The Vulcan Academy Murders

Jean Lorrah

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

While science fiction is a genre in its own right, it often includes stories of other genres as well. For example, some science fiction novels are war stories (Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War); others like James Blish’s A Case of Conscience and C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra series delve into religion. Still others like Jack Vance’s The Dragon Masters and Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer include elements of fantasy. When it comes to science fiction thrillers, Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend are always popular. And if one is looking for an old-fashioned murder mystery, The Vulcan Academy Murders might just fill the bill as Kirk, Spock and McCoy find themselves trying to catch a killer.

A battle with a Klingon warship leaves the Enterprise in need of repairs and a seriously injured crewman whose only hope for recovery lies with an experimental Vulcan regeneration technique. While the starship is in dry dock for repairs, Kirk, McCoy, and Spock accompany the injured crewman to Vulcan. Spock has another reason for the trip as well: His mother is undergoing a similar procedure for treatment of degenerative xenosis, a disease that causes the nerve fibers to dissolve until the body no longer works. In all, three individuals are undergoing treatment, and it isn’t long before they start to die. The first to fall victim is the Vulcan wife of one of the creators of the treatment; next is the Enterprise crewman. While the first death can be linked to a malfunction of the stasis chamber used for the treatment, the second death seems to be more than coincidence. Since Vulcans see no logic in murder, it’s up to Kirk to investigate the deaths before Amanda too falls victim. Unfortunately, his investigation makes him a target as well.

This story takes place sometime after the episode "Journey to Babel" and gives us a chance to see Sarek and Spock mend bridges and explore their new relationship as they work together to prevent anything from happening to Amanda. It also gives us a look at more Vulcan traditions, and we learn how Sarek and Amanda met and courted. In addition, we have the opportunity to revisit T’Pau, who at first seems annoyed that Kirk is still alive and seemingly "mocking their traditions" by being so. And there are just enough twists and turns in the plot to keep us guessing who the murderer is until almost the very end—and even then we’re kept in suspense as we wait to see if the murderer’s plans for Amanda can be thwarted before it’s too late.

If you enjoy mysteries and want a "good read," then this book might just be for you, but a word of caution: Be sure you can find a block of time to devote to the novel because once you start, you won’t want to quit until you get to the end.

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