Book Report: Star Trek by James Blish (1967)

Book coverI mentioned that I might pick this book up after discovering that Firefly: Still Flying as that book was not a collection of short stories (and I need a collection of short stories for the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge). So I could not find the Leah Holbrooke Sackett book I bought in Old Trees last summer, I actually did pick read this book.

As you might know, gentle reader, the original Star Trek series aired for only three seasons in the late 1960s, but it developed quite a following. After its cancellation, the IP owners had James Blish write the episodes as short stories collected in, what, a dozen paperbacks (The Star Trek cartoon was likewise written up in Star Trek Log books by Alan Dean Foster). Fans had to get by on these books, the early novels, and on the syndicated shows for what seemed like a long time, but it was really only a decade until Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, and Star Trek: The Next Generation a couple years later. So it really wasn’t that long, but it seemed longer, most likely because it was, at least for me, the long, long years of youth.

At any rate, this book contains:

  • “Charlie’s Law” which is The Twilight Zone‘s “It’s a Good Life” in space. The crew finds the only survivor of a disaster at an outpost, and he has survived somehow from a very young age in an inhospitable environment and has developed great mental powers.
  • “Dagger of the Mind” which is the one where the Enterprise crew goes to a penal colony and discovers that the leader is doing some unauthorized experiments on the patients designed to make them more docile.
  • “The Unreal McCoy” which is the one with the salt-sucking monster.
  • “Balance of Terror” which is the one that introduces the Klingons and their cloaking device for their Birds of Prey warships.
  • “The Naked Time” which is the one where the Enterprise picks up a contagion where everyone acts like their fantasies. C’mon, man, the one with Sulu swashbuckling.
  • “Miri” which is the one where the Enterprise goes to the planet where only the children are left because once they hit puberty, they begin aging rapidly, and the away team (although I don’t think they were called such until TNG) has to find a cure before they succomb.
  • “The Conscience of the King” which is the one where a member of a touring theatre troupe might be a presumed dead brutal dictator.

I say “which is the one where” because if you’ve read this far, you’re probably a science fiction fan of a certain age, and you’ll recognize some of the episodes.

The book is a very quick read; it’s only 136 pages, and the stories are basically scripts put into paragraphs with a little dash of flavor to them.

Strangely enough, though, Blish must have been working with early scripts or didn’t read much outside of the scripts, as he calls Spock a Vulcanian throughout and once mentions the Enterprise landing on a planet (although that might have been a typo, or he meant one of the shuttlecraft).

But, still.

I read a bunch of these a long, long time ago in a trailer park far, far away–I think I got the paperbacks from the volunteer-run Community Library–and I have picked up a number of the books (1-8 and 11) in recent years. I also have a number of the Alan Dean Foster books as well, and I think they’re all grouped in the stacks here at Nogglestead. I think I’ll dip into them as I run out of Executioner novels for those in-between-other-book books. They’re fast, and they’re enjoyable, and they’re a bit of a nostalgia blast for me. And they’re likely to make me buy original Star Trek episodes on videocassette when I next come across them.

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