the Little Red Reviewer

Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky

Posted on: January 28, 2015

vulcan Kathleen SkyVulcan! by Kathleen Sky

published in 1978

where I got it: purchased used

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Ahh, Star Trek. I grew up with you, I watched all your spin offs, I learned all about diplomacy and crazy hairstyles from you, I’ve even transferred my school girl crush on Shatner’s Kirk to Vic Mignogna’s Kirk. But in all these years, I’ve never read a Star Trek tie in novel. Until now.  Browsing at a bookstore with some friends,   Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky was pushed into my hands. ok sure, why not?

 

You know sometimes you just need a fun, brain-candy kind of book? Something that is sure to entertain but doesn’t require your brain to do any back-flips? This was one of the books, and the timing couldn’t have been better, because boy was I in the mood for some easy to read candy.

 

The premise is that the Neutral Zone between Federation space and Romulan space is shifting, and a solar system that had always been on the Federation side will soon be on the Romulan side. The Enterprise’s mission is to visit the planet and determine if the life forms there are intelligent or not. On the way, they pick up the Federation’s preeminent expert on zenobiology, Dr. Katalya Tremain. Kirk has been warned that she’s got a difficult personality, but he figures he’ll put on the charm, and she’ll be like putty in his hands. Dr. Tremain beams aboard, sees Spock standing in the transporter room, and freaks the hell out.  Apparently “difficult personality” was subtle talk for she’s happily vocal about her bigoted hatred for all Vulcans.

I wanna back up a bit, because there are two really interesting things happening right at the beginning of the book that grabbed me. I never knew how the Neutral Zone worked! I knew it was some kind of boundary in space, but I never really thought about that everything in the galaxy is spinning relative to each other, so things shift around all the time, so how the heck do you ever have a firm boundary? Well, now I know exactly how the Neutral Zone works, and i feel like I’ve got some kinda special Trekkie geek cred. Also, the character of Katalya Tremain. She’s a brilliant biologist, she’s one of the Federation’s best and brightest. But she’s also a complete asshole. I don’t know about you, but I can’t go a week in the blogosphere without someone saying “that person’s book is great,  but they are such an ass in real life that I just can’t bring myself to recommend or read anymore of their work”. It’s nearly the same thing with Tremain. Can someone’s professional work be respected and trusted, if in their personal life they are just a horrible, wretched person?   So, yeah, lots of interesting (but not brain-hurty) stuff to think about right away.

 

For the name of the book being Vulcan!, Spock doesn’t have a very big role in the story. It’s mostly about McCoy trying to figure out what went so wrong in Tremain’s past that she harbors such a deep hatred of Vulcans.  The two of them flirt a lot, although she makes it obvious that she’s not sure she’s ready for another relationship after losing her husband in a starship disaster. For those of you who are thinking “Kirk seduces every woman who visits the Enterprise!”, there are some hilarious passages where Tremain says she’s not above seducing Kirk so she can get what she wants out of this mission.  Sex and seduction is absolutely a weapon here, but Kirk and Tremain so hate each other that they can barely spend five minutes in the same room together.  That whole dynamic and everyone hoping to seduce each other was funnier to me that it was probably meant to be.  And then there is McCoy on the sidelines, who is trying to be so honest and authentic.

 

During her time on the Enterprise, Tremain meets a few other Vulcan haters, and she asks them why they hate Vulcans, and then laughs at their answers. Just goes to show there are plenty of ways to be a bigot.  Kirk is rightfully concerned that her casual hatred will infect other people on board, wrecking the carefully wrought balance of the crew.

 

When it comes down to it, Tremain and Spock have no choice but to go down to the planet and work together. Spock subtly tricks her a little, he’s pushing her to a precipice that no amount of McCoy’s rather plot-devicey but useless psychoanalyzing even got close to.  Surprising no one, while Tremain and Spock are down on the planet, it shifts into Romulan space, and they are stranded there for a while and must help each other survive. There is a fantastic mind meld scene that I wish had been longer.

As I write this review, I’m realizing that Vulcan! was a lot less brain candy than I’d thought. the plot itself wasn’t crazy interesting, but Kathleen Sky opens the story with some important questions, and closes with some truly excellent interactions between Tremain and Spock. (although, when we did get to the crux of her issue, my reaction was really?”)

 

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So, after my first Star Trek tie in novel, would I read more? Most definitely.I’m especially interested in the ones that were written after the original series was cancelled,  but before Next Gen was greenlit.

 

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17 Responses to "Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky"

Uh. One tie in leads to many. Soon you will be discussing Bothan economics with me, or perhaps the best way to smoke out Tyranids.

But for all my Star Wars and Warhammer 40k reading I never picked up a Trek novel. That just seems….geeky. =)

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oh, i’ve already read my share of Star Wars books. Hello Timothy Zahn! Tie in novels are only geeky when…. wait a minute, they are never geeky.😉

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Sigh…

Vulcan is not what I’d consider one of the better Trek novels out there. Unfortunately, a good number of the earliest Trek novels are Mary Sue novels or barely disguised slash fiction.

If you want a good one, try Diane Duane’s The Wounded Sky. It came out after TMP but before TNG was upon us.

And now shameless plug time….

My podcast had an episode recently talking about the Trek novels.

http://allgoodthings.podbean.com/e/all-good-things-star-trek-podcast-episode-20-what-a-novel-idea/

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I was just about to recommend The Wounded Sky…🙂 It will always be my favorite Star Trek novel. (I tried to read a few TNG novels, and could never get into them. Didn’t like the characters, mostly.)

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ooh, thanks for the link to the podcast! you’re timing is perfect, as i have a road trip next week and need some new stuff to listen to.

thanks for the recommendation for The Wounded Sky.

(and not to worry, i’m one of those people who has no problem at all with barely disguised slashfic. LOL, was that too much info?)

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Ok I’m dying to read a ST tie in, as I’ve never read one before. That “throw two people together who hate each other and put them in danger” is an old trope but one I love anyway:-D

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i know, it’s pretty irresistible, right? Who is your favorite Trek character? look for a book in that universe. and check out the used bookstores, in case you find a dud.

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I’ve read some good, and some horrid. Particularly amusing are the seven separate adventures that the Enterprise manages to have in the day and a half between The Wrath Of Kahn and The Search For Spock. And by that I mean the books written in between those two films, where the fine folks manning the continuity desk neglected to mention to their stable of writers that Spock’s death was only momentary…..

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ok, that’s just hilarious! so is Spock dead in all those novels??

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Yeah. The novelization of the first film is numbered as book #1, then WOK is #7, and then all the ones until SFS featured a Spockless Enterprise. It was like seven or eight books….and since I knew it made no sense, it threw me off my intended binge of the entire set.😛

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a Spock-less Enterprise? that’s just…. boring!

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Yeah. I don’t actually remember anything else about those books….

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I watched the first show, first season, original series, when broadcast, so I have been around a while with ST. Not that that matters much, I guess, other than to show how old I am. I liked NextGen better from the very get-go, and those are the novels I read. At one point I had the first 50 of them, later sold on eBay for a pittance as a set. There were some very good ones, especially by Peter David. I don’t know if he wrote any with the original series characters, but if so, you might look for them.

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I grew up watching Next Gen, but seem to have connected most with TOS and DS9 characters. But if the good TNG ones are by Peter David, that’s the author I’ll look for. Did you ever read any DS9 tie-ins? find any good ones?

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The only Trek book I ever read came when I forgot to bring a book with me to read while housesitting for my uncle. He’s got the world’s greatest SFF library (seriously, I could live in it and never come out) and I just picked up the first thing I found. It was called Vulcan’s Heart, and while the story was prosaic and writing bland, I give it props for bringing back the Romulan female captain from S3 who Spock seduced. I always wanted to see more of her.

If you’re looking for really GOOD ST stuff go read the fanfiction by Pat Foley (https://www.fanfiction.net/u/774345/Pat-Foley). Seriously, I wish someone corporate would discover her and give her a book contract already. She writes Vulcans very well, and her Amanda is a nice blend of spunk, intelligence, and verbe, while also occasionally blinded by her own social/cultural upbringing. Start with the Holography series and work from there out.

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I’ve read a few Trek tie-in books, not a lot… but if I was to recommend one, it would be “Prime Directive” by Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens. It’s a great exploration of one of Trek’s most beloved plot devices, as well as a fascinating examination of all of the Enterprise command staff and how they deal with a major setback to their mission, and to their careers… but I’ve said too much. https://www.google.com/search?q=Star+Trek+%22Prime+Directive%22+novel&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

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Well, most people can only hope, no dream, of having Trekkie geek cred – everyone will be wanting it now though!!
Lynn😀

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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