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Book Review: Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe
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Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe National Geographic

Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe
The True Science Behind the Starship Voyages
Hardcover
By Andrew Fazekas
Foreword by William Shatner
Publisher: National Geographic Books
Released date: June 7, 2016

Star Trek is one of the most beloved entertainment franchises in the world, with its reach stretching 50 years of not only massive fandom, but influence on everyday life and our aspirations for the future. Even space agencies such as NASA cite the science fiction series as an inspiration. Now, National Geographic Books has created Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe, an informative tome that seeks to show the correlations between true science and that which is presented throughout the fictional universe.

William Shatner, who made a name for himself as the original Captain James T. Kirk on the 1960s television series, provides the Foreword to this 240-page hardcover by Andrew Fazekas, which is subtitled The True Science Behind the Starship Voyages.

On the original TV series, the crew of the starship Enterprise was on a five-year mission through space to explore “strange” new worlds where man had yet to reach. Spin-off shows took the space exploration and the science and technology of the future to the next level. It’s human nature to ponder what is “out there” beyond our world, so the show, which was set in the future, enticed viewers with its intricate technologies and its promise of better things to come. There was a lot of science and technology presented throughout the franchise’s 50-year history and this Guide references many aspects of the various television series — Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise — as well as the feature films.

Along with the aforementioned opening from Shatner, Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe begins with an Introduction; a Trekking The Night Sky section about how starships travel; and an About This Book spread, which is a small guide to navigating through the book’s various features. A Star Trek moment is explored with highlights and trivia from the episode, as well as a closer look at the science presented. This is then followed up with the real-life science comparison. Chapter 1 focuses on “The Terran System,” which is our solar system; Chapter 2 explores “Strange New Worlds,” which dives into deep space for Earth-like exoplanets, gas giants, dwarf and rogue planets, and even alien life; Chapter 3 is “Sailing Through The Stars,” which delves into supergiants and black holes; Chapter 4 is “Clouds Among The Stars,” about supernova remnants and various nebulae; and Chapter 5 takes us to the “Clusters and Galaxies” beyond the our Milky Way galaxy to other galaxies, star clusters, and quasars. The book is closed out by an appendix, “Navigating The Night Sky,” which provides an instruction in stargazing, and an Episode Index that notes all the episodes referenced throughout.

There are stills and illustrations from Star Trek television shows and movies, along with photos of the many gadgets, weapons, and starships in the Trek universe, but the book also contains real-life star charts, space photography, and images of other planets and galaxies taken by our modern-day space agencies like NASA and ESA.

Anyone who’s ever been intrigued by the science presented in Star Trek and wondered how it measures up to our reality will enjoy going through Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe. Some of the science presented is more involved and goes beyond what a layman would understand — meaning, Fazekas has not totally dumbed it down here. Yes, there’s fun facts and trivia, but in the end, there’s some heavy duty science. But even someone with little knowledge of the subject matter would be delighted going through the beautiful and mystifying images packed within the book.

Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe

[Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe: Pages 190-191: In the real universe, as in the Star Trek universe, star clusters are perfect laboratories for examining the evolubonary paths of stars. Starfleet’s crews get to conduct these studies up close, while Earth’s astronomers must observe them from afar.
Photos courtesy of CBS. Used with permission.]

Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Universe National Geographic

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