Michael A. Burstein, winner of the 1997 Campbell Award for Best New Writer, has earned ten Hugo nominations and four Nebula nominations for his short fiction, collected in I Remember the Future. The title story was made into a short film in 2014. Burstein lives with his wife Nomi and their twin daughters in the town of Brookline, Massachusetts, where he is an elected Town Meeting Member and chair of the Library Trustees. When not writing, he edits middle and high school Science curricula. He has two degrees in Physics and attended the Clarion Workshop. More information on Burstein and his work can be found on his webpage, http://www.mabfan.com.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In an early Enterprise mission under the command of Christopher Pike, Science Officer Spock is forced to confront his dual nature as half-Vulcan and half-human.
No fan of Star Trek needs the character of Spock explained. Even people with only a remote understanding of the show might be aware of the basic traits that make up Captain Kirk’s second-in-command. First Officer Spock considers himself fully Vulcan, born of a race that eschews human-style emotions. In truth, Spock is half-human and spends much of his life fighting against his human side and his dual nature.
In his new novel, Greg Cox takes the reader back to an early mission in Spock’s career, shortly after the episode “The Cage” when Spock served as Science Officer on the Enterprise but was not yet First Officer. Captain Christopher Pike, commander of the Enterprise, has to deal with an outbreak of Rigelian fever on board the ship while at the same negotiating a dangerous pathway between an alien race called the Cyprians and the well-known antagonistic Klingons. Pike rescues a Cyprian woman named Soleste Mursh whose ship is being fired upon by the Klingons. It turns out that Soleste had just rescued or kidnapped (depending on your point of view) her biological sister, Elzura, from the Klingons. Elzura had been captured many years ago when the Klingons attacked the Mursh family and killed Soleste and Elzura’s father. General Krunn raised Elzura as his own daughter and named her Merata. Although Merata is biologically a Cyprian, she considers herself in all other ways a Klingon and resents having been taken away from her adoptive family by her biological sister.
Furthermore, because of the fever outbreak on the ship, Pike does not have the luxury of time. The planet Cypria has the mineral ryetalyn that can be used to cure the fever, but once the Cyprians learn about Merata, they refuse to hand over the mineral until Merata is returned to Cypria. The Klingons, of course, want Merata back as well…and they have the firepower to back up their “request.”
The novel has some similarities to the fourth season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Suddenly Human,” in which Picard has to decide whether to return a human boy raised by Talarians to the aliens who killed his parents. The difference in Cox’s novel, though, is that the dilemma of what to do with Merata née Elzura falls on Spock’s shoulders, and Spock understands this dilemma much more than Picard. Over the course of the novel, as Spock talks with Merata and brings her together with her biological family, he ponders how similar her situation is to his own. Readers who think they know everything there is to know about Spock will be pleasantly surprised to discover that there are new revelations to be discovered about this long-established character.
In addition, the novel gives the reader the chance to learn more about Pike and his crew, including Number One (played on screen by Majel Barrett) and Doctor Phillip Boyce. Number One in particular gets a chance to shine as she leads a team to the planet Cypria and takes point in dealing with the political situation while trying to secure the ryetalyn.
Child of Two Worlds is a fast-paced, suspenseful read that does what tie-in fiction does best: tell a new story in a familiar universe that elaborates on and explores the background of the well-known characters in an unfamiliar ways. Cox’s novel is a worthy addition to the canon of Star Trek novels.
- Many years ago, writer Jerry Oltion introduced a chief engineer Michael Burnstein who served under Pike in Pike’s later years on the Enterprise. Although this novel uses chief engineer Caitlin Barry created by D.C. Fontana instead, Burnstein does appear as a lieutenant in the book. That said, Cox spelled the name Burstein instead of Burnstein. Future explorations of this character are warranted.
- Greg Cox is an acquaintance of mine, although in a different reality I could have called him friend.