TOS 80's Novel Continuity Read Through

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Desert Kris, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Years ago I came across the idea of something that I wouldn't have thought existed; the prospect that TOS had an expanded continuity that developed characters and situations and explored the culture of several major popular alien races. I was captivated by the outline of a loosely networked continuity that emerged in the TOS novels of the 1980's that is detailed in this topic thread: https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/the-continuity-of-days-gone-by.140169/

    A lot of the ideas of TOS's expanded universe was subsequently overwritten by the coming of TNG and its successors. Yet I've never been bothered by the concept of canon.

    Eventually we got to a point where we were going to have the publication of novels set in the alternate universe of the JJ Abrams films. And then they cancelled those books before they came out. Feeling disappointed at the loss of reading about new stories in an alternative version of TOS, I turned my attention back to this older continuity.

    I've felt despondent about the arguments that Trek should have a clearly defined canon, or a single continuity, or that books and comics should be dismissed as meaningless. I can't argue on those topics, although I hope everyone finds what they are looking for in the entertainment they consume. I turned away and started my quiet, unspoken rebellion. I wanted to read these 80's books, let them come alive in my mind, without dismissing them with a pronouncement that they are not canon.

    Here is the reading list I'm making my way through:

    The Entropy Effect
    The Wrath of Khan
    Yesterday's Son
    The Wounded Sky
    The Final Reflection

    The Search for Spock
    My Enemy, My Ally
    The Vulcan Academy Murders
    Dwellers in the Crucible
    Mindshadow
    Crisis on Centaurus
    Dreadnaught!

    Demons
    Enterprise: The First Adventure
    Battlestations!
    The Voyage Home
    Deep Domain
    Dreams of the Raven
    Strangers From the Sky

    The Romulan Way
    How Much for Just the Planet?
    Bloodthirst
    Final Frontier
    The IDIC Epidemic
    Time for Yesterday
    Spock's World

    Memory Prime
    The Lost Years
    The Pandora Principle
    Doctor's Orders
    Prime Directive
    Music of the Spheres
    Best Destiny

    These are books that I picked out from the Continuity of Days Gone by Thread; the books listed chronologically on the fourth page of the thread. However, I reorganized them into publication order, as I understand. My thought is that it will be more satisfying to see how the continuity accumulates and ultimately culminates in the later novels.

    I have removed a couple of books from the original list, books like Shadow Lord and Chain of Attack. My thinking for these books is that although they reinforce the continuity by referencing backstory or using previously established character, my impression is that they do not feedback into the overall continuity but reinforce it. I am a slow reader, and I read other books in between reading these ST books; and I would like to get to books like Time For Yesterday and Spock's World just a little quicker. I am open to other posters making a case to add some back in, and I plan to read them after this main sequence anyway. Uhura's Song is one individual case where I am open to including it with the above main sequence, on the grounds of the reviews I have seen for it. Timetrap is another possibility, for curiosity's sake.

    I'm already a little ways into this "marathon" (I'm not sure that's the right word) or read through, and will revisit the books I have read in reflections throughout on here. I didn't start a topic for this read through earlier because I didn't know how far I would get, and how fast.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  2. Markonian

    Markonian Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Have you read any of the books before or are they “fresh” to you?
    I liked Doctor’s Orders. Except for one plot point contradicted by ENT season 3, it still jives with canon and modern continuity, IIRC.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    None of the books are canonical anyway. The canon is the shows and movies, by definition. We don't read tie-ins to get canon, we read them to get entertained. Reading an older Trek book that's been contradicted by new screen canon is no more wrong than reading an older science fiction novel set in the 1990s that's been contradicted by the real 1990s. Or reading a straight-up alternate history novel. So there's no need for you to defend your interest in these books. It's all equally imaginary anyway.

    Indeed, that's the whole thing that interested me about the '80s continuity -- the alternateness of it, the glimpse at how the fictional universe of Star Trek was perceived back before the sequels and prequels, when there were only 100 live-action and animated episodes, a few movies, and a vast quantity of unknowns. The fact that it's different from the modern canon is what makes it intriguing. Star Trek is supposed to be about delighting in the different, after all. So I'm glad to hear I've helped spark your curiosity in the old books.


    Good idea. The chronology I proposed would only loosely hold together at best. I like the idea of getting to see how the continuity gradually emerges and how the books inform and reflect each other.


    I can see that, but I think the same would go for a number of other books on your list, since the "continuity" is really very tenuous. For instance, Memory Prime and Prime Directive only count because they reference a joking element from How Much for Just the Planet? and take it seriously.
     
  4. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, those 80's books always have a special place for me. My first Star Trek book was Battlestations. I had just become a Trekkie at that point. Of course I quickly picked up Dreadnought! since Battlestations was a sequel to that book. But even now it's interesting to read books before there was a TNG. Currently I started reading Vulcan, which is an old 70's Bantam book. Those are fascinating too because all there was then was the original series (and animated series). There weren't even movies yet. The 5 books between TMP and TWOK are interesting too, since there was no TWOK yet, which had shaken up the Star Trek universe. And some of those 80's books (even after TWOK) seemed to go on the idea that maybe there was another mission after the original series and before TMP (which were eventually moved post TMP), but there was a feel that some of the story could have been during the original series, and some after TMP.

    I freely admit, I do love the continuity of stories these days. I'm a big fan of the relaunches of the various spin-offs, and I can get obsessive about continuity (esp. in production design for some reason--I'm more forgiving of story plot holes for some bizarre reason but change the look of the Klingons in Discovery, watch out ;) ). But I do put the books of the 70's, 80's and even 90's in a different category. A lot has happened since then and I don't expect those early books to fit existing canon or current continuity. And it's fun reading them because it gives you an insight into what people thought Star Trek was back then, almost a look into history, and even into how I thought of Star Trek back in the late 80's when I was just a newbie. It's easy to forget now because there is so much out there now. It's a bit of a reminder of how Star Trek was thought to be back then.

    I would encourage you to read "Chain of Attack" by Gene DeWeese though, I'll admit because I'm biased. It was one of my favorite Star Trek books of that period. I read that over a weekend--it usually takes me 3 or 4 weeks to read a book. I couldn't put it down. It was one of those stories that I would love to see adapted on the screen in fact.
     
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  5. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Oh, and I don't know if the list you have is how you plan on reading them in order or not, but I would probably read Battlestations right after Dreadnought! since it is a direct sequel and some of the characters and events follow the other. They can be read apart or course, but you might enjoy it more if you treated it as a sequel. I haven't read either in years but both were great books and you'll probably find as soon as you finish Dreadnought! you'll want to get right into Battlestations anyway---and unlike me you'll get to read them in the correct order instead of backwards :).
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Although if you read Chain of Attack, you should read its direct sequel The Final Nexus too, since that completes the story. Also, Chain is a very loose sequel to The Abode of Life by Lee Correy -- it begins with the Enterprise coming back to investigate the cosmic anomaly that it ran afoul of in Abode. But Abode is not a very good book, so unless you're a rabid completist, it can be skipped.
     
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  7. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, I almost forgot about The Final Nexus. I was a little disappointed by that book. I enjoyed Chain of Attack so much I expected the same out of Nexus and I guess I had my expectations a bit too high (maybe I was treating it unfairly because COA was so good). I didn't realize that was a loose sequel of Abode of Life though. I read that book but don't remember that one so it obviously wasn't too memorable.
     
  8. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    In the summer on the weekends I stay at a camper and I always bring an old Star Trek book with me. Something about being out in the woods in a more primitive environment and reading an old Star Trek book seems to go well together ;). So currently I'm reading through the Bantam books I've recently picked up. I also plan on reading Killing Time, which is the only 80's Pocketbooks novel I have yet to read. I managed to pick up a 1st edition with the 'slash' fiction elements intact so that'll be interesting--though I'm told it's more a curiosity read as the story isn't all that great.

    Once I'm done with that I do have plans to maybe return to some of those early Pocketbooks, many of which I haven't read in years. It'll be interesting to read some of those today and compare how the Star Trek universe was viewed back in those early years.

    I saw on your list you plan on omitting Shadow Lord. That is a book I just read about 2 or 3 years ago. That was an interesting book, it has a medieval feel to it, but it was pretty good. I think it's definitely worthy of a read at some point. Remembering what I do about it, it is a standalone book so it can wait, but I'd have it on a 2nd list of books to read once you're done with the first list. But Chain of Attack is definitely worth a read and like the Dreadnought!-Battlestations books, I would read the Final Nexus right after Chain of Attack (don't let my personal disappointment sway you on the Final Nexus--it's not at all a bad book, I just thought it fell a bit short of COA).
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Shadow Lord is utterly bizarre. Its story is driven by the Enterprise crew assisting in the Federation's efforts to do the exact thing that the Prime Directive is supposed to forbid: actively forcing a preindustrial society to modernize and change against the will of most of its members. And it's not like the crew is ordered to do this and resists; they're willingly complicit in doing something that should be opposed to everything they believe.

    The reason for this is that the novel is an allegory for the era when Japan was opened to the West, basically a samurai movie in space. It's kind of interesting on those terms. But it's bizarre to see the Federation engaging in the very kind of destructive cultural imperialism that the Prime Directive was intended to counteract. Every problem within the novel is directly caused by the culture's resistance to unnaturally accelerated change and the imposition of outside values. It's like an alternate-reality cautionary tale for why there needs to be a Prime Directive. (There is a token reference to the PD existing, but only in the anemic sense of not overtly backing one faction in a local election.)
     
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  10. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, I remember that as well. The way I recall is it seemed every time they tried to 'fix' something things only got worse. I thought it was interesting because it didn't have the feel of a Star Trek book. A lot of it took place away from the Enterprise and was planet bound and they were in this almost medieval society, or as you noted an almost Japanese style story would be a better description.

    I sort of thought maybe the Prime Directive wasn't applied as firmly in their case since they seemed to be aware of space travel and other societies. I remember the Emperor was the one who was pushing modernization and he sort of duped the Federation into believing the people wanted it-or at least that was my impression. But yeah, it definitely was an argument for the Prime Directive.

    This is one of those plot holes scenarios that I was sort of forgiving of. Plus it was a novel I only just read a few years ago, and I was trying to avoid applying TNG-Enterprise rules on the story since it was pre-TNG, so maybe that caused me to overlook things a bit more. But storywise I found it interesting and entertaining. Not enough that I'd necessarily put it on a first list of reads like Chain of Attack, but I'd have it on a secondary list.
     
  11. Jinn

    Jinn Mistress of the Chaotic Energies Rear Admiral

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    As opposed to the episodes which we only suffer through because they're canon :D
     
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  12. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    There are a couple I read several years before before this list was conceptualized, and even though I've included them on the list, I might read them later on with some of what I call "Second Wave" books, the books I've left off this list. Final Frontier, Best Destiny, Prime Directive, and Dreams of the Raven. An "improper" reading of McIntyre's movie novelizations (as a kid, the extra non-movie bits confused me, so I skipped them). A couple I attempted to read when I was much younger and less persistent reader; I feel like I'll have better luck with Enterprise: The First Adventure this time around.

    This is definitely part of the appeal. How might TOS be developed along an alternative route, without the coming of TNG? When I start each new book, I put myself in the mindset that TNG is not going to exist, in order to give the book narrative breathing room. I say this as someone who grew up with and very much likes TNG.

    It emerged from the original idea of reading the Diane Duane books, with a small handful of other books from the above list slotted in between those books for variety. I was always going to read the Duane books in publication order, and as I expanded the books I was going to include, favoring publication order was on my mind. Not strictly, I've jumped ahead to books that are an individual author's first novel, so I've cheated just a little. Crisis on Centaurus, Mindshadow, and Dreadnought! are author's first novels that I've jumped back and forth a little. Dreadnought! is a slightly special case, in that I had information that at least one book would serve as a precursor, for a character and ship that are established in Wrath of Khan (and introduced in The Entropy Effect). So after I read Entropy and Wrath, I felt like that could "unlock" Dreadnought as a reading option, to jump ahead to. I knew there was a possibility that The Search For Spock would elaborate more about Flynn and her ship, but I thought it was a small "risk" to jump ahead on that occasion. I think I've seen you compare continuity references like those as Easter Eggs. My intuition guided me with that book, the way it has guided me to hold off on Dwellers in the Crucible until after I read The Final Reflection and My Enemy, My Ally.

    The reading list is a guideline, and it's slightly "incorrect" anyway. The other guideline I try and keep in mind is read each individual author's novels in publication order. That's a slightly more concrete guideline than the overall publication order list I posted above. And I'm happy to say that I have read Dreadnought! already, and before Battlestations. Diane Carey books are fun for me, a little corny with long soap box moments, yet still very fun. After reading books I designated as precursors for the Easter Egg it included, I jumped very far forward in the overall publication order. The benefit of shuffling the order will be to put a few more books between Dreadnought! and Battlestations!, so I can keep the second one in reserve for if I need a page turner after a heavier book. I definitely look forward to Battlestations!

    I feel a little sheepish for including Dreams of the Raven in the above list (just a little), because I've already read it, and although I like that book, it feels very very tenuously connected, hardly at all. An illogical, hard to describe aesthetic stayed my hand from removing it from the above list.

    As for the Reeves-Steven's books, I reall, really like them. I've read them backwards (Federation, Prime Directive and in the future Memory Prime). I think I was put off by the cover of Memory Prime, but I don't care at all anymore because of how much I enjoyed the other books. To get very specific, I was reading Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer's reviews on Tor for TOS novels, and collected information that you posted in the comments section of one review. These comments and tidbits from the Continuity From Days Gone by thread I've used as notes to make decisions about which books I might be able to jump ahead for or which ones it would be preferable to hold off on.

    I got the impression that Memory Prime talks about Kirk's place on Centaurus, possibly reference Naraht(?), uses John Ford's version of Klingon culture. While deciding whether or not to purchase it I was flipping through Memory Prime, and references to Vulcan and Rihannsu culture, and something about a shadowy organization that was born on Vulcan but followed the Romulan culture to their new home. I closed the book before letting my eyes skim anymore details, but it seemed to me to qualify the book as one of the culmination points where a lot of the continuity gathers together, along with say Spock's World, Time for Yesterday and Lost Years (again speculation based on comments in Continuity of Days Gone By).

    There a couple more comments I definitely want to reply to, thanks for all your comments and suggestions so far!
     
  13. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    ^Yeah, I can see how reading them that way would be a good idea. My first impulse would be to just read them in publication order (start with the earliest published book on the list on). But a lot of times the individual authors referenced their earlier books. The Diane Duane, Vonda McIntyre and Diane Carey for instance do that. So reading them in an order by author would probably definitely be better. What's interesting about those days is you had cases where an author only wrote one book (the aforementioned Shadow Lord for instance).

    And they all had their own styles. Diane Carey's always seemed very nautical in nature to me, I guess because of her background. I have to admit at times it has made her novels hard to read though. I get lost in the details and the terms she uses, but the stories themselves were always good. Diane Duane had her own style as well, and she's our Rihannsu expert, in the days before we had much information about the Romulans. Hers are an excellent example, though, of authors in the pre-TNG era having to create their own history since they didn't have much to draw on. If you want the full Rihannsu storyline as she envisioned it, you might want to read that all the way to Swordhunt, Honor Blade and even 2002's The Empty Chair--I know it's beyond you're timeline but it completes the Rihannsu story that she started with My Enemy, My Ally. In a way you'll be lucky because you could read the entire Rihannsu story as a sort of anthology--which I think is how it's intended to be, while the rest of us poor souls had to wait years between some of the books ;).
     
  14. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Or maybe hold off on the Diane Duane books until you've finished some of the others. Then you could read all her books in date order to include her earlier Wounded Sky book--since she brought along characters from earlier books. But I would definitely encourage you to read her entire Rihannsu collection up to 2002's The Empty Chair (which while a later book, has a nostalgic 80's feel to it) as a volume of works. They're a great 'alternate' look at the Romulan's history.

    Even the later Vulcan's Soul trilogy adapts some information about Romulan history from her Rihannsu books (though those are written to be consistent with what we know about the Romulans from the canon of shows and Nemesis). They too are an excellent trilogy but I would save those for another day if you ever reach the point that you want to read books based on the later shows.
     
  15. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    I really like the cover art for Battlestations, and a lot of the other 80's era novels. Dreadnought was fun, and I think Battlestations will be fun, too. Normally I'm a slow reader, but Carey I find her prose is pretty engaging, and progress faster with her books.

    I've been keeping an eye out for clues while reading the ones I've read so far, and that default your describing is my default, unless a book deliberately suggests something else. The broad strokes images in my head is that the Enterprise is practically the movie version, inside and out; yet the characters are in their colorful TOS uniforms. One exception was when I read Crisis on Centaurus; the bridge "flickered" in my mind's eye and resolved into a version closer to the series, except with Spock's station being a more elaborate alcove.

    Just for fun, because the books have given enough freedom for my imagination, I'm making an assumption that the 5 year mission has technically ended, and is continuing to have missions in the aftermath of it's tour in an open-ended capacity for several years.

    This one was a bit of a struggle, I definitely wanted to keep it on this main list! It's definitely included in what I call "Second Wave" books, slated to be read after the main list. I think it looks like fun. Yet, read on for more details...

    I've grouped these books in my mind as kind of a trilogy (not in the strictest sense). On the grounds that The Abode of Life provides a jumping off point for Chain, I'm keen to read Abode first, as I transition out of my main list. I'm an optimistic and forgiving reader (which is not to say that I haven't found books challenging or a struggle, good or bad). Abode's cover blurb is enough of a curiosity for me, so I'll be inclusive of it.

    I think that's really wonderful, a relaxing combination of elements.

    It would be great fun to have yourself and other readers dabble in them and comment on the differences; if they still have staying power when re-visiting them, or if the television series' have equally good alternative ideas, or if there's a sense that something really good has unfortunately been lost (in a sense, even though we can still find these books nowadays).

    I'm glad you mention Shadow Lord, too. For what it's worth, very nearly every book that I culled from the first wave of books I listed in the OP, I have down as part of a second wave of books that I also intend to read as well. I plan to do a post where I'll post a list of second wave books, and elaborate on why they are aren't in my first wave, and which ones I consider "upgrading" into the first wave, because of quality or fun factor. Thanks for the recommendation regarding a tighter reading schedule between Chain and The Final Nexus, will definitely try to keep that in mind.

    One factor that caused me to expand my initial intentions was my feels about reading My Enemy, My Ally so very soon after The Wounded Sky, with only one intervening book between them.

    I read anthologies very strangely. I'm kind of a weird reader overall, generally! I have these anthologies of Robert E. Howard, for example: the original Conan the Barbarian, written in the 1920's. I didn't read all the stories, one after another, all in one go. I read them spaced out, between other reads, including full blown novels representing other genres. The first Conan anthology lasted me for years before I was finished with all the stories it contained. I'd already seen all the reviews going in about how the stories got repetitious from repeated plot elements and word choices...they read them all in one go! But readers in the 1920's would have read the stories months apart.

    I'm keeping in mind that the Swordhunt and The Empty Chair have a recalibrated continuity, with TNG in mind, drawing on what could still be used from the earlier Rihannsu books. I have in mind a "transitional phase" where modern books draw on details of the 80's novels, yet re-work them for modern novel continuity. In this way, give this thread a little bit more life beyond a first and second wave of books.

    The Wounded Sky was the "pilot" novel for the 80's books; the maiden voyage! :) One possibility I entertain long down the road would be to revisit the Rihannsu books in their revised omnibus form; but only after I've gone through them in their original text versions, with all the idiosyncratic continuity recalibration lurches. I bought older copies for this initial read through.

    Oh, yes! The Vulcan's Soul trilogy are definitely a curiosity, also slated for a wave of transitional books. I thought it would be fun to see the foundation of Vulcan and Romulan cultures established in their alternative forms, and then see how they are subsequently reworked and used as inspiration in a different continuity. I'm glad you mentioned those.
     
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    For what it's worth, TOS never actually mentioned the duration of the mission outside of the title narration. The only in-story mentions of it are in TMP, Voyager: "Q2," Into Darkness, and Beyond.


    I'm not sure I'd say that. True, it's the beginning of the Duane series, and that series became pretty much the spine of the loose continuity, as other books started referencing its ideas more and more. But there are three earlier books -- The Entropy Effect, The Abode of Life, and Yesterday's Son -- that were also retroactively linked into the continuity through references or sequels.

    (Incidentally, as a curiosity, Howard Weinstein's The Covenant of the Crown is arguably the only book from that early period that ties into the later, continuity-light era between the '80s continuity and the modern novelverse. It introduces a security guard character, Michael Howard, who later appears in at least one of the L.A. Graf novels from the early '90s. The books weren't supposed to be referencing any earlier tie-in characters or continuity at that point, but Howard was a minor enough character that the writers were able to slip him under the radar, it seems.)


    I prefer the original editions for My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way, since revising them to post-TMP creates continuity glitches with The Wounded Sky, and also because there were some other minor text changes I didn't care for. But for Swordhunt, I definitely prefer the Bloodwing Voyages revision, which is set post-TMP, to the original 2-volume release that was set pre-TMP. After all, the story takes place after Spock's World, which is definitely post-TMP.


    The weird thing about Vulcan's Soul is that the first book's version of Surak's life differs substantially from Duane's version, but the second book's version of the exodus to Romulus is pretty nearly exactly an expanded telling of Duane's version. I think there was a change of editor between the first and second volumes, and it seems like there was also a change of policy on whether to draw on Duane's novels.
     
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  17. Oz Trekkie

    Oz Trekkie Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I didn't mind Abode of Life.
    Some of my other favourite early TOS novels are Triangle, Web of the Romulans, The Prometheus Design and Black Fire.
    Written in a different style to later novels but I enjoyed them.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Wow. I consider the first three of those to be among the worst Pocket novels, although Prometheus Design flirts with some interesting philosophical ideas (but never really follows through) and is probably the least awful of the four Marshak-Culbreath books. And Black Fire is a so-bad-it's-good sort of thing, incredibly lurid and trashy and silly, but so ambitious and epic that you kind of have to admire it.
     
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  19. Oz Trekkie

    Oz Trekkie Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    They are different and they do go for the epic feel and mostly do fall short. I started reading Trek in the late 80's early 90's and then went back and read the early novels. A lot of the early TNG and TOS numbered novels (50 - 70) were all similar in style and episodic I thought. I appreciated the attempt at going for the epic story and still do. It's good to be try and be different.
     
  20. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    It's interesting how different people view books. I read all those books years ago but you guys piqued my curiosity so I looked them up on Memory Beta just to refresh my memory. 'Web of the Romulans' I thought was ok---the I remember the computer thing was a bit bizarre. It was interesting in some respects though and kept my interest. The Prometheus Design and Triangle were pretty forgettable. I barely remember those--when I read Triangle I was having difficulty with the whole Totality thing (was that the same Totality that appeared in the Shatnerverse novels at some point?), and the Prometheus Design took me months to read. I sort of forced myself through it. I honestly don't remember anything about Black Fire, even after reading the summary blurb it wasn't ringing a bell.

    I read Marshak and Culbreath's Price of the Phoenix last year and it appeared to me that they were insinuating some sort of secret longing between Kirk and Spock (though I kept thinking, nah, I'm reading too much into it--until others here said they noticed the same thing). In retrospect I wonder how much of that played into their later novels as well--their characterizations always seemed a bit off to me.