Warped Drive

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An old science-fiction television series about the adventures of a starship traveling through space — long canceled but still popular with fans — is revived to form the backbone of a newly created network.

Sounds like “Star Trek” to me. But television producer and writer Lee Goldberg has taken that story, thrown in seriously twisted agents, actors and sci-fi fans, hit the frappe button, and spun out “Dead Space,” an over-the-top melange of ultra-violence, sick humor and black comedy.

(2010 note: “Dead Space” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1997 as “Beyond the Beyond.” The book has been out of print, so Goldberg has republished it for the Kindle and a trade paperback through Amazon’s CreateSpace.)

Everyone wears a target in “Dead Space.” Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock of the starship Enterprise are mutated into the Endeavor’s Captain Pierce and Mr. Snork (whose fans emulate the character’s elephant nose). Even the superfans come in for some lumps. As the show’s producer puts it: “If it’s a guy, he’s awkward, ugly, and his sex life is his subscription to one of your [sex] magazines. If it’s a woman, she’s fat, has a lot of unicorn jewelry and elf statuettes, and wishes she could find a man as affectionate as her cat.” There’s a network boss who creates shows like “Siamese Cops” about a police officer with two heads, and a superagent who uses any tactic, including cannibalism, to keep the stars under contract.

So when the TV show “Beyond the Beyond” is revived for The Big Network, it lets loose a tractor-trailer load of nuts and flakes. The actor who played Captain Pierce, Guy Goddard, an eccentric recluse who never goes out without wearing his captain’s uniform, attempts to reclaim his role, aided by a group of equally demented fans. The network president has to deal with his subordinate and mistress who’s moving to a rival network, while the superagent attempts to corner the market on “Beyond’s” stars and writers.

As the body count rises, it is up to studio security agent Charlie Willis to sort out the problems. Willis is more than up to the job, and comes across as sane (he’s only one of two characters in the book with any redeeming qualities) and realistic enough about Hollywood to keep his other job as owner/manager of a storage facility.

So whether you would enjoy “Dead Space” depends entirely on your taste for humor that knows no boundaries for taste. This is a book that should come with an advisory for mature readers. It’s Mel Brooks with a laser blaster. Its humor is so wide-ranging and so scattershot that there’s something to offend every reader, especially those who take “Star Trek” and its rapidly spawning ilk way too seriously.