Blish, James

About the Author:

James Blish lived in Oxfordshire, England.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3 out of 5

(2 books)

Star Trek 5

Rather than being an adaption of the distinctly lacklustre 'Star Trek V: The Final Frontier', this is actually Blish' fifth book adapting episodes from the original 1960s TV show, presented as a series of short stories.  In this book Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise encounter an insane shapeshifting megalomaniac, a rift in space and time, mysterious colonies and, bizarrely, space hippies.

Although this series of books have been criticised by many for featuring condensed versions of the TV episodes, I personally rather liked that.  The truth is that the original adventures of Kirk and company are very dated now (I can hear Trekkies gasping in horror at such blasphemy) and what Blish has done here is pare the stories down to their core elements so that very little of that dated feel seeps through.  However, at the same time he has fully featured the real-world issues that informed the original writers.

For me it was the commentary on the times these stories were created that makes for their most compelling element.  Science fiction has long been used to hold a mirror up to the world and here we see issues addressed such as women's liberation, the futility of ethnic conflict and, most interestingly, an examination of how the hippies of the 1960s, whilst well-intentioned, were largely misguided.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and well-written bit of nostalgia for the TV show I loved as a kid.

4 out of 5

 

Star Trek 9

The ninth book adapting episodes of the original series of Star Trek sees Kirk, Spock, McCoy and company engage in six adventures ranging from body-swapping with ancient aliens to doing battle with a gigantic space amoeba.

Unlike book five, the only other one of these books that I've read so far, the episodes adapted in this book don't have the Enterprise crew facing futuristic metaphors for the real-world issues of the time.  For me this was a disappointment and tipped this book's balance away from 'classic science fiction' towards 'mere merchandising'.  On top of that, none of the stories featured in this book are ones which can be called classics of the series itself.  Book five had the likes of 'The Tholian Web', but there's nothing so iconic here.

Its not that these stories are bad, in fact the one where an AI takes control of the Enterprise and goes on a rampage was very good.  But unfortunately there's just not enough of the good stuff to successfully conceal the natural flaws in the original Star Trek (once more, Trekkies gasp in horror).  In fact, because the narrative was so weak here, it left me time to muse on just how awful a group of people the main characters are.  Spock is deliberately antagonistic, McCoy is completely irrational, Scotty argues with every instruction he's given and Kirk's command style is so erratic and impulsive that he shouldn't be in charge of a rowboat, let alone a starship.

2 out of 5

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Star Trek (here)