This is a totally valid question, in the face of a lot of excellent literature, even on the sci-fi genre. Or take the classics, what could be better?
First, undoubtedly Trek fiction is not the very best of fiction, … some are barely passable of just readable literature. Very few have been bestsellers or been award nominees.
Even so, they do sell well, and on any reasonably sized book shop there is a complete section just for the Star Trek books and novels.
Why is this so appealing? I personally feel that one of the big attractions is easy to digest science fiction, with well-rounded, lovable characters which we already know well, and all the “rules”, locations, enemies, etc., are also well known, so you can jump right in into the story without having to waste a lot of time in character building and universe exposition. You already know how all the gadgets work, that they have phasers, how they beam from one place to another using the transporter, and even how the ship operates using anti-matter channeled through dilithium crystals!
But I’m guessing people want to get right away to strange science fiction conundrums, time travel paradoxes, strange alien customs and their repercussions, and all the mind-altering stuff that science fiction is known for.
What I think the biggest appeal of the novels, is that it’s expanding the known Trek universe, defining what happened between events you already knew happened. IT gives continuity between the big events, or explores the impact of those events.
The Trek universe has been expanded greatly by the other TV spin-offs, going first 100 years into the future with TNG, and then continuing with the other series. Or 100 years back, into the first voyages with “Enterprise”. So we have at about 300 years of known history on which to play! And even then, we still have a back story, with the Eugenics wars, and the nuclear holocaust of World War III…
Roddenberry had a lot of vision of giving back story to Star Trek. Even on the FIRST pilot, the Enterprise crew were just recovering from a hostile encounter on Rigel VII, which was later expanded and fleshed out in a Comic. World War III was first referenced in “The Savage Curtain” and later shown in TNG and ENT episodes. It’s fascinating to watch how they intertwine all these events into a believable cosmos.
Diving into the novels is a great way to explore what more was added, and how it all works together.
I’m still reading into the first novels, but it’s really nice to see how the mythology is expanding, and how characters and events are added. Well, of course a lot of aliens and planets are introduced just one time and then forgotten, but still some writers are very savvy to integrate the better known into a immersive, multi-faceted quilt.
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