Star Trek: The Bantam Books

I finished navigating my way through the original Bantam novels this weekend. As stated in my previous post there were 15 of them altogether in addition the episode adaptations (some of which I still own).

I will say this, I may not be suffering from Trek overdose, but it’s never been easier to see all these stories in my head as I read them. I can see the way they would be broadcast as episodes, the camera moves, the special effects, the way the dialogue would be delivered.

It was nice to read these books, and live in the 23rd century with some dear friends. Not all of the stories were keepers though.

Here’s my rundown on them though…

1)Death’s Angel by Kathleen Sky. This was the second Trek novel written by Sky, and while for the most part she has a good handle on the characters, I was a little anxious about the psychological screenings she puts the characters under. It’s called a Sigmund. Draw from that what you will. But the rest of it is good fun.

Kirk, and some of his landing party are recovering from an infection, when they are alerted that they will be ferrying diplomats to meet the Romulans to discuss a détente. While some of the diplomats are just absurd characters, there’s one that simply makes me think of the alligators in the original Fantasia. There’s also a giant koala bear. Yup. However, Sarek is present as well, and it’s kind of interesting, as he tries to get everyone to the table, to discuss the détente, saying if he could do that he may retire. It’s interesting that Spock actually does that in Next Generation. There’s also a hint that Sarek isn’t feeling his best. Everyone thinks it may be the events that are going on around them, you see, someone is murdering the ambassadors who oppose the detente, possibly James Kirk himself, but knowing that Sarek is suffering from a degenerative disease, once again, as seen in Next Generation, it was kind of neat. Good fun.

2) Planet of Judgement by Joe Haldeman. On a planet that seems to defy the very laws of physics, Kirk and some of his crew are stranded when their shuttles are grounded, and unresponsive. Their technology refuses to work, and there are vicious creatures in the jungle, including a plant which literally rips the face off a poor red shirt. They slowly learn that there is more going on here than they thought, and the strange telepathic inhabitants, need their help to stave off a galactic invasion.

Some of the ideas had been presented before in Trek, and honestly, most of the stories just revisit previous themes, but staged in new adventures, maybe another reason it was so easy to see them in my mind’s eye. I did like how this tale was told however.

3) The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold, who wrote the beloved The Trouble With Tribbles, as well as the Animated Series sequel, More Tribbles, More Troubles. This book felt a lot like Trek’s take on the Disney movie The Black Hole. The Enterprise comes across a lost city ship traveling at sub-light speed, that without a course correction will tumble into the galactic whirlpool, two black holes in orbit of one another.

They are shocked to find life aboard. But not just life, humans! They refuse to believe that the Enterprise crew comes from outside their ship, and Kirk and company must convince them before it’s too late to save them.

The best part of this story was it made the fan favorite, Kevin Riley, one of the central characters, which makes it a lot of fun!

4) Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky. This was Sky’s first Trek novel, and introduced the Sigmund idea (psychological testing I am all for but I think it may need a better name. But perhaps, to paraphrase, a name is just a name).

Dr. Katalya Tremaine is assigned to travel aboard the Enterprise to investigate a planet that is sliding into Romulan space. The mission is to ascertain whether or not the life on it is sentient, and if so give them a chance to join the Federation before the Romulans claim them.

She’s sharp, bright, and beautiful, and hates Vulcans. It gets worse, when she is forced to work with Spock, and both of their lives are endangered when they are trapped on the surface together, unable to return to the Enterprise.

5) Devil World by Gordon Eklund. The Enterprise is traveling to a world called Heartland, to find the long-lost Kell the Traitor. His daughter, Gilla is desperate to find him.

Kirk as always starts to fall in love with her, but she warns them off, as they arrive at a planet that is under quarantine by Starfleet orders.

That is because the inhabitants look like demons, called Danons, and the colonists that traveled to live there have all gone mad. All but for Kell.

The crew has to investigate, and learn the dark secrets of the planet, and the Danons themselves.

6) Starless World by Gordon Eklund. This was Eklund’s first Trek novel, and was a lot of fun. The Enterprise comes across an asteroid traveling through space. It’s revealed that it is in fact, a Dyson sphere, and our stalwart crew is pulled inside, ship and all. They learn that they aren’t the only ones who’ve been pulled inside. The Klingons are here as well!

Yet on the interior surface there is a sentient species, who may have the answers about how to escape. But first you have to avoid those who walk at night.

I quite enjoyed both of Eklund’s books, and I’m a little saddened he didn’t write more, especially when Paramount and Pocket Books launched the new series of  novels.

7)Perry’s Planet by Jack Haldeman. The Enterprise arrives at Perry’s Planet, a planet of perpetual peace. The landing party is initially intrigued, but then find that they are unable to have violent thoughts themselves, or commit violent actions.

Which leaves them in peril, as the Klingons have arrived. But with all of the crew infected with this ‘peace bug’ they are unable to fire back at the Klingons, who are there to destroy the Enterprise and then the Captain.

It’s up to Kirk and Spock to unearth the secret of Perry’s Planet, and how a long dead ruler still controls it.

8) Spock Must Die by James Blish. Taking a page from Enemy Within, a transporter mishap results in two Spocks!

The Klingons have somehow been able to circumvent the Organian peace treaty. Jury-rigging the Enterprise transporter for a long-range beam, Spock attempts to beam himself to Organia, but nothing happens, until a second Spock, perfectly identical, steps out of the transporter with him.

As they race through Klingon space to reach Organia and stop the war, it becomes evident that one, or both of the Spocks may be working against Kirk and his crew!

9) Trek to Madworld by Stephen Goldin. The Organians are center stage again. Well, one of them, and he seems to be a bit of a cross between Trelane and Q. Apparently, he left the Organians to live on his own.

But he’s missing something from his world, and if the Federation, the Klingons, or the Romulans can tell you what he’s missing, he promises to grant them one wish, and Kirk is afraid that it may be a weapon of incredible power.

He must solve the riddle of Madworld, stop the Klingons and Romulans, and get back on course, to save the lives of colonists who are dying from radiation.

10)World Without End by Joe Haldeman. The Enterprise discovers the artificial world of Chatalia, which though it isn’t called as much, it sounds like another Dyson sphere scenario to me.

The interior is inhabited by creatures that look like, larger, and uglier, sentient flying squirrels. You did read that right. It’s mentioned once, and never talked about again in the rest of the book.

But the planet has a secret, and if Kirk and his landing party can survive long enough, they may just solve the riddle of the world without end.

11) Star Trek: New Voyages 1. This is one of two collections of fan written short stories introduced by the cast of the original series. There is some interesting ideas here, and some fun stories, including one that sees James Kirk as a mental patient in the late 1950s, hidden there by the Klingons.

Some however, I found not quite as enjoyable, specifically the one entitled Sonnet from the Vulcan penned by Shirley Meech. Believe me, it’ll become clear when I get to similar themed material in the last two books of this list.

12) Spock Messiah! by Theodore Cogswell & Charles Spano, Jr. The Enterprise is studying the culture of the planet Kyros, using implants to allow the crew to shadow the natives. Something goes terribly wrong in Spock’s implant, and he becomes a self-proclaimed prophet and messiah for the people of the planet.

Unable to beam Spock to the ship, it’s up to Kirk and company to infiltrate his followers, and stop Spock before it’s too late.

This was the only one I had read prior to taking these Trek books on, and it’s apparent I didn’t remember it at all, which does not speak highly for it. The idea isn’t terrible at all, but some of the actions of the crew, including a female crew member’s tampering with the device in an effort to sleep with Spock, didn’t ring true (you could argue she was under the influence of her own implant but it’s demonstrated fairly early on that one has a large measure of control over one’s actions). There was also the way Kirk and everyone refers to this crewmen’s feminine wiles and attributes that was a little bothersome as well. I thought we were in the 23rd century?

13) Star Trek New Voyages 2. A second collection of fan material, as well as unproduced script for Star Trek The Animated Series, presented in script format.

However, the stories here just don’t have the same vibe as the first collection, and in fact some of it gets weighed down by the same problems that haunt the last two books on this list, so I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

There must have been other stories you could’ve used, ones to excite the imagination about strange new worlds, and seeking out new life, and new civilizations… oh well.

And then we come to 14 & 15) Price of the Phoenix and its sequel Fate of the Phoenix. Both of which were penned by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

All I could think while I read these books was “Did anyone at Paramount even read these???”

Because both of them, for want of any better description, are simply put… slash fan fiction.

It posits that Kirk and Spock’s relationship was a lot more on the physical side. Now, slash fiction has its place, and its audience, but there was no warning that this was where the book was headed. Consequently, it wasn’t really for me, and I barely got through it.

I’m now getting ready to beam over to the Pocket Book series, but as there are so many of them, I’ll keep my future lists to the top ten of each series, and collections.

It was an interesting collection of novels, in a time before we had so much Star Trek! Most of the novels were published before the very first movie! Whereas nowadays there seems to be a new Trek book every other month or so, from the various series, these were few and far between.

Different times…

But even then, The Human Adventure was just beginning…

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