James Kirk and Shaun Christopher command their respective spacecraft towards a somewhat persnickety appointment with quantum entanglement and merged destiny as Greg Cox’s "The Rings of Time" hits the shelves of a bookseller near you. Read the TrekMovie review below.
REVIEW: STAR TREK: THE RINGS OF TIME
by Greg Cox
Massmarket paperback – 384 pages
PocketBooks – October 2011 – $7.99
As the USS Lewis & Clark approaches Saturn in the 21st Century, and the USS Enterprise enters the Klondike System in the 23rd, things start looking rather Janet Lester-ish as the crews of both vessels race to save lives in Greg Cox’s "The Rings of Time".
Set near the end of Kirk’s original five year mission, the Enterprise is sent to protect, evaluate, and – if necessary – evacuate the Skagway mining colony as it faces the catastrophic breakdown of the astrophysical balance of its planetary companion. Ultimately, little seems possible until odd annoyances become clear signals for how to proceed, and the Enterprise crew is forced to take the advice of an astronaut from out of time.
Meanwhile, back aboard the Lewis & Clark, the first crewed mission to Saturn is unfolding in ways the history books will never divulge, and in ways that could hold some degree of danger for the future. Of course, an equally out of time ‘astronaut’ is tasked with saving the day… as well as a few other stereotypical hero duties, before Saturn’s past becomes a harbinger of Skagway’s future.
"The Rings of Time" is an outstandingly well paced book (I finished it in three reading sessions over about 26 hours) that keeps you turning pages with abandon, and yet there are some oddities that you pick up along the way.
First, Cox’s current outing is definitely tied to the Khan trilogy from a decade ago. This isn’t a problem, as all the important details are filled in so that you don’t have to go back and do any remedial reading, but having read the preceding books definitely enhances the enjoyment of the present story. Hints and clues about the evolution of spaceflight are found throughout those books, and do a good job of setting the stage for what one sees as Christopher’s mission to Saturn gets underway.
Second, it becomes pretty obvious that folks are being played a lot quicker than serves the story well. By three-quarters of the way through, it’s impossible – knowing Cox’s writing lineage – to not have made a connection to a suspect for the insanity that is evolving, which makes the conclusion of "The Rings of Time" fall to earth with a thud. It’s not enough to ruin the story completely, but it lets a lot of air out of the balloon and leaves one wondering if a more creative wrap-up (or, for that matter, baseline situation) couldn’t have been found. The same goes for the means of Kirk and Christopher’s ‘exchange’… the story could have been told as Kirk’s reviewing of the Lewis & Clark’s logbook for clues to the Skagway crisis, or some other vehicle could have been chosen; certainly the final product feels like something of a retread on many levels.
And yet this is a surprisingly compelling retread to read. Pop culture references abound (I never thought I would see Lady Gaga mentioned in a Star Trek novel), and give the story a somewhat kitschy feel, almost like the TOS episode "Assignment: Earth" which Cox used, together with "Space Seed" as the basis for storytelling in his preceding books about the events of the Eugenics Wars. This is a positive kind of kitschy, to be sure… it has to be to keep you turning the pages. And so, while the story leaves a lot to be desired, the storytelling overcomes the flaws and hands over a book that truly works in spite of itself.
Will this be a top pick for the year? Probably not. But "The Rings of Time" is an enjoyable journey with some friends back to a kind of storytelling we don’t get that often in Star Trek these days – stories that are fun, serious, engaging, and completely ludicrous… all at the same time.
MORE: new and upcoming Star Trek novels
Other recent Star Trek fiction releases include "Star Trek Vanguard: What Judgments Come" by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore (see TrekMovie review), Michael A. Martin’s "Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave The Storm" (see TrekMovie review), Christopher L. Bennett’s eBook "Star
Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within" (TrekMovie review), and "Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions" by David Mack (TrekMovie review).
Also due out at the end of February is another original series stand-alone novel, "Star Trek: That Which Divides" by Dayton Ward.