The last half of the year in Trek literature was dominated by The Fall, a five-book epic series dealing with a major tragedy and an existential threat to the United Federation of Planets. With the release of the final book in the series, Peaceable Kingdoms, The Fall has now come to an end.
Now that the dust has settled, how does the series as a whole stack up? And, possibly more importantly, where do we go from here?
Wrapping Up 2013's Epic Crossover Series
By Literature Editor Dan Gunther
Revelation and Dust by David R. George III
In my initial review of this novel, I speculated that the major story-line of the novel would be picked up again in the rest of The Fall.
Now that the series has concluded, it is apparent that that is not the case. It would seem that the Kira/Keev story is a setup for further novels in the Deep Space Nine series. While this is welcome news and I'm excited to read them, it is a little disappointing that the main narrative of this novel is so disconnected from the overall Fall arc.
Still, it is a lovely story that left me wanting more. The "big event" of the assassination of President Bacco kicks off a great story that has far-reaching repercussions for the Federation and our characters.
I only wish that the cliffhanger ending was picked up on or at the very least mentioned in further stories in The Fall.
* * *
The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack
Quite possibly one of the best Trek novels ever written, and certainly the best novel this year, I've made my love of The Crimson Shadow very clear.
Una McCormack's story about the politics and society of Cardassia is both beautiful and disturbing. As usual, her writing of Garak is pitch-perfect and a true pleasure to read. Her original characters are also dynamic and fully fleshed-out.
The revelations uncovered by Picard and Garak about the true perpetrators of Bacco's assassination are shocking, and the outcomes of this discovery will be felt throughout the series.
Like Revelation and Dust, The Crimson Shadow tells its own story, but it contrasts the previous novel by integrating that story more fully into The Fall.
* * *
A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack
It may be a tired joke, but David Mack's reputation as "The Angel of Death" is well-earned.
His Destiny trilogy featured casualties on a galactic scale and changed the face of the Federation forever. So, it is ironic that his latest novel features the saving of an entire species from extinction.
In A Ceremony of Losses, we see Dr. Julian Bashir's attempt to complete the work started by Andorian scientists to prevent the extinction of that species from a reproductive crisis that came to light over ten years ago in the Trek lit universe.
We learn more about the hawkish President pro tempore, Bajoran Ishan Anjar. This book sets us up for the final thrust of the final two books in The Fall...
* * *
The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow
Giving Una McCormack's book a pretty good run for its money is The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow.
I was very impressed with this novel. Swallow shows a definite love of black ops/shadow intrigue with the penultimate entry in The Fall.
The characterizations of Tuvok, Nog, and the rest of the covert team featured in this book were terrific, and the plot featured enough twists and turns to keep me guessing the entire time.
The actions of Ishan Anjar's administration show a callous disregard for the ideals of the Federation, instead sacrificing those ideals for safety, security, and a good showing at the polls. The stage is set for a great debate between the warhawks and the doves.
* * *
Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward
The final entry in The Fall, Peaceable Kingdoms had a lot to live up to. The previous three novels set the bar extremely high. Unfortunately, this is where the series stumbled just a bit. Gone is the nuanced face-off between two opposing viewpoints.
Instead of having an antagonist whose views don't jibe with our heroes’, we get a usurper who has no legitimate claim to his position. While the story that Peaceable Kingdoms tells isn't necessarily a bad one, it is unfortunate that we didn't get a deeper examination of the issues.
This is not to say that this story isn't enjoyable. Anyone who doubts Dayton Ward's ability to craft wonderful prose needs to re-read the scene in which Attorney General Phillipa Louvois brings the charges against the President pro tem to the floor of the Federation council.
The Series as a Whole:
The Fall succeeded on a number of levels. I feel as though the middle three novels did an excellent job setting up a showdown between two opposing ideologies. Essentially, the Federation has faced another existential crisis. Unlike the Borg invasion of Destiny, however, the threat has not come from an external force, but from within. The Federation was founded on the ideals of peaceful cooperation, mutual respect, and the idea that we are better off together than apart. On one side, the warhawks, who believe in greater security and force to protect the people of the Federation. On the other side, the traditionalists, who believe that a Federation that ignores the ideals upon which it was built is not worth protecting. Where the series falls apart is in not taking that argument to its conclusion, and instead forestalling any meaningful debate on the issue.
The Fall has had a profound impact on the Star Trek lit-verse. Not as huge an impact as the Destiny trilogy did a few years ago, mind you, but a sizeable one nonetheless. Nanietta Bacco, a well-loved and respected character, has had her story come to an end. Her legacy is a period in which the Federation faced a multitude of crises, but still came through in the end mostly intact. She was an excellent character and will be sorely missed.
President Nan Bacco's tenure came to an unexpected end in The Fall.
In addition, the Andorian reproductive crisis, a story that has been with us for over a decade (has it really been that long?), has been resolved. When a story-line has been running that long, the fear is that it may be abandoned before coming to a satisfying conclusion. Thankfully, this did not happen.
Where do we go from here?
While wrapping up the main story, The Fall has left a number of plot threads dangling. Obviously, the cliffhanger from Revelation and Dust must be dealt with, and we can only hope that David R. George III has a book in the works that continues that story. But beyond that, we don't know the ultimate fate of Julian Bashir, Starfleet officer turned renegade. We know that he is planning to go after Section 31, and one can only assume that his story is continued in Section 31: Disavowed by David Mack, scheduled for release towards the end of this year.
One question that has me curious: what of William Riker? In The Poisoned Chalice, he is promoted by Fleet Admiral Akaar to the rank of Admiral, and is no longer captain of the Titan. Will that promotion stick? And what of the Titan series? Will it continue with the Titan acting as Riker's flagship? Or will it be commanded by Christine Vale? Or, heaven forbid, will the Titan series end?
We may have our answer in February, as a Titan e-book exclusive will be released: Absent Enemies by Trek newcomer John Jackson Miller. I recently read one of his Star Wars novels, Kenobi, and really enjoyed it. I'm excited to see him tackle Trek, as well as to learn the ultimate fate of Riker and the Titan.
What of Riker and the Titan?
Finally, the end of the miniseries sees new orders issued to Picard and the Enterprise. It seems that Starfleet and the new Federation president are interested in seeing a new thrust of exploration. Admiral Akaar speaks of pushing the boundaries of Federation exploration and multi-year missions in the vein of Captain Kirk's historic "five-year mission."
I can't help but wonder if this represents a kind of sea change in the tone and style of the novels set in the 24th century. The past few years have been marked by political stories and existential crises for the Federation. Perhaps the overall style of the novels will change from this point forward. Only time will tell, I suppose.
The Fall is far superior to earlier attempts at crossover stories, such as Gateways. I much prefer crossovers such as this one or Destiny, in which the action is much more integrated between the series and the stories have more of an impact on each other. For the most part, The Fall works.
There are a few stumbles along the way, and I feel that the conclusion could have been stronger, but in the end I believe the Trek universe is better for having told this story.