BOOK REVIEW: The Ashes of Tomorrow, by James Swallow

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Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Book Two of the Coda trilogy
  • Part of the Litverse
  • Published by Gallery Press in 2021
  • An apocalyptic Space Opera
  • 342 pages

The end of the universe is nigh, but no one is willing to do what is necessary. No one, except Jean-Luc Picard. Calling in every favour and every friend and ally he has, Picard will do whatever it takes to save his timeline, even if it costs him everything he has ever known . . .

If Moments Asunder put familiar faces in danger, then The Ashes of Tomorrow is the inevitable bloodbath that follows. After all, nothing says the universe is ending quite like the deaths of characters we’ve known for nearly thirty years. I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, we likely won’t be seeing these characters again. Certainly we won’t be seeing this version of them. So what does it matter if they’re killed off? Yet at the same time, all the death does seem unnecessary. We know this is the final moments of the universe, so why make everything so bloody? It’s the old predicament: How do you you respect decades of work, while also bringing it to an absolutely final close? I can quibble over some of the execution, but I think Swallow handles things the right way. Because even if it does sometimes seem this trilogy has it out for the cast of one particular series, the death mean something. Sure, the universe is going out with a bang, but every last stand is a noble sacrifice. That’s the most Star Trek thing about The Ashes of Tomorrow. Even when everything they know and love is being ripped away, the characters remain, until the end, fundamentally decent people.

After a brief yet costly victory at the end of Moments Asunder, The Ashes of Tommorow ramps up the tragedy, and brings together all of the 24th century crews. Picard et al are still the focal point, but the crew of Deep Space Nine return to the fray. Paris and Torres make the most of not joining Voyager‘s extragalactic adventures to join Picard’s righteous cause. Then there’s Riker of the Titan. Surprisingly, he plays a largely antagonistic role in this story. As we all know, Starfleet Admirals are tricky and stubborn at the best of times, and in these worst of time, Riker takes to that role like a fish to water. Given that that the Devidian threat is essentially a force of nature, it makes sense that there would be a more human foe to be fought along the way. And there’s no denying that Riker and Picard have become estranged over the last few years. Even so, it’s a shame to see Riker missing out on the opportunity to go rogue along with his old crew. Perhaps, in another timeline, there’s still a chance for that to happen.

Swallow’s writing is pacey and strong as ever, and one aspect he handles better than most is balancing a number of viewpoints. As well as the combined crews of the Enterprise, Titan, Deep Space Nine, and ex-Voyager personnel, he includes Starfleet brass, politicians, and a welcome return for Ambassador Spock. Really, we’re only a T’pol cameo away from hitting every version of the franchise. Given the sheer number of characters involved, it’s a wonder the novel is as tight as it is. And while everything is undeniably hurtling towards a climax, there’s still time to check in on various plot arcs and locations from more than fifty years of Trek storytelling. If the Litverse must come to an ending, then Swallow’s version of that ending has the deft touch it deserves.

With any luck, the final volume of this trilogy will stick the landing. And with David Mack at the helm, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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