reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline
Jose Tyler was navigator of the Enterprise when the rift in space was first discovered by Captain Pike and crew. The Rift, which appears only once every 33.4 years, proved to be more than just a fracture of space: It was a gateway to a planet inhabited by the Calligar, an advanced race located hundreds of light years away from Federation space. During that brief visit to the planet Tyler fell in love with Ecma, the daughter of the Master Builder, one of the leaders of the planet.
Now 33.4 years after that first visit, the Enterprise captained by James T. Kirk is on its way to the Rift with a Federation delegation to continue that first contact. Tyler, now an admiral, is along as part of that mission, but more so to see Ecma, the girl he left behind.
As the delegation enters the rift by means of a shuttle, another vessel leaves The Rift and heads for the Enterprise. Aboard that vessel is Ecma, now the Master Builder, who begs for sanctuary so she can avoid the process called Thinning.
The delegation, under the leadership of Mister Spock soon finds itself held hostage until Ecma is returned to them. While Captain Kirk tries to find a solution to the dilemma, Andorian and Tellarite ships arrive ready to do battle with the Calligar. And worse yet, the Rift will soon close for another 33.4 years possibly stranding the delegation light years from home.
This is a well-written novel that introduces a race far move developed than those of the Federation--more developed in some ways in that they have their own form of a Prime Directive; less developed it would seem in that they schedule their leaders for Thinning or death when their contributions to the society seem to have come to an end. Its interesting to see the two groups apply their respective Prime Directives to the situation.
Its also interesting to see Ambassador Fox and Doctor Richard Daystrom again. Fox has mellowed in some respects from the unyielding bureaucrat we saw in "A Taste of Armegeddon" yet still finds a way to meddle in the outcome of the story. And while it is hard for most to understand why such an advanced race as the Calligar would destroy its best and brightest when their productivity seems to have passed, Daystrom understands what its like to have his best years behind him and sympathizes with their beliefs.
While the story is in some ways predictable, it is the interaction of the characters more than anything else that makes the story come alive and provide some interesting twists and turns in the plot. And its just these twists and turns and interactions that cause Mister Spock to proclaim "Considering the vast number of emotional flipflops humans make in their lifetimes, its amazing you do not all come equipped with trampolines as standard equipment."
So if you enjoy looks at alien cultures and enjoy stories that focus on characters more than plot, you just might want to try The Rift.
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