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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You won't find a good story in your navel, 24 Nov. 2004
This review is from: A Time to Sow (Star Trek: The Next Generation) (Mass Market Paperback)
With the first two books in the Time to... series out of the way, would two different authors be able to turn things around? In a way they do, but there is one major strike against it.
Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are still dealing with the political fallout from the last two books, and are sent on a mission to get them out of the way for a while. It's a bit of a milkrun, really. Many years ago, a probe dispatched from a distant area of the galaxy was found, but Starfleet, still in its infancy, didn't have the time or resources to do anything about it. Now, another probe has been found. Both probes speak of a civilization on a dying planet, and it was figured that getting there would take too long to rescue any survivors (since the probe took years to get to where the Vulcans found it to begin with). The Enterprise is sent to investigate what happened and see if they can find out what happened all those years ago. When they get there, they discover an asteroid field and radiation that wreaks havoc on their systems. They also find the remnants of survivors of the planet Dokaal, scraping out an existence among the asteroids on constructed mining colonies, alone for several hundred years. The survivors hope to terraform a planet further out in the system so that they can one day walk on solid ground again. The Enterprise offers whatever help they can, but dissension is threatening to tear the Dokaalan apart before anything can be done.
A Time to Sow is actually a lot better than I thought it was, once I get past the main fault (so I'll get it out of the way first). It is extremely overwritten. Long, very tedious introspection is the norm in this book, with Picard brooding about what happened in the first two books, Crusher brooding about not being able to save some of the Dokaalans killed in the explosion that brings the Enterprise to the mining colony, Picard again brooding about his decision to emergency transport some of the people who end up floating in space and how they ended up dying anyway. He does this despite the fact that the Picard I know would realize if he hadn't done it, they were dead anyway. What makes this particular brooding worse is that Picard *acknowledges* that they would have died anyway, but still keeps wondering if he made the right decision. I think that's my problem with the whole series, so far. They've turned Picard into this pod person who's awash in insecurities that I don't believe he would have. However, since that ties into the whole series, I'll ignore that part for now.
Excessive introspection is not the only way the book is overwritten, though. A Time to Sow is very heavy in Trek continuity references, and the authors feel they have to go into great gory detail about every single one of them to explain the reference to the (one or two?) non-Trek fans who are reading the book. Ok, I exaggerate a little, but I think there is a way to more concisely explain the reference than Dayton and Ward use here. Of course, there's an easier solution: DON'T USE SO MANY REFERENCES!! A few references, even explained in a couple of paragraphs, don't bog a book down. When they are excessive, though, that means there are a lot of paragraphs used for explanation when they could be used for storytelling. This is not good.
The writing is so heavy-handed that it outweighs a lot of the good points of the novel. The characters are, for the most part, well-written (even Picard is when he's not examining his situation for the one hundredth time) and the authors have created some interesting aliens in the Dokaalans. The journal entries by the First Minister, Hjatyn, give us the history of the planet in a very interesting way that doesn't feel like an infodump (unlike the continuity references). There are a wide variety of characters among the Dokaalans (though some who are more than they appear to be, to be revealed in the next book). The plot elements are tense and there are some good action scenes, especially the ending with Geordi and Taurik. The romantic elements between Troi and Riker, which were a small part of the problem with Vornholt's books, are virtually non-existent in this one. You can tell that they are together, but they act professionally when they are on the bridge together. Everything regarding plot and characterization is done very well.
Unfortunately, every time there gets to be a little tension, or something interesting starts to happen, the authors give us some interminable description or a lengthy monologue of a character's thoughts intrudes on the whole thing and brings the book to a screeching halt. I love learning about characters through their thoughts, but sometimes too much is too much. Introspection is a good thing. Navel-gazing isn't, and that's what we get a little too often in this book. Since it's pervasive throughout the entire book, neither author can be blamed for it. They're both like that. I've only read one other Ward book (his debut, In the Name of Honor, and it's a problem he's had since the beginning (at least the continuity reference problem).
All in all, this isn't that bad of a book, it just gets tedious at times. It splits the difference between Vornholt's two books, but it doesn't bode well for this whole series if the first three books are iffy at best. I'm not holding out a lot of hope for book four.
David Roy
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