This was truly the book that made the "A Time to..." series seem validated. Before, I was a little let down because of what happened in the previous books. If you are unfamiliar with the "A Time to..." series, it's meant to explain all the changes the audience was forced to work with during the last Next Generation movie, Star Trek: Nemesis. "Born" tells the story of the Enterprise's reputation being tarnished and Picard and crew being put through the ringer for political and personal reasons by Starfleet and the Federation. "Die" is your basic TNG story, Riker and crew remain loyal to Picard and put their careers on the line to prove his actions in "Born" were justified. "Sow" has the crew rebounding somewhat and dealing with a race of people who suffered a disaster stemming back fromt he days of Captain Archer and the crew of the NX-Enterprise. "Harvest" has the crew once more putting a lot on the line to do right and save a planet's people. "Love" is the book that sets up the events in this installment, dealing with the relationship between Cmdr. William T. Riker and his estranged father, Kyle Riker.
Perhaps one weak point of the book is that it references other books that the reader may not have read. Peter David's "Imzadi" is the basis of much of the Deanna/William Riker story line. There's a part where Deanna retells parts of "Imzadi" to Vale, trying to get her to understand the relationship she has with William Riker. Much of the material for the Kyle/Will relationship comes from the book, "Deny Thy Father," part of last year's Lost Era series. This book, if you have read those, does well in putting new spins on these older works, bringing the aged perspective on them both.
This book does have a lot of action. It's one of the few books where the Enterprise really isn't used. The personell though is deployed into a dangerous situation on Delta Sigma and the author chooses to up the action and really drive home that this isn't the normal mission. People die, Picard's diplomatic skills really don't get them to where they would in most TNG episodes, Vale really finds her place alongside the usual characters and as a security chief. There are action scenes spread throughout the book so don't think it's a snooze fest filled with conversations and such.
What I liked about the book is that finally, just as in "Love," we're getting the substance that makes Nemesis perhaps a more comprehensible movie. Crusher, as in most of the "A Time to" series, really is given a task here. Not only does she have to find a cure to save those on Delta Sigma but each action she takes makes her wonder if she's needed elsewhere, such as back at Starfleet Medical. We get glimpses and ideas of what life she lived when she headed SM back during the second season and why she left. We also are given a lot of moments where her relationship with Picard is actually given some attention. No hitting around the bush as in many books but we get the idea that there's this forbidden love between them.
This is the book that also describes how Deanna and Riker came to decide it was time for them to move on to the next step in their relationship. I felt that after all William T. Riker went through in this book, he's a changed man, perhaps he finally comes to terms with the actions of his father and understand him better and also in turn understands himself and his life a little better. This is a Riker book and it breathes new life into Riker, setting up up for his command of the Titan and his own series. There are many hints of what's to come in the "Titan" series to debut in 2005. Janeway's appearance at the end alludes to "Mosaic" but it fit. I really like the candid manner Janeway seems to take with everyone in her position as admiral. The author does a great job of finding a way to do justice to everyone.
The highpoint of this book comes with the conclusion. It's darker than most TNG episodes or novels and I actually think that's great. This isn't a win-win situation. Picard has a hard choice to make and either way, it's going to have a great impact on those on Delta Sigma and those serving under him. It's rather sad to see how things are turning out because Picard seems to realize things are going to change and he can't do anything about it. Crusher's choice to leave for Starfleet Medical is given a lot of attention and seems to spread to other's on the command staff, making each wonder if they're going to move on or be forced to seperate from one another. Even Troi contemplates her career, a move the author did that made Deanna seem a tad bit more lively because she's not satisfied with just being a counselor anymore it seems.
This book delivers on the setup of the entire "A Time to..." concept and I would say it stands among the top Next Generation novels. It alludes to other books and series, has the characters really thinking about where they belong and having to make tough decisions about their lives. In my opinion, the best book so far in the "A Time to..." series. Don't miss the opportunity to read this one if you've been underwhelmed by the other books. Believe me, this book alludes to the fact that it's going to get a lot better and even more thrilling.