The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah got some bad reviews when it came out. I like it very much, but I can see their point. It all depends on what you you are looking for when you come to a Star Trek novel.
Personally, I buy Star Trek novels that have Spock on the cover. When I watched Star Trek in its first run, the only character I really liked was Spock. I’ve mellowed since, but I still feel he was the core of the series.
On this cover we have Spock, phaser in hand, facing a le-matya under the light of T’Kuht. The le-matya is in the story, and important, as is the light of T’kuht. Spock is in the novel too, but not in this scene, and, although he has his moments, he is probably the least important character in the novel.
That was a surprise, but not particularly a disappointment, as there is plenty of McCoy, Kirk, Sarek, T’pau, a bit of backstory on the minor character M’binga, and half a dozen interesting new characters, both human and Vulcan.
If you love a good plot, with interesting twists and turns and a fast pace, TVAM may not be for you. If you want a good murder mystery, TVAM is definitely not for you. The attempts at detection are lame and the culprit stumbles to (his/her) doom. Nobody sees the obvious until it falls into their laps at the end. The arc of the plot actually reads like one of the old series episodes.
None of that matters to me. This is one of those novels that lets us see old friends again and spend time with them. It delves deeper into Vulcan culture, especially mate bonding, and shines a light into the shadows thrown by Vulcan stoicism. We get to tie up a lot of loose ends regarding Spock’s childhood and his relationship with Sarek and Amanda. We also get a chance to see Kirk and T’pau get a chance at a mutual reevaluation.
Besides that, the new characters are fascinating. This is a novel that brings backstory into the foreground, with just enough plot to keep things moving. What more could you want for two dollars, on sale at your favorite used book store?
Now I’m looking for a copy of its sequel, The IDIC Epidemic.