On September 8th, 1966, the Starship Enterprise boldly began a five-year mission to explore strange new worlds. Nearly 50 years later, Star Trek is still heralded for the way it explored strange ideas and new ways of telling crazy metaphorical stories. Unsurprisingly, the wealth of culture explored throughout all of the franchise’s incarnations has not only been inspired by great books, but also created them. If you want to celebrate Star Trek’s 49th birthday with a good book, here are 12 that even a casual fan should read. Some are straight-up Trek books, while others have connections to the franchise that are, well…fascinating.
The View from the Bridge, by Nicholas Meyer
As a director and writer, Nicholas Meyer influenced nearly half of the original Trek films and practically saved the whole shebang from obscurity with The Wrath of Khan. If you want behind-the-scenes stories about it all went down (including just how fast he had to rewrite The Wrath) this memoir is a must. Even if you’re only mildly interested in Star Trek, his writing and wit will convert you to a Meyer-disciple in a nano-second.
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Speaking of The Wrath of Khan, it’s sort of required that you read A Tale of Two Cities to get the full effect. This is the book Spock gives to Kirk on his birthday. Come on. You haven’t read this?
I Am Spock, by Leonard Nimoy
This heartwarming memoir, finally back in print, was preceded by a similar volume called I am NOT Spock. While not intended as a slam against Star Trek or the character of Spock, Nimoy later relented and released this memoir with the “corrected” title. This book is literally for everyone.
The Entropy Effect, by Vonda N. McIntyre
Some Trek novels are more than just cool explorations of the characters. With The Entropy Effect, acclaimed SF novelist Vonda N. McIntyre explores science fiction concepts with a seriousness sometimes absent in other Trek stuff. Complete with paradoxes and fantastic characterization, there’s a reason why this one makes it onto everyone’s lists of the best Star Trek novels ever.
Yesterday’s Son, by A.C. Crispin
Spock’s past catches up with him when he finds out about Zar, his actual, total, real-deal son, who lives in the ancient past of a planet called Sarpeidon. This classic Trek
novel is more about family drama than Romulan attacks (but it has the latter, too).
Cold Equations, by David Mack
Speaking of family drama, robot families be the craziest of all! This novel is all about Data’s other brother, B-4, and what Data’s father, Dr. Soong, really intended for him. Capturing the voices of beloved characters from The Next Generation, this one will warm the hearts of fans who miss that ethical android, Mr. Data.
The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, by Greg Cox
In the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed,” we’re told Khan comes to us from the 1990s, a time when a huge Eugenics War was fought on Earth. According to this future history, a ton of genetically-enhanced jerks apparently attempted to take over the world at the SAME TIME, just as Friends was becoming a hit TV show. How do we reconcile this strange continuity gap? Easy! Greg Cox creates a secret shadow war in which Khan was living in the ‘9os we actually experienced. There are also awesome cameos from cool characters like Gary Seven and his cat.
Redshirts, by John Scalzi
Imagine if Galaxy Quest where a novel, but it was populated by hapless Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern types. All the Trek clichés are trotted out in this clever satire, along with spot-on humor that doesn’t so much skewer the beloved franchise as it sort of affectionately punches it in the arm.
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
While some of us just know that Moby Dick is a huge part of Star Trek; it’s worth restating: MOBY DICK IS A HUGE PART OF STAR TREK! From the Borg, to traitorous Star Fleet captains, to KHHAAAANNN!! himself, the themes found in Herman Melville’s classic novel show up throughout Trek. If you haven’t read it, do so now, if only so you can totally dig the context of whatever Picard or Khan happen to be jabbering on about.
The Lives of Dax, edited by Marco Palmieri
Calling Deep Space Nine underrated is the surest way to win friends among the Trek faithful. The character of Dax—a borderline immortal being with multiple lives—is probably unique in science fiction—a slightly more progressive version of the Doctor (from Doctor Who, naturally). Here, tons of excellent writers—including Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Enterprise screenwriters Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens—give us the backstory for every single one of Dax’s past lives. The one where Emony Dax meets Dr. McCoy is super, super sweet. Remember what Jadzia said about old Bones? “He had the hands of a surgeon…”
Black Fire, by Sooni Cooper
There are a lot of sexy Star Trek novels from the ’70s and ’80s, but if you’re interested in seeing Spock cuddle up with people in animal skins for warmth then later become a pirate, this is your book. Why is the book called Black Fire? Well, when Spock becomes a pirate, he wears this awesome cloak that makes most of him invisible, but it looks like there’s an outline of dark fire around him wherever he walks. Excited yet?
Articles of the Federation, by Keith R.A. DeCandido
How do you do political intrigue in a political system in there’s somehow an economy not based on the accumulation of wealth? Keith R.A. DeCandido gets inside the workings of the Utopian Federation government in a unique book that attempts to make the impossible metaphoric politics of this rosy future into something real and believable.
What will you do to celebrate Star Trek’s birthday?