Saturday, September 06, 2008

Star Trek (TOS) Book Review: The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes

The Pandora Principle (1990) by Carolyn Clowes is predominantly an adventure designed to reveal Saavik’s origin. As such, it does a nice job of making sure the origin story is vitally important to the Spock-centric adventure of the Enterprise. This one is set just prior to the first Trek movie, the Motion Picture. Clowes novel effectively sets the stage for Kirk being relegated to a desk job, as he is at the beginnings of both movies. Cleverly putting the focus here on the Spock/Saavik dynamic, the author sets a brilliant trap for Kirk, having him out of the way, locked in vault for most of the novel.

Saavik’s origin, as told here, held my attention for the most part. (I seem to recall a different Saavik origin from DC Comics.) I felt that Clowes used the technique of withholding information a bit too often and for too long, I suppose in an attempt to build suspense. Personally, I find action oriented stories to be more suspenseful when the eminent danger for the main characters is the cause of tension, not something unknown and unexplained that is lingering out there somewhere. Probably Clowes heavy reliance on that approach was my biggest complaint.

The Spock/Saavik relationship was quite moving at times, with excellent bits of comic relief. In particular, I loved the conversation when Spock explains Pon-far to Saavik and further, her reaction to the tale that is “Amok Time.” Saavik plays the role of fresh audience, reacting with such abhorrence for how Spock’s betrothed treated everyone involved. Mainly through their interaction we get a glimpse at how Spock might have been as a parent. His long suffering and patience are completely in character. And it’s only one such as Spock that can tame the wild beast that Saavik seems to be when he finds her.

The new (unofficial) Romulan weapon was quite frightening, a virus that instantly consumed all oxygen. I was delighted that Dr. McCoy out-sciences and out-logics Spock in coming up with the antidote.

McCoy also gets the funniest line in the novel, “What am I saying? I just told the Big Bad Wolf to go cheer up Little Red Riding Hood!”

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