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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/30/2004 Archived Entry: "Trek book review: A Time to Sow"

Star Trek – Book 3: A Time to Sow
By: Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Published by: Pocket Books (a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

*available as a downloadable eBook!

Reviewed by Kathy LaFollett

With the Federation Politicos still wincing, the Ontailians still having their undies in a bind, and the echo of the Rashanar incident ringing in everyone’s ears we find The Enterprise, again Captained by our daring Jean-Luc Picard, heading toward an unknown and unvisited corner of space (which by definition is what Starfleet is all about).

Politically speaking, The Federation needed a goose chase far away to send Jean-Luc on until the chatter and heat from the Rashanar Incident subsided.

At the Epoch of Picard’s political conundrum a message was received in Federation Space. A message sent more than 2 centuries ago by the Dokaalan as they faced the destruction of their planet and the possible end of their race. A message pleading for help and interception received centuries too late.

The Federation placed The Enterprise in the Goose Chase of locating and researching the possible origin of the message as well as the Dokaalan race.

The Goose Chase turns into a stunning moment as Jean-Luc and his crew locate the last of the Dokaalan living as a colony fighting to stay alive in a makeshift asteroid belt. The surviving citizens also surprise the Enterprise travelers by revealing their plans to terraform a planet for future generations to repopulate and recreate a planet life lost generations ago.

But politics, discord and bitter feelings are not only found within The Federation. Even The Dokaalans seem to have time for such emotional ends while simply trying to survive.
Soon Jean-Luc and his best fleet members are battling terrorists, sabotage and possibly a second race infiltrating the Dokaalan’s for their own benefit.

Ward and Dilmore have a fine writing style together. If Book 2 was fantasy romance, the Book 3 is Political Stellar Intrigue. The first ¾ of the book reads quickly while filling in many gaps left behind in other book series. I very much appreciated the pace, syntax and story layout they produced. Book 3 is a very fleshy book with finite details that will be most interesting to any Next Generation fan.

Things turn dark quickly as an assassination takes place removing 2 Dakaalan Senators. This scene, reads more like a screenplay rather than a book as it is abrupt and shocking with little fanfare. Although this execution obviously is chosen for the shock value coupled with the line drawn for the reader saying, “Things are going to get messy now.” I found it dry and lacking compared with the first 250 pages.

Stephen King once said that he can point out scenes in many of his books that at the time did not please him, but worked well enough. It solved a plot, character, or motivation problem, but only slightly.

This is how I took the assassination scene. But the line it drew in the sand was not “Things are going to get messy now.” but rather, “We are getting bored telling this story, so get ready for redundant characters, rehashed motives, and repackaged rhetoric.”

It seems an antagonist of prime import to the terrorist side of things is a shape shifter of some means. Relying on an energy field to acquire his victim’s appearance, he infiltrates the Enterprise and all its databases.

I feel the shape shifting (by any means) is cheating. Fiction can go anywhere it wants as long as the reader doesn’t feel cheated from invented, irreverent or ingenious new logic. Fiction readers are not stupid. They WANT to be convinced of a new order to things.

This shape sifter was cheating a quick fix to a plot problem.

Our arch nemesis also seems quite able to hack ALL the databases on the Enterprise easily and deafly. He in fact, laughs at and belittles the software he is hacking, much like a Linux user degrades Windows. His hacking is narrated so weakly that we the reader are asked to believe that passwords owned by Enterprise Ensigns are enough to allow him to access the very core of the database, extract and download encrypted data onto his terminal unencrypted and ready for use, all the while chuckling to himself in wonderment as to the sloppiness of humans and their software. Also, humans are smelly to this guy. It is made abundantly clear that humans are vile smelly creatures.

“The Matrix” anyone? Remember the scene where Agent Smith is grilling Morpheus in the glass headquarters and he laments the “stench” of “this place”?

“Matrix Reloaded” and “Revolutions” anyone? Software programmers and programs prove to be the pivotal point of clarity. It’s all weak and a game and anyone can hack it.

The last chunk of this book slides fast and is weak.

The very idea of terra forming is old news. We were introduced to Project Genesis long ago by the Federation. It works, we know it works and fictionally speaking we know HOW it works. The Dakaalans are by description operating on 21st Century technology. That is to say they are struggling with technology not up to the task and making the process drag on for decades. When they are introduced to the power of the Federation, the technology of the Enterprise and the possibility of an advanced race and community helping them finish their terra forming early, the Dakaalan’s Leader refuses and declines any assistance stating accepting shortcuts and help would not respect or reflect the sacrifice and strength of the millions of Dakaalans that died before.

If I was one of those dead Dakaalans I would have come back and HAUNTED that Senator for saying something so stupid.

Trudging through to the end of the book, wanting the payback for swallowing all the weak and simplistic storylines I was greeted with a non ending; a, “to be continued” with a teaser for Book 4.

I will most definetly be reading Book 4 and am looking forward to it. They owe me a good ending for that last 60 pages in Book 3.

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