Thu
Dec 27 2012 4:00pm
10 Reasons to Read a Star Trek Novel

10 Reasons to Read a Star Trek Novel

You need something to get you through the cold, dark days until you can finally Trek Into Darkness, but Star Trek novels are so much more than something to tide you over until the movie comes out. Here some reasons you should consider picking up a Star Trek novel.

1. So, how’d that work out?

If you’ve ever wondered about the aftermath of an Original Series episode, there’s probably a novel for that. If you don’t like that novel, there’s probably another one that answers the question a different way.

2. They hold the secret history of the 1980s.

And 70s. And 90s. And those other decades when they were published. If you want to see how people’s fears and hopes for the world have changed over time, pick up a range of Star Trek novels. Gene Roddenberry’s original plan for the series was to give people an optimistic vision of the future where the people of Earth could join hands with each other and with the universe and boldly go where no man has gone before. That has meant different things to different people, a number of whom recorded their visions (and thus, their feelings about events that were current to them) in Star Trek novels.

3. They hold the secret history of Star Trek fandom.

Where does the crew of the Enterprise go when they need information about the mysterious and obscure? In the television series, they turn to the ship’s computer, but it’s portable. It can’t possibly hold ALL the information about the mysteries of the universe and the unique and varied histories of trillions of people on billions of planets! For that, you need the archives of Memory Alpha, the actual database created by fans, referred to lovingly in more novels than I can count. In addition to celebrating this community effort, Star Trek novel writers routinely inserted themselves, their editors, their fellow writers and their fans into their work.

4. The Bechdel Test.

Female characters in the Original Series ranged from the neglected to the limited in scope. The female protagonist in any given Star Trek novel may be a Mary Sue, but unlike in the television series, she inhabits a universe with lots of other women, and they have conversations about music, medicine, dreams, careers, strategy, ambitions, engineering, and their assorted friends all the time. If this were just an exercise in political correctness, it wouldn’t matter, but there’s a reason why the Bechdel Test works—strong characters who have a lot to say are a vital part of compelling stories.

5. Aliens.

The people that you meet who are wearing a lot of makeup. Maybe they’re a funny color. Maybe they all have wigs. If the episode had a big budget, you might get both! The novels are completely unconstrained by these limitations. Cat-people, re-incarnating glass spiders, Hortas, sand-whales, flying monkeys, and a species that looks kind of like Irish setters all make appearances. Lots of appearances. Often as fully realized three-dimensional characters.

6. Detailed exploration of alien cultures.

Not only do they show up, these new aliens are interesting and pivotal characters with clearly explained motivations and cultural backgrounds. A 350-page novel gives a writer an opportunity to really dig into a culture. In the early-80s, John M. Ford gave the Klingons an amazingly detailed non-canonical backstory. Diane Duane did incredible work on Vulcans and Romulans. Most other writers were limited to species that did not appear in the Original Series. This didn’t stop them from creating new worlds and new civilizations of their own.

7. Suddenly, Chekov is interesting.

In the television series, Chekov was dropped on to the bridge in the second season to attract a certain demographic. His entire character in season two consists of a bizarre belief that Moscow is the center of both the universe and paradise, and an adrenaline surge that saved his life at significant cost to his dignity. In a good Chekov episode, he gets to canoodle with a girl we never see again. In the novels, he has useful expertise in a variety of contexts—not unlike in the 2009 Star Trek movie where he runs through the ship screaming “I can do this!”

8. All the decks.

It’s not just Chekov who is suddenly interesting. The Original Series used the bridge to tell viewers about who characters were and what they did. Novelists used the whole ship to shed light on the whole crew. The Enterprise has a range of facilities including gyms (with varying levels of gravity), pools, gardens, libraries, dining facilities, observation decks, performance spaces, and a crew that really loves Gilbert and Sullivan.

9. The crossovers.

Most Star Trek novels aren’t explicit crossovers with other science-fictional works. But who doesn’t wonder what would happen if all stories were set in the same universe? And if you wonder, why not throw some characters and ideas into the background and see if you can get away with it? Those novelists were a sly bunch and if you pay close attention to settings and characters they’re full of easter eggs that connect Star Trek to other works.

10. Spock really cares about your feelings.

Spock is either emotionless or stoic depending on your take. But he’s also chivalrous and thoughtful, and a really good listener. All that thoughtful listening is really validating when you’re worried that you won’t be taken seriously. Sometimes he even pronounces your concerns logical. I know, “you” aren’t in the book. Just let go a little and take on a Mary Sue, OK? Everyone else does it. It’ll feel good, I promise.


Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

50 comments
Dave Robinson
1. DaveRobinson
I must have read a hundred assorted Star Trek books over the last thirty-five or so years, strting with James Blish when that was all there was. I still remember seeing Marshak and Culbreath's "New Voyages," and being thrilled there was something new.

Nowadays it's my go-to for Pulp SF reading. I don't read a lot of ST books any more, but they're fun when I do.
Mahesh Banavar
2. maheshkb
I have tried reading one or two novels, but did not get very far.

It has led me to believe that I would very much rather see the Picard (and the others) work his (their) magic, rather than read about it.

I am willing to try. But, since there are so many novels, is there a good place to start? My idea of just picking up a book at random did not work for me.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
3. EllenMCM
It's probably best to start with your favorite character and find a novel about them.

When all else fails, try John M. Ford. You can choose your mood - Final Reflection is serious, How Much for Just the Planet? is not.
Sybylla
4. Sybylla
Maheshkb, I'd recommend starting with Diane Duane. My Enemy, My Ally became the beginning of a five-book series, but it was originally a stand-alone novel; Spock's World creates a very detailed history of Vulcan, intercutting with "present"-day drama about whether the planet will secede from the Federation; one of her first ones, which I can't remember the name of (A Tear in the Sky? I think I'm making that up?...it's the one with K't'lk, the glass spider), is also very good, and it introduces some of the non-canonical characters she tends to re-use.

Another one that I have fond memories of is Janet Kagan's Uhura's Song, although Evan Wilson is rather Mary-Sueish...but in a bearable way.

Diane Duane is definitely my first recommendation, though.
Chris Hawks
5. SaltManZ
Diane Duane wrote one of my favorite TOS novels: Doctor's Orders. Other favorites: Michael Jan Friedman's Double, Double, Carmen Carter's Dreams of the Raven, and (most importantly), the Reeves-Stevens' Prime Directive.
Sybylla
6. tigeraid
I've read pretty much every Star Trek novel written, at least once. when I was a kid I devoured all of the TOS and early TNG books my grandfather collected. I had to take a big break, for about 10 years, because the level of awfulness they started to attain was breathtaking. You got the desperate sense that they'd run out of ideas with the TOS novels, and the TNG novelizations were almost entirely horrible, just reading like bad episodes.

BUT... These days, the writing is amazingly better, and having mini-series' with Deep Space 9 and TNG helps a lot. Even not counting today's books, there were some real bright spots in the past, too.

My suggestions:

The entire Deep Space 9 "Relaunch" series, especially if you were a fan of the show. Yes, a couple of the books are a little cumbersome, but read as a SERIES, it's a great way to continue from the show.

The entire "A Time To...." TNG series, as well as "A Death in Winter," which deals with the fallout from Nemesis, and introduces a bunch of new crewmembers now that Riker, Troi, Data etc have all gone. Some dark stuff, too.

The Star Trek: Destiny series, which deals with the final, massive Borg invasion. It may seem like the "same old tired Borg stories" but it really isn't, as the novels are much, much darker than even First Contact was, but they help to bring back some of the badassedness of the Borg that was lost with Voyager.

As for old stuff....

I loved the Section 31 books. A 4-book series, each from TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager, dealing with Section 31. Great stuff.

The best TOS writing is, for me, the Reeves-Stevens books. The Prime Directive, as well as the whole Lost Years saga, detailing the time between the original Enterprise mission and their second 5 year mission, is great stuff.

Standalone novels.... I liked Enterprise, it was fun.

As I said above, most of the early, TV-show-era TNG novels were just awful. The later ones were better though, especially the Stargazer series.... The two that stand out for me are Immortal Coil, and Dyson Sphere, because they both make an effort to explore big sci-fi ideas, instead of just being another "episode."
Sybylla
7. Avenger305
I used to read Star Trek novels all the time. Not so much anymore though, I found it to hard to keep track of the stories going on.
Sybylla
8. RiceVermicelli
Avenger305 - I think trying to keep track of the stories in most of the TOS novels is counterproductive. There are some series within the bunch, but the mostly don't relate to each other. Unless two books are by the same author or advertised as connected, you pretty much have to let the information from each book go - they each stand alone, as cappilary branches of a fictional multiverse.
Sybylla
9. John C. Bunnell
Sybylla@4:
The Duane novel you're thinking of is The Wounded Sky.

maheshkb@2:
I'll agree that the Duane novels are a pretty good entry point into the Trek canon. Most of her TOS titles have been mentioned here, but there's also Dark Mirror, which explores the evolution of the "Mirrror, Mirror" universe in the TNG era -- and takes a much-different tack than that we eventually see in (a) onscreen DS9 and (b) the line of novels and anthologies spun off from the DS9 episode(s).

Other authors to look for in the earliest part of the Pocket TOS era are A. C. Crispin (Yesterday's Son and others) and Howard Weinstein (The Covenant of the Crown and others). I also liked Diane Carey's "Piper" novels (Dreadnought! and Battlestations!), though I know many readers count Piper as having major "Mary Sue" qualities.

From what might be called the "middle period" (when the books began to draw on continuity from the TOS feature films), see particularly Carolyn Clowes' The Pandora Principle (essentially an origin story for Saavik, on which many subsequent writers have drawn) and Peter David's The Captain's Daughter (Sulu being the captain in question).

Vulcan's Forge by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz more or less marks the point at which the Pocket novel program began paying serious attention to overall continuity -- but it's also (IMO) among the very best novels in the entire history of the line. Sherman and Shwartz produced several additional novels (some of which provide a mirror-perspective of sorts on aspects of Duane's Spock's World and The Romulan Way).

Shifting focus to TNG: aside from the above-mentioned Dark Mirror, the one writer I'd consistently recommend in the earlier part of the line is Peter David (notably his Q-related books).

I am not as well read in the post-TNG novels as in the earlier ones, but I can make a few suggestions, mostly by mentioning extended "side series". Peter David's New Frontier series is never less than fascinating, though there are aspects of it that may make traditionalist fans grind their teeth -- the humor is sometimes baroque, and there are some fairly spectacular characterization twists as the series evolves. The Starfleet Corps of Engineers series (originally e-published, subsequently collected in a series of print omnibus volumes) is less provocative, but the writing and plotting are consistently solid.

And I'll close with three single-title recommendations: Articles of the Federation by Keith R. A. DeCandido -- quite properly characterized as an excellent "West Wing" riff set in the modern Trek universe; Far Beyond the Stars, in which Steven Barnes novelizes one of the most unusual episodes of DS9; and A Stitch in Time, a post-DS9 book focusing on the Cardassian character Garak, written by portrayer Andrew Robinson.
Kristoff Bergenholm
10. Magentawolf
I have to say that my favorite Star Trek novel is the Kobayashi Maru; Chekov's story is awesome, and Scotty does some impressive damage there..

A close second would be DS9's 'Fallen Heros'..
Sybylla
11. Cybersnark
In light of the mention of crossovers, I have to point out that, deliberately or not, James Swallows' Star Trek Titan novel "Synthesis" is probably the best Star Trek/Transformers crossover we'll ever see.
Sybylla
12. Edgar Governo
I'm afraid you have the inspiration for the Memory Alpha references backwards--both the novel appearances and the name of the wiki come from the name of the Federation archive in "The Lights of Zetar," a third-season episode of TOS.
Sybylla
13. Craig R
If you have an article called the 10 Best Reasons to read a Star Trek novel before the new Star Trek Movie comes out. You have to be fair and do one about Star Wars novels too, there will be a new Star Wars soon too.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
14. EllenMCM
@12 I realized after I submitted. I've been feeling very sheepish, but honored to have hit 1000 views and 11 comments before someone pointed it out. It leaves a gap in my "secret history of fandom" item, which I had planned to fill by asking people to share their own stories of running across the secret history of fandom in the novels.

I suppose you could read ALL the Mary Sues as fandom artifacts, since while she existed well before ST fandom, Star Trek fandom gave her a name. I would have to look up the dates on Starfleet's youngest lieutenant before committing myself to that reading.
Sybylla
15. Erin M
Despite my Star Trek fandom, especially with TNG, I never even thought about reading one of the novels. I always liked watching sci-fi but I couldn't get my head around reading sci-fi / fantasy. Maybe it's time to give it another try.
Alice Smales
16. Mitty
I've only read Dreadnought!, mostly because I heard that Piper was such a Sue, but she wasn't too bad, and I actually quite enjoyed it. I was at the Military Odyssey last year and there was a tent full of Star Trek novels, so I picked up a few there, but have yet to read them.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
17. EllenMCM
I feel strongly that Mary Sues have to be taken on their own merits. Some of them are bad, but some of everything is bad. Quite a lot of them are really fun.
Sybylla
18. Zeno
Ellen,

Mary Sue's are the reason I am avoiding reading Diane Carey's two Piper novels that you reviewed. What books are you planning on reviewing next? Here are a few suggestions 

Diane Duane's first two Romulan Novels from the 80s

Wounded Sky also by Diane Duane 

Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lerroah

Did you have any plan review any of these books?
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
19. EllenMCM
@18,

I would never in a million years recommend that someone avoid a Star Trek novel because of a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is a literary device. It's not dramatically different from a deus ex machina or an omnipotent third-person narrator, or anything else that some people revile and other people enjoy.

The most stunning examples of Mary Sues in Trek-dom are probably Kirk and Spock, so if you've ever enjoyed anything Trek related, you've already loved at least one Mary Sue and you might as well check out some others.

(And yes, I've heard the argument that they aren't ACTUALLY Mary Sues, they're actually just competent people and competence is not the same as Sue-ness. I don't deny Kirk and Spock's competence, but what they are competent at is space exploration, in a universe in which both the space and the requirements of exploring it are author/audience fantasies. In a number of contexts and especially in fantastic ones, competence is itself a reader/writer fantasy. It is not a bar to Mary Sue-ness.)

I review what I have. I love Diane Duane, and I have the Romulan novels handy, in a single volume that I believe includes Wounded Sky. They're coming up at some point. I should double-check, but I'm pretty sure I don't have Vulcan Academy Murders. Which is too bad - I hear it's a corker. At the moment, I'm splitting my reading time between Pratchett's Hogfather (not for review) and Della Van Hise's Killing Time, which is a precious little jam tart of a novel. That will most definitely be next.
Sybylla
20. RiceVermicelli
@13, No one reviewer could possibly get to all the media tie-ins related to every upcoming movie, so the only way to address the injustice, as it relates to your own favorite material, is to write it yourself.
Alan Courchene
21. Majicou
I just thought the bit about references to the Memory Alpha wiki referred to authors crediting it and its contributors in their acknowledgements, which a lot of them do these days. It probably ranks in the top two fandom wikis out there (Wookieepedia is the other.)
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
On Mary Sues: A lot of people misunderstand what the term means. The perception is that any guest star who steals the spotlight from the leads is a Mary Sue. But actually, in '60s and '70s television, it was common for dramatic series to take a semi-anthology approach, to have formats where the hero or heroes got involved each week with a story that was mainly built around the featured guest characters and their personal drama, with the leads being more just supporting players in their stories. (The Fugitive is a classic example, and its format was imitated by many other shows.) Roddenberry pitched ST to the networks as "Wagon Train to the stars," in reference to the then-famous and successful TV drama Wagon Train, which used just that format, building each episode around a different guest-star member of the wagon train (and indeed, most of its episodes were named "The [Guest Star of the Week] Story"), because that was the approach he wanted to take. You see this in early episodes like "Mudd's Women" (mostly about Eve McHuron and Harry Mudd), "Charlie X" (mainly about Charlie), and "Miri."

So a guest character dominating the story was an accepted and legitimate storytelling practice in the episodic TV of the era, and it's invalid to call any such character a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is that trope done badly. It's a featured guest character who isn't really interesting or well-written, who's just a self-indulgent authorial insertion or wish-fulfillment fantasy. It's not just a character who takes the spotlight for the duration of the installment, but a character who's ridiculously glamorized and treated as impossibly perfect and better at everything than the heroes and utterly worshipped by (and usually sleeping with) the heroes -- but who isn't really interesting or talented or likeable at all despite the author's insistence that she is. It's a character who doesn't deserve to be the center of attention or to get the praise the author heaps on.

It's worth keeping in mind that the majority of early Trek fan authors were female, yet they were fans of a show that only had a couple of supporting women in its recurring cast, Uhura and Chapel. So naturally a lot of the tie-in authors added female guest stars to try to correct the imbalance. It was only when it was done poorly or self-indulgently that it became a Mary Sue.

There are certainly Mary Sues in early Trek Lit. The most egregious examples, in my view, are Elizabeth Schaefer from Bantam's Death's Angel and Sola Thane from Pocket's Triangle. But Evan Wilson from Uhura's Song is not a Mary Sue, in my view, so much as a legitimate featured guest. She genuinely was an intriguing and fun character to read about, so she deserved to be the focus for the duration of one book (and I'm sad she never came back for more). And Piper is not a Mary Sue, at least not in Dreadnought! The idea behind that novel was to do the kind of story that TNG later did in "Lower Decks" -- to focus on a set of junior officers and show us Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the ST universe through their eyes, to give us a new perspective. I think it was also inspired by the adventures of Horatio Hornblower as a young midshipman learning from his senior officers. Piper and her colleagues were meant to be sort of a second-generation answer to Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, a new team that was learning from the old team. A Mary Sue would overshadow the heroes and outperform them, but Piper and her friends were three steps behind Kirk & co. at every stage and had to learn from them along the way.

Although Piper did border on Mary Sue territory in the sequel Battlestations!, when she was swiftly promoted, accepted into Kirk's inner circle of friends, and ended up helping to save the Federation from a second vast internal conspiracy in as many months. That strained credibility a little too much.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
@19: Why are you limiting yourself to books from the '80s? There's a wealth of new ST literature still coming out, and it's matured far beyond where it was back then. Once the shows were no longer on the air, the novels were free to expand beyond the "put everything back where you found it" limitations of most tie-ins and do stories that meaningfully advanced and evolved the universe, expanded to explore new characters and crews, and experimented with a variety of new formats.
Sybylla
24. RiceVermicelli
@22, I think there are two questions that people grapple with when they talk about Mary Sues, and whether or not a character is acknowledged to be Mary Sue depends on their answers.

The questions are:
1. Is this character a flagrant wish-fullfillment or self-insertion for someone?
2. Is flagrant wish-fulfillment via self-insertion artistically permissable?

It is always possible for the answer to question 1 to be "yes." The people who fight hardest against the label Mary Sue, in my experience, are those that come down on the no side of question 2.

As it happens, I disagree with you like crazy about Evan Wilson. I think she's Mary Sue-est. My supporting argument involves the Bodner lines of her shuttle, a hand-woven alien sarong equivalent attached with surgical glue (how did she get the darned thing *off*?), and the reveal at the end of the book. But it's fine for her to be a Mary Sue, because she's a rocking good time.
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@24: See, this is where definitions of "Mary Sue" differ. The label has come to be defined so sloppily as to be practically useless as a term of criticism, since nobody can agree on what it means.

Evan Wilson is not a self-insertion by Janet Kagan. In fact, she's loosely based on Kagan's mother. So the character doesn't fit your own definition of a Mary Sue.

The other problem with the idea of Evan as a Mary Sue is that Mary Sues are wish-fulfillment fantasies by authors who are big fans of the series and want to imagine themselves as part of it, interacting with the heroes they so admire. But the fact is, Janet Kagan was not a big Star Trek fan. So maybe the reason she focused so much on an original character, and on the exploration of the Sivaoans, was simply because she wasn't as heavily invested in Kirk, Spock, and the rest as she was in her original ideas.

Evan is definitely a spotlight-stealing guest character, but as I said, that's a long-established and accepted storytelling trope and has been since long before the term "Mary Sue" was introduced. People today have forgotten how common that trope used to be, so they wrongly think that "Mary Sue" applies to every example of that trope, when it was originally meant to apply only to the bad and self-indulgent examples of it.

Heck, these days, Pocket Books has whole series that are mainly about original characters, or combinations of screen and book-original characters. This has been going on since Peter David's New Frontier, and now it happens more often than not. The ongoing TNG, Titan, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager novels feature of mix of canon and original characters by necessity, since they follow up on screen stories where main characters departed or died. There have been whole series focused mainly on original (or minor guest-star) characters, including Corps of Engineers, Vanguard, IKS Gorkon, and the two Department of Temporal Investigations books I've written. I've just finished writing an early-Federation-era Enterprise-cast novel that introduces a number of new characters to supplement the series cast. Adding new characters, featuring them equally to the canonical leads, does not a Mary Sue make. It's just expanding the cast, broadening the focus of the storytelling beyond the screen regulars. After all, books don't have actors under contract, so they're free to add as many new characters as they want. And TOS could certainly have used more strong female cast members.

So I think it's wrong and unfair to assume that the '80s novelists who added strong women to the crew were doing so out of selfish wish-fulfillment alone. I think they were trying to correct an imbalance that needed to be corrected. Just like many novelists today, myself included, have added a number of gay, lesbian, and bi characters to the novels to correct the complete absence of such characters from canon, or introduced more ethnically diverse human characters and more aliens in Starfleet to compensate for the tendency of the shows to overpopulate Earth and Starfleet with Anglo-Saxons. Dismissing all the strong women of '80s Trek novels as nothing more than Mary Sues is an injustice to the novelists who added them in order to bring ST closer to the ideals of equality it was supposed to represent.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
26. EllenMCM
@23, I review things that meet the following criteria:
1. I have a copy in my possession.
2. It looks interesting.

There are a lot of books from the 90s and beyond that look interesting. The items that meet my first requirement come from the 80s. If the universe starts sending a more diverse stream of ST novels to my door, I will be happy to review the ones that look interesting.

My further thoughts on Mary Sues:

I much more interested in reader reception than authorial intent. Whatever Kagan meant by Evan Wilson, I read her as a Mary Sue. I also read Uhura as a Mary Sue in that book, because she saved two worlds through her dedication to a friend and her musical talent, and if that's not Sue-ing it up with the wish fulfilment, I don't know what is. Whether or not Carey intended it (and I think there's ample evidence that she intended it), I read Piper as a Mary Sue. She pursued more or less exactly the career trajectory I would have chosen for myself had I been able to join Starfleet, complete with the strategic ditching of the boyfriend. I really love a good Mary Sue. Not in an embarassed or ironic way, completely sincerely, for me, Mary Sues are some of the most fun characters out there.

And please refer to my post at #19, where I cross the gender barrier and claim Kirk and Spock as Mary Sues. While Mary Sue is a label that has been applied primarily to female characters, the notion of fantasy self-insertion is not limited to girls. It's done with male characters so often that it's taken for granted, in ST and more generally across several genres. And that's fine.

I absolutely don't want to dismiss the Mary Sues, and I don't want anyone else to either. I want to reclaim the term and acknowledge the joy that a Mary Sue brings when it's done well - a category in which I would firmly place Kirk, Spock, Evan Wilson, Lt. Piper, and, on occaison, Uhura.
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Well, as I said, the problem with "Mary Sue" is that nobody agrees on how to actually define it. People tend to use it to mean whatever they want it to mean. I try to stick more to its original usage and intent, which was to refer only to a badly done, self-indulgent example of a certain character type, not to every example of that type.
Sybylla
28. Zeno
First to Ellen,

When I said I was not going to read some of the novels you reviewed it was not because of the use of Mary Sue so much as the stories themselves and/or the characters were not interesting. Enterprise was a novel that I tried to get into but almost all of the cast seemed very out of character. After reading your review about the rest of the story I can tell it would not appeal to me.  In fairness to the writer,her novel, Entropy Effect was pretty decent.

Final Frontier is one that I was unsure of. It seemed like it might be promising because of the Romulan angle and that it could add depth to the Edith Keller tragedy. However it seems that it contradicts Balance of Terror. And there is something about the cloaking device being developed from some bluff in the story. Are not the Romulans a bit too intelligent to fall for that. And the defector himself sounds like basically like the captain from Balance of Terror.  The idea that they knew what Romulans look like,if they kept it classified,contradicts Balance of Terror. Top Secret or not a starship captain would have been told this. If does not really add to anything interesting about the Romulans, Then I am not sure I want to read it. The Edith Keller material seems to make up a small part of the book and nobody has mentioned it added anything important.  

Am I wrong about these points? Is it worth reading?
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
29. EllenMCM
All that Final Frontier adds to "City on the Edge of Forever" is McCoy feeling bad about it.

FYI: McCoy with multi-dose vial of cordrazine was this year's Hallmark Keepsake ornament in the Star Trek series.

I don't remember a cloaking device in Final Frontier. I don't think the defector could possibly be the captain from Balance of Terror, because he had his ears altered 20-30 years before that story took place. He's clearly a non-canonical character. And I see no reason why a military organization like Starfleet couldn't reveal information to some commanders while keeping it generally classified. As we know from Balace of Terror, it's information that has the potential to create problems within the Federation.

I think my personal frustration with Carey's politics in Final Frontier
has been made clearly evident. I would definitely recommend
Battlestations! or something by Duane or McIntyre over that particular book. Readers with a higher threshold for Objectivism will probably like Final Frontier a lot more than I did, and if you are one of those readers, you should go for it. It sheds some interesting light on one interpretation of the ST universe, and has some fascinating thingsto say about the hazards of automatic doors and wall switches for artificial gravity.
Sybylla
30. Zeno
Ellen,

I was a bit unclear . What I meant to say was the character seems like he was very similar to Mark Leonard's Romulan Captain. Not the exact same person. I liked Duane's book because it made the Romulans a interesting race. This character however in Final Frontier sounds like he was inspired by Balance of Terror. 

Some might argue that Commander Ael herself is similar to that character since she feels her people have lost their honor dislikes what the empire is doing. Diane Duane however goes into more detail about what this honor is that they are losing. Next Generation did not do as good of a job on the Romulans as she did. Many fans agree with me on that.
Sybylla
31. Zeno
Wanted to mention the point about knowing Romulans look like Vulcans. Yes Starfleet would keep this classified and not tell some people. However if they knew one of their captains is going to the neutral zone and possibly have to go to war then this would be information that would certainly want to share. Especially with a Vulcan first officer on board.   

I read somewhere that this book says that there was some false message to trick the Romulans not to go to war. It mentioned that Starfleet had cloaking devices and that was why they chose to develop cloaked ships. It is hard to believe that at some point that would not have seen this was 
a trick in the 20 some years between this incident and season 1.  They are very intelligent people. And once again everything historically important in Federation history is connected to the relatives of one of the main characters.  

If the book had something to redeem this plot problems then maybe I could see myself reading it. But it doesn't seem to say anything interesting nor do the original characters seem that appealing. A "giant novel" should be something special. Strangers from the Sky was a giant that I thought was decent. It did have potential to be better than it was. You can read my comments on your review of that book.
Sybylla
32. Wendy W Durden
Ok, skipping over the whole Mary Sue thing, let's get back to the good stories. Who else read "Call Me Ishmael" and had to keep it? It had everything- literary asides, mom issues, time paradoxes, Spock being almost human, and of course a timely rescue. Just thinking about it, I now have to get it out of it's cubby and reread it. Of course, I need to stop doing that as the binding is disintegrating...
Sybylla
33. Kenn G
I'm surprised no one's mentioned the Star Trek: Vangaurd series of novels. Although not specically about the Enterprise (although Kirk and Crew make an appearence in the first book, and we see the prelude of Dr. Piper's departure from the Enterprise) I thought it's a great sidestep into the other corners of the TOS universe. Quite a bit of exposition on the Tholians as well.
Sybylla
34. Dalmo
My recommendation is to start with "The Ashes of Eden" (maybe the whole Star Trek Shatnerverse). Despite being blamed as "Kirk-ego trip", most of them are better than the Next Generation movies. As stand alone novels: Spock's World, Yesterday's Son, Time for Yesterday, The Disinherited, The Lost Years Saga books, Doctor's Orders, The Rift, Sanctuary, Best Destiny, Shadows on the Sun, Imzadi, Rogue Saucer, Star Trek Destiny Saga, Star Trek DS9 Millennium Saga.
Christopher Bennett
35. ChristopherLBennett
@32: The novel was just called Ishmael, and it was a weird one, because it was an unauthorized (and probably copyright-infringing) crossover between ST and a once-popular TV Western called Here Come the Brides, which starred ST guests Mark Lenard, David Soul, and Robert Brown. Lenard's character from the show (actually its main villain) is the one who adopts the amnesiac Spock in the novel. It's all very fan-fictiony and laden with in-jokes. There are also nods to numerous other Western and SF series, including Doctor Who and Gordon Dickson & Poul Anderson's Hoka novels.

@33: The Enterprise returns in the final volume of the 8-book Vanguard series. And the series overall has a lot to do with explaining the background of events from the TOS series and movie era, filling in the broader astropolitical context of what we saw onscreen, as well as featuring characters like Carol Marcus, Dr. M'Benga, and Admiral Nogura.
Sybylla
36. Sue Lee
My favorites include Crisis on Centaurus, Spock's World, Vulcan Academy Murders and the sequel, Yesterday's Son, Ishmael (with the Cartwrights in a cameo role), Strangers from the Sky. There was also a series that had a starship captain in cowboy boots. Loved that one.
Sybylla
37. Zeno
@35,

I have read good reviews of your Trek Book Deus Ex Machina and plan to get a copy. What are the Starfleet Engineer books like?

@36,

Yesterday's Son was before Vulcan Academy Murders and is not a sequel. Time for Yesterday was the sequel. Many people liked that but I thought was weaker than the first book. The whole Medevial plot that went on in Zar's time was weak. Not to  meantion the ending left Zar's fate open ended. Maybe Crispin had a sequel planed.

As for Cripsin her giant Novel Sarek is on my Trek reading list.It is supposed to very good according to a friend of mine. That was written during the post 1990 period when restrictions were much tighter and the quality sometimes suffered.  This seems to be one of the better ones of that period from what I heard. There are very few Trek books in any series I read in the mid 90s.   There seem to be less "classic" books mentioned after Doctor's Orders.  It holds a number of distinctions 1.This was the last original series novel by Diane Duane until she came back to due her sequels in 2000, 2 it was number 50 of the regular books,3 It was around 1990 when restrictions got tights.

However there are post 50 books that are good. One which has not been mentioned is Legacy by Michael Jan Friedman. This was one of the if not the first novel use Captain Pike as a major character. Enterprise had  him only in a minor role. The Rift by Peter David is also good. However the first part during the Pike I liked much more than the second part. 
Christopher Bennett
38. ChristopherLBennett
@37: The book is called simply Ex Machina, so be sure to look for it under that title. I appreciate your interest.

The SCE/Corps of Engineers books were originally published in novella-length ebook form. All of the original SCE ebooks have been collected in trade paperback (some of them under the rebranded CoE title), though the eight ebooks originally published as CoE have yet to be published on paper. The series has a rather comic-b0ok-like flavor in a way, a monthly series with ongoing character arcs and continuity (including some major events that have lasting, long-term ramifications throughout the rest of the series) even though most of the installments are one-and-done. Despite the title, it's not a heavily technically focused series; it's generally a lot more character-driven, and the crew includes specialists of various non-engineering types as well as engineers, so there's room for stories focusing on cultural anthropology, linguistics, medicine, security, etc., not just technical challenges.

To clarify your response to #36, Time for Yesterday is the sequel to Yesterday's Son (both by A.C. Crispin), while the sequel to The Vulcan Academy Murders is The IDIC Epidemic (both by Jean Lorrah). Anyway, I don't think Sue Lee meant to say that YS was the sequel to TVAM; that was just the next book in her list after mentioning TVAM and its sequel.

The restrictions imposed in the '90s came from Roddenberry's assistant Richard Arnold, who was in charge of approval for tie-ins at the time. He had a rather restrictive view of what was true to Roddenberry's vision and didn't want the books to go beyond it or compete with it, so he imposed a lot of stringent guidelines -- no continuity between books, no recurring guest characters or story arcs, nothing that changed the status quo. However, upon Roddenberry's death in 1991, Arnold was immediately dismissed by Paramount. The licensing people at Paramount continued to follow his stringent guidelines for a few years, but they started to relax in the late '90s, when Peter David's New Frontier series began, featuring original characters and developing storylines. Since around 2000, the Arnold-era restrictions have been completely gone and the books have been free to embrace all sorts of big changes, ambitious experiments, new characters, and the like. We're even freer now than our predecessors were in the '80s.
Sybylla
39. Zeno
Chris,

I have gotten back into the some of the original series novels at least. Burning Dreams is on my to read list because I have always been interested in the Pike era.  

Here is a question for you. One writer from the early 90s who is a good novelist was Peter David. Vendetta is also on my reading list but I wanted to ask you about Imazi and Q in Law. David is a good writer of books and comics however each of these focus on characters who I have little interest in . With Imazi, this would be of course Riker and Troi . And Q in Law it would be her mother Laxanna.  My question is are these books worth reading if you are not a fan of these characters?

Hopefully Peter David is doing well after his stroke. 
Christopher Bennett
40. ChristopherLBennett
@39: I think if you're a fan of Peter David's writing, you'd find a lot to enjoy in those books.
Sybylla
41. Zeno
Chris,

Yes I am fan of Peter David but sometimes he goes too far with humor and his love of puns. This would not be a problem for Imazdi,which seems like a very serious novel but Q in Law could be a problem. Lxannaa Troi can be a somewhat tiresome character also. 

As for Imazdi, Riker is character that I can't get into. In fact he comes off as hard to like. Maybe this novel could change that. 
Christopher Bennett
42. ChristopherLBennett
@41: There's not really that much difference, in my experience, between Peter David's "very serious" novels and his more comic novels. Most of what he does contains a mix of dark, cynical elements and comedic characterization. Q-in-Law is no different. I think it's one of his best Trek novels.
Sybylla
43. Zeno
Chris,

I will try Q in Law because of your recommendation.  Last night I finished Planet of Judgement by Joe Haldeman. It was not bad but the ending seemed rushed. 

Right now I am going to finish Doctor's Orders, the last TOS novel of Duane's until she came back 10 years later to do the sequels to her Commander Ael Books. It seems she has only written sequels since then. she did do sequels before that. In my eyes Romulan Way is not really a sequel  to MY Enemy My Alley. Sequel or not Romulan Way is very good.  
Sybylla
44. Zeno
When is the new review going to be posted? This post was over a  month ago. I am right in guessing Killing Time will be the novel you are reviewing? 
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
45. EllenMCM
I'm so flattered that you are keeping track and waiting for the next one. It's in progress.
Sybylla
46. Zeno
There are a number of questions I had for you.

1. What books do you have lined up to review?

2. What have been your favorite Star Trek books so far?

3. Is there any fan fiction of Star Trek you are reviewing?
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
47. EllenMCM
1. I have a pile. There's a big storm going on right now - I'll dig through the pile this weekend and pick something out. At the moment, I'm inclined to favor a stand-alone novel rather than one that's part of a series, because the stand-alones tend to be lighter. I can assure you that Duane's Romulan books are on the docket for the medium-term future.

2. Enterprise: The First Adventure. Beyond all doubt. I regard that book with a deep, inescapable affection. In addition to the winged pony, there's an unexpected pastry chef, and Spock's cousin who juggles, and circus performers, and extra aliens, and Janice Rand and if I don't stop this will go on for a long time.

3. I am not currently reviewing fan fiction unless it was published by Pocket Books. I like fan fiction, and I've found it a great way to get more of a property that the original author is done with (or is not producing as fast as I would like) but I've never gotten deeply in to ST fanfic.
Sybylla
48. Zeno
Ellen,

You must be in the northeast like myself since you mention the snowstorm.  It really surprises me that you said Enterprise was your favorite. I gave up on that one because almost everyone seemed too out of character. Maybe you disagree. But Spock and Kirk seemed way out of character. Yes I have only read the early parts so perhaps I am being unfair. But the sections I read made Spock seem like Data. Would mind melds really be uses if they were that risk?. And would it not have had some long term affect on Spock's later development? Well,I know that others held these same views at least regarding the heroes being out of character.

Have you read Mike W. Barr's version of the first mission? It the first annual of DC Comics Star Trek series that was from  in the 1980s. I only read it a few years ago but thought it was very good.  I found it much better and recommend it. 
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
49. EllenMCM
If Kirk and Spock were fully grown into the characters and relationships we know at the beginning of their first mission together, there would be no change, no growth, and no story. I love a story where people have to find their feet, and McIntyre made incredible use of the strangeness and insecurity of unfamiliar situations to unmask their true nature and show how the characters and their relationships have shaped each other.

Also, there was a flying pony.

The mind-melds you are discussing are cross-species mind melds with an incredibly powerful species that interacts with the universe in a way that is completely foreign to Spock (and to the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and everyone else involved in the story). I think it makes sense for mind melds to be risky in general, and extremely risky in the context that McIntyre described.
Sybylla
50. Zeno
You really enjoyed the flying pony?  

One of my favorite Star Trek novels is also takes place before the second pilot. It is called Vulcan's Glory and was by  D.C. Fontana herself. It is about Spock's first voyage aboard the Enterprise when Captain Pike was in command.  I thought it was very good. It is also tries to explain why he might have been  much more emotional in the first pilot than what we saw in later episodes.

Right now I reading a more recent novel that also has Captain Pike. It is Burning Dreams by the same lady who wrote Strangers in The Sky. It is a 352 page story about the captain's life. So far it is really good. 

Maybe I will do a review of Mike W. Barr's Star Trek Annual 1. I have done comic book reviews on another blog. I can send you a link.

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