Friday, January 10, 2014

Peaceable Kingdoms

Star Trek: The Fall
Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward
Release date: December 31st, 2013
Read January 5th 2014


Previous book (The Fall): The Poisoned Chalice
Next book (24th century continuity): Titan: Absent Enemies
Next book (TNG): The Light Fantastic


Purchase Peaceable Kingdoms from Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Peaceable Kingdoms and The Fall!

From the back cover:
Following the resolution of the fertility crisis that nearly caused their extinction, the Andorian people now stand ready to rejoin the United Federation of Planets. The return of one of its founding member worlds is viewed by many as the first hopeful step beyond the uncertainty and tragedy that have overshadowed recent events in the Alpha Quadrant. But as the Federation looks to the future and the special election to name President Bacco’s permanent successor, time is running out to apprehend those responsible for the respected leader’s brutal assassination. Even as elements of the Typhon Pact are implicated for the murder, Admiral William Riker holds key knowledge of the true assassins— a revelation that could threaten the fragile Federation-Cardassian alliance.  
Questions and concerns also continue to swell around Bacco’s interim successor, Ishan Anjar, who uses the recent bloodshed to further a belligerent, hawkish political agenda against the Typhon Pact. With the election looming, Riker dispatches his closest friend, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in a desperate attempt to uncover the truth. But as Picard and the Enterprise crew pursue the few remaining clues, Riker must act on growing suspicions that someone within Ishan’s inner circle has been in league with the assassins from the very beginning . . . .

My thoughts:

The Fall has been an excellent series, for the most part. With a bit of a rough start from Revelation and Dust, what followed were some of the best Trek books ever written. After the superb set-up from the preceding four books, how does Peaceable Kingdoms compare? Well... sadly, not nearly as good as the prior installments.

Don't get me wrong: Peaceable Kingdoms does an adequate job of tying up the loose ends and resolving the overall story of The Fall. However, it all feels a little "paint-by-numbers." I do understand that the really great set-up of the previous novels set a very high bar that is difficult to match, but I found it impossible to escape the feeling that something was missing.

One aspect of Peaceable Kingdoms that annoyed me was the constant recapping of events from the previous books. While this sort of rehash doesn't normally bother me (after all, someone may not have read the previous books), it seemed that this recap was done numerous times throughout the book. I didn't understand why so much information was being rehashed so frequently.

The final revelation about the character of Ishan Anjar was somewhat disappointing. However, I did appreciate the fact that he believed that he was doing what was right for the Federation. The best villains are the ones who truly believe that they are on the side of the angels. However, I would have enjoyed a more nuanced examination of the two opposing sides of the debate: warhawk vs. moderate. I felt as though the warhawk side was portrayed too one-dimensionally. Having said that, there was one instance in which the lack of information from the "other side" was welcome: at one point, the Enterprise is heading towards a confrontation with another Federation starship, sent by the President pro tem to apprehend Dr. Crusher and a team from the Enterprise. Numerous attempts to communicate with the vessel are met with silence, and we are left to wonder what exactly will happen when the two vessels meet. Will she join us, or will she fire on us? I felt that being "kept in the dark" with regards to the action happening on the other starship added to the tension of the moment.

Despite the shortcomings previously mentioned, it was great to see the TNG crew back in action again. As with last year's Brinkmanship, Dr. Crusher takes a central role, which was once again very welcome. Some of the peripheral characters have gotten short shrift in most of the books, so it is always nice to see them take center stage from time to time.

It's nice to see more characters who have become peripheral in recent years, such as Dr. Crusher, take a starring role in the novels.

Finally, the book ended on a high note. The implied "new direction" that the Next Generation-era books seem to be headed in is very welcome. I am very excited at the possibility of future stories of exploration and the new path the Federation will be charting. A greater emphasis on exploration and the re-introduction of multi-year missions of discovery are exciting prospects. I'm very curious to see where future books will take this idea!

Final thoughts:

The final book in The Fall connects all of the dots that it needs to, but in a lot of ways just kind of seemed to go through the paces. I understand that the really great set-up of the previous novels is hard to match, but I feel something was lacking. I am a big fan of Dayton Ward's work to date, and as I said, this novel is a satisfactory ending. However, it lacks the "something special" that entries like The Crimson Shadow, A Ceremony of Losses, and The Poisoned Chalice had.

Further resources:

Also by Dayton Ward:

The Fall

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:

Next up is my review of The Fall as a whole, followed by Peter David's TOS novel, The Captain's Daughter.