Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Folded World

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World by Jeff Mariotte
Release date: April 30
th 2013
Read May 2nd 2013

Previous book (The Original Series): The Weight of Worlds
Next book (The Original Series): The Shocks of Adversity

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Spoilers ahead for The Folded World!

From the back cover:
En route to a diplomatic mission, the U.S.S. Enterprise receives a distress call from the U.S.S. McRaven. As the Enterprise approaches the area where the McRaven appears to be, Captain James T. Kirk and his crew encounter an anomaly unlike anything they've ever experienced. Space itself seems inconsistent here ... warping, changing appearance. But during the brief periods of calm, the McRaven is located along with other ships of various origins—all dead in space and devoid of any life forms, all tightly surrounding and being held in place by an enormous unidentified vessel that appears to have been drifting for a millennium. As incredible and impossible as it seems, this anomaly is something that can only be described as a dimensional fold, a place where the various dimensions that science has identified—and the ones it cannot yet name—have folded in on one another, and the normal rules of time and space no longer apply...
My thoughts:

Although he has penned two prior Star Trek works in the past, The Folded World is the first novel by Jeff Mariotte that I have read. While entertaining for the most part, I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. The story itself is an interesting one: the Enterprise happens upon a "dimensional fold," in which time and space do not respond in the manner they should. They are attempting to rescue the Starship McRaven, which has been caught in the fold. Complicating matters is a diplomatic contingent aboard, representatives from the planet Ixtolde, who are vying for membership in the Federation. What Kirk and company do not realize is that the Ixtoldan ambassador and her retinue are hiding a secret, one that involves the dimensional fold and the mysterious, massive ship that lies at the center of the anomaly.

The story surrounding the anomaly and the Ixtoldan deception are interesting, and hints about the true nature of the history of the Ixtoldan people are dropped throughout the book. What kept me reading was the desire to fit these pieces togther and discover the nature of the "dimensional fold" anomaly. Unfortunately, that is one area in which the novel kind of drops the ball. The anomaly is never truly explained, and while not learning every little detail is okay, I would have enjoyed some speculation on the anomaly's origins or purpose. One thing that the anomaly evoked in me was a sense of the mystery and "weird stuff" that occasionally occurred in Original Series episodes, and in that way, the dimensional fold was a nice bit of classic Trek storytelling. However, to my mind, the mystery of the Ixtoldan deception and the reasons for the ambassador's behavior are wrapped up in a much more satisfying manner.

The novel depicts a dangerous rescue mission into the anomaly to attempt to rescue the U.S.S. McRaven. The mission, predictably, goes horribly wrong. The attitudes and actions of many of the crew on this perilous mission seemed out of place for the highly-trained Starfleet we've seen in the past. In fact, many of the actions of the boarding party seemed strange. Captain Kirk allows the party to be split up far more easily than I think would be prudent, which of course leads to crewmembers being lost in the confusion aboard the alien starship. I would have expected the crew on this mission to be a little more disciplined, and some of the actions that the crew takes don't seem logical.

Finally, the novel introduces a new character: Petty Officer Miranda Tikolo. For much of the novel, I wasn't sure what to make of her. In many ways, I enjoyed her character, and her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder was a refreshing splash of realism that Star Trek occasionally lacks. However, some of her character moments felt a little too "soap opera-ish," especially the revelation of the dark trauma she experienced as a child and the repression of that memory. In addition, the love triangle between her and two other crewmembers felt tiresome at times, and the behavior of the men in her life seemed over the top and a little childish. That's not to say that Tikolo's behavior wasn't at times childish as well. However, given her mental state and the traumas that she has experienced, one would be hard-pressed to find fault with her actions in the novel.

Final thoughts:

A generally entertaining and fast-paced novel, The Folded World was a fun read. The anomaly was interesting, but not satisfactorily explained in my opinion. Some of the character stuff was a little too melodramatic, but works for the most part. I did really enjoy Scotty's part in the novel, and it was a great deal of fun seeing him wrestle with the fine points of diplomacy while trying to deal with the Ixtoldan ambassador and the Federation diplomats aboard the Enterprise. His coming to a greater appreciation of the difficult job that Kirk has was a nice touch. While not the highlight of Trek novels from this year so far, The Folded World was enjoyable for the most part.

More about The Folded World:

Also by Jeff Mariotte:

My next read:

Next up: another classic Trek novel from the days of yore: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah.

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