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Star Trek: Peaceable Kingdoms

Since the summer, Pocket Books has been publishing an interconnected five-novel Star Trek series, “The Fall,” which has brought to a head many of the story-lines that have been running through the Trek novels for the past several years.  “The Fall” began with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), in which a terrible tragedy pushed the galaxy once again to the brink of interstellar war.  The story continued with The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review), a novel that brought together Captain Picard and the Cardassian Garak, a wonderfully unexpected combination of characters.  In David Mack’s spectacular A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review), the Andorian fertility crisis (a story-line that began at the very start of the post-finale DS9 relaunch, a decade and a half ago) came to the head as Julian Bashir’s Starfleet career came to an end (at least for now!).  Then, in the fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice (click here for my review), William Riker was recalled to Earth and promoted to Admiral, only to discover an enemy at the very heart of the Federation.

At the end of The Poisoned Chalice, I was left wondering whether these stories would be resolved in the fifth and final novel, Dayton Ward’s Peaceable Kingdoms.  Was this entire five-book series just a set-up for future stories to come?  Well, yes, in a way — the end of Peaceable Kingdoms certainly sets the stage for many more stories to be told in the Trek universe of novels.  But I was very pleased by the way in which Peaceable Kingdoms brought a definitive resolution to many of the story-lines that have been running through “The Fall.”

Over the course of the past few novels, we’ve read references to the Enterprise’s mission to Ferenginar (where apparently representatives from The Typhon Pact have been attempting to convince the Ferengi to break their alliance with the Khitomer Accord Powers and instead align with them).  I wondered if that would be the focus of this final novel, but the Enterprise’s business with the Ferengi represents only the very beginning of this tale.  This book picks up directly from the end of The Poisoned Chalice, with Riker and his allies attempting to root out the enemy they have discovered in the highest echelons of power in the Federation.

As the novel progresses, we follow many different characters across the quadrant.  The race to the election for President of the Federation is in its final days, and we spend some time exploring the politics of the situation as well as the various candidates, particularly the Bajoran Ishan Anjar and the unexpected candidate Kellessar zh’Tarash of Andor.  While Riker and Picard struggle to keep their actions hidden from their superiors in Starfleet whom they no longer trust, Beverly Crusher is summoned by an old friend, a Cardassian doctor named Daret.  Pretending to be en route to Deep Space Nine to assume the newly-vacated position of Chief Medical Officer of the station, Crusher meets Daret at a remote planet that was once the site of a Bajoran labor camp.  There, long-buried secrets come to light that will change the course of the Federation’s future.

Peaceable Kingdoms is an exciting, fast-paced novel that weaves a compelling tale of interstellar politics and the fate of hundreds of worlds with multiple rich character stories, as our heroes struggle to preserve the essential nature of the United Federation of Planets in the face of fear and hostility all around them.  These are the sorts of stories that Star Trek has always done best, in which our characters must make difficult moral decisions and strive towards an optimistic, utopian future.  In “The Fall” and many of the Star Trek novels of the past several years, we have seen Picard, Riker, and our other Starfleet characters pushed more and more up against the wall, as the Federation and Starfleet have faced one catastrophic threat after another.  It’s great to see the novels exploring the repercussions of those stories, as our characters are now faced with difficult questions as to whether their open, utopian society can possibly continue in the face of such implacable enemies both external and internal.  These are very relevant questions to our world today, giving the story of this five-book series a richness far beyond the fun of just seeing our characters in some tough spots.

It’s great seeing Beverly Crusher have such a significant part of the story of this book.  I like how the novels are addressing the way her marriage to Picard and the life of their son Rene, now four years old, would impact her life and career, and that of Picard’s.  I also like how the bulk of Beverly’s story has nothing at all to do with that.  There’s more to her than just being a mother, and I loved seeing her in a suspenseful adventure as she, Daret, and a few allies (including the return of a character from The Poisoned Chalice who I did not expect to see again so soon!) race against time to learn the truth.

My spoiler-free assessment of this novel ends here.  It’s a great book, and a fantastic conclusion to “The Fall.”  I am now going to get a little deeper into the nitty-gritty of this series, and it is difficult to avoid some spoilers.  So beware!

Ever since the character of Ishan Anjar was introduced, we’ve had cause to suspect that he might be up to no good.  It was so obvious that at first I suspected that maybe there was some misdirection involved, that the character was perhaps a red herring and not as much trouble as we were originally led to believe.  That did not turn out to be the case, and I am of mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, Anjar was the catalyst for much of the story of “The Fall,” and so his character had an important purpose in the tale.  On the other hand, not only had the Trek books already done this story of a Federation President up to no good before — Min Zife and all the goings-on in the “A Time To…” series of novels that bridged the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis — but I was disappointed by how outright evil Anjar turned out to be.  Had Anjar been a character with legitimate reason for his point of view — years scarred by the abuse of the Cardassian occupation which turned him bitter and caused him to vow that no other sentient beings would ever have to suffer as he suffered, no matter the cost — that would have been a strong reason for his behavior, and a strong hook for this story of a battle for the soul of the Federation.  But here in Peaceable Kingdoms we finally learn Anjar’s true story, and he is evil way beyond just having a point of view not in tune with the utopian ideals of Star Trek.  That was somewhat of a disappointment to me, as by making Anjar so one-dimensionally evil it undercut any validity his positons might have had, thus in my mind undermining the power of the dramatic conflict with the ideals of Picard, Riker, and co.

I also wonder if “The Fall” wouldn’t have been better served had we learned more about Anjar’s background earlier in the series.  Until this book, Anjar was a mystery.  And while that mystery was intriguing, it was also somewhat confusing as I had a hard time getting a bead on Anjar in the earlier books.  That was the point, but in my mind the story would have been stronger had we understood, earlier in the series, where he was coming from and why his worldview was so different from that of most of our heroes.  I loved the flashback chapters here in Peaceable Kingdoms.  I would have loved to have had more of that, and to have gotten those sequences earlier in the series.

I am bummed at the way so many of the intriguing characters created by Keith R. A. DeCandido in Articles of the Federation have been taken off the table in the last year-or-so of Trek novels, starting with David Mack’s Cold Equations trilogy from last year.  On the other hand, how cool is it that those characters had such a life beyond that one book??  It’s incredible the way those characters, and the focus on the Palais de la Concorde and the civilian authority of the Federation — not just the Captains and Admirals of Starfleet — have been so much a part of the fabric of the last decade-or-so of Star Trek novels.  I hope that continues.

Over-all, I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting, epic saga, and I am eager to see where the various Trek series of novels go from here.  What is going to happen to Bashir and Dax?  Will we see any stories featuring Dr. Crusher as CMO of DS9, or will that be glossed over?  Is Will Riker going to remain an Admiral, and if so, how will that impact the future Titan novels?  At the end of the book, we read that Picard is being sent on a new mission of exploration, and that Captain Sisko and the Robinson are being sent out to explore the Gamma Quadrant.  I have all sorts of questions about what that means for Sisko and Kassidy and their friends and family going forward.  I am also intrigued that no mention was made of the Voyager fleet’s mission to explore the Delta Quadrant (as established in Full Circleclick here for my review).  The over-all Trek novel universe has zoomed ahead several years past the chronology of the Voyager novels written by Kirsten Beyer, so I wonder what that means for the events of the Voyager series when they finally catch up in time to these other books.

There are lots of questions and lots of exciting potential for new stories moving forward.  I am thrilled that Peaceable Kingdoms brought some definitive resolution to a number of story-lines, and as always I can’t wait to see where the Trek novels go next.

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The LimitResistance and Q & ABefore Dishonor and Greater than the SumDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal CoilCold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of MemoryCold Equations Book 2: Silent WeaponsCold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending SacrificePlagues of Night and Raise the Dawn

Star Trek: Voyager – Full Circle

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi MaruThe Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s WingThe Romulan War: To Brave the StormRise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures

Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesUnder a Torrent SeaSynthesisFallen Gods

Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of DisharmonyPlagues of Night and Raise the DawnBrinkmanship

Star Trek: The Fall — Book 1: Revelation and DustBook 2: The Crimson ShadowBook 3: A Ceremony of Losses, Book 4: The Poisoned Chalice

Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overviewStone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in ActionTreason and Blind Man’s Bluff

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the ClockForgotten History

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298)Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311)Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions –  Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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