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Star Trek: Vulcan's Forge
Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz
Pocket Books, 288 pages

Vulcan's Forge
Josepha Sherman
Josepha Sherman is a fantasy and Star Trek novelist, as well as a folklorist and storyteller. Write about what you know? Her latest novel, Son of Darkness, is a dark urban tale set in New York City, her hometown. And yes, the bit about "The Tunnel" is quite true!

Josepha Sherman Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Susan Shwartz
Susan Shwartz is a financial writer/editor and an assistant vice president for a Wall Street investment firm. In her spare time, she writes, edits, and reviews fantasy and science fiction. Having published more than 60 short stories, written several novels, and edited a number of anthologies, she has also written non-fiction for Vogue, The New York Times and various other national periodicals. Her latest novel is Cross and Crescent.

Susan Shwartz Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

From the desert sands of Negev to the volcanic plains of Vulcan to the black glass of Obsidian, fiery suns hammer boys into men and truth from lies. Vulcan's Forge is about the soul of Vulcan, and the soul of a single Vulcan. This book explores Spock's decision to defy his father and the tradition of his people to join Starfleet, and it looks ahead to how the old Enterprise stalwarts cope with the loss of Kirk to the Nexus. The story reveals the cold logic of the Vulcan mind, the ruthless pragmatism of the Romulans, and the violent passion that sometimes erupts between them. And it shows Spock's adolescent rite of passage, how he first learns to deal with humans on their own terms, and how much progress he has made over the years.

The story introduces David Rabin, a human who befriends Spock at his presentation at Mount Seleya, and the plot shows two intersections in the lives of Spock and Rabin, once as boys and then years later when both have the rank of Starfleet Captain. The two plot lines run in parallel. In the earlier plot line, a dissident Vulcan visionary named Sered disrupts a ceremony at Mount Seleya and takes a group of hostages, both Vulcan and visiting Federation dignitaries. Sered's plan is to restore the qualities lost by the Vulcan people when they were sundered from the Romulans; he brings in Romulan allies to further his end.

Spock and Rabin, alone, trek across the harsh desert known as Vulcan's Forge, even across its volcanic heart, a hellish place known as the Womb of Fire. In a confused melee involving hallucinogenic lichen and improvised weapons, Spock kills a Romulan to protect the hostages. Raised to respect life, even to the point of being a vegetarian, Spock is forced to take a life to protect others for the first time. He realizes that his curiosity about the universe is too large to be contained by the Vulcan Science Academy, and that peace sometimes requires effective action to secure the needs of the many. He applies to join Starfleet on the recommendation of David's mother, Captain Nechama Rabin. The conflict between Spock and Sarek erupts for the first time here.

Many years later, Captain David Rabin is posted to a Federation outpost on the backward world of Obsidian, near the Neutral Zone. Rabin's efforts to protect the people of this radiation-scarred world makes little impact, partly due to a series of setbacks and unfortunate coincidences. When the wells of Kalara City are poisoned and the storehouses set ablaze, Rabin suspects the forces moving against him are more than just local malcontents. He calls for help, and the nearest Federation ship responding is the Intrepid II under the command of Captain Spock. Spock comes to the aid of his old friend Rabin, while Dr. McCoy comes to the planet to try to find solutions to the endemic problems of solar radiation, and Spock's second, Commander Uhura, holds the bridge while he is on the planet. Obsidian is a pre-industrial world with crowded cities and nomadic tribes, giving a Lawrence of Arabia cast to the setting. The local hermit mahdi turns out to be a certain familiar Vulcan, with a new contingent of Romulan henchmen. Again Rabin and Spock must cross hostile terrain, on a landscape that makes Vulcan's desert look positively lush by comparison. McCoy is captured by natives and Romulans, while he copes with characteristic humour.

The story ends, as it should, with logical introspection and a new transition. Spock's facility for dealing with non-Vulcans gives him new options. Afterwords by the two authors personalize their connection to storytelling in this popular milieu.

The writing style is deft, and the adventure-style pacing makes it easy to keep track of what's going on here, even with the twinned story lines. There is an interesting cast of background characters, some of them familiar, from a glowering adolescent Stonn to the cheerful Ensign Prince. A good story is one that has the reader sitting back to think about the broader issues, and this story achieves that, for the sort of reader who is a fan of Star Trek's Vulcans. Vulcan's Forge makes an important contribution to the background of the Star Trek universe, and it's an enjoyable read to boot. Best of all, it's only a beginning: the two authors are promising a sequel, Vulcan's Heart, for later in 1998.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.

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