The release of Dayton Ward’s Star Trek Coda: Moments Asunder kicks off a new trilogy which is the beginning of the end to an entire era.
First, a bit of background…
When Patrick Stewart announced in 2018 at Star Trek Las Vegas that he was returning to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a brand-new Star Trek series set 20 years after Star Trek Nemesis, virtually every Star Trek fan rejoiced and began waiting in anticipation. But for the authors of the Star Trek tie-in novels, the joy was mixed with a twinge of concern. Since Nemesis, the onscreen Star Trek adventures featuring The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager characters were essentially finished, with Paramount eventually moving Star Trek into the completely separate Kelvin Timeline in the J.J. Abrams movies. So CBS gave the editors and authors of the tie-in novels unprecedented freedom to write interconnected adventures for the TNG-era characters.
Unfettered by the need to tie into any new films or television series, dozens of books followed over the last two decades taking fans to some fascinating places. Sisko returned from the wormhole, Picard participated in a plot to topple the Federation President, Janeway was killed and then brought back to life, and the Borg were completely defeated. Station Deep Space Nine was destroyed and then rebuilt. Ezri Dax became the captain of her own ship, Riker was promoted to admiral, and Picard and Crusher were married and had a son. Big events, life-altering events, all tied together in a tight continuity shared between authors. But with Picard – and later Lower Decks and even Discovery – setting new post-Nemesis canon, all of that Trek lit found itself out on a limb.
While novels were never part of the official canon, any new novels would be expected to tie into the canon established by the new Star Trek Universe shows. And of course, we have already seen this happen with multiple novel tie-ins for Picard already, including the recent Rogue Elements. But authors Dayton Ward, David Mack, and James Swallow worked out an idea and made a plea: could they close out the post-Nemesis Trek-lit continuity with a bang? Could they create a “Coda” for that timeline so that those stories would still matter and not just be wiped away without any kind of closure like Lucasfilm did with the Star Wars tie-in novels after the Disney acquisition? And wonder of wonders, CBS said, “yes.”
The result is Star Trek Coda, a trilogy of novels, one written by each of the three architects of this scheme, tying together all the loose ends of their shared universe, with the aim of giving the heroes of this timeline one last chance to make a difference.
SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1
Star Trek Coda: Moments Asunder
By Dayton Ward
Published by Simon & Schuster in paperbook, ebook, and audiobook
First up for the Coda series is Dayton Ward’s Moments Asunder, which sets up the premise of this trilogy: for purposes unknown, some shadowy group is pinpointing time-travel events in various alternate timelines and exploiting those “holes” in reality to invade and annihilate entire universes. No form of time travel is safe, no time travel device or method is immune. These shadowy creatures show up, destroy ships, civilizations, and universes, and then slip back to where they came from, somehow empowered by the assault. And the only person standing in their way is an ancient, wizened Traveler, Wesley Crusher.
From an explosive beginning featuring the Guardian of Forever, Moments Asunder (is there an online “Shakespearean Title Generator” somewhere?) rockets between some of the most famous moments of Star Trek’s time travel encyclopedia, taking us to alternate timelines, alternate realities and weaving some of our favorite canon and non-canon characters into the story. In a way, this trilogy is like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. It takes buckets and buckets of characters from various individual stories and dumps them into one huge story that tests them all as people but is probably not your best introduction to them. You need to care about them going into the story for the whole thing to really grab you.
The book is prefaced by a timeline of key events in the Trek-lit continuity to help readers remember what has happened so far. Our TV and movie favorites have deepened and grown in various interesting directions. New characters have been introduced and developed alongside them. If you’re an avid reader of the Trek-lit novels, the fates of characters like Dina Elfiki, Taurik, T’Ryssa Chen, Rene Picard, Leonard James Akaar, Aneta Šmrhová, and many more will matter a great deal to you. If this novel is your introduction to the Trek-lit continuity, they may not. But before the book is over, you realize that no character – canonical or non-canonical – is safe. And that is as it should be.
Midway through Moments Asunder, Captain Picard wonders something that has often occurred to me when watching Trek alternate reality stories. Who’s to say which timeline is the Prime Timeline? What makes one reality worth saving, and another reality worth avoiding? In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s the Time Variance Authority that makes those decisions, but the key to the Loki TV series was this same question – on what basis are those decisions made? When Jim Kirk had to let Edith Keeler die, he “restored” his own timeline. But what made his timeline better than the one created when McCoy went through the Guardian alone? This book takes a fascinating stab at an answer to that question, using a new metaphor for understanding branching timelines that makes a lot of sense.
In the process, the book raises the possibility that it is the Trek-lit continuity that will need to sacrifice its own life in order to save the Prime reality – the TV and movie timeline – thus giving those versions of our characters what Tasha Yar didn’t get in “Skin of Evil,” a meaningful death. In that sense, Star Trek Coda is aiming to be “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” allowing an alternate timeline version of events and characters to obtain a meaningful death, in order to save the Prime Timeline itself.
If there’s a bone I have to pick with Dayton Ward, it has to do with the fate of one canonical, main-cast character, whose death happens in such a way that it’s not clear they are dying, and it’s not till later, when other characters are commenting on their death, that you know for sure that they have died. I felt a bit cheated on that one; it’s a character that I have a particular fondness for, and I wanted them to go out in a more definitive fashion. But that’s a minor quibble.
All of this is fairly meta, and you’re probably reading this review wondering if Moments Asunder is worth reading. The answer is complicated…
If you’ve read more than a handful of Trek-lit novels and enjoyed them, this whole trilogy is required reading. It will be exciting, terrifying, and you will be on the edge of your seat, wondering if your favorite characters will make it out alive. For what it is, a novel designed to set up a trilogy, establish characters and stakes, and plot a general trajectory for what’s to come, Moments Asunder is well-written, interesting, and thrilling.
If you’re new to the Trek-lit novels, you will be introduced to a deluge of characters that you have never met before, and that might feel a little – or even quite – intimidating. But still, you can have the joy of seeing classic TNG, DS9, and VOY characters crossing over into one huge story together, a mystery that requires all their combined skills to solve, and that will surely require each of them to make decisions along the way that will impact the destinies of countless realities. And you will begin to get closure on their stories, a closure which I hope by Book 3 will be satisfying.
Star Trek: Coda Book 1: Moments Asunder was released on September 28, 2021. You can pick it up at Amazon in paperback for $14.40 or Kindle for $11.17. It is also available as an audiobook on CD at Amazon and Audible.
More new and upcoming Star Trek fiction
August 17 – Star Trek: Picard: Rogue Elements
October 26 – Coda Book 2: The Ashes of Tomorrow by James Swallow
November 30 – Coda Book 3: Oblivion’s Gate by David Mack
December 21 – DS9: Revenant by Alex White
May 3, 2022 – Picard: Second Self by Una McCormack
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“When Jim Kirk had to let Edith Keeler die, he ‘restored’ his own timeline. But what made his timeline better than the one created when McCoy went through the Guardian alone?”
I’d say the absence of Nazis was a win.
Looking at specific times and places, that may seem the case. But history is weird, man. Maybe the 2440s of “Edith Keeler Lives” universe has a much more peaceful Alpha Quadrant than does the Prime timeline.
weird though that in an article framing these three novels as the last ones of the ‘non-canon’ era, there’s a DS9 novel. Granted, it’s set prior to Nemesis so it can slot in as head-canon but seems weird they will still be writing pre-Nemesis materials.
It’s truly a shame that the Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies never got screentime. Cold Equations especially would have been far better than what they did in ‘Picard’
I agree. Destiny is my favorite novel story to date. Great concepts and gripping story throughout.
I think that with the DS9 novel, they are doing show-era novels within established Prime continuity. Much like the recent Worf novel set during the TNG series.
It’s basically a return to what they were doing when the series were still running, just with releases being far less frequent.
The presence of time travel makes me think they’re going to push a reset button at the end to get to Lower Decks and Picard.