For those of you who came in late…
With the launch of Star Trek: Picard in 2019, it became clear to the writers and editors of the post-Nemesis Star Trek novels that the continuity they had painstakingly and lovingly built over almost twenty years would not fit into the new canon coming from the new series, including Lower Decks and even Discovery. But authors David Mack, Dayton Ward, and James Swallow concocted a way to give the post-Nemesis literature universe (aka “lit-verse”) a heroic send-off, for it to continue to have meaning for Trek fans, even after the lights were turned off for the final time.
The result has been Star Trek Coda, a three-book epic adventure across time, space, and dimensions, weaving together the canonical and non-canonical characters, ships, and situations that had proliferated in the lit-verse into one last hurrah. Book 1, by Dayton Ward, set up the premise: a hostile alien force was somehow pruning alternate timelines from the main branch of the Prime Universe, collapsing them and absorbing the death energies of an entire universe of life-forms to feed their insatiable hunger. And unless they were stopped, they would gain sufficient power to collapse the Prime Universe itself, feeding on the death throes of all existence. Book 2, by James Swallow, detailed the last-ditch plan, hatched by Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Ambassador Spock, and their associates, to stop these hostile aliens before they could end every life in every universe. And it also outlined the cost – our heroes determined that their timeline was not the Prime one, and would need to be sacrificed to make this work.
Now, in Book 3, by David Mack, our heroes battle impossible odds and fight to their last drop of blood to make their sacrifice a meaningful one, making it possible for countless billions to live.
Spock answered without hesitation… “Nothing we do or fail to do at this point will prevent the imminent demise of our cosmos. The only questions that remain before us now are: Shall we cling to selfishness and die in vain? Or shall we take up the mantle of heroes, and die so that others may live? Any questions beyond those are now, I fear, entirely moot.”
Star Trek Coda: Oblivion’s Gate
By David Mack
Published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Before I delve deeply into spoiler territory, here’s my top-level opinion: Oblivion’s Gate is a rousing tear-jerker of an action story that shows many of the characters we have loved for 55 years at their finest hour–making the ultimate sacrifice. There are a surfeit of last stands, noble gestures, expressions of love, and grand goodbyes. The result is impressive, emotional, and satisfying, and brings the post-Nemesis Star Trek lit-verse to a fitting conclusion. And it all ends with a capstone that will make the heart of every Star Trek fan rejoice–and about that, I will say no more, not even in the spoilers below.
“And if I may ask…who am I to you?”
There was something in Worf’s eyes – fear? No, that wasn’t it. She looked deeper while the man summoned his courage. It was sorrow. No, deeper than that – grief.
“You were the first…the greatest…love of my life. And the mother of my son.”
…Worf looked at her, his eyes full of hope but all K’Ehleyr felt was horror.
Oblivion’s Gate contains great scenes between Picard and Crusher, Data and Lal, Geordi and Data, Sisko and Bashir, Spock and Saavik, Riker and Troi, and so many more. But by far, my favorite storyline was the rekindling of the romance between Lit-verse Worf and Mirror-Universe K’ehleyr. Somehow, without knowing it, that was the resolution I needed, and David Mack gave it to me, in spades. K’ehleyr is without a doubt one of my favorite Trek recurring characters, even though she only appeared twice in TNG. Here, we get the romance we never really had on TV, the family that never was, and the conclusion that they absolutely had to have.
The plot is impossible really to summarize, and frankly, it’s not really the point. The main characters need to travel to three different locations in space-time and launch a coordinated attack to collapse the Devidians’ ability to absorb the death energies of the universes they are devouring, and they have to do it before the Lit-verse timeline is itself pruned and absorbed, something that in the opening pages of the book, we learn is just about to take place. There’s a ticking clock, and formidable obstacles, and the need for our people to fight to the bitter end, make hard choices, and ultimately give their lives for the greater good.
How will each character meet their end? This is a question that the onscreen Trek canon rarely has the chance to answer since the characters need to live to appear in the next episode of the next series. Occasionally our characters die and are resurrected, but in this book, all of them–every man, woman, boy, and girl–is facing their final hour, and know it. How will they go out? David Mack has thought this through.
“I know we’ll have to cut this off in a moment, Data, but I…I just want to say…after all this time, and all we’ve been through…I just…”
As always, Data came to his rescue.
“I love you too, Geordi.”
Like any David Mack novel, Oblivion’s Gate is packed with action and lore, but it still finds time for key character moments, both light and dark. Admiral River’s insanity, which was terrifying in Book 2 and is horrifying here, is cured in time for Will and Jean-Luc to fight back to back before the end. I cried over a dozen times in the second half of the book. It’s that effective. There’s even a Michael Burnham reference, and a cross-dimensional “Shut up, Wesley!” Scene.
And after the story climaxes, and we drift through a montage of scenes from Jean-Luc Picard’s life, past, present, and future, across all dimensions, Mack draws the whole thing to a final and surprisingly satisfying… coda. But I won’t say more about that, you’ll have to read it for yourself.
Perhaps it’s impossible in just three novels to do justice to every question. Most notably, Kathryn Janeway and most of her crew–aside from brief appearances by Paris, Torres, and Tuvok–are absent from the Coda story. The big question I had from the beginning, ‘What are Trek’s super-beings (like Q, Trelane, the Metrons, the Organians, and the Prophets) doing about all this?’ is only glancingly mentioned. But in the midst of the fantastic stuff that is in this trilogy, those turn out to be small lapses.
Bottom line, this series does what could only be done in novel form, and only in a situation like this. And it does it in a way that’s exciting, moving, and that fulfills the promise of Star Trek in a powerful way. Thanks, Ward, Swallow, and Mack. You done good.
Star Trek: Coda Book 23: Oblivion’s Gate was released today, November 30, 2021. You can pre-order it at Amazon in paperback for $14.99 or Kindle for $11.04. It is also available as an audiobook on CD at Amazon and Audible.
More new and upcoming Star Trek fiction
The “lit-verse” may be coming to an end, but Star Trek fiction continues…
September 28 – Star Trek: Coda Book 1: Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward
December 21 – DS9: Revenant by Alex White
May 3, 2022 – Picard: Second Self by Una McCormack
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