Other Stuff Exists

Don't get too comfortable with the familiar–other stuff exists, so go explore!

Star Trek 2 by James Blish

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 21, 2014


James Blish’s novelizations of Star Trek episodes continue in Star Trek 2, published in February 1968. This volume includes novelizations of “Arena”, “A Taste of Armageddon”, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, “Errand of Mercy”, “Court Martial”, “Operation–Annihilate!”, “The City on the Edge of Forever”, and “Space Seed”.

Each short story is typically quite similar to the episode being adapted, though there are some differences. Notably, the ending of “Operation–Annihilate!” is very different. In the episode, they expose Spock to a massive blast of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, and believe that they have blinded him. Upon discovering that the visible light was unnecessary, they regret that they have needlessly blinded him. In the end, though, he recovers, and they save the planet using the same procedure, on a larger scale.

In the short story, the Enterprise instead seeks out the central concentration of the mind-controlling creatures and destroys it with missiles, which leaves the creatures directionless and easily dealt with.

I like the writing in this volume better than that in its predecessor, though I couldn’t point at a definite reason why. It still suffers from the problem that the episodes on which the stories are based relied heavily on the visual element, and so are somewhat lacking as short stories. They don’t generally have any big ideas behind them, and if they do they don’t explore them very thoroughly.

I do think that some of the stories here have merit. Not much can be done for “Arena” or “Court Martial”, but I can certainly see “A Taste of Armageddon” being worked into something more substantial and interesting, and of course that has already been done for “Space Seed” in Greg Cox’s Eugenics Wars series, not to mention Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Not to be too negative, I did have a pleasant surprise when reading “Tomorrow is Yesterday”. After their time-traveling adventure, Spock comments, “And so we have revised Omar.” Upon Kirk’s request for clarification, he specifies that he means “the verse about the moving finger.” This refers to The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, as translated by Edward FitzGerald:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

I’ve only just read the Rubáiyát about a year ago (highly recommended, incidentally), so seeing this reference by Spock is a treat. Sadly, I don’t recall him being quite so literary in the episode.

Given its general improvement over its predecessor, I can recommend Star Trek 2 to fans looking for a quick read, or another perspective on the episodes, and the new ending to “Operation–Annihilate!” and the incorporation of content from Heinlein’s original script in “The City on the Edge of Forever” provide a little added value.

6 Responses to “Star Trek 2 by James Blish”

  1. Trula Christine said

    I just discovered that there’s Star Trek novels out there. I’m pretty excited to get into them. Thanks for the post.

  2. Trula Christine said

    By chance do you know where I can find a list of all the Star Trek novels in order? It’s kind of confusing because there’s different authors and such… But which ones came first?

    • Tracy Poff said

      This is exactly something I’ve been trying to find. There are a few different answers:

      First, Wikipedia has what seems to be a pretty complete listing of the novels here. They’re separated by publisher and series, but it’s a good first resource. There’s a similar listing on Memory Alpha.

      Second, the ISFDB has a big list here. It even includes nonfiction titles, which is great, but it’s separated by series in a way that makes it impossible to see the publication order in general.

      Third, LibraryThing has a big list that includes comics and things, sorted by publication date.

      Fourth, there’s a nifty chart showing a reading order for the recent stuff–handy, if you’re not interested in starting at the beginning, as I am.

      Fifth, and I blush to write it, I’m making out my own list here as a reading plan–it’ll be ordered by publication date and grouped by type (novels and such in one group, nonfiction in another, some ancillary materials in a third), but I’m only through about 1976 right now.

      Finally, I can advise you that before the last decade or so, all of the novels were standalone, so you can feel free to read them in any order you please. Jump right in if you see something interesting!

  3. […] « Star Trek 2 by James Blish […]

  4. […] keeping track (just me, I’m sure), this book’s proper place is between Blish’s Star Trek 2 and Star Trek […]

  5. […] Star Trek 2 by James Blish (Amazon) […]

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