The Price of the Phoenix

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Title: The Price of the Phoenix
Creator: Myrna Culbreath & and Sondra Marshak
Date(s): July 1977
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
External Links:

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They left him still standing naked amid candles and flowers. But Spock felt a slender bond stretching between them like a strand of steel and gold.

The Price of the Phoenix is a Star Trek pro novel written by Myrna Culbreath & Sondra Marshak.

front cover

In a Prior Form

See Never Mourn Black Omne, the fanwork that was the rough draft of The Fate of the Phoenix and "The Price of the Phoenix" combined.

A Fanzine's Direct Response

See Bi-Lliam #2.

Summary

From the book jacket: "CAPTAIN KIRK IS DEAD. LONG LIVE CAPTAIN KIRK. Spock, Doctor McCoy and the other crewmen of the Starship Enterprise experience a stunning double-shock. The first, painful blow is Captain Kirk's tragic death. Then, Captain Kirk's miraculous rebirth reveals the most awesome force the Enterprise has ever encountered. Spock is forced into a desperate gamble for Kirk's human soul against Omne - the ultrahuman emperor of life beyond life, and death beyond hell..."

The story takes place on a world where Omne, a physical and intellectual superman of "overpowering masculinity" has established enclaves for people from many planets to live and re-enact their worlds' historical periods. He is opposed to the Prime Directive because it creates a nanny state situation. Having staged Kirk's death and ensuring that Spock sees it, Omne then creates an exact duplicate. Spock establishes a telepathic bond with "James", ensuring he would be able to recognize this duplicate Kirk in the future. Also on the planet is the female Romulan Commander from the Star Trek The Original Series episode "The Enterprise Incident". Omne believes that Spock's influence on Vulcan, and Vulcan's influence on the galaxy, is so great that if Spock were to denounce the Prime Directive, the Federation would eventually dissolve. An alliance with the Romulans would become possible, and Spock and the Commander could marry. The Romulan Commander breaks in to rescue James. They learn that the original Kirk is alive and well. Through their telepathic link, Spock and James search for each other and Kirk, who is engaged in a terrible physical and philosophical battle with Omne. Spock catches up with Omne and subjects him to a mind meld -- which proves to be a mistake, as Omne acquires all of Spock's abilities in the process. Upon returning to the ship, the Commander claims James as her property since she rescued him. He is surgically altered to Romulan appearance and biochemistry: but on Romulus, he will only exist as an ineffective princeling "from one of the matriarch colonies where men are properly treated as delicate creatures and not permitted to fight." Themes of physical strength and dominance, the "alpha male" and freedom of choice recur throughout the narrative.

Some Covers from Other Editions

Other Star Trek: TOS Pro Books with Fan Connections

The Authors Comment

A very lengthy, detailed letter about "Price of the Phoenix" by the authors was published in Interstat #20 -- some excerpts:
Our best and our thanks for the thousands of fine and moving letters we receive. Please know that we are very often moved to answer, and literally cannot. We have had another reason over the years for never answering in print anyone who writes for publication rumors or worse about us or our work, without making certain of the facts or having the courtesy to check with us....
Because we have always been fans ourselves and felt a special closeness to the fan movement, it is possible that we will be the only writers of professionally published STAR TREK fiction who will write to confirm what both Sydny Weinberg as editor at Bantam and Susan Sackett [Roddenberry's personal assistant] have said: STAR TREK books are screened and approved at every stage, from outline to final manu script, both by Bantam and by Paramount, through Gene's office and by Susan....
It was SPOCK: MESSIAH, not PRICE OF THE PHOENIX which Gene saw only in galleys, too late, and which caused him to demand future approval through his office of all STAR TREK books. PRICE was next after that and was the first novel approved personally by Gene. In his letter of approval, of which we have a copy, he says among other nice things how well we know and understand STAR TREK. He did not ask for any change of so much as a word. PRICE was published as written....
What Susan Sackett is saying in her letter, and what needs to be emphasized again is that, while taste in STAR TREK fiction are obviously going to vary, that is everyone's right and privilege. As Susan points out about a recent novel, "Many, many letters of high praise have been received on this and all the other STAR TREK books which have appeared, a volume far in excess of the negative mail." That "all" includes PRICE OF THE PHOENIX. And that goes double for our own mail, where responses are more than 99 to 1 favorable, very often in terms which we find extremely perceptive and deeply moving. Occasionally we also get perceptive and thought-provoking criticism. We deeply appreciate that, too. The most common single comment we get is that PRICE is the best of the published STAR TREK novels. Some say simply, the best STAR TREK. Some use wider categories: best science fiction, the book which has moved them most profoundly. We have been extremely interested in all of the reviews of PRICE in the fan literature. We especially want to thank Jean Lorrah for her fine review. Among others which we particularly liked, T'Leina deserves special mention. To the reviewers, to Leslie Fish and to all who have written us their thoughtful comments, we express our appreciation. Thanks. It was for you that we wrote THE FATE OF THE PHOENIX... not only for ourselves but for people like Susan, and indeed for anyone who might be hurt, it is best to be very certain. With us it is the best policy to check directly. We have not cared to answer anything else, even to say what some fans may not know: the breakthrough which made possible the publication of new professional STAR TREK fiction, after seven years, was made by us through our fight for STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES I. For the first time in history, we published the fan fiction of a phenomenon. We put it on the professional basis which made publication possible. We have kept in close touch with our roots in the fan movement, appearing at conventions without charging a fee, sharing our platform with fan writers, editors, artists, photographers, singers, etc.—whose appearances we organized at our own long distance expense in order to encourage fan creativity. Nor have we spoken of any of those things until now. If to do that or to do any of the other things we have done out of our own love of STAR TREK, or to write PRICE, is "an insult"—so be it. But the feedback we get through the mail and at conventions says not. Thanks for that, too.

Reactions and Reviews

1977

There is one fantastic STAR TREK experience that you MUST try! It's the new ST novel by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath. It's called THE PRICE OF THE PHOENIX and is in paperback at your local bookstore. The story involves the idea of making a duplicate Kirk when the original is killed by a malevolent madman super-eugenic being named Omne. If you love Kirk-Spook relationship stories and zines, this one is for you! I admit I couldn't put it down. The novel also includes the return of a certain ST guest star (female)...but no more clues on that! The book is true to the charadters. Kirk and Spook primarily, yet Spock does show a bit more humanity as in this scene wherg he speaks to Omne after Kirk's death: "'I do not answer murder with words, nor defend him to one not fit to have looked upon him.' He heard the ancient madness in his voice and did not flinch from it." GREAT BOOK! [1]
I didn't understand 'Price Of The Phoenix', maybe I'm just thick, but what is an Alpha Male? Seems to me it's a man shaped like the first letter of the Greek alphabet, that makes 'The Omega Man' look odd too! [2]
The plot of this novel is simple: Orone, a brilliant and powerful renegade, has developed a process by which he can duplicate persons, mentally and physically. He sets a trap for Kirk, captures and copies him. Spock, with the aid of the Romulan Commander from "The Enterprise Incident", must then rescue both Kirks. That accomplished, the four join in an alliance to make peace between the Federation and the Empire, and to stand against Orone, who mayor may not be dead. (I understand that a sequel is in the works, so he probably isn't.) The book, however, is not simple. Marshak and Culbreath have raised some extremely tough questions here: What is identity? How does an individual or a society deal with evil without becoming corrupted him(it)self? How do you define freedom? They make a respectable stab at answering them, too. Technically, the writing is sound, the characterization thorough if rather derivative, with a heavy reliance on archetypes. Care has been taken, too, with the names. Orone obviously comes from Latin ornnes, but it is also an anagram of Nome, likewise meaning "all", a fitting appellation for a Vulcan who has perverted that doctrine and twisted it to his own ends. And one is constantly reminded that there is a question of a birthright here, with a strong temptation to take it falsely: James [equals] Jacob. As should be obvious, this is a thoughtful book, and a well-made one. Recommended. [3]
If "Spock, Messiah" is insulting to women, in "Price of the Phoenix" everyone becomes a woman! The only male portrayed in the novel is a black- clad herd bull, reminiscent of E.M. Hull's "Sheik". There is a certain fascination in seeing a high-strung, coy Kirk, and a Spock alternating on the verge of a temper tantrum or tears. The prose style is an improvement over the first novel, even though it is heavily overemotional; but the story is filled with simplistic and questionable Ayn Rand type philosophy, many beatings and lots of hard breathing. Very Krafft-Ebing, but one prefers Roddenberry. [4]

1978

"The Price of the Phoenix" is an extremely well written novel. However, it docs not qualify as legitimate Sim Trek material to be absorbed in the collective ST fan memory.

The most disastrous flaw lays within the
realm of characterization, and in particular, 
in the character of Spock. The Vulcan/Human hybrid is not the same Mr. Spock as appeared in the Star Trek series. The Vulcan influence is dominant in our Mr. Spock. whereas their Spock is a pointed cared human, possessed of Vulcan strength and an inherent capacity for love, Also, their Mr. Spock can be "bought", which is something totally impossible for ours. A key quality of the "real" Spock's character is his ability to endure. His price could never be on a personal level, but rather on a higher universal plane. Spock does indeed have the capacity to feel, and never has he felt more on a personal level for anyone more than for Captain Kirk. However, the dominant Vulcan in Spock strives to suppress the humanity within him, and the humanity is indeed the underdog. The relationship with Kirk is the only such human relationship that the Vulcan can permit, but he does not let the relationship dictate to his existence. The inherent nobility in the soul of the Vulcan is channelled into the universals of good, duty, honour, and peace for all beings. Spock himself points this out to Doctor McCoy in "The Immunity Syndrome". On the third page of the novel it is plainly stated that, "the Vulcan repression of emotion was a weakness as much as it was a strength...But McCoy had always known that it could break down explosively". The problem in the novel is that Spock's dominant Vulcan half gives in without so much as a whimper, Spock in the novel behaves as a human would, allowing himself to be controlled by his passions, and this is inaccurate. No matter how great his personal feelings towards Captain Kirk, Spock would never behave in this manner without a galaxy-rending explosion. After an explosion of this nature there could be no recovery.

On the other hand, Captain Kirk is dealt with very skilfully. But, in comparison with Spock's weak showing, the Captain comes out looking like some some sort of "super-Kirk". The few noticeable flaws in him - the flaws which lend such believably to the character - are undercut by his overwhelming capacity for nobility, causing him to be worth "a galaxy's ransome".

The character Omne is the supreme manifestation of evil, and he is the perfect anti-hero in relation to Kirk, as he is exactly Kirk's match. The two could be identical, but as Omne himself so succinctly puts it, "ideals are fragile". His views are presented in a very plausible way. He argues quite eloquently for the 'wolf,' as it is "the other side of innocence...which you (Kirk) imprison in a cage of virtue. Can't you feel it raging and crying to get you?...What gives it less right than virtue?" From his point of view, it is Federation "creeping do-goodism" which is destroying the galaxy. In the conflict with Kirk, it is difficult to ignore these points which he presents so clearly. "Moral questions I never answer themselves", and Omne's point of view seems so much more appealing because Omne has so much advantage.

The Romulan Commander is also excellently developed. Her actions and thoughts are perfect within the Romulan tradition. Her nobility is emphasized, and she is proven to have great sense of will and magnetism, especially when dealing James. Her strength of will actually dominates James to a certain extent, and it is believable (and this cannot be wholy [sic] attributed to his displaced feelings).

The development of plot is orderly and logical, although the way the authours [sic] expressed it on paper can be confusing to the average reader. The presence of viewscreens is not made perfectly clear at first, and can cause difficulties in the following of the action.

The multiple manifestations of Kirk also can cause a bit of a strain. Then, too, the manner in which offers and counter-offers are made create havock [sic] in following the plot. Finally, but quite understandably, motivation of the characters can be difficult to analize [sic].

On an overall basis, "The Price of the Phoenix" is a well laid out, fast paced and enthralling book. The characters are well developed. and their interaction excellently and led. The problem is that the character developed under the name of Spock is not the Star Trek Spock, but rather a product of wishful thinking on the part of the authors (Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath) perhaps to make for more interesting reading .

It is a good book, but it is not Star Trek.

(I would like to note that my neglect of the other Star Tick characters is due to their inconsequential roles in the novel. 1 would like to give them honourable mention here.) [5]


I'd just like to say a word in favour of 'The Price of the Phoenix' as Beth seemed to like 'Planet of Judgement' better. 'Planet of Judgement' was certainly written in a less complicated way and there are bits in 'The Price of the Phoenix' where you feel that there must be pages missing, but this is more than made up for by the Kirk/Spock relationship which was expressed beautifully and in fact was the main theme of the book. Kirk's price is Spock, and Spock's price is Kirk. Also their characters were described very accuratoly in the 'Phoenix' and there was not much interplay of character in 'Planet' - I think probably because Joe Haldeman just doesn't know and understand Kirk, Spock and McCoy as well as Sondra and Myrna do. [6]

1979

Do not be deceived by male Trek lit. Hundreds of men read the Gor, Conan, Louis L'amour series. These are the male equivalent of the "warm, dumb, soppy, stuff". I do not know if it's nature or nurture but I've noticed men seem to read/write heroic fantasy and women are drawn to romance. I don't mind good, logical, well written Trek romance but much is on par with the worst Harlequin. My biggest complaint is the lack of rationality in characters and plots. (Anyone want to see a dissertation on the logical fallacies in Kraith Collected?) Or worse the sudden change in a character with no rhyme or reason except 1) true love or 2) deep hidden aspects of the character's nature (Try the Phoenix books—better yet, don't!) The soppy stuff in Sahaj makes sense. I think the real "enemy" better quality zine selling. [7]

There have been several Star Trek novels written in the last few years. Unfortunately most of them have been rather disappointing, showing little real knowledge or understanding of the themes and characters of the original. This book however is something different: not just another sci-fi novel utilising the series for its background, but a true Star Trek experience, written by people who obviously care very deeply about the characters and what they represent. The authors, whom fans will recognise as the editors of STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES, are in fact probably the Star Trek experts par excellence, and their immense knowledge of the whole Star Trek world is evident throughout this novel.

The book has a strong story line, with our gallant Captain Kirk and his ever-faithful Mr Spock required to tackle a superhuman villain named Omne who has ambitions to take over the galaxy. He has also discovered a means of overcoming the inconvenience of being killed, which gives him a distinct advantage over the opposition. Omne is an interesting invention, perhaps a little to much of a superman to be totally convincing as a character, but a useful foil to illustrate the essential nobility to the federation outlook as represented by Kirk.

So basically it is the old story of good versus evil, but what gives the book its special interest is not the plot, well thought out though that is, but the opportunity it offers for insight into the workings of the characters' minds and the development of their interrelationships. There is plenty of action, chiefly in the form of hand-to-hand combat, but the real drama is pyschological and concerned with mental and moral rather than physical dominance. The battle for mastery between Kirk and Omne, both in their own way "alpha" males, is extremely well handled and avoids making either character too simplistic despite their obvious embodiment of the opposing forces of good and evil.

The depth of the character analysis, particularly of Kirk, is quite remarkable and goes far beyond anything attempted by the original television series. The authors are perhaps a little less successful with Mr Spock - they don't quite get under his skin as they do with Kirk - but the relationship between the two is very well handled and there are some moving scenes illustrating the depth of love and caring between the two men, although severe critics might detect an underlying streak of rather romanticised masochism in their almost excessive willingness to suffer and sacrifice themselves for one another.

Other members of the Enterprise team appear only briefly (in fact very little of the action takes place aboard the Starship) but Dr McCoy and Scotty are both accurately drawn. An interesting addition to the cast is the Romulan Commander (developed from the character in the aired episode 'The Enterprise Incident') who joins forces with Kirk and Spock in their battle to save the galaxy. Like Omne, she is not altogether a satisfactory character, being something of a superwomen type (shades of American-style women's lib!) but necessary as a plot device and also serving to provide a romantic interest for both Kirk and Spock.

The story builds up well, with plenty of emotional traumas and lots of Vulcan mind-melding, through a series of exciting climaxes to a final grand denouement, though the ending is something of a cop-out, leaving us with a strong suspicion that Omne is still lurking around somewhere awaiting his rebirth in the sequel the authors are no doubt planning! But all in all a very good novel - rather excessively idealistic in concept and almost exhaustingly emotional in tone, perhaps - but compulsive reading from the first page to the last. The book has been around for a year or so now and many Star Trek lovers will have come across it already, but if not - get hold of a copy and give yourself a treat. [8]

And this exchange between Linda Frankel and Jacqueline Lichtenberg in A Companion in Zeor #4, May 1979:

I'll probably be considered absolutely off the wall, but I thought THE PRICE OF THE PHOENIX was one of the better Bantam Trek novels. ((Oh it is—which isn't saying much. JL)) It at least attempted to be about something. [Penny Z] [9] obviously doesn't know the writers if she thinks that they would intentionally write thinly disguised pornography. That wasn't their purpose at all. Readers of STAR TREK LIVES know that Sondra Marshak is a student of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and Myrna Culbreath also has a philosophical background. As an ex-Objectivist myself, I recognized the principles they were attempting to put forward. (One shouldn't have to know them in order to grasp them from the fiction. JL)) I also recognized Omne as none other than Gail Wynand of THE FOUNTAINHEAD. The book was meant to be a philosophical dialogue, but where they went wrong was in their concessions to conventionalized plot concepts. The chase syndrome is quite conspicuous there.[10] It also nearly bored me to stupefaction. If I hadn't been so interested in what they'd do with the questions tentatively raised, I would never have stood it. When you consider that none of the other Bantam Trek novels (except VULCAN, a marvelous effort) touched on ideas at all, you have to allow Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath some credit. The "theory of good writing" that JL learned from Ms. Marshak is fairly common. MZB's "fanny in a bear trap" formulation is quite similar. David Gerrold believes that the character's identity ought to be placed in danger. Most professionals put their characters through the wringer. How else do you have a story? [snipped] The most negative thing I can say about a writer is that s/he took no risks. JL took plenty. I think that Ms. Marshak and M. Culbreath also took a few in THE PRICE OF THE PHOENIX. [11]

1980

As it now stands, [feminism] is more a vehicle invented by upper-middle class women to justify their complete self-interest and the desertion of their duty to children...peopled by the selfish and neurotic, where Janice Lester would feel perfectly at home (Roddenberry gave us a recognizable women there, you meet her often). And if the whole movement isn't pervaded by hatred of males, I know one member who is!

All this wanders from the subject of feminism in Trek Lit. Take heart, Leslie, there are some successful examples! Can you think of any more devoted couple of girls than he "Misses Kirk and Spock" in "Phoenix"? [12]
[I'm] who admits to not hating The Price of the Phoenix. I may go down under a deluge of bricks and old tomatoes, but, and I say this with my head held high, I LIKED THE PRICE OF THE PHOENIX! Okay, so it was vastly over-written, and bordered on purple prose. So, it was violent, even bloody, and the chase scenes were overlong. So what? The main part of the story (as I saw it) was to take the Kirk/Spock relationship, and run it through the meat grinder, to see what came out. The violence didn't faze me a bit; it seemed to be such a necessary part of the story, I just accepted it. (The sequel to Price, The Fate of the Phoenix, came out in May 1979. It's better written, a great deal less physically violent, and even lets us in on the Romulan Commander's name. But if you thought Omne was nasty to Kirk and Spock before, wait til you read Fate. Believe it or not, he's got something much worse up his sleeve, and all without touching a hair on their heads.)

1983

Sondra Marshak's and Myrna Culbreath's books, in my opinion, are the worst ST ever published (even mediocre fan fiction is better). I couldn't get through the first three chapters of THE PRICE OF THE PHOENIX. [13]
I enjoyed the 'Phoenix' books by M. & M., although I thought the plots in both were convoluted with too many subplots and wordiness, besides which their own macho image of the superior male superseded Spock and Kirk's true characterization. At least it was a good attempt to provide some depth and soul searching within the characters' psyches. [14]


1984

New Voyages and The Price of the Phoenix were the first books I read in Trek (hotly followed by Leslie Fish's "Shelter" and "Poses" - how can she claim not to write romance?). I think Marshak and Culbreath first sowed the seeds of K/S in my mind - and as we all know, they've subsequently chickened out - or at least, that's how I read it... [15]

1996

On the other hand I have to vehemently disagree with whoever recommended the Phoenix books by Marshall and Culbreath (sp?) These were/are truly awful and what is more they are not awful by accident. Unlike (say) the Patrian Trangression[16] which is merely dull and badly written, the Phoenix books have a lush and exotic awfulness that can only the the product of great effort. This is not awfulness by mistake, this is awfulness that was striven for, they meant it to be like this and *this* is truly terrible. For a start their prose is so over wrought you could bounce pennies off it like an army bed and for a finish both authors are smitten by "ol hazel eyes", both have a sadistic streak a mile wide and neither have any built-in sense of the ridiculous so that both books read like a cross between a cheap gothic romance and a pulp 50's scifi without any of the fun of either. I finished it feeling faintly grubby.... I love K/S...and I love H/C [hurt-comfort narratives] and I still hate this book. I think it is the relentless sadism, physical and mental... it's the S without the M that turns my stomach. That and the lack of self-knowledge by the authors, much of what they write is by any standards ludicrous and they either don't know or don't care that what they write is so relentlessly flavoured with sexualised violence as to be (to me at least) embarrassing. Sort of like watching your maiden aunts throw their knickers on stage at a Tom Jones concert. YMMV of course. [17]
I am not a big fan of K/S stuff. Mainly because I'm not much of a M/M[18] fan. But when I heard about the Phonix [sic] books I went out and bought them and I read them both in one sitting. I looked, and looked hard, and the funny thing is, I never saw anything other than a profound friendship in those books (gee, thats gonna get me flamed), and I looked hard. The Phonix books are not my favorite, but they are by far the best Star Trek books I have ever read. When I want to curl up with an old friend I break out Uhura's Song, Dreams of the Raven, The Three Minute Universe. or Dreadnought and Battlestations. But the Phonix books are a very different kind of story. I don't like to read them because I don't have the stomach for that much violence. The story is H/C, but more of a four way H/C story in many ways. And the people get hurt really bad.[19]

2003

Their novels, _Price of the Phoenix_ and _Fate of the Phoenix_, are explicit slash, but written in code so that if you don't know you're looking at slash, you don't see it (you just get confused as hell). If you do know it's slash . . . well I got through exactly 3 and a half pages of _Fate of the Phoenix_ the last time I had a go at it. The cognitive dissonance was too fucking much. They may have thought what they were doing was very clever; I just got a headache. [20]
I'm reviewing both [The Price of the Phoenix and "The Fate of the Phoenix] together -- (Slashy, strange story in which Kirk must battle a superman named Omne who progressively gains the skills of his opponents.) Includes the Romulan commander from "The Enterprise Incident," like all good slash. Kirk gets cloned and she keeps the clone as an, uh, body servant. The worst thing about these books is the elliptical, "insider" dialogue, which no sane person save the authors could make heads nor tails of. Yes, I was harsh because I wrote this during my little anti-slash period. Not all slash features the Romulan commander, after all. But I still think they suck. [21]

2004

I recently came upon a very early pro novel “The Price Of The Phoenix” by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

Reading it again brought back so many memories of those first flush days of K/S—when we eagerly awaited every pro novel as it was published. (Then it also reminded me of the last pro novel I ever read in which Kirk was turned into a crab creature on some planet and Spock has to search for him, but decides to go back to the Enterprise and resume the search in the morning because it was nighttime...) I wanted to share with you the wealth of K/S that I rediscovered in this novel. Some parts were truly breathtaking with K/S, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this again after so many years. Also, it’s very hard to believe that these women didn’t know exactly what they were writing and that the publishers didn’t have a clue what they were publishing! The novel is all about this Omne entity who is a big, gorgeous, sexy alien guy all dressed in black leather who desires Kirk beyond just wanting to rule the galaxy with him. So he makes this replica Kirk who they all call James (in fact, it gets mighty confusing who is who and who is doing what to whom) and there’s this Kirk replica totally naked under a very transparent sheet. “Sleeping beauty,” Omne said. “You may perform the awakening—in the traditional manner, if you like.” That’s what he says to Spock! But before this happens, everyone thinks Kirk is dead and Spock is beyond devastated—until he sees the replica. He could not use the name. If he used the name he was certainly lost. Omne says Spock “has certainly shared ship and shore leave for many years. Hardships, injuries, dangers, gym workouts (yes, those sexy gym workouts certainly rank right up there with injuries and dangers!). He must know the captain very well. Every contour. Every scar. Every injury.” Of course there’s references to hazel eyes when Kirk and Spock “lock eyes” and then the replica is made to stand up naked in front of them.

“This is my Captain,” Spock said. “I require no inspection.” Wow! I’m sure he doesn’t! Also, don’t you love the “my Captain”?

Spock does a mind-meld with Kirk. They say things like "We are alone.” Spock slipped in easily at the level of warmth. He had been here before. It knew how to accept him.

Spock says to the Kirk replica: “I am going to — mark—you now. It will be my way back to you, for I think he will keep you from me.” They left him still standing naked amid candles and flowers. But Spock felt a slender bond stretching between them like a strand of gold.[22]

The right was not his. The friendship. All the years before—and to come. The agonies and the little private jokes. The shared looks speaking volumes in a familiar silence.

The Romulan commander, you know the one, features prominently in this story. She sees the link that Kirk and Spock share. She sees that they are in their own secret world that she can’t ever be a part of. He could melt stone, she thought, looking into the expressive face. Melt stone hearts. Vulcan. Romulan. The galaxy could not stand against him. How many hearts had he melted, how many faces warmed with those gentle, demanding hands? But, wait! There’s more! Kirk finds a wounded Spock and takes him in his arms. Excellent hurt/comfort. Then Kirk takes off Spock’s jeans! “Yes...” The pause was very long and the Vulcan eyes searched his face, seemed to drink it in, reached long fingers to brush dampness from his cheeks. “...Jim.” The best is yet to come—they’re all naked and Spock finds a large black velvet robe for Kirk and the Kirk replica gets to wear a white silk tunic with silk briefs! Quite the outfit! I loved the huge heroic nature of Kirk and Spock in this. They’re as important to Omne as like ruling the galaxy or something. And in spite of myself, I couldn’t resist the wonderful florid speeches that everyone gave during big action scenes. They all talked with this grand sweeping manner—like Kirk saying, “Moreover, (I mean when has Kirk ever said moreover?) now he has Spock’s powers. Superlatively dangerous.” (I use superlatively in conversation all the time. Don’t you?)

Anyway, I had a really great time reading this and I just marvel that it probably got in under the wire as the publishers began to realize there was this thing called K/S. [23]

2005

I enjoyed reading your comments about “The Price of the Phoenix” and it brought back fond memories. I remember discovering the book (and its sequel) and thinking “this is more like it!”. After reading them, I went looking for other pro books that also depicted such an intense relationship between Kirk and Spock. But alas, I never discovered K/S until many years later. [24]
...the only masochism is trying to read them. I nearly tossed the first Phoenix book from the third story atrium of my local library down to the first floor reading room because my brain hurt so much from trying to follow their idiocy. [25]
Well, it just goes to show that if the motto here at ASCEM isn't "Diffrent strokes for different folx" it should be. I devoured those lousy Phoenix books repeatedly - never had any illusions that they were good, mind you- but haven't you ever gotten a whif of some really awful junk food (nacho cheese always gets me), known it was dreadful, but wanted it like crazy anyway?

Triangle, on the other hand, boared me to tears....One dosen't have to go far to imagine that Trek book editors in the olden days -when Trek was thot to appeal mainly to boys- were as clueless as the 13 year old me that bought those books. I read very thing Trek that I could get my hands on then and I was equally willing to pass judgement on them. I freely loathed Spock Messiah, and knew that there was something twisty about those Pheonix books, but didn't yet know enough about a lot of things to pin-point it. I knew that there was something sick about the way I liked those books, and couldn't pin-point that either. (We have so much to learn about ourselves when we're 13!). What's funny is that I'd been exposed to some early explicit slash by then, and

dissaproved completely. It's not that I was a prude, I just [that] that all these efforts were far too off character and that remained my opinion until the first movie came out. As flawed as that movie was, it rendered the old Trek characters into 3 dimensional people (or at least, started to) and at that point, in my mind anyhow, it became possible for James T. Kirk to be someone who could have any kind of real relationship - with his first officer or anyone else, for that matter. In the years that followed, the depth of perversity in the Phoenix novels slowly became apparent to me. I even began to wonder if M&C themselves even knew what they were really writing about. I'm still not sure. [26]
I also doubt that M&C were trying to pull a fast one on Bantam by "slipping" slash content into their books. More likely they simply saw no reason to leave the slash elements out as long as they were "toned down" enough to be ambiguous.

There seems to have been a conscious effort to write slashy conversations in such a way that if the reader didn't know it was slash, they couldn't put the pieces together (and would just be confused). The book is basically an exercise in social cryptology--if you don't get it, you don't get it. It's like an entire book written in Cockney slang.

The Phoenix books aren't "toned down" in the least. If you want toned down slash, try Margaret Wander Bonnano.

Early Trek novel publishers couldn't put a ban on slash material in their books if they didn't know what slash was.

That's not really it, though ... There was a very porous line between K/S and the K&S friendship stuff which was loved by a wide swath of fans (not necessarily K&S zines, but the sort of typical stuff you see in gen and pro fics between Kirk and Spock from that period, as well as on the animated series--for example, the scene where Kirk and Spock hug in "Mudd's Passion").

The publisher was probably deficient in clue--after all, they printed some really crappy Trek novels by scifi authors looking to make a buck, including wives and brothers of people they'd already published, and some of them really didn't know Trek. (One author had apparently learned about Trek by watching some TAS episodes.) [27]

2008

Oh God! This is the most horribly written novel I have seen in quite a while. It has all the bad habits and tendencies of poorly written fan fiction, while prolonging the torture in drawn-out dialogues and angst reflections. It could even be considered a “slash”, a homosexual take on the characters. (This occurs frequently on fan fiction, as writers ‘dream’ of strange romances) Most of the time this is only implied in the ‘Spock-Kirk’ friendship, but in several places it’s disgustingly obvious.
“Sleeping beauty,” Omne said. “You may perform the awakening–in the traditional manner, if you like."

I absolutely hate the dialogues. They tend to be repetitive, speaking out the obvious, and in large parts “confrontational”, like bad fighting speeches. The writers like putting words in the mouths of the characters, and they drone on and on, most of the time getting nowhere, just talking of what they would do or not do, or challenging stupidly their adversary. This slows a lot the action on the book, and the pages go on and on while little is actually happening.

“Where I come from,” he said, “and in the civilized world, the custom is to ask permission to enter.”
“One does not ask permission of property,” Omne said.
“We have had that argument before.”
Omne smiled. “You lost.”
“Force is not an answer to argument”
“It is the last answer.”
Kirk shook his head, not deigning to answer.

The first time I could not even read it straight, I could not even comprehend how this was even published, or worse still, how Roddenberry himself read it and did not veto it.

A very excellent plot synopsis and character analysis is available at Wikipedia, so I won’t recreate it.

There are also other comments how Omne is one of the greatest adversaries the Enterprise has encountered, but if you analyze it closely, there’s really no big merit on this character’s creation. He has no personality per se, he’s just a sounding board where the characters get to voice off. He’s over-simplified, and the planet he created is absolutely ridiculous. The planet is “westernized”, with guns provided, but this is not touched nor used later, it’s just the backdrop. The Romulan commander is also present, but besides being a plot device, it’s totally out-of-character and illogical why it’s there and why she acts that way.

There are lot of big holes in the premise, in the action, in the characters actions, in the theme, in the plot, the descriptions, etc. I won’t go further in trying to describe more of the awful problems this book has, it simply was written by worse than amateurs, in a horrible way. I hated it all the way, I can’t stand this type of careless writing or the style it’s written in. The closest I could compare it to would be to a romance pulp novel, but I have not read too many of those either. Maybe a romance-pulp-reader would like it more, or there’s something in there that I’m not getting, but I highly doubt it.

I would recommend that you skip this book. The plots are not even that interesting, and are nothing like what normal Trek is about. Better yet, skip the whole series, or anything written by these authors; there are lots of much better (or at least mediocre, but interesting) books out there. [28]

2011

A careful reading of this book makes it obvious that the piercing insight of the authors, Ms. Marshak & Ms. Culbreath, perceived far more deeply than most into the subtleties and nuances of the complicated relationship between Kirk and Spock. In fact, they saw more than many of the most ardent fans of the show may have been willing to notice or even admit. Crazy you say? Balderdash you challenge? Well, open your mind and read on and you may be very surprised by the time this review is over. At the outset, let me say I was quite impressed that the authors did not shy away from the strength of their convictions regarding the true nature of the Kirk/Spock relationship, despite such nature being well outside the recognized, approved depiction of Star trek canon. Before analyzing their conclusions in light of “official” Star Trek doctrine, I thought it would be appropriate to let people see for themselves the unrestrained passion, the physical hunger, the deeply felt emotion that the authors so admirably (at least in this reviewers opinion) gave full expression. [see the rest at the original review pointing out the homoerotic themes in the novel] [29]

2012

... These books are one thing over and over: "Captain, I can't let you do this, it's too dangerous. I must die for you." "No, Spock, it's too dangerous, I'll do it and die for you." "No, Jim, it is I who must die for you." And then one of them would conk the other over the head and say, "Ha, ha, my old friend, you lose, I get to die for you." And this goes on and on chapter after chapter. This, for all I know, is where "slash fiction" began (look it up on Wikipedia: "Kirk/Spock"), so at least is historical.

But boy, is it bad. I forced myself to finish it so that I could honestly say, "I read the worst book in the world all the way through, and it didn't suddenly get better on the last page." But at least it is historically, change-your-life bad.

UPDATED: According to fanlore.org, these two books actually were disguised "slash" fan fiction, so if you know you like that, maybe they succeed on that level for you. You can search for the two books at fanlore.org and learn a lot about that time in Star Trek fiction.

...In their defense, they apparently had a lot to do with keeping Star Trek fandom going, and put out some other factual books about the show and its fans, as well as some fan fiction anthologies, and that's not a bad thing, because it all helped lead in the direction to where Trek survived. They just weren't cut out out be novelists, apparently. AND they were a lot younger then. I wouldn't want to be judged on stuff I wrote umpty-jillion years ago.[30]

2014

KIRK: *dies*

SPOCK: Prepare to face thy doom, Omne.

OMNE: I have the technology. I control the horizontal. I control the vertical. I control this entire planet. I can bring him back.

JAMES: Hi!

OMNE: He's yours to have and to hold.. if you give me the Federation.

SPOCK: I left the Federation in my other pants.

ROMULAN COMMANDER: *helps Spock* What makes him think you've got the Federation?

SPOCK: Vulcans are godlike and superior. Of course we own the Fed, Starfleet, NBC and everything else. He can go get his own damn Federation.

OMNE beats the crap out of KIRK, then heals him with a magic spray can.

SPOCK: Especially not after he beat the crap out of my BFF.

SPOCK beats the crap out of OMNE.

ROM. CMDR.: Wow! Are you sure he's just your BFF?

SPOCK: Yes. This isn't slash. That would be illogical.

ROM. CMDR.: (wow, are you in denial.)

OMNE: Waaaah! I got my ass kicked by this powerful studly manly man Vulcan!

OMNE kills himself. SPOCK and the ROMULAN COMMANDER find the real Kirk (Not dead, I'm getting better!) and take him and James back to the Enterprise.

OMNE shows up and beats the crap out of everybody before being killed a second time.

OMNE: But I'll be back!!

KIRK: I was afraid of that.

ROMULAN COMMANDER: Let's disguise James as a Romulan, then take him to a world where men are the weaker sex because he's such a wimp.

SPOCK: OK.

THE END [31]

Unknown Date

The mood in the Enterprise transporter room in a somber one: James T. Kirk has been pronounced dead, and what remains of his charred body has just been returned to the Enterprise. Spock, who was witness to Kirk’s death as the captain rushed into a burning building to save a baby, believes the death was no accident but a well-planned murder. With this conviction, he returns to the planet seeking revenge for Kirk’s death. While there, he confronts the Romulan commander (from "The Enterprise Incident") with his beliefs and finds that hers run along a similar line. Before long the two face Omne, the owner of the lawless planet, and find that he has discovered a way to conquer death using a variation of the transporter effect and a recording of the emanations of one who is dying. The result of his experiment? A duplicate Kirk, identical in all respects to the original, who is "for sale" if Spock does Omne’s bidding and denounces the Prime Directive.

However, before Spock can play his role, the original Kirk is discovered, and Spock must now figure out how to secure his release before Omne can carry out his grand designs for the galaxy. Unfortunately, one of Omne’s first acts is to prove his superiority over the "son of moral certainty" as he dubs Kirk, and the starship captain faces bitter defeat at the alien’s hands while Spock, the Commander, and his duplicate search for him and for a means of leaving the planet. As they search, there is also the question of what to do with a duplicate Kirk; these two Kirks can not be reunited as they were in "The Enemy Within" as these are not opposites, but identical individuals, who must now face several metaphysical issues of their own.

While the novel has plenty of action, it also has several spots that are bogged down in dialogue that at times seems both heavy and repetitious. Much of the dialogue also becomes too philosophical as life without the finality of death is discussed.. A central element in the story is, of course, the friendship between Kirk and Spock, but this at times comes across more like slash fiction than true friendship. And while the return of the Romulan Commander is a welcome one, at times she and the rest of the characters do not seem to react as we readers have come to expect.

The novel ends with several loose ends, thus paving the way for a sequel The Fate of the Phoenix. Despite its weaknesses and the fact that it is not an easy read, I think most readers will find the plot to be an interesting one and will even be caught up in some of the allegory present in the story. [32]

References

  1. from Star Trek Prospers #30
  2. from Star Trek Action Group #26 (1977)
  3. by Jane Aumerle in Mahko Root #1 (1977)
  4. from Mary Lou D in Interstat #1 (1977)
  5. from Canektion #1 (1978)
  6. from Star Trek Action Group #27 (1978)
  7. from Carolyn E.C., who writes of "Awful Writing and All That Stuff" in Interstat #24 (1979)
  8. by Pat Smith in Starship Exeter Organisation Newsletter v.2 N.5 (February 1979)
  9. Referring to a fan who'd commented on this book in A Companion in Zeor #3
  10. As in action-adventure films, a chase scene that builds in intensity to a high-pitched climax ending. The adrenaline rush is real and keeps readers turning the pages. It's also one reason police officers often brutalize compliant suspects (of any and all races) after engaging in a "hot chase" pursuit.
  11. comments by Linda Frankel (with a side comment by Jacqueline Lichtenberg) in A Companion in Zeor #4. This exchange was in response to a discussion in "A Companion in Zeor" #3: "It's just one thing after another. I hope JL will forgive me, but in this one area I found "UNTO, ZEOR" (Unto Zeor Forever) similar to the most awful book I have ever read, THE PRICE OF THE PHOENIX. ((For exactly the same reason. The book was cut almost in half because of space, but also of a certain ineptness on my part. There isn't enough STORY to warrant a larger book. I'm learning. JL)) In that story the authors sadistically throw horror after horror at Kirk and Spock (apparently to see just how much they can take) ((That's Sondra's theory of good writing I think. I learned it from her. JL))."
  12. comment by Mary Lou Dodge in the 1980 essay Feminism in Trek-Lit
  13. from Joan V in Interstat #67 (1983)
  14. from Bev L in Interstat #71 (1983)
  15. from Not Tonight, Spock! #3 (1984)
  16. The Patrian Transgression, an official fan novel by Simon Hawke published in 1994, has Kirk and a landing party visiting a world where telepathic police monitor everyone's thoughts. Naturally, there's a resistance movement, etc. This book has been described as a standard TOS episode; not great, but okay.
  17. comment by Parkin Pig at alt.startrek.creative, August 1, 1996
  18. male-on-male, slash, gay romance
  19. comment by Brian K. Bragg at alt.startrek.creative, August 1, 1996
  20. comment by Hypatia Kosh at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated (2003)
  21. Pro Book Reviews, by Hypatia Kosh, 2000
  22. There is another wonderful take on this scene at ontd-startrek's review of Price of the Phoenix, dated 2009-10-19.
  23. from The K/S Press #98 (2004)
  24. from The K/S Press #105
  25. 2005 comments at ASCEML
  26. 2005 comments at ASCEML
  27. a 2005 conversation between two fans at ASCEML
  28. Review: 1977 The Price of the Phoenix by Marshak and Culbreath » Reading Star Trek, Archived version (2008)
  29. Stephen (Las Vegas, NV)'s review of The Price of the Phoenix, Archived version (2011)
  30. amazon.com review by David C. Nilsen on November 29, 2012.
  31. Astraea (The United States Minor Outlying Islands)'s review of The Price of the Phoenix, Archived version
  32. reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline at Orion Press