The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow
Release date: November 26th, 2013
Read November 27th 2013
Previous book (Titan): Fallen Gods
Previous book (The Fall): A Ceremony of Losses
Next book (The Fall): Peaceable Kingdoms
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From the back cover:
One simple act, and the troubles of the United Federation of Planets have grown darker overnight. The mystery behind the heinous terrorist attack that has rocked the Federation to its core grows ever deeper, and William Riker finds himself beset by rumors and half-truths as the U.S.S. Titan is ordered back to Earth on emergency orders from the admiralty. Soon, Riker finds himself drawn into a game of political intrigue, bearing witness to members of Starfleet being detained—including people he considered friends—pending an investigation at the highest levels. And while Riker tries to navigate the corridors of power, Titan’s tactical officer, Tuvok, is given a series of clandestine orders that lead him into a gray world of secrets, lies, and deniable operations. Who can be trusted when the law falls silent and justice becomes a quest for revenge? For the crew of the U.S.S. Titan, the search for answers will become a battle for every ideal the Federation stands for. . . .
How is it possible that the books of The Fall just keep getting better and better? The Crimson Shadow was simply outstanding, at a level that I thought would be impossible to match. Then comes A Ceremony of Losses, and I have to eat my words, as David Mack more than rose to the occasion. But that level of quality story-telling couldn't possibly be maintained, could it? It turns out that it can, as James Swallow hits another one out of the park with this month's The Poisoned Chalice.
The Poisoned Chalice continues the two main story threads that have come up so far in The Fall: the fall-out from the assassination of President Bacco, including the rise of the morally-ambiguous Ishan Anjar, and the solution to the Andorian reproductive crisis and the repercussions for Dr. Julian Bashir and his "co-conspirators." James Swallow deftly handles both threads extremely well, bringing them together in the end in a creative and entertaining way.
The events in the book can be seen as parallels to events and issues in the real world. While some of these parallels are fairly obvious, it is still worth examining them. For example, the members of the "Active Four" group encounter a "black site" maintained by an ally of the Federation, the Klingons. In many ways, this black site is reminiscent of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Similarly, the Ishan regime's methods of pinning a terrorist attack on the Typhon Pact instead of the true perpetrators brings to mind the initial justification for the attack and invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2004.
Earlier, I mentioned the group called "Active Four," a paramilitary unit activated by the President pro tem's chief of staff in order to capture or otherwise neutralize the President's assassins. This group consists of Nog, Tuvok, another member of Starfleet, a Federation "marine," and a few civilian mercenaries, including a familiar face we haven't seen in some time: William Riker's transporter twin "brother," Thomas Riker! I've long been curious as to his fate, and I'm overjoyed that James Swallow was able to use him here.
|It was a pleasant surprise to see Thomas Riker playing a part in this novel!|
|Tuvok has never been one of my favorite characters, but James Swallow has |
written him in a very compelling way while still remaining true to his character.
Absolutely stellar. I thought that I had already figured out what the best Star Trek novel of 2013 would be. Now, I'm not so sure. James Swallow has advanced the story of The Fall in an extremely compelling way. I found myself staying awake into the wee hours saying "just one more chapter" over and over again. Well done. Dayton Ward certainly has his work cut out for him in the conclusion! I can't wait to see how this all turns out. 5 out of 5, would read again!
Also by James Swallow:
Star Trek: Titan: Synthesis (2009)
Star Trek: Cast No Shadow (2011)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dreams (2013)
Revelation and Dust by David R. George III
The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack
A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack
The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow
Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward
My next read:
Look for a review of the third book in the Deep Space Nine relaunch, Section 31: Abyss by David Weddle and Jeffrey Lang in the coming week!