Saturday, January 13, 2007

Again, wallowing in the crucible

Late last night, I completed reading the new "Star Trek" novel, "Crucible: Spock: The Fire and the Rose". It's Part Two of a trilogy, and looking almost as chunky as its giant predecessor, ("Crucible: McCoy"). Although a "mere" 390 pages, this was another thoroughly enjoyable read.

Cover art by John Picacio

This time, the events stretch from the second "Star Trek" pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and spends quite a bit of time delving into new scenes to complement several crucial time travel episodes: the death of Kirk's love, Edith Keeler, in "The City on the Edge of Forever"; the story of young Spock's practice-run of his kahs-wan ordeal in the animated episode, "Yesteryear"; and the retrieval of humpback whales in ST IV. All three were highly popular adventures in their day, the events of which took their toll on poor ol' emotion-suppressing Spock.

We learn in this volume that Spock carries a deep and secret pain. While he saved his mother's and his own lives in "Yesteryear", via time travel, and saved the whole Earth in ST IV, again via time travel, Spock had previously chosen not to lend a hand to his best friend, Kirk, when they discovered that Edith had to die to enable them to rebuild the timeline. Although it's not spelled out, you do find yourself wondering if Edith could have been brought through time, as marine biologist Gillian Taylor (ST IV) had been, if only Spock's logic was not clouded by emotion. (Or vice versa.)

The book takes Spock beyond ST VI, through his new career as a diplomat, a new love affair - and the tragic "death" of Kirk in "Generations". Spock also makes a second attempt to eradicate his emotions with the Kolinahr discipline, which he first tried - and failed - to do in ST:TMP... until Vejur, a gigantic sentient machine, made mental contact with him from deep space.

Many times I found myself deliberately reading slower, as if I was trying to make the book last longer. David George also has a knack of having his characters mull over certain facts at irregular intervals, sometimes making different observations each time, and I found it a very realistic exploration of people with deep problems. Problems that have no easy resolution. I was also often quite aware of how the story had been constructed - but I don't say this as a criticism. Mr George was retreading old ground with this book - ST stories we knew so well, and also he was essentially retelling aspects of the recent "McCoy" volume - so it was fascinating - to steal a Spock term - to predict what elements of the ST tapestry were about to be woven into the mystery.

Again, the "Crucible" trilogy purposely works within its own continuity, as regarding other ST novels, but it still leaves some wriggle room - and sets up parameters - for events that won't occur until later: the novels featuring the courtship and marriage of Spock and Saavik; and Spock's attempts to reunify Vulcan and Romulus in "Unification (TNG).

And, once again, Filmation's animated ST series of the 70s (TAS) is well represented in some great references: Paul Bates is back, but this time so is Loom Aleek-Om the Aurelian, Jan Grey the historian, Thelin the Andorian, Erikson, Arex, Dawson Walking Bear, Carver, Gabler, the Terratins (and Verdanis and Cepheus), a Pandronian artist, Governor Bob Wesley (and Mantilles), I-Chaya the sehlat, the le-matya, life-support belts, Lunaport, Shi'Kahr, Vulcan's Forge and the L-Langon Mountains, young Spock's Cousin Selek and his Tasmeen visit, and even a rare mention of the kzinti Treaty of Sirius. (Late additions: Questar M17, Rigel II and Amanda's surname of Grayson.) Wow, thanks David George!

Crucible: triptych cover
Art by John Picacio

I spent most of today updating my Toon Trek pages and my Lower Decks novel pages again to include all the new "Crucible" TAS references.

Now I can't wait for the upcoming "Kirk" instalment...


Therin of Andor said...

The author, David R George III answered my review thusly:

"For the record, Ian, 'The Fire and the Rose' clocked in at about 115,000 words, while 'Provenance of Shadows' actually measured twice as long, at approximately 230,000 words. Of course, as I like to say, no good book can be too long, no bad book too short.

"... I found it terribly difficult to write the emotional journey of a character who not only practiced an outward stoicism, but proclaimed his preference for eschewing any emotions within him. But when I searched for the Spock story I wanted to tell, I saw what I considered a major disconnect in the character's life, one I thought worth exploring.

"In the episodes and films, we saw Spock living what appeared to be a satisfactory life aboard the Enterprise; he even seemed at peace with the friendship he felt for both Kirk and McCoy. But then in 'The Motion Picture', we learn that, immediately after the end of the five-year mission, Spock bolted for Vulcan, where he sought to purge himself of all emotion. What the heck happened? I wondered. I thought it a portion of the character's life that deserved examination, but I didn't wish to explore it and pay it off completely during that period, for that would not help move the character forward. Thus, I hit on the notion of a second Kolinahr for Spock."

Re wriggle room for Spock novels in a later time period:

"This is an observation I haven't seen made often, Ian, but I believe that you're right. I have seen in some quarters where some readers feel that I have broken continuity with a plethora of previous Star Trek novels, but this is not actually the case. Yes, the 'Crucible' trilogy, while absolutely as faithful as possible to all of the series and films, does contradict some aspects of Trek literature, but fewer than some readers believe. Of course, I know what I wrote in all three volumes of the trilogy, so I have some knowledge that readers don't as yet; I also necessarily have a better understanding of some of the deliberate and very specific language that I employed.

Re TAS references: "Nice catch on the last reference you listed. Shall I tell you those references that you left off your list?

"... don't expect the same sort of story as in the first two novels. That would have been too obvious a choice for me to make..." DRG III

Since writing the review, I found myself adding these comments over at TrekBBS, but I wanted to bring them here where they'll presumably be more permanent:

When it was first got mentioned that Sarek had once undergone Kolinahr - I was thinking, "Wrong, wrong, wrong..." because TMP (esp. the novelization) had given the indication that undergoing Kolinahr was quite a rare thing and I couldn't imagine Amanda being attracted to a Vulcan who'd undergone it, and she wouldn't have sat around idly if he undertook it while married to her. Then we realize that Spock had always assumed it of his father, which is actually quite a compliment to Sarek, I'd think - if Vulcans gave compliments. It's a revelation on the scale to the scene in TNG where Sarek admits to Picard that he'd never once mindmelded with Spock, thus Picard can help Spock in a unique way. Loved it!

Re Sarek and Kolinahr: "...I'm thrilled to hear that, Ian. I found this sort of thing--dealing with the emotions and rites of the Vulcans--to be particularly difficult, especially given the sometimes contradictory (and sometimes subtly contradictory) details occasionally seen in the show and films themselves." DRG III

The only quibble - and I don't really mind because it was always a mess, partly caused by James Doohan doing so many voices in TAS - and I'm dying to look at 'Yesteryear' on DVD when it arrives in Sydney this month, 'cos my VHS has been defunct for about six months now - but... In 'Crucible: McCoy', the two security guards who go down to the Guardian of Forever in 'City on the Edge of Forever' are given as Galloway and Davis. (Admittedly, McCoy is thinking - "Davis, was it?", trying to recall his name in the book. And I also remember that when someone did a SNW story they attributed brand new names to the two men, even though they were recognizable, regular TOS extras). But in the flashback in 'Crucible: Spock', it's Paul Bates, not Davis, who accompanies the landing party. (And, of course, Bates wasn't ever named until TAS.) Was this still meant to be Davis?

"This part, at least, is easily answered. One of the security guards in 'The City on the Edge of Forever' is Galloway, who was also seen in other episodes. The other had no lines and no name, though he is often misidentified as DeSalle. McCoy, in thinking that this second guard's name might be Davis, was simply wrong. I used the name Davis, though, as an homage to an earlier version of the script." DRG III

Now, in the episode 'Yesteryear', Spock and Kirk are accompanied on their trip through the Guardian by a Starfleet redshirt. Both 'Crucible' novels say it's Lieutenant Bates. 'Crucible: Spock' includes mention that Erikson (no "c") as an Enterprise records officer/historian, who researches Spock's alternate family history for Thelin.

However, Alan Dean Foster's novelization has Ted Erickson as a short, chubby, grey-haired, independent historian working with the other historians - not even in Starfleet - and an Ensign Bates as records officer on the ship. The booklet with my "Mr. Spock's Time Trek" View-Master names the Starfleet redshirt with Kirk and Spock as Erickson, the ship's historian - and Ensign Bates is still back on the ship with the records. So 'Crucible' seems to swap Bates' and (no "c") Erikson's roles somewhat, and promoting Bates to lieutenant ('McCoy' starts him off as 'Crewman' Bates) and giving him a first name. (Both are voiced by Doohan in the episode, of course, and wear red shirts.) So maybe I-Chaya, the sehlat, dying too early wasn't the only change in the timeline? Fun!

"Maybe not so much fun. At least not for me. As we all know at this point, I based the Crucible novels on the series and films, and while I maintained continuity as much as I could with literary Trek works, I also contradicted a few as necessary. (And truthfully, I never even considered checking View-Master discs.) In attempting to find the names of the two red-shirted officers in 'Yesteryear', I consulted credit lists for the episode, which contained both Bates and Erikson. Because Jimmy Doohan voiced both, it seemed impossible to identify which character was which, so I eventually made an executive decision. Only later did I discover somewhere (and I cannot even recall where; perhaps the episode's script) that the two characters had been intended to be named opposite to my own decision. At that point, though, it was too late to make the change.

"I will say this, though. There is absolutely no means within 'Yesteryear' itself of identifying the names of the two red-shirted officers, so, strictly speaking, I did not violate the show's continuity. Still, I wish I'd gone with the reverse naming. Ian, you are way too observant! :) DRG III

Guilty admission. Gee, I'm glad I checked! I just went through the end of 'Crucible: Spock' to find the date of the last chapter (2312, btw) - and I realised that I'd inadvertently missed the two-page Epilogue last night! The page had flipped straight to Acknowledgments last night, which I'd read weeks ago. So I only just found the delightful ending!

"Yikes. This reminds me of the couple of times when friends have read my manuscripts, but somehow managed not to print the last few pages. On more than one occasion, I've been asked how I could end a novel in such an unfulfilling way, only to find out that the person hadn't actually read the ending. Anyway, I'm glad to hear that you made it through the epilogue, Ian." DRG III

Therin of Andor said...

Supplemental:Ah! I just got my R4 TAS DVDs. Thank you JB HiFi!

The crewman on the tri-dee viewer who researches Spock's family history in "Yesteryear" wears gold, not red. Shows you how bad my memory and old crosstapes of illegal crosstapes were!