A Time to Heal (Star Trek: The Next Generation) Mass Market Paperback – 4 Oct 2004
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About the Author
David Mack has received story credits on two televised episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His work on Star Trek books includes the 'minipedia' guide to the New Frontier universe that accompanies Peter David's New Frontier series.
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Top Customer Reviews
The planet Tezwa is under Federation occupation, as it was the only way to keep the secret that the Federation government had given advanced weapons to its despotic leader, Kinchawn, hidden. Kinchawn and his government escaped, however, and captured Commander Riker in the process. They head an insurgency of terror that kills many Starfleet officers as well as natives of the planet in bombings and other terror attacks. Captain Picard and the Enterprise head a fleet of Starfleet vessels to help the new Tezwan government maintain control, as well as to hunt Kinchawn down. Unbeknownst to them, many of their clean-up orders are designed to remove all evidence of the government's secrets. As things begin to spiral out of control on Tezwa, more and more Starfleet officers are killed, but Picard's crew also begin uncovering what really happened.Read more ›
The most prominent strength of this book was the character development. Deanna Troi stood out in this regard. With the capture of Riker in the previous book the author conveys a women that quickly loses her normal moral foundation and heaps her anger and hatred onto a captured Tezwa General. The author conveys this anger so effectively that you can almost feel it. Her actions certainly give weight to the phrase 'hell have no wrath like a woman scorned'. Picard and Beverly Crusher get some nice character development also. Crusher clearly wants something more with Picard but in true tragic love story style you know it will all end in tears with either failing to say what needs to be said.
The other strong character development within the book is in fact not the Enterprise crew members but in fact the President of the United Federation of Planets and his assistant. You get a real sense of who's pulling who's strings. And easy comparison will be drawn between this and the real life view of a weak President Bush being manipulated for staff at the Whitehouse.
Keeping to the theme of comparisons with recent political events. Parallels with Iraq are clear. The author conveys the sense of Tezwa a world being torn apart by insurgents and the urgent need for rebuilding. And the eventual need for heavy handed tactics by Starfleet to combat the situation.Read more ›
The story itself has surprising and interesting parallels with the Iraq war - here the Federation is fighting rebels on a planet it has invaded (but not 'occupied'), where the local leader has gone into hiding, and it was the Federation that had supplied the planet with weapons in the first place. Troi's temptations to torture a captive general were really well written - although possibly a little implausible - as her actions in my book certainly add up to psychological torture and I'm very surprised that the Starfleet regulations permit her to get away with it.
Mack writes the minor characters aboard the Enterprise just as well as the regulars, particularly focusing on Vale and Peart in security and Kell Perim - the way he dealt with these characters was really surprising and refreshing. Mack has also made a good bash at getting some romance into his novel - in one case I felt it really worked but in the other I found it unsatisfying, going the way of most trek romance in seeming very out of character.
Overall, I've enjoyed Mack's two novels in this series, and am glad that the final episode is by another of the best trek authors of the current generation, as going back to some of the recent dross after this would be a let down.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But if those are the things that A TIME TO HEAL did wrong, what did it do right? For one thing, even though it used current events as a template, it didn't take sides. Even the so-called villains have reasonable motives, if self-serving or misguided. Mack's portrayal of the tragedies of war, the horrors of combat, and the senselessness of violence is stirring and provocative. He challenges his readers' conceptions of the NEXT GENERATION characters as "pure" or "morally spotless" by putting them in situations where they must make really hard choices between doing the ethical thing and paying a terrible price, or bending their rules little by little in order to stave off disasters, only to find themselves suddenly knee-deep in compromise and complicity.
Another excellent element of this book is its use of supporting characters. The "little people" on the ship come to life in lots of well-dramatized incidents that give them personalities. We get to know them, in both their fragility and their heroism, making it truly poignant and upsetting when they meet gruesome fates.
The plotting of this book is superb; like A TIME TO KILL, action transpires in multiple places at once and encompasses dozens of characters, yet Mack keeps them all clearly drawn. The story has elements of humor and pathos, military tactics and political scheming, strangely bittersweet relationship arcs and an unrelenting sense of impending disaster. In addition, Mack's use of language is remarkably agile. By turns he can be stark, blunt and hard-hitting, then suddenly lyrical and lushly descriptive.
His characters also work on many levels. (Picard is the exception, as he seems to have faded into the background for most of this book. His few moments of pseudo-paternal concern from A TIME TO KILL have greater resonance than all his maudlin pining for Beverly Crusher in A TIME TO HEAL.) In particular, the one frequently underused character who finally got some real development was Deanna Troi. Finally, a STAR TREK main character is forced to confront a truly dark aspect of themselves and isn't able to brush it aside as something alien or "artificially induced" -- Troi must now grapple with the fact that she, like all people, carries the primitive seeds of cruelty in her nature. This is probably some of the best writing ever done for the Troi character.
It's easy to see why this book is so polarizing. It asks readers to realize that even an entity such as the Federation, which we have always been told stands for what is good and noble, can in times of terrible national stress forget the ideals it claims to defend. As the Federation president, his chief of staff, and a cabinet member work a criminal conspiracy to conceal the true reason for why Starfleet had to conquer and occupy the sovereign planet Tezwa, we see the Federation -- long considered STAR TREK's analog to the United States -- engaging in pre-emptive military action, telling one set of lies to its own troops, another to its allies, another to its accomplices on Tezwa... And when good people, like the crew of the Enterprise, are pressed into service based on lies and deception, their achievements, no matter how honorably they were engaged by our heroes, become tainted by the lies of the people who sent them into battle, into war, into conquest.
I don't think that Mack set out to tell a story of carnage and violence because he wanted glorify such evils --- I think this reads like the work of a writer who is appalled and horrified and very angry about what he has been seeing in the news. More than just another STAR TREK book, A TIME TO HEAL in my opinion, is a vicious polemic against a war and a point of view. It is dark, morally complex, violent, graphically brutal, tragic, and, frankly, brilliant.
Regardless of one's opinion of its story, or its conclusions, it is beautifully written. I would never expect everyone to love a book like this -- I don't think that's possible -- but I think it's definitely a book that is worthy of respect.
However, while i enjoyed the story the whole ending of getting rid of the President of the Federation and his aids by Section 31 was a little unbelievable. If Bill Clinton or George Bush (Senior and W.) disappeard tomarrow and were never heard from again I think people would start asking questions. I just can`t believe that the President of the Federation resigns and is never heard from again and no one is the wiser. Also, while Deep Space Nine did put a darker edge on the Star Trek series everyone for the most part stuck to their morals. These last two books have basically made the Federation just as bad (Schemers, liars and muderers) as the Romulans. It sort of takes away that cool innocence that Star Trek has. Star Trek seemed to try and show the good side of humanity and that the future holds promise and the Federation is above stuff like what happened in the books. So, its was a little out of character.
Going purely on entertainment level (which is a big chunk of how I rate anything), A Time to Heal doesn't match its predecessor A Time to Kill in terms of suspense generated by the Clancy-esque tactics and political maneuvering. The book is an even more somber tome than the previous novel. David Mack does a pretty good job of keeping track of all the different threads and helps bring clarity to the different parties all looking after their best interests. As mentioned before, goals shift around, so one minute the new Tezwan government is helping Picard and company and the next working to subvert them, even though what they're doing is for the greater good.
Character development that's been evolving since A Time to be Born continues to good effect in the book as well. Most notable actually is Geordi LaForge, whose shaken faith in Starfleet and the Federation way back in the first book helps give rise to his suspicions about what's going on with the orders from Starfleet Operations. The great thing is that it feels completely natural within this mini-series. I was trying to think about the main characters, but there really isn't any one character that stands out. Even Picard is mostly in the background. If anything, I'd say that the characters that get the most attention are Kell Perim and Jim Peart. Perim's arch in these two books seems to be the first casualty of Nemesis as since she didn't appear in the film, a reason had to be found for her not being there. Given the body count in this book, I guess I'm glad she didn't end up another corpse, but I also felt like I as a reader had missed something in the development of their relationship where she'd be suddenly willing to just walk away from Starfleet. The character of Doctor Hughes felt like too much of a plot device in that he seems to show up at just the right time during Dr. Crusher's indecisiveness about leaving to finally get her heading in one direction.
With the situation raveling so completely out of control in the final pages of the book, I started to wonder how exactly it was going to be wrapped up convincingly. It mostly succeeds, but also felt a bit over the top. It felt like suddenly everyone was gunning for our heroes and at the same time. As dour as it might have been, perhaps seeing more civilians caught in the crossfire might have helped make it more believable.
There's been a lot of talk about what happens in the final pages of this novel regarding people in high places. Suffice it to say, it strains credibility beyond the breaking point and makes absolutely no sense in the long run. All it really does is lower elements of the Federation to that of the mafia and it's sickening that this would even be considered. I've stewed on what happened for awhile now and I just can't see any upside to doing it. In the way it's done, it felt like it was going for shock value (because it's the Federation doing it) and thus felt shallow and cheap. I often felt the book was trying to rub the reader's face in a thinly veiled take on current events, but I get enough of that garbage where I work. I really don't want that in my recreational reading. Modern cynicism seems to have infected Trek and say that since we live in such a jaded time, then the Trek universe should be just as bereft of hope. It's damn unimaginative.
It also creates a contradiction in how Section 31 operates. If they're willing to do something this stupid and out in the open, then why didn't they just destroy Tezwa? The level of how vile Section 31 works changes from scene to scene and book to book. That there's a group out there willing to do whatever it takes, it robs the main characters of ever really having to make those hard choices. I thought the idea used to be that the Federation was such a great organization that there was no need for this sort of thing. This attempt to really subvert the idea of the Federation being a utopia is going over the top. I suppose no one in the book line opposes this happening, but while some will cry "it's fiction!" when doing what they please, I can't help but feel a lot has been snubbed because they just can't come up with anything better. Take it or leave it for what it's worth.
Reading "A Time to Kill," I was taken in by the Klingon side of things. Basically, without spoiling too much, the Klingons have a bone to pick with the world of Tezwa and it leads to a September 11 situation. What I felt wasn't dealt with, from the get-go, was the result of Worf's actions and how the Klingons were recovering from such a defeat (you have to see the loss of thousands as a major defeat, even for the warrior-driven Klingons). "Heal" though is a story all within itself. Sure, there are early mentionings of a few consequences that came with Worf's decisions in the previous book but the Klingons, for the most part, are not involved in "Heal." It leaves this particular duology with a sense that it's incomplete. The Worf and the Klingons do seem to play a role in the last book of the series, but as a reader, I wanted to know how the Klingons dealt with the big events in "Kill."
As for the rest of the book, it is, in my opinion, one of the top Next Generation tales. It is all about being challenged and accepting change, a theme that seems to run rampant in the "A Time to..." series. Each character is given their time in the spotlight. I was relieved to see that La Forge, Troi, Crusher and Riker, who are sometimes shoved to the margins as Picard and Data run the show, are given a lot to do. In Nemesis there seemed to be a more subued and mature La Forge; a tired character that seemed to "see" more than he was letting on. Finishing this book, I feel like Mack definately fleshed him out more and made him a character to really be respected and looked up towards. Crusher has been given a lot of attention in this series and "Kill" left her out of all the fun for the most part. In this tale, she has a budding romance and it looks as if it's exactly what is needed to get her to understand what she wants in a career and life. Riker and Troi are tested in this book as well. Riker is a prisoner of the bad guys, nothing new in novels. Yet, here he is truly pushed to the limits. There were moments when I found myself biting my lower lip or squinching at the description of what he was going through. Troi truly was given the role of a lifetime, finding her counseling and peaceful side broken, letting loose a darker Deanna Troi who finds herself on the counseling couch.
This book, unlike "Kill," flowed together better and the pace was good. I found it hard to keep up in "Kill" because of the staccato feel to each chapter and the ten million things going on at one time. "Heal" has longer chapters that fully explores each scene and situation before moving on to another section, aiding with the full understanding of what's going on. I enjoyed the scenes cutting from the Tezwa front where the Enterprise found itself in a war situation, then being able to travel back to Earth and see how the political situation was unraveling. As a reader, you can't help but to think that Mack is trying to get you to view the war on terrorism and American politics through this allegorical tale. This isn't the 1990s Next Generation where all can be solved within an hour. Time wise, the crew has been dealing with this one situation for a month. Riker is held captive for weeks, Troi finds herself giving up hope, Picard seems worn out, La Forge even appears to have come to an end of his tolerance of the Federation's involvement at Tezwa.
What I liked about this book also is that it was realistic. Each seen is detailed and written with descriptions that will leave you gasping. I had more emotional reactions to this novel than any other in the TNG genre I believe. Mack handles the Tezwa situation like a pro, taking you into the minds of some of the main adversary's helpers, giving you a haunting depiction of some of these demented and troubled characters, leaving you wondering what is going to happen, despite knowing there is a movie called "Nemesis" where everyone seems to be all cheers and having the ability to crack jokes. It does get graphic in some parts but I felt to understand how these characters came to accept these major changes in their lives, they needed these wounds to "heal" and move on. Each character is tested in this novel and each comes out a changed person. Except Data. He is there, but he comes out as rather flat and boring in this novel. Riker has a speech at the end though that wraps up Data and his "change," satisfying that character's involvement in the plot for me.
I liked the continuity that sort of came into the novel and appreciated some things being left out. Unlike "Kill," there is acknowledgement of the Rashanar incident of "A Time to be Born/Die." Still, I would think someone such as President Zife, Azernal, Nachayev, Ross, Nakamura... all of these people who have been there since the opening novel would make some mentioning of it. What led to Starfleet Command sort of trusting Picard with Tezwa? When did the Federation seem to get over and not care about the so called "career ending" events this series opened on? I shook my head, somewhat disapointed, that the premise still seems flawed and left undone. Nakamura, portrayed as a crazed man obsessed with Data, actually seems like a respectable man here. Picard doesn't show any resentment to the people, like Ross and Nakamura, who nearly took his command away! That seemed... off. Also, Ross is still being hinted as being involved with the "bad admirals" club but gone is that unlikeable figure from the first two novels. He's back to his Deep Space Nine portrayal, which is good, but still... I feel like there's a missing chapter that explains all of these things. Also, there is an appearance by another group that's been quite controversial in Star Trek in the past few years. Even though their involvement in Tezwa was cool, I was left wondering why and how they were involved. Also, have they always been there, since the Enterprise's decline in the polls?
Other than those complaints, I felt that "Heal" was explosive. It was fun and definately had me wondering how they were going to get themselves out of this one. The character of Vale, the new security chief, deserved to be on the cover of this novel I felt. This is more her character's novel than it is Picard's installment. I enjoyed Admiral Janeway's appearances but wondered why she seemed to be left out of the action at the end. She always seemed suspiscious of things going on, espescially in the "A Time to Love/Hate" duology. I also enjoyed seeing Admiral Edward Jellico, perhaps more famous in his New Frontier appearances than his "Chains of Command" appearance, play a part at the end of the novel.
This book has many great scenes, including one that has Troi on the verge of completely breaking out of character, one that nearly costs Crusher her life, and one that has Picard realizing some of his past mistakes and missed chances. It's a rather sad and depressing tale but "Heal" definately explains many of the changes and why some of these characters chose to move on from the Enterprise. I rarely feel a novel is worth five stars but for this journey David Mack takes the reader on, any less wouldn't do the tale any justice. This book adds substance and emotion that the early novels of the series lacked. It adds to the great arc that "A Time to Love/Hate" began, making you invest your emotions into these characters as for once, they aren't all perfect and living in a peace-driven world. Sure, this isn't the "Original Series" Trek with a perfect Earth and society. I don't think Mack was trying to say this was the future but rather if we choose to ignore the past, we're bound to make mistakes. This is the post Dominion War, and things have changed. It was this one war that led to the events of "A Time to Kill/Heal." For any Trek fan, this should be a must read for you. For those wary of the "A Time to..." series, if you aren't impressed by this book, you don't know good literature when it's offered to you.
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