Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: Star Trek 12

Book Review: 'Star Trek 12' by James Blish and J. A. Lawrence

2 / 5 Stars

‘Star Trek 12’ (177 pp) was published by Bantam Books in November 1977; the cover artist is uncredited.

In the book’s Forward, Judith Lawrence, James Blish’s wife, notes that Blish died (of lung cancer) on July 30, 1975. At that time Star Trek 12 was almost complete; Bantam Books agreed to let Lawrence write two of the remaining entries in the book, ‘And the Children Shall Lead’, and ‘Shore Leave’.

Along with those two stories, the other stories in Star Trek 12 include ‘Patterns of Force’, ‘The Gamesters of Triskelion’, and ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’.

Back in the mid-70s when I was in junior high school, I treasured collecting each and every volume of the Blish Star Trek novelizations….but by the time ‘12’ was published, the whole exercise had begun to pall. The limitations inherent in writing stories based on teleplays for a TV series that had first aired in 1967 was becoming fast apparent, as was the realization that James Blish simply wasn’t a very good writer.

This is manifest in the stories in ‘12’ that Blish wrote. Because they are of a longer length than those featured in previous volumes (Bantam, having realized that books for Trekkies were a financial gold mine, was determined to milk as many additional volumes as they could from the original scripts), Blish was obligated to add filler passages….these are written in a stilted, awkward manner, and usually represent internal monologues on Captain Kirk’s part. Even making allowance for the fact that Blish was in poor health at the time, his handling of these stories is unimpressive.

If you are at all familiar with the five episodes represented here, you’ll quickly find that whatever drama or suspense is inherent in the original teleplays is quickly drained away by Blish’s lumbering prose style.

To her credit, Lawrence (b. 1940), who originally was a cover artist for sf books prior to becoming a writer, does a better job with her two contributions.

Summing up, any effort by any Baby Boomer to find much enjoyment in reading Star Trek 12 is probably going to lead to disappointment, however eager the Boomers may be to find nostalgia via immersion in the Good Old Days of the franchise. The talky, static nature of the teleplays -which, to be fair, was really all that could be done with a sf show filmed in the mid-60s -  simply doesn't make for engaging prose stories.

1 comment:

knobgobbler said...

I was drawn in by that cool-ish retro cover... "Hey, I'd read that!"... but then, nope, sounds blah and I've not much interest in reading the old shows when they're readily avalable to watch (not the case when this was written).
It has me wandering now, what would I want to read if I wanted more of that wilder/weirder 60's Trek feel... with or without the Star Trek title on it?