Monday, July 23, 2012

The Rings of Tautee

Star Trek #78: The Rings of Tautee by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published May 1996
Read May 9th, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): #77: Twilight's End
Next book (The Original Series): #79: Invasion!: First Strike

Spoilers ahead for The Rings of Tautee!

From the back cover:
When an entire solar system begins to disintegrate into cosmic rubble, Captain Kirk suspects that rumors of a new Klingon superweapon are all too true.  The Tautee system houses a flourishing pre-warp civilization not quite ready to join the Federation, so the Prime Directive limits Kirk's ability to undo the disaster, and his humanitarian rescue operations provoke a hostile response from four Klingon warships.
What is destroying the Tautee system?  The USS Enterprise must uncover the truth before the catastrophe extends beyond Tautee to threaten the very nature of reality itself.

My Thoughts:

The Rings of Tautee is an interesting book with good characterizations of the original Star Trek characters, exactly as one would expect from the writing team of Smith and Rusch.  Veterans of Trek writing, their stories are always competent and engrossing.

The dilemma presented in The Rings of Tautee is an interesting one.  An alien race has attempted an experiment in power generation that has had disastrous results.  An ever-expanding shock wave has destroyed all of the planets in their star system, and left un-checked, the wave may eventually threaten the entire galaxy.  Initially, both the Federation and the Klingons suspect each other of creating a horrific superweapon and testing it on the Tautee system.  However, they soon discover the truth and must work together, both to save the remaining Tautee survivors and to stop the wave from expanding beyond the system.

There are several great moments in this novel.  The final moments of the break-up of the Tautee system as seen from the perspective of the science team that potentially caused it are absolutely heart-breaking, and their subsequent rescue by the Enterprise is terrific for the awe and confusion experienced by the Tauteean characters.  Another favourite moment comes when Captain Kirk and the Klingon Commander learn the cause of the Tautee system's destruction.  The shared "facepalm" moment between the two of them is priceless.

I do want to make a quick note about the Prime Directive as depicted in this novel.  I've never been a big fan of the Next Generation-style interpretation of General Order #1.  Episodes like "Pen Pals" and "Homeward" do nothing to present the Federation in a positive light.  Rather than being a guard against cultural imperialism as it was originally meant to be, the Prime Directive as depicted in these episodes makes the Federation out to be "above" helping doomed civilizations, in the service of some sort of cosmic "plan."  Unfortunately, the Prime Directive is depicted this way in The Rings of Tautee.  When there were only going to be a few survivors, there was nothing to stop Kirk from rescuing the Tauteeans.  However, once that number increased, suddenly rescuing the people slowly dying in the cold recesses of space was a Prime Directive issue, as though the number of survivors had reached some sort of threshold number.  That screams callousness and indifference, which was not the way the Prime Directive was originally envisioned, at least to my mind.

Final Thoughts:

The Rings of Tautee is an interesting story.  While not completely mind-blowing, it's an interesting tale that presages cooperation between the Klingons and Federation, and presents a fascinating problem that brings disparate people together to try and solve.  I was disappointed in the application of the Prime Directive, but that's a larger problem in Star Trek at large, in my opinion.  Several great moments make this novel a little more memorable than some.

Also by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

My next read:

With any luck, my next review will be for Christopher L. Bennett's Ex Machina.  New release next week is Star Trek: Titan: Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin, a follow-up to last year's Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire.

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