The Fate of the Phoenix

Much better than The Price of the Phoenix--far more interesting plot--but with many of the same problems, and a few new ones.

Following his death at the end of Price, Omne is resurrected by the Phoenix process, and sets about causing political turmoil in the galaxy and personal turmoil for Kirk. In order to facilitate this, he creates a duplicate of himself in Spock's body, which is able to undetectably replace Spock on the Enterprise, and use Spock's mental powers to duplicate these memories in the real Spock and Omne--the perfect spy.

However, the Other Omne has a failsafe built in: he will die at a certain time. This is meant to force him to return to Omne to merge in his memories, rather than to simply pursue his own agenda.

The Other is not satisfied with his fate, and 'goes into business for himself'. He spreads mayhem and kidnaps James in order to lure Omne to him and force him to disable the protective measures placed on him.

The lure works. Kirk, Spock, and the Romulan Commander join forces with Omne to hunt down the Other. Finally, they follow him to an Anomaly in the neutral zone where they defeat him, and Kirk manages to exile Omne to another universe. The last laugh is had by Omne, though: as James is bonding with the Commander, he is drawn through to the other universe. The way will n ot open again for fifty years. Spock and the Commander will be waiting.

The book shows us a more admirable side of Omne, and gives us a view of James's life among the Romulans. The plot is in all ways superior to that of Price. It would seem that there is much to recommend Fate. But it is not without major flaws.

First, there is the matter of style. Marshak and Culbreath have a way of making the book infuriating to read which is difficult to describe. They hit on some word or phrase and then use it over and over, as if winking at the reader and congratulating themselves on finding such a clever word. In Price it was 'gossamer' and 'corded' and the endless talk of poker. In Fate it is 'prehistoric' and 'wolf' and over and over 'the day of the Phoenix', as though Kirk & co. will hereafter measure time as Before Omne or After Omne.

Second, there is the glorification of physical strength. Omne has a habit of simply picking up Kirk, or dragging him around, or shielding him bodily. It's an unnatural way for things to go.

Third, and connected to the last one, there is the exaltation of Omne. He must always be the largest and the strongest and the most aware and the smartest and--it goes on forever. We understand that M&C are very proud of the Super-Alpha they created, but it all gets very tiresome.

Finally, there is the problem of James. Supposedly, he is simply Kirk, but M&C have cast him in a 'female' role, and they are very firm in their ideas about gender. It's a reversal, sure: the Romulan Commander fills the 'male' role (or perhaps M&C would term it the 'alpha' role) and James the 'female' (or perhaps 'beta') but this reversal simply reproduces the gender roles without questioning them. The Commander orders James around and treats him as property and this is simply presented as business as usual.

One might argue that this isn't meant to reflect gender roles, but there is some solid evidence: James has difficulty manipulating doors, levers, etc. in very much the same way as the female Kirk in M&C's The Procrustean Petard. I think it cannot be an accident that M&C describe such similar problems in Fate. And, lest anyone attribute the silence on the matter of James's treatment to causes other than sexism, I note that in The Procrustean Petard everyone agreed that being female made Kirk unsuited to command. It was no tale of a man-turned-woman overcoming prejudices. It confirmed the prejudices.

Notes

  • They keep name-dropping Price.
  • I wonder if Rogue Moon didn't give a deeper treatment of the transporter duplicates scenario.
  • the Romulans have a 'green-alert'--probably as green is the color of blood (12)
  • they use faxes in space (34)
  • the Commander is well-versed in human history
  • the description of Kirk's weakness, difficulty operating valves, etc., is quite reminiscent of the female Kirk's weakness in M&C's story "The Procrustean Petard"
  • Of course, there is some very convenient 'Anomaly' in the neutral zone, and Omne has a base there.
  • Also, convenient that Spock's psychic burnout seems to have cured itself.
  • Kirk comments that he will not take up climbing for recreation. Of course, he does just that in the movie.
Character Type
James T. Kirk Main
Romulan Commander Main
Spock Main
Name Role
Bantam Spectra Publisher
Myrna Culbreath Author
Sondra Marshak Author

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