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A Time to Die
Mickey Zucker Reichert
Five Star, 248 pages

A Time to Die
Mickey Zucker Reichert
Mickey Zucker Reichert's other novels include The Renshai Trilogy (The Last of the Renshai (1992) and The Western Wizard (1992)), Godslayer (1987), Shadow Climber (1988), Dragonrank Master (1989), Shadow's Realm (1990), By Chaos Cursed (1991), Child of Thunder (1993), The Legend of Nightfall (1993), The Unknown Soldier (1994), Beyond Ragnarok (1995), Prince of Demons (1996), The Children of Wrath (1998), Spirit Fox (1998) with Jennifer Wingert and The Flightless Black Falcon (2000).

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Beasts of Barakhai

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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A few years back, Benjamin Nash was elected President of the United States on a platform that promised the most impossible of things: an end to death. Not just sometime, but by the year 2030. It is a promise he has not really able to keep, but 2030 rolls around he's still in office. Doctor Patricia Jewett is a chronic care specialist who obeys the strict laws of life at all cost. The patients must be kept alive no matter the damage, and babies, even if the fetus proves to genetically mutated beyond all expectations of a decent life, are brought to term. Patricia is the one who watches over them all, until two major things happen. One, her mentor suffers a stroke and wrecks his car. Would-be good Samaritans remove him from the car, causing irreparable damage that leaves him a quadriplegic. She knows that he wants to die. He's 81, suffering terribly, and he's always been against Nash's political stance, but there's nothing she can do about it. The other, she finds a nurse, that she was arguing with earlier that day for not following orders, dead on the ward, a scalpel stuck in her body, a scrub-clad figure running away.

Because of the argument, the fact she found the body and that she was asleep when the police wanted to question her (she was really tired and one of the residents was failed to wake her) makes her a prime suspect. It isn't until someone seems to be trying to kill her, though, that she gives the case her full attention, determined to find out the truth, especially since the killer might be her boyfriend of the last nine years. He's been acting suspiciously, and he's a real jerk to her, abusive, emotionally manipulative -- the reader really wants him to get some kind of comeuppance. Lieutenant Daniel Scott would be a rather nice alternative boyfriend even if Kaign Jones wasn't such a jerk. He romances her despite the dual shortcomings of her being his main suspect and thinking she's in love with another man.

A Time to Die has three aspects that really made it a good read. It's very romantic, but played well and doesn't overwhelm the main story. The second is that Patricia is extremely likable. Because of this, aspects such as Jones calling her plain (told you he was a jerk) and all the stresses she faces, such as the pressure from her mentor's wife to put him to rest, are more important to the reader. The last is that the idea of life at any cost is as chilling as it is thought provoking. So many of the people under her care will never wake up, there's just this slender hope that if they are kept alive a cure for whatever ails them will become available. The idea of children not really changing, just becoming longer as they sleep -- if it can be called that -- their youth away was particularly sad. These are moral choices we may all have to face sooner than later, and the idea of the government determining it and taking away freedom of choice for the people suffering as well as burdening the families left behind, is the most frightening bit of all.

Exciting, romantic and thought provoking, A Time to Die reminds us that we all have a time to die. But I think we'd all prefer God or fate to chose it, rather than a politician or murderer.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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