Book Review: Star Trek: The Rings of Time

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.


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.

Shawn Christopher, son of John Christopher (L- TOS "Tomorrow is Yesterday") and his mission to Saturn (R- patch from ENT "First Flight") features prominently in "The Rings of Time"

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.

"Star Trek: The Original Series: The Rings of Time" is available in now and can be ordered at

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.


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Sounds fun enough. Does the Ent look weird on that cover or what?

Definitely looks weird.

I just watched “Tomorrow is Yesterday” on Saturday. Strange coincidence. What’s even stranger is how Captain Christopher lost his memory of being on the Enterprise just because he was beamed back in time into the cockpit of his fighter jet. I never understood that.

Anyway, this book looks fun. I might kindle it.

The usual retcon is that… he didn’t lose his memory, something else was in play?

4: Really? Then the same should be said of the security guard that was also beamed back. I think they said in the episode that they wouldn’t remember because it hasn’t happened yet? And yet, it did happen to them.

Ugh. Whatevs. I still like the ep, though. Especially Sulu’s black bag of tricks.

I loved Tomorrow is Yesterday. I like the fact we get to see Col Sean Jeffery Christipher in a novel. May just have to check it out.

Could be fun. Much prefer to see TOS characters (or their kids) used, rather than having characters crossover from one series to another. (Man, that gets old fast.)
Nook it, mayhaps I will.

I’m to chapter 13, loving it so far.

Decent book. I only rolled my eyes a couple times. There were a couple neat references to ST09 slipped in there as well. Definitely not as bad as some of the Trek books I’ve read lately.

Yeah…what ship is that on the cover? Guess it’s supposed to be the Ent but it does look odd…

I kind of like it. To me, it harkens back to the old Blish novels. Have you seen the Enterprise on a couple of those covers? Can’t wait to grab it.


The primary hull and secondary hull don’t looked lined-up (starboard-port) with one another.

Love the tip-o’the hat to Dorothy C. Fontana in the mission patch.


(**snort**) Especially the cover for the first book, with, iirc – with (it is downstairs) with some of the initial NBC promo art with conventional rocket-type flames coming out of the nacelles?

Greg Cox, after a 11 year wait, is back writing Trek :). Loved the Eugenics Wars story-line.

Haha, that’s exactly the way I’ve always felt about Greg Cox’s novels — a little cheesy, but in a good way. Definitely picking this one up!

I quite like the cover, myself. Not every Trek-related artwork has to be photo-realistic.

Glad I don’t judge books by their covers. Sounds like fun though!

The cover has a very art deco vibe… not exactly my favorite, but certainly better than some of the really bad pieces of cover art we’ve seen in the past.

As far as the Blish and other Bantam books (in their original runs), there were some really neat covers there. I remember one where the Enterprise was hovering about 100 feet above an apparently airless moon, with a swirly column of light coming out of the bottom of the secondary hull, and three little figures standing on the surface of said airless moon, sans spacesuit. In others, the Enterprise was silverish (or perhaps pewter!), and in still others the ships shown looked very little like anything we saw on TV. And yet, those covers had a neat style all their own, and certainly felt more appropo than the reissue covers for the same books.


Loved Cox’s Eugenics Wars series, although the third one was a bit weak compared to the rest. But overall, they were a snappy read. And it was amazing how painstakingly perfect Cox tied all the loose ends of ST continuity together by making the Eugenics Wars kind of an “X-Files” secret war kind of thing; like the Cold War minus about 20 degrees celsius.

Also loved his use of ST threads from ALL OVER the ST universe; Gary Seven and Roberta, mention of Nomad, the Botany Bay at area 51, Klingon and Ferengi tech left in the past from previous adventures… hell, even Redjack makes a cameo! He really did his homework.

And it’s nice that Cox managed to wrap it all up with interesting, well-motivated characters as well. The Khan/Gary 7 partnership has shades of Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi to it (only without the clunker dialogue of the SW prequels).

Frankly, I can’t wait to read this latest novel. Gary Cox is the real deal when it comes to ST fiction. For me, I consider his books pretty much canon as they tie up the ST universe so well.

Bought the Kindle version the other day for reading on my brand-new ASUS Transformer tablet. :-) So far, it’s been a pretty snappy read, with the usual Cox-isms (i.e. lots of culture references and tying together various threads of the Trek universe). But I will say that if you don’t figure out right away who (or, I should say, *what*) the mystery character is, you just aren’t paying close enough attention. :-)

#19 – Absolutely, wholeheartedly agree.

I’m being really nitpicky here, but – It’s Janice, not Janet, Lester. Unless Janet Lester is a character from a “Trek” novel that I’m unfamiliar with. Maybe they’re both related to Buddy Lester, that craggy-faced actor from the original “Ocean’s 11.”

Could the ship on the coverbe the USS Lewis and Clark….? And not a weird looking Enterprise?

@3: They weren’t just beamed back to _where_ they were, they were beamed into their bodies somehow before anything ever happened merging with one another; it said outright in the episode that they were beamed into themselves. Possibly something similar to how folks in the 29th century can reintegrate copies of people from across different timelines?

Sebastian – Let’s not forget Jamie Sommers and the Equalizer both put in an appearance in the first two books as well.

Sigh…has it been so long since anyone watched TOS that they don’t know how to draw the classic Big E?

# 24. Jason

Yes, almost forgot that.

I also loved Roberta Lincoln wearing a NASA jumpsuit for Halloween; as she was going as Dr Sally Ride (the 1st American woman in space).
That was great!

Cox’s Trek novels are meticulous; no ST author does their homework quite like he does…

22 – No, it’s definately the Enterprise. The Lewis and Clark is explicitly described in the book, and it looks nothing like the image on the cover.

25 – The entire cover is designed in an art deco or surrealist vibe… no suprise there.

26 – I would actually say that Christopher Bennett does an awful lot of homework. Reading his annotations for his books is often a fun experience, though at times it seems to take longer than reading the book itself! LOL!

“Set near the end of Kirk’s ORIGINAL five year mission…”

That’s all it takes to make me read it…:)

27–I have to agree, Bennett works hard to keep his stories consistent with other authors works as well. As an avid novel reader (I read all the series) I appreciate a novelist who tries to work with his fellow authors. Really, all the current authors almost seem to work as a team. I always liked the little Easter eggs authors put in their books that make a small reference to a prior book.

I look forward to reading this novel. I just finished the final “Romulan War” book. I agree with other comments about that book that it seemed kind of rushed, though I liked the overall story.

Maybe Pocketbooks should have a “Tales from the Romulan War” like they did with the Dominion War. They can have short stories using Martin’s framework to fill in the details he was unable to.

I read Greg Cox’s “Assignment: Eternity” a few years ago, and recall that he slipped in references to “The Prisoner” and “The Avengers” (Steed and Mrs. Peel)…neat stuff.

Horrible cover art.

Quite a story.