With 1972 came another entry in Blish's series of Star Trek adaptations, Star Trek 5. This volume includes adaptations of seven episodes: "Whom GodsWith 1972 came another entry in Blish's series of Star Trek adaptations, Star Trek 5. This volume includes adaptations of seven episodes: "Whom Gods Destroy", "The Tholian Web", "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", "This Side of Paradise", "Turnabout Intruder", "Requiem for Methuselah", an "The Way to Eden".
The stories adapted in this volume are, I think, fairly average Trek fare. The adaptation of "Whom Gods Destroy" is the most interesting, but even it was better for being on screen. Meanwhile, most of the others are dull, and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is positively tedious.
Several adaptations throughout this series suffer from a common flaw: certain episodes are really only interesting on account of being acted out. "Turnabout Intruder" has a rather weak plot (to say nothing of its unfortunately anti-feminist dimensions), but to the extent that it was entertaining, it was all down to Shatner's overacting as Dr. Lester. Blish's condensed prose captures none of that, while retaining the cringe-worthy story ("And most of all she wanted to murder the man who might have loved her--had her intense hatred of her own womanhood not made life with her impossible."--lovely.)
The above goes equally for "The Way to Eden", another very weak episode propped up (poorly) by songs, on which small support the book cannot rely.
Star Trek 5 was saddled with several very unfortunate episodes, and it didn't make any more of them than the TV series did. If you've got this one, read "Whom Gods Destroy" and ignore the rest. If not, I wouldn't go out of my way to get it. Your time will be better spent elsewhere....more
James Blish's novelizations of Star Trek episodes continue in Star Trek 2, published in February 1968. This volumeThis review also appears on my blog.
James Blish's novelizations of Star Trek episodes continue in Star Trek 2, published in February 1968. This volume includes novelizations of "Arena", "A Taste of Armageddon", "Tomorrow is Yesterday", "Errand of Mercy", "Court Martial", "Operation--Annihilate!", "The City on the Edge of Forever", and "Space Seed".
Each short story is typically quite similar to the episode being adapted, though there are some differences. Notably, the ending of "Operation--Annihilate!" is very different. In the episode, they expose Spock to a massive blast of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, and believe that they have blinded him. Upon discovering that the visible light was unnecessary, they regret that they have needlessly blinded him. In the end, though, he recovers, and they save the planet using the same procedure, on a larger scale.
In the short story, the Enterprise instead seeks out the central concentration of the mind-controlling creatures and destroys it with missiles, which leaves the creatures directionless and easily dealt with.
I like the writing in this volume better than that in its predecessor, though I couldn't point at a definite reason why. It still suffers from the problem that the episodes on which the stories are based relied heavily on the visual element, and so are somewhat lacking as short stories. They don't generally have any big ideas behind them, and if they do they don't explore them very thoroughly.
I do think that some of the stories here have merit. Not much can be done for "Arena" or "Court Martial", but I can certainly see "A Taste of Armageddon" being worked into something more substantial and interesting, and of course that has already been done for "Space Seed" in Greg Cox's Eugenics Wars series, not to mention Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Not to be too negative, I did have a pleasant surprise when reading "Tomorrow is Yesterday". After their time-traveling adventure, Spock comments, "And so we have revised Omar." Upon Kirk's request for clarification, he specifies that he means "the verse about the moving finger." This refers to The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, as translated by Edward FitzGerald:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all they Tears wash out a Word of it.
I've only just read the Rubáiyát about a year ago (highly recommended, incidentally), so seeing this reference by Spock is a treat. Sadly, I don't recall him being quite so literary in the episode.
Given its general improvement over its predecessor, I can recommend Star Trek 2 to fans looking for a quick read, or another perspective on the episodes, and the new ending to "Operation--Annihilate!" and the incorporation of content from Heinlein's original script in "The City on the Edge of Forever" provide a little added value....more
I've read a good number of Star Trek books, over the years. Since I came rather late to the Star Trek universe, I'This review also appears on my blog.
I've read a good number of Star Trek books, over the years. Since I came rather late to the Star Trek universe, I'm quite used to thinking of the expanded universe as a sprawling thing, composed of many books by a similarly vast number of authors. Of course, it wasn't always this way. Once, there were no Star Trek books at all.
And then, there was one: Star Trek by James Blish.
[rel://files/Star Trek by James Blish.jpg]
Star Trek is a collection of seven short story adaptations of television episodes, namely "Charlie's Law" (aired as "Charlie X"), "Dagger of the Mind", "The Unreal McCoy" (aired as "The Man Trap"), "Balance of Terror", "The Naked Time", "Miri", and "The Conscience of the King".
Blish's adaptations were based on early draft scripts of the episodes, so the stories in this collection are not exactly the same as those that aired, though the differences tend to be minor.
The quality of the stories varies. For the most part, they are clearly uninspired adaptions of television scripts: lots of dialogue, limited description, and very little of anything else. They serve well enough as summaries of the episodes, but they're not particularly engaging, and I don't think they give enough detail for readers who haven't already seen the episodes.
The stories are inferior to the television episodes, too, in those cases where the acting is particularly noteworthy: Morgan Woodward's performance as Simon van Gelder in "Dagger of the Mind" and Arnold Moss's performance as Karidian in "The Conscience of the King" brought the characters to life in a way the lifeless dialogue in the short stories cannot match.
The book does have one good point, however: the adaptation of "Balance of Terror" is substantially better than the other stories. Indeed, it's so different that I'd have guessed it was written by another author entirely. Where the other adaptations are soulless collections of dialogue and stage direction, "Balance of Terror" takes some time to consider the import of events and the relationships between the characters, and gives more detail than is strictly required to understand the events. This added flavor places it head and shoulders above the rest: it's a satisfying and entertaining short story.
Blish's book was apparently very popular. Published in January 1967, it was in its fifth printing by June of that year, and in its eighth printing by June 1968. My copy is from a 25th printing in February 1977 and claims "Over 8 million copies in print.", though that might possibly be including the later books in the series. At any rate, it was popular enough that the series was gathered into two different omnibus sets.
However interesting this book may be as a window into the past, I cannot recommend it. I don't regret the time spent reading it, but those simply interested in reading a work of science fiction should probably choose a different book....more
Another day, another collection of Trek novelizations. Today I'm looking at James Blish's Star Trek 3, published iThis review also appears on my blog.
Another day, another collection of Trek novelizations. Today I'm looking at James Blish's Star Trek 3, published in April 1969. It collects seven adaptations: "The Trouble with Tribbles", "The Last Gunfight" (an adaptation of "Spectre of the Gun"), "The Doomsday Machine", "Assignment: Earth", "Mirror, Mirror", "Friday's Child", and "Amok Time".
I didn't notice any substantial departures from the episodes in any of the stories except "Friday's Child", which treats the character of Eleen rather differently. "The Doomsday Machine" and "The Last Gunfight" have some small changes, as well.
This book is, like its predecessor, fairly enjoyable. Although I've not found the series to be exceptional, it seems that contemporary readers were more impressed: in the introduction, James Blish describes some of his previous work (twenty-seven novels and short story collections, including a Hugo winner). Then:
I note these figures not to brag--well, not entirely, anyhow--but as background for one astonishing fact: I have received more mail about my two previous Star Trek books than I have about all my other work put together.
He had been receiving letters "at an average rate of two a day ever since January 1967." Of note is that "most of [the letter writers] say that they have never read, or seen, any science fiction before Star Trek, or if they have, that they hadn't liked it." To fans looking for more information, he recommends The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield. I'm reading that book, now, and it's fairly interesting (with some caveats--review forthcoming).
Finally, at the end of the introduction, he very casually reveals his next project:
Thanks, too, to those who asked that I write an original Star Trek novel. Both the studio and Bantam agreed, somewhat to my surprise, that this was a good idea, so it's in the works.
The book in question, Spock Must Die!, would be published in February 1970, nearly a year later, and Blish's next volume of adaptations would not be published until July 1971.
I admit that I'm really looking forward to Spock Must Die! giving me a break from these adaptations. All the same, with adaptations of popular episodes like "Mirror, Mirror" and "Amok Time" (and even "The Trouble with Tribbles", if you're in a less serious mood), Star Trek 3 is a nice afternoon's diversion....more
In 1968, James Blish wrote in the introduction to Star Trek 3 that he would be writing an original Star Trek novThis review also appears on my blog.
In 1968, James Blish wrote in the introduction to Star Trek 3 that he would be writing an original Star Trek novel, the popularity of the television series warranting such an effort. By the time that book was published, in April 1969, Star Trek had already been cancelled, with only its final episode, "Turnabout Intruder", yet to air. Finally, in February 1970, Bantam published Blish's (sole) original Trek novel: Spock Must Die!
The Enterprise is mapping out a region of space near the border of the Klingon Empire, a highly routine operation. Kirk comes upon McCoy and Scotty in the rec room, having a philosophical debate: is what comes out of the other end of the transporter the same person that went into it--does the soul make the jump? If not, McCoy says, then "every time we put a man through the transporter for the first time, we commit murder."
There's no time to pursue this discussion further, for Spock interrupts to announce that the captain is needed on the bridge: the Klingons are at war with the Federation, and the Enterprise is now behind enemy lines.
It should be impossible for the Klingons to break the peace treaty, but Organia (the home of the beings that instituted the treaty in "Errand of Mercy") seems to have been destroyed, so they are unhindered--and having great success. Unable to get into contact with Starfleet Command without giving themselves away, Kirk decides to head for Organia, a journey of several months, in hopes that the Organians have not been destroyed, and might be able to stop the war.
Inspired by his conversation with McCoy, Scotty invents a new kind of transporter which will make a temporary duplicate of a person and sent them away at great speeds and over enormous distances, with which he proposes to transport someone directly to Organia to investigate. Spock volunteers, and so the experiment begins.
Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. After the attempted transport, they find two Spocks on the transporter pad, each claiming to be the original, and each apparently identical. The balance of the book concerns the efforts to distinguish which Spock is the duplicate (and must therefore be destroyed) and to reach Organia undetected.
Spock Must Die! is similar in style to Blish's adaptations, writ large. Blish liked to slip literary references into those short stories, and the novel takes it further, with references to works as varied as Othello, Narnia, and Finnegans Wake (the last of which forms a substantial plot point).
Blish does take advantage of the freedom afforded by the increased length. The philosophical debate outlined above is not the only one in the novel, and if they are perhaps a bit overwrought, they are welcome reminders that science fiction can be about ideas, and not merely action set in space. The general increase in detail is beneficial, as well; the adaptations often seem too brief.
Sadly, I found the book's ending unsatisfying; the resolution of the plot is too straightforward. The Enterprise set out to find a deus ex machina to end the war, and they succeed in their search. There's no twist, no meaningful new complication. A technobabble explanation aside, there's little that couldn't have been predicted a dozen pages in.
Spock Must Die! isn't a bad book, and it's particularly interesting as a contrast to later Trek books. Blish's treatment of the characters is somewhat unique, and he certainly has no concern for maintaining the status quo. You could do worse than to spend a couple of hours reading this one....more
A little break from all these picture books seems to be in order, so let's go with something completely different: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McA little break from all these picture books seems to be in order, so let's go with something completely different: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre, which is #2 in the Pocket Books line of Star Trek novels.
The Enterprise has been in orbit of a singularity for six weeks, Mr. Spock making careful observations of this unusual phenomenon, when they are called away to Aleph Prime by an ultimate override command--to be used only in the most dire of situations.
They arrive to find no great emergency at all. Instead, they're asked to transport a criminal a short distance to a rehabilitation facility. Captain Kirk would have angrily refused, but Spock asks him to accede to this request. It seems that the criminal in question is a scientist of Spock's acquaintance, and there's something fishy about the situation. Spock's investigation uncovers a threat to the entire universe, which he must handle covertly, if he can.
The Entropy Effect focuses on a few characters only: Spock, McCoy, Kirk, and Sulu, plus Mandala Flynn and Hunter, characters original to the novel. The bulk of the novel follows Spock as he deals with the situation, but it takes time to give us some insight into the others, as well. Importantly, in Trek history, it is in this novel that Sulu is given his name, Hikaru (which wouldn't be officially confirmed until a decade later, in The Undiscovered Country), and promised a promotion to lieutenant commander.
The original characters are the high point of the novel. Flynn and the security officers under her command are each interesting: Flynn's desire to prove herself is admirable; Jenniver's difficulties fitting in inspire sympathy; Neon's unusual language (consisting only of nouns) and Snnanagfashtalli's loyalty to Jenniver each merit a mention, as well. Hunter, Kirk's past love, is of little import to the plot, but she does add some needed variety. She has a child, and is part of a nontraditional family arrangement--it's good to show that humans, too, are diverse. There are as many ways to live as there are people on the Earth, and space travel doesn't do anything to simplify that.
Is it odd that each of the characters I identified as being of particular interest is female? Early Trek is certainly a story of men, and this novel, for all its focus on Spock, does somewhat counterbalance that.
The Entropy Effect's plot eventually revolves around time travel, and it's handled fairly well, in a Star Trek sort of way. It's shown to be difficult and far from consequence-free, and there's a bit of suspense as we wonder how (though--let's be honest--not if) Spock will manage his task.
All told, The Entropy Effect is an average book: not great, but fun enough to read once. I understand that several of the original characters show up in other Trek novels; I'll look forward to reading those, some day....more
I've just written about James Blish's Star Trek, the first Trek book ever published, but that book contained onlyThis review also appears on my blog.
I've just written about James Blish's Star Trek, the first Trek book ever published, but that book contained only adaptations of television episodes. The first original Trek story published--and, indeed, the only such book published during the initial airing of Star Trek--is Mack Reynolds's Mission to Horatius, published in 1968.
The Enterprise has been out on patrol for a long time, and just when they were heading for a much needed break, they are ordered to a distant star system--Horatius--from which a distress call has originated.
Horatius has three colonized planets: Neolithia, Mythra, and Bavarya. Neolithia was colonized by people who wanted a less technologically dependent way of life, and its inhabitants have only very primitive technology--not even iron. Mythra was colonized by people fleeing religious persecution, and is ruled by a small class of religious elites. Bavarya, the most recently settled, was colonized by political dissidents, and its leader is a militaristic man called Nummer Ein. The Enterprise is not welcomed by the inhabitants of any of the three planets, but they have a duty to determine who called for help, and render aid if they can.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise has troubles of its own. It has been far too long since the crew has been planetside, and Dr. McCoy fears an outbreak of space cafard, a deadly psychological condition caused by the extreme ennui of protracted space travel. If the crew of the Enterprise don't get leave soon, they may tear themselves apart from the strain.
Mission to Horatius is a quick, easy read. With its A plot of the Enterprise investigating a distress call, its B plot of McCoy's concerns about space cafard, and a good dose of comedy, it reads very like an episode of the show. Which is not to say that it's the most well-written possible book, of course. Kirk is rather cavalier in his response to the situation in which he finds himself, and his actions are not what one would expect of an ambassador of the Federation (as Kirk calls himself). He repeatedly ignores the wishes of the governments of the planets they're visiting, despite himself noting that he must not do that. He even says, "We shall see what our Bavaryan bullyboys have to offer," when it is Kirk himself who is acting the bully.
Brett is working as an English teacher in Vanuatu when the news comes of the plauge in America. His Bislama isn’t so good, but the word is that in AmeBrett is working as an English teacher in Vanuatu when the news comes of the plauge in America. His Bislama isn’t so good, but the word is that in America, people are eating one another.
“Passage” by Lavie Tidhar is a slice of life, with a (distant, unseen) zombie plague. At a little over a thousand words, there’s not much time for plot or development–we just see a series of glimpses into Brett’s life as he deals with his changing situation.
It’s a little unsatisfying, but the message is clear: even with a zombie apocalypse in America, life goes on. After all, what can you do?
(I've not got my notes on hand, so this will less detailed than usual.)
Not bad. The 'mind meld gone wrong' storyline isn't much better than a 'transpo(I've not got my notes on hand, so this will less detailed than usual.)
Not bad. The 'mind meld gone wrong' storyline isn't much better than a 'transporter accident' storyline, in my opinion, but it's not too bad. As I recall, the alien race in this one was reasonably interesting....more
(I've not got my notes on hand, so this will less detailed than usual.)
This book follows the usual 'Voyager finds a rumor that they might get a way ho(I've not got my notes on hand, so this will less detailed than usual.)
This book follows the usual 'Voyager finds a rumor that they might get a way home' plot, with Janeway willing to chance destruction of the ship for a quicker way home. That's reasonably consistent with the show, I guess, but since we know there's no real danger to the ship, I don't think it works as well to show how serious Janeway is about getting back home.
The idea of a huge battle involving everything that a civilization has to put into it and lasting for a very long time isn't too new, although Ragnarok perhaps goes a bit further toward showing how far they've gotten, stripping every last ounce of metal out of whole planets to build ships for the war.
I liked the look at the alien race that spoke in imperatives--it's always fun to see how authors will try to make a really different sort of alien. The ones in the previous book (The Escape) were more or less like extra-bureaucratic humans, so it's nice to see something a little more alien this time.
Overall, this was a reasonably fun read, though maybe not quite as good as its predecessor....more
(I've not got my notes on hand, so this will less detailed than usual.)
This one was decent. It's the first original story in the Voyager novels, and a(I've not got my notes on hand, so this will less detailed than usual.)
This one was decent. It's the first original story in the Voyager novels, and a fine start, though not too ambitious. Voyager heads to a planet with lots of odd little vehicles on it to try to salvage parts for repairs, and get more than they bargained for when one of them activates and several crew members vanish.
The story holds together well, and everything moves along toward then end at a decent pace. No really big surprises, but fun enough.
(view spoiler)[When they finally get around to using time travel, and the crew have their escape plot foiled, and finally they're able to return to the ship, it's really quite fun. (hide spoiler)]...more