Thursday, December 22, 2011
Mudd's Angels by J.A. Lawrence (1978)
This book consists of adaptations of two Star Trek episodes ("Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd") and an original novella featuring Mudd and the Star Trek crew ("The Business, as Usual, During Altercations"). I've seen some Star Trek movies and the occasional episode of the original show, but I've never been a super fan. The character of Harvey Mudd, a sloppy, selfish, con-man who doesn't fit at all into the neat regulations of the Starship Enterprise, however, could make me change my mind.
When they first meet Mudd, he is charging along in an unregistered spaceship and gets beamed up, along with his crew, just before their ship is hit by an asteroid. Mudd's crew is nothing but three extremely beautiful ladies that quickly entrance the Enterprise crew (except for Spock). Mudd plans to wed the ladies to three lonely space miners (for a small fee), but his secret is soon revealed by Captain Kirk: he's been giving the ladies a drug that makes them irresistible to men. It's unclear why that matters so much to the three lonely space miners, and in the end the main lady learns that she is just as beautiful without taking the drug, ala Dumbo's feather.
In the next story, Mudd is back, and this time he has found a planet of abandoned high-tech androids that have been waiting for a human to serve for over a million years. He quickly molds them to his liking (including hundreds of identical fem-bots "programmed for pleasure"). The bots, however, want more humans to study and serve, so Mudd sneakily gets the Enterprise crew onto the planet, where they find it very difficult to leave. When the bots' plan to take over the universe and enslave humanity in a web of pleasure is revealed, Kirk and his crew use illogic (even Spock!) to get the bots' circuits to lock up so they can escape (there might be an ad at the start of this video, but it is worth it):
In the final novella, Mudd has gotten even more creative with his androids and his conning and has stolen the galaxy's supply of dilithium crystals, needed to power the starships. The Enterprise is in charge of finding out where the crystals went, and follow Mudd and his rogue ship out of the galaxy, bending space and time when they return. There is a slightly dull trial of robots vs. humans in this one, but ultimately it stays true to all the characters and involves some fun time travel.
This isn't high literature by any means, but as a non-Star Trek sci-fi fan, I found the stories nicely thought out and well written. If I was more sensitive to that kind of thing, the objectification of the ladies might get to me a bit, but somehow in the context of Mudd, I didn't mind. Also, J.A. Lawrence is a woman, the widow of James Blish, another Star Trek novelist. Sometimes the characterizations were hammered in a little too hard (Spock's raised eyebrow, Scotty's accent, McCoy's bickering), but overall the book lives up to its cover.
Life long and prosper!