Spock Must Die! – James Blish

You don’t get many book titles that feel the necessity for an exclamation point. I find it rather adorable.

Why I read this probably requires a bit of an explanation. I borrowed (read: was strongly encouraged to borrow and binge) all of Babylon 5 from a friend, and when I found myself rather enjoying it, the same friend decided that I definitely needed the accompanying novelisations in my life. Up until now, I have never quite worked up the nerve to get into novelisations. It feels like another step up the ladder of nerdery. Eventually, though, he convinced me, and I agreed to read them on one condition – I would read a Trek novelisation first (because B5 is great and all, but it’s not Trek). Thus, after careful consideration (read: asking Facebook), Spock Must Die! was acquired. I regret nothing.

Let’s be honest, this was going to have to be utterly abominable for me to do anything but sit here, gently squeeing, once I’d finished it. I am far too keen on Trek, especially TOS and TNG, to be able to hate anything that is associated with it (“Into Darkness” you say? As far as I’m concerned, that’s not Trek… it’s a cheesy action film that coincidentally has the same character names and a superficial resemblance to Star Trek, but it’s not actually a Star Trek film. Hush.). And since it wasn’t utterly abominable, here we are. It’s clearly designed to be a similar amount of story to an original series episode, so the book itself is only teeny tiny – 118 hand-height pages – but it packs everything in much like an episode would, so you don’t really notice. It paces much like a tv episode too, heavy on the action and light on the description, keeping things moving along (but without going too quickly so you have to flick back and go “whuh?”). If anything, it’s a bit too much like a tv episode, in that I got a lot of hints of Mirror, Mirror as I was reading, but I honestly don’t really care.

Only real complaint, I suppose, is that some of Spock’s stuff didn’t really feel Spock-appropriate. Spoilers: there’s an evil Spock-clone (it’s on the cover art, so not actually a spoiler), and he must die, but they can’t tell which one is which dun dun duuuuuuhhhh. But for this to work, Blish had to contrive it so both Spocks’ behaviour was a bit ambiguous… which leads to a point of Spock behaving in a way that could be construed as evil. Which isn’t really very Spock. The only other way Blish could really have played it though would have relied on other characters being idiots (more so than usual, I mean) and maybe the reader being in on it, which I don’t think would have worked. The fun was in trying to figure out for ourselves which Spock was which and what was going on, and it really was quite fun (even though I was wrong about the answer).

That being said, I’m not really going to be praising it as great literature. It was, indeed, fun… but not much more than that. If it hadn’t been a Trek tie-in, I wouldn’t have been excited by it, and would mark it as a solid “meh”. As it is, the fact that it ties into Trek pretty well (leaving aside the abominable Scottish dialect Blish writes for poor Scottie) is what sells it to me, and its merits are simply sufficient to prevent that from being overshadowed. On the other hand, I really like Trek… so I’ll probably read more novelisations of it. I am easily pleased.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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