Book Review: “The Ashes of Tomorrow” by James Swallow (Coda Book 2)

**Please Note: This review contains spoilers for Coda Book 1: “Moments Asunder” by Dayton Ward.**

From the Publisher:

THE FUTURE IS AT WAR WITH THE PAST.

VISIONS OF DESTRUCTION
As a ruthless enemy spreads fear across the galaxy, leaving devastation in its wake, Captain Benjamin Sisko and Vedek Kira Nerys share a terrifying premonition of an unstoppable apocalypse.

A CRITICAL CHOICE
Captain Jean-Luc Picard is forces to take matters into his own hands when Starfleet Command refuses to challenge the invaders, recruiting trusted allies into a desperate, impossible fight.

THE FATE OF A UNIVERSE
In the burning skies of the Bajor system, a deadly confrontation threatens a billion worlds – but the price of survival is an act of destruction beyond all reason….

*

The middle book of any trilogy tends to complicate the plot, raise the stakes, and heighten the drama – and “The Ashes of Tomorrow” checks all the boxes.

Returning from their mission into the future in Book 1, the Enterprise and Aventine return to Sector 001 to report the Federation Council and Department of Temporal Investigations all they’ve learned about the Devidians’ plot to collapse timelines one by one and feed on the neural energy released by the deaths of millions.  But the admiralty thinks their resources are better used trying to fight off the Naga attacks on temporally sensitive species and artifacts – they decide to treat the symptom, not the disease.

This leaves the diplomatic Picard no choice but to Kirk it up and go rogue, with the USS Titan in hot pursuit.   Along the way, he’s joined by even more familiar characters who’d long since gone their own way in the lit-verse – some old friends, and perhaps some new enemies.  But not a single appearance is wasted or filler.  Swallow does a particularly excellent job capturing the voice of several of these characters (no names – spoilers!), so much so that I often heard their voices while reading their dialogue.

One aspect I found of particular interest in this novel is Worf’s storyline as he attempts to come to terms with the deaths of Ezri the host and the Dax symbiont, which occurred at the end of Book 1.  Worf’s inner monologue explains how Klingons are expected to deal with grief by fighting through it and – although it turns out there are other factors at play – we see how detrimental this outlook is to him.  In fact, with several tragic losses already and more to come, grief is a throughline of this book and this series.  All of these characters are dealing will grief and loss and despair, both personal and existential, and that gives us quite a lot to dissect.

Like “Moments Asunder,” I had a hard time putting this book down, especially since it keeps driving the narrative forward to the expected climax of the forthcoming “Oblivion’s Gate.”  We have a destination we need to reach, and “The Ashes of Tomorrow” is going to get us there.  And if I cried over the first two installments (I did), I can’t imagine what the third will do to me.  But I am along for the ride, and can’t wait to find out how this all shakes out – even if it means the end of my beloved Post-Nemesis Shared Continuity Timeline.  I’m starting to come to terms with it (I’m not).

*

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 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 will be published on November 30, 2021.

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