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Vulcan's Soul 2: Exiles, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz Book Review | SFReader.com
Vulcan's Soul 2: Exiles, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2006 Review Posted: 1/3/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
Vulcan's Soul 2: Exiles, by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
Vulcan's Soul II: Exiles, by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, continues the tale of the Vulcan exodus that eventually resulted in the Romulan Empire. The first book, "Exodus" was a fantastic mix of Vulcan history and modern-day Trek action. Exiles continues this, with alternating chapters detailing either the long journey of the exiles or the new threat to galactic peace that Spock, Saavik, and the others must deal with. Thankfully, the book is just as good as its predecessor, and now all trace of the bad taste left by "Vulcan's Heart" is gone. This is an excellent second book, and I'm salivating waiting for the third one.
In the past, the massive fleet that has left Vulcan has a long journey ahead of it. Karatek, the former propulsion engineer who has become one of the leaders of the migration, sometimes despairs of them ever being able to find a new home. Many years pass between each chapter, and many problems beset the fleet. Metal shortages, radiation sickness, or unsuccessful attempts to find habitable planets that result in numerous deaths, all of these issues impact the already fractious existence of the settlers. Different factions have developed, including one that was trapped on the ships and hadn't wanted to leave in the first place, and things get quite contentious. But they must endure the hundreds of years that this trip will take. Meanwhile, in the current day, the Watraii are still claiming the Romulan homeworld as their own. As well, Starfleet Intelligence has learned that Pavel Chekov is actually alive and imprisoned on the current Watraii world. Spock, the exiled Romulan Ruanek, Scotty and Data go on a covert mission of rescue, as well as to find a valuable Romulan artifact that has been stolen. An artifact that might hold the secret to the Watraii claims.
Vulcan's Soul: Exiles is very similar to the previous book in style, both in the alternating chapter format as well as being relatively self-contained, though leading to even more in the next book. While the previous book was about what caused the exodus from Vulcan, this is the story of their journey, with the next book being what happens after they got there. The present day story's mission is wrapped up within this book, but the questions about the Watraii still remain and will be answered in the final book. Thus, the reader is not left with any literal cliffhangers. Instead, we're just desperately waiting to find out where everything goes from here. Of course, the broad outlines are predictable, but the details could go anywhere.
Shwartz and Sherman do another masterful job with this book. It's designed to keep you reading for "just one more chapter" as each one ends at either a crisis or some other kind of suspenseful stopping point. Of course, the deliciously agonizing thing is that the next chapter's going to change timelines, so you have to read two more chapters to find out the resolution. However, most of these points are logical (pardon the expression), with only a couple of them seeming awkwardly created for artificial tension. In addition to these chapter endings, the authors' writing style is immensely readable, flowing easily with hardly a clunky phrase or wording anywhere. They even seem to have toned down my one minor complaint with the first book, where Spock and Saavik act a little too emotional toward one another. Either that, or I have just become used to it, as it could very well be in character for both of them at their present ages and given the fact that they're both only half-Vulcan.
The plotting in this book is superb as well. Even with my usual aversion to needless Trek continuity, I found the one major reference to one of the original series episodes to be interesting rather than annoying. It does come out of nowhere and there really isn't a reason for it, but it was fun for me. Perhaps it's because it was the only one included that I didn't mind it. Usually, books that have these kinds of continuity references revel in them, but Shwartz and Sherman use them sparingly. I liked that.
The authors also do a wonderful job with the characterization in the book. All of the regulars are excellent, with only Ruanek getting a little too flippant toward the end of the book. What's even more important, though, is that they do a great job with the Vulcans in the past. All of them are very clearly delineated, recognizable without having to consult a character sheet. Karatek is the most important, and it's a wonder seeing his transition from an avid disciple of Surak's logic to the man he must become as their voyage drags on, seemingly forever. His family is interesting as well, and it's intriguing to see the changes that develop over time, given the fact that the chapters have to span over four hundred years. There are many chapters where the time jump is in decades, and the authors do a great job of gently recapping what's happened in those interim years without resorting to massive infodumps. Other than the little bit with Ruanek, there isn't a character misstep anywhere in this book.
Finally, there is the ending. We all know how everything works out in the modern day. There are Romulans, and then there are the Remans who were subjugated by the Romulans, growing grossly disfigured due to the horrible conditions on Romulus' twin planet where they are settled. As the historical chapters go on, you get the feeling you know generally how that's going to develop. It's very likely that you will be wrong. The ending is not a cliffhanger, but it is a kick in the gut for anybody who thought they knew what was going on. I have to hand it to Shwartz and Sherman for the way they did all of that.
Vulcan's Soul: Exiles delivers everything that the first book did, and leaves the reader anxiously awaiting the third volume. Any of my criticisms would be nitpicks, so small that I barely noticed them. This is a standout series, one any fan of the original "Star Trek" series should read.
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