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Literature / Uhura's Song

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Uhura's Song is a novel of the Star Trek Expanded Universe written by Janet Kagan.

The planet Eeiauo is threatened by ADF, an epidemic which crosses over to humans and starts spreading through the Federation. Captain Kirk and the Enterprise (along with a stand-in medical officer, Dr Evan Wilson, as McCoy is helping deal with the situation on Eeiauo) set out to find a planet that may hold a cure. Their only clue to the planet's location is a folk song Uhura learned from an Eeiauoan friend years ago.

This novel contains examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: One of the reasons this book remains popular in the Star Trek expanded universe is that it's one of the few centered around Uhura.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The usual Star Trek non-interference directive is mentioned. In fact, the Federation Council chooses to grant an exemption to it so the Enterprise can openly visit a planet occupied by a pre-warp society — a sign of how serious the threat they're facing is.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: The Sivaoans use the berry of a native bush as a spice. They call it a "tail-kinker" and a favorite prank is to slip a few of the fresh berries into a dish rather than the processed version. Think getting something you think contains a bit of red chili flakes but instead has whole Habanero peppers in it.
    • Chekov finds out about it the hard way when a native kid offers him and Spock the berries. Spock finds the taste somewhat spicy and surprisingly pleasant. Chekov, on the other hand, has the kind of reaction that has Spock convinced that the ensign has been poisoned.
  • Cat Folk: The Eeiauoans, their relatives the Sivaoans, and the Enterprise's felinoid security officer Snnanagfashtalli. They are apparently, "surprisingly soft" to the touch.
  • Driven to Suicide: Quickfoot, an Eeiauon doctor, tries to commit suicide after revealing that her people are exiles from their homeworld. Fortunately she's weak enough from the disease that Bones can stop her.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the above trope, Uhura is translating Quickfoot's words, including the doctor's declaration that her life will be payment for revealing her people's shame.
    Uhura: "'My life will be my apolo-' Dr. McCoy! Stop her! Suicide!"
  • Exact Words: Dr. Wilson tends to indulge this a lot. Mostly because she isn't the real Evan Wilson. Whomever she is, she's stolen multiple identities to fake her way into various jobs. Though to her credit she does seem to have real medical training.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Spock's eyebrow technique is lampshaded — "Eyebrow on stun, Mr. Spock!"
  • Godzilla Threshold: It's a sign of how serious the situation is that the Federation Council gives the Enterprise permission to ignore the Prime Directive if Kirk judges it necessary to do so.
  • It's Personal: Though ADF is spreading through the entire Federation, Uhura is deeply affected because one of the victims is her friend Sunfall.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Jinx" a Sivaoan adolescent who aids the Enterprise crew. She earned it by failing her Rite of Passage twice, when others in her party died, the second time with her being the only survivor.
    • Dr. Wilson renames herself "Tail-Kinker to-Ennien" after she and the landing party complete the rite of passage. Given all of her other known identities are aliases, this could be her only "real" name given.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The Federation is threatened by an epidemic that starts with the catlike Eeiauoans but crosses into other species including humans. Rabies is mentioned as another disease that can cross the species barrier.
  • Noodle Incident: In-universe example. Drs. McCoy & Mickiewicz shared an unusual cadaver (nicknamed Macbeth by Micky) in medical school:
    "The report that came with him listed coronary infarction as cause of death, but he'd been run through with a sword. We never did find out the circumstances."
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Mild example with Dr. McCoy, combined with a CMOH, as he asks Spock check some figures up on the Enterprise, because he trusts the Vulcan's opinion more than a medical computer.
  • Photographic Memory: The Sivaoans have this kind of memory. It does turn out to have some shortcomings, one of which is a major plot point.
  • Poor Communication Kills: At one point Chekhov plays with a Sivaoan cub, while the mother mentions the cub suffers from "Noisy Baby." Chekhov just thinks she's referring to the cub's behavior. As it turns out, "Noisy Baby" is the local name for the plague devastating the Federation, which the cub just infected Chekhov with.
  • Prehensile Tail: Sivaoans and their offshoots the Eeiauoans have these. Sivaoans regularly use theirs as a functional limb, while the Eeiauoans consider doing so to be uncivilized and vulgar.
  • Schizo Tech: The Sivaoans. Turns out they were Luddite aesthetics that make up for their lack of a high tech infrastructure with photographic memories, and the related Eeiauoans were a technology-embracing splinter group that was exiled from Sivao after a cure was found for the disease that later becomes an epidemic. This was because the future Eeiauoans lived in cities, which allowed diseases to spread, and the resulting epidemics led to the extinction of several plants and animals.
  • Sick Episode: Spock gets seriously ill when the landing party goes through a Rite of Passage to gain the Sivaoan's trust. Growing up on a desert planet, he gets a case of pneumonia from breathing in excessive moisture as they hike through a rain forest and are caught up in the middle of a flash flood.
  • The Stoic: Early on, Uhura deliberately damps down her emotional reaction to hearing of Sunfall's illness, trying to stay professional while she's on the bridge. Shortly thereafter Kirk pulls her off duty to speak to her privately and let her vent her distress.
  • Taking the Heat: Dr. Wilson endears herself to Kirk by informing several of the Enterprise's crew that it was her decision to transfer them to a medical frigate over their request to beam down to help the Eeiauoans, instead of Kirk's.
  • The Bard: One of the Sivaoans, Rushlight, is a bard, which gives him a lot of status in their culture. Scotty mentions that gives him a lot of status where he comes from as well.
  • Trickster Mentor: Dr. Wilson serves as this to the Enterprise's crew, poking holes in several of the regular cast's assumptions during the story, while also obfuscating her own intentions.