Retro-Books Review: The Yesterday Saga

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)


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Thanks for the review, one I hadn’t read!

If you’re taking suggestions for other reviews, I’d be interested in hearing your takes on “Dreadnought” and “Battlestations” by Diane Carey–if I recall the books that sparked my interest in Star Trek novels.

Excellent review for these classic books!

Sadly, TPTB at Pocketbooks did not pick up Ann’s follow-up trilogy. Not formulaic enough, imho. They were story-driven (Gasp!) and not “Hero!Kirk saves the galaxy with little help from his 2 dimensional crew.”

I got to read the first draft of the first part of the trilogy and the outlines for books 2 & 3. It would have been a glorious, character-driven story.

Read these books and they were fantastic. At one point Spocks son ate mat in front of Spock and Kirk and MCCoy was not happy. Great writting and great story all together.

I meant. Spocks son ate meat.

Great review!

These and “The Entropy Effect” are still my fave Trek novels.

I never understood why more stories weren’t told in the post-TMP era. That part of the timeline is still ripe for exploration.

In fact the post TMP novels are the only ones I buy. Given that there was a whole 5 year mission to explore and it was the only time that all the characters (including Chapel and Rand) were portrayed as being on board together I’m mystified as to why there weren’t more novels set in this period too. I really enjoyed these novels. It added a fabulous dimension to Spock and on some level it was comforting to know that Zarabeth’s existence wasn’t so lonely after all.

Yesterday’s Son is a great read, love to revisit it now and again.

It drives me crazy when most of the new ST novels and comics take place in “the last year of the five-year mission.” What about the other 20+ years after that?

Met her at a convention (my only convention — I was still in high school) like 20 years ago. She was lovely.

A lot of those early novels were written by actual “fans” of the series, and not just serial novelists enlisted by Pocket books and Paramount – and it shows. There is a love of the characters that I feel is missing in many of the later novels. This was also before there were so many “rules” about what authors could and could not include or do to the characters; thus there was more creativity allowed with canon. For the most part, my favorite TOS novels are all from the earlier books… I used to buy every single one, but later I found the novels much less character driven, and the characters became somewhat interchangeable. It became obvious the authors only had a rudimentary understanding of what made the characters tick. I stopped buying them.

Good old times! I remember these fondly. Also listened to the audio books many, many times.

How I miss good TOS standalone novels. There’s still so much room and time for adventures in that universe. All the x-overs and new book series’ with new characters totally don’t interest me. And everything has to be a trilogy these days. I don’t get it.

Also, the guidelines that the newer books were/are written under, have no room for boldness, for real character development or consequences that would change canon, even though the books aren’t considered such. I’ve always found that very frustrating.

And like #11 says… one could feel the love from the authors for the subject matter in the old school novels.

I’ve tried writing a comic book story set in the TMP era after being inspired by Ex Machina and Traitor Winds. I think it’s quite hard to write characters correctly even if you are a fan of the show. They sound right in your head but other people probably don’t hear them in the same way. I was keen to set my story in that era because there seemed to be vast potential and more characters and alien races to play with. In particular, I wanted to make use of Janice Rand, Decker, and Ilia. Rand was a principle character in season one and I’m suprised that she’s been given so little ‘airtime’ in the novels. Decker & Ilia needed to be ‘resurrected’ (which they were going to do in Phase II anyway) but once that’s out of the way you can have lots of fun.

Listened to the audio version of the first one. Read the second book a couple years ago. Fantastic listening and reading!

Excellent new feature! Its always such a treat to find an old Trek novel in a used bookstore. Please keep these reviews coming!!

#1 – Actually, “Dreadnought!” *is* in my to-read pile at the moment, followed by “Battlestations!”, though my first priority will be current books. I imagine that the new novel will arrive for review in a few weeks, so we’ll just have to see how busy I am between now and then,. Like you, “Dreadnought!” was a book that really caught my attention as a kid, though it was not my first novel read (read the TMP novelization followed by TOS 48 “Rules of Engagement”).

#9 – I can forgive it here because “Yesterday’s Son” was one of the early TOS novels from Pocket.

#16 – I can forgive “Yesterday’s Son” being in this time period too. It’s only as times goes on that we keep getting more and more novels crammed into this time period that gets old to me. I think Christopher Bennett recently mentioned that there are enough stories during the five-year mission to fill up ten years.

I’m sure we get more five-year mission novels because this time period must sell better than the period between TMP and TWOK. A cover with Kirk in the classic yellow tunic is probably more attractive on the stand than the TMP uniform.

I’m mad to start reading some of the trek books, any chance we could get a poll going for the best TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT books???

Would be a good starting place…

Although prime directive is hard to look past, brilliant book…

I read both these novels back in the day and
they are fantastic!

Both novels are excellent!

Cool review. I have a large, large collection of all the original Trek novels, and these were/are fun reads.

Note to remember, often times the covers are drawn to depict the characters looking a certain way, or the Enterprise to be the refit instead of the original and are off when you start reading the story. Just a thought to keep in mind.

Those were good novels, read them long ago and just listened to the audiobook version of both again recently – you can get many of them on Itunes. Love the Trek novels and how they add to our favorite universe. Reading Vanguard Open Secrets and The Pandora Principle (backstory of Saavik) right now and enjoying both.

Definitely recommend the novels to fans. You might find however, that sometimes these well known characters speak and act differently than you might expect, but the newer novels seem to really get it down.

Keep on Trekkin’

#21 – One of the craziest novel covers was “Web of the Romulans” where Spock and Kirk look like they came from the post TMP era, McCoy looks like he’s Edward G. Robinson, and nobody is wearing the right uniform! The covers were painted so the actors could be recognized and so people would want to pick up the books as ‘continuing voyages’.

#22 – It has been some time since I read “The Pandora Principle”, but I recall really liking it. I also recall being elated that Robin Curtis’ Saavik made the cover, as I far preferred her to Kirstie Alley (at that point in life, I had seen the occassional episode of Cheers, which I hated, and thus associated Saavik Mk. 1 with that show… not pleasant).

Your point is well taken about acting and speaking different. In the early days of Trek novels, there was no videotape. Some folks had 8 MM copies of episodes, but many people were writing from memory and doing their fair share of interpretation of the universe. I don’t say this as a bad thing… I quite enjoy some of the ‘oddities’ of the early books.

I preferred Diane Duane’s oddities most of all, I think. Shields flaring a specific color based on the vessel’s home port.. dipping colors… ‘mark me off the bridge, this star hour, Ms. Uhura’, etc… We got to know Harb Tanzer and the rec room, learned a ton of things, and even met the mile or two long destroyer Ianeu… crewed by Rigellians (or some such race).

I really do miss cracking open some of those early books… Blish’s readers at the local library were my way of ‘rewatching’ my favorite Treks between showings on my local TV show… I could just go on and on… and on.


Two of my tabs. Especially Yesterday’s Son. She really captured the flavor of a “season 5” episode of TOS. I remember reading the opening teaser chapter and “hearing” a classic Fred Steiner music cue as Spock sees the cave painting image of a young Vulcan for the first time. Chilling moment. Would have definitely read more books in the series had Pocket served them up.

I agree with Lyons that Yesterday’s Son was the better of the two. I’ve been buying the Pocketbook novels for about 25 years now (though I missed a number of the novels from the 90’s). Those novels did have great stories, but I guess I’m in the minority that likes the current continuing stories from the current novels. The one thing that used to drive me nuts with novels from back then was the inconsistencies and discontinuities of many of the novels. There was no attempt at that time to even try to keep any semblance of order. Stories could outright contradict one another. It always seemed like careless editing to me.

That being said, I’d have no problems with Pocketbooks publishing the occassional one off novel from the different series (similar to DS9’s Hollow Men) in addition to the relaunches. And the original series novels are largely single stories that have little to no connection with other stories.

(1) Some areas I’d like to see novels cover include some of the period between Enterprise and the original series (I’d love a prime universe USS Kelvin series–what happened to the Kelvin in the prime universe with no Nero incursion).

(2) TMP to TWOK period

(3) How about more stories between Star Trek V and VI. There was about a 7 year gap of voyages of the Enterprise-A. There have been a few stories, but not many.

(4) More Lost Era stories between the intro to Generations and TNG. More books about the voyages of the Enterprise-B and C, the Excelsior. How about a continuation of the Stargazer series.

There are a number of periods of Star Trek history that have plenty or room for more stories. If I were Pocketbooks, I’d look for stories in these eras.

My favorite Star Trek novel from the early days is definately Web of the Romulans. It was a great read and really got me into the books in a big way. I had lost my copy sometime in the late 1990’s but found a worn copy a few years ago in a comic book store that also had some old novels sitting in a rack. By far a great tale of war, distrust, and ultimately comeraderis and friendship.. this novel was just amazing for me as a kid and still holds up well when i read it as an adult all these years later. I’d love to know what anyone else thinks

I found a very beat-up copy of “Yesterday’s Son” in the public library a few weeks ago…I would go back and get it, but for the fact that the Trek Fiction section is right next to the romance novel section, and the people around me start getting the wrong ideas.

Either way, I’ll have to read this real soon. The only Trek stories I’ve ever read through are the adaptations by James Blish (which are great), so this should be fun.

1. davidfuchs – August 10, 2011

16. Father Robert Lyons – August 10, 2011

Loved both of those books, but my sentimental favorite is still Diane Carey’s “Final Frontier.” I really enjoyed the story of Kirk’s dad and the first voyage of the big E. I highly recommend it.

Great books. The first one was a little uneven, I thought, but the second one was great and had an “epic” feel. Her novelization of the “V” mini-series, though, is a wonderful, detailed classic.

On an unrelated note – I recently found my old box of Bantam novels. I think I have all of their Trek novels, include James Blish “Spock Must Die” (first original ST novel) and the novelizations of the original episodes. Any idea if they’re worth anything?

#23 – I think the weirdest cover is “The Romulan Way”, which has what must be a Colonial viper from “Battlestar: Galactica” flying on it! (A small rendition, true, but I’m surprised Universal didn’t sue Paramount over it.)

I’ve read all the old star trek novels, and the ones by AC Crispin, Diane Carey and John Ford are the only ones I revisit. Good review.

Still a couple of my favs… along with Entropy Effect and several of Diane Carey’s and Diane Duane’s books. Love ’em all!

I remember meeting Ann Crispin years ago… still have my signed copy of Yesterday’s Son. :D


Lots of idiotic stuff in those early Pocket covers. One of them, don’t know if it was TRELLISANE or earlier (probably around #5 or so), had the guys armed with car timing light guns (sort of like what they had in the MOONRAKER movie, but without the cladding!)

Some of the least favorite authors of that period could REALLY get the actor’s deliveries into their dialog. Try reading Kirk speeches from M&C’s PROMETHEUS DESIGN … you can easily imagine Shatner voicing those lines (considering he consulted on their Bantam novels, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that he came up with some of these speeches!)

I really like Duane’s first two takes on Trek universe and people, along with the Reeves-Stevens TOS efforts (their Trek nonfic leaves MUCH to be desired, however.) Ford’s FINAL REFLECTION is pretty damned amazing too.

I have always been interested in the Lost Years TOS/TMP period and TMP/TWOK, but my favorite unexplored era is the decade or so post-TUC.
I see that as Frontier’s End, when Starfleet got very 70s-era paranoid and the whole thing somehow changed,leading to the boring 24th century (except the good parts of DS9.) I think the unused Sowards notion for TWOK, that Starfleet abandoned its exploration and concentrated on preserving what it had, is an INCREDIBLE premise to delve into, because it would be psychologically devastating for true believers. And it falls into the ‘end of era’ thing I like, where you have stories like MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and THE WILD BUNCH, with the folks of one era struggling to understand and survive in a new era. But you have to do it without character assassination, so TUC doesn’t really count, since they have to trash Kirk and Spock characterization wise to get it in place there.

The best two Star Trek novels were The Final Reflection and How Much For Just The Planet? by John Ford. Both would make good movies.

Trully a great new feature. I love it!
Could anyone recommend the best non Pocket Trek-books published? I can get many of them really cheap, so if they make a good read – that’s a bargain. So far I’ve compiled the list from the above comments:

Yesterday’s Son
The Entropy Effect
Ex Machina
Traitor Winds
The Pandora Principle
Final Reflection
How Much For Just The Planet?

I loved “Yesterday’s Son” and “Time For Yesterday” as a kid.

After I watched TOS on TV, way back then, I was left with a hunger for more Trek, and back in the day BOOKS were it. No Blu-rays. No streaming. Books. Books like these helped fuel my lifetime of love for Trek and its characters.

If you have never read a Trek book, I would highly recommend both of these two books.

I wonder if Bob Orci has read either these two? I got a feeling he has.

I used to read Trek novels -starting with the Blish adaptations – and kept reading up until I realized I wasn’t reading the entire books, and I decided they weren’t as good as they used to be. At this point, I can’t really say when I stopped buying them, but there did seem to be a noticable deterioration in the quality of the stories and characterizations. And I also realized there was never going to be an end to Trek novels and I couldn’t see myself buying them when their numbers exceeded 10,000. Personally, I think it’s ludicrous to have so many Trek books saturating the market – there’s nothing special about them, they seem to come off an assembly line. And I don’t know about your local bookstores, but around here, you’re lucky to find 4 or 5 titles on the shelf at Barnes & Noble (same with Borders, but why bother talking about them anymore?).
“Yesterday’s Son,” however, was one of the best Trek novels to come along in those days. Those who haven’t read it definitely should – it’s classic Star Trek.

Crispin truly grasped the spirit of TOS, and her novels worked.

I dare Mr. Lyons to pull out some of the Sondra Marshak/Myrna Culbreath novels from the early days and try to explain where they were coming from!

LOL, I wouldn’t suggest anyone takes the cover of a ST Pocket Book as an accurate guide to when the story is set.

I have an idea for a third book tho.

SPOCK PRIME is taking to Spock jr
“If your ever visit a planet called Sarpedion make sure you take this”
PRIME reaches into the folds of his robe and pulls out a small square package.
SOCK JR “What is it” asks Junior, eyebrow cocked
Prime ” Humans call it a rubber”

The End

@38 K/S. Most definitely.

Here’s hoping for a How Much for Just the Planet? review soon. Star Trek’s comedic side was rarely tackled well in print, but that book’s just a marvellous encapsulation of them. So many wonderful images — Scotty playing a round of golf against Klingons… with grenades for balls, the cameo by Neil Gaiman of all people, the pie fight, Kirk meeting an ‘Imperial’ (ie bumpy headed) Klingon for the first time and being non-plussed and tongue tied as he tells himself not to stare, the song “Monochrome”.

Great stuff.

#28. Agreed! I loved FF. One of my first Tek novels. Why wasn’t THAT made into a prequel movie?? Get Chris Hemsworth back as George Kirk (prime timeline, why not?), maybe Gary Oldman or David Thewlis as Robert April, and we may have something here. AND, if we start now, we’ll have it done before the next Star Trek film!!!!

Oops! “Trek” novel, not “Tek”. Tek novels are a whole different beast…

One series that absolutely has to be looked at is Diane Duane’s Romulan saga, a series that fleshed out the Romulans (“Rihannsu”) in a way that none of the various TV series or movies ever did. The story of the main protagonist, Commander Ael t’Rllallieu of the Romulan warbird Bloodwing, is very compelling, and Ael is a more complex, three-dimensional character than any Romulan we’ve ever seen on the screen. And the side-story of Arrhae, a Federation deep-cover operative (a surgically altered human female) on Romulus, is also very interesting, especially when her life is complicated by a certain irascible country doctor. :-) The final book in the series (“The Empty Chair”) even tries to reconcile Duane’s Romulans with the ones we’re re-introduced to in TNG and beyond, with varying degrees of success. I’d love to see Mr. Lyons’ take on the saga.

BTW… for anyone who’s read the series, if these books were ever adapted to live action (not likely, admittedly, but interesting to think about), who would you see playing Ael? For my money, it’s Cote de Pablo, aka Ziva David on “NCIS”. Give Ziva some pointed ears and a Romulan disruptor and you’ve got Ael down to a “T”. :-)

#35 – I’d add to that list the great novelizations by Vonda N. McIntyre. She wrote “Entropy Effect” (which gave Sulu his first name), “Enterprise: The First Adventure” (the first ‘giant’ novel), and the novelizations of the Treks 2, 3 and 4. I don’t think there’s another book that has greater characterizations than Treks 3 and 4 – simply amazing.

“Memory Prime” and “Prime Directive” are classics from Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens.

Bear in mind that “Traitor Winds” is the 3rd book in the 4-part ‘Lost Years’ stories, linking the end of the original 5 – year mission to TMP. So, “Traitor Winds” works better when read with “The Lost Years”, “A Flag Full of Stars”, and “Recovery”.

for those folks who like the inaccurate covers, look at the novel “How Much for Just the Planet?” and it shows TOS Kirk with the Klingon Kruge. It makes ya think that Kirk faced off with Kruge sometime ago, but nope, it is some other Klingon.

Hi everyone… more later, but just wanted to pitch in another screwy cover. TOS 48: “Rules of Engagement” features Kirk, a Klingon who looks like Kruge, and the Klingon superstarship… Excelsior!

Ann Crispin’s “Yesterday” books are great. They were my first real taste of ST fiction many years ago. I re-read “Yesterday’s Son” a few years ago and it still held up well (Zar was a strongly written, well-defined character). Too bad these aren’t ‘official’ canon (in my mind, they are!).

I wasn’t as much a fan of the sequel, but it was still a brisk, interesting read. Her adaptation of the first two “V” miniseries (into a single volume paperback) was also interesting as well (filled in a few blanks from the aired screenplay).

#30 – I doubt your collection is worth much. Perhaps if they are all first editions, but the various Star Trek books can be found easily at your local Half Price or other used bookstore, so I wouldn’t think they were terribly valuable.

#35 – I may have misunderstood your comment, so if I have, I do apologize; the books you listed are all Pocket publications. Bantam held the novel license back in the 70’s, and began their run with “Spock Must Die!” by James Blish. Much of what is present in that novel is totally out of sync with what Star Trek developed into, but it fits well with his adaptations of the TOS episodes. It’s worth a read. David Gerrold’s “The Galactic Whirlpool” was arguably Bantam’s best outing, and I would highly recommend it. Keep in mind, with anything put out by Bantam, that you are getting a 1970’s Trek, unformed by TMP and what came beyond.

#41 – Oddly, though “How Much for Just the Planet” is so highly regarded, and while I recall finding it quite funny, I don’t recall liking it from a Trek perspective. However, it’s been on my eventual ‘to-be-reread’ list for a while, so I’ll probably hit it up sometime in the next few years, together with Ford’s other book, “The FInal Reflection” which I never really got into the first time I tried to read it .

#44 – “My Enemy, My Ally”, the first book of the Rihannsu series, is my favorite piece of Trek lit ever. It is an annual re-read of mine. I now have it in the omnibus edition with “The Romulan Way” (which I read many years ago) and “The Empty Chair” (which I never read). I am planning to read the entire omnibus when I do my annual re-read of “My Enemy, My Ally” later in the year, so you can be assured of some perspective on the series then.

Bantam held the rights to Star Trek novelizations early on and I rather liked the ‘Phoenix’ series, especially the villain Omnedon. It brought the normally dormant warrior physicality of the Vulcan race to the fore. Spock’s physical strength was always downplayed in the series, although we always knew it was there. This series brought it front and center, something I’d like to see in the next movie since they are ignoring most of Spock’s established backstory anyway.