Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Rift

Star Trek #57: The Rift by Peter David
Published November 1991
Read March 19th, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): Star Trek #56: Legacy

Next book (The Original Series): Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country


Click to purchase The Rift from Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for The Rift!

From the back cover:
Every thirty-three years, a rift in space connects the Federation with a mysterious race called the Calligar who live on a planet hundreds of light years away--much too far to travel in a starship.  Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise are dispatched to transport a Federation delegation of diplomats, scholars and scientists who will travel to Calligar directly during the brief period of time that the rift will be open.
Mr. Spock leads the Federation party as they travel by shuttle through the rift just as a group of the aliens arrive in Federation space.  The meetings go smoothly until the Calligar take Spock's party hostage and Kirk discovers that the aliens are keeping a deadly secret.  With angry Tellarite and Andorian fleets ready to attack the Calligar, Kirk must save Spock and the others before war breaks out and the rift closes for another thirty-three years.

About the Novel:

The Rift tells the story of the passage leading to the Calligar in two parts.  The first part takes place in around the year 2254, and features the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, c. "The Cage."  The Enterprise encounters a rift in space.  After being invited through by an alien race that lives on the other side, the Enterprise traverses the rift and makes first contact with the Calligar.  While there, Lieutenant Jose Tyler, the Enterprise's navigator, begins to fall for Ecma, the daughter of Calligar's "master builder."  However, Ecma's brother, Macro, opposes their flirtations and attacks Tyler.  It is around this time that the crew realizes that their passage through the rift has destabilized it, and they must return through within minutes or be trapped for the next thirty-three years in Calligar space.  The Enterprise barely escapes, leaving Tyler and Ecma torn apart by the events.


Jose Tyler, from "The Cage,"
features heavily in this novel.
The second part of the story takes place in the year 2287, between the films Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  The Enterprise, now the successor to the original and under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, is assigned as a diplomatic envoy to the Calligar, whose rift is once again opening.  Upon arrival at the rift, a diplomatic team is sent through while a lone Calligar arrives to greet the Enterprise.  It turns out that the Calligar who arrives is Ecma, and she has a request: she asks for asylum aboard the Enterprise.  Needless to say, this has the potential to cause a huge diplomatic incident, and Captain Kirk and now-Commodore Jose Tyler must work to prevent the situation from deteriorating to the point where their people will be lost on the other side of the rift.


My Thoughts:

The Rift, by one of my favorite Trek authors, Peter David, was certainly an interesting read.  I particularly enjoyed the characterizations of the Pike-era crew of the Enterprise, particularly Number One, who definitely shines in this novel.  It was also interesting to learn more about Mr. Tyler, who was probably the third-most prominent member of Pike's crew in the original pilot after Number One and Mr. Spock.


The novel had a few chuckle-worthy moments, notably the revelation of how the Enterprise acquired its distinctive computer voice.  Also, presaging the relationship between Andorians and Tellarites featured in the television series Enterprise, The Rift gives us a number of humorous moments between the Andorian scientist Thak and the Tellarite Shondar Dorkin.  The characterizations of Tellarites in general differ from what we learn later in Enterprise, however.  According to the Enterprise episode "Babel One," Tellarites thrive on conflict and argument, while here, Dorkin is easily offended and doesn't seem to enjoy being argued with at all.


Another interesting aspect of The Rift is the re-introduction of a number of guest characters from The Original Series.  The aforementioned Jose Tyler plays a large role in the novel, and joining him are Dr. Richard Daystrom, the genius inventor of the duotronic computer systems from the episode "The Ultimate Computer," and Ambassador Robert Fox from the first season episode "A Taste of Armageddon."  I enjoy the ability of the novels to explore these one-off characters in greater depth.  Oftentimes, authors are able to take a character we saw for only a few minutes on-screen and expand their roles greatly.


Finally, there are a number of errors on the back-cover description that play out quite differently in the novel.  For one, the back-cover blurb states that "
a group of the aliens arrive in Federation space."  However, only one, Ecma, traverses the rift to meet the Enterprise.  Also, there are no Tellarite or Andorian "fleets" in the novel; rather, only one ship from each government arrives on the scene.  And finally, only the Tellarites are interested in attacking the Calligar, rather than both the Andorians and the Tellarites as the description states.  Why are all of these errors present?  My guess would be that the description is written before the final draft of the novel is completed.  It is unfortunate that these errors can't be caught sooner, however, as I kept expecting developments in the novel that never materialized.

Final Thoughts:

For the most part, a well-written story that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in a classic adventure with the original Star Trek crew.  Peter David has a good handle on the main characters, and his particular brand of humour is present here to great effect.


My score for The Rift: a solid 7.5/10.  Nothing particularly "wow" worthy here, but a solid, classic Star Trek story.



Also by Peter David:

My next read:

Out next week is Christopher L. Bennett's new novel in his Department of Temporal Investigations series: Forgotten History.  I've been looking forward to this one for awhile.  Look for a review of that shortly after its release!