Saturday, March 31, 2018

Book Review: Heart of the Sun, by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski

Heart of the Sun
(Star Trek, The Original Series, Book 83)
Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski
Mass Market Paperback, 
245 pages
Pocket Books, First Edition, 
Nov. 1, 1997
Star Trek TOS, Science Fiction
Source: Barnes & Noble Bookstore

Synopsis: When an abandoned space habitat is found within a distant asteroid belt, the Starship Enterprise is sent to investigate. Captain Kirk and his crew discover an artificial world full of technological marvels – and unexpected dangers. But wonder and curiosity soon give way to fear when the habitat suddenly sends itself on a collision course with the system's sun, with Spock inside! Now Kirk and crew must find a way to save a planet, and a friend, without destroying the treasure trove of alien science, and time is running out...

Overall, this was a fairly satisfying read. I do have some quibbles, though..... 

I can't deny that the characters were spot on! Spock's usual demeanor elicits Kirk's good-natured humor, while McCoy gets in his usual digs at Spock. Scotty, of course, mentions that machines can get "ill", just as people can. Uhura is her usual calm, observant self. I felt as if I were actually watching a Star Trek episode from the original series!

What this book's synopsis fails to mention is that the Enterprise is already en route to a diplomatic mission on the planet Tyrtaeus II when they come across what at first appears to be a meteor, on a direct line to the system's sun. Spock is immediately interested in getting a closer look, but, since they are already on a mission, any investigation must be postponed until that mission has been completed. 

This was the part of the novel I liked the least, as it was rather slow-paced. The mission consists of helping the Tyrtaeans to restore some lost data to their planetary computer database. What made this mission a bit unpleasant and tedious -- both to this reader as well as the Enterprise crew -- was the Tyrtaeans' notorious isolationist tendencies. Originally from Earth, they prefer to remain as independent as possible from any outside "interference". They are, in fact, reluctant members of the Federation. 

Some new characters were introduced here, such as Aristocles Marcelli and Myra Coles, who govern the planet together, and Wellesley Warren, Myra's assistant. They're not very interesting people, though, nor is their civilization, which strikes the Enterprise crew as rather bland and boring. I heartily agree! The interactions between Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and these people are not without some conflict, however, as the Tyrtaeans  insist on investigating the meteor -- which turns out to be a space habitat -- right along with the Enterprise. Kirk initially refuses to allow them to participate, as they are civilians, but then reluctantly gives in, taking Myra and Wellesley on board the starship. 

As a very assertive woman, Myra attempts to include her suggestions and ideas in the investigation. Besides, she is very concerned about the effect this space habitat's trajectory toward the sun might have on her planet. I can't say that I blame her for feeling this way, but she did get a bit annoying at times. I did not like her constant complaints and accusations, which were always directed at Kirk. To his credit, Kirk remained courteous and very patient toward her, but it wasn't easy for him.

As for Aristocles, he was just intolerably narrow-minded and unpleasant, and I was VERY glad that he never joined Myra and Wellesley on board the Enterprise! Whenever he appeared in the narrative, I couldn't help curling up my upper lip in disgust. Lol. In fact, he strongly reminded me of the SUPREMELY irritating Nilz Baris (played by character actor William Schallert), the Federation Secretary of Agricultural Affairs, from the HILARIOUS 1967 Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles". I guess the authors might have been trying for some comic relief here. Lol.

The rest of the novel deals with the investigation of the space habitat, which turns out to be of alien construction. It is indeed headed straight toward the system's sun. Although Kirk orders Scotty to use phasers and even a tractor beam in order to divert its course, nothing seems to affect the artifact, so they must board it in order to find out if there's a way to prevent its certain collision with the sun. They also intend to warn whoever might be aboard, as they seem unaware of the danger involved.

What Kirk and company discover does make for some fascinating reading, as nothing is as they had feared. In the process, they discover a virtual reality that is totally alien to them. And they discover the aliens themselves.

Although I did find this novel interesting and intriguing, for the most part, I thought the pacing was not only a bit slow in the beginning, as I have already mentioned, but also when the actual investigation of the habitat began. I would have wanted a more detailed description of the aliens' virtual reality. There's a reason they constructed this reality, which the authors do mention, but I wanted MORE. There could have been more details about the alien culture, more interactions between them and our heroes. True, these aliens were of an even more isolationist disposition than the Tyrtaesns, but still.

This novel is definitely very well-written. The authors have certainly captured the "feel" of the original Star Trek episodes. I just wish they had expanded on the concept of the alien culture, and created more conflict with the inhabitants of that culture. The pacing could have been faster. More action was needed. True, there was some conflict with the Tyrtaeans, but these people were descendants of Earth colonists, so I found these interactions less interesting. The aliens in the space habitat, on the other hand, were TOTALLY alien.

In short, this novel fell a little flat for me. I would still recommend it as an entertaining read for the diehard Star Trek TOS fan (like me!). Just don't expect this to be a totally riveting story.


About the Authors

Pamela Sargent has won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and has been a finalist for the Hugo Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. In 2012, she was honored with the Pilgrim Award by the Science Fiction Research Association for lifetime achievement in science fiction scholarship. She is the author of the novels Cloned Lives, The Sudden Star, Watchstar, and several others.  The Washington Post Book World has called her “one of the genre's best writers.”

In the 1970s, she edited the Women of Wonder series, the first collections of science fiction by women; her other anthologies include Bio-Futures and, with British writer Ian Watson as co-editor, Afterlives. Two anthologies, Women of Wonder, The Classic Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s and Women of Wonder, The Contemporary Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s, were published by Harcourt Brace in 1995; Publishers Weekly called these two books “essential reading for any serious SF fan.” Her most recent anthology is Conqueror Fantastic, out from DAW Books in 2004. Tor Books reissued her 1983 young adult novel Earthseed, selected as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, and a sequel, Farseed, in early 2007. A third volume, Seed Seeker, was published in November of 2010 by Tor. Earthseed has been optioned by Paramount Pictures, with Melissa Rosenberg, scriptwriter for all of the Twilight films, writing the script and producing through her Tall Girls Productions.

The Shore of Women has been optioned for development as a TV series by Super Deluxe Films, part of Turner Broadcasting.

Pamela Sargent lives in Albany, New York, with
fellow SF author George Zebrowski.

George Zebrowski is an SF author and editor who has written and edited a number of books, and is a former editor of The Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He lives with author Pamela Sargent, with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Star Trek novels.

Zebrowski won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1999 for his novel Brute Orbits. Three of his short stories, "Heathen God," "The Eichmann Variations," and "Wound the Wind," have been nominated for the Nebula Award, and "The Idea Trap" was nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Award.


  1. It’s great that so many Star Trek novels have been written by well known SF writers. I admit it has been quite a while since I last read one, though; I think I was overwhelmed by how much there was, and after a while they began to produce trilogies, where I preferred stand alone. This one does sound like an episode. Maybe my library has a copy!

    1. Hi, Sue!

      Oh, ABSOLUTELY!! Pamela Sargent is a GREAT author!! He's won teh Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and has been a finalist for the Hugo Award! I'm happy she turned her talents to Star Trek!! As for Zebrowski, he, too, is a renowned author. It's too bad, though, that this novel was not entirely satisfactory....

      Yes, there are A LOT of ST novels, not only for ST TOS, but for Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, etc. So there are many books to delve into! My own preference, though, is Star Trek TOS. I was never able to get into any of the other "versions". Lol.

      This book is an entertaining read, in spite of its flaws. Hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

      Thanks for the great comment!! <3 :)

  2. Great review Maria.

    It has been awhile since I read a Star Trek novel. Based on the plot description this does sound like an episode of the original series. As per your commentary, some of the inhabitants of planets that The Enterprise crew interactes with are annoying and overbearing. Star Trek characters have always reflected people in the real world so this is at least realistic.

    Pamela Sargent Wrote The Shore of Women which I recently reread. I had heard that she wrote some Star Trek novels.

    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks so much for the compliment!! <3 <3

      Yes, this does sound like an actual ST TOS episode. I think it's because the authors have used some well-known tropes from the original series, such as irritating planetary officials. But I LOVED how much like the TV characters the ones in this novel sounded!! So I do have some mixed feelings about the book.....

      As you have so well stated, "Star Trek characters have always reflected people in the real world so this is at least realistic." Indeed!! I think this is one of the reasons the original series became SO popular!! I know I've met a few Nilz Baris clones in my own life, mostly in office settings!! Lol.

      Yes, now I want to read "The Shore of Women" more than ever!! I didn't know that Sargent had written any ST novels, whether TOS or other versions, but she has. I just looked her up at a GREAT website I'm recommending to you. It's "Fantastic Fiction". Sargent has co-written (with Zebrowski)three ST TOS novels so far, and one ST NextGen novel. As you know, I'm only interested in ST TOS. NO other version of the Star Trek universe can compare, IMHO!!

      Here's the link to Sargent's page, on Fantastic Fiction:

      Thanks for the fabulous comment!! Live long and prosper!! <3 :)

  3. I've never read a Star Strek book but I loooove the original series of Star Trek! It's too bad it fell a little flat for you but it still sounds like an okay read.

    1. Hi, Steph!

      Oh, I ADORE Star Trek TOS!!!! This is the ONE and ONLY Star Trek for me!! I did try watching a couple of Next Generation episodes some time ago, but couldn't get into them, lol. Nest to Kirk, Picard is just NOT interesting!! Hahaha!! Kirk can DAZZLE with that smile...... :)

      Yes, this is an okay read. If only the pacing had been a little faster, and the authors had spent more time describing the alien culture, instead of the BORING Tyrtaeans...... Oh, well....

      I did LOVE how authentic the characters sounded!! So I would still recommend the book.

      Thanks for commenting!! <3 :)


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