Space May Days: Reading Sanctum — Star Trek NOvels Part III

When we decided that May would be our month-long dedication to science fiction, I told the Beard that I would focus my posts for this month on doing Reading Sanctums that would quick-cut review some of the Star Trek novels. We sometimes get top-heavy on movies during our genre-specific, topic-oriented months, and since we love all forms of mediated content, I always try to keep The Mustache and the Beard a well-rounded geek site.

As a huge library/book reader geek, I love sharing stories about the books I am reading. Over the course of the last three years, I have read close to four dozen Star Trek novels, and I expect that trend to continue. Consequently, here I offer a few that you should avoid like the plague and some you might like, kind of like a potpourri of book review content for the Star Trek fanatic.

Station Rage is a unique Star Trek: DS9 novel, 13th in the Pocket Books series written by Diane Carey. It was published more than 20 years ago, so it feels a little dated with the language used to describe some of the characters which could be considered racially (read that as alien) charged code words. I will proceed no further other than to acknowledge it as a possible trigger for some, but not sufficient to impede my enjoyment.

The language is excessively flowery when describing things which again would demonstrate a marked anachronistic language. There are Cardassian revenant, artifacts from a bygone era, where the culture had undertaken to prefer for a specific future but was diverted toward a distinct present. Captain Sisko is lauded as a tactician, which is a departure with the way he is usually treated, and Kira is shown as appreciative of both her commanding officer and Starfleet’s stewardship of DS9.

There are some overt plot holes which have caused me to rethink my rating. By this time in the series, there should be no unexplored area of that station. Miles Obrien is such a diligent Operations Officer; he is constantly repairing systems. There is no way that there are places that have not experienced some measure of overhaul or repair. There are no secret spaces there. You would think that a horror-guy would love the revenant aspect, but not so much. In spite of my nitpicks, still a good not a great story. 

Whenever you have an iconic TV series such as Star Trek, then spinoff a follow-up TV series that runs longer (7 seasons compared to the original 3), you have to realize that you hit gold. Once you have gold, people are going to want some of your gold. Not everyone knows how to handle gold. As a Star Trek geek, I am accustomed to people not knowing how to handle this particular gold.

In the case of ST: TNG novel #23 War Drums, John Vornholt does a phenomenal job of creating a story that respectfully handles every character (no small task), gets their personalities correct, and places them in an impossibly complex diplomatic situation. The difficult situation is exacerbated by an unstable planet that threatens the very existence of every lifeform on the planet. Further, the Enterprise is called away to manage another diplomatic “hot potato” so that its resources are unavailable for the use of the Away Team on Selva, a lush, forest, unstable planet.

I was thoroughly impressed by an author that I have never been impressed by and I have to say that this was a very well-written story. I have my nitpicks, but I would love to see Vornholt do this again. I would give 5 Grey Geeks for that. As it is, he gets 4 for this one.

Devil in the Sky is a Star Trek: DS9 novel #11 in the series written by Greg Cox and John Gregory Betancourt that revolves around the Cardassian abduction of a Horta. The Horta have not been included in any Star Trek property since the original Star Trek TV series episode “Devil in the Dark.”

Here as usual there are two concurrent storylines involving the Horta abduction to a Cardassian mining colony and the subsequent attempt at rescue, meanwhile on the station, Horta babies wreak havoc and Commander Sisko attempts to find them a home before the situation becomes too chaotic.

I enjoyed this novel because it had a unique storyline (not a murder mystery. I love murder mysteries but up until recently, DS9 novels have been mostly mysteries and Star Trek episodes without variation become tedious.) The DS9 crew are mostly written as one note characters more akin to first season, but I loved that this was a completely different ensemble type story where all the main characters and supporting characters had an opportunity to shine. I’m giving it a solid 4 Grey Geeks for a solid story with sketchy characterization.

I read at least a dozen Star Trek novels a year, and most of them are basically the same. It is expected that in a serial, the characters remain largely unchanged from one story to the next. In Dreams of the Raven (ST: TOG #34) the author, Carmen Carter, manages to exceptionally accentuate all the things Trekkers love about Trek without seeming redundant and trite.

Here, the friendship between the three primaries is emphasized as if it is a new thing, in a different way with Bones McCoy experiencing such profound memory loss that he may as well have woken from a 30-year coma. The new distinct alien enemy and the unique stress that is put on the crew as a consequence was innovative and the lyrical moments of exposition brought the narrative together in a special synthesis that is rare in Trek novels.

Honestly, the books sometimes bleed together which is one of the things that we both love and hate as readers because it is also what prevents too much variation, uniqueness, specialness. I have never been impressed with Carter as an author, but this story with its innovative flourishes will keep me on the lookout for more of her obviously stellar work. I offer a quick example.

Doctor McCoy is severely injured. He’s actually in Intensive Care. Carter writes, “Enterprise medical personnel were too professional to betray a personal interest in any one patient over another, yet coincidentally a large proportion of them discovered duties that brought them into the vicinity of the intensive care unit. Kirk marveled at the vigor with which they ignored one particular corner of the room yet hovered on its perimeter.”

Dr. McCoy’s staff cares about him, to such an extent that they all want to help him. Even though he’s their boss, they love him, and Carter demonstrates it in a subtle way that respects the staff as professionals yet illustrates that they would jump in and help in a heartbeat, if needed.

Allright, you brilliant and beautiful Geeks out there. I have had some fun telling you about some Star Trek losers and winners out there. Admittedly, these are quick cuts, but I hope I have provided enough information for you to choose where you spend your money.

As always, we say thanks for reading the blog. See you later this week! Take it easy! Peace!

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