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Author J.M. Dillard Returns With ENTERPRISE Novel SURAK'S SOUL, But Little Soul-Searching


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Posted: 14:28:54 on February 28 2003
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Books
by J.M. Dillard

Pocket Books MMPB
218 pages

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Written by Bill Williams, edited by Steve Krutzler

Synopsis: Pulled into one of Captain Archer's dangerously impulsive attempts to make first contact, Sub-Commander T'Pol finds her life threatened. T'Pol reacts, draws her phase pistol and kills. It was a simple act of self-defense. But is killing ever simple? And has she forsaken the teachings of Surak? Determined to be true to her heritage, T'Pol forswears voilence. She tells Artcher that never again will she kill--even if ordered.

Review: The issue of justifying the act of murder, whether self-defense, execution, or premeditated murder, has been long debated since the days of the Bible. It is this issue of justifying murder to preserve life that permeates the underlying theme of the new Enterprise novel SURAK'S SOUL.

When the crew investigates what appears to be an island paradise, they instead find a humanoid species on the verge of extinction. The last member of this species attacks the crew, and in an act of self-defense, T'Pol kills the dying humanoid. This decision forces T'Pol to question her Vulcan heritage and her studies in the teachings of Surak, until a being of pure energy--referred to only as the Wanderer--communicates with T'Pol and reveals the cause of the planetary genocide. One by one the crew becomes infected with the same genetic virus as the beings on the island planet, and with time running out T'Pol must decide whether the Wanderer can actually help in saving the crew or cause the crew's deaths.

Writer Jeanne M. Dillard, who has authored a number of the STAR TREK film novelizations, returns with her first original novel since the TOS novel RECOVERY. In the past, she wrote complex stories that explored the rich tapestry of the TREK legacy. However, with SURAK'S SOUL the attempt is sincere, but the execution rather short. At just 218 pages, the novel plays like an average episode of the series.

Dillard brings into the story an excellent comparison between Surak and the 20th century activist Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian leader who believed in peace and non-violence and united his countrymen against the British rule. The belief of peaceful co-existence as one of the rudiments of Vulcan logic permeates the Vulcan beliefs throughout the entire STAR TREK saga, despite a few revolutionaries determined to return to the old ways (ex. Valeris in "STAR TREK VI"). T'Pol, as a student of Surak's teachings, grapples with the thought of renouncing violence as a justification of preserving life, but as she watches her crewmates succumbing one by one to the same disease as the alien beings, she must decide whether it's worth the risk to once again kill, this time the very being who may be able to save the crew from the illness that is killing them, despite the evidence that the non-corporeal entity may have been responsible for the planetary genocide.

Adapting films into short novels seems to have created a trend that has crept into Dillard's first original work in years. She's much more capable of weaving stronger elements together and creating original elements to a scripted story. Her novelizations of THE FINAL FRONTIER, THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, and GENERATIONS, for example, weave a number of truly interesting subplots into the context of the films' stories, which make those novelizations stand apart from the films on their own individual merits. However, in working within the ENTERPRISE framework, while the issues of non-violence and peace are good themes, they are not enough to sustain a strong story with Archer and company. The end result is a novel that plays very much like a number of the average episodes that we have seen over the last two years on television.

It's good to see J.M. Dillard back with a new STAR TREK novel, but unfortunate that the effort isn't nearly as strong as it should have been.
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By Steve Krutzler ( s_krutzler@trekweb.com) at 11:24:09 on March 04 2003
URL: http://trekweb.com/brittandsteve | User Info
What, no one read this book and disagrees with Bill? :-)


-Steve Krutzler
==V/-/== Rocks

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