MOMENTS ASUNDER by Dayton Ward

Moments Asunder
(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.

Bad timing.

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.


REVENANT by Alex White

Revenant
(Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
By Alex White
Gallery Books — December 2021
ISBN: 9781982160821
— Paperback — 320 pp.


Along with re-reading/continuing with the Star Trek novel series from their starts, I restarted getting the newest releases to read as well. They’ve certainly improved a lot, on average, but I felt a bit frustrated that so many were from the original series cast, or its reboot. Where was the greatest Trek of all time? Where was Deep Space Nine? With the novels in disarray due to Picard upending canon, I was even more disappointed. Finally, after more than a decade (?) a DS9 novel appeared on the scheduled horizon. Revenant is fantastic, and I can only hope that more DS9 books will arrive to come, whether set during the timeline of the TV show as this novel is, or tweaked to mesh with the new canon.

Alex White’s Revenant is set near the start of DS9‘s fourth season, after “The Way of the Warrior” and prior to “Indiscretion”. A longtime friend of the Dax symbiote arrives on the station to beg Jadzia Dax’s help in guiding his rebellious granddaughter Nemi, who has turned from family and friends after being twice rejected by the Trill Symbiosis Commission for joining. Jadzia had served as a mentor, and a ‘big sister’ role model for Nemi, and decides to take a vacation leave from the station to go find the young woman who she has regrettably let drift away from her busy life in Starfleet. Jadzia is shocked that the Nemi she finds has changed even more than Nemi’s grandfather had realized. With horror, Jadzia learns that Nemi harbors an unauthorized symbiote. Her investigation into this meets resistance from Trill officials, and puts her life in danger by poking at a hornet’s nest of bureaucratic secrets and a threat from Dax’s own unclear past.

Revenant is a novel that will only really work for fans of DS9 who retain familiarity with the show, particularly how Trill society works and Dax’s past hosts. White returns here to the plot of Dax’s suppressed memories of a psychopathic host named Joran who committed murders, a history that the Symbiosis Commission knowingly tried to cover up and hide, even to the danger of Dax’s life. What has occurred to Nemi forces Jadzia to further face memories of Joran, as well as aspects of Curzon’s personality and choices that sit badly with her.

With this, White does something really important for DS9 and Dax’s character, confronting the problematic aspects of Curzon as a selfish, lecherous man who used power, and his weakness, to harass. The novel also provides more ‘humanity’ to Joran’s character, rationale for his acts of murders, and an answer to what happened to him. While that first really well into the plot of novel, and makes the story engaging, it does change how Joran’s personality is depicted within the TV series. Though still monstrous and disturbed, readers (and Jadzia) feel a great deal more sympathy for him. This also twists this thread out of canon alignment with later points in the TV series (such as Ezri’s grappling with previous host Joran.) But, given that such changes to ‘canon’ and logic happen all the time even within the TV show itself (just look at the introduction of the Trill in The Next Generation to what they are in DS9,) I hardly mind.

The other interesting aspect of Revenant is its inclusion of other DS9 crew members. Jadzia starts out on her own, but soon enlists the help of Kira. With Kira featured along with Jadzia on the cover of the book, I expected this partnership to remain. However, Kira stays for only a bit before heading back to the station to tag-team swap with Bashir and Worf. White handles the Jadzia-Kira friendship very well, and it would have been nice for that to be explored in more depth, particularly on that Kira side of things.

Again, I can’t complain about this too much, because the inclusion of Worf is one of the best aspects of Revenant. The relationship and marriage of Jadzia Dax and Worf did make sense (far more than any Troi-Worf relationship,) but I don’t recall the TV series spending too much time on the two characters getting to discover one another. White uses this Jadzia-centric novel as an opportunity to show just how she and Worf move past assumptions to a friendship, respect, and attraction. It’s not a plot thread I ever thought about wanting to see more of, but reading it here made me realize how great it can be when handled as well as White does.

In the acknowledgments at the end of the novel, Alex White asks that readers get their other books as well, and I’m now going to have to do this. I don’t recall reading their work before, but I am very impressed with Revenant‘s style, architecture, and characterization. I didn’t want to go much into the plot development, as I think that works better for readers to discover fresh. But, White handles the pacing and ultimate conclusion of the novel very well, even including a bit of technological science fiction that is more fitting than the usual techno-babble solutions that magically save the day in typical Trek.

CBS/Gallery Books, give White more Star Trek to write, and please – enough with the early periods of Trek, give us some more DS9.


Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction, Edited by Isiah Lavender III

Black and Brown Planets:
The Politics of Race in Science Fiction
Edited by Isiah Lavender III
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
ISBN:1628461233
256 pages, hardcover
Published 1st October 2014
Source: NetGalley

CONTENTS:

Introduction:
“Coloring Science Fiction” by Isiah Lavender III

Part One – Black Planets:
“The Bannekerade: Genius, Madness and Magic in Black Science Fiction” by Lisa Yaszek
“The Best is Yet to Come; or, Saving the Future: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Reform Astrofuturism” by De Witt Douglas Kilgore
“Far Beyond the Star Pit: Samuel R. Delany” by Gerry Canavan
“Digging Deep: Ailments of Difference in Octavia Butler’s The Evening and the Morning and the Night” by Isiah Lavender III
“The Laugh of Anansi: Why Science Fiction is Pertinent to Black Children’s Literature Pedagogy” by Marleen S. Barr

Part Two – Brown Planets:
“Haint Stories Rooted in Conjure Science: Indigenous Scientific Literacies in Andrea Hairston’s Redwood and Wildfire” by Grace L. Dillon
“Questing for an Indigenous Future: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as Indigenous Science Fiction” by Patrick B. Sharp
“Monteiro Lobato’s O presidente negro: Eugenics and the Corporate State in Brazil” by m. elizabeth Ginway
“Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech” by M. Rivera
“Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor” by Matthew Goodwin
“A Dis-(Orient)ation: Race, Technoscience, and The Windup Girl” by Malisa Kurtz
“Yellow, Black, Metal, and Tentacled: The Race Question in American Science Fiction” by Edward James (updated with additional reflections ‘Twenty-Four Years On”)

Coda:
The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-In: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction Fandom” by Robin Anne Reid

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.