Click on the Cover to Order this BookVulcan!

Kathleen Sky

reviewed by David Eversole

For reasons I cannot quite fathom, this early Star Trek novel is often placed on many readers’ "All-Time Worst List." It is certainly not a cutting-edge novel, not one that will expand your horizons and leave you an enriched, superior Homo sapien sol, but it ain’t all that bad either. Certainly as far as professional Star Trek fiction of the 1970's goes, it is quite okay. A diverting, quick read. A couple things grate here and there, but I’d rather be irritated by an author than bored by one.

A brief précis of the plot: Due to ion storms at the edge of the Neutral Zone which separates Federation and Romulan space, the boundaries of the zone are shifting. Soon the planet Arachnae, now in Federation space, will fall within the Romulan’s territory. The Enterprise is sent to search for intelligent life there before this happens. Doctor Katalya Tremain, the foremost expert on the exobiology of this region of space, is assigned to aid in the search. Dr. McCoy, who refers to Tremain as "the best thing to happen to biology since Charles Darwin," is ecstatic as she arrives. Even Spock allows himself a slight smile at meeting a woman whose mind equals and probably surpasses his own.

And she’s damn fine lookin’ too. Ain't they always?

But soon we learn that Tremain harbors an irrational hatred of Vulcans. One which she refuses to discuss.

Without giving too much away, Spock and Tremain (as any astute reader would have realized almost from the first moment she set her hateful gaze upon him) are stranded on Arachnae and must work together to survive.

I’ll say no more about the plot. It’s serviceable if not original. Sky’s prose is likewise. She tells her story in unadorned language. She’ll never equal the graceful prose of Theodore Sturgeon nor the fiery wordsmithing of Harlan Ellison (how many writers do?!), but she puts her sentences together in an eminently readable fashion.

Only a couple (to my sensibilities) glaring plotholes.

  1. I still doubt (despite the author’s careful explanation) that Tremain’s hostility toward Vulcans would have gone unnoticed. I’ve known many people who seemed quite ordinary and thoughtful and kind in every way who have eventually let slip a vicious strain of hidden racism, sexism, what-have-you. It will come out.
  2. Okay, the planet Arachnae: never explored, despite the fact that it is at the edge of the Neutral Zone. Come on, this is the final frontier’s version of the 38th Parallel -- would the Federation not be constantly patrolling their side of this one hundred year old demarcation? Surely the planet would have been scoped out for use as a possible defense site, a refueling, regrouping site. Just seems to me.

Vulcan! comes with a complimentary introduction by David Gerrold (who seems to left-handedly give Sky’s then husband, author Stephen Goldin, more credit for the novel than the byline suggests).

Honesty compels me to add that this was the first Star Trek novel I ever read. At fourteen years of age, the cover caught my attention quite easily and the horde of Arachnae natives surrounding Spock and Tremain, promised high adventure. And the scene were Spock mindmelds with the Arachnae natives sent my young mind into that vaulted "sense of wonder" that science fiction literature strives for (but does not always achieve). It represents a time in my life, one that thirty years later I, as many of you no doubt do as well, long nostalgically for (of course glossing over all the negative points to remember the positive ones).

Read this book for the first time without any preconceived notions, or reread it with an open mind. Despite the viciousness of Tremain’s prejudices, I think you might enjoy it.

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