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The Trek Nation - A Time To Be Born & A Time To Die

A Time To Be Born & A Time To Die

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at March 14, 2004 - 8:57 AM GMT

Title: Star Trek: A Time to be Born
Author
: John Vornholt
Publication Date
: February 2004
Format
: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN
: 0-7434-6765-5

Title: Star Trek: A Time to Die
Author
: John Vornholt
Publication Date
: February 2004
Format
: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN
: 0-7434-6766-3


Star Trek Nemesis left a large gap in the Star Trek universe timeline and a lot of unanswered questions in the minds of the fans. Not the least of which were questions like, what happened to Data's emotion chip? Where did Wesley come from? Why did Beverly decide to return to Starfleet Medical? A new series of nine novels known collectively as A Time to... will spend the better part of this year trying to answer some of those very questions while telling their own unique stories.

The first of those novels is a two-part story. The recently-released titles A Time to be Born and A Time to Die by John Vornholt have the difficult task of getting the ball rolling on a series of stories that are meant to build on one another and count down to the events of Nemesis. As an opening salvo A Time to be Born and A Time to Die do a barely passable job in a story that mixes a few interesting elements with some really ludicrous ones and throws in a lot of things we've seen before. Before you go any further I want to warn you that this review does contain spoilers.

In A Time to be Born the U.S.S. Enterprise-E has been assigned to patrol the Rashanar Sector, an area of space called "the boneyard". The site of one of the Dominion War's largest and costliest battles, the entire area is a vast graveyard of dead ships, and a source of ongoing trouble for the recovering Federation. Dangerous anomalies, unexplainable phenomenon, and extremely determined adversaries are but the tip of the iceberg as Picard and his crew become drawn into a chain of events beyond their control.

Watching over them as things go from bad to worse is Wesley Crusher. Having served his apprenticeship he is now a Traveler and as a Traveler he can observe but not interfere. When a vessel belonging the Ontailians, a recent addition to the Federation, is destroyed under mysterious circumstances Starfleet needs a scapegoat and Captain Picard fits the bill. To the dismay of his crew Picard is removed from command and placed in the custody of Counselor Cabot at Medical Mental Health.

As A Time to Die picks up the story Wesley has decided that he can't just sit back and watch. Using his powers as a Traveler he sets events in motion that will, hopefully, allow the Enterprise to return to Rashanar and clear the Captain's name. Acting Captain William Riker and a downcast crew face a seemingly impossible task, the only way to clear Picard is to solve the mystery of what's happening at Rashanar, but they are willing to risk everything, their careers and their very lives to aid Picard.

This series is being billed as "the story of what set them on a path away from the Starship Enterprise". There's a long way to go before we'll know how close the authors involved in creating the series come to fulfilling that billing but A Time to be Born and A Time to Die aren't the most promising way to begin. It certainly starts off in the right direction by answering one major question: what happened to Data's emotion chip? Overall though, the few interesting elements in the story were overshadowed by the weaknesses.

The Wesley Crusher subplot is strong and the most interesting aspect of the entire story. I know many fans despised the character of Wesley Crusher and his annoying habit of saving the Enterprise and although I wouldn't say I was firmly in that camp he was never exactly a favorite of mine. In these novels, however, Wesley isn't teen wonder boy. This Wesley has not only matured but he is most definitely an alien, and a mighty interesting alien at that.

Unfortunately most of the other alien species involved in the story don't quite work. The author just has too many things going on that start out capturing your interest but then seem to get lost along the way so that you can't help but wonder why they were included in the first place. Take the Androssi for example, they show up initially in A Time to Be Born, prove themselves to be both clever and formidable, and then by the half way point of A Time to Die they are just the name of the species of a character whose role is just a plot device that doesn't quite work.

As antagonists the Ontailians don't work either. Or at least they didn't for me. They would be entirely forgettable if they weren't slightly ridiculous. At least they provide some comic moments.

There were, however, just enough interesting scenes, like the Orion base camp, sprinkled throughout the story to keep me turning the pages. Those brief moments of entertainment coupled with the Wesley subplot kept me going only to suffer the ultimate disappointment, a weak ending.

Regrettably, my enjoyment of Wesley's role in this story was in the end spoilt to some degree by the author's decision to take the easy way out and hit the reset button which robbed the story of much of its emotional impact. A Time to Die does leave you with the impression that Wesley's story isn't quite finished yet though and wanting to know more about the ways of the Travelers.

The major plot points of each A Time to... novel will be recapped in subsequent novels so it is not necessary to read all the titles in this series. With a total of nine books, many readers may want to pick and choose which ones they read. There's a long way to go and still a lot of unanswered questions to be answered. Hopefully the rest of them will be answered in a more fulfilling way.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.