Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So, there's a new Star Trek movie

And Alan Dean Foster wrote the novelization. Foster's an old hand at this; back in the '70s, he wrote the Star Trek Logs, which adapted and expanded the animated series episodes. He's also written a lot of other high profile novelizations, including Star Wars, as well as a lot of original SF and fantasy novels.

So you'd expect this to be a pretty good book, right? Well, not so much. It suffers from two very obvious problems.

First, this movie was written to be a flashy action blockbuster, and as much as I liked the movie, the story is carried by the cast and the way the film never stops moving. You don't get much time to realize that half of it doesn't make much sense. But it does the job it was meant to do: it makes Star Trek a name that people are excited about again. The thing is, that doesn't make for a great novelization. When you rely so much on the actors' performances and the special effects, and you try to make the story work without them, you're screwed.

Unless you can do what people who novelize movies have been doing for decades: expand on the story, tidy up the plot holes, make it all make more sense. And here's where the second problem comes in. Foster doesn't do that. I assume it's because he just didn't have the time to do it, though it's possible he was asked by Abrams or Orci or Kurtzman or someone not to. But the time argument works for me because the book is just plain sloppy at times. In one case, an interchange between two characters is repeated, reworded, a couple of pages later. Dialogue is rewritten in ways that lose the punchlines. There are some really odd similes and metaphors.
"She looked helplessly toward the doctor, who, despite the desperate situation that had engulfed the Kelvin, responded to the incoming query with the kind of reserve and calm aspired to by every physician who had ever uttered a healing mantra, picked up a willow branch, and twirled it widdershins over a queasy patient."
W. T. F.? That's not just a clunky run-on sentence, it's one with a really odd image. Real physicians may aspire to reserve and calm, but I don't necessarily associate those qualities with witches practicing spells (who else uses the word widdershins?), nor do I see any useful metaphorical relationship between medicine and spell casting. It might seem appropriate in a fantasy novel aimed at the pagan/wicca crowd, but in a Star Trek novel?

This is a disappointing novel, because it's based on a "you have to see it on the big screen" big dumb fun blockbuster, and because it doesn't do anything more than remind you what you saw on the screen.


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