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Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz Book Review | SFReader.com
Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2000 Review Posted: 1/3/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 5 out of 10
Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
Vulcan's Heart suffers from two major maladies that sink the quality of the book to great lows. One of these problems is a typical result of being a Star Trek book, and the other one isn't. First, the book literally wallows in Star Trek continuity. It is possible to understand and enjoy the story without knowing everything there is to know about Star Trek history, which is a good thing. However, if you are familiar with the history, you find yourself constantly rolling your eyes at how much the authors try to tie together. Let's see: you have the marriage of Spock and Saavik (who was introduced in the Star Trek II movie), you have the Romulan Commander from the Original Series episode "The Enterprise Incident," you have a young Jean-Luc Picard from the Next Generation series (for no apparent reason other than "proving" his televised statement that he was "at the ambassador's son's wedding), you have the Enterprise C and its battle with the Romulans at Narendra III (from the Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise") which also brings Tasha Yar (from the Next Generation series) into play as well. Throw in a couple of bit characters that have appeared in previous Next Generation episodes, too. I'm surprised that the Trek equivalent of the Kitchen Sink wasn't in there as well. It's just too much, the book feels overloaded. Some desperate fans might love to see all of this stuff tied together, but this Trek fan doesn't think that everything in the televised Trek universe should be tied together into a neat little bow.
That fault is really only noticeable to the Trek fan, and may slip under the radar if you don't know about it, though you may get an impression that something's wrong. The second fault, however, is universal: the writing is horrible. I don't know what happened to Sherman & Schwartz, because Vulcan's Forge (their first Trek book) was fabulous. Maybe I was a different reader at the time and didn't notice the prose, but I remember loving it. This one, however, is atrocious. First, there is the overuse of exclamation marks. It's bad enough to have characters often end their statements with exclamation marks (which these characters do), but the narrative also does. Often. Sorry, ladies, but the story isn't that exciting. You can't thrill me any more by trying to artificially pump it up.
Secondly, there is the constant repetition. Spock and Saavik are constantly thinking about how they have to fight off what's affecting them in order to continue their mission. Constantly. All the time. Every other paragraph. Get the picture? Sherman & Schwartz are always reminding us of what their characters are going through, even when they just did at the top of the previous page. Some may find this adds to the tension. Will Spock succumb to his ills? Will Saavik jump off the balcony rather than give in? After the third or fourth time, I didn't care. I wished they would, actually. To me, this doesn't add to the tension, it adds to the tedium.
As mentioned before, Picard serves no real purpose. He could have been any other Starfleet captain. The only reason he's there is because it would be neat, I think. Even his characterization is such that he could be any other captain. In fact, the characterization of almost everybody is off a bit. Spock and Saavik have a bit of an excuse, given what they're going through. But most of the rest of the characters don't. Uhura, while being the competent officer we all know, hasn't aged very well. The Romulans that are introduced are fairly one-note, though there are a couple of exceptions. The Praetor is your typical insane "villain that must be stopped."
The exceptions are what bring this novel up to a 2-star book. While I didn't like the fact that they were in the book, the crew of the Enterprise C was wonderfully done. It made me really wish they would do a TV series about this ship. Rachel Garrett is a great captain, and it's completely understandable that the crew follows her into this situation. The foreboding atmosphere is wonderfully done, with the crew preparing for what they feel is a suicide mission. They do it without complaint, knowing that they're going in to save lives. Very satisfying.
The second exception is Ambassador Sarek, Spock's father. Sherman & Schwartz capture perfectly the subtleties that hide within Sarek. He's the perfect example of the "Vulcans do have emotions, they just hide them" philosophy. He allows himself a small smile in private. He can be slightly sarcastic or even make a small joke. He's serene and calm, no matter what is going on. He's wonderfully compassionate. The love he has for his son and his new daughter-in-law is very apparent, and he almost loses control even in public. But he's able to right himself. I've always liked Sarek, and the authors do a great job with him.
However, it is not enough to save the book. It's tedious, forcing the reader to slog through the writing to get to the good parts, of which there aren't enough. If you must read this book, then check it out from the library. If you read and enjoyed Vulcan's Forge, you don't have to read this one. First of all, it's not much of a continuation (it continues the character of one of the Romulans from that book). Secondly, it might destroy your lovely memories of that book. I know it did mine.
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Comment on Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz
Comments on Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz
Posted by Nicholas on 1/16/2007
Fine review. I've never read a _Star Trek_ book and am not a big Trekker, though I have enjoyed some of the shows and movies. But the criticisms raised of the authors' stylistic choices are valid for any prose fiction, and show some savvy insight. I'd trust this reviewer to give me relevant prognostication on any SF book.