Monday, January 22, 2007

7. Spock's World by Diane Duane

Spock's World cover pictureSomewhere in my nerdly wanderings in the digital realm, I gained the recommendation that of all the Star Trek novels, there were two by Diane Duane that were particularly good and worth reading. I had already read and enjoyed Dark Mirror when I found Spock's World for a quarter at the local thrift store. It's been sitting on my on-deck shelf for quite some time now.

I am a huge fan of the original Star Trek series. As a kid, it was the show and, since we didn't have a television of my own, was a motivating factor in many social visits in my life. I would hang out, but I was always plotting to get Star Trek on. I recently watched the first and half of the second seasons of the series on DVD and it holds up. Kirk's delivery has been so lampooned that it is easy to forget how well-written the shows were. The charactarizations were strong and rich. The shows were exciting. Mr. Spock was and remains a role model for me (one that, sadly, I seem to be getting farther and farther away from the older I get).

I give you this info so you can understand that I am a bit sentimental to the Star Trek universe. The first few chapters of Spock's World do a great job of capturing the inner thoughts, the on-deck banter and the personal lives of the characters that I love so well. So I was pretty psyched. I can see how if you were a real geek and didn't want to be away from the Star Trek universe, you would read all the novels (and there are tons, at least 50 concerning the original series alone).

The story starts out with the Enterprise docked in orbit around earth for maintenance and the crew all on vacation. They get called back because of an important vote that is going to happen on planet Vulcan, Spock's homeworld. A majority of Vulcans have called for a vote to secede from the Federation (the UFP, United Federation of Planets, the political entity that governs the Enterprise) and sever their ties with humanity. Kirk and Spock are called to testify (Spock is half-human, half-Vulcan and both of them have a history on Vulcan, particularly the episode Amok Time where Spock is supposed to go back to Vulcan and get married; awesome episode). So the enterprise is sent back into space. This is also an excuse for the reader to get a history of Vulcan. Every other chapter is an important segment of that planet and specie's development, starting from their savage stage to when they first discovered space.

I was hoping more for a episode-like adventure. Spock's Planet is more of an excuse to give us a ton of backstory on Vulcans and their history. That was okay, but it didn't seem very rigourously thought out to me. The history was cool and there were a lot of pseudo-science that explained a lot of things. But at the same time, their development seemed all too human. The main story as well, the plot about the secession, was kind of soft, with it basically being a move by some corrupt Vulcans. I just didn't get a good sense of the mysterious and powerful other as it was so well portrayed by Leonard Nimoy. So overall, despite some good moments, I was dissatisfied with Spock's World and will let the background of the baddest of badasses remain a mystery, with only subtle hints here and there, in my imagination.

[addendum:] I was quite surprised to see the author herself post a comment to this blog (and a funny one). I went back and re-read my review with the thought that it had been read by the author. With this new perspective, I found my review bit dismissive. I still stand to my overall opinion of the book, but I would like to add that there are many very good elements in the book that made it an enjoyable read overall. Sarek's backstory and his relationship with Amanda, his human wife is well done. The structure of the history of Vulcan, which just captured slices of different eras rather than trying to show all the big moments, was very effective and interesting. The explanation of the development of Vulcan attributes (such as their mind meld and the neck pinch) was also well thought out. Dr. McCoy's personality is enrichened and deepeened while maintaining the crusty exerior that we all know from the TV show.

What kept bugging me was the constant suggestions of Vulcan emotion. T'pring's resentment and jealousy didn't seem Vulcan at all. Also, the constant reaction from the audience, during various people's speeches (especially the laughter) seemed very un-Vulcan. This might not be Duane's doing, as the later iterations of the series got mushier and mushier (and lamer and lamer; call it the Guinan infection) and for all I know it could now be canon that the vulcans are actually very emotional. But the Spock I know and love only laughed when some evil flower sprayed its emotion dust in his face.

But I know that the writing and ideas in Spock's World come from a place of love and respect so I don't want to come down super hard on these disagreements of interpretation. I'm glad I read this book and it has given me some depth and insight into Vulcan but I will still keep most of that backstory at some distance from my imagination.

Evil Spock cover picture

"It is only logical that I will kick your ass."


Anonymous said...

What do they call geeks on spock's world?


Diane said...

Normal. :)ajx

Anonymous said...

burn! ; )