I like Ancient plot lines. I think the chair in Antarctica is awesome. This novel (#21) does some interesting things with both, but overall this dream-sequence style story lacks meaningful action and seems both rushed and a little thin.
First off, this is actually a sequel to Four Dragons, although I don't think this is mentioned anywhere on the actual book itself. It took me about halfway through to realize certain references to past events weren't from episodes (surely I would have remembered them, right?) but from a previous book. So, make sure to read that first, and you'll want to follow up with The Drift while you still remember events and characters from Four Dragons, or else major plot lines will not mean anything to you.
To me, this novel reads like a relatively weak episode. From the beginning, SG-1 is trapped in some sort of alternate, dream-like reality. The plot is heavily driven by some unknown hand and the reader follows along as details are revealed and the situation changes. While this follows SG-1's experience in the plot, it lacks certain elements of fascination and speculation (key elements of good sci-fi, I believe) as we have no information and are as powerless as the team. Angry rumbling and soft winds in this dream world seem rather trite and cliche to me.
Team interaction and characterization are done well, however. There is a lot of reacting and not a lot of doing, from both SG-1 and the rest of the characters, but reactions seem natural and dialogue flows easily, with some exceptions from the Chinese characters. In fact the anti-China sentiment in general was a little surprising. Of course, China is the new Russia.
The one big exception to the above is the use of ascended character(s). These are used in moderation in SG-1 and Atlantis, and I think including them in these one-shot type stories can be risky. Ancients and ascended beings interfere very infrequently; the author makes the case that the peril in this story is worthy of their intervention. The reader must decide if he or she agrees. Personally, it came out feeling a little contrived to me, a bit deus ex machina. In that sense, a Stargate tradition!
If you're going through the Stargate novels, by all means read this one. It's not bad. I found it a little frustrating and it could have used some editing (a lot of them feel that way), but it's not actively unpleasant to read or anything. We get to spend some time with our friends and the author does get creative bringing in new story lines, specifically related to Lord Yu and the Ancients.
If you're looking for just a few good SG novels, skip this one. I'm going to call it slightly below average.
Ok, bringing new historical and scientific phenomena into the Stargate realm by attributing them to the Ancients or others is usually cool. I applaud these efforts. Along these lines, bringing up the frozen Jaffa found near the DHD found in Antarctica in the episode Solitudes was a clever idea. However, deciding that plate tectonics on Earth are due to an Ancient device (the "drift" I guess) requires the reader to completely throw out modern geological understanding. So, if you've briefly heard of the concept of plate tectonic or Pangea, you might think, "cool!" But if you think about it a little further... It comes out as a wacky creationist-esque refutation of the geologic principle of uniformitarianism that people probably should have noticed at some point. This would be the point where Sam should, at least, be very, very surprised.
4 out of 7 chevrons engaged
5 out of 7 chevrons engaged
Meaningful, interesting plot:
3 out of 7 chevrons engaged
Not much; enough to placate me