A Star Trek: The Next Generation: Time #7: A Time to Kill Mass Market Paperback – Aug 1 2004
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About the Author
David Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies. He co-developed the acclaimed Star Trek Vanguard series and its sequel, Star Trek: Seekers. His writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), film, short fiction, magazines, comic books, computer games, and live theater. He currently resides in New York City.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1: U.S.S. Enterprise-E
The blaster pulse stretched with a surreal, elastic quality as it missed Commander William Riker, who had been pushed out of harm's way at the final moment by his father, Kyle Riker. The audible sizzle of the beam striking Kyle was muffled by the older man's agonized shout. Kyle fell, leaden and limp. His creased face was slackened and blank, the defiant spark of his life robbed from him by a bloodthirsty Bader gunman. Kyle struck the floor next to Will. His age-softened body landed with an unceremonious thud, the sickly-sweet reek of his charred flesh overpowering in the frigid, subarctic air....
Commander William Riker shuddered awake from his nightmare. Hot tears of anger stung his eyes. The desperate expression of his murdered father's face haunted his sight like an afterimage.
He couldn't count how many times during his childhood his father had admonished him, "Boys don't cry, Will." For as long as he had strived to break free of his father's influence, he'd never been able to emancipate himself of the old man's damnable yoke of stoicism.
Not until now.
He turned his head and looked at Deanna Troi, his on-again, off-again, then on-again lover -- and now his fiancée. She slept next to him, her cascade of dark hair spilling wildly across a pair of broad pillows. Her face was serene in the pale glow of starlight.
He checked the chronometer. It was just after 0400 hours. Taking care not to wake Deanna, he inched his arm out from under the covers. He gently folded back the sheets and sat up. He looked back at her. Her breaths were long and deep, her slumber untroubled. A more selfish man might have envied her; Riker took comfort in her peaceful repose and half-smiled, grateful for the good fortune that had brought his sweet Imzadi into his life.
Scratching at his beard, he stood and walked out into the main room. Closing his eyes, he stopped in front of the row of sloping, narrow windows in the ceiling and gazed at the cold, sterile beauty of the stars. He took a long breath, one deep enough that he could feel it press his chest outward. He held it, savored it for a moment, then let it go. He marveled at the feeling, at how he could take for granted the very tides of his own life and death. A thousand times a day we breathe in and we're full, he thought. A thousand times a day we breathe out and we're empty.
Empty was how he'd felt every day since he'd watched his father die. Since the moment he saw a lifetime of unfinished business become an eternity of missed opportunities.
Perhaps it had been irony -- or an example of karmic balance -- but less than a week ago, upon returning from his father's appropriately terse and unsentimental funeral, Riker had been contacted by Admiral Kathryn Janeway, who'd offered him the captain's chair on the Titan.
The ship, she'd said, was still in spacedock undergoing a final series of upgrades and mandatory inspections. It would be ready for active duty in a few months. Riker had asked for time to think it over, and she'd graciously agreed. But she'd also made it clear the offer wouldn't remain open indefinitely.
For most career Starfleet officers, an offer such as this was a once-in-a-lifetime shot at command. For those lucky few who were invited to take their place in the big chair, the very rarity of the offer made the decision to say yes easy and immediate. Riker, on the other hand, held the dubious distinction of having refused more offers of command than any other active Starfleet officer. Almost fifteen years ago, he'd chosen to serve as Captain Jean-Luc Picard's first officer aboard the Enterprise-D rather than take command of the Drake. Roughly eighteen months later, he'd declined Starfleet's offer to captain the Aries.
For most officers, refusing two commands in less than two years would be the end of their career track. But Riker was offered a third bite at the apple, during the Borg crisis of 2366, when Starfleet Command all but begged him to take command of the Melbourne. He'd passed up that chance, as well, but shortly afterward received a field promotion to captain of the Enterprise-D when Picard was captured by the Borg and transformed temporarily into Locutus.
A few days later, after Riker had risked everything to save his captured commanding officer, he'd heard the whispers of the Enterprise crew, most of whom couldn't believe he'd actually requested demotion to his former rank of commander so he could continue to serve as Picard's trusted Number One.
That was more than twelve years ago, and since then Starfleet had stopped offering him command posts. Until now.
He sighed and stroked his graying beard for a moment. Why now? he wondered to himself. Why did it have to be now?
He stepped over to the replicator. "Water, cold."
The singsong whine of the replicator crested, then faded. A faintly glowing swirl of atoms coalesced into a squat, square-sided drinking glass three-quarters filled with pure, cool water. Riker picked it up and drank half of it in a few gulps. He let out a satisfied breath, then downed the rest of it. He put the empty glass back in the replicator and pressed the matter-reclamation key. He turned and walked back to the windows as the replicator dematerialized the empty glass.
The timing of Janeway's offer couldn't have been more awkward, in Riker's opinion. The last few months had been unkind to the Enterprise-E in general, and to Captain Picard in particular. The Rashanar incident had led to a politically motivated tarnishing of the captain's reputation -- and, by extension, a blemish on the prestige of the ship and its crew. Consequently, several dozen crew members and officers had made formal requests for transfer off the ship.
At the same time, the personnel sent recently to the Enterprise by Starfleet Command seemed to be individuals whose records were checkered with disciplinary problems, poor work evaluations, or borderline psychiatric profiles.
Riker and Troi had done everything they could to convince their shipmates not to leave, but, with only a few notable exceptions, they'd been unable to prevent the exodus of many of the ship's best department chiefs and noncommissioned officers. Every high-profile departure had been another blow to the esteem of the Enterprise and her captain, and Riker knew full well that rumors were spreading through Starfleet that the Enterprise had become a ship where failing careers were sent to die.
And now Starfleet was inviting its first officer to join the growing ranks of the Enterprise's recently departed, accompanied by his wife-to-be, who was also the ship's senior counselor. If the two most vocal defenders of Picard's integrity left the ship for greener pastures, the damage to the crew's morale might prove irreparable. Picard's credibility as a commanding officer would be all but ruined by gossip and innuendo. Riker had to wonder if the timing of this offer from Starfleet had been intended to serve exactly that purpose.
Riker didn't want to abandon Picard at a time such as this; the captain had been more than a commanding officer to him, more than a comrade. He'd been a true friend, and, in many ways, like the father Riker had always wished Kyle could have been. But at the same time, this was the first offer of promotion Riker had received in more than a decade -- and he had every reason to believe that if he refused it, it would also be the last.
He heard Troi's gentle footfalls on the carpet behind him a moment before she snaked her arms around him and embraced him. "Nightmares again?" she said, pressing against his back.
He nodded. "The same one."
She pressed her cheek against his shoulder blade. "I felt it. It's getting more vivid, isn't it?" He didn't answer her, but they both knew she was right. "Are you sure you don't -- "
"No," he said. "I'll be all right. I'll work it out." He felt slightly guilty about the effects his nightmares had been having on her, even though he knew there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Her half-Betazoid ancestry had gifted her with empathic skills that, when she was awake, she could control or choose to ignore. But when she was asleep, some of her psychic control became dormant. As a result, when they slept in the same bed, she would often sense the emotional tenor of his dreams.
He turned to face her and held her close. Her hair was soft, and it had a sweet fragrance. It made him think of jasmine and honey.
She looked up at him. "Come back to bed," she whispered.
"I will." He kissed her forehead. "You go. I'll be there in a little while." She gave his hand a small squeeze, then smiled as she reached up and stroked his cheek with her fingertips. She turned and padded softly back into the bedroom.
He looked back out at the stars. For the last fourteen years he'd had a number of things he'd wanted to say to his father -- most of them words of spite. It wasn't as if he couldn't have tracked him down; Kyle had rarely kept a low profile. Riker now realized, to his shame, that the only thing that had prevented him from settling things with his father had been his own stubborn refusal to let it happen.
He looked toward the bedroom and considered going back to sleep. He closed his eyes. The memory of his father's face still lingered like a shroud in front of his thoughts. He opened his eyes, drew a deep breath, then let it ebb. He focused on the feeling of emptiness that was left behind, and he longed for a day when it wouldn't feel quite so familiar.
Copyright © 2004 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Top Customer Reviews
There are some stuff with Starfleet assault teams which get kind of long and dull, but this eventually serves its purpose in the end and doesn't detract from the story at all.
This also happens to be the first A Time To book which is actually worth the money you spend on these books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There are many things which to praise. First, this is a book that features Earth and the Federation political arena there. In the past books, we seem to meet Starfleet's many admirals who run the show. Well, there are appearances by the admiralty- including Ross, Nachayev, and Janeway- but it's the President and his advisor, Azernal, who take the spotlight. While you feel for the President who's caught in a crossfire, you can't help yourself but to despise the character of Azernal. Throughout the book he's playing a dangerous game that may keep the Federation out of more trouble but at the same time will lead to the sacrifice of many things.
This book also features Qo'nos and the Klingons. I'm usually not a big fan of Klingon-centric novels but David Mack works them into a complex plot, choosing not to portray them just as the warriors we know them as but equals to the Federation. Martok is a great contrast to the Federation President; ready to defend the Klingon's interests and avenge the deaths of many Klingons claimed by Tezwa and a Federation mistake. Worf, now ambassador of course, finds himself in a tough position that makes for a great conflict. After rising to a respectful position in the Klingon Empire, having a family once again and friend within Martok, does he betray all of that and give it away to answer a desperate plea sent by Picard?
The Enterprise also takes a beating and lands itself in a position of defending a planet that it also must conquer in order to ensure peace. The Klingons are racing to the planet, ready to destroy it and anything that lies in its path. The entire book is centered around the anticipated arrival of the Klingon fleet. The crew of the Enterprise are turned into commandos, given the task of going down to the Tezwa world and shutting down the dangerous weapons that nearly claimed the Enterprise and did destroy countless Klingon lives. Riker, La Forge, Data and Vale are all deployed on this mission that spans the entire alien world, each has to complete their part of the away mission in order for Picard to oversee a peaceful outcome. All the while, back on Earth, Azernal looks for a way to cover up the Federation's involvement.
I thought overall it was a good novel. It didn't have that usual sci-fi feeling and I felt as if it could easily parallel things we're experiencing in our own lifetime. Prime Minister Kinchawn is definately a villan worthy of the Enterprise crew. This isn't a black and white story. The book ends with one part of the problem being resolved but an entirely new situation being introduced for Picard and crew to solve. Mack also does a great job of integrating other Treks into this story. New Frontier's Danteri play a minor role in the book, Janeway and the EMH mobile emitter tech has a part as well, an ambassador from Bajor is introduced at the end as if to follow up the DS9-Relaunch series and even the Starfleet Corps of Engineers get a mentioning. All of these elements come together to make for a rich and original plot.
There are certain flaws that I felt took away from the near perfect novel. Each scene gets its own chapter, making for a choppy, staccato feeling to the book. I felt as if it could have come off better if these scenes were grouped together in the usual dozen or so chapters. Instead, the book has 66 chapters with scenes cut up and spread out throughout the novel. After getting to the end, there were certain scenes or plot lines that I personally was left not truly understanding or remembering. The reader knows this is going to be a hard away-team mission; it feels drawn out and almost a chore to follow each team throughout the book and read about all of their actions. I'd rather have seen the Qo'nos scenes extended. While in other books the featured crewmember gets their time to shine, Worf seems to be reduced to a guest appearance. I also was left questioning Worf's actions. In Deep Space Nine he seemed to have made many sacrifices to reclaim his Klingon honor and heritage. Suddenly in one book, with one simple call from Picard, he hesitates for a moment before setting out to destroy his Klingon honor and acclaim? He seemed more human after living among the Klingons since the end of DS9 than he did when portrayed on Deep Space Nine and his Next Generation days.
Something else that bothered me about the book was that there were some character simply pushed into the background. The "A Time to..." series had done a great job of finally finding a place for Beverly Crusher and Deanna Troi on the Enterprise. They weren't just the ignored and flat characters they were in the actual show but important members of the crew who could go outside their usual duties and offer something to the plot. Crusher only appears once or twice but all the build-up she had been given during the start of the series and through the last novel, "A Time to Hate," seems to have fallen off. She's just a doctor who may have a job. She's avoiding Picard and apparently hasn't been speaking to him as they usually have. I find that hard to believe based upon how she was in Next Generation and in this series. Troi, who ended "Hate" with questions about her own career and having really contributed to the Delta Sigma situation is stripped of all that made her a great character and is left rather stale. She's just the counselor and suddenly she's crying and an emotional 1950s lady in distress at the end. To me, these things were unfortunate. Why not find a way to work the entire crew into the fold as the past books have?
This book also felt as if it didn't fall into the rest of the "A Time to..." series. Perhaps it's the fault of the setup of the group. We don't hear how the admiralty and Starfleet Command reacted to Picard's actions at Delta Sigma in the last books. We just skip ahead to this new mission without much mentioning of the events of past books. Even when meeting with the admirals, I felt as if that entire "A Time to be Born" had never happened. From how it was being hyped, it wasn't something that was easily going to be forgotten. Nachayev, Janeway, and Ross who have all been involved to some degree in the Enterprise's "A Time to..." events come off as if they have amnesia and this is just another mission worthy of the Federation's flagship. Also, the La Forge and Data plot of the resource situation, something rather big and important, isn't even given a mentioning. "A Time to Kill" seems to have set off on its own, like an unruly child, being a tad bit rebellious and setting itself apart from the rest of the group. That's good in a way because it makes for an interesting novel that's above average. It's bad in that it gives the "A Time to..." series a rather interupted feeling.
This review though is bases solely on this novel. The next in the series, "A Time to Heal," is a continuation of this novel and may deal with some of the short commings I personally felt this novel had. Alone, it is a good novel though and worthy of your money and time. I don't feel as if reading the past novels are really required for this installment but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
Well-written and fast-paced, little time is wasted on the introspection of the main characters. Instead, the plot quickly opens, revealing a new, post-Dominion War Federation that can no longer disguise its misdoings beneath the guise of "Patriotism."
Assigned a mission they are not even expected to accomplish successfully, the crew of the USS Enterprise-E must, and does, endeavor to to save the lives of billions of innocent (and not-so-innocent) people from annihalation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it dared to explore the notion that the (UN)ited Federation of Planets is concerned firstly with its own survival and secondly with maintaining its apparently sterling reputation. It was also nice to see Worf in action again.
I give this book Three Stars because it outshines every other title in this series, including its sequel "A Time to Heal," which is a decidedly undisguised criticism of current world events. The reason I didn't rate the book higher is twofold: predictability and continuity.
Predictably, as with every TNG storyline, Picard and his crew are an incredibly moral bunch that NEVER have bad days or commit transgressions of the "Prime Directive," even when it seems that half the crew is dying for no apparent reason.
Continuity in the bloated Star Trek pantheon has become as tenuous as it is in the Star Wars universe. With so many different authors writing so many different stories, it has become difficult to keep track of everyone and everything. Primarily, I was/am confused about the roll of the Corps of Engineers (except as a vehicle to keep the "Scotty" character viable). And I am confused about the shadowy spy organization mentioned in both "A Time to Kill" and "A Time to Heal." Who are they? What are they? Why are they? As it is overly presumptuous to assume that every reader has read every book and series, I think it is the duty of a responsible author to engage disparate thematic elements, not simply evoke them.
Additionally, I am always amused by the tactics Star Trek writers employ to negate the technological advantages of Starfleet. How can a society with faster-than-lightspeed vessels equipped with energy weapons/shielding, and matter transportation and replication capabilities, be constantly rendered essentialy useless? If the Federation and its Starfleet just concluded a massive war with the Dominion on the heels of numerous conflicts with the Borg, Romulans and Cardassians, where are their shock troopers? Where are their dedicated combat warships? Where are their fleet defense fighters/shuttles? How can any force so strategically impotent defend the interests and sovereignty of an interstellar government?
Star Trek is a great and wonderful world of imagination and insight. But it is beginning to crack under the weight of its own expansiveness. I hope that Paramount allows new authors to take the franchise in whole new directions (i.e., New Frontier) before disenfranchised fans begin to feel that the Star Trek saga is no longer viable; that it is A Time to Move On.
As for the 'bloated' continuity, I really don't see it as being a problem in the current Star Trek novel universe. The continuity displayed is more in simply keeping consistant with previously published novels rather than being dependent upon them (as contrasted to the Star Wars novel universe and its NJO, which while entertaining, was heavily dependent on previous novels).
As for David Macks A Time to Kill/Heal duology, I thought it was a brilliant and gripping tale which shows an accurate parellel to current world events. Trek has always been at its best when it comments on the state of the world WE live in.
The conclusion of the series, "A Time For War, A Time For Peace" by Keith R. A. DeCandido is much better capstone for the TNG crew than the shaky 'Nemesis' feature.
I think if Paramount hired the current batch of Trek novelists to do the shows and movies (as opposed to the hacks who currently do Trek for Paramount) Trek would be in a much better place than it is today.
This novel is a step into the ability of the Enterprise crew to pull off true miracles. They are given a mission that they are expected to fail at but with little time, less help and incredible levels of luck, they pull of this feat of greatness and surprise.
The real power of this story is the portrayal of the Federation. If you enjoyed the Deep Space Nine episode `In the Pale Moonlight' then you will love this novel.