Son of Sarek
|Title:||Son of Sarek|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
|External Links:||online here|
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It was published in the print zine T'hy'la #14.
- Sharing the Sunlight
- Reflections on a Lunar Landscape
- Pursuing Hyacinths
- Heart's Delight
- Primal Scream
- Parallel Courses
- Double Trouble
- Son of Sarek
- Promises to Keep
- Setting Course
- Jagged Edges
- Journey’s End
- One Night
- In the Shade
"Spock is troubled by a childhood event that is brought forward by a ceremony they are to watch on the planet they are visiting."
Reactions and Reviews
I really enjoyed this latest edition to JENNA's universe. The story revolves around a rite of passage called Andoluse, similar to the Kahs-wan. Spock, Kirk and McCoy have been invited to attend the ceremony on a plant where the Federation hopes to conclude a treaty to harvest a rare and needed plant. The rite brings back memories of Spock's youth and especially his relationship with his very Human mother. I loved the insight into Spock's childhood. Especially good were the scenes told in flashbacks. This is a young Spock I adore! So vulnerable as he struggles between how he truly feels and how he thinks he should feel. Especially good are the peeks into the alien Binian culture, a curious mix of formal language and relaxed social structure. Really nicely done and very realistic. The action scene in the swamp held me spellbound, but the mind meld where Spock allows himself to show his pain to Kirk couldn't have been written better. It was was breathtaking! This author writes action scenes so well I only wish she would include more of them. One small problem: I'm not a big fan of lovers thanking each other for sex. Either the session of lovemaking was mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfactory, or it never should have occurred. And if it was, why express thanks? Happiness, love...yes. Thanks...no. And Kirk's flip retort. "You bet, lover" broke the amorous mood for me. Other than that, I liked this story very much. Just when I think this author has hit her stride, she gets better and better! 
This novella-length story is chock-full of things to like, including a real plot, good writing, a continuing K/S relationship, emotional intensity, great sex. heart-stopping adventure, strong secondary characters, a Spock-McCoy reconciliation scene to bring down the house, a matrilineal and matriarchal alien society, communal beachhouses. a subtle dig at patriarchy, and a pitch for wetlands conservation. In it. the Enterprise crew is invited to view a rite of passage among the Binians of the planet Shercata, with whom Kirk & Co. are negotiating for purchase of a rare indigenous substance that (it goes without saying) is indispensable to Federation technology. The ritual event, the Andoluse. is a test of endurance that, because of its strong resemblance to the kahs-wan, triggers old conflicts within Spock over his own coming of age on Vulcan. The conflict becomes more acute when Spock becomes a friend to the Binian matriarch's son Jamomi. a gifted, disabled ten year old who reminds us of Spock in his "difference" from other Binian children and who is about to undergo the test.
The author treats the conflict over the coming of age ritual on at least four levels: the conflict between Spock and McCoy over the appropriateness of judging other cultures by one's own values; the conflict between Kirk's distaste for the ritual and his duty to show respect for the Binians' culture; the conflict Jamoml's mother Diana feels between protective love of her son and her culture's values; and the conflict within Jamomi himself between his "difference" and his need to be a "regular" child and participate in the Andotuse. The deceptively simple title acquires several layers of meaning as the story unfolds. Themes in the developing relationship between Kirk and Spock are woven into the story as Spock's own unresolved feelings about his childhood are played out.
So with all this and more, why did this story fail to satisfy, or even to convince me? Let me take a deep breath and try to explain, I will need to focus here on the structure of the underlying plot simply because that was the aspect of the story that gave me the most difficulty, I don't wish to shortchange the K/S relationship part of the story, or to suggest that I read that aspect of the story with indifference (hardly!). To do justice to this story, however, a review would be so long that no editor would ever print it. A paradox of realistic K/S fan fiction based on a real plot and solid characters is that while it is usually far superior to the run of the mill, it also gives the reviewer much more to analyze and criticize. I mentioned above the four levels of conflict in the story over the coming of age ritual- In my mind, the core conflict, the one with the greatest dramatic potential is that within Jamomi himself- That conflict also parallels Spock's own unresolved feelings about his Vulcan heritage in general and the kahs-wan in particular. For Jamomi to work through and resolve his conflict has the dramatic potential to help Spock resolve his conflict, and vice-versa.
However, we hear very little in Jamomi's own voice, although we hear a lot about him from others. His own feelings about the Andoluse are dealt with only in passing, and they are left completely unresolved at the story's end. Instead, the story focuses on conflict and debate among the other characters (adult Binians and Enterprise officers), a debate that, in the context of the story, often seems abstract and contrived.
Take the conflict within Diana, the Binian leader, who puts her son at such risk. Her love and protectiveness toward her son are shown vividly; her motives for subjecting him to the dangerous ritual are not- We are told that the Binians observe the ritual as a leftover from the period, two hundred years ago, when they lived in a harsher environment; but we do not see what it means to them now. Either an ardent devotion to the ritual or an intellectual conviction of its necessity might have made Diana's actions believable; without them, her behavior seems thoughtless and unconvincing and her character as a doting mother is undermined.
The conflict between Kirk's distaste for the Andoluse and his need to withhold judgment seems Similarly jerry-built. This is not a Prime Directive story, so the conflict arises from Kirk's need not to offend the Binians while he is negotiating for the substance the Federation needs so badly. Yet we never see the negotiations, much less any evidence that they are at risk of failure; from what we're told, the talks seem exceptionally chummy, with both sides down on the floor with their shoes off, the Feds and the Binians united in mutual interest (to get the goods and to make billions of credits, respectively), and the issues mostly technical and logistical ones. The Binians don't seem the type to take offense that easily. The tension that might arise if we could see that the negotiations were truly at risk of failure and billions of lives at risk of loss if the Enterprise crew offended the Binians is just not there.
Had the story focused on the importance to Jamomi of the Andoluse as a way to prove that he is a "normal" Binian, all the other levels of dramatic conflict would have grown naturally out of that central conflict. The parallel between Jamomi and Spock would have been stronger, deeper and more poignant. The forced comparison between Diana and Amanda's experiences would become a true parallel (as it is, their positions are radically different since Amanda tries to offer her son an alternative to tradition, while Diana is willing to consign her son to it). Spock, feeling empathy for Jamomi's desire to be "normal" yet unwilling to allow his life to be lost, could have played an active role in helping Jamomi accept himself as "different" yet equally valued. In turn, Spock's resolution of his own inner conflicts about his Vulcan-ness would have been advanced by the drama of his encounter with Jamomi. As it is, throughout most of the story Spock assumes a posture of stilted noninterference and too much of the drama of his own conflict is in his head and his memories of the past.
A story which focuses on adults' decisions for their children that may not meet the children's needs or serve their best interests is certainly a valid story, but not the easiest one to write because loving parents need a lot of motivation to deliberately place their children at risk of harm. I just did not see that motivation in this story. Perhaps a comparison from our own history will illustrate what I found missing in the adult Binians' rationale for continuing to practice the Andoluse. In the early decades of this century, many parents of persons with disabilities, despite great personal anguish, consigned their mildly disabled sons and daughters to horrific conditions in state institutions for "eugenic" reasons. Why? The ideology and mythology of eugenics were widely accepted, and segregation and sterilization of people with disabilities, even letting them die at birth, were approved corollaries of eugenic principles. Nearly all the public discussion of those practices, whether in the popular press or in professional journals, was framed by, and permeated with, the values and assumptions of eugenics. Although that discussion seems quaint and foreign to us now, it's obvious from reading it that people really believed in eugenic principles and the eugenic rationale for removing children with disabilities from their families. (Then, too, in some states families could be prosecuted for refusing to institutionalize their disabled relatives.)
Some sort of equally compelling belief system or other motive is needed to explain why Diana and the other Binians behave as they do.Although this isn't a Prime Directive story strictly speaking, I agree with the author that it does implicate the values on which the PD is based. However, I do not think the Prime Directive requires us to regard alien societies as monoliths in which everyone holds the same attitudes, beliefs and values. That's not realistic because all societies, not just our own. are polycentric. (If they were not, how would they ever change without outside assistance?) Jenna Sinclair is a realistic writer, and perhaps it is her realism that leads one of her Binian characters finally to question the need for the Andoluse. Surely, this is how it would be in "real life." In fact I'd bet my last credit that Kirk & Co. would find a flourishing movement to abolish the Andoluse if they spent much time on the planet- It would have been nice if the initiative to rescue Jamomi, and ultimately to abolish the maturation rite, had come from the Binians themselves (perhaps with Spock as a catalyst) rather than the Enterprise crew. 
The main action of this story takes place on Shercata, a planet with important pharmaceutical plants to offer in trade to the Federation. The Enterprise is sent to conduct the trade talks, and Kirk, Spock and McCoy are invited to witness the Andoluse, a Binian coming-of-age ceremony which is much like the Vulcan kahs-wan.
A number of events and people cause Spock to relive many painful memories about his life on Vulcan, including a friend dying during the kahs-wan and Spock's seeming need to reject his mother in order to follow his father. Spock's distress causes a problem when Jim wants him to talk about it and Spock wants to be left alone.
The best thing about this story is that the conflicts are resolved, not by one side or the other giving in, but by compromise. Spock is able to come to terms with his human half without rejecting his Vulcan self. The Binians are able to change some of their traditions without giving up what is important to them. I especially liked that Spock was able to come to terms with some of his distress privately, away from Kirk. The usual K/S Spock gives in much too easily to Kirk's insistence that they share emotionally. Sinclair's Spock has his own inner strength, his own ability to cope, and also the ability to let Kirk have a place in his life. The author also gets my compliments for naming her planet one thing and the people living on it something else. Also for knowing that you can float on quicksand (though unless the Vulcan center of gravity is a lot different from ours I think Spock would have had to put his face in the stuff in order to float.)
Judith Gran identified four major conflicts in this story in her LOC in the August issue of CT. While not disagreeing with her assessment, I would have identified another conflict as being important: Spock's conflict with McCoy, his mother and Kirk about being Vulcan vs. being human. One of the keys to the problems I had with this story may lie in the fact that there are just too many conflicts running around, all loosely connected but not necessarily all resolved by the major plot elements of the story. I also felt that the flashbacks from Spock's childhood were only loosely tied together. It was not always clear how they were moving the plot forward.While I feel more attention to these details could have made a stronger story, I'm always happy to read a K/S story with a real plot, especially one where there is some actual action. It's so good to see our heros do something outside of the bedroom. 
A fine beginning - evocative. The dust on Vulcan. Six-year-old Spock, with other boys watching an older group completing the Kahs wan . Spock feels different and is ashamed of his mother. It's very touching that Spock has a friend. My heart could feel his very special Vulcan/human child-heart's feelings about having a friend.
In the present, Spock and McCoy engage in an argument about maturation rituals on harsh planets. They are negotiating for a plant/drug with the Binians on Shercata. There are environmental difficulties in harvesting and other problems. The depiction of the society was done very well. I love how they live a laid-back, friendly, simple life, yet with access to the latest technology. The clans, group marriages, communal caring for children. Sounds ideal to me. My favorite kind of society.
I don't buy McCoy's extreme narrow-mindedness over this maturation ritual, especially calling Spock a child-killer if he refuses to interfere with the ritual.
Why have "dry, flaky spots" on McCoy's cheeks? Such a glaring over-realism; I didn't see where it fit in.
Kirk and Spock are lovers and they still haven't told McCoy! This is starting to really bug me. In six months? Not only that Kirk and Spock aren't telling him, but that he hasn't picked up on it!
And I don't care for how Kirk leaves Spock to his solitude whether he wants it or not, and that Spock doesn't ask for the support he needs. I suppose this is a calm, logical, mature relationship, but it sure lacks passionate immediacy.
Spock is still awkward with initiating lovemaking. But he does, and takes the infrequent penetrator role. I love how to Kirk, the best part of their lovemaking is seeing the passion in Spock's face and body when they make love. I would tend to agree with that...
I don't' care for "Love you,' he croaked." Nice, loving sex, though.
An almost-argument within the meld is very disturbing, for sure. This was done well. And very interesting the foreboding Kirk feels when Spock doesn't want to meld during sex. Kirk is denied the sharing. I understand Spock's reasoning. He. must be the one to decide; he does not want to meld simply because Kirk thinks it would be good for him. Right on, brother.
And also bravo to Kirk, who says: how often are you fucking me just to avoid coping with a strong emotion? Astute. Interesting games that have evolved between them. So Kirk splits in the middle of lovemaking - oh, painful. A good look at Kirk's proclivities to manipulation.
A boy on the planet has a hero-worship-type crush on Spock. A very likeable character; he is a frail, sensitive, different boy. The title comes in here, because the Binians call themselves "Son of..." or "Daughter of..." Spock's friendliness to the boy is lovely; I was very warmed by it.
The rescue of the boy on his survival odyssey by Kirk, Spock and McCoy was filled with excitement and seeable detail. And McCoy has a heart attack! The affection ends up being restored between him and Spock.
I like the natives' gratitude ritual very much.
Well, finally the decision is made to tell McCoy, although they don't in this story.
I like this scenario - many elements are tied in with the three Spock-childhood flashbacks: The Federation negotiations with the planet; Spock's personal relationship with the boy, the maturity ritual that will probably kill him, Spock's own experience of the same thing, and Spock and McCoy's estrangement over this issue; and Spock's deep-seated unresolved feelings about his mother.I liked this story for it focus. Not big or wide or long, even though it covered a lot of issues or themes. 
For whatever reason, the first story that I read in the "Sharing the Sunlight" (by Jenna Sinclair) universe was "Son of Sarek", printed in T’hy’la 14. Perhaps because it was the first story I read in the series, it has always been my favorite of the series (and oddly enough, the next favorite is the novel that
started the series, "Sharing the Sunlight"). "Son of Sarek" is a marvelous story, because it is almost perfect in that it contains the core elements of Star Trek philosophy - compassion, friendship, family, another evaluation of the Prime Directive - and some really great K/S moments, along with some "insights" of Spock's background. It is a wonderful example of different cultures struggling to understand each other, and to make compromises.
One of my favorite segments takes place towards the end of the story, after Kirk and Spock have had an argument while on an "away mission", and Spock has left their assigned quarters, to walk on a near by beach and meditate.
Spock leaves his level of meditation and...
The waves were still breaking upon the shoreline, the stars still rode in splendid majesty overhead. And seated next to him, staring out to sea with his arms wrapped around his knees, was Kirk.
Spock stared at his lover's broad back, at the relaxed set of the shoulders, at the muscled swell of the arm that was silhouetted against the faint light from the sky, and part of his tired soul expanded. Here was his lover. The angry words that the two of them had exchanged earlier had not prevented Kirk from finding him, nor did they prevent Spock from experiencing a flare of gratitude. Of all the beings in the entire universe, this one person cared enough about him to have followed him in his wanderings upon the sand. Or perhaps, Spock reconsidered, remembering, there had been two people. Or even three. Looking back now, Spock felt sure that at one time Amanda had loved him.Spock sat up and cleared his throat, contracted with the heaviness of the night air and with something else as well. He asked, "How did you know where to find me?" 
SON OF SAREK offers rare and revealing flashbacks to Spock’s childhood. We learn of his suppressed heartache over the loss of his only friend to the Kahswan. We share with him the thrill that he feels must be hidden when his mother gives him his first telescope.
In the present, we learn some of the subtle effects of his love for Kirk. Kirk watches in awe as his lover befriends a curious child encountered on a mission: Jamomi, weaker than the others but sharp- witted beyond his years. There are undercurrents of concern, too, sparked by a planetary coming-of-age ritual all too familiar to Spock. McCoy is especially caustic, unable to rouse a bit of understanding for the cultural differences that condone such events.
McCoy attacks Spock’s defense of custom far more venomously than is warranted. Spock wants nothing more than to protect Jamomi, who will surely not survive the rigors of his planet’s Kahswan. But he understands, with wisdom born of experience, what it means to the child to be like everyone else.
In some very moving scenes, we learn much of what it has cost Spock to be a Vulcan. A vivid and painful memory of his mother surfaces -- Amanda has been endangered by a fire, and when she’s comforted in Sarek’s arms, she reaches out to draw their son into the embrace. All the 13-year old Spock can think of is how disappointed Sarek will be if he yields to this emotional display. He stands aloof -- and forever retains the memory of pain etched on his mother’s face. Oh, how this gives life to his confession many years later: “I could never tell my mother I loved her.”
Back in the present, true to their fears, Jamomi does not return. This triggers in Spock the courage to defy tradition by suggesting the test is complete -- it can do no harm to go look for the boy.The end is a happy one, though fraught with quicksand and edge-of-your seat tension. Even McCoy’s reprehensible behavior turns out to be partly the result of an underlying illness. Closure comes with Spock’s ability to finally feel pride in hearing the words “Son of Sarek”.