Star Trek books, part 3: Bantam

2024-06-11 04:08:15

With part 1 and part 2, covering the novelizations, out of the way, it's finally time to look at the original stories published in the early days. The first was published by Whitman Publishing (who also published Star Trek comics), and the remaining thirteen were published by Bantam Books. I've written much more in my individual reviews, but here's a brief overview of the books:

  • Mission to Horatius (1968): YA. The Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Horatius system, where it finds three planets, two menaced by the third, Bavarya, a militaristic world led by Nummer Ein. Meanwhile, McCoy worries about an outbreak of space cafard–a psychological phenomenon caused by being too long in space–and Sulu's pet rat Mickey is suspected of carrying bubonic plague.
  • Spock Must Die! (1970): The Enterprise is near the Klingon empire when suddenly war breaks out, trapping them behind enemy lines. In an attempt to contact Organia, in hopes they'll enforce the peace treaty, Spock uses an experimental transporter, but it results in a second spock being created, apparently identical. Which is the real Spock?
  • Spock, Messiah! (1976): They are testing implants that telepathically link a crew member to a native of the planet they're investigating, so they can have the instincts and background knowledge to blend in when surveying an inhabited planet. However, something goes wrong, and Spock sabotages the ship and abandons them to lead a cult. If they cannot solve this problem soon, an approaching radiation storm will destroy the ship.
  • The Price of the Phoenix (1977): Kirk is apparently killed in an accident, and the leader of the planet, Omne, attempts to bribe Spock with a clone of Kirk–both body and mind–in exchange for his cooperation in starting a war between the Romulans and the Federation. But the real Kirk is still alive and captive, and the stakes are even higher than they initially appear.
  • Planet of Judgment (1977): They encounter an apparently artificial rogue planet. When they take a shuttle down to investigate, it ceases to function, trapping them on the planet, which is populated by deadly plants and animals. An advanced species living there, the Arivne, inform them that another species, the Irapina, are approaching, intent on bloody conquest.
  • Vulcan! (1978): They must determine whether the inhabitants of the planet Arachnae, which will soon be enveloped by the shifting boundary of the Romulan Neutral Zone, are intelligent. They are assigned an expert, Dr. Katalya Tremain, but she turns out to inexplicably hate Vulcans. The situation turns deadly, and she and Spock are trapped together on the planet.
  • The Starless World (1978): The Enterprise is brought by the sun god Ay-nab inside a Dyson sphere, which is soon to fall into a black hole. They must convince Ay-nab to release them, before it's too late.
  • Trek to Madworld (1979): The Enterprise is on a rescue mission to evacuate a colony, when it, along with a Klingon and a Romulan ship, is trapped in a bubble of space by a peculiar, gnome-like Organian named Enowil. He has built a planet of wonders, and now he is bored. Whoever can tell him what his life is missing will be rewarded with whatever he desires. Kirk can hardly allow the enemies of the Federation to obtain this reward, so he plays along.
  • World Without End (1979): They encounter a hollow asteroid that is really a spaceship. Its inhabitants do not know that there is an outside world.
  • The Fate of the Phoenix (1979): The sequel to The Price of the Phoenix. Omne is back and once again a threat. James, the clone of Kirk, has been living among the Romulans, but is kidnapped by another clone of Omne that has his own plans.
  • Devil World (1979): Kirk meets a woman, Gilla Dupree, and takes the Enterprise to the quarantined planet Heartland, whose natives look like the traditional depiction of devils, to search for her father.
  • Perry's Planet (1980): They visit the planet Perry, which wishes to join the federation. Arriving, they find that there is no violence of any kind on the planet, as a result of a 'peackeeper virus' on the planet.
  • The Galactic Whirlpool (1980): They once again encounter a spacecraft, the Wanderer whose inhabitants have forgotten that there are other people in the universe. However, the Wanderer is on course to pass through the Galactic Whirlpool, a region of space flooded with deadly radiation.
  • Death's Angel (1981): Someone is killing ambassadors aboard the Enterprise–apparently a supernatural being, the Angel of Death. Col. Elizabeth Schaeffer, a member of the Special Security Division, is dispatched to solve the mystery.

There were also two collections of fanfiction published:

And two children's books:

A cornucopia of new Trek! Through 1978 (when the novelizations of TAS finished), there were just seven original novels but twenty-three books of novelizations, and then the next three years offered seven more original novels. Quite an improvement!

In quantity, at least. I'd say three of the fourteen novels (World Without End, The Galactic Whirlpool, Trek to Madworld) are pretty good, and three more are all right, but the remaining eight are somewhere between forgettable and bad.

The two collections of fanfiction are all right, but they are very much 70s fanfiction, and are probably only of interest to dedicated fans. The children's books are exactly that: they're fine, but nothing special–only interesting for children.

Some details about the novels:

  • 10 were written by men
  • 5 feature Klingons
  • 4 feature Romulans (including one of the five Klingon books)
  • 4 feature a powerful computer as an antagonist
  • 4 feature telepathy
  • 3 had pretty inexcusable sexism (Spock, Messiah!, Vulcan!, Death's Angel)

There are a number of books from this period that I haven't covered yet: the novelization of the movie (which I'll discuss along with other books published by Pocket) and lots of nonfiction, which I'll write about separately.