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Wanderings

I tend to wander, picking up books and stories as I go.

Star Trek's Ishmael is way more fun than it ought to be

Ishmael - Barbara Hambly

Summary: While on a peaceful mission at Starbase 12, Spock uncovers a Klingon plot to destroy the Federation by going back in time to murder a man. But before he can relay the information to Kirk, Spock disappears along with the Klingon ship. Meanwhile, back in 1860s Seattle, Washington, Aaron Stemple comes across a strange man who has lost his memory - and may not be human. Stemple takes a huge risk by taking the man in as his nephew, Ishmael - little realizing that the danger comes, not from the alien, but from those seeking him. Can Kirk find Spock before the Klingons do?

Ishmael is quite possibly the strangest crossover book in the history of Star Trek crossovers. Barbara Hambly takes advantage of the fact that Sarek was played by Mark Lenard, who also played Aaron Stemple in the romantic dramedy series, Here Comes the Brides. In Brides, Stemple is the somewhat unscrupulous businessman who puts up money for Jason Bolt's bridal scheme - with the proviso that, should any of the women go home before the year is up, Stemple will take over the considerable Bolt property. Hambly sets the story in season 1 of Brides, and changes the terms of the bet for her own purposes: in Ishmael, Bolt will lose the bet if any of the women remain un-betrothed by the end of the year. 

Ishmael has a lot of fun drawing Spock into Seattle's romantic intrigues, while still maintaining the tension of Kirk's desperate search for his missing first mate. The Trek cast are pretty strong, focusing, by necessity, on Spock, Kirk, and McCoy. The Brides' cast doesn't fare quite as well. While Stemple and singleton Biddy Cloomb get sympathetic treatment (especially Stemple, who is played as a misunderstood loner than the more acrimonious figure in the TV season one), the smooth-talking, charismatic Jason Bolt of the TV show suffers, coming across as a desperate schemer - a surprise, considering he's the hero of the show. One gets the impression that Hambly didn't like him very much, but perhaps she's approaching him from Stemple's POV.

All in all, Ishmael is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of fan-fiction that seeks to answer some of the questions left open by the end of Brides and tie Spock more firmly to his human past. While sci-fi and action take a backseat to character and relationship building, this is a satisfying outing, especially to fans of both shows. 

Bonus: keep a sharp lookout. there are cameos from other TV shows, such Doctor Who andBonanza, sprinkled liberally through out the book.

Character ratings:
Star Trek: all As and Bs.
Here Come the Brides: Mostly Bs, except for Jason, a definite C.