Review: ‘Star Trek Coda: Ashes Of Tomorrow’ Connects With Adventure In The Middle Of Finale Trilogy

For those of you who came in late…

Star Trek Coda is a three-novel epic conclusion to the Trek-lit timeline of books that picked up the Starfleet story after 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis and has developed it in depth for the past 19 years. With new 24th-century canon being created by Star Trek: Picard and other new Paramount+ Trek series, the Trek-lit series is being retired with an epic three-part finale: Coda. With an emphasis on Deep Space Nine characters, James Swallow’s Ashes of Tomorrow picks up after last month’s Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward (see TrekMovie review), with David Mack finishing things off next month with Oblivion’s Gate.

As Ro walked out into the corridor beyond the hub, Quark reluctantly fell in step with her. “You know, it’s very presumptuous of you to assume that I’d just go along with this, without complaint.” He kneaded the grip of the phaser, shaking his head.
From a few levels below, the sound of tearing metal reached them. She leaned in and planted a kiss on Quark’s cheek. “I never assumed you wouldn’t complain.”

If you haven’t followed the Trek-lit continuity, a lot of things have happened since Nemesis. A returned Benjamin Sisko is the captain of the Galaxy-Class USS Robinson. Garak is no longer plain-and-simple but is the Castellan of the Cardassian Union. Julian Bashir at one time worked for Section 31, but his instrumental role in the downfall of that organization and its clandestine leader, the AI named Control, has left him catatonic. Kira Nerys is a Vedek called “The Hand of the Prophets” by the Bajoran people. Station Deep Space Nine has been destroyed and rebuilt as an entirely Starfleet space station, commanded by Ro Laren.

Star Trek Coda: Ashes of Tomorrow

By James Swallow
Published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, ebook, and audiobook

The Ashes of Tomorrow does the difficult work that the middle volume of a trilogy needs to do. In Swallow’s words, this involves “dialing up the tension, shifting stuff around, introducing new players, … as well as plumbing the depths of the building drama.” If at times the emphasis is too much on shifting stuff around, at least The Ashes of Tomorrow does it well, with solid character moments for players both canonical and non-canonical, and plenty of nods to the Trek characters and stories that have come before.

Wesley looked up from his work with the Omnichron and hesitated, studying Paris intensely.

“Is something wrong?” said Paris. He gave a weak chuckle. “What, do I have food in my teeth?”

After a moment, Wesley shook his head. “I’m sorry. You remind me of someone I used to know, from back in the day.”

This book is definitely a slow burn. Picking up in the ashes left by Book 1, a lot of characters need to get to a lot of different places, particularly the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, most of whom barely appeared in Moments Asunder. Here, they take center stage. While in Moments Asunder, fan-favorite non-canonical characters were major players in the action, here in The Ashes of Tomorrow, it is the main and supporting characters from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine who do the heavy lifting.

And they are not all on the same side. While Captain Picard and Benjamin Sisko are dedicated to fighting the temporal crisis that threatens to destroy every reality in existence, something seems to be wrong with Commander Worf, and especially with Admiral Will Riker. Why does Worf have dreams of a world in which he was not the first officer of the Enterprise? Why does Riker no longer remember how many children he has? And why is he acting so erratically?

The action takes us from the Boreth monastery and their time crystals to Earth and its Spacedock, climaxing in the space surrounding Bajor and its wormhole. Along the way, Swallow weaves together threads from Star Trek Discovery, Lower Decks, and even classic Star Trek – with fun nods to Kirk and Scotty at important moments in the story, and Spock himself plays a vital role. If you haven’t read Book 1 of this trilogy, nothing in this book will make any sense; but if you are a fan of Trek lit, or of the franchise in general, you definitely will enjoy this trilogy, so go and read that one before diving into The Ashes of Tomorrow.

Kira nodded. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but as good as this station is, it doesn’t have the character of that iron-clad monstrosity we used to live on.”

“Quite.” Bashir rapped his knuckles on a tritanium support pillar. …

“That’s the Federation for you,” grumbled Quark. “Eventually they knock the sharp corners off everything, and what does that leave you with? Just a lot of … round things.”

Since reading Moments Asunder, one question has bothered me above all—particularly since I am doing a TNG rewatch on Paramount+ at the moment—in a crisis like this, wouldn’t super-advanced races like the Organians, the Metrons, or the Q get involved? If this crisis threatens to destroy all life in every reality of existence, clearly their existence hangs in the balance as well. The Ashes of Tomorrow nods at this question and hints at what may be going on, leaving any definitive answer for Oblivion’s Gate. We also have not yet really seen Kathryn Janeway, nor many of the members of the Voyager crew, so presumably, their story will also be picked up by David Mack’s concluding volume.

While it takes a lot of pages, and a whole lot of character-shuffling, to get there, the climax of The Ashes of Tomorrow is everything you would hope for. Thrilling, nail-biting adventure, acts of heroism and self-sacrifice, costly and difficult choices, and tender character moments. There is genuine progress, but a definite feeling that the worst is yet to come, and all of the victories yet achieved in the conflict may in the end prove insufficient to end the threat. Our remaining heroes may yet need to give everything in order to save all of existence. I know I’m on the edge of my seat to find out.

Available Tuesday

Star Trek: Coda Book 2: The Ashes of Tomorrow  Star Trek: Coda Book 1: Moments Asunder will be released on October 26, 2021. You can pre-order it at Amazon in paperback for $13.99 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

September 28  – Star Trek: Coda Book 1: Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward

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


Find more news and reviews of Star Trek books at TrekMovie.com.

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Enjoyed the first one. Looking forward to this!

lol, Wes referencing the Paris/Locarno connection – well played

Actually, the later Voyager Full Circle novels by Kirsten Beyer actually rework Paris as having Locarno’s story.

Beyer was informed that Paris was originally created as Loncarno, but that Paramount did not want to give the writer of that script creator rights for the character and associated residuals.

Still waiting for my copy to arrive.

I found Dayton Ward’s volume one slow to get going, but he had a lot of heavy lifting to do to get the premise launched. I was happy though to see several of the excellent Litverse OCs get some final profile.

I’m really looking forward to getting back and getting some closure on DS9. It’s been a long time since a novel was set there. (perhaps in The Fall sequence?). And it makes sense that the Wormhole and the Prophets would be in the mix.

I understand the remit of this trilogy — “find a way to synchronize the lit continuity to the revived TV continuity” — but “a threat to all universes!” feels too much like the grand-event trope used by both DC and Marvel to prune their sprawling comic-book variations.

Additionally, some of this ground has already been tread by the “DS9: Millennium Trilogy” (2000, Reeves-Stevens), viz., The Fall of Terok Nor, The War of the Prophets, and Inferno.

As a corporate property, “Doctor Who” handled it a little more elegantly, IMHO — i.e., a TV series that died in 1989, a bunch of novels and audio books after that demise, and then a revived TV series in 2005 that is set after but never refers to specific events during the hiatus — but “Who” has two elements in its premise to facilitate this: a title character and central cast that is continually renewed, and a very loose treatment of continuity. (Earth’s history has evidently been repeatedly rewritten, even apart from stories where that’s the get-out-of-jail-free card.)

I feel the similarities to the DC and Marvel multiverse reboots, but I don’t find that a bad thing. And it’s not as though Star Trek has done this kind of thing routinely.

More if there ever was a time and situation to do a end of the multiverse as we know it disaster story, this would be it.

Many of us have read the two decades worth of Relaunch Litverse continuity novels and novellas and sincerely appreciate that these are being given a coherent conclusion rather than dumped in a Star Wars style “Legends” dustbin.

We’ll have to see how well David Mack sticks the landing in the third volume, but at his best Mack’s writing soars above most tie-in fiction. If it works, I am hopeful that ViacomCBS may finally decide to get value from the IP by bringing some of the better Litverse products to streaming as movies or limited series with some of the major characters recast.

Destiny would be the obvious one to do as an animated movie. It would just be a bit tricky to establish that it takes place in a different timeline, since it conflicts with Picard.