Book Review: “Moments Asunder” by Dayton Ward (Coda Book 1)

**Please Note: This review contains spoilers for Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek: Picard season one.**

From the Publisher:

Time is coming apart. Countless alternate and parallel realities are under attack, weakening and collapsing from relentless onslaught. If left unchecked, the universe faces an unstoppable descent toward entropy.

Scarred and broken after decades spent tracking this escalating temporal disaster, while battling the nameless enemy responsible for it, an old friend seeks assistance from Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The apocalypse may originate from their future, but might the cause lie in their past?

Identifying their adversary is but the first step toward defeating them, but early triumphs come with dreadful costs. What will the price be to achieve final victory, and how will that success be measured in futures as yet undefined?

Way back in 2002 – nearly 20 years ago – the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation had their last on-screen adventure.  (Or so we thought – more on that later.)  And in 2005, the first novel in the post-Nemesis TNG timeline was published: “Death in Winter” by Michael Jan Friedman.  The next 3 books in the series (“Resistance” by J.M. Dillard, “Q&A” by Keith R.A. DeCandido, and “Before Dishonor” by Peter David) were all published in the fall of 2007 to celebration the 20th anniversary of the series.  This series of novels became known, unofficially, as the “TNG Relaunch.”  As the universe grew, and the Enterprise‘s stories intertwined with those of Deep Space Nine, the Titan, the Aventine, and more, fans began referring to these works as the “Post-Nemesis Shared Continuity Timeline.”  Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but bear with me.

Over the last 15+ years in this timeline, our heroes – all of our heroes – have defended their ships, fought the Borg, dealt with a fracturing Federation, exposed Section 31, and so much more.  And these stories have taken us all the way to 2387.  As we learned in Star Trek 2009, 2387 is the year of the Hobus Supernova.  But there’s been no mention of the crisis facing the Romulan Star Empire in the novels (at least, not in the ones I’ve read – meaning mostly the ones on the Enterprise).  No big deal, right?  Romulans are secretive – why would they involve the Federation?  That was a completely plausible explanation… until Star Trek: Picard came along.  During which we learn that Captain Jean-Luc Picard left the Enterprise-E and was promoted to Admiral in 2381 in order to lead he Romulan relocation effort, then resigned from Starfleet not long after the Synth attack on the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards in 2385.

So what of my precious novels, which have sated my TNG appetite o’er this last decade-and-a-half?

Star Trek novels have always sort of been “canon until they’re not” – meaning they can be considered canon until something on screen contradicts them.  But for a long time, the novels were stories meant to take place between the adventures in the episodes – nothing drastic could change, no major points of backstory could be established, no new characters could be introduced, and certainly no one could die.  So the contradictions were often (not always) quite small.  That’s not the case in the Shared Continuity Timeline (SCT, from now on) – the first season of Picard contradicts just about everything.  Still, it’s certainly nowhere near the “Expanded Universe” kerfuffle of another franchise…

When the “Coda” series was announced, the promise was that this trilogy would reconcile the SCT with the new on-screen canon.  The three authors – Dayton Ward, James Swallow, and David Mack – have all indicated that they wanted to do that with care and respect for the fans who’ve been reading along all this time.  Ward even includes a lovely Afterward explaining his thoughts on this in detail.

So, how else would you do such a thing but with multiple timelines faltering, all under attack from an unknown enemy, threatening the future?  Sounds perfect to me.

I don’t want to give too much more detail than the publisher’s description above – even the setups are spoilers in this one.  If I’m completely transparent here, this story – and likely this entire trilogy – is like catnip for me.  Time travel, multiple universes, and many of my favorite characters coming together to solve the mystery and (hopefully) save the day.  Plus, Ward pulls in references from all of the series as well as many of the novels, and they’re all delightful.  I recognize that I’m exactly the target audience for this book, but I truly had difficulty putting it down – and it also made me cry one more than one occasion.  (Thanks, Dayton.)

Don’t worry: You needn’t have read the backlog to follow this story.  There’s a handy timeline with all the important highlights at the front of the book, and Ward does an excellent job of explaining any backstory that you need to know.  (But if you do want to jump in, here’s my favorite reading-order guide.)

But speaking of Picard, I do find it quite interesting that the Season 2 trailer from Star Trek Day also deals with quite a bit of timey-wimey, alternate universe happenings.  So far, the story in “Coda” appears to be very different from the what we’re lead to expect from s2, but you never know what could happen. We’ll find out starting in February.  (Though, tbh, parts of the trailer also remind me of the Doctor Who TV movie from 1996, so I may not be the best person to speculate on this.)

As excited as I am for books two and three, and the conclusion of what’s shaping up to be an epic battle in time, I’m also a bit bummed.  By every indication, the SCT will come to a close with the final book in this trilogy.  In this timeline, the characters we met on screen – in TNG, DS9, and Voyager – have grown, taken new positions, branched out.  We’ve gotten character development that there was never time for on screen.  We’ve gotten to focus on minor characters from the series, and meet new ones introduced in the novels.  For many of these characters, the end of the SCT will mean the end of their stories for good.  And I’m not ready to say “goodbye.”

Star Trek: Coda, Book 1: Moments Asunder was published on September 29, 2021 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. It is available online or at your local retailer.
Book 2: The Ashes of Tomorrow by James Swallow will be published on October 26, 2021.
Book 3: Oblivion’s Gate by David Mack will be published on November 30, 2021.

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