Shiny Shelf

Star Trek: The Rings of Time

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 23 February 2012

To no huge surprise considering the (virtual) company I keep here and in social media networks, I love ‘Doctor Who’, and basically all kinds of time travel stories.

I’m also a ‘Star Trek’ fan, particularly of ‘The Next Generation’ and ‘Deep Space 9’ series. It’s also no surprise that I read the media tie-in novels for these various franchises, and though I’d love to say it was in some sort of vain attempt to keep the US economy from imploding, I alas cannot.

Over the past year or so, I have been branching out, and delving into the original series, dipping into a couple of the novels based around this crew (and not the 2009 J. J. Abrams movie; by the way, get off my lawn, kids).

‘The Rings of Time’ is one of the latest entries in the ‘Star Trek’ original series novel range, written by veteran author Greg Cox. The premise is intriguing enough: in 2020, the U.S.S Lewis & Clark, during mankind’s first mission to Saturn, encounters an alien probe over the ringed planet.

When the ship’s captain attempts to capture the probe, he finds himself thrust across space and time. Meanwhile, in 2270, the Enterprise responds to a distress call to a ringed planet with similarities to Saturn, which is undergoing destabilization and threatens a nearby colony. A mysterious alien probes appears, and when it is brought aboard, Kirk finds himself floating above Saturn, in an old NASA spacesuit, and an old space ship nearby…

The narrative is split for the most part in alternating chapters, switching between 2020 and 2270, covering each ship’s mission. Fans of the original ‘Star Trek’ will catch the reference to Colonel Shaun Christopher, the commander of the Lewis & Clark, but you do not need to know any background information to read this novel.

In fact, this novel features a number of modern references and in-jokes, which oddly make it a little more accessible. In reading ‘The Rings of Time’, I found the 2020 sections more intriguing. Not because the sections featuring the Enterprise crew were lacking in dramatic appeal- Cox perfectly captures these iconic characters’ voices, but possibly because there is a little more tension with the 2020 mission, as we do not know its outcome (considering that ‘The Rings of Time’ takes place in the 5th year of the Enterprise’s mission, we already know how things turn out for the crew for the most part).

I love stories about space exploration, and Cox’s setup of the first mission to Saturn, with their limited resources (compared to a typical ‘Star Trek’ ship) and somewhat isolated nature, provides a great setup for drama. Add in a few mysteries that Christopher and crew encounter, and Cox has the reader hooked in for the duration.

There are a good number of twists to the story, but a few flaws crop up. The recap of the story I presented above is taken from the blurb of the book. It takes a good chunk of the book to get to that point. I found it strange to give that much away on the blurb and then take a good while to actually get there, when you, as the reader, are already expecting it. Perhaps that’s just a minor nitpick. Also, without trying to spoil anything, the climax to the main action occurs a good bit before the end of the novel. There is an additional subplot that occurs- and which is used to resolve the Kirk / Christopher displacement issue- which feels like the use of a ‘Trek’ trope once-too-many-times.

But I don’t want to take anything away from ‘The Rings of Time’. It is a great adventure for the original crew. If you enjoy a time-bending adventure with a dash of mystery, you should give this novel a try. Cox’s prose is sharp and seamlessly sucks you into boldly going…

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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.

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