It’s Friday, so I’ll take a break from my normal subject matter to make a confession: I’m a big Star Trek fan. I’ve seen every episode ever made (except for some of Enterprise), attended an actual Star Trek convention, and own a host of related merchandise.
For years, I’ve also been a fan of the “Star Trek novel.” Now probably numbering in the hundreds, this collection of books represents the ongoing work of numerous authors over the course of more than three decades. Based on characters from the various series (and other new creations), they continue to expand the journeys of the “final frontier” beyond what we’ve seen in television and film. While the books are escapist in nature and relatively unchallenging reads, I have to admit it’s exciting to revisit beloved characters and explore new stories with them.
The novels, however, are of varying quality. The best are compelling and thoughtful with great character moments. The worst are simple and unoriginal or, even worse, bizarrely experimental, otherwise off-kilter, or boring.
I’ve read quite a few (good, bad, and ugly) in my time as a Trekkie, so I thought today I’d give my take on five entries that are worth taking a look at. In no particular order, then, here they are:
- Prime Directive: The book begins with the Enterprise heavily damaged and Kirk and crew having been punished for breaking the Federation’s most sacred law. How did we get to this place? Is this the end for our heroes? A worthy Star Trek novel and one of the earlier ones I read.
- Masks: Though it has been years since I read this one, I can still remember the almost anthropological way it related the story of a planet that interacted via the use of masks. All this to say that Captain Picard and the Next Generation crew have yet another adventure on their hands. Even though I can’t remember a thing about the plot, the unique culture it relates makes the book a very enjoyable read.
- The Entropy Effect: One of the earliest Star Trek novels published, and an interesting transporter story. Would be worth adapting into a film or episode. Plus, it is the first time we learn Sulu’s first name (Hikaru!).
- Provenance of Shadows: Part of a trilogy that examines Kirk, Spock, and McCoy over the course of their lives, this is a powerful and moving story about everyone’s favorite country doctor. A rare Star Trek novel I’d consider reading again.
- Destiny Trilogy: Do you ever wonder what happened with the Borg and the Federation after the end of Voyager? So did the authors. In the process, they put together a page-turning three-part series involving various characters that is literally Star Trek-universe changing. There are some other novels leading up to this that should be read as well, but it was the Destiny books that kept me up reading all night!
- Bonus: Terok Nor Trilogy: I couldn’t resist a sixth entry in the list. These books are rather different than the others in that they utilize a lot of new characters as they tell the story of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor in the years before Deep Space Nine. Even though it’s imaginary history, I still loved it.
These are, of course, only some of the ones worth looking at. There are a host more. If you’re a Star Trek fan and haven’t ever read any of the novels, you are missing out. My advice: make an effort to correct this oversight soon. There are, after all, only so many times you can watch “Measure of a Man,” but new stories of Trek are being published every year.
I’d love to hear your favorites and/or recommendations!