Christopher L. Bennett is a master of tying together disparate bits of Star Trek
continuity. Tower of Babel
is no exception. By my reckoning, Tower of Babel
references the Enterprise
," "Dead Stop
," and others, while at the same time tying together plot points from the TOS
episodes "The Cage
," "Mudd's Women
," and of course, "Journey to Babel
." Bennett has the uncanny ability to make seemingly completely separate plot points tie into one another almost seamlessly. People have used the term "continuity porn" before, but I'm not that what Bennett does qualifies. As the author himself has said, he uses continuity to serve the plot, never the other way around.
I really did enjoy Enterprise
when it was on the air. However, one of the areas in which it fell short (with the exception of season four) was in taking advantage of the opportunity to create meaningful ties to The Original Series
. This is something that Bennett has done wonderfully with the two books of the Rise of the Federation
series. But not only does he tie it to TOS
, his story also makes very good use of elements of Enterprise
. There seem to be many Trek
fans who did not enjoy Enterprise
, and I feel like the temptation would be there to wipe the slate clean, start over, and ignore many of the elements from the television show. Bennett, however, doesn't do that. He takes elements from some very middle-of-the-road episodes, and fleshes them out in unexpected and refreshing ways. There is a lot in this book for the avid Star Trek
fan to pick up on.
|The three Orion sisters from "Bound." Interestingly, a plot twist revealed in this novel was guessed by me while reading the previous book, A Choice of Futures. However, when the story didn't go that way in that novel, I had forgotten. So Bennett was able to surprise me with the same plot twist this time around!|
I really enjoyed Bennett's treatment of the villains of the piece. In particular, the rounding out of the characters of "The Three Sisters," Navaar, D'Nesh, and Maras, was very welcome, as was the further characterization of Garos, first seen in "Civilization," and who also played a large role in the last Rise of the Federation
novel. It is refreshing to have villains who are multi-faceted, round characters, rather than the one-note villains we often see.
|Garos, from the episode "Civilization," seen here undercover in an Akaali disguise.|
Christopher Bennett is also very good at writing inter-personal and professional relationships. His exploration of the working relationship among T'Pol's crew aboard the Endeavour
is a highlight of this novel. The tension that Thanien believed existed between himself and Hoshi Sato rang very true. Many people feel threatened by a co-worker who is believed to hold favor with their superiors. Real or imagined, that stress can have a large impact on productivity and decision-making. I felt that Bennett's treatment of this issue was excellent. On the flip side of that issue is the tension between Reed, T'Pol, and Archer. Because Reed used to be a subordinate of both T'Pol and Archer, he feels that they don't trust him enough to take care of a situation. Reed feels that he must prove himself capable of captaining a Federation starship in a crisis.
One aspect I loved in Tower of Babel
was the characterizations of Valeria Williams and Sam Kirk, who are implied to be the ancestors of future Captain James T. Kirk. Rather than just relying on the feeling of "ooh, cool, Kirk's ancestors!," Williams and Sam Kirk are fully fleshed-out characters in their own right. Williams is a truly fascinating character with a lot of potential to be explored in further novels, as is Kirk. I'm really looking forward to seeing where Bennett takes these characters next!
There is a lot going on in this novel. My review didn't even touch on Trip's role, or the story of Maltuvis, the Saurian dictator with aspirations of galactic domination, or the unexpected reveal at the very end of the novel of a familiar threat to the Federation looming on the horizon. The prose is very dense, but still very accessible. As is the case with Kirsten Beyer's take on the Voyager
universe, I think that people who were initially not fans of Enterprise
will still very much enjoy this series. Not only does it continue the Enterprise
story, it shows the building blocks of the Federation itself, a story that resonates through the entire rest of the Star Trek
I very much recommend Tower of Babel
. Rise of the Federation
has become one of my most anticipated novel series in the Star Trek
lineup. I can't wait to see where Christopher Bennett takes us in the next instalment!
Also by Christopher L. Bennett:
My next read:
At the request of a reader, next up is the first book in the Terok Nor
series: Day of the Vipers
by James Swallow, a part of the Lost Era
of Star Trek