The Multi-Purpose Library of the Future: Memory Prime by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

I picked up Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens’ 1988 book, Memory Prime, because the cover is amazing. I’m a sucker for action-packed book covers, and this particular juxtaposition of Spock’s head and electrical current suggested a compelling combination of mystery and peril.

Memory Prime was the Reeves-Stevenses’ first published collaboration. Atypically for Star Trek novels, Memory Prime treats the novels that came before it as canon. The Reeves-Stevenses refer to Kirk’s extensive landholdings on Centaurus (described in detail in Brad Ferguson’s Crisis on Centaurus!), and allude to Diane Duane’s Ensign Naraht. Their Klingons speak John M. Ford’s Klingonaase. There is plenty of mystery and peril.

The story opens on a strange and distant planet, with a mysterious dealer in kevas and trillium. There’s a romance, and a murder mystery, and a secret order of Romulan ninja assassins, and the space-Nobel prizes, and a labor dispute at an academic institution. The main business of this piece is to follow up on the life of Mira Romaine, Scotty’s love interest from the Original Series episode, “The Lights of  Zetar.”  Romaine was a young librarian on her first deep-space voyage en route to her first deep-space post at Memory Alpha, the Federation’s most important library.

Scotty’s love life in the Original Series can best be described as unfortunate. In “Wolf in the Fold,” he went out walking with a woman who was stabbed by the ancient space-traveling spirit of Jack the Ripper. He was kind of into that ship’s anthropologist who talked Apollo into killing himself (and who may or may not have then had Apollo’s baby, depending on who you ask) in “Who Mourns for Adonais.” I believe he may have also gotten a woman a cup of coffee once. The Enterprise’s engines are a harsh mistress.

“The Lights of Zetar” was not great Star Trek. Scotty spent the entire episode convincing me that I never want to see him in love again. He neglected the engines to swan around chafing Lt. Romaine’s hand and mooning over her moments of vulnerability. Romaine had many moments of vulnerability, because she was possessed by the disembodied Zetarians, who killed absolutely everyone on Memory Alpha, which had no defensive shields because it was an institution of higher learning and a galactic resource. As a result, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had a lengthy discussion of Romaine’s adolescent history of psychosomatic illnesses and revealed that she wasn’t psychic, just highly impressionable. Shortly after I died of chauvinism, they arranged a dramatic space-orcism to force the Zetarians out of the lieutenant with the power of atmospheric pressure. And then, since the writer was apparently done throwing darts at a high school science textbook, they decided that the best thing for Romaine was a return to a normal routine and they left her at Memory Alpha. Where we just saw that the entire staff was dead.

I had some unanswered questions. Apparently, so did the Reeves-Stevenses.

How do you rebuild your life when the co-workers you haven’t even met yet are all dead?

The Reeves-Stevenses assure me that Romaine was not left by herself to bury her fallen comrades. Memory Alpha was re-staffed and has since been built anew, as Memory Prime, a newer, bigger space library. Romaine is the ranking Federation officer on this new installation. In addition to maintaining archives and the powerful sentient computers that search the archives to find patterns in data, Memory Prime boasts spacious living quarters for staff, restaurants, an intergalactic conference center, and a regrettable shortage of server time for research on the archives. Defensive systems include shields, a complicated system of internal transporters, and Federation security personnel. The grunt work of academic research is handled by adorable robot research associates, who are only occasionally weaponized. Memory Prime also maintains a live animal research lab full of aggressive monkeys. Clearly, however unfortunate the beginnings of her career, Romaine has risen far. The archivists see her as a tool of the man, and are threatening to strike. Of course.

How do you rekindle lost love after years of separation?

It helps if you and your ex have to deal with a conspiracy to frame Spock for the assassination of his former teacher. The difficulty that you have returning each others’ phone calls can quickly be overcome in the heady excitement of unraveling a devious plot to undermine academic and technological advancements in the Federation. Who would do that? It turns out the Romulan ninja assassins are nihilists. Nihilists with access to aggressive lab monkeys.

Do Scotty and Romaine get back together? I honestly can’t remember. I’m sure the question was addressed, but it sort of got lost in the ending, which involved a Romulan ninja assassin, some weaponized research associates, and a critical containment failure in the aggressive monkey lab. Let’s face it, people, we are not watching Star Trek to see librarians fall in love. It’s Wagon Train to the Stars, not The Music Man.

What about the rest of the crew? The Enterprise is transporting an assortment of scholars to the space-Nobels. Spock arranges some talks and a poster session, which is dramatically cancelled when he is accused of murder. I was devastated on behalf of the Enterprise crew who were deprived of the opportunity to share their work with a broader academic community. Spock is eventually exonerated, but not until after all the networking opportunities associated with the space-Nobels have passed.

Romaine’s co-workers (the ones who aren’t threatening to strike unless she’s fired) are relieved that she’s dating Scotty, who they have never heard of (even though I’m certain that Scott has been more extensively published), instead of Kirk, who they have most definitely heard of.

Should you read this?

Oh yes.

Star Trek novels that refer to other Star Trek novels are my crack. I would love Memory Prime for that alone. It’s not a perfect novel. It contains at least four substantial novels’ worth of plot. Selecting and tracking the most important story details feels like navigating an unmarked Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s also exciting. The wealth of detail here mines the potential of an unimpressive Original Series episode in the way that only Star Trek novels can.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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