If there’s been one constant in Star Trek’s 56-year history, it’s been the franchise’s presence on fans’ bookshelves. The first series of novels came from James Blish as he adapted certain episodes from The Original Series, and those books opened the floodgates for dozens of authors to inscribe hundreds of Star Trek stories on the printed page. A few are just fine, most are good, and some are excellent – but which are which?
For fans who want to explore the massive catalogue of Star Trek novels, here are five stories that you should definitely seek out at some point in your exploration of the wonderful Star Trek novel universe.
Star Trek: Discovery: Dead Endless – Dave Galanter, 2019
This first pick is one of the more recent Star Trek novels, based on Star Trek: Discovery, that spotlights the relationship between Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, played by Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz in the show, respectively. As his last book, the late Dave Galanter certainly delivers a quintessential Star Trek story – one that perfectly encapsulates the Star Trek ethos.
The adventures of the Discovery amid the mycelial network produces some fascinating science-based storytelling, but the real spirit of this book comes from the connection shared between two star-crossed lovers. The aforementioned men are coupled within the metaphysical fiber of the universe thanks to their loving connection, but the fact that the Stamets in Dead Endless is an alternate universe version of Culber’s real partner makes this connection much more complicated. Galanter ensures readers will chuckle in awe of a smart, unexpected plot twist, smile at a clever or funny line of dialogue, or become misty eyed thanks to the author’s incredible description of love that defies space and time.
Star Trek: Coda: Book III – Oblivion’s Gate – David Mack, 2021
This book is one of the most recent entries in the Star Trek literary universe; in fact, in one sense, it’s the final one. Yes, you should probably read the first two entries in this amazing trilogy — Moments Asunder and The Ashes of Tomorrow — first, but the third book is extra special. Oblivion’s Gate serves as the final word in the long-running so-called Star Trek “novel-verse,” or “lit-verse,” the collection of non-canonical books by numerous authors since 2005 that deeply expand the adventures of familiar and new characters in the Star Trek universe. Therefore, Oblivion’s Gate is a herculean effort by Mack, as it is the final book in a series that is designed by its authors to shut the door on well-loved characters and their adventures. By itself, that’s a good reason to pick this one up.
But Mack steps up to the plate in an unexpectedly powerful way. He clearly deeply cares about the novel universe he and other authors have inhabited for so many years. Oblivion’s Gate sees Captain Picard and his allies stop an existential threat by the Devidians – even when that means destroying the universe they inhabit. Think about those stakes! Mack weaves a deeply emotional tale that adroitly balances intergalactic stakes amid interpersonal ramifications. For example, how does Captain Picard, a man who has fostered a loving family throughout multiple novel-verse books, have the courage to end their existence in service of a greater goal? And what exactly is that greater goal? You’ll have to read to find out.
Star Trek: Federation – Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1994
Released in 1994, this is one of the oldest books on this list, but pay that no mind. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens are legendary Star Trek novelists, producing some of the best fiction in this franchise. Federation features a centuries-spanning storyline that unites two of Starfleet’s most famous captains. The Reeves-Stevens duo tie together multiple canonical entries in the Star Trek universe, including a vital The Original Series episode, to craft a story that showcases their intricate knowledge of Star Trek lore using their densely detailed but highly readable writing style.
Readers will journey with Captains Kirk and Picard as a time and mind-bending mystery unfolds in a fashion that will keep readers blazing through the pages, only to find themselves at a remarkable ending that challenges their conception of what’s possible within the Star Trek universe. If that doesn’t sound like a fantastic book, what does?
Star Trek: New Frontier: House of Cards – Peter David, 1997
Peter David is a legendary author to Star Trek fans, and for good reason. He’s written 48 works of Star Trek fiction, the most prolific of which is the New Frontier series. This collection of novellas and story stories stand as fascinating additions to Star Trek lore, as the cover of the first New Frontier book promises, “A new ship, a new crew, a new mission!” Yes, most of the main players in this story are either new characters, ones that were only briefly introduced in Star Trek canon, or returning popular characters who help launch this new series.
In the spotlight is Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, the charming and roguish leader of the U.S.S. Excalibur. Thanks to David’s well-developed characterization of Captain Calhoun, he can confidently stand along franchise mainstays like Picard and Kirk just fine. What’s more, his crew bring their own wit, charm, and mystery to this short adventure that serves as the introduction to an entire literary franchise. House of Cards reached the top 10 of the New York Times best seller list in 1997, a testament to the grand new adventures David created with a mostly new crew. If you want to branch beyond the literary adventures of Picard, Kirk, and other franchise favorites, New Frontier is the place to do it.
Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars: Book One – Greg Cox, 2001
This list of novels was created before the recent episode of Star Trek: Picard featured the same kind of supervisors that permeate The Eugenics Wars trilogy, so it's a neat coincidence!
Cox, who scribes all three books in The Eugenics Wars trilogy, hooks readers immediately with the lengthy but fascinating inaugural entry in this series. The Eugenics Wars feels at once like an expertly told Star Trek story and a history lesson, a seemingly dichotomous feat for a science fiction novel. Cox chronicles the rise – and fall – of the infamous Star Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh during the 20th century and uses numerous real-world historical events to frame Khan’s tale.
Cox leans so much into history that he feels compelled to provide readers with a thorough afterward section that explains every little historical detail used in the book. His expert use of history to build a grand science fiction story is the main reason why readers shouldn’t sleep on this intelligent, thoughtful, and intriguing book – but beyond that, Khan’s story, even if it’s not strictly canonical, really helps add complexity to the character we see on screen.
Kyle Hadyniak (he/him) is a life-long Star Trek fan who lives in Gray, Maine. He is assistant editor for TrekNews.net, and can usually be found reading, playing video games, or arguing why The Final Frontier and Nemesis are the best Star Trek movies. You can find him on Twitter at @KHADY93
Star Trek: Discovery currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. Internationally, the series is available on Paramount+ in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics, and on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by Paramount Global Distribution Group.