Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 2013: "The Folded World"

En route to a diplomatic mission, the Enterprise receives a distress call from the USS McRaven. As the Enterprise approaches the area where the McRaven appears to be, the crew encounters an anomoly unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. Space itself seems inconsistent—warping, changing appearance. But during the brief periods of calm, they locate the McRaven—along with other ships of various origins, all tightly surrounding and being held in place by an enormous unidentified vessel....

The Folded World
by Jeff Mariotte

Off the top, the concept of a spatial anomaly is a bit of a yawner when it comes to Star Trek. Been there, done that... repeatedly! It takes a really special story to set the random anomaly apart… and I do mean a special one.

Given that author Jeff Mariotte chose the tapestry of the Original Series for his anomaly story, there is a certain lack of urgency that you just inherit when you think of the story. It’s not an alternate universe tale, so we know all our friends must survive the experience in order to rock the next Enterprise adventure… so, most likely, there will be some nice moments in an otherwise droll presentation.

As the story opens, we meet Aleshia… her land is being ravaged, and her people don’t know why. Somehow, her story seems out of place, and yet it is engaging and intriguing. It leaves you wanting to know more.  What isn’t clear is just how integral her story will become to the overall narrative… but you already begin to get a feeling of great concern for her as the story shifts to the Enterprise.

There, Kirk is escorting a delegate from the planet Ixtolde towards what is hoped to be their inclusion in the Federation when the story’s fold in space-time presents itself as the captor of another Federation starship.

As the story unfolds, Kirk and his team struggle to rescue the crew of the McRaven, understand the continuum in which they find themselves, and are confronted with what may well be one of the strangest realities they ever encounter.

As “The Folded World” unfolds, Mariotte takes an extremely base concept – that of the spatial anomaly – and employs it more skillfully than just about any other writer I have ever seen make the attempt. He introduces a supporting cast that quickly engages the reader – particularly Miranda Tikolo. She may wear a red dress, but she’s no typical redshirt; and Mariotte uses her to great effect while never really turning the story into a full-blown lower decks expedition. Her history and backstory, rooted in the episode “Balance of Terror” is compelling, and she immediately becomes an investable character. Given the fact that she’ll probably, at best, show up in the background of another TOS-era novel, that’s a significant accomplishment on Mariotte’s part.

The entire story, in fact, is a significant accomplishment. What he manages to weave is compelling, engaging, peril-inducing goodness with both a strong degree of thought required to embrace some of its wider concepts, as well as little though required to enjoy the action/adventure side of the coin.

Similar to the recent “Star Trek Continues” release, Mariotte’s story gives us a genuine, lovingly presented story that both hooks the reader and gives the satisfaction that only a deeply faithful take on The Original Series can provide. While the story is edgier than some of the early Pocket novels, something about the feel of this story reminded me, in a very positive way, of the enjoyment I always get from reading some of my favorites from that era.

Jeff Mariotte’s “The Folded World” is the best Trek story I’ve laid my eyes on all year… and it definitely deserves a place in your reading list.

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