Thursday, June 9, 2011

Unspoken Truth

Star Trek: Unspoken Truth by Margaret Wander Bonanno
Published April 2010
Read May 28th, 2011

Previous book (The Original Series): Inception

Next book (The Original Series): The Children of Kings

Click the cover to purchase Unspoken Truth at Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for Unspoken Truth!

From the back cover:

A social experiment was conceived. Its goal was to breed the best, the brightest, the most malleable and most loyal soldiers to ever serve. To this end, the Romulan Empire used its own children, blinded by the belief that anything that would bring glory to the praetor was justified. And when the winds of politics changed, these children were abandoned, left to die on a world so horrifying that it was dubbed—by those who dared to cling to life—Hellguard.

One wild child, Saavik, was rescued by Spock. He took the half-Vulcan, half-Romulan child home to his parents, knowing that if anyone could reach and rescue Saavik, it was them.

Now a Starfleet officer, Saavik has striven to honor her mentor and her Vulcan heritage. But recent events have shaken her. Left behind on Vulcan while the rest of the Enterprise crew goes to face court-martial for stealing and destroying their ship, the young science officer is adrift when two men from her past confront her. Tolek, another Hellguard survivor, tells Saavik that the survivors are being killed one-by-one and only they can discover who and why. The other, a Romulan who claims to be her father, swears it is the Vulcans who are eliminating the Hellguard survivors because they are an embarrassment to all of Vulcan, but that she has the power to stop it, by bringing down the Vulcan ambassador, Sarek.

Not knowing where to turn, not knowing whom to trust, Saavik must find her own answers, and discover who she truly is.

About the novel:
Unspoken Truth chronicles the direction that Saaviks life takes concurrent with and following the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  After the HMS Bounty lifts off from Vulcan carrying the crew of the late Starship Enterprise to Earth to face trial, Saavik is contacted by an old friend and fellow survivor from Saaviks former home, Hellguard.  This old friend, Tolek, informs Saavik of a plot to kill all of the survivors of Hellguard.  Several of them have been killed already and Tolek fears that he and Saavik may be next.  Saavik agrees to provide assistance through access to the Starfleet database and shortly leaves for her next assignment aboard the USS Chaffee.  While aboard the Chaffee, Saavik meets a Tiburonian scientist named Mikal.  Despite his eccentricity and emotionalism, Saavik is drawn to him and they become romantically involved.  The first half of the novel deals with their burgeoning relationship and the discovery and exploration of a planet that plays host to a species of intelligent worms.

The second half of Unspoken Truth begins when Saavik returns to Vulcan following the Chaffees mission.  Saavik discovers that Tolek has been killed, and Saavik begins a journey to discover the person or persons behind it.

My thoughts:
Margaret Wander Bonanno is one of Trek Lit's premiere writers.  I can remember reading Strangers From the Sky as a child, thoroughly enjoying a unique and engrossing story that was well-told.  Unspoken Truth is interesting, competently written, and provides much-needed insight into a character that was sadly never fully explored in the on-screen Star Trek universe.  I've always been fascinated by Saavik, especially with what makes her different from the typical Vulcan.

Expanding on previous backgrounds written for Saavik including the original script for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Carolyn Clowes' novel The Pandora Principle, Unspoken Truth delves further into Saavik's past as a feral child on the abandoned Romulan colony Hellguard.  This begins to explain the emotionality displayed by Saavik in The Wrath of Khan, such as using expletives and crying at Spock's funeral.  Here we find out more about that past and how it has affected Saavik in her adult life.  This exploration was very welcome, as a void opens up in the character's life after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  After the Bounty departs and leaves her behind on Vulcan, what happened?  Where did Saavik go afterwards?  Unspoken Truth fills in that gap admirably.

The character of Mikal is a bit of a conundrum.  At the beginning of the book, I found him to generally be an insufferable ass.  However, as the book drew to a close, I found myself caring about him somewhat.  I still wouldn't say that I liked him per se, but I no longer loathed him.  I feel that a better job could have been done with his character.  Bonanno does link him and Saavik thanks to shared childhood suffering, but I feel that more could have been made of that connection.

One complaint I have is that the motivation for Saavik's actions is hidden from the reader until the very end of the novel.  Normally, this can be an effective stylistic choice.  However, in this instance, because the entire book is told from her perspective, it seems odd that the reader would remain unaware of why she was doing what she was doing until the end.  The revelation as to why Saavik was acting as she was came as a complete surprise to me, and rather than a pleasant one, it was quite jarring.  Another "unspoken truth," I suppose?

Finally, I am going to make a proclamation that may make me a pariah in the world of Trek-fandom.  I much preferred Robin Curtis' portrayal of Saavik in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home to that of Kirstie Alley in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Margaret Wander Bonanno would seem to agree with me, as she seems to have based the Saavik shown in Unspoken Truth more on Curtis than Alley.  Robin Curtis played Saavik as more mature and collected, but still with a hint of deep emotion just beneath the surface.  Her reading of the line, "Admiral.  David is dead." in Star Trek III never fails to get to me.  Many people say that she was too wooden and emotionless, but I think that that appraisal doesn't give Robin Curtis enough credit.



Kirstie Alley as Saavik...
... and Robin Curtis as Saavik.

Final thoughts:
Feeling a little disjointed and cheating in failing to reveal things to the reader doesn't take too much away from an enjoyable read about a fascinating and under-used character.  I give Unspoken Truth 7.5/10.  Not the best Star Trek novel, but certainly enjoyable and entertaining.

More about Unspoken Truth:

Also by Margaret Wander Bonanno:

Next review:
While waiting for Star Trek: Voyager: Children of the Storm to become available on the Kobo e-reader, I read a classic work of Trek fiction, Diane Duane's My Enemy, My Ally, the first book in her "Rihannsu" series of novels.  Look for a review of that book coming soon!