Star Trek has spawned a large number of books about how the series impacts the world around it starting with All I Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek. There are books on the philosophy of Star Trek, the science of Star Trek, and even parenting tips from Star Trek, but none of those were quite as interesting as this book that looks into the economics of the Star Trek universe. As a certain Vulcan first officer might say, it is “fascinating”.
Most people who have watched the series have probably speculated on what it means to have replicators that can create just about everything. Saadia gets into the nuts and bolts of what a lack of scarcity means to society and the people who live in it. What a world would be like without the incentive to seek profit? What are the implications of robots/androids that can do all the work? Why is there even a Star Fleet in such a universe? It’s a quite enjoyable exploration that has the bonus of illustrating its points with wonderfully nostalgic returns to the plots and scenes of many episodes throughout all the series and movies.
Star Trek: The New Voyages
When I was about ten years old, I discovered an amazing thing—Star Trek: The New Voyages—a book of brand new Star Trek stories. This wasn’t the retelling of television episodes, these were brand new never-before-seen adventures. Inside was a short story called Mind Sifter by Shirley S. Maiewski which could reasonably be described as changing my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something about the idea that there could be more new Star Trek stories just caught hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I wanted to be one of the people who got to write new Star Trek tales! So I found a notebook and started creating my own Star Trek—complete with pathetically bad drawings—and I’m still writing today thanks in a large part to the impact this story had on me. So as I’m sure you can imagine it’s with a great amount of trepidation that I’ve picked up this volume four decades later to see if I can still see what first moved me within its pages.
Ni Var by Claire Gabriel
The best thing about the first story in the collection is that it is well grounded in the series drawing on The Enemy Within when Kirk was split into good and evil selves. In Ni Var a scientist searches for medical applications based on the accident in the original episode. He wants to help the progeny of interspecies romances cope and he needs Mr. Spock’s help—willingly or not.
Intersection Point by Juanita Coulson
This story read just like a TV episode. Caught in an intersection of our universe and another one, the Enterprise is damaged and in danger of destruction. It’s quite well done.
The Enchanted Pool by Marcia Ericson
This is perhaps the cleverest story in the series. In many ways it feels like one of the many episodes where in someone falls in love with Spock and runs into his logical monotone, but there’s a twist that makes this one a delight.
Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited by Ruth Berman
A laugh out loud adventure where actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley find themselves on the real USS Enterprise.
The Face on the Barroom Floor by Eleanor Arnason and Ruth Berman
A little shore leave mishap where Kirk has to extricate himself from an embarrassing problem.
The Hunting by Doris Beetem
McCoy takes advantage of a chance to get to know everyone’s favorite half-Vulcan better and ends up in danger of losing his life.
The Winged Dreamers by Jennifer Guttridge
In a story very similar to the classic episode, Shore Leave, the crew of the enterprise starts to experience their daydreams and nightmares.
Mind Sifter by Shirley S. Maiewski
This is the story I most wanted to reread and it mostly held up to my memories. It opens on a mystery, Jim Kirk is in an insane asylum in earth’s past and he doesn’t remember who he is or how he got there. In fact, he acts like an abused and terrorized child which is so unlike Kirk that it makes the story even more intriguing. This one could very easily have been a televised episode. It was really wonderful to reread it again.
Sonnet from the Vulcan: Omicron Ceti Three by Shirley Meech
I’m not a great fan of poetry, but this sonnet from Spock to Leila Kalomi from the episode This Side of Paradise worked for me. It’s a short but haunting piece and I remembered the final stanza decades after first reading it. That’s not a bad accomplishment for any author.
Overall, this is a fun collection of Star Trek
dreams and in showing the public’s hunger for all things Star Trek it
undoubtedly did its part to spur not only the publishing of well over one
hundred other Star Trek tales but six additional television series, thirteen
movies and counting—not to mention inspiring who knows how many people such as
myself to write their own stories.
Redshirts by John Scalzi
This is an excellent satire of the original Star Trek series, giving a look at the lives of the extras in the show and how they responded to a life in which every week brings a new away mission in which one or more of them are going to die. It’s frankly hilarious to see how a culture of avoiding the “stars” of the show develops. Yet at the same time, it is utterly fascinating to see these “extras” working out the perverse physics that guide the series, protect certain people, and doom others. Finally they try to take it to the next level and figure out why this is happening and how to stop it. Every aspect of this story is well thought out and clever. You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to appreciate it, but it certainly adds a lot of enjoyment to the novel if you are.
Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson
This novel was a tremendous amount of fun. On the one hand it’s a straight forward zombie apocalypse parody—and it does a great job with this. But if you’ve ever enjoyed an episode of Star Trek this book is an extra special treat. Anderson knows Star Trek inside and out and he brings that love of the many series and movies—not to mention the conventions—to this novel. Yet on top of all of this, there truly is a decent plot with good twists and lots of excitement. The character development was also credible. My son and I were very excited about whether or not the “red shirt” was going to make it to the end. In addition, there are some Star Wars versus Star Trek elements that are a bonus on top of all the other bonuses. The chapter titles are even taken from television episode titles. It’s just a delight from start to finish. I will definitely read this book again.
I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
I’ve always enjoyed these walks down memory lane with the various members of the Star Trek cast. Frankly, I’ve heard enough of them that it’s the non-Star Trek parts of these books that capture my attention most these days. So many of the other stories get repeated in the other biographies that it often feels repetitious.
The biggest differentiator in this book is the addition of a couple of dozen conversations between Leonard Nimoy and “Spock” described as internal dialogues which apparently Nimoy held within himself continuously since his time on the original series. They are a bit strange and I think over used as Nimoy takes advantage of them to reflect on the various moments of his life.
The part of this novel I enjoyed the most was Nimoy’s discussions of how
his first memoir, I Am Not Spock, caused him so much trouble. It made me want
to read the earlier memoir.
Star Trek: Republic by Michael Jan Friedman
Gary Mitchell only appeared in one Star Trek episode yet still managed to become something of a legend—Kirk’s best friend whom he was forced to kill. Friedman has taken on the huge task of showing Star Trek fans why the friendship was so good and he starts by going back into the two men’s academy days. The result is an enjoyable Star Trek tale but not a great one. The plot is a little bit slow moving and the action at times on the unbelievable side. For example, at a critical moment late in the book when the two men are on a training mission, they get drafted into a planetary security detail and have no communicators when they identify the feared threat. Of course, if they had had communicators and been able to tell their superiors that they had just witnessed a VIP being kidnapped, we would not have needed the next several chapters of the book, but still—no communicators. It just didn’t make any sense.
Star Trek: Constitution by Michael Jan Friedman
In the second volume of Friedman’s Star Trek trilogy, the reader continues to get a look into the forging of the friendship between Kirk and Gary Mitchell, his best friend in the premier episode. Unfortunately, there continue to be credibility issues not only with some of the action sequences but with the tension between Kirk and his subordinates and frankly the decision making of the captain of the Constitution who takes himself and his second in command down to the planet’s surface with an unexplained threat in orbit and gets himself cut off from the ship. Similarly, Kirk and the bridge crew of the Constitution have a long conversation about what they should do as their shields buckle under an orbital assault. They decide to retreat. Why that wasn’t the immediate decision when the shields started buckling—and how they didn’t collapse under the assault that continued through the entire conversation—is unclear. So again, I enjoyed the novel, but I really expect better of Star Trek books.
Star Trek: Enterprise by Michael Jan Friedman
Friedman wraps up his retrospective on Kirk and Gary Mitchell’s friendship with a novel that balances more flashback memories with Kirk actually having to face his dead friend’s family at the funeral. I thought the family was more forgiving of Kirk than I would have expected—he did confess to killing their son, after all—and they were barely fazed by the revelation. The main plot about a battle with a group of genetically modified Klingons didn’t really catch my interest as much as the emotional crisis of confronting Mitchell’s parents did.
Troublesome Minds by Dave Galanter
This Star Trek novel managed to present the Enterprise crew with an unusual problem—a powerful telepath is heavily influencing the crew and their reactions. Because of the language barrier and their essential lack of telepathic ability, humans are less vulnerable than Vulcans, but they are still affected.
Learning of this possibility, Kirk and Spock basically ignore the potential problem. Even after Spock, acting totally out of character, sabotages the Enterprise, steals a shuttle and tries to commit suicide in a way that will take a couple of alien vessels with him (vessels that pose a threat to the super telepath but not to the Enterprise) Kirk has trouble fully coming to grips with the problem. He confines Spock to quarters instead of putting him in the brig. No one ever seems to consider incapacitating the telepath.
The solution to their problem—find another super telepath to help them—should have gone disastrously wrong. Considering that everything bad the super telepath was doing appeared to be the result of his subconscious mind, it almost had to go wrong, but it didn’t, and the day was saved…almost.
Once again, Spock, acting without his normal cool-headed reasoning makes
a mistake that poses an interesting quandary at the end of the novel—the single
best part of the book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save this one.
Star Trek: Crossroad by Barbara Hambly
One of the things that makes some Star Trek novels stand out above other more routine books in the series is an author’s ability to take a member of the cast and develop the character in a way that is true to the original series and yet adds depth and breadth to the characterization. Everybody tries to do this with Kirk and Spock—they’re the stars and it’s expected—but Hambly lavishes this extra attention on Nurse Christine Chapel and her efforts here alone make this novel worth reading.
On top of that, there’s a good storyline with a decent mystery attached to it and when the answer to the puzzle was finally revealed it made perfect sense—even though I didn’t figure it out on my own. This one is definitely in the better half of the couple of hundred Star Trek books I have read.
Star Trek: Devil’s Bargain by Tony Daniel
The Enterprise is on a mission of mercy to the Vesbius system which is about to be hit by a killer asteroid, but the people are not worried about the cataclysm about to hit them. They have built underground bunkers which they feel will protect them from the coming disaster even though the Enterprise’s calculations decisively show that the entire planet’s biosphere will collapse after the collision. In addition to their unwillingness to consider evacuation, about a third of the colonists express xenophobia toward Spock and a certainty that they are superior to the Enterprise crew even though the colonists are apparently human also. They speak respectfully of Khan and it quickly becomes apparent they have a similar desire to conquer the universe except for one little problem—genetic manipulation that lets them survive on Vesbius keeps them from surviving anywhere else.
So the would-be conquerors have developed a plan. They want to sabotage any
hope that the colonists can survive the coming cataclysm to force them off the
planet and to further force the colonists’ geneticists to make it possible for
them to leave Vesbius and take over. Their efforts backfire on them, however,
because their sabotage convinces the colonists to let Kirk try and bring back a
group of Horta (from The Devil in the Dark episode) to chew up the asteroid so
it can be exploded and pushed away from the planet ending the crisis. When the
terrorists strike at the Enterprise the novel really picks up and captured my
interest. This would have made a fun episode of the original series.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
This is the novelization of the best of the Star Trek movies. I read it a couple of times when the movie first came out and then picked it up on a whim recently to read on my phone. The author, Vonda McIntyre has written original Star Trek novels (Enterprise, The Entropy Effect) and two other novelizations. She has a subtle understanding of the characters and a real gift for putting them on the page. Yet the best thing about this novelization is the parts that weren’t emphasized properly in the movie. There is a character named Peter Preston who came off terribly in the movie (probably because of the cutting room) but really shines in the novel as does Kahn’s man, Joachim. If you like Star Trek, this is a book worth reading. Then when you finish, go watch the movie again. This really is Star Trek at its greatest.
The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
This novel is a tour de force of the Star Trek universe. Set in the Mirror Mirror alternate universe, it explores how the alternate Spock might have taken up Captain Kirk’s challenge to start a revolution that brings down the Empire and establishes a Federation-like Republic. Every chapter is filled with cameo appearances of figures from the original series and the movies. In the early chapters, Spock has to solve problems that confronted the Enterprise crew in the original series. Later he has to outmaneuver Star Trek personalities as he accumulates the power necessary to break the Empire and reform it. I found the most surprising and interesting character to be Lieutenant Marlena Moreau, the “Captain’s Woman” from the original episode. She becomes Spock’s strong right hand, covering his back, and making the whole revolution possible at great personal cost. This is a very well thought out, totally intriguing, alternate Star Trek history that is well worth your time.
Star Trek Memories by William Shatner
Every once in a while I feel the compulsion to indulge in a bit of Star Trek nostalgia. Sometimes I read a novel set in one of the many Star Trek series but other times I pick up an audio book like Star Trek Memories and relive some element of the Star Trek experience. In this one, Shatner reminisces about the creation of the classic television show and what made it such a great series to be a part of. He did his homework, interviewing many of the members of the old cast and production crew, so it’s more than just his point of view. And the recollections are a lot of fun. There were many points when I wanted to go find one of the old episodes like “Where No Man Has Gone Before” or “The Devil in the Dark” and see if I could convince my teenaged son to watch it with my wife and me. If you’ve a fondness for the original Star Trek series, this book is a nice walk down memory lane.
Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner
Having recently read Star Trek Memories, I decided to complete Shatner’s run with the series by reading the sequel, Star Trek Movie Memories. It’s a nostalgic trip through seven movies I thoroughly enjoyed, but the real value is in the first chapters when Shatner describes the years between the series and the first movie, including a planned sequel series that never came about, and the early plot ideas for the first movie. Perhaps the saddest thread in the book is the account of Gene Roddenberry’s growing obsession with changing his idea for the original series into his current vision of what the future should look like. So Roddenberry fought with Paramount, arguing that there was no conflict in the future and that Star Trek did not have a military component and so should not have any violence. The fact that the original series very much did have a military component and often featured violence did not sway him from the certainty that everyone was destroying the series he loved so much by including military-based action. For the Star Trek lover, there is a lot to be enjoyed in this book.
Errand of Fury 1 Seeds of Rage
I’ve been in a big Star Trek mood lately and so decided to give this trilogy by Kevin Ryan a try. It’s set in the original series and focuses on the growing tensions between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The Klingons are gearing up for war and there is concern in the Federation that they just might win. There are a lot of familiar names and faces in this book, especially Ambassador Fox who made such a good naive and clueless diplomat in the episode, A Taste of Armageddon. Yet the best character is security legend Michael Fuller, a red shirt who actually lived long enough to retire, but now has come back to Star Fleet after his son was killed in a classified action against the Klingons. Fuller has a plan—never fully explained—to get revenge for his son’s death and we just know it’s going to make Kirk’s life difficult. As if that weren’t bad enough, there are factions within both the Klingon Empire and Star Fleet maneuvering for war and the Enterprise is flying right into the middle of the hornet’s nest. This was a thoroughly enjoyable novel and I’m eager to see what the rest of the series has in store for the Enterprise.
Errand of Fury 2 Demands of Honor
The second book of the Errand of Fury trilogy picks up right where the first book leaves off. Most of it is a fairly typical Star Trek adventure, rescuing civilians and struggling to counter Klingon tactical moves surrounding a planet on the edge of Federation space. An internal struggle between Klingons on the path of honor and a counselor interested only in his own power adds to the tension, as does the fact that the population of the planet that is the focus of the Klingon maneuvering is biologically Klingon, but not part of the empire. This causes difficulty for Security Chief Michael Fuller and his plan to avenge himself on the Klingons who killed his son as he begins to question whether or not all Klingons deserve to suffer his revenge. It’s not as strong a novel as the first book, but it’s an enjoyable read.
Errand of Fury 3 Sacrifices of War
The conclusion of the Errand of Fury trilogy reads like a couple of classic Star Trek episodes. I have to admit that I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t see where this novel was going. War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire has been building for the entire trilogy and the “Errand of Fury” series title obviously is reminiscent of the “Errand of Mercy” Star Trek episode which deals, of course, with the war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. The build up to this moment is well done and the author expands a lot on the actual episode. If you love the original series, you’ll enjoy this book.