Era: Enterprise, Season 2
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2003
On a dying world, T’Pol has accidentally killed an alien. Swearing off further violence, she finds herself at odds once again with Captain Archer. But when plague strikes the Enterprise, and an alien explorer may not be all it seems, T’Pol must question her new values . . .
At a mere two hundred and eighteen pages, Surak’s Soul is short even by the standards of the Pocket Books line. Despite this brevity, it manages to pack a lot in. Like so many early Trek novels, this very much feels like it could have been an episode of the show. It’s complete and self-contained, with a few passing references to earlier events. Unusually for Trek books, Surak’s Soul makes little effort to take advantage of a novel’s unlimited visual budget. Aside from an expedition to an alien planet in the opening chapters, the entire book takes place within the confines of the NX-01 Enterprise. In this, it has a real bottle episode feel that produced a lot of great episodes. With the crew eventually trapped in a very small part of the ship, I can easily imagine this being an episode brought about by budgetary restraints. That closeness to how so many episodes played out is one of the strengths of the novel. It doesn’t get much more Trek than the Enterprise in peril.
Like the earlier book What Price Honor?, Surak’s Soul is strongly driven by a single character, in this case T’Pol. Vulcan’s have been a part of Star Trek since the very beginning, and while the character wasn’t always well-treated by the script, Jolene Blalock’s take on the iconic species was a worthy inheritor of the legacy established by Leonard Nimoy and Tim Russ. Dillard captures that performance perfectly here, and even though we don’t get to see much of T’Pol’s inner struggle, what we do see builds on the character nicely.
Other than the deeper look at T’Pol, the main plot here is largely predictable. The early section with a plague-wracked planet set up a nice tragedy, that develops into a mystery as the disease affects the crew. As always, it was nice to see Hoshi get to have a larger role, as it is her translation work that bookends the novel. Once Wanderer turns up, however, it’s very much Trek by the numbers. An alien being composed of pure energy? Check. Sinister agenda? Check. Crew-member refusing to believe their new ally is a threat? Check. It’s all very well written, but not for a moment was there a convincing argument that Wanderer was not responsible for the disease. I must say, however, that Wanderer’s motivation was a neat twist on the usual affair. And the journey, while predictable, was fun to follow. I also have to give Dillard top marks for committing one hundred percent and novelising those bizarre decontamination room scenes.
Surak’s Soul is unlikely to rock anybody’s world, but it’s a fun little side-adventure that captures the spirit of Enterprise‘s early seasons.