I’ve enjoyed playing the role of a well-read man over the past year. Perhaps “role” isn’t the right word. I really do like reading books that have had a broader influence on people and events throughout history. One quick look at my Goodreads account (please visit my page and sign up as my Goodreads friend) shows that I’ve been blessed to experience hundreds of choice writings, many of them easily placed in the “classics” category.
And yet there are other books that, frankly, I am hesitant to put on my public list of read works. These are Star Trek books. Yes, I read Star Trek books. There, I said it.
These novels, typically just a few hundred small pages, are based on the characters and events found in the Star Trek universe. It’s not that I’m a Trekkie. As of this writing, I doubt I’ve seen more than about a third of the episodes in the original series from the 1960s. But I’ve watched enough of the movies and of the episodes in each of the franchise’s series to have a general understanding of the characters, the storylines, and the underlying themes they present.
I read Star Trek books because, to be blunt, they’re easy. It’s like picking up one of the old picture books I used to read to my son when he was four years old. The characters are clearly defined, simple to understand, and I always know what to expect from them. At some point, Kirk will beat up an alien just before McCoy pronounces him “dead, Jim.” Riker will make some funny off-handed comment that Geordi will need to explain to Data. Neelix will mosey up to the bridge and eventually do something that will cause emotionless Tuvok to contemplate first-degree murder.
Clearly these are not deep books—or are they? Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the first series was as a medium to deal with complex human concerns: racism, war, imperialism, sexism, power, money, and other topics of general concern to non-aliens. Some of the books are little more than theater for the mind. But many of the authors followed in the Star Trek creator’s footsteps and imbued their works with human (?) drama and cultural controversies that parallel those found in any eighteenth century literary masterpiece.
I would never compare the books to some play by Shakespeare, and yet I enjoy them. I read a lot of heavy, non-fiction works, some for my job, some for self-enrichment. But there are only so many life lessons you can pack into your brain in one day before you need to escape from reality. For me, the somewhat superficial, mildly entertaining, and periodically thought-provoking episodes found in Star Trek novels give me the literary breather I need from time to time.