I almost put this on my list of 5 Favorite Book Series’. Let’s call this #6. William Shatner has written 10 fiction books about Star Trek, all starring his character James T. Kirk. Well, I should say he “co-wrote” the novels, along with the husband and wife writing duo Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Obviously, I have no inside knowledge of how the writing process worked here, but something tells me the Reeves-Stevens’, who are accomplished novelists in their own right, did the lion’s share of the writing, with Shatner slapping his name on the cover. I know some folks object to this practice, but I’m sure the Reeves-Stevens were well-compensated for their work, and Shatner’s name undoubtedly increases the sales of these books (I know that’s why I bought them), and therefor they probably get bigger royalty checks from these than they probably do for their own novels. So it’s win-win for everyone.
Anyway, this series was unofficially dubbed the “Shatnerverse” by fans because they differ from the rest of Paramount’s line of original Star Trek novels, which follow the adventures of the various characters past the time of the tv shows and movies, all of which inhabit a shared universe of continuity. The events in the Shatner books, some of which are pretty major (such as a Federation-wide plague) are not referred to in the other Trek novels, although Shatner originally made an effort to make his stories fit within the continuity of the films and TV shows. The first novel he wrote is THE ASHES OF EDEN. That takes place in between the films THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY and GENERATIONS, showing an adventure Kirk has after his retirement from Starfleet. That is the only book that I have not yet read, so I cannot comment on it. But where the series really pics up is with the 2nd novel, THE RETURN.
What I love most about this book is that it reverses Kirk’s ridiculous death in GENERATIONS, and gives us the Kirk/Picard team-up that we really wanted. Kirk gets resurrected by The Borg, who have formed an alliance with The Romulans (which, admittedly, kind of goes against the very nature of The Borg, but I’m willing to overlook that for the sake of this story), and want to try to use Kirk to destroy, and then assimilate, the Federation. I like this book because we get to see Kirk interacting with the entire TNG crew, as well as Spock and even Dr. McCoy (who is around 140 years old, but still alive, thanks to multiple artificial organs). There’s a great scene where Kirk and The TNG crew board a new starship which has been temporarily dubbed The Enterprise (because the true Enterprise was still in the process of being rebuilt, after its destruction in GENERATIONS), and when they try to decide who should sit in the Captain’s chair, both Kirk and Picard keep motioning to the other to take the seat, but neither can make up their mind, so they let Spock take command with Kirk and Picard seating on each side next to him. The crew travels to what it believed to be The Borg Homeworld, and Kirk gets a more heroic death. If this had been a film, it would have been a much more fitting ending to the story of Kirk than Generations was.
Except it wasn’t quite an ending. Kirk survives and is brought back in the next book, AVENGER to deal with the aforementioned plague, and help Spock investigate the apparent murder of his father, Sarek. The series then continues, with Kirk having further adventures in the 24th century alongside, and occasionally against, Picard and the TNG crew (along with appearances from various characters from VOYAGER and DEEP SPACE 9), in a pair of trilogies. SPECTRE, DARK VICTORY, & PRESERVER deal with an attempted invasion from the Star Trek Mirror Universe, with an evil James Kirk (dubbed Emperor Tiberius) in command. Then the final trilogy has Kirk and Picard attempting to solve a Galactic mystery which threatens the Federation, which is currently weakened in the wake of the Dominion War, in CAPTAIN’S PERIL, CAPTAIN’S BLOOD, & CAPTAIN’S GLORY.
I’d say the final trilogy was the weakest, I guess the concept begun to lose it’s steam by then, which is likely why they did not continue this series further into the future. However, it ended on a fine note. Kirk, now a civilian, continues to explore the universe in his own starship, the USS Belle Reve, along with his friends Spock, McCoy, and Montgomery Scott (whom had also been revived in the 24th century in the TNG episode RELICS). And that’s that. I like that has an idea. This way, Kirk’s story never really ends, he’s still having adventures in space, out there. As it should be.
Some folks have complained that Shatner makes Kirk a bit of a “Marty Sue” in these books, as Kirk is basically better than everyone, and always a step ahead of the rest of the characters. I can’t really argue with that, but I think that’s what makes these books fun. Despite having enjoyed Star Trek on TV and Film for most of my life, these were the first set of Star Trek novels I’d ever read, and it sparked my interest in the line. Since then I have read several other Star Trek novels, set in the main continuity.
Shatner and the Reeves-Stevens’ did follow up their first series with a novel set in the beginning of Kirk’s career. Collision Course.
This tells the story of Kirk and Spock’s first meeting as teenage cadets in Starfleet Academy. This also doesn’t quite match up with previously established Star Trek continuity, and is also of course eliminated by the new continuity of the JJ Abrams movie, but I think it works well as a standalone novel, albeit with some strange choices (Kirk keeps referring to Spock by the nickname “Stretch,” for some reason). The book ends with a notice that there will be a follow-up novel called Trial Run, but there has been no news about that in the years since, and according to Shatner, Paramount isn’t interested in it, which I think is a shame. I’d love to read more.
Overall, I recommend these books to any fan of Star Trek, but especially fans of the original series.