Gerrold writes an interesting story that feels a bit between a Star Trek story and a regular SF offering of it’s age. I think part of that is that it’s a ‘big dumb object’ story, with humans encountering a large structure traveling at about a third the speed of light. There’s not much in the story that demands it be a Star Trek story. But, the main characters are there, and without them it wouldn’t be quite the same story either.

There are places where it doesn’t quite ring true to the universe as it is known now, but back before any of the movies had been done, much less the later series he was in a position of deciding more things for himself. The most grating part for me was suddenly including a couple of auxiliary shuttle bays in the saucer section (really, drop bays, anticipating Enterprise by about 40 years), which just hadn’t been mentioned anywhere else…. It is actually somewhat logical, and I’d have been happier if these had been for smaller craft for external work than full shuttlecraft, but that idea doesn’t show up until The Motion Picture, so, oh well.

The investigation of the star-faring structure is well-done and interesting, and the problems that result are quite logical. I’m not so happy with a lot of character reactions. Most of the Enterprise crew should react better than they do for most of the novel, as they know what—generally—they’re getting into, but they don’t seem to take that knowledge into account. On the other side of things, the action and consequences are well handled, and really help sell the story.

Structurally the two real weak points are the fact that a lot of background info gets dumped on you in one large expository chapter. It’d be hard to avoid it, and its presented well, so I think Gerrold was trying to avoid the problem. The other problem is that the name of the novel doesn’t come up until about halfway through. A pair of black holes, with orbiting neutron stars, and associated other things falling into certainly qualifies as a ‘galactic whirlpool’, but it gets sprung on you a bit suddenly.

Past that, it is well done, and the second half of the novel, after everything is finally in place, really works well. The build up is a bit slower and piecemeal than I’d like, but it does come together, and is well worth the journey.