Star Trek Original Series: Yesterday’s Son, by A. C. Crispin

Star Trek Original Series Yesterday's Son, by A. C. Crispin book coverGenre: Star Trek
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by Jeff Edwards

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When Spock sees the photograph of a 5,000-year-old cave painting – primitive artwork depicting what looks like a Vulcan face – he journeys into the past to find the son he never knew existed.

Yesterday’s Son is a sequel to “All Our Yesterdays,” an episode from the original Star Trek series. In the television show, Kirk, Spock and McCoy travel to Sarpeidon to warn the planet’s inhabitants that their sun is about to go nova. Accidentally transported back to Sarpeidon’s ice age, Spock and McCoy are led to shelter by a woman named Zarabeth. Stranded within primitive surroundings, Spock reverts to a barbaric state and makes love to Zarabeth; Crispin’s premise is that the Vulcan unknowingly fathered a child during the encounter.

The novel features the kind of action that Star Trek fans expect – a tense battle between the Starship Enterprise and numerous Romulan warships, and the aftermath of a savage attack in which Romulans tortured and killed sixteen Federation citizens – but at its heart, this is a story about unplanned parenthood and Spock’s struggle to relate to his son, Zar.

When he first meets Spock, Zar reacts with “genuine warmth and happiness,” but Spock’s behavior toward his son is ice cold. After Zar calls him “father,” Spock responds stiffly: “I would prefer that you address me by my name. I find the appellation ‘father’ inappropriate when used by a stranger.” McCoy wonders, “Why is [Spock] doing this?” then realizes, “[H]e doesn’t know any other way to talk to the kid.” Zar believes that Spock is embarrassed by his presence: “Offspring like me are called ‘krenath.’ It means ‘shamed ones.’ You Humans also have a word. Bastard.” Later, though, in the face of danger, Spock and Zar reconcile, even engaging in a Vulcan version of the father-son talk: they discuss “pon farr,” the “time of mating.”

Yesterday’s Son is a classic example of why Star Trek is not considered “hard” science fiction. The entire story hinges upon a time portal called the Guardian of Forever, but the only explanation given for the portal is that there is no explanation: “[M]an simply wasn’t capable of comprehending the nature of the Guardian – yet.” Kirk’s description of the portal is more of the same: “We don’t know exactly how it works, but the Guardian seems to sense when a mission is accomplished. When all of us are ready, we’ll take a step, together, and – there we are. Back in our own time.”

Crispin’s writing style is workmanlike, competent but not fancy. She occasionally includes rich imagery (“Beta Niobe was rising, swollen and blood-colored, in a pale lavender sky that shaded to deep purple the undersides of the remaining storm clouds”) and poetic similes (“The wind tumbled through the ruins like the ghost of a long-dead surf”), but on the whole, her words serve only to move the plot along. Crispin’s pronoun usage is sometimes awkward (“When he realized his companion was no longer beside him, the Vulcan wriggled back until he could see him”), and her efforts to avoid pronouns can be distracting as well: for example, she refers to Spock alternately as “the Vulcan,” “the First Officer,” and “the Science Officer” within a two-page span.

First published in 1983, Yesterday’s Son was A.C. Crispin’s debut novel. She later continued the story in “Time for Yesterday,” adding to the wealth of adventures within the Star Trek universe.

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