One of the most entertaining aspects of a story can be a good old-fashioned mash-up of two elements that you never thought would “go together.” From the early days of putting peanut butter and jelly together to the more modern “odd couple” pairings like last year’s comic-book mini-series ‘Archie vs. Predator,’ a good mash-up can go a long way.
For me: I love sci-fi, particularly ‘Star Trek,’ and I have also long had an affinity for the walking dead – that’s right, I could talk about zombies all day long. The culmination of the convergence of my two primary pop-culture phenomena is an event I thought may never come to fruition. Imagine my surprise and wonderment, then, when these two differing entities finally did collide in the ethereal yet ephemeral 2010 novel, ‘Night of the Living Trekkies’ by Kevin J. Anderson and Sam Stall.
I feel like I’m spouting long-winded sentences with big words much like the average Vulcan might, so let me back up here a bit and focus on the book itself. Anderson and Stall’s novel, released by Quirk Books (that’s right, the folks who brought you the ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ series, among others) is a unique blending of a tale surrounding an undead outbreak with the ‘Star Trek’ universe. One important thing to note, however: the story contained in the book takes place here on Earth, and it sets the burgeoning zombie apocalypse against the backdrop of a ‘Star Trek’ convention. It is NOT a tale set in the fictional world created by ‘Star Trek,’ and this makes the tale infinitely more accessible to the average pop-culture fan who is not intimately familiar with this fictional universe of starships, Klingons, and United Federations of Planets.
Zombie/Sci-Fi Geek-Out Alert: there also exists a zombie book set in the universe of the “other” big sci-fi series, called ‘Star Wars: Death Troopers;’ that story was set in the ‘Star Wars’ universe, and I have covered in a previous Throwback Thursday column. In that article, I recommended the book “if you are a fan of Star Wars and zombies;” I’m happy to report that ‘Night of the Living Trekkies’ can be enjoyed as a standalone story by ANY zombie or ‘Star Trek’ fan, and while pre-existing knowledge of the ‘Star Trek’ universe or the nature of zombies is helpful in places, it is definitely not required.
The story itself is a solid one. Set against the backdrop of a large ‘Star Trek’ convention in Houston, a zombie outbreak with a very intriguing genesis (more on this below) leaves a group of convention-goers and hotel staff literally fighting for their lives. The combination of action scenes mixed with undead who sport some very interesting features is insanely effective. A unique addition: some of the folks, survivors and zombies alike, are convention-goers who were dressed in various costumes when the stuff hit the fan, and this adds an often-hilarious element that you won’t get in many other zombie novels.
Mega-kudos to Anderson and Stall for crafting a singular zombie tale to go hand-in-hand with the one-of-a-kind setting of the ‘Star Trek’ convention. It would have been very easy for the authors to rest on the Trek-centric element as the “okay, we’ve got our gimmick, we can phone in the rest and the book will still sell” approach, and I love that they went the extra mile with a very interesting and well-thought-out origin for their zombie plague. In order to stay spoiler-free here, I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say: no matter how many eyes you have, you’ve never seen zombies quite like these!
My only real complaint with the book lies in the arena of “realism” – and yes, I know I’m talking about zombies and ‘Star Trek,’ two very un-real things here – and this could definitely be me, as a Star Trek fan, nit-picking here, so take this with a grain of salt (or a grain of quadrotriticale, for you Trek nerds reading this). Throughout the book we are told that the main character and hotel employee, Jim Pike, is a “former” ‘Star Trek’ nerd who still retains all of the insanely-nuanced information about the series; indeed, he spends time in the story before the outbreak calling out convention-goers’ costumes and the like. But throughout the book, once other characters start making Trek-centric references and jokes, everything is always explained to Jim as if he knows nothing about the show, and he seems to take it all in stride. Yes, I know that this is done for the benefit of the reader who may not understand these references without being given the proper context, but it’s an unrealistic element within the scope of the story. Add to that the numerous ‘Star Trek’ references and in-jokes designed specifically for the reader, which exist in the story but none of the characters ever seem to notice (the name of the hotel, the name of some characters, and even quotes by the characters directly from ‘Star Trek’ episodes and movies themselves), and it just all sorta rubbed me the wrong way. Again, being a self-proclaimed “expert” in both the zombie and the Trek, this is probably a much more glaring issue to me than it is to the average reader.
The book itself is well-designed, with an entertaining (if not somewhat detached from the actual story) cover and fun sci-fi font-ing for the page numbers and chapter titles. At just a shade over 250 pages, the book moves along fairly smoothly and shouldn’t feel too drawn-out for any reader, regardless of your level of Trek knowledge. The titles of each chapter are also the titles of ‘Star Trek’ episodes, which is clever; most are from the original Trek series that ran back in the 1960s, but some titles were taken from each of the other four live-action series (one chapter title was even taken from the title of the ninth Star Trek feature film). It is my duty as a Trekker, however, to point out two mistakes: Chapter 11, titled “Devil in the Dark,” is taken from an episode actually titled “The Devil in the Dark;” and Chapter 32, “Let That Be Their Final Battlefield,” is taken from an episode actually titled “Let That Be Your Final Battlefield.” God, I sound like such a nerd…
All in all, this is another glowing report for another quality Quirk-released zombie story. This book is so cool, it’s even got its own hilarious movie-trailer-style promo video!