The Simple Joy Of Tie-In Books

There's whole entire universes out there.

The Simple Joy Of Tie-In Books
The Simple Joy Of Tie-In Books

Sometimes, no matter how much you might love it, reading can be hard. Like really, really hard. It’s hard to find the time to fully commit to a book. If your brain isn’t on top form, it’s nearly impossible to really settle down and lose yourself in the stories. It happens to every reader – some more than others – and it can be a real source of stress. After all, if reading is our favourite hobby, then why can’t we give it the time it deserves?

When I’m feeling like this, which happens distressingly often these days, there are a couple of ways to try and find my way out of the slump. The first is reading fanfiction, which I’ve done ever since I was a kid who found my way onto the Harry Potter forums. I still read fanfiction to this day. Slipping into a world I already know is like sitting in a warm bath and it rarely fails to cheer me up.

But if I really need to re-set myself after a reading slump, then lately I find that the best thing I can read is tie-in books. You know what I mean, right? Those long book series that tie-in to an existing property. I’m talking Star Wars and Star Trek. I’m talking Buffy, Charmed, Halo, Dungeons and Dragons. I’m talking Doctor Who. All of these properties, amongst so many others, have spawned sprawling universes of written material, novels and comics, which fans flock to.

Are these stories basically jazzed up fanfiction? Yes, sort of. But they’re also tightly regulated by the creators of the media in question, which means that they’re almost canon in a way that fanfiction never will be. I say almost because that’s  all they will ever be, even if the odd detail might migrate over to the main universe. That being said, almost canon is better than nothing. Kirsten Beyer, writer of Star Trek: Voyager books, became the darling of fans the world over when she finally got Admiral Kathryn Janeway and Commander Chakotay together in her Relaunch novels after they danced around one another in the show. Is it canon? Not technically. Do fans care? Not at all.

Tie-in books have, for the most part, been as unfairly judged as fanfiction has, mostly by people who have never read one and probably never will. I’m not suggesting that everyone has to love them, because unless you’re really into a TV show or a game then why would you want to look for books based on the same properties? If it’s not for you then fair enough. But leave the books alone for the people who do enjoy them. There’s nothing wrong with picking up a novel based in your favourite universe.

For me personally, such books have always been a source of simple joy. Firstly, I was really into Star Trek books for a while. Star Trek: Voyager was my tipple of choice, but I did dip my toe into Titan too, the stories based on Will Riker’s first command. I was much younger when I read them, but even though I’ve mostly moved on from Voyager, I still have a look at whatever Kirsten Beyer is producing. They might not be canon, but for me they’re as good as, and coming back to her latest novel feels like coming home.

At this precise moment, the tie-in books seeing me through a tricky time are the Doctor Who New Adventures. I think I might have sampled these back in the day, but definitely not in any sort of organised way, and it’s only in the last six months that I’ve really had a focus on obtaining them and working through. So far, I’ve read all of Nine’s stories and all of the Ten and Rose Tyler volumes. Alongside the Ten and Martha tales I’m also now reading Twelve and Clara, alternating between the doctors. I can read one of these books in an afternoon if I have the time and the inclination – they all come in well under 300 pages – but I also feel like I’m making progress and actually reading something if I only make it through 20 pages at a time. One of the things these books can do that fanfiction can’t is give you the experience of actually turning the page. It’s so small, but really important if you’re in a slump. Watching the bookmark progress through the pages can be very reassuring.

Some tie-in books are novelisations of existing episodes, and they have their place for sure. But the ones I like are the original stories and I am discovering, as I did with the Voyager novels so many years ago, that some of these stories are really, really good. Most of them get a perfectly respectable three-star rating from me, and then occasionally there is an absolute banger. The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner is a Ten and Rose story that is burned in the brains of a lot of fans who are really into that particular dynamic. It even has fan art, which you don’t see very often for a tie-in book. I also just finished James Goss’ The Blood Cell, a Twelve and Clara novel so unique in its premise that I couldn’t read it quickly enough. Mr Goss, I’d have watched and loved an entire two-part episode of your story. These little books are easy to overlook and even easier to scorn, but they should not be. And they definitely shouldn’t be underestimated.

So if you ever find yourself in a bit of a reading slump, or you just want to shake up your reading habits, take a look and see if something you love has a whole other world of tie-in books for you to explore. I seriously doubt that you’d be disappointed.

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