This is the sixth in a series of 52. For more information on this personal project go here: 52 Reads Project
Ryan assures me that he read movie novelizations almost exclusively when he was younger. I’d say that Ryan the adult doesn’t read, but that is inaccurate. He spends most hours reading F1 Reddit, his 72 online newspaper subscriptions—including Le Monde, and every scrap of incendiary liberal rhetoric/clickbait available to him. He simply doesn’t read fiction, literary or otherwise these days.
I love him in spite of this. After all he made breakfast this morning.
This week’s read is Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman. Ryan says, “Worst. Book. Ever.”
But, as you might expect, he’s never actually read it.
Planet X is, in the parlance of 2018, the most ambitious crossover event of 1998. It seeks to answer the question: What would happen if the X-Men were thrown through time and space and ended up on the bridge of the Enterprise-E?
It goes exactly as you might expect.
Young citizens of the planet Xhaldia start developing uncanny abilities. A young man named Erid shoots light beams from his body. Others can move earth, communicate telepathically, or physically transform themselves. In a novel approach to the unknown the Xhaldian government rounds up these young adults and imprisons them for safety—their own, and the safety of the city Verdeen. They deem this class of citizen, “The Transformed.”
Meanwhile, for no apparent reason, a strange band of travelers transports onto a Starbase. These travelers include a blue figure with yellow eyes and devil’s tail, a menacing muscular masked figure in yellow and blue, an elegant woman with silver hair, a man with wings. So, probably not the Ferengi. For reference, this crossover event also includes Shadowcat, Banshee, and Colossus.
The book is set in the post-show world of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Worf is freshly married to Jadzia Dax and stationed at DS-9. Data has his emotion chip. It is also set after a preexisting comic book crossover, so the X-Men and Picard already have an established understanding of each other.
I love both these teams. While they both get bogged down at times with ham-fisted narratives, I love that each team member’s competencies, limitations, and special powers always match other members of the team or crew to become something unstoppable.
However, he implications of the X-Men entering the Star Trek universe are deep and disturbing to me. The X-Men comics (and cartoon and films) see these characters literally fighting for their right to coexist with Homo sapiens. But in this novel, the mutants seem like a novelty to the crew of the Enterprise. There are crew members who possess X-Men-like abilities, sure, but their respective powers are derivative of their ancestral homes. Deanna Troi possesses empathetic telepathy which is inherited from her Betazoid mother, Worf’s strength and good looks derive from his Klingon heritage, Geordi La Forge’s special sight is provided by an engineered visor, and Data is uniquely android. Alaskan Commander Riker and Frenchman Captain Picard are good leaders but don’t exhibit anything extra-human or any trace of the mutant gene. There is no evidence that mutants survive whatever happens between the 20th century and the establishment of the utopian Federation. I know that there are a gajillion X-Men timelines, parallel worlds; and similar fast-and-loose timey wimey in the wider Star Trek universe. However, the interactions in this crossover make it appear that the mutant gene got eradicated sometime in the history of Earth. The plain old sapiens get to flourish. And, it bums me out.
The most intriguing bits of the book (for me) featured Crusher and La Forge using the 24th century technology of the starship to examine the X-Men scientifically. La Forge notes that Nightcrawler drops into a completely differently dimension when he transports but also notices that he bears the similar trace residue as those using the transporter. Crusher examines all of the X-Men and find all sorts of interesting things happening at a biochemical level. The book blasts fast from scene to scene, but I wish it spent more time on this stuff. 24th century scientific breakdown of powers that seem almost magic is fascinating–even if it is all play pretend.
The attention to TNG detail is strong. Guinan serves Wolverine “a warrior’s drink.” Picard pulls down the front of his jacket more than once. The Ressikan Flute makes an appearance.
The cross IP team-ups are fun too. Wolverine and Worf train together in the holodeck. Storm and Picard flirt intellectually. Nightcrawler and Data storm an alien ship together.
I realized quickly that none of the characters were truly in danger as their lives belong to universes separate from the world of this book. Almost as soon as I made this realization, a crew member got red-shirted. I laughed out loud.
I know that there are more powerful X-Men, but Kitty Pryde might have my favorite power. As she phased people to safety through the floors of a building and reached up through the ground to trip adversaries with a wrench of her wrist I cheered quietly. Her way of combat always feels the most elegant. More Shadowcat, always, thanks.
The looming question of this mash-up is, of course, does Picard meet Xavier? This book came out before the first X-Men film, but Patrick Stewart was always felt like the de facto casting choice for Professor X.
If Picard meets Xavier, does a Back to the Future-style paradox form?
Well, the meeting does happen. Unfortunately it is merely with a holodeck version of the prof. The resemblance is noted, but the mystery remains.
This is not the worst. book. ever. If approached as elevated fan fiction or fan service, it’s pretty okay. The book neglects a couple of my favorite X-Men, namely Beast, but it was a silly read that reminded me how much I like a whole bunch of characters.
Also, it helps to be a complete nerd-o.
Next week: American Heiress recommended by Meg.
Scratch that just watch this: