Thursday, 8 May 2014

Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel - Christopher L. Bennett



Title: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2014
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Tower of Babel” by Christopher L. Bennett is the second novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. I thoroughly enjoyed Bennett’s previous novel in the series and therefore I had been looking forward to this from the moment I heard about the release date.

The story picks up where “A Choice of Futures” finished off with the fledgling Federation still trying to understand what it really wants to be in the galaxy. This is highlighted by a presidential election which is being fought between two factions who have very different views on what the Federation’s future should entail. With this election in the background, Admiral Archer is undertaking negotiations to bring the Rigel system into the Federation although his attempts are being hampered by an alliance of criminals including Orions and Malurians who are determined to ensure the Federation fails.

Without doubt this is one of the busiest Star Trek books I have read in a while, there really is a lot going on and my summary above only briefly touches on it all. There are multiple plotlines on the go and Bennett has managed to find a role for pretty much every main character from the series which was nice to see. I was quite impressed that I didn’t actually feel lost at all even with so much going on, Bennett manages to blend all the pieces together into a well-paced, coherent and entertaining story. The only minor downside in utilising a wide array of characters and plotlines is that the novel felt like it was missing a powerful central plot that would have made me really care. Don’t get me wrong, it was still fun and entertaining but it just didn’t draw me in as much as other books have.

This was only a minor fault to be honest and it was easily overshadowed by some other elements of the novel such as the way in which Bennett has tried to create some depth to the villains. So often we get treated to a one dimensional villain but in this book we get some rounded characters whose motives and actions can be understood on some level if not necessarily agreed with. In addition, he has continued to flesh out some of the other minor characters such as Sam Kirk and Valeria Williams so that they interest me almost as much as the regular crew from the TV series.

One interesting observation I had about this book and in “A Choice of Futures” was the way in which various aspects of the plot relate to episodes of both the Enterprise and Original series. What I liked about this is that it was done in a manner which adds to the story and feels completely natural. I know some people don’t like “continuity porn” and I admit in the past I have seen links to various TV episodes that look forced and very much in your face, but with this series of novels Bennett has managed to seamlessly blend the various continuity points into the plot so this it should still make sense and be enjoyable for people who don’t know every TV episode.

Overall, “Tower of Babel” was another enjoyable novel in the Rise of the Federation series and it is always nice to return to this neglected era of Star Trek history. Bennett has done a good job in keeping the light burning for the Enterprise series and I am looking forward to seeing where we go next.