Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Vulcan's Glory

Star Trek #44
Vulcan's Glory by D.C. Fontana
Published February 1989
Read February 25th 2019

Previous book (The Original Series): #43: The Final Nexus
Next book (The Original Series): #45: Double, Double

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E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for Vulcan's Glory

From the back cover:
Here is a very special Star Trek novel -- from the woman consistently voted by the fans as their favorite writer from the original Star Trek television series! 
D.C. Fontana, writer of such classic Star Trek episodes as "Journey to Babel" and "This Side of Paradise," here brings us the never-before-told story of a very young Mr. Spock, on his first mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. You'll also meet Captain Christopher Pike and his enigmatic first officer "Number One" (previously seen only in the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage"), as well as the ship's brand new engineering officer, Montgomery Scott. 
Vulcan's Glory is the tale of Spock's struggle to reconcile his many obligations -- those forced on him by his Vulcan heritage, and those chosen by him upon his enlistment in Starfleet -- to balance the wishes of others against the desires of his heart.

My thoughts:

Over the years, a number of Star Trek television writers have also lent their talents to the world of Trek novels. Chief among these, of course, is Gene Roddenberry himself, who penned the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, kicking off the Pocket Books era of Trek books. However, another writer who has influenced what Star Trek has become almost as much as Roddenberry himself wrote a Trek novel back in 1989: Dorothy "D.C." Fontana.

Dorothy "D.C." Fontana, one of the giants of early Star Trek history.

Fontana has story or teleplay credit on 17 episodes of Star Trek, spread across four series, with the bulk of her work in the original Star Trek television series. Her writing has given us classic episodes such as "Charlie X," "Tomorrow is Yesterday," "This Side of Paradise," and "Journey to Babel." To say that Star Trek wouldn't be what it is today without D.C. Fontana is an understatement.

During her time on Star Trek, Dorothy Fontana was responsible for much of Spock's character development, so it is no surprise that Spock plays a large role in Vulcan's Glory. There is a lot to unpack with regards to Spock's character in this novel, beginning with his relationship with T'Pring, the woman we learn he is betrothed to in the TOS episode "Amok Time." There is, however, another romance in this novel for Spock, with a Vulcan woman by the name of T'Pris, another science officer assigned to the Enterprise. The romance develops quite quickly, and I was truly saddened by her eventual fate. In today's terms, we would say that her character was "fridged," as her death serves mainly to advance Spock's story. However, I felt she was a round character in her own right. Had the novel been written today, I feel that this part of the story would have been handled differently, but it serves its tragic purpose here. I was quite surprised by how much about Spock's character is affected by the events of this novel. We learn a lot about what makes him who he is in later Star Trek.

Spock's first mission as a science officer aboard the Enterprise is explored in this novel.

This novel also features a lot of backstory and development for Captain Christopher Pike, much more than we had gotten to this point. Remember, at the time, the only Pike we had seen in canon Trek was the unaired TOS pilot episode, "The Cage," with parts of it re-purposed for use in the two-part episode "The Menagerie." We learn about Pike's romantic life, as well as get some insights into the kind of captain he is. Many years later, on Star Trek: Discovery, we see a lot more of Pike, and for the most part I think a lot of what we learn in this novel is still applicable to the character as interpreted by Anson Mount.

Captain Christopher Pike is explored in this novel, one of the first times we get more about the character outside of "The Cage" and "The Menagerie."
Finally, another new crewmember joins the Enterprise in this novel: a new junior engineer, Montgomery Scott. It's very clear that Fontana has a deep love for this character, and while some may not like that his role is mostly to produce top-notch engine room hooch, it was still a lot of fun to have him included in this story. The production of alcohol in the Enterprise's engine room does, eventually, tie into the main story.

Scotty's first days as a member of the Enterprise crew are shown in Vulcan's Glory.

Speaking of the main story, it revolves around the search for an artifact from Vulcan's past, lost long ago: the Vulcan's Glory, a huge gemstone that used to be a prize of war but which now symbolizes peace. The Enterprise does indeed recover the lost artifact, which sets off what becomes a murder mystery aboard the ship. This part of the tale wraps up in a typical murder mystery fashion, and it turns out to be a pretty good whodunnit, in my opinion.

The other part of the main plot involves Pike going undercover on a pre-warp planet that he visited earlier in his career, monitoring their progress as they recover from a cataclysm that left the society in ruins. Three factions have emerged: the townspeople, the nomadic desert people, and the mutants, who live in regions contaminated by radioactive fallout. The resolution to this part of the novel was unexpected and quite well-done, with a typically-Star Trek lesson for all.

Final thoughts:

Vulcan's Glory was a fun look at the "Pike years" of the Enterprise, especially now that we have Anson Mount's interpretation of the character on Discovery. A fascinating adventure set during Spock's first mission aboard the Enterprise, this novel establishes much about the character going forward. Spock is quite different in later Star Trek, and we see the beginning of that path for him. Definitely very enjoyable, this is a novel that I could see myself revisiting in the future. It does make me wish that Dorothy Fontana had written more Star Trek novels as well.

More about Vulcan's Glory:

My next read:

The first book in Voyager's Spirit Walk duology: Old Wounds by Christie Golden.

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