The Rings of Time
Marten van Wier
In the near future, in order to revive space exploration and in particular manned space exploration NASA has decided to send a spaceship, the Lewis and Clark, to Saturn under leadership of Colonel Shaun Geoffrey Christopher.
In the 23th century, while coming to the aid of a mining colony, the Enterprise crew encounters an alien artifact that sends captain Kirk back in time after it has been brought on board, leaving him in space around Saturn, wearing an old style NASA space suit.
The premise of The Rings of Time actually reads like one you would find in a book by famous writer/futurist Arthur C Clarke, Ben Bova, or any of the other writers who are specialized in hard science fiction that involves the awesomeness and majesty of the Solar system combined with mankind's possible future in space, and how society would react and change through that.
The futurist plot vehicle is a 'grand tour' to Saturn, lead by the son of Captain John Christopher (Tomorrow is Yesterday) that is combined with a mystery of an immense scope; the rings of Saturn appear to come apart and no scientist on Earth has any idea what is causing it.
And while this all is taking place, an activist group that believes that Humanity has no place in space, is trying to sabotage the expedition in order to discourage public interest in the mission and any future space missions.
And then there is the Star Trek segment in which the Enterprise crew must come to aid of a mining colony established in orbit around the ringed gas giant Klondike VI that comes under threat when the rings of this gas giant start to come apart as well, two hundred years after the Earth-Saturn mission.
A probe of unknown alien origin plays an important role in these two similar events separated by time and distance. Unfortunately, this one of the points at which the plot starts to ramble. Not so much the probe itself, but its plot purpose of sending Captain Kirk back in time for no clear reason.
Some of the problems with this story is that several of the
elements work really well or as well as you would expect; while in the past Kirk becomes
involved in a space-thriller plot when an expedition member is forced to hijack the Lewis
and Clark and destroy it as part of terrorist
blackmail, with Kirk trying to save the ship and its crew.
Back in the 23th Century, Spock and the Enterprise crew have two situations on their hands: they have lost Captain Kirk, and as the rings of Klondike VI threaten the colony with destruction. the desperate colonists try to force their way on board the Enterprise when the ship can not hold any more people.
But then there is stuff like a stowaway on board the Earth-Saturn probe, a situation that would normally result in the ship turning around back to Earth, but who is allowed to remain anyway as part of a publicity stunt (the possibility of such a stowaway alone already would make NASA mission control pull their hair out, and allowing her to stay during the mission would be out of the question).
Greg Cox for some reason also felt it necessary to make references to contemporary pop culture such as Lady Gaga. Star Trek should of course reflect the era it is written in, but this felt more like See? Star Trek is hip and with the times. It's more cringe-worthy than really laudable. The story also ends with a reference to Star Trek: The Next Generation that was not needed and felt rather out of place.
There are good elements in this story, but they either never truly shine or are not properly developed while elements that could have been skipped upon get more time than they really deserve. This could have been a great 'fill in' of the Star Trek 'future past', showing the reader more of the path towards the 23th Century, but that is not so much the case here.
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