Monday, March 12, 2012

That Which Divides

Star Trek: That Which Divides by Dayton Ward
Published March 2012
Read March 9th, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): The Rings of Time
Next book (The Original Series): Allegiance in Exile 

Click to purchase That Which Divides from!
Spoilers ahead for That Which Divides!

From the back cover:

Located in an area of non-aligned space near Federation and Romulan territory, the Kondaii system is home to a unique stellar phenomenon: a spatial rift that opens every three years in proximity to the system's sole inhabited planet.  Only during this brief period is communication possible with the small, mineral-rich planetoid inside the rift.  The local population has established a mining colony on this planetoid, and for the limited duration that the rift is open, a massive interplanetary operation is set into motion: ferrying mineral ore to the home planet while simultaneously transferring personnel and replenishing essential supplies and equipment--everything necessary to sustain the colony before it once again enters forced isolation.
While studying the rift, the science vessel U.S.S. Huang Zhong is severely damaged and crash-lands on the planetoid.  After the Starship Enterprise arrives to conduct rescue operations, evidence quickly points to the rift's artificial nature.  It is a feat far beyond the capacity of the local inhabitants, and presents an alluring mystery for Captain James T. Kirk and his crew.  It also attracts the attention of the Romulans, who are most interested in studying and perhaps seizing this supposed advanced technology--by any means necessary.

About the Novel:

That Which Divides tells the story of a strange rift in the Kondaii system that only opens periodically, allowing the natives of the system access to a normally hidden world.  On this world, they have established a mining colony.  However, because the rift only opens every three years, miners are cut off from their home for an extended period, and deliveries from the colony, as well as supplies sent to the colony, are very strictly timed and are vital to the survival of those who depend on them.

Due to an encounter with a sleeper ship in deep space, Starfleet has elected to make contact with the people of the Kondaii system.  They send the scout vessel U.S.S. Huang Zhong to study the rift and the world it conceals.  Aboard the Huang Zhong is a familiar face: science officer Lieutenant Boma, a man who contributed to making Spock's first command difficult in the Original Series episode "The Galileo Seven."  

The Archer-class scoutship enters the rift, unfortunately causing a negative reaction with the anomaly due to the vessel's warp engines.  On the other side, the Huang Zhong emerges badly damaged, but functional.  However, that all changes when an unknown weapon fires on the ship from the planet's surface, bringing it down in a crash-landing.  Casualties are heavy with most of the crew killed.

Lt. Boma, who has some unresolved issues with Spock.
The Enterprise, already en route to investigate the system, hurries to Kondaii when it receives the Huang Zhong's distress call.  Once there, Captain Kirk and his crew must work with the local inhabitants as well as the surviving members of Huang Zhong's crew, Lieutenant Boma among them, to determine what happened as well as the nature of both the hidden planet and the strange energy field.  Complicating matters is the presence of Romulan forces, also curious about the rift and suspicious of Starfleet's interest in the system.

My Thoughts:

That Which Divides, as the title evinces, is a sequel of sorts to the Original Series episode "That Which Survives."  Both the Kalandan outpost in that episode as well as the planet in this novel share some characteristics and origins.  I have to give credit to Dayton Ward for providing a much better sequel to that episode than Susan Wright did in her Gateways novel One Small Step.  Ward even manages to plant a very small reference to the gateways in this novel, in a "blink or you'll miss it" sense.

That said, I didn't find a whole lot in That Which Divides to rave about.  The story is solid, the characterizations are good, and the stakes are high and somewhat interesting.  However, the story never truly grabbed me.  I'm not certain what exactly to chalk that up to.  A number of possibilities exist: a bad taste in my mouth with regards to all things Kalandan due to One Small Step; high expectations caused by Dayton Ward's stellar work in the Vanguard series; Star Trek novel fatigue (God forbid!); the possibilities are many and varied.  I found my interest flagging at certain points, such as the fights between Kirk's party and the Romulans in the corridors of the outpost.  I kept wanting things to progress, and rather I found things getting bogged down in yet another fist fight or phaser exchange.

Again, however, there is nothing particularly bad about this novel.  The story holds together well, and there is some great character development and story resolution, especially between Lieutenant Boma and Mr. Spock.  I also really enjoyed the glimpses we got of the crew of the Huang Zhong in their element; it was nice to once again see the focus taken away from the principal cast, one of many reasons I love series like Vanguard and New Frontier so much.

Final Thoughts:

A solid, well-written story, just one that didn't seem to completely capture my attention.  I enjoy Mr. Ward's writing, and while this is not his best work, I still enjoyed reading it.  In particular, the exploration of the lives of people other than the main cast as well as an interesting scientific quandary make this a pretty good read.  Some parts seemed to drag on longer than they should, but these are few and far between.

Solid, if not spectacular: 6/10.

More about That Which Divides:

Also by Dayton Ward:

My next read:

Reviews will be coming for Voyager's Gateways Book 5 of 7: No Man's Land and New Frontier: Book 6 of 7: Cold Wars.  Expect them soon!

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