Spock, Messiah!

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Title: Spock, Messiah!
Creator: Theodore R. Cogswell and Charles Spano, Jr.
Date(s): 1976
Medium: book
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
External Links:

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Spock, Messiah! is a Star Trek: TOS professional tie-in novel by Theodore R. Cogswell and Charles Spano, Jr. See the Memory Beta wiki entry for details.

Cogswell had been an experienced author at the time of publishing, and invited Spano to co-author the book with him after he was approached by editor Frederik Pohl. It was later republished with new cover artwork in 1993. The novel was poorly received by fans and was criticised by critics for being exploitative and inaccurate.

Summary: When an experiment with telepathic implants goes wrong, Mr. Spock renounces his life on the Starship Enterprise to become the Messiah of the planet Kyros. In so doing, he launches a holy war on the rest of the world.

Production

Prior to the publication of Spock, Messiah!, the only original book for adults set in the Star Trek universe was Spock Must Die! by James Blish.[1] The book sold well, and it was intended that further books would be produced but following Blish's death, this was postponed. Frederik Pohl was hired as an editor in 1976 with the task of producing new novels based on Star Trek: The Original Series. The first book in this line was Spock, Messiah!, which was written by Theodore R. Cogswell and Charles A. Spano, Jr..[2]

Cogswell was an experienced science fiction author with numerous short stories in the genre to his credit, most of them humorous, and editor of the fanzine Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which professional SF authors reviewed one another's work. Spano contacted him hoping to have some of his work critiqued. Cogswell asked Spano if he would be interested in co-authoring a Star Trek novel for Pohl. Spano wrote most of the first draft in 1975, inspired by the 1973 oil crisis. He said that although it had roots in the rise of Islamism in the Western Hemisphere,[3][4] "the idea that a fanatical desert leader could arise to threaten a civilisation was a staple throughout history".[4]

Cogswell rewrote several chapters that Spano described as unfocused and rambling; Cogswell also copyedited the work. They submitted the revised draft to Pohl, who requested minor changes. The book was published in September 1976.[4] The book was later reprinted by Bantam Books in October 1993 with new cover art[5] by Kazuhiko Sano.[6]

Fans and TPTB

Boldly Writing says "[Charles Spano] was the first author of a Star Trek pro novel to have a letter published in a letterzine." Spano writes of being on a panel at a con, his book, "Spock, Messiah" and writes:
At the con someone asked me if I had read any ST fanfic and I answered honestly -- no. But I did mention that Halkan Council was the one and only ST zine I get and I enjoy it very much. I'm impressed by the way the contributors go into so much detail and thinks so much about the nuances and implications of ST.

Reactions and Reviews

The initial fan reaction to Spock, Messiah! was poor, and sales were lower than expected following the earlier success of Spock Must Die!.[2] The review in Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review magazine suggested that the plot was far-fetched, and described it as "Spocks-ploitation" (referring to the concept of an exploitation film).[7] In a review of the book on the Daily Kos website, Spock, Messiah! was described as "[the] single worst Star Trek story I have ever read, either fan or pro."[5] The issues with the book included racism (where Uhura is called "a black" and Sulu "the oriental")[8],[5] and also parts where the novel ignored specific elements of the series such as giving Scotty red hair and removed the sonic showers from the Enterprise. It summed up the review by saying that the "book isn't just bad, it's shamefully bad."[5] The first edition of the book was sold for $1.75 in the United States,[7] and by 2006, it was valued at between $7 to $8.[9]

There is a sarcastic recap of this book (with many photomanip comments) at Star Trek Book Re-Cap #5 - Spock, Messiah! at the Livejournal community ontd-startrek.

There is another sarcastic review at Brave New Blog.

1977

[A fan] was griping the other week about the fact that we are more or less compelled to buy any pro book with 'Star Trek' on it. Well, another one is on the shelves for us to decide about. 'Spock, Messiah!' is basically a good adventure, but it has flaws of characterization, and problems that Gerrold and us jaded zine readers are already very familiar with... Story: little gadgets put you in a low-grade contact with the minds of natives of a planet, so a Starfleet officer instantly knows the language and customs of the world. But sometimes too much of the native's personality comes through. Spock's opposite number is a nutty shaman with a JC [Jesus Christ] complex, and he gets out of control. So, Spock swipes the ship's crystals, paralyzing it, while a huge wave of radiation moves in that will fry the Big E in eight days. Kirk and company go after the messiah, but he has crystals tucked into a tricorder and will destroy them if he thinks he's about to be captured. Meanwhile, he's changing the religion of this darkage planet and driving the people to war. On characterization: I'd say it's as good as Foster's or better, with some lapses -- Kirk describes an ensign as 'a sexpot' in front of the whole bridge crew, and Scotty banters about the Vulcan cycle. The idea that Spock's Eagle Scout personality is submerged by the madman's -- come on, this is Spock, who straigtened out Van Gelder's mind, who juggled three mind links at once at the OK Corral -- And the sexpot ensign saves the day, a touch of Mary Sue, as the Menagerie keepers would say. She's supposedly an anthropologist with a mind like Susan Calvin's, but we never get to see it.

This is pretty much a puzzle-box story. The Enterprise is helpless, robbed of crystals. Now, considering that Lazarus once stole the crystals, and Spock once stole the ship, there ought to be a system so that not even the First Officer can walk off with the crystals. And the idea that gems that control a small sun can be destroyed by the juice of a tricorder!

There is also the problem that Spock is supposed to be indistinguishable from the hillsmen, since they all wear cowls. If our messiah does as much womanizing as he is said to, word would get around as to whether he is a normal Kyrosian man (heart rate, body temperature, and so on). And in a masked society, I should think voice recognition is important, but there's nothing on that. Saying that Spock comes back to denouce the messiah -- bad. When the shaman's magic fails, his religion will die a natural death. Sending in a pointy-eared angel will just start more legends.

The pace is a little slow, as you can't have a pro novel of fewer than 180 pages. Excellent repro, but no art. If you judged this as a zine, it's pretty good. At $1.75, it's cheap for a zine. If you get it, some Bantam executive will rub his hands together gleefully and say, 'I TOLD you they'd buy anything with 'Star Trek' on it!' But this might encourage the powers that be to pout out lots of movies on the subject. If you skip this one, you won't be missing any more than if you skipped some other fanwritten novel that everyone seems to have read, but isn't what you'd call an important novel. [10]

2000

Unfortunately the writing is technically sound, so I gave it [two stars] for "You can finish it, but why bother?" As for content, this has to be the most awful Trek book I have ever read. Don't buy it, don't read it, don't even think about it.

(Spock is transformed by contact with an alien consciousness which drives him mad. Now he believes he is the Messiah of Kyros and will stop at nothing to revolutionize the world.)

In terms of content alone, this is one of the most *horrible* Star Trek books I have ever read. Kirk, McCoy and Chekov are sexist, patronizing jerks, while Spock is an arrogant Vulcan chauvinist. The humans refer to him as an "organic computer and treat him in a way reminiscent of the Vulcan-bashing on Voyager. Even though Spock is in the title and supposedly the subject, he ends up nothing more than a passive victim. This might have been allayed somewhat if they had told some of it from Spock's point of view, but they do not, for plot reasons. The plot is very neat and tight, but who cares?

This books is so sexist in the '70's way; there's nothing but sex, sex, sex. Women exist only as the objects of male attention. I don't even want to get into the extremely (s)exploitative storyline involving the previously "prim" Ensign George who gets turned on to more "sensual" behavior. This is what you would get if you distilled all the most racist, sexist elements of Star Trek and put them together. take a little of "Mudd's Women," "Elaan of Troyius" and Spock from the mind meld on in "Is There in Truth No Beauty" and you have _Spock, Messiah!_. It's no wonder Spock is down for the count in this book -- his morals, his thoughtfulness, his loyalty would get in the way of the macho parade in this book.

It's a shame, in some ways, because this book could have been more. There have been lame attempts to deal with religious and/or racial fanaticism in other Trek books, but this one had the most potential to really take it on well. However, ad the book goes on, it gives into cliches and lazy writing. For example, the comparison is made to Hitler's speech-making abilities. Now, there are some people who can make speeches so well that you'd believe about anything, but the words are the curcial [sic] thing. Hitler had an audience because some Germans were listening, not because he had some sort of charismatic or hypnotic "power." But while Spock may have had charisma in bundles, this "Messiah" has neither charisma nor anything interesting to say. And he certainly doesn't say it in a compelling way. I don't buy it. For those of you who *have* read the book, I also have big nit. Wouldn't Kirk recognize Spock's voice? You would think so . . . This is the most sexist Star Trek book ever, even worse than TNG #38 _Dragon's Honor_. It's not just the sex; Peter David puts a lot of sexual innuendo in his boss, but he isn't a leering jackass. And did I mention the drinking--? [11]

2008

Many early novels put a lot of attention into the Vulcan character, as it was the most popular character then. The internal emotion/logic conflict also generated a lot of interest. On Spock, Messiah!, even though it was centered around Spock, it actually did not include him directly during most of the plot.

Here’s also a recurring plot device: the mind-altering bug/disease/poison/gadget that made a character to act in extreme ways. At the beginning of this book, it’s actually interesting to see how the mind-monitoring device went haywire with the science office, mashing his mind with an alien psychopath, making him a religious fanatic, but with all the abilities and capacities of the Vulcan mind.

The plot quickly spirals down into a western adventure in a alien planet. I quickly lost interest in the middle of it, and did not pay much attention to the details, just to the end where they ‘rescue’ Spock and everything returns to normal.

I would like to expand more about it, but there really is not much here.

At this point, there was a lot of demand for full Trek novels. This was not a very good try, it seems like just a quick write-up of a story to quickly fill a writing quota. I would not recommend it; skip it to other better written novels. [12]

Unknown Date

The crew of the Enterprise has been sent to the planet Kyros to check out a new survey tool: a telescan cephalic implant designed to connect the mind of a survey team member with that of a native of the planet. The hope is that this implant will allow those using it to quickly understand both the language and the customs of the planet as well as adopt the mannerisms of the natives. If the field test is successful, it is believed that this new invention will allow a more in depth study of a planet and its inhabitants. However, when Mr. Spock is connected to a half-insane revolutionary by mistake, he sabotages the Enterprise, leaving it helpless against an approaching radiation front that will make the ship uninhabitable in a matter of days. It’s up to Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and a young ensign to find Mr. Spock and bring him back to sanity in order to save the Enterprise and stop a full-blown revolution on the planet.

While new inventions often have glitches that cause malfunctions, this story adds a new twist: the invention works well. It’s the application of the invention that causes all the problems. And while there are several clues throughout the novel as to the real identity of the planet’s messiah, they tend to be overlooked, thus providing a few false leads.

This is a very readable novel with enough twists and turns to capture the attention of readers of all ages. Probably the only real weakness in the plot is that the climax is summarized more than shown, leaving the reader to wonder about the specifics. There also seems to be a gap between the rescue of Kirk and his men and Spock’s final attempt to undo the damage that has been caused on the planet. Even with this weakness in plot, the characters are well-developed, and the whole story seems more than plausible. There’s even a little humor when Dr. McCoy shows that he can handle any mule—or neelot in this particular case.

While not as strong as many of the earlier novels, Spock, Messiah! should still prove a good read for all. [13]

References

  1. Cheeseman-Meyer, Ellen (March 12, 2012). "Spock Must Die!: The First Star Trek Novel". Tor.com. Retrieved September 5, 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Greenberger (2012): p. 81
  3. Ayers (2006): p. 14
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ayers (2006): p. 15
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Books So Bad They're Good: To Boldly Go Where No Tie-In Has Gone Before". Daily Kos. July 9, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2013. 
  6. "The Locus Index to Science Fiction: 1984-1998: Cover Artists". Locus. Retrieved September 5, 2013. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ed. Barron & Reginald (2006): p. 153
  8. Keeping in mind that these terms, especially "the blacks" or "a black", were acceptable at the time the book was published.
  9. Kelley (2008): p. 54
  10. from The Halkan Council #23 (January 1977)
  11. Pro Book Reviews, by Hypatica Kosh, 2000
  12. Sergio: Reading Star Trek
  13. by Carolyn Kaberline at Orion Press