Book Review: Dead Endless by Dave Galanter

Cover of Dead Endlessby Dave Galanter(Note: This review contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.)

Pride Month may be winding down, but if you’re looking for LGBTQIAP+ stories to read (besides the gigabytes of fanfiction we have online, that is), how about a novel featuring Star Trek’s first canon gay couple?

Dead Endless by Dave Galanter is the sixth book in the Star Trek: Discovery tie-in series, published in 2019. It takes place during the show’s second season, focusing on Doctor Hugh Culber’s struggle to survive the mycelial network and reunite with his husband, Lieutenant Paul Stamets. Meanwhile in another universe, a Paul who never got together with Hugh is haunted by a mysterious voice calling his name every time he uses the spore drive. His colleagues, especially Tilly, are both concerned and fascinated, and immediately start experimenting with communication methods that could travel through the network. Hugh is not the only one calling out from there, however, and the Discovery crew’s experiments have consequences they could never have predicted.

I enjoyed this book, not only for its classic Trek-style mystery (who are these other beings signaling from inside the mycelial network, and what do they want?), or for its quirky humor (you’d never believe how effective a strategy the song “Old MacDonald” can be), but for its relationships.

Published in 2019 before Season 3 aired, it foreshadows several developments from the later seasons: Michael Burnham is captain, Saru is first officer, and the atmosphere on board is lighter and freer than Lorca’s “militaristic aura” would ever have allowed. Paul acts as a fondly exasperated mentor to Tilly (“Can we work on you having unexpressed thoughts?” he asks her at one point). The underrated bridge officers—Rhys, Bryce, Detmer, Owosekun and Nilsson—tease each other over lunch and make valuable contributions to solving the mystery. Characters who are dead in the prime universe—Airiam, Landry, Straal and Captain Georgiou—are alive and well in this one; Galanter drops them in so matter-of-factly that the impact is all the more emotional. Even Ripper the tardigrade appears, here named Ephraim, guiding Hugh through the mycelial network with wise, if cryptic, telepathic advice that recalls Sisko’s conversations with the Prophets in DS9:

“Paul remembers you.”

“He does? Are you sure?”

“He does, and he doesn’t, and he will, and he won’t.”

“Yes, I … I remember a Paul who didn’t remember me right. He wasn’t my Paul. He tried to trick my Paul. He wasn’t good – wasn’t right.”

“Figuring out who is and is not ‘good’ can be as difficult as learning what ‘good’ means.”

Paul and Hugh’s love for each other is at the heart of this story. Paul, who is single in this universe, falls hard for the handsome stranger who shares his passion for science, and who remains kind despite his suffering. For Hugh, it’s a bit more complicated, as he feels torn between staying in this safe haven and going back into the deadly mycelial network, on the chance of finding his own universe again. “You might be just the you I need right now,” is how he puts it, “But he [Prime Paul]’s the you I married.” Marriage, to Hugh, means loving every aspect of his husband, in every universe. (Except maybe Mirror Paul, but that’s understandable. Hugh is a doctor, not a saint.) Even for those of us who have watched all five seasons and know how the story ends, I found it difficult not to get drawn in by a love that transcends universes.

The one thing that bothered me was something beyond the author’s control. From a post-COVID perspective, adding a subplot about Federation colonies suffering from a disease called “blood-burn” to add urgency to Discovery’s mission, without any real details about the people affected – and with one of the protagonists a medical doctor, no less – seems rather cavalier. To be fair, though, Galanter couldn’t have known that a pandemic would break out only a year after this book was published. Looking back, we fans can see how much both we and the show have changed.

I chose to review Dead Endless for Pride Month because, as far as I know, it’s the first and only authorized Star Trek tie-in novel with a queer love story as the main plot. (If I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments.) As such, it’s a great example of representation, as are the comic book Star Trek: Celebrations and the audio play No Man’s Land, not to mention the TV shows themselves. By this time next year, here’s hoping for more.


Star Trek Discovery: Dead Endless is available in paperback and audiobook. It is available online or at your local retailer.

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