Returning to Vega after their adventure on Talos IV, the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters a rift in space. After taking his ship through the rift, Captain Christopher Pike and his crew meet the Calligar, an advanced civilization in the far-off Gamma Quadrant; while initial interactions are promising, the Enterprise is forced to return to Federation space before the rift closes. Thirty three years later the rift opens again, giving the Federation the opportunity to renew the contact, this time with a team led by Captain James Kirk in the Enterprise-A, though this time the Calligar leader precipitates a crisis that jeopardizes both amicable relations and the Federation representatives sent to establish them,
On one level it's surprising that, even after a profitable half-century of developing the Star Trek franchise, so little has been done with the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise that preceded Kirk's merry band; indeed, there are even more works about author-created characters than there are ones featuring Pike's time in command. Peter David uses the limited material from the original pilot to provide a depiction of a very different Enterprise crew, giving his work a freshness that is often lacking in a Star Trek novel. His concept of a periodically-opening rift to a distant part of the galaxy is also an interesting one, serving as a nice way to tie events to the Enterprise crew with whom fans are more familiar. Yet the second half of the novel is more disappointing, as the plot follows tired characters into well-worn grooves with a predictable course of events. Though David enlivens this part with some knowing jokes and a nice little twist, it still doesn't live up to the originality and promise of the first half of the book.