reviewed by Diane Doyle
The plot of this novel, which was the very first Star Trek hardback novel, involves the proposed withdrawal of Vulcan from the Federation. A referendum had been called to discuss that possibility, and TPau had recalled Ambassador Sarek back to Vulcan to testify in favor of the secessionists. If the vote for secession succeeded, Vulcan would withdraw from the Federation; all non-Vulcans would have to leave Vulcan, and all Vulcans living outside that world would need to return home or face permanent exile. Before the final vote, many people would testify both for and against secession. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are all asked to testify. Accordingly, the Enterprise journeys to Vulcan, having picked up Vulcan-bound passengers from other ships.
The novel is written in a style that alternates a chapter of Vulcan history with a chapter of the present day Enterprise crew as they try to prevent the secession from occurring. The chapters on Vulcan history include the formation of the dual planetary system orbiting its sun 40 Eridani A, i.e. Vulcan and its large moon, TKhut. There is also a chapter about an early member of their original tree-dwelling race, who had discovered that fruit gourds could float and be used as container for water and wandered from their home to the desert and eventually to Mount Selaya. Another chapter details how a solar flare caused Vulcans atmosphere to be less hospitable, causing the world to become a desert. Further chapters detail the further development of psionic powers, the genetic mutation of pointed ears, the wars between clans, and the life of Surak, who convinced his race to develop the philosophy of cthia, loosely translated as logic. The final Vulcan chapter describes Sareks assignment as Ambassador to Earth and how he meets Amanda.
The present day Enterprise chapters include the attempts of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy to prevent the secession of Vulcan. There is a section where McCoy goes to the library on Vulcan and learns much about the instigators of the secession resolution, some of it very chilling. He shares it with Spock, Kirk, and Sarek. There is much narrative on the testimony both for and against withdrawal from the Federation. The actions described in both the Vulcan sections and the Enterprise sections heads towards a climax.
Being as the novel was published in 1988, there are details in this novel that contradict Star Trek canon developed later, including the middle name of Dr. McCoy. This novel described the new-born Spock as looking Vulcan which contradicts his birth in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier where Sarek declared him as looking "so Human." There were many references in this novel to the electronic Bulletin Boards (BBS) for posting of electronic messages. Many of the headers on the messages seemed anachronistic by today's standards, let alone for the twenty-third century.
This novel is definitely a "must read" for fans of Spock and his home world. It is well-researched and rich in scientific and political detail. A casual fan of Star Trek would probably be bored by the back story of Vulcans history. One of my impressions of this book was that fans will like T'Pring even less than they did before. The author, as usual, displays her interest in all things Vulcan. She is also one of the leading writers among the pro-novelists about Romulans.
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