Classic Book Review – “Vulcan’s Glory”

With the eleventh feature film of the Star Trek franchise on track to possibly deliver a tale of the first adventure of Kirk and Spock aboard the starship Enterprise, one might wonder about Spock’s first mission aboard the storied vessel. Veteran Trek script writer D. C. Fontana attempted to do just that back in 1989 with "Vulcan’s Glory" – recently re-released by Pocket Books.

At least a decade before the arrival of James T. Kirk on the scene, Captain Christopher Pike commands the starship Enterprise. Having recently returned to Earth for repairs and upgrades, crew transfers are also effected. Enter one Lieutenant Spock, a young Vulcan scientist who seems to have problems relaxing (according to his former commanding officer), and Lieutenant ( J.G.) Montgomery Scott, an engineering whiz and moonshiner of note. Both are new assignees to the Enterprise, and both are in for quite a ride.

Spock doesn’t arrive without his share of concerns, however. Back on Vulcan, Spock is confronted with family and relational duties… duties he has managed to avoid quite well since his enlistment in Starfleet. A thin fragile line exists between Spock’s natural Human and Vulcan tendencies. Spock, who has chosen to live as a Vulcan, still struggles with hiding his human heritage. This struggle, drawn out over the pages of "Vulcan’s Glory", makes the story all the more enticing.

After departing Earth on a mission to the planet Areta, the Enterprise is diverted to investigate the possible fate of a large spoil-of-war from Vulcan pre-history; an emerald known as Vulcan’s Glory. The Glory itself serves as a catalyst for what follows.

On Areta, Christopher Pike transports to the surface to investigate the outcome of trade relations that he surreptitiously worked to establish on a previous visit, only to find himself in between two bickering fathers whose missing children may spell the end not only of trade relations between two ‘tribes’ of natives, but also of the planet’s future.

"Vulcan’s Glory" is an interesting take on Spock’s first mission, but–in spite of its billing- the book is not simply a Spock story. Much of Chris Pike comes through in the writing of Fontana, who sets up one part of a credible back story that leads to Pike’s feelings (as expressed to Dr. Boyce) at the opening of "The Cage". While the elements of Fontana’s story are not built upon by Margaret Wander Bonanno’s later "Burning Dreams", "Vulcan’s Glory" is able to stand as a compelling tale in its own right.

Certainly there are some complaints about the story. Some things just seem pedantic – for example, while Scotty-as-moonshiner is quite a humorous side-story, it barely serves the plot of the story. Lost is an excellent storytelling opportunity to paint a picture of his first days on the Enterprise. Of course, since this was billed as a Spock-centric story, this can be understood… but the failure to write more for Scotty than the brewing of engine room hooch is lamentable. Criticism aside for a moment, most of the lines delivered by Scotty come across with a flawless Doohan-esque quality that is readily apparent.

Of particular intrigue is the explanation given for the name of the ship’s first officer, Number One. Far from a title, Fontana tells of the enigmatic woman’s origins on a planet where genetic engineering produces excellent specimens. Number One was the ‘top’ product of her genetic batch… perfectly analytical, perfectly athletic, perfectly…well… perfect. In the ‘modern age’ of Trek, of course, we know that genetic engineering is not practiced in the Federation (well, not legally anyway), and in that respect "Vulcan’s Glory" reminds you page-by-page that it was not written anytime recently.

Spock presents an interesting dilemma for the reader.  It is easy to believe Fontana’s take on him when reading "Vulcan’s Glory"… the mannerisms and the thoughts behind them are readily apparent in any TOS episode where Spock is fighting to remain in control of himself. It’s worth nothing that Fontana is able to build upon the Vulcan mystique she developed during the Original Series era, allowing her to complicate Spock’s interactions with his fellow Vulcans.  The ritualism of Vulcan society, we learn, carries over even into family proceedings.  His encounter with his family in "Vulcan’s Glory", as well as with his betrothed speak quite clearly on the nature of Vulcan social interaction.  On the other hand, certain aspects of the honor code of Vulcans would seem to preclude some of Spock’s actions, particularly as they surround Lieutenant T’Pris.   While the story does not elaborate on these particular events being a further motivator for Spock to develop a deeper Vulcan observance, the reader can only conclude – based on the on-screen evidence of the Spock character – that this is, in fact, the case.

In some respects, the story practices some level of retconning the technology and terminology from "The Cage"/"Where No Man Has Gone Before" era. Landing parties carry phasers, not lasers; dilithium crystals are employed in the ship’s engines; and transporters, not materializers, are used. Some will have issues with this, though it really doesn’t detract from the story – unless you are really, really hardcore about such things.

"Vulcan’s Glory": a prequel to "The Cage", an interesting and at times amusing look at Chris Pike’s Enterprise, and a novel worthy of a read today nearly twenty years after its initial publication.

 

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Camaro 09

This book is older than I am.

Johnny

This is one of my favourite star trek books. An excellent read.

John Trumbull

Twenty years? I read this book in high school. Man, I feel old.

DJT

Good book. I highly recommend it. 20 years though? Say it ain’t so.

Oh, it’s definately so. I first read “Vulcan’s Glory” in High School… and that was in the 1990’s!

Rob+

THX-1138

Book came out in ’89. Some of you read it in high school. One of you isn’t as old as the book.

Good grief! Am I the oldest guy in the room again? Cyber-spacially speaking, that is.

I’m just going to ride in my covered wagon over to the hootenanny and do me some whittlin’.

Izbot

Ha! Yeah, I read it in college too!

Etha Williams

Funny coincidence, I just finished it today. I honestly didn’t care for it much, though…not sure why, maybe because it was billed as a Spock-centric novel and didn’t really fulfill that. I also felt like there was something “off” about how she described Vulcan culture, and the Spock/T’Pris thing didn’t hold my attention — why do writers who are trying to explore Spock’s human side always insist on pairing him off with someone? T’Pring & Stonn kind of bothered me, too; while T’Pring was very coolly logical about it to Spock in the novel, her interactions with Stonn seemed very emotional and more like a lovestruck teenager’s than a logical Vucan’s.

Oh well, I enjoyed it anyway…

snake

TM.com should do a book review on First Adventure novel…
http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0671730320.01.LZZZZZZZ.gif

maybe a comic reviews on DCs Annuals 1 (1984) charting Kirks 1st Adventure on the Ent and Annual 2 (1985) the final mission of the 5 years:
http://homepage.mac.com/mmtz/stcomix/dc1tosann.html

not forgetting Annual 2 from 1991 about Kirks Academy Days:
http://homepage.mac.com/mmtz/stcomix/images/dc/2/stann2.jpg

as they all sort of tie in to this new movie…

snake

btw Crowe talks about the rumours of him in Star Trek:
http://movies.ign.com/articles/814/814414p1.html

Christian Bale even commets too saying Crowe is a klingon?

they talked due to their new Western movie – 3:10 To Yuma

Cervantes

Lord Garth, I hope you caught my post #93 on the James McAvoy thread a couple back with details on Paramount / Dreamworks now becoming HD-DVD exclusive…

#9 – Aside from those you mentioned, there is the “My Brother’s Keeper” trilogy that covers Kirk’s friendship with Gary Mitchell across three ships (Republic, Constitution, and Enterprise). “Strangers from the Sky”, in addition to being a Vulcan first-contact story (with differing details from the movie “First Contact”) includes a portion of the story told before the events of “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.

Anthony and I have already talked about future reviews. Keep in mind we have over a year until Star Trek releases, so we do indeed have to pace ourselves!

There are several good (or not so good) books and comics out there for those interested in the Pre-Kirk or early-Kirk days aboard the 1701… and as long as Anthony wants me to write, I’ll happily send along reviews!

Rob+

Lee

This is my favorite Star Trek novel. I loved the fact that it explored the pre-series era and captured the feel of the pilot for me as well. No one can write Vulcans better than Fontana. “The Entropy Effect”and “The Romulan Way” are excellent also.

lee

snake

12 – and didnt Final Frontier – Diane Carey have alot to do with Kirks origins? as did Best Desinty and The Kobayashi Maru…

well i guess theres quite a few…but probably only a few are worth a read.

Last Trek book i read was Ashes of Eden..cause The Shat wrote it…that wouldve made a decent Star Trek VII (with the original cast)……pity they didnt film it as their ultimate last movie in 1997.

I did buy Shats The Return as well but just couldnt get past the first few chapters….sorry Shat

#12 – “Final Frontier” was more a story of the origins of the Enterprise, though it did include Kirk’s father as the XO of the Enterprise under Captain Robert April. “Best Destiny” built out on that premise.

I enjoyed “Final Frontier” for what it was, but thought that “Best Destiny” was awful. It’s been about eight or nine years since I last read it, and I recall thinking “Wesley Crusher saves the Universe” as I did.

As for the Shatnerverse novels, in one sense you have to suspend the sense of disbelief (that you have also had to suspend to get into SciFi in the first place) one might have with Kirk being yet another resurrected Trek-figure… but the books are interesting. The Mirror Universe stories, in particular, are really fun… though I’ll admit to disagreeing as to their viability as Star Trek movies.

Rob+

Er, that last message should have been directed to 14.

Pam the Canuck

I only read half the book. Vastly disappointed that such drek instead of Trek should come from D.C. Fontana,the story editor for the original series and author of Journey to Babel, which introduced us fans to Spock’s family and the struggle with his father. The ‘romance’ between Spock and the female Vulcan were highly unlikely, given the bond already established between Spock T’Pring, and very ’emotionally charged’ – a no-no considering Vulcans do not indulge in such things. Otherwise, the story did nothing for Captain Pike or Number One either. A poor effort – obviously expected to sell because it bore the Star Trek name.