Friday, February 3, 2012

The Rings of Time

Star Trek: The Original Series - The Rings of Time by Greg Cox
Published February 2012
Read February 2nd, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): A Choice of Catastrophes
Next book (The Original Series): That Which Divides

Possible spoilers ahead for The Rings of Time!

From the back cover:

2020: The U.S.S. Lewis & Clark, under the command of Colonel Shaun Christopher, sets off on humanity's first manned mission to Saturn.  But the unexpected presence of a stowaway complicates the mission--as does a startling encounter with an alien probe.  But when Colonel Christopher attempts to capture the probe, he suddenly finds himself transported across time and space to a future era of space exploration...
Stardate 7103.4: The U.S.S. Enterprise responds to an urgent distress call from a mining colony orbiting Klondike VI, a ringed gas giant not unlike Saturn.  For unknown reasons, the planet's rings are coming apart, threatening the safety of the colony and its inhabitants.  Searching for a way to avert the disaster, Captain James T. Kirk and his crew investigate a mysterious alien probe that has just entered the system.  But when the probe is beamed aboard, Kirk abruptly finds himself floating in space above Saturn, wearing an old-fashioned NASA spacesuit, with the Enterprise nowhere in sight... 
Two missions.  Two crews.  And a time-twisting crisis that spans the centuries...

About the Novel:

The Rings of Time begins by chronicling two separate adventures: in the year 2020, Colonel Shaun Christopher sets off for Saturn aboard the Lewis & Clark with his two fellow astronauts, Alice Fontana and Marcus O'Herlihy, along with a stowaway, who identifies herself as Zoe.  An internet blogger, Zoe has apparently sneaked aboard the Saturn-bound ship in order to get the "inside scoop" on the "real reason" NASA is sending a mission to Saturn.  Meanwhile, in the twenty-third century, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise deal with a catastrophe in progress.  Klondike VI, a Saturn-like planet, is threatening an orbiting Federation mining colony due to the collapse of its rings.  The crew is running out of time to save the colony and attempt to discover why this collapse is happening.

In 2020, the same phenomenon is happening to Saturn; the rings begin to collapse inward, destabilizing and falling towards Saturn's atmosphere.  The Lewis & Clark mission is investigating this phenomenon, as well as a comet that is to pass closely to Saturn during the mission.  When the comet arrives, it reveals itself to be a probe of unknown origin.  In an attempt to retrieve it, Colonel Christopher goes on a spacewalk.  When he comes into contact with the probe, there is a flash, and he finds himself in the body of Captain James T. Kirk in the year 2270.  Similarly, a probe arrives at Klondike VI and is beamed aboard the Enterprise.  When Captain Kirk reaches out to touch it, he suddenly finds himself floating in space in 2020, inhabiting the body of Christopher.

Captain Kirk must play Colonel Christopher's role in history while maintaining his cover, without disrupting the timeline to a significant degree.  Meanwhile, in the year 2270, the crew of the Enterprise must find a way to save the people of the Skagway colony while coping with the apparent loss of their captain.

My Thoughts:

All in all, quite enjoyable!  It was interesting to get some insights into the "near future," and the setting allowed a few modern references to be made, while engaging in some limited speculation about the years to come.  A couple of times, I thought to myself, "this is too far in the future for them to be talking about (Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, etc.)"  Then I realized that 2020 is only eight years away!  It's hard to believe that it's already 2012.  I feel old all of the sudden.

Colonel Shaun Christopher is the son
of Captain John Christopher from
"Tomorrow is Yesterday."
When I read fiction, especially Star Trek novels, I picture the characters quite clearly in my head.  In this respect, The Rings of Time presented a bit of a challenge.  When Colonel Christopher is inhabiting Captain Kirk's body, do I picture Shaun Christopher walking around in Kirk's uniform, or William Shatner's Kirk using the mannerisms of Colonel Christopher?  In the end, I opted for what I call the "Quantum Leap" style: regardless of how others see the characters, I pictured who they "really" were.  Therefore, Captain Kirk in Colonel Christopher's body was "played" by William Shatner, and Colonel Christopher in Captain Kirk's body was "played" by Colonel Christopher.

I did think that the ending of The Rings of Time was a little too pat.  As I was nearing the end of the book, I kept wondering to myself how Greg Cox was possibly going to wrap up the story-lines in a satisfying way.  For the most part, he succeeds, but I still came away feeling like it wrapped up a little too easily.  

Final Thoughts:

For the most part, The Rings of Time was satisfying, a nice fix of original Star Trek.  It was nice to have the exploration of part of Trek history that hadn't previously been featured.  While there are differences in the ages of the characters, it was nice to be able to feature (in my head) actor Roger Perry in the role of Colonel Shaun Christopher, after having already been introduced to his father in the original Star Trek episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday."  Not perfect, with an ending that's a little too convenient and pat, but a fun and exciting story nonetheless!

Rating: 7/10.

Continuing with my reading of the Gateways series, I'm tackling Doors Into Chaos by Robert Greenberger next.

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