reviewed by J. Richard Laredo
The impact of Garamet Jen-Saunors book, Strangers From the Sky, is beyond the dreams of even the most optimistic publisher. More revelatory than the Bible, it tells a story of mankind's first encounter with Vulcans which is very different from the sanitized accounts found in textbooks. After so many successfully clandestine observations of Earth the inevitable had happened, a Vulcan mission had gone wrong. Catastrophically so, for even the procedures meant to obliterate the Vulcan ship and keep the existence of Vulcan a secret have failed, and two very alive Vulcans find themselves on a planet woefully unprepared to accept not being alone in the universe.
Meanwhile, the book has brought out the crazies, people claiming the ship-wrecked visitors to be relatives, and people claiming to somehow have been one of the participants to that bit of history. Starfleet thinks that Admiral Kirk and Captain Spock belong in the latter category because they are having dreams which are driving them to psychosis, dreams that they could have only if they, along with Gary Mitchell, Lee Kelso, and Doctor Elizabeth Dehner, had been there.
While Bonnano's previous effort, Dwellers in the Crucible, has been criticized for being almost unbearably dark and bleak, it had demonstrated a better than average way with words. The promise in that work is fully realized by Strangers from the Sky, as compelling a page-turner as I have seem in a long time, filled with evocative descriptions with even the most minor of passing characters made real with a refreshingly economical prose. So, like the Marines, Strangers is one of the few and the proud, worthy to carry the mantle of the dream which is Star Trek.
Yet even this novel is not without it's flaws, and it is a vexingly large one. She should not have made Kirk and company active participants in the events detailed in Jen-Saunor's book. As such a fan of Star Trek that I am, even I get tired of them involved with every galaxy-quaking event. One of these days we'll read about Kirk saying, "It's kinda dark, Spock. Do something about it.." And Spock replying, "This switch here should let there be light.") And the method by which she has Kirk, Spock, Kelso, Mitchell, and Dehner go back in time to Earth strains even my willingness to suspend belief.
But when, she deals with the characters she captivates. She stumbles slightly with Dehner, but she has Kelso's madcap tinkerer, never happier than when he can tweak the noses of the computer police as the entire Terran communication network jumps through hoops for him, and Gary Mitchell is simply handier than pockets on a shirt.
Yet I still wish she had divided up the novel somehow, keeping the story of Vulcan's first contact separate, and somehow fashioning a different story utilizing her wondrous insights into Kirk's early career on the Enterprise.
I once had hopes of writing a Star Trek novel that I could consider to the best yet written, but considering Strangers from the Sky as it now stands I despair of ever accomplishing that. Warp 9 1/2.
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