Review by C.J. Bunce
Earlier this month here at borg I reviewed Moments Asunder, Dayton Ward’s first act in a trilogy of books that are intended as a major shift in the tie-in novel universe of Star Trek. The story is a giant convergence of many major nexuses of the Star Trek television series’ casts of characters from the original series to Voyager, with an older and wise Wesley Crusher as experienced Traveler (see TNG: “Journey’s End”) at the heart of the tale. The book is an engaging read and fun-filled start to the trilogy full of great throwbacks and surprises. The action doesn’t let up in the second novel, James Swallow’s The Ashes of Tomorrow, which digs deeper into the futures of all the key Deep Space Nine characters, and it pits Jean-Luc Picard against an old colleague and friend.
Second acts are often difficult to get right. Storytellers must amp up the tension and stakes, leaving readers at the end with either a false victory or false defeat. Swallow has no trouble building tension by inflicting a heightening menace on the universe, not just the former members of the Enterprise-D crew. He weaves in the “current” status of Benjamin Sisko, Kira Nerys, O’Brien, Worf, Odo, and Nog, and–surprisingly and most interesting of all–Jake Sisko, now a man with his own family. I’ll admit to seeing the kids of sci-fi (going back to Billy Mumy in Lost in Space) as the least interesting of sci-fi TV, so it’s nice to see Wesley, Jake, Nog, and even Alexander Rozhenko get fleshed out as real people. It makes me want to see more Miral Paris, Naomi Wildman, or even Toral, son of Duras, down the road (those who watched Star Trek Picard know hope is lost for more of poor Icheb).
The “end of all things” is the threat. Happily, no Q is here to settle things with a snap of his fingers, or even Guinan (see “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” But Data and Spock are pulled into the novel–ultimately their contribution feels more like fan service, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (they are there for those who want or need them). More useful, creative, and necessary for this story is the appearance of the always cool, cocky, and confident Ro Laren–the use of the Bajorans in this crisis is very artfully woven into the mix, as are characters folded in from two decades of tie-in novels. (I do wish there would have been a way to tie in Captain Archer and/or a member of his crew from Enterprise for Star Trek Coda, a possibility because of the time travel twists involved).
Those who have read Moments Asunder know the root menace are the Devidians from the “Time’s Arrow” arc in TNG. I’ve never been a fan of those shadowy blue aliens in those episodes (although Data gambling against pre-Dukat Marc Alaimo is a series high point, as is 19th century Riker, and dramatic actor Picard), and here the Devidians are, plucked from the past for antagonists, like taking Khan from the original series for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But you know what? This is what fans of Star Trek want–they aren’t the often-tapped Klingons or Romulans or The Borg, and an unfamiliar antagonist leaves open new possibilities for this 1,158 pages of story (I’m holding out hope Tom Paris and Captain Janeway’s three children from VOY: “Threshold” are somehow behind the Devidians).
I’ve also never been a fan of the religious elements of Deep Space Nine, like Sisko’s final Emissary role and Kira’s role beyond the show. But readers will find in The Ashes of Tomorrow that better stories in that vein are possible, especially without the one-note villain Kai Winn or the constant in-your-face evil and mischief of Dukat.
The dread of TNG’s finale “All Good Things…” and Voyager’s finale “Endgame” continues. Now’s the time to get on this big, chaos-filled, ill-fated rollercoaster ride with some of your favorite Star Trek characters [insert thought of Slim Pickens gleefully riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove]–but don’t miss Moments Asunder first (available here). James Swallow’s The Ashes of Tomorrow is now available here at Amazon from Simon & Schuster. Keep coming back to borg for a review of the final book in the trilogy, David Mack’s Oblivion’s Gate (available for pre-order here). Look for it soon.