Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Time to Be Born

Star Trek: The Next Generation
A Time to Be Born by John Vornholt
Published February
Read January 30th 2013

Previous book (The Next Generation): Do Comets Dream?
Next book (The Next Generation: A Time To...): A Time to Die

Click to purchase A Time to Be Born from!

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

From the back cover:
The site of one of the Dominion War's fiercest battles, the Rashanar Sector now contains a vast interstellar graveyard littered with the lifeless hulks of hundreds of devastated starships. The explosive destruction of so many varied warp drives has severely distorted the space-time continuum in this region, resulting in dangerous unleashed energies and bizarre gravitational anomalies.
The Enterprise has been assigned to patrol the perimeter of the danger zone, while other vessels carry out the difficult and highly hazardous task of retrieving the bodies of the dead from the wrecked warships.
To some alien races, the former battleground is hallowed space. To others, including the rapacious Androssi, it is a scavenger's paradise, ripe for salvage. None expect this ship's graveyard to hold a deadly secret that will force the android Data to make a heart-wrenching decision about the path his life will take -- and that will endanger not only the Enterprise, but Picard's future in Starfleet.

My thoughts:

A little over two years ago, I started this blog primarily as a way to keep track of the Star Trek novels I had read and my own thoughts about them. In a way, A Time to Be Born and the subsequent novels in this series can be seen as the impetus for the creation of this site. You see, a few years ago, I read this novel and the four that immediately followed it, and I remember practically nothing from them. It was while trying to recall the events of this novel that it occurred to me that it may be a good idea to chronicle my thoughts on each of the novels I read so as to better remember them years later. And thus, Trek Lit Reviews was born.

In A Time to Be Born, the Enterprise is assigned to the Rashanar battle site along with the U.S.S. Juno under the command of Captain Leeden, which has been there for some time. Every single vessel that took part in the large Dominion War battle at Rashanar was destroyed or completely disabled. Why and how this occurred is a complete mystery. However, the Enterprise crew soon learns that whatever caused all of the combatants to fight to the death may still be operating in the massive starship graveyard. Working with the Ontailians, who control the sector that contains the battle site, Starfleet is attempting to retrieve their war dead as well as any materiel that can be salvaged from the dead hulks. Making that job more difficult, maybe even impossible, are scavengers and pirates who are raiding the "boneyard" for anything they can get their hands on. The mission is met by one setback after another, including the theft of the Enterprise's captain's yacht by Androssi scavengers. The untenable situation comes to a head when the U.S.S. Juno is lost with all hands. Finally, an incident in which the Enterprise seemingly destroys an Ontailian cruiser on Picard's orders brings the mission to an inauspicious end. The Enterprise returns home in disgrace, Picard faces a formal inquiry, and relations between the Ontailians and the Federation seem dire indeed.

The A Time To... miniseries is made up of nine books set during the time between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis. While there is a certain amount of throughline story-wise in all nine books, they are essentially four sets of duologies plus a final book by Keith DeCandido. Therefore, A Time to Be Born sets up the story, with the conclusion in the following book, A Time to Die. For the most part, A Time to Be Born does a very good job in setting up a compelling story. It was interesting, if a little unsettling, to see Picard brought low and somewhat disgraced. As someone who is typically portrayed as a paragon of virtue and justice, it is fascinating to see how he responds to scandal. Vornholt has a very good handle on the characters, and it is to his credit that he is able to show the characters realistically reacting to situations they've never experienced before. He is even able to throw Wesley Crusher into the mix, and we see his abilities as a Traveler showcased for the first time. I thought that the way he insinuated himself into events as the nondescript and unnoticed Ensign Brewster was truly inspired.

A Time to Be Born sets up an interesting situation for Picard and his crew. Disgraced and under psychiatric care, Picard remains determined to return to the Rashanar battle site and clear his name, his crew eager to do so as well. With some unlikely allies, it looks as though the second part will showcase just that. It has a lot to live up to, as I found the setup in this novel to be very well done.

Final thoughts:
It is interesting that I recall so little from this book after having read it years ago. I expected the story to be quite forgettable (seeing as I forgot it), but I was definitely into it this time around. The action, pacing, and characters were all pitch-perfect. While not necessarily the best-written Trek story, there is certainly no reason to think that it's forgettable or uninteresting. A pretty solid character exploration for Picard and others, with some unexpected twists and turns that make it fairly compelling. A solid 4/5.

More About A Time to Be Born:

Also by John Vornholt:

A Time To...

My next read:

Part two of this duology, A Time to Die, coming soon!

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