Star Trek Books, the Final Frontier

I am a nerd of many interests, and I’ve teased that this blog wasn’t going to be all about Paganism. Today I’m going to talk about the other major area of my life: Star Trek.

I decided, on a whim, to read all of the Star Trek: The Next Generation books in order of publication. Pocket has put all of the Trek back catalog up for Kindle (though they aren’t throwback priced, I must say!) so it was possible to make this happen without digging through boxes and bookshelves for old dead tree copies. Yeah, that means I’m buying a book twice, but I know some of these authors and like to think they’re getting a couple of cents royalties on the old copies.

As of today, I’ve finished with books 1-7, plus the Encounter at Farpoint novelization. It’s interesting to read this early stuff now that TNG itself premiered over 30 years ago. There’s been a lot of character development both on-screen from the show and the movies and off-screen in the books, making these early works a quirky snapshot in time.

Reading them now, some of the choices are jarring. Picard’s demeanor in the early works is rather nasty and reactionary, not at all the calm (if curmudgeonly) way we see him on-screen. One entire book is about Tasha Yar’s early years, which will be completely retconned by the Season 4 episode Legacy.

I’m not going to give a detailed review of all 8 books I’ve gone through so far. That’s a bit wordy even for me. But I will give a couple of sentences and a review on a scale of one to five tribbles. Regardless of my review, I encourage all TNG fans to read through the catalog, especially the newer stuff. The current stable of Trek tie-in authors are doing a fantastic job of keeping the stories going on our favorite characters.

On to the reviews!

Encounter at Farpoint (unnumbered): Novelization of the two-part series premiere. Clearly written from early production materials. It’s not a bad novelization, but it doesn’t add much to what we’ll see on-screen. Then again, what novelization does? Review: 3 tribbles.

Ghost Ship (TNG #1): Normally I enjoy Diane Carey’s work. I’m hoping this story wasn’t her idea, because it’s completely ridiculous. I never felt like the actual problem was resolved very well. Yes, I know our beloved crew doesn’t always come up with the answer to why the aliens of the week are pissed off, but we didn’t get a lot of closure at the end of this one. Review: 1 tribble.

The Peacekeepers (TNG #2): While the characterizations are still a bit jarring for today’s reader, I thought this story was pretty interesting. I might have liked to see it on-screen. I think it makes a good case for becoming too dependent on technology that still resonates today. Review: 3 tribbles.

The Children of Hamlin (TNG #3): One of the best of the early group. The story is original, the alien race is original and well-developed, and the ending has a bit of a twist. I really would have liked to see this one as an episode. I also wish more writers would pursue the idea of aliens using music as a language. Review: 4 tribbles.

Survivors (TNG #4): The aforementioned Tasha Yar back story, though it’s a secondary plot in the novel. Given that this is one of the early books, I enjoyed the author’s characterizations of Tasha and Data. Much of the early material is about Data learning to be human, though via different authors’ takes on what that would entail. And honestly, I think this is a much more believable back story for Tasha than what we’ll see on-screen. Review: 4 tribbles.

Strike Zone (TNG #5): My favorite so far of the early novels, but then again, I’ve always been a fan of Peter David’s humor. And this is really what makes the book. If you’re not a fan of his irreverant style, you’re not going to like this one. If you are, it’s a nice little farce of double-crossing idiocy. Review: 5 tribbles.

Power Hungry (TNG #6): An excellently written political escapade. It’s the first time we really see the Federation’s principles tested. Although the ambassador character is completely annoying, if you can get past that, it’s a satisfying read that would have made a good episode. Review: 4 tribbles.

Masks (TNG #7): The idea of stratifying your society based on actual masks people wear is interesting. The execution of said idea here is… words fail me. The origin story for the planet of the masked people is ridiculous. The ambassador in this story is ridiculous. The romance subplot is ridiculous. Perhaps these stories were published out of order, and the author turned his script in before we got too deeply into the series, though the initial publish date is July 1989. If I’d set up my scale to include a zero, this one would get it. Review: 1 tribble.

So there you go. I’ve got TNG #8, The Captain’s Honor, downloaded on my Kindle. I’ve gotten a bit side-tracked with starting a re-read of the excellent Vanguard series so I can finish that series off. I also just finished reading the DS9 novel Original Sin, which I picked up from the public library. I found it a bit slow to get into, but once the story picked up after the prologue I couldn’t put it down. I’m not as familiar with DS9 as I should be (long story involving the crude primitive technology known as TV antennas), but I felt like the story was really accessible for the casual DS9 fan.

More reviews as I get a few more books read down. Despite the range in quality among the books, I’m really enjoying the project. I wish I had read a few more of them back in the day, but, ya know, I was only 9 when TNG premiered, so I had to pick and choose which books I was going to buy with my allowance.