Today’s a TT freebie, so I’m doing… Star Trek novels! I’ve been inspired by the world of Star Trek since I was a kid, both for the sci-fi appeal and its promise of a better world. The novels and their authors have had an outsized role in my appreciation of the series , which is why I’m more than a little concerned about the “new” stuff slowly but surely taking over the lit scene. While the ‘real’ Trek universe has lived through the books despite the Abrams movies, now that there’s a revival in Trek shows, the novelists are writing for them and David Mack (author of the phenomenal Destiny series) intimated in a podcast that the prime verse’s lit days are numbered.
- Star Trek DS9 #22: Vengeance, Dafydd ab Hugh. The first Trek novel I ever read, I have a special attachment to this story set during the Klingon-Federation crisis that STDS9 season four began in. Truthfully, I don’t imagine the novel will have aged well; the numbered novels were generally of mediocre quality, with recycled plots and meaningless aliens. Still, I can’t forget Bashir and O’Brien’s resistance to a sudden Klingon takeover of the station after the Defiant is manipulated into a wild goose chase, nor of Worf’s difficulty in fighting his own brother.
- Star Trek: Millennium. Written by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, the Millennium trilogy were the best Trek books ever, as far as I was concerned, and it wasn’t until the Destiny trilogy arrived that they had competition. Beginning with a grisly discovery of a body beamed into the bulkheads of DS9 decades before, Millennium’s mystery quickly deepens and culminates with the station being destroyed, and a few survivors being thrown into a nightmare future that’s eagerly anticipating the induced obliteration of the cosmos. The Reeves-Stevens had a superb handle on the shows’ character voices, and the arc of plots produces a variety of interest.
- ST: The Dominion War, various authors. This two-duology series, one part original fiction and the other an expanded novelization of the shows, was set in Trek’s hugest spectacle to date (the Dominion War was the prime verse’s WW2, basically). Again, while these novels probably wouldn’t age too well, they were among my first and favorites. The DS9 novels simply expanded on what we saw in the show, but the TNG novels followed the Enterprise-E during the war, including a prolonged spy arc wherein Picard and Data investigate claims that the Cardassians are building an artificial wormhole to bring in more troops from the Gamma Quadrant. The Badlands ship graveyard scene is memorably spooky, although it helps to have read it as a kid.
- Star Trek: Avatar. As a dedicated Niner, I’m irrationally proud that Star Trek Deep Space Nine created the Relaunch, which since 2004 has carried the Trek banner high and proud and created characters and stories far better than we often saw on the shows. It all began with S.D. Perry’s Avatar books, which introduced us to a few new faces on the DS9 crew — unprecedented — and then killed them. The Avatar books grew, and now every Trek series has its own Relaunch series, and they all shared a continuity and it’s terrific. Not everything was terrific – -the Mission Gamma books bored me, and I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaated the Andorian arc, so much so that I’d watch the Andorians on ST ENT and wish the books were more like the show. Commander Shran was cool. (Though to be fair, Jeffrey Combs was just that good.)
- Star Trek: Destiny. It took me a few years to get to Destiny: I was a penniless college student, they were praised to the heavens, and they promised a cosmos-shattering ending. But when I started Destiny, I couldn’t stop. I literally drove an hour to a bookstore to pick up the next books in the series after I read the first one. Destiny brought together alllllll the Relaunch characters into one big ol’ trilogy, one that concludes the Great Borg War series (my name, not the publishers). Destiny is still the king of modern Treklit.
- Disavowed & Control, David Mack. A decade after the Borg were resolved in full — their origins and destiny — Mack was given the similarly formidable task of handling Section 31. Control was the first cybersecurity Trek novel I ever read, and I enjoyed it more than any Trek book in years.
7. Rise Like Lions, David Mack. Although several authors contributed to the redemption of the ST MU, turning it into a serious story far removed from the bizarro world of DS9’s mirror universe (sorry, DS9, you did many great things but not that), Mack was the one who fulfilled it in the end, with the same style as Control and Destiny.
8. ST TNG Cold Mirror, Diane Duane. Speaking of the Mirror Universe, Duane did a TNG mirror story before DS9’s own offering. Duane developed the Terran Empire as one that, like Alexander, had conquered all it could. The TNG crew investigate their mirror counterpart’s sneaking investigation of their own universe, and realize: the Federation is its next target. Duane portrayed the MU — at least its humans — as innately more amoral. Picard is horrified at its Shakespeare, and dares not open the Bible. The ‘real’ ST MU is more of an alternate history, with a point of departure some point in the 20th century — perhaps a Nazi win in WW2.
9. Full Circle and Unworthy, Kirsten Beyer. The start of the Voyager relaunch (okay, there were two books before, but we all pretend they didn’t exist), Beyer’s books would put meat on characters like Paris, Kim, and Chakotay, and….bring Janeway back! (….you didn’t know she died? Sorry. Borg war.)
10. ST TNG: The Buried Age, Christopher L. Bennett. The only Lost Years book I’ve read, this follows Picard during a hiatus from Starfleet, and features Troi and Data as young lieutenants.
The Stargazer books and Starfleet :Year One, both by Michael Jan Friedman. I read and re-read these books and when we’re talking about personal favorites, they’d have to be here….but honestly, Friedman could be a lazy author and I couldn’t justify dropping any Mack, Beyer, or Bennett off the list when they’re undeniably better. And now that I think about it, I feel guilty for not including any Greg Cox, my other favorite pre-Relaunch author, and one who’s actually penned some novels after the Relaunch era. His KHAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN! trilogy is definitely of interest.