(Star Trek: Coda Book I)
By Dayton Ward
Gallery Books — September 2021
ISBN: 9781982158521 — Paperback — 304 pp.
After decades of not really reading any Star Trek tie-in fiction I decided to start up again. I wanted to reread the novels I tore through when younger, but knew I would be hard-pressed to catch up with where the fictional universe currently sat. I was curious to see what had happened to characters since movies and shows ended. So, I decided to both reread the older stuff while keeping up with newer novels released, starting right then.
No sooner had I read the latest Star Trek: The Next Generation novel and the announcement of the new Picard series came. What would happen to these novels now? I feared they’d just stop, especially given other Star Trek franchises didn’t seem to have a new novel published for a terribly long time. The state of Deep Space Nine adventures particularly made me worry.
One other Star Trek: The Next Generation novel was released, with a note in it that the recent authors were hard at work at a way to bring closure to the novel line while merging it into the new continuity that Picard would establish. Until then, new releases seemed to be set during the time period the original show took place.
I felt the author’s and fan’s frustration. It annoys me so much that the film/television universes ‘need’ to take precedence over the novels. I would LOVE it if a show took all the constraints that a novel universe put on franchise and the writers were forced to come up with something that fits. Watching Picard now, I doubly wish it. Because the first season of Picard, at least, was far less enjoyable and interesting than what the novels seem to have produced in the last decades.
Irregardless, here we are, the start of a trilogy (Star Trek: Coda) that seeks to wrap up the novel universe of the franchise and bring things in line with the new continuities. Cue time travel and multiverses. These are two tropes that SF routinely uses to ‘reimagine’ and ‘reboot’ things, originating from comic books perhaps? It’s always a mess, and it usually leads me to abandoning things. As soon as multiverses came into the DC superhero TV shows, popping up all over, I stopped. I’m over the Marvel movies.
So, I came into reading Moments Asunder being very skeptical. The time travel and multiverse nature of the story line bugs me, but I have to admit that Dayton Ward does a good job at trying to give fans some kind of closure and excitement to start things off here. It’s a Kobayashi Maru scenario he faces. He can’t avoid tragedy, but he minimizes the mess.
Building the plot line with Traveler Wesley Crusher makes sense, and drawing in elements from the other Star Trek series and novels works well, for the most part. It gives this start to the trilogy the sense of being the culmination of everything, a grand send-off to the literary franchise that has been built around the original source materials. At the same time Moments Asunder shows greatest focus on The Next Generation. (Presumably the next two novels may focus more on others. The official ‘synopsis’ for this novel mentions the Benjamin Sisko and his crew, for instance. Yet, they don’t appear in here at all.)
The most significant consequences seem to befall members of the Enterprise crew who were created for the Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, meaning that any real emotional impact from the novel will come to fans who have stuck with the novels through the last decades. Casual, or new, readers of the novels might not be completely lost amid the characters, references, and time/multiverse shenanigans – but they also won’t feel connected to those characters or events either. Despite the well paced action and the quality writing, even I felt it somewhat hard to feel engaged in it all, to stave off boredom that would creep up.
(There is one sole exception to major consequences only befalling characters created for the novels. One character from the televised Star Trek series does meet death in Moments Asunder. I wouldn’t spoil who that is, but mention it only to say that it is handled as badly as many other Star Trek major character deaths have been: i.e. Yar and Jadzia Dax. If this is meant to have import, it should have been written better.)
The multiverse nature of things further makes it difficult to care what happens to anyone here. After all, there are plenty more of the same person out there. Unlike Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, Moments Asunder can’t overcome the nihilism inherent to the multiverse. Maybe the next two novels in the series will change my mind or surprise me, but I can’t help but read this and shrug my shoulders in annoyed anticipation of where it will all end up, putting things into the bland Picard-verse. I wish they’d just simply let two sets of novels continue, with two different separate universes of these characters – sort of like the double duty they get from the classic series between the original and Kelvin timelines.
I feel like this review is sort of all over the place, hard to organize. Likely because that’s pretty much how I feel about Moments Asunder. It has some good elements, and generally strong writing. But it simply shouldn’t have to exist, if there were justice in the universe.
Fans of the novels who have kept up with things will likely really appreciate Coda for its closure to what they’ve enjoyed. Maybe not the end they want, but better than other options available. For all other potential readers I’d say this trilogy is probably something to just skip. Pick up with the Picard novels and check out what comes in the future, don’t worry about what was or may-have-been.