Literate Trek Novels

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Twain, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. Twain

    Twain Captain Captain

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    I am - generally speaking - not a reader of fiction based on TV series, so I thought I would ask this question of the experts...

    Are there any examples of well established, critically acclaimed authors writing Trek novels? And are they any good?

    Michael Moorcock has written a Doctor Who novel. It's not his best work, but is a distinct cut above others I've sampled and quickly binned.

    I know there were some fine science fiction authors who worked on TOS (Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson and so on).

    How about Trek novels?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Greg Bear wrote a Trek novel, Corona, early in his career, just before his fame really started to take off. David Gerrold got his start writing Star Trek on TV and then went on to become a widely acclaimed author of original SF; he wrote one original Trek novel, The Galactic Whirlpool, for Bantam in 1980, as well as the novelization of TNG's pilot "Encounter at Farpoint." Other, more prolific Trek authors who are also well-known and highly regarded for their original work include Diane Duane and Peter David.

    However, perhaps the most famous, important, critically acclaimed science fiction author ever to write a Star Trek novel was Robert Sheckley, but his Deep Space Nine novel The Laertian Gamble is widely despised as not feeling a lot like DS9. Similarly, K. W. Jeter is a well-regarded SF novelist, but his DS9 novel Warped just didn't feel right and was so unpopular that it killed interest in hardcover DS9 books for over a decade.

    So people who are acclaimed for their original work won't necessarily produce acclaimed tie-in literature. It's a different discipline with different demands. It's necessary to balance an original voice and perspective with fidelity to the voice, characters, and continuity of the work you're tying into, and authors who are used to doing their own original work can't always make that transition -- can't always adjust their own voices and sensibilities enough to produce an authentic and satisfying tie-in. (No value judgment there; it's just that not every artist can adapt to multiple disciplines. Screenwriters aren't automatically novelists, painters can't necessarily sculpt, and being a great violinist won't make you a great sax player.) So it's unwise to assume that fame or reputation alone is the only measure of quality here. There have been some brilliant works of Star Trek literature published over the past dozen years, but few are by anyone who'd be considered a big name in broader literary circles (at least, not yet, he said hopefully).
     
  3. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm tempted to nominate the late John M. Ford, who wrote at least one award-winning alternate history novel as well as a widely-acclaimed Trek novel, The Final Reflection.
     
  4. Twain

    Twain Captain Captain

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    Thank you for your reply Christopher. May I turn the question around a little, then, and ask which Trek novels are a match for the best in Science Fiction? In other words, which are closest in quality to the best output of those acclaimed names?
     
  5. CNash

    CNash Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be coming in with the assumption that most tie-in fiction is by definition inferior to "literature" or even mainstream science fiction. I know that sci-fi isn't the most respected literary genre, but to dismiss huge amounts of published work like that is quite unfair.
     
  6. Twain

    Twain Captain Captain

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    That was not my intention. I am a seasoned reader of both sci-fi and contemporary literature. As I said, I have not read very much tie-in at all (though the little I have read, aside from the Moorcock novel I cited, is risible). I posted this query to learn.
     
  7. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Well, to be fair, some tie-in books are probably more "literary" than others.

    I've heard good things about A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson, although I haven't had a chance to read it myself. It sounds like it might be what the OP is looking for.
     
  8. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    With the proviso that I object to the term "literary" in general, as I think it denotes a level of snobbishness directed at perfectly good stories as somehow being untrue literature...

    The most sophisticated, best-written Star Trek novels I've ever read would probably be:

    • The Final Reflection by John M. Ford
    • DS9: Hollow Men by Una McCormack
    • DS9: The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
    • Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers by James Swallow
    • Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III
    • Typhon Pact: Plague of Nights by David R. George III
    • Typhon Pact: Raise the Dawn by David R. George III
    • Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game by David Mack
    • Destiny by David Mack
    • Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
    • S.C.E.: Wildfire by David Mack
    • Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido
    • Spock's World by Diane Duane
     
  9. Seven of eleven

    Seven of eleven Vice Admiral Admiral

    Hey Twain,

    If you're familiar enough with DS9 so that you don't need to rack your brain when previously established characters and events occur, then I would recommend to you Una McCormack's The Never Ending Sacrifice

    Ms. McCormack is not a famous established writer, at least not on the order of those who you have mentioned above, and in fact has spent most of her life writing fan-fiction but thank God I didn't know this when I thought about purchasing that novel.

    I'll quote myself from three years ago:

     
  10. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'd agree with most of Sci's selections, and I'd add that possibly the first tie-in literature that I thought stood on it's own as a novel was Peter David's 'Imzadi'.

    It has been something like 20 years since I read it though...
     
  11. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Captain Captain

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    Let us not forget that Alan Dean Foster (of the Humanx Commonwealth and Spellsinger series, as well as a number of Mad Amos short stories) did the print adaptations of TAS, and some of the earliest story work for TMP, and the novelization of the inaugrual Abramsverse film, as well as three Star Wars books (ghosting the novelization of IV for George Lucas, and writing two original novels).

    At any rate, I definitely second the nominations of Diane Duane and John M. Ford (and not just for the works cited), and also Greg Cox as well, especially for anything involving Gary Seven, Khan, or time travel.
     
  12. Starbreaker

    Starbreaker Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    You can't go wrong with the big names writing today: Mack, George, Bennett, Beyer. The restraints have been lifted now that all the series are over and the authors are free to tell stories on a grand scale that have lasting consequences for the characters and the Star Trek universe overall.

    There's a lot of horrible to mediocre Trek fiction out there, but everyone has their favorites that they put head and shoulders above everything else. For me, it's books like The Destiny Trilogy by David Mack, Mission Gamma: Twilight by David R. George III, The Buried Age by Christopher L. Bennett - stuff that breaks the formula.

    Laurell K. Hamilton wrote a TNG novel called Nightshade, and she is certainly a hit among the vampire romance (?) fans. They managed to get that one reprinted in TPB last year.
     
  13. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    It's probably worth noting that this first Pocket ST hardcover originally came out without the words "Star Trek" on its spine. It often stood proudly in the main SF section of many bookshops when it first came out.
     
  14. Starbreaker

    Starbreaker Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I remember back in the early 2000's when "Star Trek" got much smaller on the book covers for a while...
     
  15. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well don't forget that Peter David is also known for his Hulk stories and his episodes of Babylon 5.
     
  16. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Kij Johnson has since become an acclaimed literary fantasist herself, although I'm not sure Dragon's Honor (our zany collaborative TNG novel) is all that representative of her original work.
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I do get the impression that OP is looking for Star Trek novels and novelists who are relatively divorced from the kinds of action-adventure-oriented storytelling one finds in many genre stories, so I tried to orient my list towards stories that, even if they feature action and adventure, are more about deeper themes and emotions. To make a comparison: both Atonement and Pearl Harbor are World War II films, but the OP seems more interested in something like Atonement's thematic depth than Pearl Harbor's frenzy of action and melodrama. Or to make another comparison -- something less like 2008's Iron Man and more like 2008's The Dark Knight.
     
  18. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    My impression is really that the OP is looking for books that could be considered and enjoyed as great scifi novels independent of the franchise association, i.e. the question is less about quality in an absolute sense and more about quality sans context.

    As in, a Star Trek book can be a great Star Trek book because if makes effective use of or subverts characters/situations/tropes from the franchise, but that makes its greatness dependent on that context, whereas some stories may be set in the franchise, but mostly do their own thing. Many of this latter category then come out as lackluster because that own thing just isn't very good and they also don't tap into anyone else's good things - but some are also shining jewels.

    The ones that come to mind easily are The Final Reflection and A Stitch in Time, which make really worthy social scifi tales even if ripped out of the greater tapestry of the Star Trek franchise. Quite possibly also Crossroad.
     
  19. DrCorby

    DrCorby Commander Red Shirt

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    Don't forget that Joe Haldeman (of Forever War fame) wrote a couple of the Bantam Star Trek novels back in the '70s. They were (IMHO) OK, but not the greatest Star Trek novels, nor among Mr Haldeman's best and brightest, either.
     
  20. Hugh Cambridge

    Hugh Cambridge Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I would like to add "DTI Watching the clock" which is a very good SF book in itself :bolian: