Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 2012: "That Which Divides"

Located in an area of non-aligned space near Federation and Romulan territory, the Kondaii system is home to a unique stellar phenomenon: a spatial rift that opens every three years in proximity to the system’s sole inhabited planet. Only during this brief period is communication possible with the small, mineral-rich planetoid inside the rift. The local population has established a mining colony on this planetoid, and for the limited du ration that the rift is open, a massive interplanetary operation is set into motion: ferrying mineral ore to the home planet while simultaneously transferring personnel and replenishing essential supplies and equipment—everything necessary to sustain the colony before it once again enters forced isolation. 

While studying the rift, the science vessel U.S.S. Huang Zhong is severely damaged and crash-lands on the planetoid. After the Starship Enterprise arrives to conduct rescue operations, evidence quickly points to the rift’s artificial nature. It is a feat far beyond the capacity of the local inhabitants, and presents an alluring mystery for Captain James T. Kirk and his crew. It also attracts the attention of the Romulans, who are most interested in studying and perhaps seizing this supposed advanced technology—by any means necessary.

by Dayton Ward
Mass Market paperback – 400  pages
Pocket Books – March 2012 – $7.99

The Dolysain people have a unique resource – a planetoid filled with a mineral they need for energy production hanging right over their heads. The trick is, most of the time, the little world is hidden within some kind of rift. In the wake of first contact between the Dolysains and the Federation, a science ship is sent to investigate. But when the USS Huang Zhong arrives to conduct scientific explorations of the rift and the planet, nothing goes as planned. Ultimately, one of the ship’s senior officers, Lieutenant Samuel Boma (yes, that Lieutenant Boma) brings news of the ship’s fate before Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock when the Enterprise arrives on site a few days later.

Of course, the Federation’s interest doesn’t go unnoticed by the Dolysain’s neighbors – the Romulans. They promptly send a scout ship of their own to the system to discover what is going on. A similar reception greets them as greeted the Huang Zhong, but with very different results. 

Ultimately, both sides are committed to prevent the other from obtaining whatever is at the heart of the rift, but neither side knows exactly what they are in for… nor do the Dolysians, for whom catastrophe looms if the shipping schedule through the rift is interrupted for any length of time.

Dayton Ward’s new novel (with an assist in story-breaking from Kevin Dilmore) is a serious classic Trek novel in every sense of the word. It is a standalone story, so one can enjoy it apart from a connection to any of the currently-ongoing stories (though there are the occasional head-nods to various series). Upon first reading about the story, I wondered if it might too close to Peter David’s Trek novel titled “The Rift”, but no such issues came to the forefront while reading “That Which Divides”.

As the title most likely spoils, the story helps us to revisit a particular alien race; glimpsed during TOS through a projected avatar of sorts… but this time, we learn some more tantalizing clues about the people known as the Kalandans, and are, of course, left wanting to learn more.

"That Which Divides" includes Boma and revisits the Kalandans from "That Which Survives". Heck, even some TAS characters show up!

In true Dayton Ward style, pretty much every last line of dialogue is spot on, and even the visits of Lieutenant’s Arex and M’ress (from The Animated Series) flow seamlessly with the story. Also seamlessly and well-written are the guest aliens – both the Dolysian people and the Romulans. While we have a ship full of loyal Romulans to work with throughout the story, Ward takes pains to balance them between the people we glimpsed on screen in The Original Series and a deeper, more complex crew… a work that, at times, had me giving thought to Diane Duane’s epic Romulan stories from the 80’s and 90’s.

Worthy of particular attention in this story is Mr. Scott, who finds himself mildly deconstructed by Ward… several points in the story give the reader a very clear insight into the heart of the beloved engineer. True, they are mostly things we have already seen or discerned throughout the history of the series, but Ward’s writing really helps the concept to hit home and gives the reader an appreciation for the original Scotty, and for the work of James Doohan in bringing him to the screen.

Worthy of special note is Samuel Boma. Boma has appeared here and there in novels in the past, but “That Which Divides” really does justice to his situation after “The Galileo Seven” and helps to bring his story to a modicum of closure that previous tales involving him have never offered.

Overall, “That Which Divides” is a strong, enjoyable, and deftly written Star Trek adventure, worthy of a place on your bookshelf… and near the top of your reading queue.

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