Friday, October 19, 2018

A Time to Sow

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Sow by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published April 
Read June 25th 2018

Previous book (The Next Generation): A Time to Die
Next book (The Next Generation): A Time to Harvest

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for A Time to Sow and the rest of the A Time to... series!

From the back cover:
More than two centuries ago, the Dokaalan sent an unmanned probe into the void, bearing a distress call for anyone who could save their doomed world. But the message reached Federation space too late to save the planet or its people. Or so it was believed...
Generations later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E are stunned to discover the last of the Dokaalan -- now only a colony fighting to stay alive in a decrepit asteroid mining complex. Although their home planet was destroyed long ago, the survivors hope to someday transform a nearby planet into a new home for their people. But bitter divisions exist among the Dokaalan, sowing the seeds of sabotage and terrorism -- and placing Picard and the Enterprise in the middle of an escalating crisis that can only lead to total destruction!

My thoughts:

A Time to Sow is the third book in the A Time To series, bridging the films Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis, and the first book in a duology by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, made up of this novel and its followup, A Time to Harvest.

I had initially intended to read and review these novels some time ago, but the need to keep up with the reading for the Literary Treks podcast was too great. I only got around to the first two novels, A Time to Be Born and A Time to Die by John Vornholt before having to set them aside in favor of reading other Star Trek novels. Now, we are finally covering these novels on Literary Treks, and I can once again get back to them!

A Time to Sow starts with the Enterprise-E being assigned a "milk run," investigating a distress call from a probe first detected back in the 21st century, during Captain Jonathan Archer's first year as captain of the Enterprise NX-01. I appreciated the use of the Enterprise-era elements in this novel. I remember when Enterprise first aired, and the complaints of a small segment of "hardcore" Trek fans who felt that the new series didn't have a place in Star Trek canon (a sentiment, by the way, that is echoed by a similarly-small segment of fandom today with regards to Star Trek: Discovery). The fact that Ward and Dilmore used Enterprise elements in this story serves to further tie that series to the rest of Trek continuity, efforts that I hope continue in the novels yet to come when it comes to including Discovery elements as well. I like a fully-realized, cohesive universe!

A Time to Sow used elements from Enterprise, furthering the idea of a cohesive Star Trek universe linking all of the series, past and present.

Although the mission starts out as "low priority," it quickly becomes a first contact mission when, unexpectedly, survivors are found. The initial distress call had been sent when it became apparent that the Dokallans' homeworld would soon destroy itself, and it was determined by Starfleet and the Vulcan High Command that survivors would be extremely unlikely. However, a hardy group of survivors have made a home in the Dokallan system's asteroid belt, and against all odds have thrived there. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that there are mysterious forces at work that are attempting to thwart the Dokallans' plans for the next phase of their civilization.

The tenacious asteroid-dwellers have undertaken an ambitious plan to terraform one of the other planets in their system, hoping to make it habitable for their civilization in the future. However, the Enterprise crew soon discovers that there are small variations being introduced into the Dokallans' plans; minute alterations that, over a long period of time, will make their new home useless to them. We learn that there is much more to the situation than meets the eye, and it is apparent that there are enemy agents among the Dokallans who are working towards their own goals. They soon are able to infiltrate the Enterprise as well, and manage to incapacitate Data.

Data is incapacitated by an enemy agent operating aboard the Enterprise.

If I have one major complaint about A Time to Sow, it's that it isn't a complete story and merely part one of two. However, that criteria is built into the entire A Time To series, so it doesn't seem like a completely fair complaint to lob at this novel. I suppose I'm just a little frustrated that not having a complete story makes this a difficult novel to review before having read the second part.

Quality-wise, however, A Time to Sow rises far above the previous novel. The characters are all on point, and I also really appreciated the world-building that went into the creation of the Dokallans and their unorthodox way of life. The individual characters among the Dokallan were quite interesting as well, raising them above the usual "alien of the week" fare. While I didn't really appreciate the lack of a complete story here, I can't fault the compelling cliffhanger we are given at the end. Alien agents in disguise aboard the Enterprise, having nearly succeeded in killing Data, while Geordi and Taurik run for their lives in a hazardous asteroid field? Sign me up for part two; I can't wait to see how this all concludes!

Final thoughts:

A big improvement over the first duology in the A Time To series. A Time to Sow sets us up nicely for part two with a fascinating alien race and a menacing threat that hides in plain sight. I found myself really curious about who exactly the "big bad" is, but unfortunately that will have to wait for book two of this duology, A Time to Harvest. Definitely a strong start here, however, with great character work and an exciting mystery.

More about A Time to Sow:

Also by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore:

A Time To...

My next read:

Next on the list is an Enterprise novel: Surak's Soul by J.M. Dillard.

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