So far, the books I’ve taken the time to review have
been good enough to recommend to others. That’s
about to change.
Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation / X-Men: Planet X
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Original Publication Date: May 1998
Cover Price: $6.99US, $9.99Can
Buy from: Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.
The X-Men are somehow sucked into a parallel reality, where they can help Picard and company deal with the recent appearance of mutants on Planet Xhaldia. It takes place between Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection from the perspective of Starfleet, and in the time frame of the late 1990’s from the perspective of the X-Men. (The team is comprised of Storm, Colossus, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Archangel, Shadowcat, and Wolverine. It takes place during the brief period in which Wolverine had lost the adamantium that protected his bones.)
By the end of the book, Friedman had managed to really use Nightcrawler and Archangel effectively, and he really put the spotlight on two characters that are normally overshadowed.
Oh, man, how do I choose? Should it be the constantly changing name of Lt. Wayne/Lt. Lee? Should it be the hole-ridden plot? The deus-ex-machina moments? The fact that the author was clearly unfamiliar with the X-Men at the beginning, only to become more proficient toward the end? (Why wasn’t the beginning re-written?) Perhaps I could choose the fact that all of the X-Men are described in great detail, while no aspect of the Star Trek universe received such treatment. There’s also the fact that this has no external markings to indicate that it’s a sequel, and that these people have met before, which led to some confusion on my part in the early novel. (The first meeting wasn’t summarized until roughly half-way through.) In fact, this novel assumes that one is familiar enough with the Star Trek universe to be familiar with events that go as far back as the first season of the show. One also should not overlook the remarkably unoriginal powers of the mutants on Xhaldia; not one of them had abilities not already faced in X-Men comics. Then, of course, there’s the description of the enemy wounds that make it clear that the author believes Wolverine has four claws on each hand. At what point did Counsellor Troi start leading away teams on combat missions? The worst single offense probably takes place in the epilogue. Uatu’s not the kind of being that would sit on a lawn chair in the bushes outside Salem Center sharing a pina coloda with Q.
Ultimately, I think the biggest problem with this book is that it tried to take itself seriously. I can’t imagine a way to make the cross-over seem natural, so I can’t really accept it unless they had decided to play it for comedy. While it does have the odd joke, it is not a comedy. I don’t think it can be taken seriously, so it hurt itself severely in its efforts.
Elements that are in any way original are in short supply here. In essence, they’ve taken a storyline that was overused in the X-Men, set it in the Star Trek universe, and then dragged the X-Men along for the ride. I give it 1 out of 6.
The imagery is flawed. The scenes on planet Xhaldia are well described. The scenes on board the alien ship are not well described. The X-Men themselves are described in detail, but the Enterprise and her crew are not. This is, in my opinion, a large problem. I think it’s safe to assume that this novel won’t be purchased by anyone not already familiar with both teams. (This predates the X-Men movie, too, so those that know them will know them from the comics or Fox cartoon.) So, I feel that the Star Trek group and the X-Men should have equal amounts of description. You either assume people know all the characters, or none of them. The fact that the book seems to assume that readers are familiar with the first encounter of the teams makes the detailed description of the X-Men that much more insulting. I give it 2 out of 6.
The story, as I said above, is an overused X-Men plot that’s been rehashed, and badly. There are too many ifs, and too many moments that just reek of coincidence. There was nothing new or unpredictable in this book. I give it 2 out of 6.
The characterization is poor. Counsellor Troi is not the Troi I remember from the show and movies. The X-Men themselves are not easily distinguished by their personalities alone for the first half of the book. (By the end, Banshee and Shadowcat still haven’t been used much, but it’s a large enough cast of characters in a short book that that’s not a huge problem. Neither really acts out of character, either.) Commander Riker seems to be more prone to prejudice and unsupported judgments than he has before. I give it 4 out of 6, because the main characters are done well.
The emotional response generated here was not what the author wanted to do, I’m sure. I was more concerned about counting the remaining pages than anything else. The predictable plot ruined any hope of suspense. The only thing that really worked was the occasional joke, generally from Nightcrawler or Archangel. I give it 2 out of 6.
The editing was deeply flawed. There is no reason for a character’s name to change in the middle of a paragraph, only to change back in the middle of a conversation four chapters later. The author was obviously becoming familiar with the X-Men while writing, as the differences in their personalities don’t become clear for at least half of the book. The group scenes in the first half should have been sent back to be rewritten to clean that up. This doesn’t even touch on the problems with the plot that the editor should have pointed out. In short, the editor (John Ordover) seemed more concerned with churning out the cross-over in hopes of sharing the merchandising profits than in producing a piece of literature, or even quality tripe. I give it 2 out of 6.
Overall, this was not a particularly enjoyable novel. The part of me that craves Roger Corman movies convinced me to buy this, and the rest of me is not happy with the results. I give it 2 out of 6, and recommend it for masochists only.
In total, Star Trek: The Next Generation / X-Men: Planet X received 15 out of 42.