THE RINGS OF TIME: Colonel Christopher Has A Close Encounter

by Greg Cox
Pocket Books, January 2012

So, I’ve had this book on my pile, and I read it a while ago, and in the interim have interviewed Greg Cox about a lot of different topics (and that’s coming soon). But in the meantime, things got a little busy – and you should see the pile of books in the review stack … – so this is later than it should be.

Greg Cox continues to deliver solid stories set in the Star Trek universe. I’ll get that out there right away. I always enjoy his stories, and seeing that he’s continued a thread from his Eugenics Wars books was a nice bonus when I got this book in the mail.

The Rings of Time tells the story of Colonel Shaun Geoffrey Christopher, the son of Captain John Christopher from “Tomorrow is Yesterday” – in which the Enterprise is thrown back in time by a slingshot from a black star and gets dinged as a UFO in the late 1960s Earth. His son Shaun is recorded in history as having led Earth’s first manned mission to Saturn. And he’s featured in the second Eugenics Wars book along with the DY-100 and Dr. Walter Nichols.

This time around, Christopher is on his mission to Saturn, along with his crew – ex-girlfriend pilot, science specialist, and a stowaway – and they have all sorts of trouble as they get closer to Saturn and detect a problem with the rings.

In a parallel story, Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise set out on a rescue mission. The Skagway colony is encountering the same kind of problems as the planet starts to have the same issues with the rings – and an evacuation is out of the question because there are too many people.

Both missions take place around planets with rings, and both missions encounter some very strange and troubling happenings with the planet itself. When each mission encounters an alien probe of mysterious purpose, things get a little more hairy.

Because Christopher and Kirk switch bodies.

I’m not going to spoil it here, mainly because I want you to read it (after you buy it from our store, of course). But suffice it to say that Cox has built on his previous work in the first two books featuring Khan, and while there aren’t as many pop culture Easter eggs in this one, there are still enough fun moments that it’s well worth the read.

I only have two beefs with the book.

Firstly, I think we’ve gotten past the point where every Star Trek story set in the Original Series era has to feature Kirk and Company. I know it’s a marketing thing, and Cox even says he took the safe route in the Eugenics Wars books and put the Kirk frame on the story just because it seemed like the right thing to do. But I’m going to throw this out there and see where it sticks: I’m perfectly fine with a TOS Trek book that features completely new characters. Peter David did it rather successfully with New Frontier (even though he used some familiar supporting players), and I think fans are savvy enough to understand that Starfleet is more than just the USS Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, or D…).

Secondly – and this one I have to be careful about because I don’t want to give away anything – I’m not sure I’m too keen on the reveal at the end of the book. When I got to that part, I felt my head go all puppy dog sideways. I asked myself, “Why did he do that?” Now, it doesn’t spoil the book. And it’s not so out of place that it blows you out of the story. But it just feels slightly … contrived.

Having said that, I can still recommend it. Because it’s Greg Cox’s work. And he’s a solid, fun writer who clearly enjoys what he’s doing.

Can’t wait to read his novelization of The Dark Knight Rises.

[Greg Cox Official Web Site]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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