The third book in the A Time to… Star Trek: TNG series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 315 plus a short preview of the next book
Publisher: Pocket Books

The Dokaalan are facing disaster: their planet is experiencing a series of earthquakes which are only escalating until they are threatening to destroy the civilization. The Dokaalan have a very limited capability for space travel and while they have a few mining colonies on nearby asteroids, they can’t evacuate their whole race. The people in the colonies can only watch with horror. As a last attempt, they send probes to space, pleading for help.

Decades later, a Vulcan vessel finds one of those probes but concludes that it’s too late to do anything. Earth Admiral Forrest suggests sending the newly commissioned Enterprise of the NX class to investigate but it would take a long time to get to the Dokaalan’s planet in an unexplored region of space and so the Enterprise is sent elsewhere.

A couple of hundred years later, Enterprise-E is in a political hot water and the Federation decides to send Captain Picard to investigate what happened to the Dokaalans and to explore that region. The experienced officers and crew aren’t happy about it but they have to obey.

In the wake of the previous books’ mess, some people think that Picard’s best days are behind him and that he might have succumb under the weight of all the tragedy and torture he has endured during his career. His crew and Admiral Nechayev still support him and he’s still in command of the Enterprise-E. But the Enterprise is sent to essentially a milk run and some of the officers grumble about it. Still, the voyage alone will take almost a month and take them to an unexplored region of space which might be dangerous. However, nobody mentions the possible dangers or rewards of exploration which I found a bit odd considering that ordinarily exploration is Federation’s main thing.

The book has a lot of references to previous events from the First Contact movie and various TNG episodes which was great. Picard is even reading a fictional book about first contact between humans and Vulcans, and thinks that it didn’t go like that. We also get to see a couple of familiar secondary characters: Lieutenant Taurik from engineering and nurse Alyssa Ogawa. Ambassador Worf is thinking of a way to help his former crew mates and the EMH program is needed later in the book. This is very much a fan friendly, or even fan geared, book.

Beverly Crusher has been offered a job as the head of Starfleet Medical and she’s seriously considering taking it. On the other hand, she feels that she can’t abandon Picard before he’s back in the good graces of the Admiralty. Picard himself resents that his crew is under suspicion because they are innocent, and on occasion he doubts his own decisions afterwards, because he knows that the Admiralty is watching him closely. Riker is again thinking about getting his own command and LaForge is resentful to the Admiralty because they took away Data’s emotion chip.

The book starts with a translation from one of the Dokaalans. He lives in a mining colony and is writing a journal about the events during the earthquakes. It’s pretty grim reading. There are short chapters of the journal from time to time throughout the first half of the book.

The pacing is pretty slow and contemplative. This is, by the way, an observation and not a complaint. I really like it when Trek has different types of episodes. One can be a contemplative episode about the nature of humanity or meeting of two different cultures and another can be a spy mission and third an action adventure.

Compared to the first two books, the new characters don’t take over the same way but the pacing is much slower and there isn’t an overall tension in the book until near the end. There are a couple of twists in the book after the half way point and they are all left open for the next book.

This is an interesting contrast to the previous books and the writing style is some what better. However, there’s a lot of repetition which can get tedious.