Star Trek: Troublesome Minds
Last spring I wrote a very positive review of the latest Star Trek: Phase Two episode, Enemy: Starfleet!, which was written by Dave Galanter. (If there are any Star Trek fans reading this who have not yet watched this awesome completely fan-made episode, you should do so immediately!) After reading the review, Mr. Galanter was kind enough to drop me a line. In the course of our e-mail exchange, he asked if I had read his latest Star Trek novel: Troublesome Minds. I admitted that I had not. Though I’d purchased it about a year ago, I kept putting aside this stand-alone adventure, set during the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D)’s original five-year mission, in favor of the Trek novels that were pushing the Star Trek story forward with adventures set following the events of the 24th century-set movies and TV shows.
But after that e-mail exchange, I decided that I should really find the time to give Troublesome Minds a read. I’m really glad I did, because it’s a ripping Star Trek yarn and a really great novel.
In his e-mails to me, Mr. Galanter described Troublesome Minds as the Star Trek episode he’d always wanted to write. That’s a great description of the novel. I could totally see it as an episode. (And damn, would it make a GREAT Phase Two episode! Are you listening, Phase Two folks??) The story is a completely stand-alone adventure, unburdened by any involvement with long-running story-lines. It requires no detailed knowledge of other Star Trek novels or adventures. It’s just a fun, fast-paced piece of speculative fiction, with some great sci-fi concepts, tough moral dilemmas for Kirk & co., and some tense action. As I said, it would have made a terrific episode!
Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise respond to a distress call and rescue the life of an alien named Berlis, whose ship was about to be destroyed. This simple act of kindness turns incredibly complicated, however, when it is discovered that Berlis belongs to a race of powerful telepaths known as the Isitri. Every several generations, an Isitri emerges whose telepathy is so powerful that, without intending to do so, he/she can control the minds of every other Isitri he/she comes in contact with, thus mentally enslaving an entire race until that Troublesome Mind dies or is killed. Berlis is just such a mind. Will Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew follow the wishes of the Isitri ruling council, and murder the man they just saved? Or will they allow him to return home, and thus enslave an entire planet for a generation?
It’s a wonderfully inventive, thorny sci-fi dilemma that Mr. Galanter has crafted, and it forms a compelling central concept for the novel. In writing, recently, about the Planet of the Apes film series, I commented that the original Planet of the Apes, like the best sci-fi and speculative fiction, was about something. Something more than just outer-space adventure. The best sci-fi tackles powerful real-world issues and problems, but it wraps those situations up in colorful garb, thus allowing one to address those issues more directly, often, than a straight drama could. No sci-fi series ever did this better, I would argue, than the original Star Trek. At its best, Star Trek always wrestled with difficult issues and aspects of the human condition, all while telling an engaging outer-space adventure. Troublesome Minds continues this tradition well.
The characterizations of all the characters are spot-on, and I enjoyed the novel’s focus on the key triumvirate of Kirk/Spock/McCoy. Reading the novel, I had no trouble imagining the voices of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and all the others speaking the lines I was reading. This is someplace where Trek novels can sometimes fall short, but Mr. Galanter wrote in all the actors’ voices very well.
Troublesome Minds is a quick, engaging read. It’s a pretty short novel, but there’s a lot of story packed in. I sometimes skip these stand-alone adventures (thinking that I have seen and read plenty of Star Trek stories set during the original five year mission), but I’m so glad I didn’t. Don’t miss this one.
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek — Unspoken Truth
Star Trek: Voyager — Full Circle