BOOK REVIEW: The Folded World, by Jeff Mariotte

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  • A standalone novel
  • Features the characters of The Original Series
  • Published by Pocket Books in 2013
  • Space Opera
  • 286 pages
  • ⭐⭐⭐

While transporting dignitaries for upcoming peace talks, the Enterprise picks up a distress call from the USS McRaven. Their rescue attempt takes them into a perilous region of space, where reality itself is unstable, and space and time are not always what they appear to be . . .

As I meander my way out of the post-Nemesis Litverse and into the era of Kirk and friends, I am deeply appreciative if two things. The first is that these books are fairly short. I can’t think of many Star Trek novels that cross the 400 page mark, and that makes them incredibly digestible. Easy to slide in between other reading. The other thing is that, while the adventures of Picard, Riker, et al became increasingly interwoven (and each book had a subsequently higher threshold of understanding to fully appreciate), the books following on from the original Star Trek remain largely standalone. Yes, the might reference episodes of the show (this one in particular calls back to ‘Balance of Terror’) but the stories themselves are as episodic as all the best episodes of the show. It is so much easier to just sit back and enjoy a book when you know you won’t be quizzed on its contents next time you enter the franchise.

Enjoyable is very much the name of the game here. The Folded World is a novel that hearkens back to the simple times of Star Trek, when all that was required was a grand adventure across the stars, with a little splash of social messaging to walk away with. Talking about the latter is a little tricky, as the book spends a lot of time building up to a reveal. But honestly, this would still be a fun book without the moralising. It has both aliens and narrative components that would be tricky to pull off on the small screen, especially in the nineteen-sixties. The perfect fodder for an original novel. Despite the fact that regions of folded space are hard to keep track of for both characters and readers, Mariotte’s prose is clear. Maybe a little too simplistic at times, but it races along nicely. The short page count undoubtedly helps here, and though there’s more action than conversation, the dialogue is strong throughout. There’s a good mix of TV faces and original characters, and an equal amount of time dedicated to each. And that’s just the crew. Interspersed throughout the chapters are scenes from an unknown perspective, for which we only get context at the novel’s climax. These are some of the strongest scenes, and proof that there is more than just rampant adventure to be found. There’s thoughtfulness too.

What didn’t work for me is the romance in this book. Those new crewmembers we meet? They’re tangled up in a love triangle that takes up far more pages than I have time for. And while Mariotte is a deft hand with action and big ideas, feelings and emotions are not his strongest point. So much time is devoted to the will-they/won’t-they and internal emotional struggles that it drags down what is otherwise a very good book. Of course, not everyone is as bored by romance as I am. Your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary. And no matter how much I dislike this one element of the book, all the others are pretty good. This isn’t going to trouble my ‘best of’ lists, but The Folded World is a fun romp through an interesting and original science fiction puzzle.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you may also like:
No Time Like The Past, by Greg Cox
One Constant Star, by David R. George III
The Latter Fire, by James Swallow

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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