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Mar 12

Shopping for a Star Trek novel

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately – in fact The Tholian Web episode of The Original Series is playing in the top right hand corner of my screen as I write this. It’s made me itchy to find some good TOS books for my Kindle; I go through them so quickly that it’s simply more fiscally prudent to borrow them from the library or buy them in digital format. I have a handful of physical copies of books I really enjoyed like First Frontier (how can you not love a book that basically mashes TOS and Jurassic Park?), Sarek, Kahless, Planet X (an X-Men/TNG crossover), A Burning House, The Devil’s Heart, and one absolutely horrific book that I bought strictly for the title (Spock Must Die!) at a second hand bookstore for around a buck fifty… I’ve considered getting rid of it but I start laughing every time I look at it so it always ends up back on my shelf.

What struck me was that while I was paging through the search results on Amazon, I kept scanning past anything set in The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine environments without even considering it. I like TNG and DS9, in fact they are my favorites in the Star Trek universe, but I have read, comparatively speaking, almost none of the books. That’s not to say I’ve never read a TNG or DS9 book – I have, and as mentioned above, a few have even earned a space on my bookshelf – but for the most part I have very distinct tastes when it comes to watching Star Trek versus reading Star Trek. When I’m watching Star Trek, I look primarily for TNG or DS9 (though I’ll happily watch anything except Voyager), but when I’m reading Star Trek I just don’t seem to give anything other than TOS serious consideration.

It seems to me that the primary difference between TOS and TNG/DS9 is that the later shows are built around a true ensemble cast while TOS was not. That’s not to say there aren’t a slew of interesting characters in TOS, but the plots of the shows were centered, rather blatantly, around one character (three if you’re being generous). I enjoy watching TNG and DS9 because an ensemble cast works beautifully on a television show; you can tell different stories by focusing on just one of the characters at a time or tell more “epic” stories that include everybody. But what makes those “epic” storylines work is the fact that you can show the action instead of telling it, which allows more characters to participate in the action without slowing the story down. Think about watching a movie (or reading a comic book) with an epic fight scene where there are ten or more participants actively fighting plus some spectators or support characters (sidekicks, injured comrades, etc.) and then try to imagine how that would translate to a book. The scene in the movie/comic would likely be very energizing while the scene in the book would likely be, at best, a little slow and boring, or, at worse, long, hard to follow, and confusing.

When it comes to a book, it helps to have a single protagonist to drive the story forward and keep the plot moving; basically, the same thing that limited the story-telling capabilities of TOS as a television show actually helps to tell a more focused story in a book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t tell a good story with an ensemble cast in a book or that I don’t like complex plots, I’m just saying that telling a good story is easier with a single protagonist and, in all honesty, when I pick up a Star Trek book I’m looking for an exciting science fiction adventure that’s interesting and maybe a little cerebral, but not overly complex or thought provoking. When I reach for a Star Trek novel it’s because I just want to read something fun.

I guess I’m kind of simple that way. A little introspection or social commentary is fine, but when I’m in the mood for a frivolous science fiction adventure I really just want the bad-guys to get what’s coming to them, the heroes to save the day… and maybe for a few things to blow up.

3 comments

  1. Whitney

    I prefer reading books with limited protagonists as well. Helps keep the focus and I’m less likely to get lost. “Wait know who is this, where are we?”

    I also think you like the reading TOS because of Spock :3

    1. thegoblin

      I will admit, Spock does have something to do with the preference, but I stand by my comments lol ^__^

  2. -the mama

    Spock plus Scotty. Gotta love that brogue!

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