Tue
May 13 2014 2:00pm

Five Burning Questions: Vonda McIntyre’s The Search for Spock

Spock is Dead. That was the end of the last book, and not only is it sad, but now the universe is out of joint, because, as you know if you have read more than two of these blog posts, everything in the universe is a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon so that Kirk can command the Enterprise with Spock at his side. Even the doomed social worker from the 1930s noticed.

Spock is dead and the Enterprise is being decommissioned. It was all shiny and new at the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but movie novelization later it was being used for a training cruise. That went badly, and now Starfleet has totaled it.

Scotty is devastated. Kirk is bereft. McCoy is going insane because he’s got Spock in his head. Sulu is supposed to be getting command of the Excelsior, which is the awesomest ship Starfleet has ever built, but since everyone who went anywhere near the Genesis project has to be available for hearings, it gets handed off to another guy. David Marcus and Saavik are sent off to investigate the consequences of Khan’s detonation of the Genesis device. Kirk tries to revive his relationship with Carol Marcus only to be rebuffed because she had a thing going with one of the Boojum and Snark guys from the last novel and she is mourning, as one does when one’s lover is killed by one’s ex-lover’s long-lost arch-nemesis.

Our cast of characters is at loose ends and scattered across the galaxy. I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I know I do.

1. Tell me some things about Sulu’s martial arts training.

I’m so glad you asked! At the beginning of this novelization, Sulu has just earned his black belt in Aikido, something that he and Vonda McIntyre have in common. I have also studied Aikido. It’s been a while. And I never got anywhere near black-belt level. Vonda McIntyre could kick my ass without breaking a sweat. Peacefully, of course. Sulu yokomenuchi iriminages a guard into a wall to help Kirk break McCoy out of jail. It’s great to see a black belt demonstrate the basics. And it’s totally legit—we know the guard is a bad guy because he has McCoy in a cell and he cheats at poker. Sulu is way too busy to go to class that week, so he and his training partners are spared the inevitable consequence of practicing iriminage on members of the unsuspecting public—having to sit in seiza for a long-winded re-telling of Terry Dobson’s Tokyo subway story.

2. Wait, McCoy is in jail?

Yes, because in Gene Rodenberry’s beautiful vision of humanity’s future, that’s what they do before confining people to psychiatric hospitals without any kind of civil rights or due process safeguards. It’s like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest survived the Eugenics War and got mistaken for an instruction manual. McCoy is periodically pretty out of it because of having Spock’s katra, but he’s not a risk for harm to self or others, and he has good social supports. There’s no way he meets any kind of rational criteria for hospitalization. His friends’ proposed treatment plan is a little iffy, but SO IS LOCKING PEOPLE UP.

3. That’s depressing. How’s Saavik’s love-life?

That poor girl.

She has a great time with David, for one night of exploring the sexual implications of her Romulan-ness. Then she has to investigate the possibility that he tried to drug her with narcotic super-vines on a visit to the Genesis planet. He didn’t—he didn’t know the vines were psychoactive, it’s a sign that the Genesis experiment is out of control. I’m about as good at physics as I am at Aikido, which might help explain why I don’t understand how a process that makes plants psychoactive leads to the planet being reduced to a disc of protoplasma. Or that could be the screen-writer’s fault.

Anyway, David isn’t trying to drug Saavik, but he does have some unpleasant emotional issues and poor impulse control, and he gets killed by the Klingons. Which, at least, spares Saavik from having to tell him that she had sex with resurrected teenage Spock.

4. Really?

Yes. Really.

Up until that point, everything in the novelization is divided into pairs of Kirk symbols and Spock symbols. So Saavik (Spock’s protégé) and David (Kirk’s son) explicitly had the Kirk/Spock love that Kirk and Spock themselves usually only implied. But then Saavik has sex with new-Spock, and I imagine that it’s sort of like masturbation. And you’ll have to imagine it too, because Vonda McIntyre absolutely did not write a scene that describes it.

5. There are Klingons now?

It’s handy that they show up, because there needed to be a crisis in act three. Or possibly because someone desperately needed to kill David Marcus. I can’t think of another reason for them to be in this novelization. The Klingons capture the Enterprise from Kirk, who stole it from the Federation, which wasn’t going to fix it anyway. Kirk sets the self-destruct and the crew flees to the Genesis planet to rescue Spock and Saavik (but not David) and then take over the Klingon Bird of Prey to take them to Vulcan so Spock’s katra can be removed from McCoy’s head and installed in new-Spock’s body. No one asks new-Spock how he feels about this, because he’s non-verbal and the Federation has no established standards for legal consent for non-verbal individuals. But Sarek is untroubled by the ethical issues, and we all know he’s a great guy.

Spock is dead. Long live Spock. Thank god the next novelization is about saving the whales.


Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

7 comments
Thomas Thatcher
1. StrongDreams
It sounds like you're surprised by the Klingons, but they are in the movie, too. And it totally makes sense, they would definitely be interested in a bomb that can erase the entire population and ecosystem of a planet (something McCoy noticed but both Marcuses were either too blinded to see or were willing to overlook in their grant application.)
Mike R
2. Redlander
I haven't read the novelization, but in the movie McCoy was locked up for talking about Genesis in a public place and trying to book an illegal flight there, not so much for being mentally ill. It was a security matter, which brings up its own set of civil rights problems.
Charles Foster
3. FossMaNo1
I can't tell from your post if you liked the story or hated it...
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer
4. EllenMCM
I remember that the Klingons were in the movie, too. I just don't feel like the narrative really needs Klingons right then.

Which, I think it's worthwhile to note, is not McIntyre's fault. She added some backstory to the Klingons that makes them more interesting. But since the Klingons are in the story entirely to provide yet another obstacle in a plot that can fairly be described as an obstacle course, they get shoved out of the way before we get any sort of interesting pay-off for having them there. The only narratively significant thing they do is kill David, and although I read the book last week, I have no particular recollection of any exploration of the consequences of his death.
Theo16
6. Theo16
Is this a review or what? Did it hold up 20 years later?

The thing I remember most about this one is that the actually movie scenes don't start until pretty late in the book. McIntyre was allowed to spend a lot of time explaining things that were ignored in the film.

Her desire to keep continuity with her own previous novelization might have gone a little too far when she refers to Sulu as a captain throghout this book and the next one. But the idea of being able to expand this much on the movie is a pretty cool one.
Kit Case
7. wiredog
"Or that could be the screen-writer’s fault."
Yep. Pretty much the whole movie.

I remember, when the Klingon captain showed up, seemingly half the theater yelled out "Reverend Jim!"

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