A guide to the history that informs the world of Star Trek - just in time for the next JJ Abrams Star Trek movie!
For a series set in our future, Star Trek revisits the past constantly. Kirk and Spock battle Nazis, Roman gladiators, and witness the Great Depression. When they're not doubling back on their own earlier timelines, the crew uses the holodeck to spend time in the American Old West or Victorian England. Alien races have their own complex and fascinating histories, too.
The Star Trek universe is a sci-fi imagining of a future world that is rooted in our own human history. Gene Roddenberry created a television show with a new world and new rules in order to comment on social and political issues of the 1960s, from the Vietnam War and race relations to the war on terror and women's rights. Later Star Trek series and films also grapple with the issues of their own decades: HIV, ecological threats, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and terrorism.
How did Uhura spur real-life gender and racial change in the 1960s? Is Kirk inextricably linked with the mythical Old West? What history do the Klingons share with the Soviet Union? Can Nazi Germany shed light on the history and culture of the Cardassians? Star Trek and History explains how the holodeck is as much a source for entertainment as it is a historical teaching tool, how much of the technology we enjoy today had its conceptual roots in Star Trek, and how by looking at Norse mythology we can find our very own Q.
Filled with fascinating historical comparisons, Star Trek and History is an essential companion for every Star Trek fan.
©2013 John Wiley & Sons (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
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"Must suspend disbelief - about awful narration"
Without hesitation. Especially to a Star Trek hater, or worse, a Star-Wars-is-better-than-Trek malcontent. This book provides rich ammunition to explain why Star Trek is so much more than a mere Sci-Fi entertainment franchise: it's an institution deeply woven into the fabric of American culture, ethics and technological progress that has literally changed history, and continues to do so.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. See below for explanation.
Star Trek fans are singularly capable of suspending disbelief (hello warp speed, time travel, and at times even terrible acting and props that came straight out of a middle school woodworking class). But I would sooner see Capt. Picard pray at the altar of Luke Skywalker, or Lt. Uhura join the Maquis and murder a million innocent bystanders, than have to hear Ms. McKean's bright chipper voice refer one more time to Star "Track," Lt. "Uhawrah," the "Markee," or innocent "bystandards." Her verbal atrocities are all the more glaring because they are not limited to Trek-specific terms and they stand in such stark contrast to her otherwise dilithium crystal-clear diction. I'm not exaggerating, and I'm not prone to oversensitivity. I tried to treat it like a game at first (in fact, paired with Romulan ale or even prune juice it would make an epic--albeit lethal--drinking game), but by Chapter 8 I couldn't take it anymore. This is what it must sound like to hear George Bush (either one) recite French poetry. At least they don't even try, let alone get paid to do it. Please, please -- I'm no professional, but I would volunteer my time as a community service to record this program again if Audible would agree to send a free copy to every poor soul who had to listen to this version. My qualifications are that I have a pulse, have watched more than 20 minutes of a single Star Trek episode or movie in my life, and can read and pronounce correctly nearly every word on my 8th grade spelling test.
No joke, I choked up a little when I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. personally implored Nichelle Nichols not to depart the cast after the first season because of the profound impact her presence had on the civil rights movement, both in terms of America's perception of and exposure to black people, and as a role model. He said it was significant not merely because she was a black actress on primetime network television, but because her character, while supporting, was not relegated to some traditionally subservient "black" role -- she was the chief communications officer and fourth in command on the bridge. I mean, seriously, Star Trek has genuinely affected the course of history in the 20th and 21st centuries in myriad ways; this is just a particularly shining example.
Not all of the essays in this book contain sweeping revelations about the societal significance of Star Trek, nor are they intended to. There is a surprisingly diverse mix of subject matter viewed through the lenses of different academic disciplines, not all of which will appeal to everyone. I admit I was tempted to skip several chapters. But overall I was surprised at the breadth and quality of the analysis. It shed new light on episodes and themes with which I was already very familiar, which alone is worth the price of admission for Trekkies. But I think the writing and context provided would be very approachable and at least as interesting to someone with only passing familiarity with the Trek universe. Overall, highly recommended except for the catastrophically failed narration. And even that should not be a deal-breaker because at least it is eminently comprehensible, as long as you suspend disbelief.
"Brace yourself for massive mispronunciations."
I found 'Star Trek and History' a worthwhile read, despite Mrs. McKean's best efforts to throw me off track.
First, the book. The book itself is a collection of essays from various authors delving into Star Trek storylines pulled from the full spectrum of the series and movies and how those episodes and topics relate to history, current technology and social issues. Overall, the chapters are very interesting and delve deeply enough into their respective areas to make for some lively post reading discussion. In fact, this book would be a great addition to a middle or high school science or social studies curriculum. The topics are board enough and cover enough familiar territory that students would have a wonderful time watching an episode mentioned in a particular chapter and then discussing it in the terms set forth in the book.
Some chapters are stronger than others. For example, you can hardly go wrong with discussions on how Star Trek's visionary technology has shaped our current lives (flip phones and iPads anyone?) and the impact it has had on our space program. I even found the chapter on cartography quite interesting, especially in the context of stellar cartography and the future of mapping our known galaxy. Other chapters however fall quite flat. Yes, "Facebook as the Borg" makes for a fun Internet meme, but the analogy really does fall apart if you put any real thought behind it.
My overall impression is that the book is a fun, insightful look at some of the serious (and not so serious) topics tackled by the Star Trek writers.
Now, the narrations. The only reason Kim McKean did not get 1 star from me on performance is that she spoke English and I was at least able to understand the words that came out of her mouth. Other than that, I felt her reading was stiff and stilted. You can almost hear the end of a line as she scans down to the beginning of the next line ... to ... read ... to ...you ... the ... very ... next ... word ... she ... sees ... on ... the ... page.
Aside from that, you can sort of get lost in the cadence and get wrapped up in the concepts of the book ... until she mispronounces a word. Repeatedly. Now, this isn't Star Trek's famous techno-babble she is getting hung up on. While she does mispronounce character names (it took me a while to figure out who "Tee Pole" was), she also mispronounces historical figures and some common words. I eventually started to make a list. Words like "Maquis", "Uhura", and "Locutus of Borg" were constantly, jarringly mispronounced. But even non Trek words and names like "Leonidas", "Yamamoto", and "omnipotent" were butchered.
That being said, as bristled by the narration as I was, I still found the subject matter engaging enough to keep at it and be entertained as well as challenged. It is a worthwhile listen, or better yet, this might be one to get in dead tree form. Then at least you have your own voice in your head to contend with.
"Dumbed Down Beyond All Tolerance"
I just couldn't do it. I wanted to like this book, and I can't. On nearly every conceivable level as a geek, this book is offensive to me.
I've read the author's Star Wars and History, done in conjunction with Lucasfilm. It drew connections that aren't blatantly obvious and some that are downright esoteric (such as Leia's original "star puffs" hairstyle being drawn from photos of the Mexican Revolution). The result was an extremely satisfying read that appealed to both the fanboy and the history geek in me.
This book is the exact opposite, made worse by the fact that the narrator (I got it through Audible) is just plain bad.
Anyone who has ever seen any episode or film from any of the Star Trek series can readily identify the historical parallels because the very nature of Trek is that it draws from the culture of the time it was done and confronts social issues. That's a large part of what made it popular in the first place. The thing is, this book is presented in such a way that if you don't know the episodes by title, the short synopsis of the episode is given as nearly the complete case of the author. More time is spent on a synopsis than on drawing the parallels of history or pop culture that inspired it in the first place. Granted, with the Original Series, it's just not that difficult, and themes are repeated, but still... I expected some kind of depth. Any at all would do. As a result, this book is a dumbed down beating, made worse, as I said, by the narrator.
The narrator not only reads mechanically and sounds like her tongue is too big for her mouth, she breaks the #1 rule in my book: she can't even pronounce the name of the series. It's Star TREK, not Star TRACK. I've spent the first 40 years of my life giving non-geeks serious grief about this when they tried to use this show to tease me, back in the days when geekdom wasn't cool. Now that it IS accepted culture, it needs to be recognized that Trek has, is, and ever will be a cornerstone of that culture. Saying TRACK is not only wrong, it just comes across as stupid. I truly don't like saying it that way, but it's like I can feel the intelligence of the series being sucked right out of it... sort of like the new Abrams reboot version.
Oh well. Can't win them all.
"It's Star Trek, not Star Track"
Yes. This is one of the most fascinating Star Trek books I have read in, maybe forever. It's insightful, full of memorable sections, and provides a terrific social context to the episodic stories. It reminded me of why I love Star Trek, and educated me about some subtleties in history I had not correlated to certain shows. Pretty cool.
Oh my gosh, man. In the Star Trek universe, the correct pronunciation of important terms like "Star Trek", for example, is important. How could she get this wrong? This super-slow-reading narrator destroys term after term and proper name after proper name with a shamefully incorrect rendering of them. When people mispronounce Trek terms, it's forgivable, unless it's narrating a Star Trek book. That's where it matters.
"I enjoyed it!"
I really enjoyed listening to this book. It offered a great perspective on how history was influenced by our favourite shows and movies. I also would recommend this book to anyone that wants to be introduced to Star Trek. I know that I'm going to ask my wife to check it out, so she knows anything she may need to know. The downside was, that the reader had obviously NEVER watched a single episode or movie of Star Trek. As evidenced by her frequently mispronouncing names of characters and planets. My biggest complaint, however, is that she never once said "Star Trek", instead saying, "Star Track". That gets us kind of riled up. Overall, a great book. Highly recommended. Thank you!
"Good Story but Lackluster Performance"
The story is a good one and it would have worked better for me as an actual book. Unfortunately the narrator has probably never seen an episode of Star Trek or any of the movies. It was difficult staying with her as her constant mispronunciation of words took me out of the story. Almost any name or place that could be pronounced wrong, was. Audible should look into having this book re recorded with someone else or at least have a producer who will notice inconsistencies and have them corrected.
"Uneven, but generally interesting"
Narrator should know how to pronounce key words, like BAJOR and MAJEL (Barrett). This was very distracting, and almost made me stop listening.
"The book was good, not the narrater"
She mis-pronounced so many words I was distracted. Many were Star Trek words but others were simple standard things. It was embarrassing.
"Well Researched-Poor Performance"
Pronounce names correctly
I had to stop listening to McKean's butchering of the names. She should have watched the shows before recording a book about well-loved characters.
"Interesting but repetitive"
This is s collection of essays. Unfortunately, the individual authors contributions are complete in themselves, meaning that there is a lot of repetition and a multitude of references to a single episode. It was interesting, but I was glad when it was finished.
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