Friday, November 2, 2018

A Time to Harvest

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Harvest by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published April 2004
Read July 23rd 2018

Previous book (The Next Generation): A Time to Sow

Next book (The Next Generation): A Time to Love

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

Spoilers ahead for A Time to Harvest

From the back cover:
Still reeling from the disastrous events that have rocked all of Starfleet and tarnished the career of one of the Federation's most decorated captains, Picard and his crew must now endure the unthinkable: scandal, ostracism, and an uncertain future. But despite all that has occurred, none aboard the Enterprise have forgotten their duty as Starfleet officers… 
Assigned to assist the imperiled Dokaalan – a small colony of refugees who maintain a precarious existence in a rapidly disintegrating asteroid mining complex – the Enterprise crew must somehow aid this alien race in terraforming a nearby planet so that it might someday provide a new home for their kind. But violent acts of sabotage soon turn a humanitarian crisis into a deadly confrontation. To save the Dokaalan from extinction, Picard must uncover the presence of an old adversary – and prevent a disaster of catastrophic proportions!

My thoughts:

A Time to Harvest is the fourth book in the A Time To series, bridging the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis. It is also the conclusion to a duology by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, consisting of this novel and the previous one, A Time to Sow.

In A Time to Sow, the crew of the Enterprise-E made first contact with the Dokaalan, survivors of a planetary cataclysm who have taken refuge in their system's asteroid belt. This species, with surprising amounts of ingenuity and resilience, has undertaken a project to terraform another planet in their system, Ijuuka. However, there are elements that have invaded Dokaalan society to subvert their plans and prevent the Dokaalans from realizing their dream of a new home. In this novel, we learn the identity of this alien force and their ultimate plans for Ijuuka.

It turns out that the antagonists are the Satarrans, who TNG fans might remember as the aliens who wiped the memories of the Enterprise crew and set them against their enemies, the Lysians, in the episode "Conundrum." In that episode, an undercover Satarran operative posed as Kieran MacDuff, the supposed first officer of the Enterprise. Similarly, Satarran operatives have infiltrated both the Enterprise and the Dokaalan government in this novel. In a typical case of "small universe syndrome," one of the infiltrators of the Enterprise turns out to be the brother of the operative who posed as MacDuff.

The primary antagonists in A Time to Harvest turn out to be the Satarrans, a species who co-opted the Enterprise crew to serve in their war against the Lysians in the TNG episode "Conundrum."

In their long war with the Lysians, the Satarrans' homeworld was heavily damaged and rendered incapable to supporting the Satarran civilization. The changes that were made to the Dokaalans' plans for Ijuuka were designed to change that planet's conditions to be more favorable to the Satarrans, and useless to the Dokaalans. Because the Dokaalan science minister, Creij, was replaced by a Satarran, they are in the perfect position to subvert the terraforming project. In fact, one of the Enterprise's attempts to aid the Dokaalan effort serves to accelerate the sabotage.

It is this subversion of the Enterprise crew's plan that leads to one of the only big problems I have with this novel. Why on earth (or Ijuuka) is the crew rushing this attempt to aid the Dokaalans? The plan is formulated by Data, who only just recently recovered from a nearly-fatal attack by a Satarran operative (and in fact, he is not fully recovered at all). Captain Picard knows that there are undercover operatives among his crew and among the Dokaalans, and they are aware (thanks to Deanna Troi's empathic sense) that something is hinky with the Dokaalans themselves. So why rush headlong into this plan that involves firing torpedoes loaded with material that will drastically change the atmosphere of Ijuuka without running more tests and delaying the process by, potentially, years? The Dokaalans have waited this long, after all! I know, I know, because then we wouldn't have a plot, but still! There's no need to rush!

That one issue aside, I very much enjoyed A Time to Harvest. In the previous duology of A Time to Be Born and A Time to Die, I felt that the first book was quite strong while the second kind of dropped the ball on the story. Thankfully, that doesn't happen here, and Ward and Dilmore stick the landing. In fact, the very end of the story, in which Picard demonstrates the high-minded ideals of the Federation by offering aid to the Satarrans despite what they have done to the Dokaalans was quite touching, and very much in the spirit of what I think Star Trek is all about. There are also some strong character moments as our crew wrestles with the thought that they may have done more harm than good for the Dokaalans, as well as dealing with the changes that are on the horizon as we get closer to Star Trek Nemesis.

Final thoughts:

A strong follow-up and conclusion of Ward and Dilmore's part in the A Time To series. Great world-building with the Dokaalans and their society, as well as an unexpected use of an adversary from back in the TNG on television days. Great character work with only a few minor nitpicks with regards to some of the actions undertaken by our heroes. Plus, a terrific re-affirmation of the ideals of Starfleet and the Federation, and for what Star Trek itself espouses. For the most part, A Time to Harvest was a great addition to this nine-book series and the Star Trek lit-verse as a whole. 4/5.

More about A Time to Harvest:

Also by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore:

A Time To...

My next read:

Next is my long-overdue review of Voyager: The Farther Shore by Christie Golden, the follow-up to Homecoming!

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