Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Time to Sow/A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore

timetosow timetoharvest

A minute ago you said we were out of options and that there was no chance of finding anything new.
I was simply trying to get the EMH to shut up.  Have I mentioned yet how much I despise those things?
-Doctor Beverly Crusher and Doctor Tropp, U. S. S. Enterprise


In the time of Jonathan Archer, the Vulcan ship Ti’Mur picks up a distress call-one from a world in danger of complete destruction.  Unfortunately, it has traveled a great distance, and the Vulcans have to go pull Archer’s fat out of the fire-and so the mystery of the danger to the Dokaalan people goes unsolved….  Until now.  This is the present mission of the U. S. S. Enterprise in the books A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest.  This is the second pair of novels detailing the events that bridge the gap between the Next Generation movies “Insurrection” and “Nemesis”; if you haven’t read the first books, A Time to be Born and A Time to Die, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, but this pair of books brings the casual reader up to speed nicely on their own.

Things have rarely been so bad for Captain Picard and his crew.  Thanks to the events in the previous duology, the Enterprise is considered an unlucky ship, one that has a captain in the twilight of his career.  Doctor Beverly Crusher is considering taking a position as Surgeon General at Starfleet Medical; Commander Data is dealing with the removal of his emotion chip; and the ship is under orders to investigate a 200 year old mystery which can be best described as “low priority”.  This is not the kind of mission that the crew of this ship is used to having (the phrase “overqualified” comes to mind).

It isn’t much of a surprise to see that in one respect, the Enterprise arrives too late.  There’s not much left of the Dokaalan homeworld.  Yet the Dokaalan still live, and they’re in the midst of an ambitious project-transforming another world to allow them to settle upon it instead of surviving in a colony amongst asteroids.  However, it seems that this first contact isn’t greeted with universal joy; Enterprise arrives as one of the Dokaalan outposts loses life support-and it is discovered that it wasn’t an accident.  As the crew works to assist the Dokaalan, more acts of sabotage occur, some of the rescued Dokaalan are ailing, and unknown to the Enterprise crew, the flagship of the fleet is not immune to infiltration.  If that isn’t enough, there are others watching the work of the Dokaalan with great interest.

While in some ways this is a fairly standard Trek book (see crew; see crew meet aliens; see one faction like crew, and one faction distrust crew; mix), I felt it was a stronger duology than the last one.  Instead of trying to save a planet, they’re trying to help a race build a new one.  It’s a bit of a twist on the usual formula, and one I appreciated.  And I have to admit that I liked the Dokaalan attitude:  one has to admire a people who have managed to survive such adversity, and get to the point where it’s very likely that they’ll have a new true homeworld in their own time.

There are a number of nice character moments; Picard and Crusher having dinner again for the first time in a real long time; a few scenes with the newer members of the crew (Vale, Taurik, and Perim); and a message from a Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire to Will Riker, which may have a bit to do with a future transfer of his own.  Picard has to deal with the dangers of second-guessing himself after his recent fall from grace in Starfleet, while Geordie and Data have to deal with Data’s return to emotionlessness (although that quickly becomes the least of Data’s problems).  And I’ll give points to Ward and Dilmore for using an alien race that I certainly never expected to see again.  I take off, however, for how easily the Enterprise gets infiltrated-you’d think that after a war in which even tables could be shapeshifting Founders, the ship’s security procedures would be a mite better….

Still, A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest is a solid bit of storytelling, both on their own and as a part of the continuing story arc.

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Categories: Star Trek, The Next Generation | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystic Warrior, by Tracy and Laura Hickman

mysticwarriorDon’t you see, Galen?  You can’t go home.  This is who you are.  You’re trying to run away from yourself-from who you really are.  No man can run that fast or that far.
-Rhea, Maddoc’s wife


I was uncertain about picking up this book.

The truth is, while I love Tracy Hickman’s work in collaboration with Margaret Weis (especially for the Dragonlance and Death Gate books), I wasn’t enthused by the one solo offering of his that I had read.  On the other hand, I figured that perhaps that work was an aberration-so I picked up Mystic Warrior, the first in the Bronze Canticles series.  Just goes to show that it’s often a good idea to give someone another chance.

The setting of the Bronze Canticles is actually a trio of settings-three worlds that are seemingly separate, yet in a strange way connected.  One world, Aerbon, is populated by dwarves and humans who live at the whims of five mighty dragons.  The world of Sine’shai is inhabited by faeries, at war with Famadorians-creatures such as centaurs, satyrs, and minotaurs-and with each other.  And finally, there is G’tok, a world inhabited by goblins-and by the unmoving remains of great metallic Titans, as well as assorted mechanical devices that no longer seem to work.

The connection between these worlds seem to focus through the dreams/visions of certain people in each world.  In Sine’shai, the Fae Seeker named Dwynwyn is featured in the dreams.  In G’tok, an “engineer” named Mimic seems to have had a vision or two of his own.  And in Aerbon-well, it seems that a number of people have been afflicted by these dreams.  One such is Galen Arvad, a blacksmith; not only does he have the dreams, he also has the dubious gift of hearing the conversation of inanimate objects.  Unfortunately, this marks him as one of the Elect on this world-people who are taken away by the Inquisitors of the Pir Drakonis (“People of the Dragon”).  Galen was able to avoid being discovered for a long time-but luck runs out sometime, and it happens early in the book.

Mystic Warrior is primarily concerned with the actions of Galen, and others that he comes into contact with on Aerbon.  The Inquisitor Tragget is fairly central to the story, as he not only hold a significant position in the Vasskan Church, he also secretly shares the dreams that Galen has.  Also of note is Maddoc, a fellow who is-for lack of a better term-imprisoned with Galen, who believes that real life is the dream, and his dreams are the reality (and he has one of the best lines of the book:  watch for the Secret Brotherhood…!).  And while those who are Elected are generally considered dead to the world, Galen’s wife, Berkita, isn’t quite willing to give up on him, nor is his friend-the dwarf Cephas.  (And while I like the character of Cephas, I hate his style of speech.  It probably wouldn’t bother me if I knew if “er” was a noun, verb, adjective….)

There’s a bit of time spent with the Fae in the book as well, and I have to say that I found it an interesting take on such beings.  When reading about faeries, one tends to think of trickery, deception, and mostly frivolous; one doesn’t expect them to be at war with everyone-and I certainly didn’t expect to see that the Fae do not lie-period.  Truth is very important to them, and the position of Seeker is dedicated to discovering new truths; such truths may even turn the tides of war.  As far as the goblins…well, to be honest, while I hope to see a bit more of them, I was a little underwhelmed by Mimic and his work to move up the social ladder (thanks to his knack for getting a mechanical device to actually work).  Still, we’re early in the series, and a lot can happen in future books.

As far as magic goes:  well, it’s interesting.  It’s certainly different than your usual hocus-pocus, and it’s a little tricky to understand; fortunately, there’s an appendix that helps describe it, along with other major details about the setting.

I found Mystic Warrior to be a fairly good read, and a great improvement over the last solo effort of his that I’d read (although I must give credit where credit is due:  this book wasn’t a solo effort; Laura Hickman is the co-author, and I don’t want to miss acknowledging credit to her).  While much was revealed about Aerbon in this book, there’s still mysteries to discover, and we haven’t really scratched the surface of G’tok, nor do we have anything remotely resembling resolution in Sine’shai-which means there’s plenty of room to explore in the next books.  I’d say that this has the makings of a pretty good series.

Categories: The Bronze Canticles | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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