TOS 80's Novel Continuity Read Through

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Desert Kris, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. jaime

    jaime Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 2, 2013
    You’re making an era of Trek books..not to mention Klingons...sound more interesting than I imagined. I find Rihanna’s impenetrable, but maybe I should give this stuff another shot. I like Diane’s TNg books after all.
    Desert Kris likes this.
  2. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 3, 2008
    Here and there.
    Thanks! Final Reflection has such an interesting alternative presentation of Klingon culture; it's interesting to see a book extrapolate with only TOS episodes and TMP and nothing else. I don't mind that later television shows take it in a different direction, it gives two alternatives that we can look at.

    For what it's worth, the novel that kicks off the Rihannsu cultural concept was the most challenging read for me, out of all the 80's books I've read so far. Others have been...uh, maybe less good, but easy breezy reads by comparison. I say challenging; My Enemy, My Ally was a bit of a struggle, actually.

    I ended up getting Diane Duane's TNG books after reading The Wounded Sky and ME, MA for after I've finished this sequence of novels. Should be interesting to read Intellivore, as a follow up to the Romulan Way after seeing it hinted at in the latter book.

    I think Diane Duane does really well in the comic storytelling medium, actually. There's a handful of stories she wrote for the Star Trek DC Volume 1 series that are really quite charming or thoughtful, and her sense of humor worked better for me in those issues. I plan to write about those stories, because of their inclusion of characters from her Rihannsu novels.
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    The tendency to define Diane Duane's books as "the Rihannsu novels" has the unfortunate effect of excluding the two non-Rihannsu novels that are just as integral to her continuity, The Wounded Sky and Spock's World.
    Leto_II likes this.
  4. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 3, 2008
    Here and there.
    I think I understand the tendency as a shorthand. I don't know if I've fallen into that trap, if I have it's unintentional. Right now The Wounded Sky and ME, MA have equal weight because they are the only ones I've read so far, in my mind. And The Romulan Way, while I look forward to what it develops about the Romulans, I am also just as much interested in what it says about Vulcans, as a lead in to Spock's World. I am in favor of being inclusive of all Diane Duane's books. My Enemy, My Ally is more satisfying when The Wounded Sky has been read before it.

    Swordhunt and The Empty Chair are a long way down the road for me; after the end of the 80's novel continuity books.
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Those are my least favorite Duane books. They're all politics and war, which don't interest me as much as the other things she's written about in her career.
  6. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Jul 22, 2004
    Arizona, USA
    This conversation reminds me of a question I've been meaning to ask. Are Diane Duane's Young Wizards books any good? The ebook version of the first one is only $3.99 and I've been curious to check the series out for a while now.
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Oh, yes. Terrific stuff. A very distinctive approach to the idea of young people learning to be magicians, liberally blending fantasy with science fiction and magic with computers, and featuring a diverse, representative cast of characters. Plus there's an older-skewing side series about cat wizards!
  8. DrCorby

    DrCorby Captain Captain

    Dec 24, 2009
    with DrCorby on Exo III
    My two favorite Diane Duane ST novels are Spock's World and Doctor's Orders. I love the world-building (both historical and current Star Trek era) in the first, and McCoy's frustration at being stuck in a command role and then his creativity in using his medical knowledge to solve problems in the second. I read her first few Rihannsu novels years ago. I have the omnibus, and need to read the whole series at a single go.
    Leto_II and Desert Kris like this.
  9. Mysterion

    Mysterion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 28, 2001
    Starbase 31
    All of Duane's stuff is good. She captures the voices of the TOS characters as well as, if not better than, any other author (IMO, YMMV).

    For me, the top of her heap is The Wounded Sky. This book really captures the sort of "sense of wonder" feeling Trek provides in it's best moments.
  10. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 3, 2008
    Here and there.
    Klin Zha, The Game

    It occurred to me after I finished my comments on The Final Reflection novel that throughout the whole review I didn't even talk about the game that is such a major part of the story. I looked in the roleplaying game supplement, Klingons, that was written/contributed to by John Ford, and was surprised to find that I couldn't find details in that supplement about the game, and I kind of ended up forgetting about it. So, here is an appendix entry to The Final Reflection.

    The idea of the Klingon's game appealed to me, as something of a casual fan of Chess. I like Chess a lot, and so Klin zha's similarity drew me into the story even more. I read in a couple places that other readers identified the opening chapter as thematic echo of what the rest of the book is about. And I think I read into that a little too much the first time I read The Final Reflection. I don't think it's a beat for beat, move for move thematic parallel, but in the overall sense it does fit. Vrenn who becomes Krenn fights to higher levels, and seizes control of the goal.

    For added fun, I looked it up on Memory Beta, which sums it up very well. I contemplated the variants and wondered which variant the overall novel's story is? Blind or clouded? We can only see opponents when they are in contact with Krenn; yet there are aspects of the Klingon empire which I felt were impenetrable when trying to figure them out. Obviously the novel's story is a form of the game played with living pieces.

    What about the Ablative version? Throughout much of the narrative, people move into new roles and new relationships among themselves, so when the characters leave a space in most cases that space is removed from the game. Except in one case where someone has Krenn trusted for a long time turns out to be other than who Krenn thought he was. After the resolution to that conflict, another person kind of takes his place. Also, one might observe that the pieces all return to another Babel conference, but the circumstances have changed so drastically by that point; are they really returning to a space that has previously been occupied?

    Of course, because it is a game with living pieces, all the people in the game can at one time or another find themselves being moved by a hidden Klin zha Master-player in a high place, so it's also naturally the most complicated version of the game, the Reflective variant.

    I suppose that it isn't particularly original to just conclude that Krenn's story is all the variants of Klin zha, being played all at the same time. No wonder life seems so challenging sometimes, both in the Klingon culture depicted in The Final Reflection, but also here on our own planet Earth.

    The game really makes me think of what seemed like building up of gaming culture in the 1980's, but it's just an impression from my childhood remembrance. Video games, computer games, roleplaying games, and Tron. It seems fitting that The Final Reflection gave us a look at this fascinating game, that helps us understand that version of the Klingon culture, as well giving us insight into the character of Krenn himself. He's obsessed with the game, but he does he think life is a massive game of some sort? Did he eventually become a Klin zha master, or where did he disappear to in history, after the events of this story?
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018
    Leto_II, TheAlmanac and Stevil2001 like this.
  11. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

    Sep 3, 2005
    I see Sarek's problems with Spock going much deeper and more pervasive than just the Starfleet issue.
    People, even fictional Vulcans, can be hypocritcal and contrary. Sarek could love Amanda and still not accept the humanity in their son. The Kelvinverse Sarek had an emotional breakthrough after Amanda's death and did accept Spock in ways that I don't know the original Sarek ever did.
    I'd compare Sarek's problems with Spock with a white man who might love and marry a black woman but have unresolved racist issues with their mixed race children. It's illogical, but Sarek's logic often seems flawed when dealing with his children.
  12. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 3, 2008
    Here and there.
    Dwellers in the Crucible (part I)

    Opening Credits

    A brief musical cue from the Amok Time soundtrack, the track called Remorse/Marriage Council II, which starts at the 24-25 second mark (except played more slowly, and much more melancholy). The five note introduction sounds over blackness. The next three notes move down the scale and the word “Dwellers” manifests over the black title background, the word fading in top to bottom. The next five-note sequence accompanies the reveal of the rest of the title, “in the” with “Crucible” on the third line. As the music refrains back to the early five-note introduction the blackness lightens and the title fade to reveal a heavy yellow-grey fog caught in the pre-dawn light of a nameless planetoid. The musical cue is abrubtly gone, but we hear the sound of an eerie, moaning breeze that clears the fog enough to catch glimpses of a small, newly constructed prison compound, unoccupied and unused.

    The picture shakes along with the rumbling of a seismic disturbance that is punctuated by a sharp crack. This last abrupt sound, of massive rock snapping is synchronized with a flicker visual which reveals the very same prison compound after it is eventually abandoned and falls into ruin at the mercy of this unknown planetoid's surface instability.

    The wreckage of the compound fades gently to Cleante and T'Shael on Vulcan, engaged in a ritual gathering of herbs for tea, on the planet Vulcan.

    Soundtrack Throughout

    Many familiar Star Trek themes sounded in my mind throughout, particularly themes from TSFS, and Amok Time (although that gladiatorial theme was absent, deliberately banished as tonal not a good fit for my perception of the story). This book somehow captured a feel of 1980's cinema somehow, and so some moments of soft synthesizer music manifested, somewhat sensual or melancholy, as incidental background music.

    A Gateway to the Past, if you choose; Many Journeys are Possible

    Dwellers of the Crucible is a novel where the work of other novelists begin to conglomerate; the starting indication is a note at the beginning directing readers to My Enemy, My Ally and The Final Reflection as books that Margaret Wander Bonanno drew on for inspiration of Klingon and Rihannsu cultures.

    Dwellers also feels like it draws from Vonda McIntyre's works as well, for how Vulcans are presented, and how prominent Deltans seem to be within this version of Star Trek. The Entropy Effect shows that there's a certain etiquette for making physical contact with a Vulcan because of their touch-telepathy sensitivity.

    Even though I haven't technically included TMP novelization on my list, I have read that book in the past, and details I remember from it were valuable to me for the overall knowledge I had going in to Dwellers. Even though I remember a lot of it pretty well, I'm thinking about revisiting that book. I don't know that the novelization for the third movie is strictly necessary, although moments of Dwellers in the Crucible called to mind The Search For Spock, which would have been the most recent movie to come out around the time Dwellers was written and published.

    The Needs of the One

    I was very excited about this book, as the meeting place where three or four different author's individual versions of Star Trek converge. Margaret Wander Bonanno has taken inspiration from other authors yet changes some elements to fit the story of Dwellers.

    I held off on reading it, because I had the impression that it would be a challenging read. I waited for the moment when I thought I was ready.

    I was mostly ready for it. There is a moment in the book toward the end where one of the main characters, Cleante alFaisal flies into a rage during a debriefing after being rescued, and she says something to the effect that her kidnappers didn't torture or beat or violate their prisoners; “Sorry to disappoint you, Admiral Kirk, but they did not!” I didn't know what to make of that, but I felt like I couldn't really agree, having existed as an observer from outside the universe of this novel, looking in. I'm not an expert in post-trauma, though.

    Cleante and her Vulcan friend T'Shael were captured because of their role as participants in a new practice the Federation has implemented at the suggestion of the Vulcans. In order to try and maintain the Federation's cohesion among it's member races; a small selection of people have designated as Warrantors of the Peace. Professional hostages, as one reviewer on Goodreads describes them.

    Warrantors of Peace

    I found the idea of the Warrantors a curious one, but I found some discussion about why that might have been plausible during the 1980's, when fans' perception of the Federation would have been different. The novel makes a case for the Warrantors on the grounds that the Federation has been seeing a lot of diplomatic infighting. Doctor McCoy give a rueful rundown of worlds that are being disagreeable, the Tellarites and the Orions, the Elaas and Troyius. I was particularly saddened to read that Vendikar and Eminiar from A Taste of Armageddon renewed hostilities, that's a real shame.

    So the Warrantor program has been approved to try and hold the Federation together. I found many arguments and reviews that judged the concept somewhat out of wack with the philosophy of the Federation. I played with the idea a little and asked myself how I thought this political practice would be implemented. The program is a serious intrusion on the free will of relatives of people in important political positions. On a personal level this seems like it would be a disincentive for aspiring politicians. Who would want to win an election, or be capable of enjoying the prestige of this kind of high status, when you have to explain to a loved one that their individual freedom to live their own life will now be forcibly intruded on. This made me imagine I was seeing a version of the TOS 80's novel continuity that sits somewhere between a TOS prime timeline and the Mirror universe; where an oppressive pragmatism is in play.

    As an exercise in trying to make it seem more feasible, I speculated that maybe this program offers major incentives for people who are asked or forced to be Warrantors. Are there clues in the text guiding us to certain conclusions? It seems like the Warrantors get reasonable living accommodations, unlimited access to necessities without having to take on a full-time job, and unlimited access to higher education programs. The education part seems to be a major thing the novel emphasizes, many of the Warrantors are professional students (Cleante seems to be a listless perpetual student who can never settle on a major or finish out a chosen degree), or teachers, or dabble in both. I wondered about so many of the Warrantors in this story that are involved in academia. Although it brings in that can-of-worm question about the Star Trek universe, is there money in the 23rd Century? In a scarcity-free setting, how do you provide incentives for people who might want to go somewhere else and do other things, rather than be a Warrantor?


    It may seem like I made an issue of it, but I really didn't worry too much about the details of the Warrantor policy. The point is to have a collection of characters who are innocent and just want to get on with living their lives, yet who are valuable enough to be seized as political prisoners by governments hostile to the Federation. The hostage situation sometimes seems like just a framework, while the novel diverges extensively into flashbacks, and even flashbacks within flashbacks. I imagine this is a book that will frustrate any reader who hate flashbacks.

    There are so many flashbacks that one might almost conclude that those scenes are what the novel is about. For the most part they didn't bother me, except on two specific occasions. One was early on in the book, when the Klingons single out the female prisoners and order them to exit the prison. This was very uncomfortable reading, the queasy feeling was so strong that I felt like I needed to take more frequent breaks from the reading. Then the book shifted into another set of flashbacks and dragged out the discomfiture I was feeling for an unbearable stretch of time. Another occasion near the end of the novel was almost a breaking point for me, when I'm usually patient with flashbacks. As T'Shael is directing Cleante in making sure to secure her from causing physical harm as Pon Farr approached, I was not happy to see the scene shifting to past events. I didn't skip any of the text; but I felt resignation and weary exasperation. It slowed my reading down even more. This was a moment where I really felt the “present day” story needed to advance more quickly, and I resented that the whole chapter doesn't really return to it (it does end up paying off, in a way).

    I read the book at a slower pace than other ST novels. Dwellers was not at any point a boring book, I should say. Nothing that I read left my thoughts drifting to other interests. The subject of the story just lent itself to a more deliberate reading experience. I took notes more frequently throughout. Often a book dictates the pace that I will read at; and it was only the last 20-25 pages that I pushed toward the finish line with Dwellers.

    Mastery of the Unavoidable

    Ironically, Bonanno's novel presents us with the Vulcan cultural idea of Mastery of the Unavoidable, which they use as a way to deal with their instinctive emotional responses to extreme or unpleasant circumstances; they practice to maintain control of their emotions. I say ironic because Mastery of the Unavoidable helped me to settle in with the book as a longer read that dealt with uncomfortable and unpleasant situations, as well as the moments when the flashbacks became too much for me.

    Having introduced Mastery of the Unavoidable, Bonanno has a good scene that shows how Spock incorporates this cultural idea into his daily routine. This is Spock after his V'ger encounter, and he is comfortable with himself as half Vulcan and half Human. He acknowledges that he will not master this thing on the level of most other Vulcan's, but he has accepted this, and continues to practice anyway, seeking a balance between controlling emotions and being receptive to emotions that will drive him to take constructive actions in daily life. To this end, he listens to a lot of bad news on the radio. This scene cleverly finishes off by tying back in to the main story, where Sarek has a voice cameo in his familiar role as the Vulcan ambassador, commenting on the current state of the Warrantor hostage crisis. It's nice to have Sarek in the book, even though he isn't in the book; and see him still connect to Spock even obliquely.

    I'll talk more about the Mastery of the Unavoidable culttural concept and how it's derived from the novelization of TMP in The Needs of the Many section

    The Same Scene, Again

    There's a reoccurring scene in the book between Cleante and T'Shael that is always in flashbacks, and at first it made me laugh. It starts with T'Shael asking that very trope-y question “What is this Earth thing that you call love?” It made me think of at least two friends who in the past gave me a run down of three different Greek words that classify different types of love. The repeated revisiting of the scene also made me think of 1980's cinema, or 80's music videos. The same image or a scene, replayed over and over but from different angles. This isn't necessarily and 80's thing, though, is it? For some reason I kept getting a strong 80's vibe from the novel, more so than any of the other Star Trek books I've been reading for this, and this scene and others that are set up with strong visuals kept contextualizing the book in this way.

    Anyway, I ended up enjoying the re-visitations, with different lead in and lead out; and also seeing what was going on inside Cleante and T'Shael's heads and how they interpret it differently. The dialogue isn't always the same in each reiteration, because one or the other get lost in their thoughts and have to shake themselves back into the present.

    I imagine this kind of repetition isn't for everybody, though; not for impatient readers. To Bonanno's credit I think she approaches each revisitation with care, knowing that the keeping the attention of her readership is crucial, and it seemed like she took pains to make sure that each time we saw a different side of the conversation; with just enough repeated dialogue to anchor a reader that this is that same moment, again. I enjoyed it because I can't remember if I've ever encountered that kind of thing in a book; certainly not to this extent. One revisitation of the same scene, maybe two; but beyond that I don't know if I've read a book that took the risk Dwellers does here.

    Cultural Exchange

    At around the two-thirds mark of the novel, I found myself questioning the cultural exchange between Cleante and T'Shael. There's the occasional moment when T'Shael doesn't understand a word that Cleante says, and ends up doing a computer search; but this is still in keeping with T'Shael's interest in the study of any different language. It doesn't feel like T'Shael is branching out as much as it is suggested she wants to. Cleante tries to learn exercises to help master her emotions, though it seems like she still has difficulty (her mother later tells Cleante and us that she seems more composed, or something to that effect). With T'Shael, it was hard to see the balance in the cultural exchange of the relationship. The scene that keeps repeating is T'Shael's effort to understand Humans, but it's the same scene over and over again; while Cleante seems to try different things.

    I'm glad to say that it seemed to me that the imbalance of cultural exchange is addressed by the end of the novel, during the aftermath of the crisis and the winding down of the story. There's a very good scene between T'Shael and Spock, and the book makes very effective use of where Spock is at as a character after TMP, comfortable in his own skin. There's this interesting idea of a Rihannsu commander taking T'Shael as a Warrantor of Peace and trying to remold her into a Warrantor of vengeance. It's nice that Bonanno doesn't forget about the idea she has introduced; she takes the Warrantor idea and presents the possibility of a destructive version. So we get this intriguing moment where T'Shael is unwilling to follow through on what she is charged to do, because she is stuck in the box of Vulcan notions of shame and dishonor, and taking too much of the weight of the universe on her shoulders.

    So we have a conversation where words and ideas are weaponized; a potential conversational combat. And here, after much of the book has built up the benefits of Vulcan culture to aid endurance for surviving difficult situations, the script gets flipped. We can look back on T'Shael's actions and see where she has gone wrong.

    Except it doesn't need Spock's confirmation that something's going wrong with T'Shael's rationalizations when she starts making bad decisions. She endures hardship to save Cleante, but then while in the middle of a life-threatening situation, she has a brief moment of realization that, “Oh, maybe I should do my best not to die, and not risk that a Klingon doesn't have to keep his word to a dead Vulcan.” After which she keeps submitting to extreme climate conditions that continue to jeopardize her life. And then, despite her logical conclusion about honoring a dead Vulcan, she deliberately takes action to sacrifice her life to save Cleante, again forgetting her own logic. T'Shael's logic is appallingly uncertain, where her friend Cleante is concerned.

    The book thoughtfully explores questions of personal responsibility, showing how the Warrantors' role frees others to make choices, and asks what impact those choices have in the universe. Spock talks through the logic of taking responsibility for one's own choices, and taking responsibility for how those choices influence other people's choices. He challenges reasoning that has the appearance of logic that has gone to the point of being unhealthy.

    I like how the book draws parallels between what T'Shael goes through, and Spock's mind meld with V'ger. We as readers can understanding only a small part of what T'Shael endures, and McCoy indicates that her ordeal is comparable to the shock Spock received from his mind meld in TMP. Which really builds up that moment from the first movie. I felt like this was a good use of that turning point in TMP; for accentuating the importance of Spock's revelation, and then having that revelation reflect on the significance for the new characters. My enthusiasm for this parallel is partly due to the fact that TMP is fresh in my mind from only a couple of months ago; watched after the end of a production order viewing of TOS, followed by TAS. TMP had more power and impact this time around, and Spock's searching and revelation landed with greater significance.
    garamet and TheAlmanac like this.
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    DitC's portrayal of Deltans was interesting; it was pretty much the only attempt in the novels to explore the sexual side of Deltan culture until I came along, and no doubt an influence on my efforts in that regard. However, I think it went a little overboard at the expense of continuity. If Deltans are so dependent on touch that being deprived of it kills them, how could Ilia survive her "oath of celibacy?" I could never quite reconcile that.

    I don't know about that. As I recall, it seemed kind of an odd idea even at the time. It made for an interesting story, but it was a fairly idiosyncratic portrayal of the Federation. Of course, back then, before TNG and the later series fleshed out the worldbuilding so much, there was a lot of room for flexibility in how writers imagined the Federation and the other cultures glimpsed in TOS. So there were a lot of idiosyncratic portrayals, and part of the appeal of the early novels was that multiple-choice nature, the way different writers filled in the enormous holes in early canon in such different and surprising ways.

    Yes -- it was referenced several times in TOS that officers were paid, that things were bought with credits, etc. And we saw a number of capitalist characters in TOS and TAS: the rich miners in "Mudd's Women," the money-grubbing Harry Mudd himself, the merchant Cyrano Jones, the rich-enough-to-buy-a-planet Flint, the wealthy philanthropist Carter Winston. There was never any question in TOS that money existed. It wasn't until The Voyage Home that "We don't use money" was first uttered (which, in retrospect, probably meant physical currency as opposed to electronic credit), and the moneyless economy wasn't established until TNG.

    That kind of chronologically non-linear, stream-of-consciousness storytelling is Margaret's trademark. Her books are always a challenge to enter into my chronology.

    I'd forgotten that it did that. Most post-TMP novels in the '80s and '90s pretty much ignored Spock's character change in the movie.
  14. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nov 2, 2017
    United States
    I always had the impression that money is more a luxury in the future. That there's way to make different types of money in the future but it's not necessary for the necessities of life. That's where the novels help a great deal in defining that better.

    In canon explanations it's a little more vague. Like you mention it's obvious money is used in some forms (as credits in the original series, gold pressed latinum in DS9, that sort of thing). But I agree, in TVH it was my impression that they don't have money in the sense of dollars and bills, and it's not needed for things like food, but that doesn't rule some other system out (since it was for a meal, he probably didn't realize he needed money). And of course by the time of First Contact when Picard is explaining the economics of the future it's clear Starfleet officers are not paid in the traditional sense. But there is some sort of economics at play as in DS9 I recently watched an episode where Sisko presents Quark a bill for damages caused to one of the cargo bays. But again, the novels help define that a bit better. I remember reading a DS9 novel (I forget which) where there is a fund that Starfleet officers can access when needed for a mission.
  15. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Commodore Commodore

    Dec 19, 2011
    And in “Encounter At Farpoint” Dr. Crusher “charges” for the bolt of fabric.
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Yes. Just because money isn't needed doesn't mean it doesn't exist at all (though DS9 sometimes assumed it did). There are ways people can earn it, and it's still used for transactions with cultures outside the Federation, like in "Farpoint" as mentioned above, or at Quark's and the other businesses on DS9.
    SolarisOne likes this.
  17. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nov 2, 2017
    United States
    It's one of the things I like about Star Trek. And one of the reasons I don't think today's economic models can really be used for the future in Star Trek (at least in the Federation). Because a lot of todays economic systems start from a basepoint of the necessities of life. Weather socialism or capitalism, they all start basically from the standpoint that you need to pay for food and lodging. Once you eliminate that from the system then economic models are no longer necessary.

    In a very real sense it's a paradise for socialists AND capitalists. Socialists state that everyone should have basic food and shelter, medical care and so forth----done. And capitalists want to be free to make as much money as they want---well since the basics are already done, you can engage in as much capitalism and make as much money as you want (as long as you aren't harming others in the process or engaging in illegal activities like selling biomimetic gel or quantum torpedos or something like that).
  18. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 3, 2008
    Here and there.
    Dwellers in the Crucible (Part II)

    The Needs of the Many: Rihannsu, Klingons, Vulcans, and Deltans

    I try to be fair in the reading of all these novels as their own individual story, while keeping an eye on how they are building up alternative continuity. The tension of DitC as a standalone work versus it's status as a novel where several authors' interpretations blend together was very pronounced for me. Dweller's individual story demands attention for it's own story, which is very serious business. I wanted to respect the storytelling effort there. The seriousness of Dweller's subject matter clashed with the excitement I wanted to feel in more superficial ways about the book being a major connective work between other novels. I felt a little bit of resentment that I couldn't enjoy the unification of continuity elements in a book that was more fun and light reading. Bonanno does provide some moments of levity here and there, and some fun action and adventure moments. I enjoyed some of the dabbling into the Star Trek's brand of espionage, politics and diplomacy; with deep cover spying, listening and translation posts, and the complications of negotiating the end of a political crisis. There's a quirky scene between Scotty and an old Klingon drinking buddy that is quite a hoot.

    The Klingons of Klinzhai

    Sometimes the fun scenes later turn serious, too; when I say Scotty has a drink with an old Klingon acquaintance, I mean it in the sense that this is a Klingon who is physically quite old and probably only has a few years of life left. The Final Reflection presents Klingons as a race of beings with a very short life span, which motivates them to impatience, needing to live in the moment while maximize each moment to get things done. It is offered as an explanation for the cruelties they are capable of. The reminder of their short life span puts into perspective the Klingon's role in this story, and just how the Klingons feel about their job.

    For a large part of the book, I was completely baffled by why the Klingons are running the prisoner compound holding the Warrantors. Oh, I was glad to read a book that sees the Rihannsu-Klingon alliance in full swing, with both of them taking part in a scheme together in the same story. This was a good thing. Yet I couldn't wrap my head around why the Klingons were guarding the prisoners, given that “Klingons don't take prisoners.” Yeah, sure. Except when they do. And why are they doing it on this occasion?

    Bonanno has a very clever reveal for why the Rihannsu have roped the Klingons in as a third party in the hostage crisis, because combat operations are apparently impossible with the Klingons thanks to the Organian Peace Treaty. I've seen arguments about the nature of the Organian Peace Treaty, particularly focused on the mechanics of Klingons and Star Fleet personnel being able to physically fight with each other. Dwellers depicts a version of the Organian Treaty where both sides expect their weaponry to grow too hot to be able to operate; and attempts at hand-to-hand combat violence seem restrained by the air itself. I've read ST novels before I even started making my way through the 80's novel continuity books, and have occasionally run across this interpretation of the treaty (I'm hard-pressed to remember exactly which books). I've seen arguments for why this isn't necessarily how the Organian Treaty works, too, and fair enough. For Dwellers, I understood what Bonanno was going for , and it's pretty devious of the Rihannsu to have used the treaty against Star Fleet and the Federation. Devious, epic, and reprehensible in the extreme.

    I could almost feel bad for the Klingons prison guards, stuck doing work that isn't glorious or advancing their lives and careers for months that must seem like endless unproductive years to them. We see Scotty sharing a drink with the same Klingon underling who goaded him into a fight during The Trouble With Tribbles episode, a Klingon who was young and full of fight; and by the time Scotty catches up with him in this novel he is ancient and wasting away. This was quite an impactful moment, to take that detail about Klingon lifespans from The Final Reflection and extrapolate what that would look like for Klingons we've seen the Enterprise crew meet. Every one of them has become old, or is might be dead from old age (or battle) by the time of The Wrath of Khan. There will be no glorious, electrifying return encounter with these Klingon captains against Kirk. Scotty reflects on his drinking buddy later on, and it maybe gives us some understanding of why the Klingons who guard the Warrantors go crazy the way they do. It doesn't excuse how horribly they treat the Warrantors. Bonanno makes good use of what The Final Reflection establishes about Klingons to accomplish a particular overall effect in her novel.

    The Rihannsu

    As for the Rihannsu, I'm still getting a feel for them. I've taken notes on what Diane Duane makes of them in My Enemy, My Ally; I've reread and indexed passages from that book that I've been guessing will be important down the road. Some of their government's structure, a few isolated words of their language as developed from Duane's novel seem to have carried over into Dwellers. The most notable innovation about them is that everyone is referring to them as Rihannsu. Bonanno goes back and forth for a little between referring to them as Romulans or Rihannsu, I assume to help the reader who hasn't read My Enemy. Once she establishes this alternative name, the usage of Rihannsu become ubiquitous throughout the book, which I was nice to see. I don't know that Diane Duane's version of the Rihannsu are necessary for what Bonanno wants her novel to be; there are TOS details about Romulans that are as much or more important to the novel.

    The Romulan Commander from The Enterprise Incident is back. She hasn't done too badly for herself, either, having managed to seize back the flagship she commanded in her TOS appearance. She had to climb the ladder of political favor, and work harder to hold her reestablished status. She came up in My Enemy, My Ally as a relative of Ael, if I recall correctly. A source of tension between Ael and Kirk, because the Romulan Commander brought shame to the family and endured political and societal exile. I'm not exactly keeping score between these two books, because a little bit of flexibility in interpreting what is said in both books can be reconciled. Maybe the Rihannsu Commander did endure political and social disgrace that horrified Ael, but maybe for the Rihannsu Commander it was just a challenge that she pushed through on her way back to where she wanted to be.

    There's a neat moment when T'Shael focuses her linguistic interests in the direction of trying to trace the evolution of language between Vulcan and Rihannsu, seeking to enhance proof that Vulcans and Rihannsu are related species. She thinks the Rihannsu language stems from Ancient Vulcan. I really love these hints of archaeological and historical exploration of cultures in the Star Trek universe.

    The Vulcans

    The Vulcans in Dwellers feel very strongly like the way Vonda McIntyre has conceptualized them in her novels. The Entropy Effect shows Spock hardly needing to do too much beyond just make physical contact in order to make an instant connection with another mind. It seems different from the television shows and movies were Vulcans have to go through a process that takes time, and we often see Spock not react with aversion to physical contact with other characters. Dwellers seems to be going with McIntyre's idea, that the Vulcans are extremely sensitive to physicality because contact establishes a mind-to-mind rapport nearly instantaneously, without effort. Even though it doesn't match with what is on screen from TOS, I like the interpretation fine and it was nice to see that Bonanno is drawing on that depiction of the Vulcans.

    Dwellers also draws on material from TMP novelization for details about Vulcans. Dwellers, Mindshadow, and Vulcan Academy Murders have helped to make me more familiar with the plateau of Gol as the place where adherents of the Kolinahr philosophy reside, but Memory Beta was the only way to pin down what I never could have remembered, despite having read TMP novelization previously.

    A couple month ago I flipped through my copy of TMP novelization and read a few passages, including Spock's Kolinahr ceremony. I revisited the same sequence again, just a few days after finishing Dwellers in the Crucible, and I was surprised to see that the Vulcan word Kaiidth (What was, was) is thought in Spock's mind during the ceremony. The word jumped out at me this time, having read about T'Shael frequently thinking this word in her mind, associating it with the Vulcan philosophy of attaining Mastery of the Unavoidable. T'Shael tells Cleante that Kaiidth is a simplified version of the idea, which T'Shael translates as “What is, is.” It's great to see how Bonanno takes this word and it's three-word translation to expand it into a Vulcan cultural practice.

    I gather that the core concept for the novel in the first place is the exploration of the concept of t'hy'la between two female characters, as a parallel to the t'hy'la relationship bond between Kirk and Spock, which is also introduced in TMP novelization. At least, this is what I remember reading about Dwellers, in the Voyages of Imagination guide.

    The final bit of Vulcan culture that TMP novelization provides are some hints about Vulcans' perception and understanding of the universe and divinity, and the possibility of higher life and consciousness. There is a brief scene in TMP novelization where Spock meditates and tries to reconnect with V'ger after re-joining the Enterprise crew; and we the readers learn about Vulcans' seventh sense; from the footnote: “...The sense of oneness with the All, ie., the universe, the creative force, or what some humans might call God.” In Dwellers T'Shael explains to Cleante about how Vulcans regard notions of divinity, mentioning knowledge of the All. Dwellers also hints at another higher life form that the Vulcans perceived, which T'Shael calls the Others. By coincidence the Others is also what the protoGod in The Wounded Sky came to be known as. I suppose a reader could make the assumption that the Vulcan's have come into contact with that life form, but maybe the Others mentioned in Dwellers are Bonanno's own addition to cultural information introduced in TMP, without consideration of The Wounded Sky. T'Shael says that the Others that Vulcans encountered are superior but not omnipotent. If I recall correctly the Others in The Wounded Sky were occasional omnipotent in between periods where they lived corporeal lives. Maybe T'Shael's Others are us, the readers.


    If we include TMP novelization along with TWoK novelization, Dwellers picks up and continues to maintain the presence of Deltans as more of a major presence that was ever scene on-screen in the movies and shows. There's some variance between all of these novels. TMP gives the impression that there aren't a lot of Deltans who go off-world into the larger galaxy, as if Ilia is a rare representative of her people. TMP starts the whole thing with Deltan's being superpowered in the realm of sexuality and sensuality. Based just on the movie, I don't know if that comes across very effectively, one of the versions of the movie has Ilia compare humans as a “sexually imature species” next to her own, but I can't remember if that line is in the theatrical version or just the extra-long cut. Without that line, audiences can only make guesses based on the oath of celibacy comment, and the actors' reactions to her first appearance.

    TMP novelization elaborates on Ilia's own unintentional instinctive reaction in a new and unfamiliar environment, surrounded by strangers she's only just met. TMP novelization gives the impression she doesn't have precise control of her pheromones. However in Dwellers one of the Deltan Warrantors, Jali, is able to control her pheromones, turning them on and off to make a point with their Klingon captors.

    The novelization also explains that a human could die or go insane if they tried to make love with a Deltan, and Will Decker is convinced it will be fatal for him (increasing his motivation to join with V'ger) within 24 hours after he did so with the Ilia duplicate. In Dwellers however the Deltan Warrantors occasionally invite Cleante to join them in their group intimacy; even though Cleante is human, they clearly don't think they will kill her or harm her mental well-being.

    Oddly enough, there is one other major difference in the Deltans of Dwellers in the Crucible: they cannot survive if they are isolated too long from physical contact with others of their own kind. I chalked that up to being a difference that served the needs of Dweller's individual story, rather than be consistent with prior interpretations of Deltans. Dwellers version of Deltans also draws on an element that TWoK novelization introduced, that in extreme circumstances they can will themselves to suicide with their mind (and can even help a human into the state of mind to override the normal survival instinct, if I interpret what happens in TWoK correctly).

    Bonanno comes up with another way to explore alien cultures through language. There are a couple of dialogue exchanges that seemed to be Bonanno's ideas about Deltan sentence structure. If I had never studied a language other than English I never would have understood what was happening with those words that were spoken in Deltan, but translated for us, the readers.

    All this is seems a rather clinical cataloging of consistencies and inconsistencies of Deltans between novelizations of the first two movies and Dwellers. On the emotional level, I felt very sad about the Deltans, who were all very interesting characters. It's even worse when considering how Deltans in concept might be a fun alien race, but in practice are constantly ending up in tragic situations.

    End Credits

    Somber and spiritual music from James Horner's The Search for Spock soundtrack. It's one of those ending credits where we see the main characters in freeze-frame, one after the other. Like the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home or LotR: Return of the King. The images of Cleante and T'Shael, and Kirk and Spock from the cover of DitC; with the other characters depictions from appropriately similar Star Trek novel covers illustrated by Boris Vallejo.

    Next Voyage

    The next three that are up to bat are Demons, Enterprise: The First Adventure, and Battlestations! After having bounced around a fair amount, I'm considering maybe going with a more strictly publication order. I'm also thinking about re-reading TMP novelization so that it's a little more fresh in my mind; it's influence is strong throughout much of the 80's novel continuity, and books like Dwellers in the Crucible are enhanced by familiarity with it.
    garamet and TheAlmanac like this.
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    As I recall, Duane used the term "the Other" not for the proto-god, but for the Vulcans' awareness of the divine. At least, that was established in Spock's World, and it may have been mentioned in TWS as well. So it's not a coincidence, I think.
  20. TheAlmanac

    TheAlmanac Writer Captain

    Sep 11, 2007
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    In the midst of this thread's speculation on what past perceptions of the Warrantors of Peace concept might've been, I went looking for vintage online reactions and found numerous entertaining Usenet posts about the novel from back in the day...

    On the subject of the Warrantors themselves, we have this classy set of posts which mess with the author's name:

    Someone in the same thread disagreed with Jerry, though:

    Then, we have James Dixon, a Star Trek fan known far and wide for his balanced and reasonable take on the franchise:

    Even longer ago, there was this positive reaction from someone who liked it because he only likes Star Trek novels if they're not about the main characters:

    I also came across some debate about whether Cleante and T'Shael had a sexual relationship or not. Here is a representative example:

    As always, looking back on such threads makes it even more readily apparent that the decades may change, but the fandom debates remain the same...
    garamet and Desert Kris like this.