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Book Review: Star Trek TOS: Troublesome Minds by David Galanter

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After recently watching the new Star Trek movie – TWICE! – I wasn’t surprised to find myself wanting to relive some childhood days with some Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) goodness. However, that seems to be in short supply these days. But I found the new Star Trek TOS novel, Troublesome Minds, in my local bookstore and picked it up as an impulse buy.

Over the last couple dozen years, I’ve read several of the tie-ins, but few of them, although often well-written, seemed to catch the characters of Captain James T. Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy as I was convinced they were to be portrayed. The mix never seemed to be really right, and after the movies came out, everyone seemed determined to write prequels or sequels to them in film.

I honestly missed the feeling of the original five-year mission episodes, where everything seemed new and the crew was still learning a lot and hadn’t seen it all. Troublesome Minds really hit the spot because not only did the author David Galanter really nail the three main characters, but he also introduced a radical concept regarding telepathic societies that I hadn’t considered.

Star Trek, the television show as well as the novels, is always at its best when it seeks to shed some light on the human condition and play fairly with the conceits all the way around through the crew. The decisions people make aren’t easy, and they aren’t easy in this novel.

Galanter opens the novel up with some great action, employing Kirk in the captain’s chair acting to save a doomed ship. As soon as he succeeds in his efforts, he’s rewarded by being attacked by the world he’s come to meet. As a diplomatic mission to introduce the emerging space race to the Federation, he becomes an immediate failure.

In short order, Kirk and the Enterprise crew learn about the danger the Isitri (the dominate civilization on the planet) seek to avoid. One of the men aboard the doomed ship is Berlis, what they call a “troublesome mind.” I loved the concept of one mind being strong enough to take over an entire telepathic world. I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to know the secrets of everyone on a planet, or about how easily that kind of society might be able to be subjugated.

(Okay, maybe there was a message in there about advertising and people looking for infallible leaders, for those readers seeking such things, but I chose to look at the plot problems and remain firmly entrenched in the entertainment side of things.)

The author does a wonderful job of pushing the pyramid of major characters (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy) into various confrontations that stem from their personalities and the situations they get into. I loved the dialogue and the emotional arcs that took place within the framework.

In addition to the spot-on characterization, Galanter succeeds in amping up the risk and threat thresholds. The taut, tightly-written scenes are short and direct, and beg the reader to turn the pages quickly, which I did. I figured most of the plot out as I went along, but that just made the read more enjoyable. There are twists and turns aplenty, and enough new thinking thrown at you to keep you guessing.

As it turns out, Galanter has written other Star Trek books, but I hope he gets the chance to write another TOS book. I’m going to look for his others, but I’m going to cross my fingers that he gets to pen another early adventure of the Enterprise’s first five-year mission.

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