By word of Frederic Pohl, who edited the Bantam novels, “I didn’t really pay much attention to Star Trek“. But James Blish had noticed that the biggest checks he had ever gotten came from his previous Star Trek novels. They were starting to collect some fan stories, which would later appear as “The New Voyages” series of anthologies, but Blish started on writing original novels, even if Bantam and the editores did not think they were anything warranting much attention.
The first adult-oriented original novel written, it tries to get into the later common habit of killing off Spock. (So much in fact, it was later a big plot point on a movie, and his “resurrection” the whole plot on another!)
Here, the Enterprise is sent ot monitor the Klingons, who was apparently seen breaking the “Organian” treaty. On trying to do some “experimental” use of the transporter, Spock is divided in two selves. This whole double self is not the same type that what was done in the “Evil Kirk” episode (“The Enemy Within”), but what I consider to be a very creative, and real good science fiction. That’s a breath of fresh air, as some other novels are just a bunch of tedious space opera. This part of the novel is actually quite enjoyable, where the crew tries to figure out the “mystery” of this double Spock.
It laters does pick up some adventure/action scenes, and to be honest, I was fairly bored and did not pay a lot of attention, but basically the whole thing is that “a Spock must die”. The Klingons are just there to be used as part of the scenery, and the novel breaks a big part of canon at the end (or at least, makes it impossible for a lot of other stuff to happen). This was readily ignored by every other writer. In fact, I think a big problems of the novels is that only the original author carries ‘canon’ between their novels: all others revert back to what was established by the TV episodes. I hope that later on, on more modern books, events are cross-pollinated between novels and authors; it would really enrich the Trek universe.
The last action scenes and the resolution are a bit anti-climactic, but I think the whole explanation of what happens to Spock is really nice and very well done.
Blish understands very well that personalities of the characters, and plays them well, even though some parts of the prose are a bit tedious he carries it off very well. There is an overly fascination with the Spock character, but this is only because of the attention people were giving to him.
This novel is quite nice to read, and some of the best in the early writings. This style of writing is easy to digest, low on description, high on action and not very challenging, but it covers it’s purpose: get a Star Trek novel out there with some good science fiction mixed in. I can easily recommend it, but I know there are a lot more that are much better.