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A Time To Kill, A Time To Heal

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at September 20, 2004 - 7:34 PM GMT

Title: Star Trek: A Time to Kill
Author: David Mack
Release Date: August 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-9177-7

Title: Star Trek: A Time to Heal
Author: David Mack
Release Date: September 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-9178-5

Every good story has certain components. David Mack understands how to use each and every component at his disposal in A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal to tell a story that is better than good; it is outstanding. With this duology, A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal, the seventh and eighth books in the A Time to… series of Next Gen novels, David Mack pulls out all the stops to provide an incredibly powerful, compelling and thought provoking story that features a strong dose of modern significance.

We already know that during the Dominion War the idealistic Federation was sometimes forced into morally questionable decisions in order to survive. Sometimes Federation representatives even took it upon themselves to set plans in motion that they believed served the greater good of the entire quadrant. In A Time to Kill we learn that during the war the Federation President, on the recommendation of his advisors, secretly armed the neutral planet of Tezwa, in direct violation of the Federation's treaties with the Klingon Empire.

Enter Kinchawn, the power hungry Prime Minister of Tezwa, who decides that the weapons he now controls give him the perfect opportunity to advance his own twisted agenda while making the Federation dance to his tune as those involved in arming a madman scramble to cover their tracks. Sent to diffuse the situation, but without the benefit of knowing of the Federation's culpability, Picard and crew find themselves caught up in events that quickly spiral out of control when Kinchawn, after offering safe passage, opens fire on the Enterprise and the Klingon ships that escort her.

What follows in the remainder of A Time to Kill and then continues to a stunning and climactic conclusion in A Time to Heal is a seat-of-your-pants action adventure story that manages to be surprisingly introspective and I'm reluctant to spoil it by giving away too much of the plot. Half the fun of reading this type of story is the surprising plot twists that come when the reader least expects them, and both A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal are chock full of shocking surprises. Just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

Mack has chosen to structure his story in an unusual way. Each book in this duology has an entirely different tone and pacing. In A Time to Kill the author sets an almost unrelenting pace. Events unfold at breakneck speed, taking place within a twenty-four hour time period. In A Time to Heal, however, Mack wisely slows things down a bit and the tone of the story entirely changes. Set over the course of several weeks the second half of the story becomes darker, grimmer and more character driven as Mack allows us to see how deeply there years of service to the Federation has affected the main characters. Of all the novels to this point in this series these two are the most balanced in terms of the use of the characters. Everyone has their moments to shine, their roles to play.

Kinchawn is the perfect villain in a story filled with scoundrels. There is a scene early in A Time to Kill where without batting an eyelash Kinchawn condemns his wife and children to certain death just to gain a little extra political leverage. With those two short paragraphs Mack leaves the reader with absolutely no doubt as to what type of man Picard is dealing with.

Mack's characterization of the political types is a lot subtler but once again he hits the bulls eye. The seemingly well meaning Federation President, an elderly Bolian named Min Zife seems at a total loss as to how to cope with the crisis of his own making so he allows the mastermind of his policies, his chief of staff, a Zakdorn strategist named Koll Azernal to spin an ever more deceptive web. Zife knows full well that the orders he allows Azernal to issue will mean the loss of millions of innocent lives but he sees himself as a patriot who is saving the Federation, a leader trapped in his own hellish version of the ends justify the means mentality.

By allowing the reader to view the unfold drama from various angles Mack continuously ratchets up the intensity. We see the point of view of just about everyone caught up in the crisis. The security officers desperately trying to restore some order amongst heartbreaking chaos, the bewildered and frightened residents of Tezwa, Klingons bellowing for revenge, Federation officials scrambling for cover and always lurking in the background there is a shadow of a secrecy that is chillingly effective.

These two books may have originally been conceived as another chapter in the long drawn out series of novels meant to explain why the crew of the Enterprise was ready to go their separate ways by the time of Star Trek: Nemesis but in the hands of David Mack A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal are much more than just the seventh and eighth books in a series of nine. While skillfully fulfilling all of his obligations to the overall series he manages to elevate the story above it.

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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.

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