Book ReviewsStar Trek: A Time For War, A Time For Peace

Star Trek: A Time For War, A Time For Peace

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s A Time for War, A Time for Peace is the ninth and final novel in Pocket Books’ “A Time to…” series, released back in 2004, that depicted the year leading up to the events of the final TNG movie, Nemesis.  I’ve been enjoying this series, and Mr. DeCandido’s book brings the story to a very satisfying end.

This might be my favorite book in the series, despite the fact that not much that seems that momentous happens in the book.  All of the big, actiony, universe-shaking stuff happened in David Mack’s A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal duology.  This novel feels like an epilogue to the series.  But perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much.  This is a much less intense book than Mr. Mack’s previous two, but that allows Mr. DeCandido room to explore these characters as we dig into the repercussions of the events chronicled in the previous eight books.

My favorite aspect of this book was its focus on the behind-the-scenes politics of the United Federation of Planets.  Following the resignation of Federation president Min Zife at the end of the previous novel, we follow the campaign between two candidates for the presidency: Nan Bacco and Fel Pagro.  Now, going into this book, I knew who won.  One of my favorite Star Trek novels of all time is Mr. DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation, which chronicles the first year in Nan Bacco’s presidency, and was written a year after this book.  Articles of the Federation is an astonishing novel, one that explores a whole universe of Star Trek that we’d never before seen.  All of the Trek TV series focused on Starfleet and Starfleet officers, but Starfleet is just one branch of the United Federation of Planets.  Articles of the Federation digs deeply into an exploration of how the government of the Federation actually operates.  It’s magnificent.  I’d assumed that Nan Bacco, her Chief of Staff Esperanze Piniera, and many of the other characters in her administration were created for Articles of the Federation, but lo and behold, Nan and many of these characters actually originated here in A Time for War, A Time for Peace.  Wow!  I loved getting to read this previously unknown (to me, at least!) chapter of their story.  I love how Mr. DeCandido started building the stories here that he’d later explore more thoroughly in Articles of the Federation.

We hadn’t seen too much of Worf in this series so far, but this book gave him some great stuff, particularly the way he was able to single-handedly thwart a terrorist assault on the Federation embassy on Qo’noS.  It’s a great spotlight for Worf, the greatest warrior in the universe.  I knew that this series had to find a way to get Worf back into a Starfleet uniform, because that was where he was in Nemesis.  I hated that Nemesis, without explanation, erased all the development Worf had gone through on Deep Space Nine and seemed to drop him back into his TNG status quo.  I was worried in David Mack’s A Time to Kill, A Time of Heal books that this series was driving towards Worf’s having to leave Qo’noS because he’d been forced to betray Martok.  Thankfully, that wasn’t where this book wound up, as we see instead that Worf craves action over diplomacy.  It’s still disappointing to see the great end for Worf’s story in the DS9 finale “What You Leave Behind” undone, but this was about as well-done as I could have hoped.  However, I was disappointed that — despite Martok’s being on the cover of this book!! — we didn’t actually get to see Worf’s conversation with Martok, telling him that he was leaving to return to Starfleet.  I also still think it’s ridiculous that Worf’s hapless son, Alexander, was appointed Federation Ambassador to replace Worf.  (I knew this was the case from subsequent books.)  This kid was entrusted with one of the most important diplomatic positions in all the Federation?  It’s inconceivable to me.

There are quite a number of other story and character threads we follow throughout the book.  We see Riker attempting to recover from his torture at the hands of the Tezwans and prepare for his first command (of the starship Titan), while he and Troi negotiate with Lwaxana over the details of their wedding.  (Nemesis depicted Riker and Troi getting married in Riker’s home Alaska.  That Lwaxana was nowhere to be found was a huge gaffe in the film, which the book explains by depicting a compromise in which the couple would have a small wedding in Alaska followed by a lavish bash on Betazed overseen by Lwaxana.)  Riker offers Geordi the position of First Officer on the Titan, which Geordi, after much soul-searching over where he wants his career to go, eventually turns down.  (This helps to retroactively explain why, in Nemesis, when most of the rest of the Enterprise command crew seemed to be moving on, poor Geordi didn’t seem to have advanced any beyond where he was in TNG season two.)  We also learned in Nemesis that Dr. Crusher was leaving the Enterprise to oversee Starfleet Medical, so this book shows us the circumstances behind Beverly’s decision to leave the Enterprise.  (I was a little surprised that Crusher and Picard’s relationship seemed to have soured so quickly in this book, and it feels a little disrespectful to Dr. Crusher that her main reason for leaving the Enterprise might have been because Picard was too chicken to express his true feelings for her.  On the other hand, this is the hand Nemesis dealt, and luckily I knew that the Picard-Crusher relationship would be resolved in a far more satisfactory way in the follow-up Trek books set immediately after the events of Nemesis.)  In my favorite bit of Nemesis-cleanup, this book tells us exactly how Wesley wound up at Troi & Riker’s wedding in a Starfleet Lieutenant’s uniform.  (Thankfully, this novel clarifies that Wesley was still a Traveler, thus fixing what seemed to be another example of Nemesis ignoring previously-established character developments.)

There’s lots more even beyond all that in this book. The Enterprise, whose command crew have been on the outs with Starfleet Command since the events at Rashanar that began this series, is subjected to a detailed inspection.  This brings a few familiar faces back to the Enterprise, including Scotty and, in a deeper cut, Dr. Toby Russell (from the fifth season TNG episode “Ethics”).  Meanwhile, it’s also revealed that the Klingon emperor Kahless has been replaced with a hologram, leading to upheaval among the Klingons.

I wonder why Mr. DeCandido’s entry is the only one in this series that isn’t a two-novel duo.  Were two novels condensed into one?  Or was this the plan all along?  There certainly seems to be plenty of plot for two novels — though I also have no objection to the rapid pace of this entertainingly stuffed single novel.  (The only story that gets short shrift is the Kahless hologram mystery, which is solved by Data in two seconds, a rather too-easy a resolution for my tastes.)

I was very pleased that the novel’s final chapter takes place AFTER the events of Nemesis.  It allows us to get some closure for these characters that Nemesis didn’t provide.  Those final check-ins on most of the characters were some of my favorite pages in the book.  (Though, disappointingly, neither Troi nor Crusher are given a closing check-in.  I am baffled by this decision.  These two female characters were continually overlooked by the writers during TNG’s run, and I was very sorry to see that happen here, too.)

But other than that minor complaint, I loved this book!  This is exactly the type of Trek novel that I am looking for.  It’s got lots of compelling plot goings-on for all of our heroes, but at the same time it’s as focused (if not more so) on the characters and their personal stories.  And it’s able to weave together the tapestry of Star Trek continuity, bringing in many characters and references that make a long-time fan like me smile, without ever getting bogged down in that stuff and while also creating lots of new characters and situations.  Mr. DeCandido is a master of exactly this.  (Just look at all Nan Bacco and all the other great Federation politician characters introduced in this book!)

Of all the “A Time to…” novels, this is the one I’m happiest to have finally read.  But I thoroughly enjoyed this entire series.  I’m glad to have finally caught up with this important piece of the continuing Star Trek novel story…!

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Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile, Legacies Book 1: Captain to CaptainLegacies Book 2: Best DefenseLegacies Book 3: Purgatory’s Key, The Face of the Unknown, From History’s Shadow, Elusive Salvation, Assignment: Eternity, The Rings of Time, The Weight of WorldsNo Time Like the Past, Foul Deeds Will Rise, The Antares Maelstrom, The Shocks of Adversity, Crisis of Consciousness, The Latter Fire

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Time to be Born & A Time to Die, A Time to Sow & A Time to Harvest, A Time to Love & A Time to Hate, A Time to Kill & A Time to HealThe Sky’s The LimitResistance and Q & ABefore Dishonor and Greater than the SumDestiny trilogyA Singular DestinyLosing the Peace, Immortal CoilCold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of MemoryCold Equations Book 2: Silent WeaponsCold Equations Book 3: The Body ElectricThe Light Fantastic, Takedown, Armageddon’s Arrow, Prey Book 1: Hell’s Heart, Prey Book 2: The Jackal’s Trick, Prey Book 3: The Hall of Heroes, Headlong Flight, Hearts and Minds, Available Light, Collateral Damage

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending SacrificePlagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, Section 31: Disavowed, The Missing, Sacraments of Fire, Ascendance, Force and Motion, The Long Mirage, Section 31: Control, Enigma Tales, Gamma: Original Sin

Star Trek: Voyager – Full CircleUnworthyChildren of the StormThe Eternal TideProtectors

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi MaruThe Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s WingThe Romulan War: To Brave the StormRise of the Federation: A Choice of FuturesRise of the Federation: Tower of Babel, Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic, Rise of the Federation: Live By the Code, Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference

Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesUnder a Torrent SeaSynthesisFallen Gods, Absent Enemies (e-book), Sight Unseen, Fortune of War

Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of Disharmony, The Struggle Within (e-book), Plagues of Night and Raise the DawnBrinkmanship

Star Trek: The Fall — Book 1: Revelation and DustBook 2: The Crimson ShadowBook 3: A Ceremony of LossesBook 4: The Poisoned ChaliceBook 5: Peaceable Kingdoms

Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overviewStone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in ActionTreason and Blind Man’s Bluff

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the ClockForgotten History, The Collectors (e-book), Time-Lock (e-book), Shield of the Gods (e-book)

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298)Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311)Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)The Buried Age (2355-2364)One Constant Star (2319)

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions –  Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels