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.