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Star Trek novels

In the 60s, we had the original Star Trek series. Then that got cancelled, and we had 20 years to wait until TNG came along. In the meantime, we had various books to keep us occupied.

The first books were novelisations of the original series, by James Blish. Each novel would contain a dozen episodes worth, which would be picked from the three seasons in no particular order. I suspect the idea was to start with the most popular episodes, since that would sell better. On the 25th anniversary, these stories were reprinted in three volumes (one per season), which had them in the correct order.

After this, we had original stories. I believe that James Blish did the first one: Spock must die!. This was okay (some interesting insights about being a twin), and paved the way for many more original novels to come.

Whereas you now get novels for all five of the Trek franchises (Enterprise, TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager), back then we only had the original series to deal with. Now, the TV episodes only dealt with the first three years of the five year mission, which left some scope, but even so the first mission did wind up being a bit "overpopulated", in that they would have been hard pressed to fit everything in. One way of dealing with this was to assume that there was a second five year mission between the first and second films. Nowadays, you get quite a mix of time periods, with some in the early days, and some in the gap between the fifth and six films.

One issue here is: "Which stories are canon?". Unlike the Star Wars novels, which seem to follow a set continuity, the Trek novels frequently contradict each other, as well as the TV episodes and films. The official line is that none of the novels are canon. That said, there are some which really do a good job of filling in a gap, so I personally regard them as canon. Imzadi (by Peter David) is a good example of this, as it deals with the early relationship between Riker and Troi, which was never really explained in the series. At the other extreme, you have a novel like Federation (by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens), which is an excellent story, but can't be reconciled with the film First Contact (and believe me, I've tried!).

A couple of authors that I'd particularly recommend for TOS books are A.C. Crispin and Barbara Hambly. A.C. Crispin did a couple of stories dealing with Spock's son Zar (thousands of years in the past), and is currently writing a new trilogy about him (due for release in 2005), which I'm really looking forward to reading. Barbara Hambly wrote two very thoughtful stories; Ishmael in particular is so good in terms of depth and characterisation that it deserves to be on a GCSE English Literature list. It is sad that it will never receive the recognition it deserves, simply because it is a Star Trek novel.

So, you now have novels based on all five of the TV series. However, these do have the limitation that while they're not canon, they're not supposed to directly contradict the TV series either. So, for example, you know that Kirk isn't really going to die in a novel. The latest approach is to have spin-off series that only exist in book form. Typically, these will all be written by the same author; at the very least, they will have an internal continuity.

One other trend is to have periodic "events", where you will get a book from various lines with the same subject. Initially, these were structured as crossovers, so you would have one big story, with an installment on each starship. This got a bit kludgy, particularly since it meant that you had a 70 year gap in the middle (TOS->TNG), and they had to find some way for Voyager to participate without actually contacting the Alpha Quadrant. More recently, they have experimented with common themes instead, e.g. there were four novels about "Section 31", which could all be read independently. One particularly annoying experiment came with the Gateways crossover - you had 6 books (one from each line) in paperback, all of which ended on cliffhangers, then a hardback which included the final chapter(s) of each separate story. This final book has now been released in paperback, and electronically - basically, for New Frontier and DS9, there's nothing that you need to know, although the final sections are interesting.

New Frontier

This is a series written by Peter David, which started in 1997. It chronicles the exploits of the Starship Excalibur, which patrols Thallonian space. It features a few familiar faces from TNG:

As well as a few of Worf's classmates from the Starfleet Academy novels (also written by Peter David). It also features some new characters, such as Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, who is from the planet Xenex. So, after an old captain, a black captain, and a female captain, we now have an alien captain.

I have all of the series so far, and I'd strongly recommend them. I think that the best one so far is Once Burned, part of "The Captain's Table" crossover.

The reading order can be a bit confusing, and there are a few related stories, so here's a list:

  1. New Frontier #1: House of Cards

  2. New Frontier #2: Into the Void

  3. New Frontier #3: The Two-Front War

  4. New Frontier #4: End Game

  5. New Frontier Collector's Edition (hardback omnibus of books 1-4)

  6. New Frontier #5: Martyr

  7. New Frontier #6: Fire on High

  8. Captain's Table #5: Once Burned

  9. Graphic novel: Double Time

  10. TNG #55 Double Helix #5: Double or Nothing

  11. New Frontier #7: The Quiet Place

  12. New Frontier #8: Dark Allies

  13. New Frontier #9: Excalibur - Requiem

  14. New Frontier #10: Excalibur - Renaissance

  15. New Frontier #11: Excalibur - Restoration

  16. Gateways #6: Cold Wars

  17. "The Other Side" in Gateways #7: What Lay Beyond

  18. New Frontier #12: Being Human

  19. New Frontier #13: Gods Above

  20. New Frontier #14: Stone and Anvil

  21. New Frontier: No Limits

If you enjoy the series, you might like to visit Psi Phi's Star Trek: New Frontier Archive. (This is currently unavailable, but should hopefully be restored soon.)


Well, that's probably not the official title, but it will do. Basically, this is a set of novels that chronicle Captain Kirk's adventures, after his death in Star Trek: Generations. Yes, you read that right! The theory here is that he didn't actually die in that film. Back in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, he told Spock and McCoy: "I knew that I couldn't die because you were there, and I've always known that I'll die alone." Therefore, since Picard was around in Generations, that means that he couldn't have died there. I mean, it's obvious, isn't it?

In chronological order, the first book is The Ashes of Eden, which predates Kirk's death. Then comes Star Trek: The Return, which (unsurprisingly) deals with his resurrection after his apparent death, and Avenger, which concludes the first arc. Next, there's a trilogy set in the Mirror Universe: Spectre, Dark Victory, and Preserver. The most recent novel is The Captain's Peril, which sees Kirk and Picard going on holiday together, to an archaelogical dig on Bajor. Hilarity ensues! And apparently action too... And upcoming, we have Captain's Blood.

All of these are apparently written by William Shatner, i.e. his name is on the cover. However, he is actually assisted by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who are a pretty decent writing team. I've only read The Return, which wasn't particularly good, so I haven't bothered with any others.

New Earth

This is a six-issue series by Diane Carey. The basic idea is that the Enterprise deals with a problem on a new colony, and then when it has to move on, a new starship (the Challenger) turns up. There is the potential of a "Challenger" spin-off series - so far there's been a Challenger novel in the Gateways crossover, but that's all. I haven't read any myself, so can't say how good they are.

S.C.E. (Starfleet Corps of Engineers)

This is an ongoing series, which is primarily published in electronic form, with paperback anthologies following later. You can get the books from Amazon for the PC (Microsoft Reader), or from Palm Digital Media for the Palm. I haven't read any yet, but the idea seems to be that the engineers come in after the Enterprise has finished blowing things up, and actually figure out how things work.

Captain Sulu

After Sulu took command of the Excelsior in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, some people have been hoping to follow his adventures. We saw another glimpse of this in a Voyager episode, and there was a campaign to feature him in a new Trek franchise.

Here's a list of Sulu audio books, all of which are read by George Takei. Beyond this, I strongly recommend the novel The Captain's Daughter, by Peter David. (You may have noticed his name cropping up a lot on this page!) The title character is Demora Sulu, who appeared in Star Trek: Generations as the helmsman of the Enterprise-B. Obviously she and Hikaru ("our" Sulu) play major parts in the story. Another important character is Captain Harriman, and I think that this book does a great deal to restore his credibility. After I saw him in Generations, I could hardly believe that anyone would give him a command, and this story is able to subtly reinterpret his scene with Kirk to put him in a much better light. For instance, when Kirk mentions transporters, and Harriman says "We don't have any", in the film he looks like an idiot. In the book, he thinks to himself "If we had transporters, I'd already be using them, so shut up and let me think!", but has to bite his tongue to be diplomatic.

A while back there was an effort to get Sulu another novel, and John Ordover (an editor at Pocket Books) promised to publish one if he received 1,000 letters asking for it. However, he didn't, so that never came to pass. Personally I didn't write in; while I'd be interested in a Sulu novel, I wouldn't guarantee to buy it without knowing the writer.

DS9 relaunch

As mentioned above, there have been various "normal" DS9 novels written, that take place during the course of the TV series, and fit in between the episodes (more or less). However, since the end of season 7 (when the series finished), the books have no grown more ambitious - rather than having individual stories, there is now a new story arc, as if season 8 was only being produced in book form, rather than as TV episodes. These novels have been written by various authors, but there is a clear editorial vision behind them all, which shows through. I've read them all so far, and been very impressed by them. Due to the events of the DS9 finale, there have been a few new crew assignments - for instance, Ro Laren is now working in security, and there is a Jem'Hadar observer based on the station.

The following books aren't exactly part of the relaunch (they precede it), but they are definitely part of the new continuity:

  1. Millennium book 1

  2. Millennium book 2

  3. Millennium book 3

  4. A Stitch in Time (Garak on Cardassia)

  5. TNG: Diplomatic Implausibility (Ambassador Worf)

Here is the main list of relaunch novels so far (there are more to follow), in chronological order:

  1. The Left Hand of Destiny #1 - focussing on Chancellor Martok

  2. The Left Hand of Destiny #2

  3. Avatar book 1

  4. Avatar book 2

  5. Section 31: Abyss

  6. Gateways #4: Demons of Air and Darkness

  7. "Horn and Ivory" in Gateways #7: What Lay Beyond

  8. Mission Gamma #1: Twilight

  9. Mission Gamma #2: This Gray Spirit

  10. Mission Gamma #3: Cathedral

  11. Mission Gamma #4: Lesser Evil

  12. Rising Son

  13. Unity

The only caveat here (as with the other lines) is that while you don't need to read all the books in each crossover (e.g. all the Section 31 novels), you do really need to read all the DS9 novels to follow the ongoing story.

This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk

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