Friday, October 02, 2009

Star Trek: The Human Frontier

Doesn't look like I ever posted this on the blog. It's an Amazon review from a few years back of the nonfiction book, a critical look at Trek.

An academic critique of the four Star Trek series, this book has three main sections. The first explores the use of the nautical metaphor in Star Trek. The second considers the many ways in which Star Trek has explored the question of what it means to be human. The third part discusses Deep Space Nine and Voyager as post-modern.

Though that may sound a bit dry, the book is well worth reading, and the authors provide a number of insights into Star Trek. Unlike some critics, the Barretts do not overuse academic jargon, nor do they blindly condemn Star Trek as racist, sexist, colonialist, or fascist. Their approach is more nuanced, and the fact that they seem actually to know something about the show may at least partly explain that. When they label the latter Trek series as postmodern, they explain what they mean by modern and postmodern, and why The Next Generation epitomizes the former and Deep Space Nine and Voyager the latter. Although Deep Space Nine seems profoundly and obviously different from The Next Generation while Voyager often feels like a retread of The Next Generation in many ways, the Barretts find a number of areas (including a greater openness toward religion) that the post-Next Generation series share.

Of particular interest to Trek book fans: the Barretts mention some of the Star Trek novels. Diane Carey's nautical obsession is mentioned in the book's "The Starry Sea" chapter, and Peter David's New Frontier character, Burgoyne 172, is mentioned in a discussion of sexual identity and orientation. Star Trek novels are generally overlooked in examinations of the Star Trek phenomenon, which makes these references a welcome change of pace.


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