Synopsis: “Captain’s Log, Stardate 2410.500; the 23rd Century. From halfway across the galaxy, Captain James T. Kirk and the USS Enterprise are summoned by the ruling council of Commander Spock’s home planet – Vulcan. At stake is the planet’s future as a key member of the Federation. At issue is Vulcan’s mysterious past and its historic struggle for the meaning of logic. Torn between his duty to Starfleet and his unbreakable ties to Vulcan, Spock must find a way to reconcile his own inner conflict and the external threat his planet faces – or the Federation will rip itself apart.”
Review: You might be thinking (and quite rightly I suppose) “a Star Trek book?!”, well bare with me because believe me this is not only a brilliantly written Star Trek book but it is also an excellent piece of political science fiction.Diane Duane explores not only Vulcan’s past, but it’s future in this cleverly written and well-plotted story which is just as much a mystery as a conspiracy. Duane looks back to the original series and uses elements from the popular ‘Amok Time’ and can be congratulated for developing a character beyond what we saw on screen.
One of the ruling groups of the Vulcan council has posed the vote that Vulcan leaves the United Federation of Planets, it’s a vote that has personal ramifications for Spock and Sarek as they must ultimately make the decision if the vote is successful to leave their loved ones and remain on Vulcan or leave their home and be cast out.
Sarek faces a battle of concious, does he speak from his heart or do what his government requests of him? He makes the decision to do what ever ‘cthia’ – reality-truth, a word that has been mistranslated as meaning ‘logic’ and misunderstanding seems to be at the heart of the matter – tells him to do.
Duane has interestingly created characters, such as K’s’t’lk a twelve legged glass spider type being who is a physicist who more or less exists in a different plane of existence and her work with physics reflects this… as well as the now-famous Horta crew member. She deals with the established characters very well, no one seems out of character including characters we’ve only briefly met.
In typical Vulcan fashion, they want to hear all the reasons, all sides from pro-succession presentations to anti-succession and T’Pau has called upon Kirk, Spock and McCoy as not only voices of the Federation but as people who have a more personal relationship with Vulcan.
McCoy though has a bee in his bonnet, something doesn’t seem right. He starts digging into the archives and asking the right questions and soon uncovers a deep conspiracy that lies at the core of the matter, McCoy’s evidence eventually gives reason for Vulcan to stay after throws apart the whole matter.
It was refreshing to see McCoy the ‘hero’ for once, particularly as the plot itself gave little opportunity for Kirk to be an action hero and I loved that McCoy went off and learned Vulcan via RNA (basically language by absorption!).
Another character, who had a minor role, that I think was very well written as Uhura. Early in the story we see some of the posts on the internal bulletin board and discover that Uhura is working on a thesis that is going to essentially re-write everything to do with the universal translator. I thought that was a nice touch.
Keep an eye out for the sentient computer on the Enterprise’s rec’ deck, not only is it a clever idea but you find yourself becoming attached to it without realising that it is the computer.
One thing that I haven’t dealt with yet is the chapter framing. Each chapter set in the ‘present’ is followed by a chapter set in Vulcan’s past. These chapters are brilliant, it’s fascinating to see how Duane has established historic Vulcan from the dawning of their civilisation through the violence of the tribal days, finally up to the teachings of Surak and eventually the uniting of Earth and Vulcan by the marriage of Sarek and Amanda.
This book is a breath of fresh air in the Trek-genre, and is a good piece of science fiction writing. Whilst it pays to have at least a passing knowledge of the main characters, I think you could pick up this book without really knowing much about the world of Star Trek. A definite recommendation.