The Vulcan with the Jewel Earring
As always I believe that we all judge books by their covers, otherwise why bother with one? The cover of Black Fire is a gorgeous painting of Kirk and Spock by the renowned fantasy artist Boris Vallejo. Once past the cover it starts with a glowing introduction from Theodore Sturgeon, this could be seen as a misstep as if you get someone with his reputation saying how good your book is it does put expectations very high.
Sonni Cooper was once the publicist for William Shatner and from what I can tell a huge Trek fan. Black fire was the only book that she wrote for Star Trek but she has written other works in various Genres including Romance and Fantasy books.
Star Trek books pre Next Generation at times can feel almost like a fever dream, many are not cannon and often authors were given far more latitude than they would be given now when writing for franchises. This freedom though means that often authors can explore ideas that wouldn’t normally be allowed to. It does though mean the quality of the books can vary wildly. I though love this approach as it normally means that you haven’t a clue what you are going to get.
The basic plot is that there is an explosion on the enterprise bridge, killing several crew (conveniently cadets) and seriously injuring both Spock and Captain Kirk. Spock ignores medical advice and investigates the explosion and in the process gets declared a traitor and imprisoned. At one point Spock is a Pirate (including a jewelled ear ring) a female Aliens play thing and a Romulan officer.
I believe though it’s not stated that this book takes place between the period when the Enterprise’s 5 year mission finishes and Star Trek the Motion Picture as there is a reference to the Uniforms being changed to grey. It can’t be too close as Kirk is not yet an Admiral.
The issue authors have when writing novels within the an established franchise is that the Characters need to finish the book in the same condition that they started it. This sometimes can lead to over-plotting in order to keep interest when the reader basically knows the outcome. This book seems to suffer that at points, did the author want to tell a story about Sabotage, a New Race threatening the federation, Spock’s rise to be a pirate or threats from the Romulan empire. I feel concentrating on only one or two of these narratives would have created a more coherent plot and all time for better characterisation. As much as you get the feeling that the author is a Trek Fan the way some are portrayed feels forced. Spock, whom most of the narrative follows, suffer from this the most. At points feel the character lives up to your knowledge of the character but every now and then there are incidents that seem to grate over his personality or actions.
Despite its faults I did have fun with the book, who doesn’t want to read about Spock as a pirate with an earring (shame no eye patch). The writing is solid (a term I use too often) without being dull and the highlights of this book are definitely at the beginning with the initial bombing of the Enterprise. It does lose some of its lustre later and the multiple stories means it can lack a little focus.