While I have long been a fan of the Star Trek series (from the original series through the successive spin-offs: Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the films), I rarely have time to read fiction, so it was only after great prodding on the part of a friend that I got this novel. I had once complained that the Star Trek universe seems to have far more affinity for the aggressive, combative Klingons (warrior schools, language camps, etc.) than the erudite and level-headed Vulcans. Perhaps that is why my friend thought this novel would have particular appeal. She was right.
This novel is a grafting-in of the original series, with Spock, Kirk and McCoy as primary characters, along with the rest of the usual crew of the Enterprise. It seems there is a Federation-threatening crisis on Vulcan, and the planet is in the process of a referendum, to decide whether or not to remain as part of the Federation with the humans of earth and other constituent planets. Entering in the situation is a formidible character from the original series episode Amok Time, the Vulcan mating time -- T'Pau, remarked by Kirk as being the only person to ever turn down a seat on the Federation council. Does this speak of a mistrust that could lead the Vulcans out of the Federation? The referendum is not merely a breaking of alliances, but rather an isolationism -- all Vulcans will be required to return home, or permanently exiled. All diplomatic, trade, and military ties will be severed.
The psychological and political make-up of the Vulcan world is explored from the very outset of Vulcan civilisation through different historical periods that would have made up the equivalent of classical, medieval and reformation times. One seed of Vulcan xenophobia is their first contact situation, which turned out to be with pirates who were intent on invasion and looting. As it turned out, Vulcan was a heavily armed planet at the time, warring with itself (Vulcan's history parallels Earth's in that respect), and that armament was unexpectedly turned against the invaders. Vulcans, far from evolving without emotions, displayed the most dramatic and intense emotions for a long time in their history. The character of Surek is prominent here, the one who led Vulcan out of its emotionalism for its own survival.
Another character who makes an appearance is T'Pring, Spock's 'intended', the woman to whom he was betrothed, and who subject Spock and Kirk to the combat in the mating ritual. It turns out that T'Pring has never lost interest in Spock, nor in the humiliation she suffered in front of T'Pau. Vulcans are not without emotions, it seems, but rather, a people who have mastered them to a greater degree. But not always, apparently.
Diane Duane puts chapters about the Vulcan history interspersed with the 'present day' action aboard the Enterprise as it journeys to Vulcan, and then the final debate and referendum vote. The text is engaging and well-developed in terms of fitting in with the overall narrative strands of the Star Trek universe.