Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by BruntFCA, Jun 2, 2014.
I still have a very soft spot for Gordon Eklund's two entries, The Starless World and Devil World.
"The Entropy Effect" was a wonderful novel to kick off Pocket's original Trek fiction line, which continues to this day. It created a lot of fan controversy when promoted with an extract in "Starlog" magazine because fans were outraged that someone would dare to kill off Kirk, even when reassured that the story occurred before the events of "The Motion Picture".
To do a quick check, type the title of a book plus the descriptor "Memory Beta" and you'll get a page dedicated to each novel.
One aspect of "Death's Angel" that I recall was the Croc-alien's interest in Sherlock Holmes. Kind of presages Data's later behavior in early TNG.
You could have tied The Billion Year Voyage to that--with something done to the black hole duo.. Shades of Kapp
I remember picking up some of the Bantam novels when I was early in my teens and not initially understanding why the covers looked so different from the Pocket novels I already had.
Over time I've read them all except for Spock: Messiah!. None of them are particularly good, especially in relation to what Pocket has built over time (there are some horrible Pocket entries as well). But at the time I initially read them, they were fascinating to me, especially in how my mind conjured this entirely different Star Trek universe that was wholly incompatible with what I had seen on-screen (most of TOS and the first three movies) to fit these books into.
However, many of them were enjoyable, even though not great. My two favorites of the line were Vulcan! and Death's Angel, the latter having the distinction of being the first novel I ever read cover to cover in one sitting—a cold, blustery evening when I lived in Berlin in the mid-80s. I sat next to a radiator under a blanket and read and read.
But, even though those two are my favorites, they all have their charms and individual quirkiness.
I remember enjoying it a lot, but being completely perplexed at the description of a red-haired Scotty.
Aside from James Blish's adaptations, which IMO are gems that became overlooked with the advent of the VCR, Haldeman's Planet of Judgement and the New Voyages collections were tops. Following up, The Galactic Whirlpool.
Just re-found my copy of The New Voyages and have to say that I still get a thrill reading the story "Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited."
Actually, anybody who read Gerrold's two nonfiction works for Ballantine (The World of Star Trek and The Trouble with Tribbles) instantly recognized exactly what The Galactic Whirlpool is: it's a reworking of the very first spec outline he pitched to Star Trek, originally titled "Tomorrow Was Yesterday," with the title plot element added in order to provide the story with some much-needed jeopardy.
As to The Starless World, World Without End, the ever-popular Devil World, and Perry's Planet, I've always regarded them as the least-worthwhile of the Bantam ST novels, all of them variations on the "Kirk & Co. get themselves in trouble with an alien civilization that turns out to be entirely different from what it seems" cliche.
I liked Death's Angel, with its comic-relief ambassador names and its "Special Security Division" (which anticipates Section 31, among other things). And Trek to Madworld was a comic romp of the sort we wouldn't see again until How Much for Just the Planet.
I'd say that the two "Phoenix" books' biggest fault wasn't the K/S elements, but the fact that they were so damned confusing.
All in all, I find the best of the Bantam novels to be better than a lot of the first dozen or so Pocket novels.
And I've never gotten rid of a Star Trek novel unless I somehow acquired two of the same title.
My regrettably moribund website has an old feature article on Gerrold's Trek stuff. On Galactic Whirlpool:
Spoiler: hidden for space
From "Tomorrow Was Yesterday" to The Galactic Whirlpool
In 1966, a young David Gerrold proposed a two-part Star Trek episode. Called "Tomorrow Was Yesterday," it was about the Enterprise encountering a generation ship, the Voyager. Over the centuries, as its pre-warp, slower than light engines propelled their ship across space, generations of the Voyager's crew came to forget that they were inside a spaceship. Mutiny and social turmoil led to the crew's descendents dividing into two groups, one living around the control room in relative comfort and high tech conveniences, the other in the lower decks around engineering living in relative squalor. Neither could take full control of the ship and its course, assuming they still remembered how to use their technology, and neither side knew that their world was heading for destruction, caught in the pull of a star. When members of the Enterprise crew boarded the Voyager, the people aboard, not knowing there was a world outside their ship, believed that they were members of the opposite faction. Complications ensued before Kirk and the gang eventually saved the day. (Gerrold wrote about this story and a few other rejected Star Trek pitches in his 1973 nonfiction book, "The Trouble With Tribbles".)
If it sounds like a familiar storyline, it is. Not only had something along those lines been done a number of times in science fiction novels, including Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky and Brian Aldiss's Non-Stop (a.k.a. Starship), something vaguely similar actually made it to Star Trek in the form of the episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." My own first exposure to the concept was probably the Dig Allen space adventure The Forgotten Star by Joseph Greene, and the next would have been the Canadian TV series The Starlost.
It was too big and expensive a story for television, Star Trek producer Gene Coon decided, but he was impressed by Gerrold's imagination and let him pitch a few more story ideas. One of them was "The Trouble With Tribbles." And that was the end of "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." For a little while, anyway.
A few years later, Gerrold tried to write an original science fiction novel based on the unused story. However, as he wrote, he found that he was writing a very different story, one about the crew of a warship trying to track an enemy spaceship that might not even exist. No generation ships involved at all. The book was published in 1972 as Yesterday's Children. In 1980, with a few additional chapters added to the end of the book, it was reprinted under the same title. About a decade later it was republished again as Starhunt. By that time Gerrold was revisiting and revising the fictional universe of that book for a new series he called Star Wolf.
In the meantime, though, something else had happened. Gerrold wrote a novel based on "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." This time, it was actually a Star Trek novel, and it was published as part of Bantam's Star Trek novel line in 1980.
The Galactic Whirlpool was something of a landmark Star Trek novel. It was the first original novel published by someone who had written for the TV series. It was certainly one of the best of the Bantam Star Trek novels, and longer than the average Trek novel then, too.
The story follows the plot as described above, with some relatively minor changes. Instead of being pulled by a star, the ship, now called the Wanderer, is being drawn to a more spectacular fate: a galactic whirlpool composed of spinning black holes.
The length of the book comes not from a more involved plot, or more action, but from many little expository breaks. For example, the story explaining why James T. Kirk has a habit of muttering "Tiberius" under his breath. How impulse drive works. Technobabble, Starfleet procedures, areas of the Enterprise, and more. In one of the book's longer chapters, the Enterprise librarian, Specks, gives a long history of the Wanderer: its beginning as an L5 colony, its political alienation from Earth, and ultimately its departure from the solar system as a generation ship. It's the sort of information that, in an episode, would have been provided by Spock. (Not that I have anything against the idea of a librarian aboard the Enterprise. I'm a librarian myself.) These expository lumps and digressions help disguise the fact that, even when you're halfway through the book, not much has actually happened yet.
(Incidentally, the idea of the ship being an L5 colony turned into a generation ship is similar to certain events in the much more recent Star Trek novel The Sundered, but it's an idea that's come up a number of times in science fiction. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, at times it seemed like everyone in the SF world was riffing off of Gerard O'Neill's The High Frontier, the nonfiction book that popularized the idea.)
The prose style is distinctive. There are short sentences for dramatic effect, lots of italics, and lots of exclamation points. At times it reads like a young adult novel. Characters are constantly quoting old sayings. There are a number of quotes from Gerrold's alter ego, Solomon Short, no relation to Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long. Some of the bits of exposition read very much like lectures.
Gerrold refers in passing to Arex and M'ress and also mentions an Admiral George La Forge. The real George La Forge was a Star Trek fan; The Next Generation's Geordi La Forge was also named after him. Kirk sends contact teams to the Wanderer, in a bit of foreshadowing of The Next Generation. Gerrold had made the point in his book The World of Star Trek years earlier that it made no sense to constantly put a ship's captain, its least expendable person, in danger. He expanded on the point in The Galactic Whirlpool.
A non-Trek reference in the book is the odd sound, "coeurl," made by holographic prowlers in the Wanderer's corridors. Coeurl is the title beast in A.E. van Vogt's short story "Black Destroyer." That story, now generally available as part of the book Voyage of the Space Beagle, features a starship whose multiracial crew explores space and has exciting adventures, decades before Star Trek was created.
The story ends with Kirk saying, "Set a course for deep space station K-7. I could use a rest --" Do I really need to mention that this leads into "The Trouble With Tribbles"?
There are no brilliant classics in the Bantam line, but they're entertaining in their own ways. No one had really decided what a Star Trek novel was yet, and there was nothing more than TOS and TAS to work with. They're historically interesting, just like Mack Reynolds's Mission to Horatius.
Back in the 70s I liked Spock, Messiah for having one or two interesting ideas and for showing signs of having read the Star Fleet Technical Manual; the two Star Trek: The New Voyages books for presenting a variety of story styles; Joe Haldeman's first book for doing some good flashback stuff for McCoy; Gordon Eklund's Starless World for introducing the Dyson Sphere concept to the Star Trek universe; and Gerrold's Galactic Whirlpool because the opportunity meant something to Gerrold and he ran with it, if not always successfully (see the spoiler coded stuff for some commentary).
I won't argue that they're essential in a literary sense, but I tend to consider them essential as a part of Trek literary history -- that is, if you're seriously interested in Star Trek books, you should be familiar with these ones.
Just a slight deviation here, but has anybody read the Gold Key comics? Great storylines, but I eventually got sick of *every single sentence* ending in an exclamation point. Even Spock's sentences.
I also agree that the Phoenix novels were confusing.
I enjoyed Spock Must Die.
The most memorable line from Galactic Whirlpool(I THINK it was that book) was Riley saying, "I'll bring you home again, Katholin."
That was a consequence of early comic-book printing. The resolution was low enough that periods weren't always visible, so comic-book writers had to use exclamation points most of the time. This was industry-wide, not just Gold Key.
An amusing side effect of this habit was that once in the '70s, DC writer Elliott S. Maggin unthinkingly wrote his name on a form as Elliott S! Maggin, since he was so much in the habit of substituting exclamation points for periods -- and once his editor saw that (I forget whether it was Julius Schwartz or Dennis O'Neill), he dictated that Maggin's name would always be written in the comics as Elliott S! Maggin from then on. And it has been ever since.
Ha! Maggin's one of my very favorite Superman writers (his two Superman paperback novels are wonderful), and I'd always wondered how that "S!" came about. Thanks, Christopher.
Those Superman novels are really good. I've read them a couple of times and I still have them. I want to read them again someday when I catch up on my new books.
According to danhausser's site, "Mission To Horatius" is considered a Bantam book, so I would have to nominate Horatius as the Best of the Bantam era. I've read up to "New Voyages 2 (in terms of publishing order), and I found "Price Of The Phoenix" to have been the worst of the lot. It was a snore-bore that barely moved. If I was giving it a rating out of 10, I would have to give it a -10 out of 10.
I've got a stack of Batnams I'm about to start reading, starting with Spock, Messiah in the next day or two.
I have the Phoenix novels too, so I hope I like them better than some people. I think the Kirk/Spock slash in the books will keep me reading
Huh? Well, he could hardly put it in a timeline of one book. It's a Whitman book (and the celebratory reprint a Pocket book), definitely not a Bantam, so at best it fits with Danhauser's statement that it is one of "the classic STAR TREK novels" which "were only seventeen in number".
I read 'em in reverse order, and it didn't seem to matter, nor that I'd not yet seen "The Enterprise Incident".
Remember the scene in the episode where the Romulan Commander swings around in her chair to reveal she is... a female? Not long after ST II came out, a Saavik-besotted friend was desperate to see "The Enterprise Incident" and I finally had it on video, so she watched it, knowing that rampant fan rumors of the day abounded that the Commander and Spock were (possibly) Saavik's parents. And then the Commander swung around in her captain's chair, just as Saavik had done at the beginning of ST II.
That's not true. The site is named "Guide to the Early STAR TREK Novels," not "Guide to the Bantam STAR TREK Novels." And the entry for Mission to Horatius explicitly says "Published in 1968 by Whitman Books," while all the others listed on the page say "Published in [date] by Bantam Books." And at the bottom of the page is a copyright disclaimer reading in part, "The above mentioned books were published by Bantam Books, and by the Whitman Publishing Division of Western Publishing Company, Inc."
Granted, the home page does have a sentence saying "This site is a guide to those early STAR TREK novels published by Bantam Books," but that's probably an uncorrected bit of text from the early edition of the site before MtH was reprinted by Pocket, or maybe just an error. Everything else on the site makes it quite clear that MtH was a Whitman book, not a Bantam book.
That is neat, the chair swinging thing. I had never heard that rumor, but that's a good one. I'd still love it if we found out the Commander was her mother. Maybe conceived with her egg but carried by a surrogate in the breeding camp.
It's kind of icky to think about Spock being her father possibly, since they married in Vulcan's Heart. Back in the day though, I can definitely see how that possibility made sense, and I wouldn't have minded if that had been the cast in STII.
I think it would have been cool if Saavik was Spock's daughter. It's always kind of amazed me that out of all of the major TOS characters, the only two who had kids were Sulu and McCoy.
Separate names with a comma.