Friday, April 16, 2010

Star Trek - Unspoken Truth by Margaret Wander Bonanno

Spoiler Level: High

Poor Saavik. Is she Kirstie Alley or Robin Curtis? Half-Romulan or full Vulcan? David Marcus's lover or betrayed co-worker? Spock's future wife, or adopted younger sister? Ditched in The Voyage Home, ignored in Final Frontier, replaced in Undiscovered Country and bumped from the Next Gen episode "Cause and Effect." I can't think of another character who was greeted with so much enthusiasm and potential that ever got fumbled so badly.

So I was really looking forward to Margaret Wander Bonanno's new Star Trek book, Unspoken Truth, which follows what happened to Saavik during and after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I was hoping this would be the book to put Saavik back on the map and get her back into the Star Trek mythos. (Especially after Bonanno's wonderful Captain Pike book, Burning Dreams, which I absolutely loved.)

But I don't think I realized just how fractured a character Saavik was before this book. Oh sure, there's always the Kirstie Alley vs. Robin Curtis issue, and I assume that's why the cover features a Vulcan building and not Saavik herself. But I don't think I realized how radically different books had used her.

The original books with her had been, of course, the novelizations for Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock by Vonda N. McIntyre. In these books Saavik is half Romulan (based on a cut scene from Wrath of Khan which can be seen here on YouTube) and she and David fall in love. So when he's killed in Search for Spock, Saavik goes berserk. However when directing the film, Leonard Nimoy took the approach that since the half-Romulan line was cut from Wrath of Khan Saavik was now a full Vulcan and insisted she play the scene where Saavik tells Kirk that David is dead with no emotion at all.

There's also a book that deals with how Spock met Saavik called The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes (which I own, but confess I haven't read yet), and she and Spock get married in the book Vulcan's Heart.

This book keeps the events from Pandora Principle, so it keeps any of the elements that Clowes followed up on of McIntyre's, but Unspoken Truth also chooses to ignore anything from McIntyre's actual books themselves. I suppose I can understand this; it has been 26 years since they came out, and it's more likely that new readers have only seen the films and not read the books. But I loved the relationship between Saavik and David as a kid, and I'm saddened to see it go.

More complicating, however is that Saavik has been raised by Sarek and Amanda. Apparently this was also set up in The Pandora Principle, but since she repeatedly calls them Father and Mother this really makes the concept that she'll one day marry Spock feel rather incestuous. So I'm left feeling that this book isn't meant to connect with Vulcan's Heart either.

All of this really made it tough for me to get a bead on Saavik in this book. I would keep coming across things that made me have to unlearn what I thought I knew about her. If it had treated her as full Vulcan or even half-Romulan with a different origin, it would have been easier; but the fact that some parts were consistant and others weren't kept throwing me off.

The story itself is okay. Saavik runs into an old friend from her youth on the failed Romulan world of Hellguard, who warns her that survivors from that world are being killed. She also accepts an assignment to the USS Chaffee, where they explore a world with giant telepathic worms (which if I understand the timeframe right would explain why she wasn't in Final Frontier). There's intrigue, twists, romance, and Saavik goes through a lot of angst as she tries to recover from everything she's gone through. It's not bad, but it didn't really excite me either.

The book does set her up for potential future books, either with the new characters introduced here or with the classic TOS cast. And now that I know what direction she's being given, I think I'd enjoy future books with her more.

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