Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
reviewed by Gamin Davis
For the sake of space, I'm basing this review on the premise that the reader will have seen the Star Trek III movie, thereby negating any need to rehash the plot point-by-point. Hopefully, readers will remember how it begins immediately on the heels of Star Trek II, with Spock dead but possibly reborn on the Genesis planet, the Enterprise's trainee crew re-assigned and scattered, and Kirk fully occupied with McCoy's suddenly bizarre behavior and his own grief, then follows Kirk through the discovery of Spock's body still alive and his essence left within McCoy, and the actions they and the rest of the crew take to remedy this situation.
Like most movie and TV episode novelizations, Vonda McIntyre's book helps to fill in characterization and plot gaps that the movie couldn't make time to show, although I couldn't help wondering as I read it how much was from the early Harve Bennett script on which her novelization was based and how much was made up by her as filler. Whichever is the case, it jumps immediately into new territory by opening at a "wake" which seems to strike some of the characters as it strikes me--as nothing more than an excuse for getting drunk that hardly seems an appropriate way of honoring Spock. (Kirk at the funeral near the end of Star Trek II, referring to Spock as the "most Human" being he'd ever known, doesn't even compare; at least Spock would have understood the emotions behind that.)
Among other revelations offered up by the McIntyre version of this story are a romantic relationship between Saavik and David Marcus, a hint of Scotty's family background (when he goes home for his nephew Peter Preston's funeral), more about Carol Marcus (not that it made her much easier for me to empathize with), and--my personal favorite--instructions to Kirk in Spock's will not to return his body to Vulcan in the event of his death. Aside from this one, probably the most relevant and useful addition is a continuation from Star Trek II of the character explorations of the Regula I scientists, now revealed in flashback through the memories of Carol Marcus.
Again, I don't know whether to credit McIntyre's writing or the script she was working from, but characters that were spared a couple of short scenes in Star Trek II continue to come alive in the pages of her Star Trek III novel. They are shown as individuals, each with their own individual physical traits, backgrounds, feelings and relationships, including Carol's romantic relationship with one of them. Would that her exploration of Kirk, Spock and other main characters was so extensive and effective; they come off comparatively flat, but still somewhat more three-dimensional than in the movie.
Of my few gripes with this novelization, most are very subjective and in some cases more resemble pet peeves than major issues; one is McIntyre's already-mentioned tendency to focus on secondary characters, sometimes to the detriment of the main characters. Another problem I have is her continual use of expressions like "a good god's damn" and others where she uses god-with-a small-G--my objection is not that she's obviously an atheist or just a non-Christian (unlike some people, I don't equate that with evil), but the fact that she puts the words in the mouths of characters like Kirk and McCoy, whom all prior canonical evidence indicates do believe in what Kirk once called "the one God". Yet another objection I have is Spock at one point saying, through McCoy, "Vulcans do not love"--which, as any fan of Spock, Sarek or Vulcans in general will tell you, is a load of hooey. Then there's the whole Saavik/David thing, which just struck me as rather soap opera-esque, as did her way of trying to pair off so many of the background characters. And so forth.
My one non-subjective gripe is that the book seems, for a professional publication, pretty badly edited from a grammatical/spelling standpoint--I found it to be rife with misspellings and usage errors. Even the assumption that the author is using British-style grammar doesn't account for all of them, and I would have expected such usage to still be altered for publication in the U.S., anyway. Another problem is not grammatical but also an apparent editing issue, and something any Trek fan who's read any kind of Star Trek fiction will be likely to pick up on: there are words, sentences and phrases clearly intended to be italicized thought expressions--some of them begin with capitalized words following comma-punctuated introductory phrases, but with no beginning quote marks before the capitalization, clearly leaving the impression that McIntyre originally italicized them but some editor removed them at some point without changing the capitalization. I found this distracting, and I'm guessing other readers might, too.
Overall, however, my gut feeling is that if you liked the Star Trek III movie, you'll like this version of the story--maybe better than the movie.
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