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Friday, January 12, 2007
Book thoughts
I've read more than my fair share of Pocket Book's Star Trek novels over the years. They're not great literature, but they're not intended to be. They're a nice way to revisit the universe of Trek and enjoy a new adventure of whatever crew is featured in the novel I've picked up.

Last year, the granddaddy of them all, classic Star Trek celebrated its 40th anniversary. Without any series on tv and no prospect for a feature film, for the first time in 20 years we had no on-screen celebration of all things Star Trek. Instead, this honor was turned over to the line of novels.

The centerpiece of the celebration was a new trilogy of novels, focused on the big three from the original series: Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The first novel in the series focused on McCoy and was one of the best Star Trek novels I've read in years.

One of the great things author David R. George III has done is he's made these novel focus only on continuity established in adventures we've seen on-screen. I love the Star Trek novels but of late they've become too self-referencing and intertwined at times to the point I feel as though I'm missing some of the party becuase I haven't made detailed notes of the minor character for the novels who appeared three years ago and we're just not bringing back to center stage. George makes a good choice making these books more accessible to the more casual Star Trek fan and maybe even the impulsive buy reader who just wants to revisit the Trek universe.

The novels all feature a crucial crosspoint in the lives of our heroes--the classic episode "City on the Edge of Forever." The first two novels in the series focused on the characters lives leading up to the events portrayed there and then how it affected them across the rest of their life's journey. McCoy's story was compelling because George chose to follow two time-lines and parallel how McCoy's life went following the events of "City." With Spock's story, it all takes place in one central timeline, but two eras of Spock's life--the events leading up and including
the death of Edith Keeler in "City" and the later movie-era Spock who has to deal with the consequences of the choices he made there, as well as other choices he's made involving traveling in time and altering history.

Which brings me to the part of the novel that frustrated me most--George falls into the trap of assuming we've never seen "City on the Edge of Forever" and so for the first two-thirds of the book, we're stuck with flashbacks that are a re-telling of this pivotal story. He does fill in a few things and expand the storyline a bit, but it feels like so much filler as wait for the revelation of just what it is that is bothering Spock so much. The first two-thirds or so of the book set up the events of what happened and how it changed Spock, maybe not for the better. It's also the hardest part of the book to get through because you keep waiting for something to happen and it just never does.

At least not until the last third of the book when George's premise kicks in and the book takes a turn for the better. We learn how his actions in "City" and other time travel episodes and stories (the animated series story "Yesteryear" is essential to this story) lead Spock to an crisis of his personal ethics and conscience. When we get to this part of the story, the book hums along and I feel as though George is finally tilling some new soil in the Star Trek universe. The last third of this book rescues the story from being just a rather pedestrian Star Trek novel and puts it almost on-par with the McCoy segment as one of the better Trek novels in recent memory.

One of the interesting things between both novels is the way Kirk is presented as an engima, even to his cloest friends. He's distant and while they are close, you get the feeling that neither McCoy or Spock really understand Kirk and at times feel distant and as if they don't really know the captain. It should make the final segment of this trilogy, which focuses on Kirk that much more interesting when it comes out next month.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/12/2007 10:29:00 AM | |
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