TOS: Ex Machina

Star Trek Ex MachinaStar Trek: Ex Machina

THE HUMAN ADVENTURE CONTINUES.

In the aftermath of the astonishing events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the captain and officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise remain haunted by their encounter with the vast artificial intelligence of V’ger . . . and by the sacrifice and ascension of their friend and shipmate, Willard Decker.

As James T. Kirk, Spock and Leonard McCoy attempt to cope with the personal fallout of that ordeal, a chapter from their mutual past is reopened, raising troubling new questions about the relationship among God, Man and AI.  On the recently settled world of Daran IV, the former refugees of the Fabrini worldship Yonada are being divided by conflicting ideologies, as those clinging to their theocratic past vie with visionaries of a future governed by reason alone.

Now, echoes of the V’ger encounter reverberate among the Enterprise officers who years ago overthrew the Oracle, the machine-god that controlled Yonada.  Confronting the consequences of those actions, Kirk, Spock and McCoy also face choices that will decide the fate of a civilization, and which may change them forever.

  • “…written with a deft hand and deep skill….  [The] very intricate story… combines history, religion, science, conflict, and terrorism and weaves it into a tight fabric that engenders thought and contemplation beyond the usual scope of a sci-fi media tie-in novel.” — Father Robert Lyons, SST, Stellarcross.org
  • Ex Machina is a good, long, solid read, well worth immersing yourself in for several hours. There’s a lot packed in here, from Trek trivia to philosophizing. It reads like the kind of book only a fan who takes Star Trek seriously could possibly have written.” — Steve Roby
  • ” Bennett has produced a glorious debut in full-length novel form…. This promising new author clearly has a lot of Trek knowledge, character- and world-building skill, and love of the franchise; so “Ex Machina” comes highly recommended.” — Daniel Berry, BookTrek
  • “Thought provoking stories are one of the hallmarks of Star Trek and stories rarely get more thought provoking than Ex Machina….  What Christopher L. Bennett has done with Ex Machina is to meld together… a story cannot help but resonate with anyone who has ever read a history book or a newspaper.” — Jackie Bundy, Trek Nation
  • “Attention to scientific detail is at the forefront of Bennett’s tome, as he carefully integrates scientific reality into the framework of the tale…. He’s got a solid grasp on characterization all the way throughout EX MACHINA, and no one escapes his watchful eye or is considered insignificant. That’s the mark of a great writer, one who makes you care about all of the people in a story, and this is one of Bennett’s many strengths.” — Bill Williams, TrekWeb
  • “Easily one of the best TOS novels in print, Ex Machina is the proverbial must-read…. Bennett has woven multiple and often conflicting continuity threads in a tour de force that tells a fascinating story with flair, imagination, and weight.” — Megan O’Neill, TV ZONE Magazine

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Years ago, I dreamed of becoming a Trek novelist, but I wasn’t happy with the continuity restrictions of that time, which forbade Trek novels from making any real changes in the characters’ lives so as to avoid contradicting anything onscreen.  In looking for a way around those restrictions, I thought of exploring the period between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan.  This was a time of transition and growth for all the characters.  We knew where they started out and where they ended up, but the process in between was largely uncharted.  It would be an opportunity to tell stories with arc and character development while still staying within continuity.

I now realize that even allowing for that, I probably still couldn’t have sold this novel under that old regime.  Fortunately, the Trek novel line is now in a time of renaissance, freer than ever before to explore new story directions.  Given the various projects edited by Marco Palmieri, including the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels and the Lost Era miniseries, I had a feeling my idea might go over well with him — though I’m still thrilled to have been right.

There have been novels set in the post-TMP period before, but hardly any have been direct follow-ups to TMP, exploring its aftermath on the characters.  Most surprisingly to me, none ever really sought to elaborate on Spock’s life-changing epiphany about the value of emotion — something I’d always felt was rich with story possibilities.  But I’m glad to be the one who gets to tell those stories at long last.

So why did I make ExM a sequel to “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky and My Goodness, This is an Awfully Long Title, Isn’t it Though?”  Well, in the ST:TMP novelization, Gene Roddenberry said that “McCoy had become something of a recluse while he researched applications of Fabrini medicine among surface dwellers.”  So I’ve always wondered if he met up with Natira again, and what would’ve happened between them.  It just seemed natural that a novel exploring this period would address that issue.  Also, the presence of the Oracle computer-god provided resonances with the V’ger encounter in TMP.  And the story of a society struggling to rebuild and redefine itself, torn between the traditional and the modern, the secular and the spiritual, gave me a great opportunity to develop themes from my history studies in college, particularly with regard to the Middle East.

Spoiler discussion and notes

Startrek.com Book Club chat transcript  from January 25, 2005 (on Internet Archive)

This little tribute was put together by TMP-alien buff Ian McLean, based on an old ST comic strip from the Los Angeles Times:

lacrew1

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