Devil World [Star Trek novel]

Not to be confused with the NES oddity of the same name Devil World is an early Star Trek spin-off novel from 1979. I bought a handful of reprints of those in the late-’80s/early-’90s from the local discount bookshop. The reason I’m doing a post about this one is because I recently bought it second-hand on a whim. I selected this one as opposed to Spock Must Die! or The Starless World because I remembered parts of it vividly as well as having been unable to finish it once due to being freaked out.

Written by Nebula Award-winning author Gordon Eklund whose other work I’m unfamiliar with, the novel clocks in at a sniff over 150 pages as was the fashion for young persons fiction at the time. The story is odd, slow and front-heavy. Told from Kirk‘s viewpoint regular characters are barely sketched in, yet still elicit an uncanny valley response in their speech and behaviours. This is pretty much guaranteed for any alternate media Trek anyhow, its default format and rhythms are those of the TV show so even the cartoon and films are somewhat off.

Devil_World_Corgi

Here we have Kirk on Starbase shore leave falling for a woman, a follower of Jainism (probably not very well depicted here) who’s an acclaimed senso-drama artiste and whose dramatic works are third only to Shakespeare and Tolstoy in Earth’s history per Spock. Since she’s also extraordinarily beautiful per Kirk, he promptly takes the Enterprise to a quarantined planet to hunt for her Starfleet-traitor father and maybe snatch a kiss along the way (from her rather than her father).

Another new character is the clueless son of the Starbase commander, foisted upon Kirk as his hapless valet, he manages to develop a little over the story. Also, redshirts get redshirted and Bones is actually in it, although not half to the extent that this alternate cover might suggest.

Devil_World_Bones

On the Starbase we also get a brief indirect introduction to the image of the Danons, the titular devils, who are described in grotesque terms, all horns and eyes like bloody sores and putrescent stench. Demonic spacefarers who inspired our notions of the Devil are a cheesy sci-fi staple (my mind goes first to the Third Doctor and The Daemons), but work fine here as the sinister race at near-extinction. Star Trek is welded to Planet of Hats aliens and the fact that the Danons aren’t a bad/unfortunate palette-swap of an Earth culture is a bullet dodged.

The novel’s brevity works against it. There are a couple of significant incidents between chapters which are reduced to mere mentions at the start of the next one, signs of hasty last-minute editing. Also the final threat and its resolution both happen very quickly indeed.

On the other hand, in what counts as a major victory for those who think darlings should be cherished not killed, we do get a great downtime mid-space bridge Chapter 5 which includes Chekhov telling Sulu a five-page shaggy dog/pseudo-folk story about why there are no Russian bears in Russian zoos. Great fun and I was half-tempted to transcribe it here except it’d be wasted work subject to the inevitable takedown notice from whoever owns the last wisps of Gene Roddenberry‘s ghost these days. Jump in your time machine to the early ’90s and check Usenet for the full text in someone’s sig, maybe?

shaggybearstory

All in all, the novel is an odd, slightly-unsettling read whose quirks are what make it memorable. I can’t particularly recommend it, but do suggest you flip through if you see it in your local second-hand shop.

 

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