Today TrekMovie begins a new series of periodic retro reviews of some classic Star Trek novels, so while we wait for the next new title we can look back on some of our favorites. The first entry will actually look at the two books of the "Yesterday Saga" by A.C. Crispin.
RETRO REVIEW: The Yesterday Saga by A.C. Crispin
In the late 1970’s, when new Star Trek was hard to come by, one fan, A. C. Crispin, began a journey that lead to selling one of TrekLit’s most endearing works, “Yesterday’s Son” as her first professional novel. While hundreds of books have followed, “Yesterday’s Son” and its follow-up, “Time for Yesterday” are often mentioned with reverence in the hallowed halls of Trek literature. Together, the two books form The Yesterday Saga (so coined in the late 1990’s when Pocket went through a round of re-releasing classic Star Trek books).
“Yesterday’s Son”, published in 1983, tells the tale of Spock’s son, conceived with Zarabeth in the icy past of the planet Sarpedion (TOS: “All Our Yesterdays”). An ancient cave painting prompts Spock to visit the past of the now incinerated planet to bring his son (named Zar) to the present day. This transition, however, is not without its costs to Spock, who runs the risk of being an even greater outcast among his people. Zar also finds difficulties – making fast friends with many of Spock’s crewmates, but never being able to openly refer to Spock as his own father. Ultimately, Sarpedion’s records reveal that Zar must return to the planet in order to preserve the timeline, but the Romulans intervene (more on general principle than out of any care about Zar) and the Guardian’s true nature must be concealed at all costs.
Yesterday saga envisions that Spock and Zarabeth (from “All Our Yesterdays”) had a son
The sequel, “Time for Yesterday", published in 1988, moves substantially ahead in the lives of Zar and the Enterprise crew. Spock, once again, must make contact with his son, this time to settle the Guardian of Forever, which has been malfunctioning and which Zar, in the past, has shown an ability to easily mind-link with. We learn much about Zar’s life and times in Sarpedion’s past, while, at the same time, exploring who Spock became later in his ‘first’ life.
For the casual reader, some confusion exists, particularly when reading the first installment of the series, because the cover depicts Spock looking as he did in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In fact, the story takes place about two years after Spock’s initial visit to Sarpedion, placing the story near the end of the five-year mission. This is essential information to have in place when reading the story, because if you fall into the trap (as I did when I first attempted to read the story at age 13) of thinking that this adventure takes place between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, you’ll discard the book immediately as being totally inconsistent with who Spock becomes as a result of his contact with V’ger. Instead, in “Yesterday’s Son” we see a Spock who is struggling with his logical and emotional reactions to the discovery of Zar’s existence, and who – ultimately – responds to Zar in a way that believably sets the stage for Spock’s pursuit of the Kholinar discipline at the conclusion of the Enterprise’s five year mission.
Original cover for "Yesterday’s Son" (1983) – but ignore Spock’s uniform
On the flipside, “Time for Yesterday” is intended to take place just prior to the events of Star Trek II (the historian’s note in the front of the book gives a vague pointing to the events being post-TMP, but the context of the novel actually leads right into the events of the second film). In this sense, it is a very heart-warming conclusion to the small lost era that a few other books (most notably Christopher L. Bennett’s “Ex Machina”) have filled.
“Time for Yesterday” gets off to a rather plodding start, and is definitely the weaker of the two books, though, as mentioned previously, the lead-ins to Star Trek II are most fitting and serve to soften some otherwise unforgiveable oddities in the opening of the book. “Yesterday’s Son” suffers from no such lack of acceleration… it is full-blast from beginning to end. However, to be honest, both stories must be read in order for the full story to have its most satisfying effect.
Of particular interest to those who enjoyed some of the early ‘semi-regular’ novel-only characters, “Time for Yesterday” borrows some of the early generation of novel-only guests (the Horta named Naraht being the most obvious example) and gives them some nods in its own pages.
While “Yesterday’s Son” is straight Trek, the sequel, at times, feels as much like a fantasy work set in a forgotten kingdom of Earth’s romanticized past… a kingdom which Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have a chance to quite thickly interact with during the story; just replace your horses with vykar’s and you’ll be all set.
While the success and positive regard surrounding these books has never died off, the plans once made to add some more tales surrounding Zar and his life did. For several years, the possibility of future books was public knowledge, but in 2002, the possibility was nixed and The Yesterday Saga was put to pasture. This is fitting, however, as the two tales that were published suffice to tell the story of Zar and his life, and I can imagine nothing that would possibly add to the sense of adventure and completion that both books managed to convey.
If you’re looking for some additional reading for the summer, or if you’re just feeling nostalgic for some good, old-fashioned Trek, The Yesterday Saga might be a fine pickup for your to-be-read pile.
Original cover for "Time for Yesterday" (1988)