The Joy Machine by James E. Gunn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The highly successful colony world Timshel which offered its beauty and almost eden like perfection to vacationers from across the Federation had for two years now isolated itself from the galaxy. With no information the Federation had sent two separate individuals to the planet and apart from one brief communique nothing had been heard from them. Captain James Kirk and the Enterprise are tasked with solving this mystery and with some personal contacts on Timshel Kirk may succeed where others failed. Kirk makes a clandestine entry onto Timshel from the Enterprise which uses some fancy warp physics to at preset intervals make contact with Kirk but stay off the planets sensor grid but events soon spiral out of control.
The secret Timshel has been hiding is slowly revealed to Kirk as he learns an AI experiment proved to be wildly successful to the point where though the delivery of pure "joy" using machine interfaces the adult humans on the planet have put aside "normal" day to day concerns and only work under the guidance of the "Joy Machine". This story by Theodore Sturgeon was for the original series but never got beyond the pitching process and was later adapted by James E. Gunn for publication in 1996 during the boom time for Trek paperbacks. In many ways it's different enough to be embraced by the non-canon stories of the time but still retains elements we have certainly seen in the televised show which is no surprise. As a Trek novel this was perfectly acceptable with only one minor gripe and that was how the Enterprise itself was affected by the Joy Machine and the consequences there of, it felt silly and throwaway, perfect I guess for an epilogue but not a novel.
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