Review: Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine by Scott Harrison

star trek original series shadow of the machine by scott harrisonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Length: 99 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: March 9, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

An e-novella set in the Original Series universe—taking place immediately after the events of the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

After its recent encounter with V’ger, the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned to dry dock to finish its refit before commencing its second five-year mission. The crew has been granted a two-week period of shore leave before preparations for their next voyage begins. Shaken by their encounter with V’ger, Kirk, Spock, and Sulu travel to their respective homes and must reflect upon their lives—now forever changed.

My Review:

Star_Trek_The_Motion_Picture_posterThis short novella is not exactly a story. Instead, it reads like three character profiles of people we know well. We see Kirk, Spock and Sulu at a pivotal point in their lives – the immediate aftermath of the V’ger incident portrayed in the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

It is also, for each of them a meditation on the place that is called home, and a glimpse into their relationships with people that we know of but are not necessarily familiar with.

The poet Robert Frost once said that, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Which does not mean that you necessarily want to go there, that you want to stay, or that it still feels like home to you.

For Jim Kirk, it is not a place that he wants to go; for Spock, not a place he wants to stay, and for Hikaru Sulu, not a place that feels like home to him.

Jim Kirk is called back to his family farm in Iowa. (“I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space”) His nephew Peter is being raised on the family farm, by Jim Kirk’s aunt and uncle, making Abner and Hanna Peter Kirk’s great-aunt and great-uncle. We’ve met Peter once before, in the episode Operation: Annihilate. His father, Jim’s brother Sam, and his wife Aurelan were killed in the invasion of the energy suckers. Only Peter survived.

Peter seems to have lost his way, or been lost in the black depths of depression after V’ger. He thought he was safe on Earth, but it has just been brought home to him, and everyone on Earth, that there is no such thing as a safe place. The teenaged Peter has lost interest in any future, and Jim’s Aunt Hanna hopes that something he might say to the boy will bring him back. That both is and isn’t the way it works.

Spock returns to Vulcan to tie up the loose ends related to his abandonment of the Kolinahr ritual at the beginning of the V’ger incident. Everyone he meets assumes that Spock plans to return to the ritual, but in meeting V’ger, he discovered that his human (and emotional) side has as much value as his logical and Vulcan side. He has been denying his own place in the IDIC principle (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) in his mistaken attempt to become fully Vulcan, which he is not.

In meeting with both his human mother Amanda and his Vulcan father Sarek Spock’s new knowledge of himself helps to further heal the family rifts that were apparent in the episode Journey to Babel.

Last, but in this case not least, Hikaru Sulu comes home to await the birth of his daughter, and while he is awed by the love and responsibility of becoming a new father, his partner also makes him aware that she understands him as much as she loves him. She is making a home for herself and their daughter, knowing and accepting that Sulu’s life is and will always be in space and not on Earth.

He discovers that he has a home, but it is not truly his.

Escape Rating B: While I enjoyed this, it is not so much a story as it is a visit with old and dear friends. The character portraits in this novella are definitely for the fans – there isn’t enough story to draw in anyone who is not already very familiar with Star Trek.

While this is an original work, there were quite a few points where the dialogue between the characters felt spot on – I could hear their voices in my head, including those that we will not hear again. For that gift, I thank the author.

Star Trek GenerationsThe bit of the story that was most original was Sulu’s story. He is not featured in as many of the stories as might have been – the Original Series was much less of a true ensemble than Next Gen, but in this case we learn a bit that has not been known before. Demora Sulu appeared in Star Trek Generations as the current helmsman of the Enterprise B, and Kirk greets her as Hikaru Sulu’s daughter – but no one ever knew anything about her mother or where she came into the story. This is that story, and it is illuminating.

I originally picked this book after reading and reviewing The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell. That true space science story had so many resonances with ST:TMP that I couldn’t resist reading a V’ger story. After the news about Leonard Nimoy’s death, I moved the book as far up the schedule as I could find a slot. It is only coincidence (but an excellent one) that this Sunday (March 22) will be William Shatner’s 84th birthday.

Live Long and Prosper.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine by Scott Harrison

    1. Definitely more character study. A brief visit with some old friends. Not much new came to light, and there’s not much adventure – but a lovely way to spend an hour with terrific people.

  1. As a Trekker myself, I’ll be happy to read it if I can, but I won’t be chasing it either – the series and movies are enough for me 🙂 Lovely review !

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