Once upon a time, there was a teen aged boy who loved Star Trek. He watched the show every day after school, starting just a few minutes after he got home on the bus. This was in mid 1980s, in the days before Star Trek: The Next Generation, at least two years before he even heard rumours of a new series in production.
One Saturday afternoon, stranded in the grocery store waiting for his mother to finish shopping, on a spinning book rack near the cash registers, he found a novel with the holy phrase of Star Trek on the cover and the promising title of “Web of the Romulans”. In that moment, the universe expanded and he knew he could not leave the store without that book.
And he didn’t. I didn’t. And it was the first of many, many Star Trek books. For the next decade or so, I picked up every Star Trek novel I came across, eventually collecting the first sixty or so Original Series and twenty-five-ish Next Generation numbered novels and most of the one offs published as hard covers (though I usually waited for the mass market paperback). Throw in a few of the older books discovered in used book stores and, all told, I probably had something around 100 Star Trek novels in the house. And I read a lot of them more than once.
It wasn’t necessarily about the stories because a lot of them weren’t terribly original and some of them weren’t very good. It was about the characters. More adventures for each of the main characters from each crew. In a novel, you can give them a lot more screen time, see deeper into their thoughts and their world.
I stopped buying Star Trek novels after a while, trailing off to only the big ones and ignoring the DS9 and Voyager books completely. My tastes moved on to other things, mostly, but I’d reread one once in a while. Maybe partly for nostalgic reasons to remember my own youth, but also partly to stay in touch with the characters between movies.
Recently, delving deeper into the e-book world, I’ve picked some up again. I still prefer paper books, but seem to be able to read more electronically. Portability, ease of storage, convenience. Whatever the reason, so far this year I’ve read 10 books and 7 of them have been Star Trek novels. Of the three in progress, one of those is a Star Trek story, too.
A return in excess to my youth, perhaps. It’s still about the characters, only now I’m getting back in touch, and wondering if I started with the right book. You can dive into the universe almost anywhere, I think, but it seems like Pocket Books is attempting a Star Wars: Expanded Universe type thing, picking up after the end of Nemesis. But don’t quote me. That’s just an impression based on what I’ve read so far, and maybe things will change.
Or maybe I’ll get bored after I’ve touched based with the characters enough. I’m already easing back a bit, reading one Star Trek story while I’m reading two non-Trek e-books and a paperback, but I’m not giving them up completely. While I haven’t found one yet that I could say more than “I liked it”, there’s nothing saying that every book you read has to be awesome. Liking something is good, and I mostly like Star Trek books.
Because, and I’ll say it just one more time, it’s all about the characters.
Pick a crew, pick a member of that crew, and s/he is someone’s favourite, a great many someones. Pick another, and we probably all still like them. We enjoy reading about them. We want to read more, to see the universe get bigger, to believe in the power of the Star Trek future. We understand, we identify, we enjoy.
I’m going to step out onto a limb and say that in some ways Star Trek novels are the equivalent of series romance novels for a certain segment of the reading population. Fast, easy to digest stories but with familiar characters rather than familiar plots and plot points (yes, there are some of those too).
And that’s okay. It’s more than okay; it’s Star Trek.
Live long and prosper.