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Mudd's Angels by J.A. Lawrence


Star Trek novels used to be so popular they were almost a genre to themselves. The early books were mostly just novelizations of the t.v. episodes, and then came the original stories. Mudd's Angels is a bit of both. It begins with a strange meta forward in which the existence of the book is explained in universe by Kirk and crew telling the stories of Mudd to the author, an "integrator". The whole tone of the prologue is weird and confusing. This is followed by the stories of the two episodes of Star Trek with Harry Mudd, Mudd's Women and I, Mudd. These are pretty straightforward, and I will be doing these episodes on the blog at some point so I won't bother going over the plot here. The only odd thing is the florid writing style when the author describes the female androids. One almost wonders if the author typed one handed while touching himself.

Then comes the third part of the book, the original story The Business, As Usual, During Altercations. The plot makes as much sense as that fucking title. It begins with a dilithium crystal shortage. Kirk and crew investigate and find that a series of shell companies have bought out the mine contracts. They trace the companies back to the planet that Harry Mudd was left on, and go back there. Mudd has left the planet already, leaving an android version of himself behind to occupy the crew. They hypnotize Chekhov in order to have him tell them where Mudd is (it makes even less sense in the book than it seems to in this description) and his ramblings almost coincidentally take them close enough to Mudd that they overhear his radio broadcast. They chase him and accidentally go through the barrier at the edge of the galaxy. The story seems like it might finally get interesting at this point, but instead becomes almost incomprehensibly weird. Harry's dilithium crystals are growing and becoming unstable. They explode and throw the ship thousands of lightyears through space back into this galaxy and back in time. The story takes another shift in tone and now seems to be a farce, with characters uttering comical lines. Kirk and crew are almost institutionalized before they convince Starfleet that what they went through wasn't something they fantasized in a delerium. They take Mudd back to his planet where the androids have made a government (never mind that they are technically in the past and this had not happened before) and put Mudd on trial. The trial then become a trial about whether the androids are "people" and should be allowed in the Federation. Spock begins to act like a sullen teenager over his hurt feelings that not everyone accepts the androids. The trial takes another shift and focuses on Mudd again, the androids apparently having joined the Federation even though Kirk clearly stated he didn't have the authority to do that. Mudd is found guilty of a minor misdemeanor and is banished from the galaxy, with the approval of the Federation.

The weird thing about this story is that the author has a good ear for dialogue. The characters speak in ways so true to their character that you can hear their voices while reading it. But the actions make no sense. The story makes no sense. It's not even bad enough that it ignores things from the show, it ignores its own internal logic. It makes weird references naming characters in the trial portion after characters in Perry Mason. People behave in bizarre ways. Spock and McCoy seem less like friends who rib one another and more like two men who cannot stand each other. The first part of the story is so dull I almost couldn't make it to the batshit part. Then is describes a galaxy exploding (nonchalantly mentioning the deaths of billions of inhabitants) and the effects on space time in such a clever way in such a short space that one suspects this paragraph was ghost written. Then it's back to the nonsense. I have read some bad books in my time, but this easily ranks as among the worst. Just watch the show for the first two stories, and avoid the third as if your life depended on it.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad

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