Star Trek the Fall: A Ceremony of Losses
© 2013 David Mack
Now this is a way to start 2018! When Julian Bashir’s vacation is interrupted by a Ferengi delivering a message from an old comrade in hiding, the good doctor has no idea his finest hour is upon him. He is asked to receive stolen biological data, and from the noise therin produce a pattern that might save a people from extinction. It won’t be easy: the data is considered highly sensitive by three governments, one of which might kill Bashir for trying to use it, and even if he finds a cure, his career with Starfleet will be over. Still struggling with his conscience over his actions in a sanctioned but bloody bit of intelligence work (Zero Sum Game), Bashir knows responding to this forlorn plea is both the right thing to do, and an opportunity for personal absolution. If he can obtain the missing pieces and coax some of Starfleet’s finest geneticists into helping him, a people might be saved — and if it costs him his career, his freedom, or his life, Bashir is determined to deliver. A Ceremony of Losses is the best Trek book I’ve read in years, a thriller that smartly combines political and personal drama, humor, and action in a tight story full of moral dilemmas.
A little backstory is required to fully enjoy A Ceremony of Losses, but that’s to be expected in the third book of a series. The Andorians are an odd species in that they have four sexes, all of which are required to produce a single offspring. Even Treklit published in the Enterprise era hinted that the Andorians were drifting toward extinction, their reproduction woes magnified by a buildup of recessive genes that were causing chronic miscarriages. Between the Borg War and the ordinary passage of time, the Andorians have come to a crisis point: they’ll be extinct in a generation if something isn’t done. In Paths of Disharmony, the revelation that the Federation’s ban on genetically engineering sentient lifeforms, and its sequestration of any data that would aide such a project, had hidden information and tools that might be used to help Andoria resulted in that planet — one of the original founding worlds — seceding from the Union. Now, in The Fall, Andoria is under an embargo by the Federation, who suspects its leadership is being manipulated by the Typhon Pact, a confederacy of villains. The banned information and tools are what Bashir needs, but it will take more minds than his to find a cure, and even when he does the political leadership of both Andor and the Federation are playing games. Bashir has to find a way to obtain the data and do lab work without triggering any security measures, and once he’s exposed he may have to burn a lot of bridges trying to get the results to the right people on Andoria.
One of the greatest aspects of this novel is its persistent moral drama. Bashir and his comrades aren’t civilians, they’re Starfleet officers who have sworn to obey their orders, even if their orders come from an absolute ass of a president . Bashir, Captain Ro, Captain Ezri Dax, and others all have to decide how far they can toe the line, and when they’ll step over the edge. It makes for fantastic drama because characters readers know and like are working in opposition to one another, each trying to follow their conscience as best they know how, wrestling with themselves as one another. Creating believable, sustainable drama in this fashion is a lot more challenging than using obvious Bad Guys to provoke the plot, though most of the politicians here are decidedly unsympathetic antagonists. What makes it even better is that there are real consequences for these characters’ decisions: this isn’t like one of the shows, where some stern admiral pops on to lecture Kirk or Picard for being naughty, then gamely allows that the results have been worth it. Some characters will have to face the music with only a clean conscience at their back.
Oh, and this book is only .99 cents on Amazon, along with the other books in The Fall series.