Star Trek
Strange New Worlds - Volume 9

Authors: Various
Pocket Books
RRP: 8.99, US $16.00, Cdn $22.00
ISBN 1 4165 2048 1
Available 04 September 2006

So, here we are in the glorious fortieth year of Star Trek and to honest I was hoping for some good stuff to be released, so far it's been a bit of a damp squib. A bunch of re-released DVD's, which have already been released on a number of different formats, and books which proudly display "Celebrating Forty Years of Star Trek", even though they would have been released anyway.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is such a creature. Wading in at volume nine it's obvious that the book would have been released regardless of the year. The format follows the previous eight books in that the short stories are all by relatively unknown non-professional writers who have had no more that two short stories previously published. The book is the result of a competition that is run each year, but before you go into the attic and brush the dust off what I'm sure you feel is the best Trek short story ever written by anyone in your household, I must stop you there as the competition is only open to residents of the United States and Canada.

Given that the stories are from relatively untried authors the quality is at times variable and some of the underlying themes and plots just reek of fan worship. Hell, even the Tribbles get three mentions. The book has stories from all five shows as well as a Speculations section where imagination can run a little more riotously around the page.

The book opens with a forward by the editor Dean Wesley Smith and closes with little vignettes of information about each author.

So, what about the stories themselves? Well, as I said, a lot of them come over as banging away at some themes that should have been put out to pasture long ago. We have the ensign who discovers that Data is more than a machine (Home Soil) Scotty saves the day (Terra Tonight) Kirk didn't die (Rocket Man) and not even Sisko is dead he's just resting (Living on the Edge of Existence), which pulls the level of revisionist imagination down to Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower in Dallas.

That is not to say that there are not some nuggets of gold hidden amongst the fan boy fun. Shadowed Allies by Emily Bloch and Book of Fulfilment by Steven Costa both try, with differing success, to play with the expected story structure.

The book contains the three top winning stories. Third prize went to Mestral by Ben Guilfoy which tells the story of a stranded Vulcan helping Zefram Cochrane to survive the holocaust so that he can develop his first warp drive. It's a well written and interesting piece which avoids many of the pitfalls of the weaker stories. Second prize went to Susan McCrackin's Choices with Seven of Nine injured and stranded on an alien planet whose religious tenants denies the development of medicine. Grand prize went to Orphans by R.S. Belcher which pulls together elements of the Dominion war and Danar, a super soldier from The Next Generation - it's most probably the best written short story, but not my favourite. That honour must go to the witty The Last Tree on Ferenginar by Mike Devitt, which was the only story in the collection to make me laugh.

So, not a bad collection, though many are not yet up to professional standards. On the good side, as there are stories from all the shows, there is a little bit of something for everyone.

Charles Packer

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