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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

on 5 March 2010
A Time to Heal is another good David Mack contribution to the star trek line, although I didn't find it as interesting as the previous novel in the series. This one seemed more predictable, with the culmination of the plot fairly obvious on the basis of knowing later events from seeing the film set later than it. This stripped Riker's incarceration of all its weight and made Doctor Crusher's ridiculously slow decision making tortuous.

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.
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on 31 January 2005
The second last enstalment of the A Time to Series, charting the time between Insurrection and Nemesis. It is a powerful booka and very much the strongest of the series in terms of its analogy to modern events, the character developments and its clever engaging of many elements of Star Trek lore.
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. A particularly powerful scene is a young child singing a song which a Tezwan tells a Starfleet officer is in fact a song mourning for the death of the planet. At the end of which the child jumps off the building. Its sudden and unexpected and all the more strong in its impact for it.
The political manouvering within the Federation and Starfleet are particularly interesting to read. Especially when Starfleet (which represent a military system in some respects) intervenes to remove the Federation president (with good reason as the reader will see). This again is one of my favourite parts of the book.
Its was a wonderful addition to a book series which has been strong throughout and reached the apex in this book. A Time to Heal was and is the best Star Trek book i have read in terms of sheer emotional impact and its clever use of contemporary issues.
I hope you enjoy it as much as i did.
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on 19 May 2005
One of the common things about the books in Star Trek's A Time to... series is that the two books by the same author are just one continuing story. There's a cliffhanger at the end of the first book and then the second one goes on from there. While David Mack's A Time to Heal is the same in this respect, it is much different in tone and substance from it's predecessor, A Time to Kill. The first book had very short chapters and moved at a frenetic pace. The political intrigue was there, but it was mixed in with six separate special operations missions that filled the book with the tension of one thing going wrong making the whole thing fall to pieces. A Time to Heal, instead, is much more introspective. There is still a lot of violence (and the infamous David Mack body count), but the passages are much longer, the violence much more personal, and the deaths a lot more meaningful. This is another outstanding book.
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. If they are allowed to continue, a government could fall. Or is that exactly what Section 31, the infamous secret intelligence organization, wants?
I'll get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, this book reads like a novel about the war in Iraq, and if you want to see it as a political novel, you're more than welcome to. Personally, I think there's enough ambiguity in the book that it's not clear that Mack is using it to make a political statement. Personally, I choose to read it as a novel set in a situation similar, but not exactly the same. Mack has obviously used current events as a springboard to an interesting story, and that's all I'm interested in.
And the story *is* interesting. In many of my reviews of this series, I have stated how wonderful it is that we are getting to know various other crewmembers of the Enterprise in some detail. This comes to a head in A Time to Heal, as many of these people we have come to know die pretty tragically in this book. Some do survive, so you are still able to be surprised when a death finally happens. Mack's ability to make each death felt by the reader is unmatched. These are not just faceless characters, given a character trait or two for identification, ready to be bumped off at a moment's notice. The carnage really does begin to affect you. While the book is extremely interesting, this causes it to be a little depressing and hard to get through as well.
In fact, that's probably the major strike against the book. It gets very oppressive very quickly and then stays that way for long passages. The death and destruction is vividly told, but it's also constant. Thus, it may not fit what you expect a Star Trek novel to be and you may not enjoy it. If you skip it, however, you will be missing one of the pivotal books in the whole Star Trek series, as events in this novel lead into both the next book (A Time for War, A Time for Peace) and the continuation of both Riker's story as captain of the Titan (Taking Wing) and the Enterprise's story (A Death in Winter). Just be ready for a little grimness before all of this.
The characterization in A Time to Heal is much the same as in the previous book. Beverly Crusher gets a lot more characterization as she not only starts leaning toward accepting the position at Starfleet Medical, but finds a love interest that may spur Picard into finally making a move on her after all these years of guilt-ridden friendship. The scene where Picard comes to her quarters for breakfast and discovers crumpled sheets is wonderful. Riker gets to act all stoic as he's held prisoner for most of the book, and Troi gets some counseling of her own, which isn't quite as interesting. LaForge and Data are mostly characterized through their attempts to track down what's really happening, though Data gets a lot of development as the acting first officer in Riker's absence. In fact, that may be the best part of the book, as we get to see him in action, running constant battle drills because of the situation that they're in. It's a vivid contrast to Riker's command style, and it's a major impetus for Riker when he finally returns.
The only character who suffered much was actually Picard, as he's not really prominent in the book. He seems to be very "hands-off" during the occupation and he doesn't seem very effective. Most of the concentration in the book is on everybody else, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. He just doesn't seem to be as "in charge" as he usually does, which doesn't seem like him. He really comes into his own during the conversation with the admirals, near the end of the book. He steers them around to his way of thinking very nicely.
All in all, A Time to Heal is a wonderful book that's just hard to get through at times. The continuing violence gets a bit monotonous after a while, but the attempts by the government to cover up what's really going on do help to break that up a little. What we're left with is a great book that leads into the final book in the series. If you're thinking of continuing the Next Generation saga, then this book is definitely important. Feel free to read whatever politics you want into it as well.
David Roy
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