Thursday, 12 November 2015

Returning to Enterprise - that isn't Enterprise: Tower of Babel

Now for a guest review from friend of SKoST Tiffany Groves. This time we're tackling Tower of Babel by Christopher L Bennett and while I wasn't thrilled with its predecessor, here's another take on the series...

This is the second book in the series of Rise of the Federation and before I go any further, I must warn you that this review does contain SPOILERS!!

The story continues on from A Choice of Futures and the focus of this novel is the struggle to bring the Rigel System into the fledgling Federation. This is no easy task as the diversity of its inhabitants and trading practices continue to be at odds with the newer Federation values. It’s obvious that Bennett has done his research here and drawn on various Star Trek television programmes, films, books, comics and the like to create his compelling cast. 

One particular example are the ‘Zami’, Rigellians that bear physical similarities to Vulcans (note - not a dissimilar thread to the recent The Original Series novel Crisis of Consciousness), their name derived from the ‘Zamiar’ (Rigel IV in the Decipher Code Role Playing Game) Despite this attention to research, I felt that the characters were still rather two dimensional. This isn't necessarily the author’s fault as source material for this rather unknown and unrepresented time zone is limited.

A much better portrayal is afforded the more familiar characters though and his depictions of Archer, Trip, T’Pol and Reed are very well rounded the author makes good observations of familial gestures and expressions which make you feel that you are reuniting with old friends. There are also references to the past which regular Star Trek viewers will find re-affirming such as the Xindi attack on Earth.

The novel’s focus however does seem to be mainly non-Federation, Reed and T’Pol given more of a back seat in favour of newer Starfleet officers (Sam Kirk and Valeria Williams) and whilst their development is intriguing, Archer seems almost to be an afterthought with very little to do!

Bennett’s easy writing style draws you in to the novel straight away and although there is a lot of socio-political content, he manages to interweave the subject rather nicely with the other elements of the plot so we are not subjected to eye watering pages of political blurb!! 

I do feel overall the central plot was somewhat lacking. There were several minor plot lines introduced throughout the novel, the affect of which, didn't occur until nearly halfway through the book. 

The author risks losing his readers at this point, unfortunately, once the main threat was identified, Bennett seems to lose pace and the structure of the story falls apart with loose ends tied up far too neatly for my liking. 

I do feel that writing within the confines of established lore has made the author perhaps too comfortable with this knowledge. It could be argued that this has made him slightly lazy with the plot? But flaws aside, I did enjoy reading this novel and it was very easy to immerse yourself within the familiar surroundings of Star Trek and it’s characters. Will I read the third book in the series (An Uncertain Logic)? Of course I will!!

Thanks to Tiffany for her time to review the novel. I suspect we'll be seeing her back with a review of the next Enterprise novel fairly soon...

Fan of the Enterprise continuation? Not fussed by the expanded prequel or cautious about it's angle?

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