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The Meaning of Star Trek, by Thomas Richards (Doubleday, $19.95).

Synopsis: The past three decades of Star Trek television shows and movies present a coherent world--like that of Dickens, only better--deserving a 200-page analysis by a Guggenheim fellow.

Representative quote: "The series gives us metamorphoses not only of shape but of being, metamorphoses in which the very essence of a thing is transmuted into something very different."

Noteworthy flaw: Author ignores the significant role of hunks and babes in form-fitting spandex uniforms.

Guinevere, by Laurel Phelan (Pocket Books, $14).

Synopsis: Science has proven we never "die" but are reincarnated. Problems from previous lives linger.

The author happens to have been the heroine of Arthurian legend.

Representative quote: "Arthur pushes at him roughly and draws his sword. 'I should have seen this. The way you first looked at her. Draw your sword,' he orders."

Noteworthy flaw: Camelot is a myth. Claiming to be the reincarnated Guinevere is like claiming to be the reincarnated Alice in Wonderland. Also, had Arthurian heroes existed, they wouldn't talk like 20th-century women with personal difficulties.

The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, PhD (Broadway Books, $13).

Synopsis: The jittery, high-strung, or shy can cloak themselves in an important-sounding faux-medical moniker: Highly Sensitive Persons, or HSPs. While self-improvement is possible, HSPs as they are form an elite that elevates humanity.

Representative quote: "We, the royal-advisor class, are the 'priest' class, supplying some kind of ineffable nourishment to our society."

Noteworthy flaw: Two pages are devoted to praise from people who, having read the book, are nevertheless too skittish to give their names: "'I loved the book!'--S.R., Springfield, MA."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): book covers.


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