The Best Star Trek Books (for the 50th Anniversary)

space-ship-star-trekI have a confession to make. I am a hard core, died in the wool, unapologetic Trekkie. I can’t remember a time when Star Trek wasn’t a part of my life. This year is the 50th anniversary of the series, which aired for the first time on September 8, 1966, so there are a LOT of people who can probably say they also grew up with it. I grew up watching episodes of The Original Series in syndication. I was nine when The Next Generation began, and I never missed a single episode. To this day, I can tell you what season an episode is from based just on the style of the uniform Captain Picard is wearing. I even have a sizable amount of memory devoted to being able to tell which episode is playing, complete with episode title and full plot synopsis, based on a five second clip. I can do the same with Voyager. Try not to be jealous. I have seen every episode of Deep Space Nine as well, although I came to its fandom later, so I didn’t devote as much time to my rabid fanaticism and, alas, can’t tell you quite as much about it. I’ve since decided that further study is required! The Dominion War was crazy, y’all!

I might joke about being a nerdy Trekkie, but truthfully, the Star Trek fan base is one of its greatest strengths. The Original Series was a relatively unsuccessful show in its initial airing, but eventually we got The Next Generation approved, and that lasted seven seasons. Scientists who are also Trekkies were inspired to make things like cell phones, laptops, tablets, and Skype based on things they saw on various episodes of the show. And we howled and initiated a massive letter writing campaign that resulted in us talking NASA into naming a shuttle after our starship. They say it is named after an aircraft carrier. Uh-huh. Sure it is. We all know better.

Star Trek is pretty unusual in that it is very supportive of fan-driven creative works as well. Many other fandoms are indifferent to fan creations, or worse, actively discourage them, citing legalese bullshit. Star Trek, on the other hand, has always actively encouraged fandom. In addition to the usual fanfiction and such surrounding any kind of fandom, there have been many official contests sanctioned by The Powers That Be (TPTB), much to the delight of the fans. Fan artists competed for the chance to design the starship Titan, William Riker’s ship when he left the Enterprise to take on his own command. Other fan artists also create the Ships of the Line calendar each year. There are fan films, some of them rivaling the quality of actual episodes, in my opinion. We’ve gotten multiple fanfiction contests in the form of the Strange New Worlds anthologies, comprised entirely of amateur short stories written by fans. I don’t know of any other fandom that allows its fans to do that in an official capacity. TPTB let us play in the sandbox with their characters and don’t make fun of us for wanting to. They let us have fun. We get to explore other stories that weren’t done on the screen. Basically, the Star Trek TPTB rock.

Naturally, my love of all things Trek extends to the novel franchise as well. Many of the Trek novels go into depth with a variety of social issues, just as the episodes do, and many go in entirely new directions. As with all publishing, Star Trek isn’t immune from needing a huge injection of diversity in their ranks, as their authors are incredibly white and male in general. There are a few women writing Trek novels, but generally speaking, sci-fi, including Star Trek, is really whitewashed. Maybe, hopefully, the wins of the Hugo Awards this year by N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor (woot!) will see an increase in both women and people of color writing in the genre. Honestly, come on, TPTB. Get with it. It would be in the finest tradition of the Federation to embrace diversity a lot more.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are hundreds of novels and I wish I could just put them all here. But I can’t, so instead I listed a few of the Star Trek books from each series that I personally like the best for one reason or another. I truly hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear your own suggestions if you have others that aren’t listed below. Read long and prosper, friends!

logo-startrekNON-FICTION

Federation: The First 150 Years, David A. Goodman. This is the history of the first 150 years of the United Federation of Planets. 

The Star Trek Encyclopedia, Michael and Denise Okuda. A newly revised, 2-book set is to be released on October 18, 2016 with about 300 pages of new and expanded entries, up to and including Into Darkness. YES.

The Star Trek Cookbook, Ethan Phillips and William J. Birnes. Some genuinely great recipes, many volunteered from the cast and crew themselves, and doctored up to sound more Trekish. Jeri Ryan’s wild mushroom soup is one of my very favorite recipes ever now and I make it often.

Living with Star Trek: American Culture and the Star Trek Universe, Lincoln Geraghty. A great discussion on the influence of Star Trek on American society at various levels.

The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss. Real science, by a real scientist! 

THE ORIGINAL SERIES

Star Trek: The Classic Episodes (Barnes and Noble classics edition). A very pretty hardbound book which includes several novelizations of the most popular episodes of The Original Series, including “The Menagerie,” “A Taste of Armageddon,” “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

Star Trek Academy: Collision Course, William Shatner. I’m a huge sucker for back stories. This novel shows us the backstory of how Kirk and Spock met and became friends at Starfleet Academy.

The Kobayashi Maru, Julia Ecklar. Back stories! Dreaded no-win scenarios! Sign me up.

Black Fire, Sonni Cooper. Spock turns into some kind of space pirate. It’s fun, just go with it.

Shadow Lord, Lawrence Yep. Sulu is the star! 

THE NEXT GENERATION

Gulliver’s Fugitives, Keith Sharee. A lost Earth colony where imagination and freedom of thought are crimes. Pairs well with modern American politics…

Imzadi, Peter David. One of my all time favorite Trek novels ever OMG. Riker and Troi’s entire back story, and you know I love me a good back story! Plus, Peter David is considered one of the greats of Trek authors. His novels are universally funny, action packed, and always amazing. 

The Death of Princes, John Peel. I’m also a sucker for books about diseases and plagues. This is disease and violations of the Prime Directive all in one book.

Double Helix six-book miniseries, John Gregory Betancourt, Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Diane Carey, John Vorholt, Peter David, and Michael Jan Friedman & Christie Golden. This miniseries that incorporates back stories AND disease things rings all my bells!

Section 31: Rogue, Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin. Even Starfleet has its dark underbelly.

Articles of the Federation, Keith R.A. DeCandido. A novel that highlights the politics and administration of the Federation.

Destiny trilogy, David Mack. HOLY SHIT, THE BORG AND GENOCIDAL RAGE AND JUST FUCKING READ IT!

The Sky’s the Limit anthology, ed. by Marco Palmieri. Fantastic short story collection set during the years of TNG.

DEEP SPACE NINE

Fallen Heroes, Daffyd ab Hugh. The first DS9 novel I ever read. It was action packed and sad and made me fall in love with the characters. This made me a DS9 fan every bit as much as the show itself.

The Lives of Dax, ed. Marco Palmieri. I may have mentioned I’m a big fan of back stories? Yeah, this gives you ALL the back stories of Dax! What’s not to love?

A Stitch in Time, Andrew J. Robinson. Elim Garak. That is all I needed to know. 

Section 31: Disavowed, David Mack. More with the seedy underside of Starfleet, plus Julian Bashir. 

VOYAGER

Pathways and Mosaic, Jeri Taylor. Back stories! Pathways tells the stories of all of the Voyager crew, and Mosaic tells Captain Janeway’s story specifically. 

Seven of Nine, Christie Golden. More back story, this time on the Borg drone who Capt. Janeway liberated from the Collective and who has since become one of my very favorite characters.

Death of a Neutron Star, Eric Kotani. I liked this book because it is written by a real scientist. Eric Kotani is the pseudonym for Yoji Kando, a Japanese astrophysicist.

Distant Shores, ed. Marco Palmieri. A delightful collection of short stories set on the voyage home.

ENTERPRISE

Surak’s Soul, JM Dillard. I dig the Vulcans, their logic, and their stoicism, so any book about a Vulcan having an ethical or existential crisis really lights my fire.

ANTHOLOGIES AND CROSSOVERS

Tales from the Captain’s Table anthology, ed. by Keith R.A. DeCandido. Every star system has a bar called The Captain’s Table, where the first round is paid for with a story…

Tales of the Dominion War, Keith R.A. DeCandido. A short story collection that tells the tales of the various ways in which the Dominion War impacted all the characters we’ve come to know and love, and a few we can’t stand but want to know about anyway.

Strange New Worlds volumes 1-10, plus the new one coming out for the 50th anniversary this year. These are great because fans get to write fanfiction and get published, for reals, and it’s so rad. Also, yours truly was selected to be included in the anthology for the 50th anniversary, so naturally I think that one is awesome!

Federation, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Technically this is listed as a TNG novel, but it has Kirk and Zephram Cochrane and Picard all in one book, so I’m counting it as a crossover. And it’s everything the movie Generations should have been.

 

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