I have been revisiting the Star Trek novels I loved as a young fan — and I did love them. All of them. One of my favourite fandom memories is flipping through the sci-fi novels at my local library and finding a Trek I had not read. It was as exciting as if I had discovered an unknown episode.
But if young me loved every novel that had Star Trek on the cover, I cannot say the same for the adult me. It turns out that a lot of Trek novels are really crummy. They were pumped out to satisfy hungry fans, and the quality was all over the place.
I have been buying ebook versions of all the classic novels I already own in paper, whenever they come up in the publisher’s monthly $0.99 sales.
I won’t comment too much on some of the titles I didn’t like, such as Memory Prime and Vulcan’s Glory (which I didn’t finish), The Entropy Effect (which was okay) and The Joy Machine (truly awful; I wrote about it here).
But I’ve read a few that were quite good.
Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
This novel is a little dystopian for my Trek tastes but it posits an intriguing and very well-considered question, and is worth reading. It makes you reconsider Federation ideals, and that is rare in a Star Trek novel.
This novel presents a compelling what-if: what would Spock do if he discovered he had impregnated Zarabeth during the events of All Our Yesterdays?
But Crispin had to add a lot of fluff to stretch the premise to novel length. This would have worked better as a TOS or TNG episode.
The Vulcan Academy Murders
Lorrah offers an intriguing and mostly plausible look at Vulcan society and does a lot to address Sarek’s terrible parenting in Journey to Babel.
The murders themselves are far too complicated and improbable but the Vulcan stuff is solid.
The Motion Picture
I recently reread Roddenberry’s movie novelization, which is of course delightful. Love instructors, new humans, and a preface by Admiral Kirk himself: it is peak late-70s Roddenberry.
Spock Must Die!
This was the first non-juvenile Trek novel, and I really wanted to like it. Did I? No. Should you read it anyway? Probably. It is interesting for its place in fandom and it offers some interesting ideas. The same cannot be said for the actual first Trek novel, the terrible Mission to Horatius. Don’t read that.
Agents of Influence
I don’t love the organization that forms the premise of this novel but the writing and the pacing are very good, and this is an intriguing story. I plan to read more of Ward’s books.
Postscript: I have to call shenanigans on the cover of The Vulcan Academy Murders. Spock is pictured confronting a le-matya (first seen in the animated episode Yesteryear) but in the novel Spock never even travels out into the desert and never encounters the predator.