In which Captain Kirk is the very model of a modern major general.

And now to sink for all time my reputation as a serious literary intellect. In my college days I couldn’t get enough of Star Trek–specifically Star Trek novels, and Penguin Books was cooperating by pumping out a title or three per quarter. Needless to say, quality varied, and “good” can certainly be a matter of taste. Only one of these titles has stayed in my library through all my subsequent moves. I speak of How Much For Just The Planet, by John M. Ford.

Yes, that’s Kirk in a tux.

It seems that a group of eccentric colonists settled the planet of Direidi, a planet far off the busy sub-space lanes in the Organian-enforced neutral zone between Federation and Klingon space, in order to create a society based on the principles of… melodrama. And slapstick. Deranged vaudevillians, the lot of them. Are they left alone to carry on their quirky social experiment? Of course not. Before the ink has dried on their planetary charter, a Federation survey ship discovers the Great Dilithium Motherload on the planet–and the survey ship is just as quickly discovered by Klingons. So now the race is on to “develop” this strategic resource, and to the Dereidians there’s not much to choose between the two sides; the Klingons will mine the mountains naked and then go home, while the Federation will relocate the colonists, then mine the mountains naked and then go home. And apparently even the Organians expect the colonists to cut some kind of deal.

Fortunately the Direidians have a Plan. Plan C, to be precise. So the Federation sends Kirk and the Enterprise (and a diplomat), the Empire sends Kaden and the Fire Blossom (and a diplomat), and what ensues is a terrible thing to watch. Bunting is involved, and choreographed musical numbers, and a cat-burglar, and combat-golf, and a McGuffin, and an adventure beyond the Thunderdome, and… pies. Lots of pies. The horror.

How Much For Just The Planet is available on the Kindle in both the US and UK markets, although perversely for more than a new paperback edition costs. Ford would have appreciated the absurdity, and it’s still worth it.


7 thoughts on “In which Captain Kirk is the very model of a modern major general.

  1. Why don’t I like Star Trek? Why doesn’t Star Wars do anything for me?

    I was brought up on space adventure (WE Johns and Edgar Rice Burroughs, moving on to Asimov and Arthur C Clarke) and films like War Of The Worlds and The Day The Earth Stood Still are classics I can watch over and over.

    Anything with a space ship on the cover was a must-read. Lost In Space on TV was a must-watch. Anything with robots and robotic voices was a must.

    But Star Trek? No reaction. Star Wars? Meaningless.

    I guess I should be thankful for the time freed up to discover other works, but sometimes I feel a complete outsider whe people start talking about ST and SW like they were old friends.

    Am I the only person on the planet who’s never seen a Star Trek movie?

      1. Apart from the Daleks I always struggled with Dr Who too. Still love the Daleks, and have to say those angel statues, whatsoever they were called, were televisual genius.

        But with Dr Who it was often the lead actor playing the Doctor that made or broke it for me.

        Thankfully I’m now beyond the clutches of European / American TV. But guess I’m missing out on the occasional gem. Ah well…

      2. Ah yes, the Daleks. The truth is television hasn’t produced much in the way of quality sci-fi/fantasy; it’s a hard medium to communicate complex themes in and get really creative without losing most of the audience (which makes the most interesting stuff a losing commercial proposition). In recent years there have been some exceptions (the Battlestar Galactica remake, Lost, the V remake) and some near-misses that were too good to live (Firefly, The Doll House), but the natural medium for quality sci-fi/fantasy remains the novel.


  2. I highly recommend John M. Ford’s “The Final Reflection.” A vibrant vision of the Klingon people that shaped how the Klingons were seen for years, before NextGen developed Klingon culture differently.

    Also, one other solid Trek novel: “The Wounded Sky” by Diane Duane. A genuine Star Trek science fiction story.

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