Best numbered TOS novels to read

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Laura Cynthia Chambers, Jan 16, 2023.

  1. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 1, 2016
    I'd be interested in knowing which ones are the best stories.

    Particularly (let's put it this way) those well-written novels that, if the book was an aired episode in the series' original run, would be able to be aired exactly as written (in accordance with 60s TV standards).
  2. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Commodore Premium Member

    Oct 13, 2004
    That’s impossible, because even the shortest Star Trek novel ever written (Spock Must Die!) would still consume at least two full-length episodes.

    And, in my experience, early numbered novels written most like the episodes weren’t particularly good.
  3. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 1, 2016
    Sorry, let me clarify. I was referring to ratings.

    That is, the dialogue and such would be similarly PG-13 rated as any given episode of TOS is now. Like how it's only blink-and-you'll-miss-it implied that Kirk slept with Deela in "Wink of an Eye" via him pulling his shoe back on his room with her. A K+ rating on
  4. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2002
    I think my favorite numbered TOS novel is probably Diane Duane's Doctor's Orders.
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  5. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Vice Admiral Moderator

    Jan 10, 2003
    I'm glad you clarified that your "aired exactly as written" criteria was referring only to the "rating", because there's no way any of the best novels could have aired "exactly as written" in the 1960s... that's kind of what makes them the best! :)

    Please keep in mind that most of these have been read long enough ago that I don't remember all the details in enough clarity to assign any kind of "rating", so no guarantee that they are all PG-13. That being said, I can't really recall that any of the numbered novels would have been rated above PG-13, so I'm guessing you don't have a lot to worry about. If you are planning to share them with children, please note that I was a child myself when I first read most of these, and I don't think any of my issues are due to the books... ;)

    The Best

    In addition to being my favourites, I'm pretty sure these are also well-regarded in general, so you probably won't see any surprises here.

    • #13 - The Wounded Sky, by Diane Duane (yes, this is the book the TNG episode "Where No One Has Gone Before" is based on, but the book is so much better. If you can only read one TOS numbered novel, go with this one.)
    • #16 - The Final Reflection, by John M. Ford
    • #18 - My Enemy, My Ally, by Diane Duane
    • #21 - Uhura's Song, by Janet Kagan
    • #35 - The Romulan Way, by Diane Duane

    The Honourable Mentions

    These ones are ones that I believe I remember liking, but I'm a little fuzzier on the details, so my recollection of their higher quality may actually be completely wrong? Read with caution, I guess.

    • #2 - The Entropy Effect, by Vonda N. McIntyre (this one may actually fail your PG-13 criteria? Without getting spoilery, I believe there was a death in the book described in some pretty shocking detail that might have been a little much for young me.)
    • #11 - Yesterday's Son, by A. C. Crispin
    • #29 - Dreadnought!, by Diane Carey
    • #40 - Timetrap, by David Dvorkin
    • #44 - Vulcan's Glory, by D.C. Fontana (!)
    • #49 - The Pandora Principle, by Carolyn Clowes (if this is actually the one I'm thinking of! :crazy:)
    • #75 - First Frontier, by Diane Carey and Dr. James I. Kirkland
    • #76 - The Captain's Daughter, by Peter David

    For Nostalgia Purposes Only

    These ones I have positive feelings towards... but I was a kid and probably had no taste! :lol: I think they are actually generally considered bad books. I have not revisited them as an adult because I'm presuming they would not hold up, and why destroy one of a very limited supply of happy childhood memories? Read at your own risk!

    • #8 - Black Fire, by Sonni Cooper. As mentioned, I was but a child. :) I'm assuming I liked it because of the complete tangents the plot took; IIRC, it was like three different books in one. If I read something today that was written in a similar vein, I'd probably deride it for its lack of focus or something. Amusingly, I was recently helping clean some things up at my mother's place, and came across an old "book report" I had apparently written for this in elementary school. (My writing wasn't that great, either! :lol: )
    • #12 - Mutiny on the Enterprise, by Robert E. Vardeman. Only included here because, IIRC, it was one of the first Star Trek novels I ever read, signed out from the library when I was in elementary school. I believe it's generally considered awful. Probably would have been better if they'd used an exclamation mark in the title.

    There's a lot of books in the higher numbers that I don't have any recollection of at all, so either I didn't read them, or I've just entirely forgotten them.

    Since people's tastes change as they age, I'm guessing there would be some on this list that wouldn't be included, and others that I maybe didn't like at the time, but would make the cut now, if I had started reading these novels as an adult instead. So adjust expectations accordingly! :)
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  6. Reanok

    Reanok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 26, 2002
    Greg Cox and Dayton Ward have written alot of Tos Books based on the tv series and the tos movie era that are really good they're not the numbered novels but they're really good they Have Gary seven and Roberta Lincoln in the books Dayton novels you might like History's shadow and Elusive Salvation are really good. Greg's Khan novels are really good and worth reading too.
  7. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 7, 2001
    Crossroad or nothing.
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  8. I am not Herbert

    I am not Herbert Ensign Newbie

    Nov 11, 2022
    I have recently looked at the numbered book corpus using similar criteria, with an eye towards encouraging my preteen son (who loves TOS) to carry over this enthusiasm into reading. Without prying too much, it sounds like perhaps you have tasked yourself with a similar mission. Here's my feedback to date, books having been chosen more or less at random:

    Ice Trap: Nothing objectionable, and had some well-executed action sequences. But the story was not particularly strong, and it did not 'feel' like an episode--more like a collection of 'big budget' action sequences that we were meant to get excited by, knowing that they could never have been included in an episode.

    The Joy Machine: I had a more favorable opinion than others on this site, but it does feel like an unused 52 min TOS script with a somewhat incongruous middle third shoved in there to pad it out to book length. (Which is precisely what it is). Nothing objectionable, although what is effectively drug addiction is a central part of the plot. (Not 'objectionable,' per se, but might not be what you're looking for).

    Web of the Romulans: This is one of those that gets dismissed around here as an early, forgettable Pocket entry (and I see why), but it was actually a great selection for my target audience: relatively short, jumps right into the action, dialogue between the principals seems true to the original characters, even has a 'humorous' (YMMV) subplot. Very much had a TOS episode feel (albeit a mid-tier episode). Nothing objectionable.

    Windows on a Lost World: I actually greatly enjoyed this one, although some on this site despise it because the premise is a little bonkers (run a search for all the spoilers you want). The crew interactions seem true, and to her credit the author really went for it in terms of worldbuilding and (truly) alien cultures. Nothing objectionable.

    Pawns and Symbols: Highly underrated, largely dismissed because it depicts Klingon culture in a manner that was not consistent with TOS novels of its day, much less what came later. (Who cares?) But there is a ton of (largely 'offscreen') sex in it, some of it 'problematic,' to use an overused term. So probably not what you're looking for.

    Bloodthirst: I read this when I was in 5th grade and loved it. Has spooky/scary elements, but nothing worse than TOS itself, and I was such a scaredy cat back then it couldn't have been too bad. I remember feeling as though I were watching a good episode.

    Enemy Unseen: Loved this as a kid as well but the synopsis indicates there are some sexual contretemps (must have missed that), so perhaps this might not suit my/your present purposes, we will see.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to share your own feedback. I'd be interested to hear.
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    That's a misleading way of putting it, because there wasn't any real consistency among the novels at the time, except within a single author's books. The book right before Pawns and Symbols, Dwellers in the Crucible, had been the first book to reference The Final Reflection's Klingons and Diane Duane's Rihannsu, but it was the exception, and TFR and P&S were just two of several contradictory, standalone depictions of Klingons, also including Ishmael with its unique version of Klingon history. It wasn't until 2-3 years later that more books started referencing Ford's Klingons and Duane's Rihannsu and made them the "default" version in the novels.
  10. I am not Herbert

    I am not Herbert Ensign Newbie

    Nov 11, 2022
    Let me clarify. I did not mean to say that P&S was dismissed *upon publication* as being inconsistent with other novels, or that I believed the author had some duty to be consistent with other books at the time. I don't know how any of these books were received upon publication (even the newest ones) and my understanding of the line at the time is that consistency was not emphasized. As with my other comments, I was trying to compare my impression of the book compared to how others on this site have described it. And although "dismiss" might be too strong a word, when I ran a search for that book title on this site, it seemed like the most common observation was to say that it was not consistent with The Final Reflection, let alone TNG etc. To me, that is not a particularly meaningful observation with respect to a book that, as you say, was meant to be a standalone. But of course, those reviewers might simply have disliked P&S and perhaps for them the inconsistency is the only noteworthy aspect at this point.
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Thinking back to my own reactions at the time, I do recall that it was impossible not to compare Pawns and Symbols' version of the Klingons to The Final Reflection's version and find it somewhat wanting in comparison to that standout novel. But at the same time, it was interesting to see such a distinctive alternative take on Klingon culture. Larson's version did have some notable innovations of its own. I particularly remember the bit about Klingons having different color pigments in their retinas so that they couldn't discern the color red and saw red Starfleet uniforms as black. Although that was inconsistent with ST:TMP showing the Klingon bridge lit entirely in red and having mostly red viewscreen graphics.
  12. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 1, 2016
    Maybe they have night vision? The better to ambush their dishonorable enemies with. Or is ambush itself dishonorable?
  13. GaryH

    GaryH Commander Red Shirt

    Nov 4, 2015
    Oh I forgot about The Captain’s Daughter. That was a fun one.
  14. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Commodore Commodore

    Dec 19, 2011
    I generally do not like the pre-TNG TOS novels, however I am reading #8 Black Fire and it’s a BLAST! Feels like it could’ve been part of The Animated Series, however it’s one of those 80’s novels that assumed there was a second 5-year mission before Star Trek The Motion Picture, so at some points the Enterprise it feels like a mix of TOS/TAS & TMP, since the bridge module is destroyed on page 1 (when the ship is in its TAS configuration), and then later replaced with another module that gets rid of the colourful panels, with more gray toned TMP-type panels, but still in that TOS setup (and the bridge still has one turbolift, and Spock’s sensor hood, but it does have the stairs from TAS). And then the crew also get the grey TMP uniforms. And externally, even with the new bridge module the Enterprise apparently still has the round TOS nacelles—-the front cover is misleading showing the TMP Enterprise.
  15. Turtletrekker

    Turtletrekker Admiral Admiral

    Aug 23, 2003
    Tacoma, Washington
    I've always been fond of AC Crispin's Yesterday's Son and Time for Yesterday, which are sequels to the original series episode "All Our Yesterdays".
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  16. TheUsualSuspect

    TheUsualSuspect Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 28, 2011
    Durango, CO
    I'll second "Yesterday's Son" and "Time for Yesterday."
    I haven't read either of them in years, but I suspect they've stood the test of time rather well.