Have you ever wondered what happened to the Enterprise crew after Star Trek: Nemesis? Or just how Captain Janeway became Admiral Janeway? Or maybe you’re into Deep Space Nine, and have pondered since that series’ conclusion in 1999 what happened to Captain Sisko, Dax, Dr. Bashir, Odo, et. al. It’s pretty clear by now that Star Trek will most likely not return to the small screen, unless the viewing choices of Americans change from reality and vampire shows back to good, quality science fiction.
What’s a Trek fan to do? Pick up a book, that’s what! The adventures of our favorite crews and ships have continued, boldly going by way of the printed word. And the good news is most of the new books are all available on the various e-readers out there.
I have read Star Trek books since I was a young kid – I could never get enough Star Trek between the weekly shows, movies, and all my toys…I also found time to read the novels from all the series. Admittedly, looking back on all those books I read, a lot of them were not very good at all. Now that I am 30 I have often wondered just how an author could get our favorite characters so wrong when they had hours of television shows that laid out the characters perfectly. Most of the plots were predictable, shallow, and characters had no depth other than Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway were the good guys, and the Klingons, Romulans, Borg, etc., were the bad guys. This is an overly simplistic review of the novels from the 1980s and ‘90s, but it is true. I can count on one and a half hands the Trek books that I actually thought were really good.
All that seemed to change in the early 2000s, and especially after Nemesis in 2002. The quality of the writing has greatly improved, and the stories are all intertwined – meaning what happens in a Deep Space Nine novel, also happens in a Next Generation novel, and there are quite a few “crossover” novels where crews from all the shows interact. It’s a Trek fan’s dream come true – just like the television show! And what’s awesome about the novels from 2002 to present is that they can explore new parts of the galaxy, and have events happen that we always dreamed of in the TV show and movies, but couldn’t happen realistically because of budgets and all that.
The biggest problem with jumping into the novels is – where to start? I left the Trek novels for a good decade (right when they got good, too!), and when I started looking into them again, I was reading things on the back cover that just couldn’t be – Borg invasions, the death of some of my favorite characters, and new ships on the covers of the books that just made my jaw drop. I have also been a fan of the Star Trek Ships of the Line calendars (pictured below) for several years now. I began noticing that several of the new ships in the calendar that I had never seen before, were also on the cover of some of the new novels.
This piqued my curiosity even more, so I got online to do some searching. The best that I can tell, it looks like CBS/Paramount, the owners of Star Trek, have taken a much more involved presence in the novels and their storylines – which would make sense that they are all interconnected now. CBS/Paramount also licenses the Ships of the Line calendars, and the artist of the new ships is none other than Trek veteran Doug Drexler, the man who designed the Enterprise NX-01, and several other ships. Whoa…real Trek people working on these new ships, both on the calendars and on the books, and licensed by CBS/Paramount? I smell a hint of canon that I’ve never smelled before…could this mean that the new novels are actually sanctioned by the “powers that be,” and therefore should be considered “real” within the Star Trek universe? It’s just a theory, but I think it’s a qualified “yes.”
So which of the new novels should you start reading first? I suggest you start with the Star Trek Vanguard series (pictured below are four of the seven books) by David Mack. David has quickly become my favorite Trek author, and he is becoming prolific within the genre. Vanguard is set shortly prior to, and during the run of the Original Series. Here is a small spoiler alert, so don’t read any further if you don’t like spoilers – but I suggest beginning with Vanguard because it lays the ground work for the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and the Genesis Device, and the story of Carol Marcus, as well as explains more about the Tholians, and also explains how the original Constitution Class USS Defiant ended up in the mirror universe (as we see in the Star Trek Enterprise episodes “In a Mirror Darkly, Parts I & II). We do get short visits from Kirk and Spock and the Enterprise, but they’re tangential to the overarching Vanguard story – but there is a lot of “candy” within this series of novels that crosses over all the Trek shows and movies. Trust me, you’ll be satisfied.
If you’re more into the “present day” Trek characters, or the “post-Nemesis” Trek, I suggest you pick up the Star Trek Destiny omnibus (pictured below). Destiny contains three novels, all by David Mack again, starting with Gods of Night, then Mere Mortals, and finally Lost Souls. Again – here is a spoiler alert, but these three novels just completely blew my mind – and to think! They’re all canon! Meaning the events in these books really happened. Or will happen. Whatever. We find out what happens to the Columbia NX-02 (pictured below), the sister ship to the first Enterprise, with Captain Hernandez and her crew, a new war with the Borg that brings the Federation to its knees (and the detail and superb writing definitely left me near tears several times. I really felt a sense of terror and fear – David Mack is THAT GOOD), and, perhaps a question that I have wondered since first watching the Next Generation episode Q Who? where the Borg were first introduced, “Just how did the Borg begin?” Well the Destiny omnibus explains the origins of the Borg. What a page turner!!!
Also, if you are a fan of Commander Riker, as I am, check out the Star Trek Titan novels – all of them are excellent. It starts out immediately after the events of Nemesis and the mess Shinzon left within the Romulan Empire. From there on out, all of the Titan books are great. They are perhaps the best “exploration” Trek stories since the Next Generation. The alien cultures and worlds Titan visits are some of the, well, most alien I have ever read about. That the Titan novels all have different authors shows just how much the caliber of Trek novels has gone up.
But how to keep all these books straight? How to know if you are starting on the first book of the series? If you’re like me, you want to start from the “beginning” of the story, because I just hate to start reading something and find that I am not at all familiar with what’s going on. It’s like walking in on a television episode half way through. For that, I recommend the The Almighty Star Trek Lit-verse Reading Order Flow Chart Mark II. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ntkOdenPupc/UL9s7Mxcq5I/AAAAAAAAKaU/6IegBWmFFX8/s1600/The+Almighty+Star+Trek+Lit-verse+Reading+Order+Flow+Chart+Mark+IIb+by+Thrawn+and+8of5.jpg This chart has been painstakingly created to connect every single book and story arc so you know just where you are within the “lit-verse” of Star Trek. I have referred to this chart over and over again, and it has kept me on track nicely.
If I may recommend a few of the “old” novels that are worth a read – or two. I have read these novels numerous times just because they were that good. First and foremost, Federation (pictured below) by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (these two authors also penned a few 4th Season Enterprise episodes). This book is a crossover novel (I guess you can sense I like the books that “crossover” uniting two or more of the television series together by now) involving Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, and Zefram Cochrane. It doesn’t match up with the events as we know them from Star Trek First Contact, but it is a very well-written romp through Third World War Earth, early warp-flight days, and the Original Series and Next Generation, all neatly tying the three storylines together for an amazing book that I keep going back to.
First Frontier (pictured below) by Diane Carey is also an “old” Trek book that is well worth the read. I mean, who wouldn’t love Star Trek and dinosaurs mixed together? Oh, and alternate universes with crazy Romulans and time travel…what’s not to like in this book? Give it a whirl!
Any of the books by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner (pictured below). Start with The Ashes of Eden that pick up right after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek Generations. The second book in the “Shatner-verse” seies, The Return is simply amazing…he then dives into the Mirror Universe that I wish could have actually been considered canon because they are so well written. The Shat did have some co-writers, and surprise, surprise – his co-authors were Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. These are some of the best “old” Trek books out there. (Check out The Ashes of Eden, The Return, Avenger, Spectre, Dark Victory, and Preserver).
In conclusion, the Star Trek us “classic fans” know and love is not dead at all – Trek is still boldly going within the pages of books…Star Trek has definitely not seen its final frontier yet!
HAILING FREQUENCIES OPEN
Since this blog post is all about the Star Trek novels, I would like to highlight David Mack (@DavidAlanMack on twitter – http://www.twitter.com/DavidAlanMack ). His tweets are a great mixture of pop culture critiques, updates on his writings, awesome new Trek novel developments, and musings on being an author and recovering alcoholic. Oh, and he recently “favorited” an @-reply I tweeted him, so he does read what fans say to him!
FROM THE QUARTERMASTER
If you’re a major Star Trek fan, you really should check out antique stores. There are some amazing finds – like this cool lunchbox from 1979 my wife got me from an antique store in Cayucos, California. At the same store, I found this awesome Captain Kruge glass – a collector’s item from Taco Bell way back in 1984! Of course, these antiques can be pricey, but what Trek fanatic would let a little thing like price get in the way?
This post, I am introducing a new segment that will appear irregularly. “Picard’s Bookshelf” will keep you up to date on the Trek novels I am currently reading. At the moment, I am nearly finished with an “old” Trek book entitled Immortal Coil. I first learned of this book from the lit-verse flow chart mentioned above. I am eagerly anticipating diving into the Cold Equations trilogy from David Mack, and according to the flow chart, Jeffrey Lang’s Immortal Coil provides some great back story on Data and androids in the Star Trek universe. I can see why David Mack and the lit-verse flow chart referenced this novel – the level of writing by Mr. Lang is spot-on, and the research he must have done between the Original Series and Next Generation is superb. For someone as picky about the details of Star Trek as I am, Mr. Lang does not disappoint. If you’re a Data fan, you may wish to check out this excellent book also. My review will be posted on Goodreads as soon as I finish it. My Goodreads page is here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4594398-bryan-williams