Friday, August 17, 2018

Sarek

Star Trek
Sarek by A.C. Crispin
Published March 1994
Read September 21st 2017


Previous book (The Original Series - Hardcover): Shadows on the Sun

Previous book (The Original Series - Published order): #68: Firestorm
Next book (The Original Series - Hardcover): Federation
Next book (The Original Series - Published order): #69: The Patrian Transgression


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Sarek!

From the back cover:
Spock's mother, Amanda Grayson, is dying, and Spock returns to the planet Vulcan where he and Sarek enjoy a rare moment of rapprochement. But just as his wife's illness grows worse, duty calls Sarek away -- once again sowing seeds of conflict between father and son. Yet soon, Sarek and Spock must put aside their differences and work together to foil a far-reaching plot to destroy the Federation -- a plot that Sarek has seen in the making for nearly his entire career. The epic story will take the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise to the heart of the Klingon Empire, where Captain Kirk's last surviving relative has become a pawn in a battle to divide the Federation...and conquer it. With Sarek's help, the crew of the Starship Enterprise learns that all is not as it seems. Before they can prevent the Federation's destruction, they must see the face of their hidden enemy -- an enemy more insidious and more dangerous than any they have faced before...

My thoughts:

A.C. Crispin was one of the giants of Star Trek novels. When she passed away in September of 2013, the world lost an incredible talent. During her career, she penned four Star Trek novels, all of which are considered to be excellent examples of the craft. She is perhaps best known for Sarek, the subject of today's review.

In the world of Trek novels, Sarek stands on its own. It is an incredibly well-written and engaging story, filled with moments of surprising emotion and depth. The story is set shortly after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and consists mainly of three stories running in tandem. In the first, Amanda, Spock's mother, is dying. It is in this story that we learn the most about Sarek, mostly in the form of journal entries by Amanda. This is a brilliant way to explore Sarek's character, due to the fact that as a Vulcan, it can be difficult to understand his motivations and personality in a human context. By viewing him through the eyes of a human woman who is in love with him, we see him through a frame of reference that we can understand.

The character of Sarek is explored through his relationship with his wife, Amanda, and the estrangement between him and his son, Spock.

Sarek is, ultimately, a heartbreaking story of the love between Sarek and Amanda, as well as the pain and estrangement between father and son. Spock and Sarek come to a rare understanding when Amanda is near death, but when urgent matters call Sarek away, we are right back where we started with Spock resenting his father who cannot be there when Amanda dies. The scene with Spock and Amanda trying to reach out to Sarek as she passes away is heartwrenching, but the illustration of the love between husband and wife is really quite beautiful. Reading this novel, I was reminded of Trip and T'Pol's telepathic link in Star Trek: Enterprise's fourth season. It actually makes me wonder if the writers took inspiration from this novel.

The second story involves Kirk's nephew, Peter, and his attempts to get to the bottom of a hate group called KEHL - The Keep Earth Human League. The exploration of this group highlights an issue that is, unfortunately, as timely as ever. It seems like we'll never be rid of hate groups like this, with the rise of so-called "alt-right" groups and the like. In this novel, the rise of the KEHL is due to a Romulan conspiracy behind the scenes; in our own world today, we don't have Romulans to blame, only ourselves.

Unfortunately, racist groups like the Keep Earth Human League or the "alt-right" keep being a thing.

The ultimate plot that is uncovered by Sarek involves an attempt to start a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Sarek suspects a conspiracy involving a race called the "Freelans" and has devoted much of his career to sussing it out. It turns out that the Freelans are in fact the descendants of Vulcans who have been captured by Romulans over the years, part of a plot to undermine other galactic powers by using their telepathic gifts to influence other races.

There are a lot of elements I enjoyed in this novel besides the excellent exploration of the Sarek character. For one thing, I liked the use of Kamarag as the Klingon antagonist. Trek fans may remember that he is the Klingon ambassador seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He is the one that is famously called a "pompous ass" during an outburst on the floor of the Federation Council. John Schuck is a great actor, and it was fun to have his character used again here. I also liked the characterization of Peter Kirk, a young man who both wants to escape the shadow of his famous uncle but also admires and emulates him, to sometimes comedic effect. I feel like he was a good character to relate to in Sarek.

John Schuck's Klingon Ambassador character is used to good effect in Sarek.

Final thoughts:

Sarek is a truly great novel, exploring a beloved character who has influenced generations of Star Trek fans. Reading this novel, you can easily hear Mark Lenard's voice come to life in its pages. There have been a couple of other versions of Sarek over the years, including Ben Cross in Star Trek (2009) and most recently, James Frain in Star Trek: Discovery. They both do admirable jobs, but Mark Lenard will always be first and foremost Sarek in my mind. Sarek is the perfect exploration of this character through the eyes of his wife, Amanda. A moving, impactful story, Sarek will always have a place among the truly great Star Trek novels. 5/5.

More about Sarek:

My next read:

Next up is my video review of Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward. Look for that soon!