Book Review: “Oblivion’s Gate” by David Mack (Coda Book 3)

**Please Note: This review contains spoilers for Coda Book 1: “Moments Asunder” by Dayton Ward and Coda Book 2: “The Ashes of Tomorrow” by James Swallow.**

From the Publisher:

THEIR FINAL MISSION IS THEIR FINEST HOUR.

AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK

Captain Benjamin Sisko takes the Defiant back in time and into a parallel universe so that he and Data can undo the vile sabotage that triggered the Temporal Apocalypse.

A SHADOW RISING

Meanwhile, Admiral William T. Riker’s grasp of reality becomes more tenuous by the minute.  Can his beloved Deanna Troi free him from the madness before it’s too late?

A DARING LAST STAND

Starfleet’s heroes risk everything to set time right.  But will Captain Jean-Luc Picard let Beverly Crusher and their son die? Or will he destroy the multiverse to save them?

*

When we last left our intrepid heroes:  Captain Jean-Luc Picard, along with several members of Enterprise and Aventine crews, had been investigating attacks from the Devidians, an alien species that feasts on the neural energy released by other living beings in the moments before death (which you might remember from “Time’s Arrow”).  After returning from a risky mission into Intertime, Picard was ordered to stand down by Admiral Riker and Starfleet Command, so the Fleet could focus on the effects of the attacks, rather than the cause.  With the help of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, Picard successfully stole the battered Aventine from spacedock and headed to the Bajor sector, where Captain Benjamin Sisko had received a troubling message from the Prophets and gathered several members of his former crew.  Together, they discover that the Devidians have been using the Bajoran wormhole to enter their universe, and devise a plan to destroy it, losing the new Deep Space Nine station in the process.  With Riker and the Titan in pursuit, Picard moves operations to the Defiant, and the joint crews jump to the Mirror Universe to seek refuge and assistance.

And that, my friends, is where “Oblivion’s Gate” picks up the story, and we all know we’re headed for the final showdown.  Very early on in book three (spoiler alert), Wesley and Data discover that two splinter timelines were created when the Enterprise-D traveled back in time to stop the Borg from assimilating Earth (“First Contact”) – one stable (the Borg Timeline, where the assimilation was successful), and one unstable.  And each branch of this splinter timeline grows more and more unstable.  The Devidians have been collapsing unstable timelines, gaining energy.  Once enough energy has been stored, they will be able to enter and attack stable timelines.  So, in order to save the Prime Timeline, the original splintering needs to be undone.  But much to their surprise, our heroes also discover that they’re not from the Prime Timeline…  And there’s still about 350 pages left after all of that!

Devidians surround the away team in TNG‘s “Time’s Arrow, Part 1.”

The final installment of the Coda Series (and the SCT), “Oblivion’s Gate” is definitely darker than many Star Trek novels.  Our characters are struggling with loss and grief personally, collectively, and cosmically.  They’re questioning their all their past decisions that have lead to to where they are, and what they could have possible done differently.  They’re pondering sacrifice and love, and doubting the relevance of either when the future is so bleak.  They’re wondering if the only timeline they can save – one they know absolutely nothing about – is worth the saving.  Considering what we – as individuals and members of a larger society – have all been through over the last 12-18 months, these are some pretty relatable struggles.

As predicted back on book one, I was all-in on this story.  Temporal incursions, multiple timelines, non-corporeal enemies that feed on energy, and universe-level stakes… It’s like this trilogy was written just for me.  But in all seriousness, I was very anxious when embarking on this journey, knowing that it would result in the end of the Shared Continuity Timeline.  Though I’m sad about the destination, I certainly enjoyed the trip.  Each one of these was page-turner that I didn’t want to put down.  The stories are engaging, and each is well written, with plenty of great character moments, plus references and Easter eggs for those of us who have been along for the ride for so many years (I mean, Star Trek: New Frontier shout outs?  C’mon!).

My biggest complaint?  Well, my biggest complaint is that it’s over.  Just like our characters come to the realization that they have to sacrifice themselves in order to save the futures of their counterparts in the Prime Timeline, the Star Trek literary universe is being sacrificed for the future we see in Star Trek: Picard.  Twenty years of world-building and character development have been “undone,” to lift a term directly from the narrative.  We have to say goodbye to the characters who’ve grown so much since their last on-screen appearances, like Captain Ezri Dax of the USS Aventine, First Officer Nog of the USS Saticoy, Castellan Garak, Data and Lal, Vedek Kira…  as well as the new characters we’ve only met on the page but stole our hearts nonetheless: Christine Vale, Ssura, Sam Bowers, T’Ryssa Chen, Aneta Šmrhová, and even Natasha Riker-Troi and Rene Jacques Robert Francois Picard… plus, all of the adventures of the Full Circle Fleet, lead by Admiral Janeway, in the Delta Quadrant and beyond.

We can only hope that the Prime Timeline will be worth the sacrifice.

*

Star Trek: Coda, Book 1: Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward 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 was published on October 26, 2021 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.  It is available online or at your local retailer.
Book 3: Oblivion’s Gate by David Mack was published on November 30, 2021 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.  It is available online or at your local retailer.

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