Friday, November 1, 2013

A Ceremony of Losses

Star Trek: The Fall
A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack
Release date: October 29th, 2013
Read October 22nd, 2013

Previous book (The Fall): The Crimson Shadow
Next book (The Fall): The Poisoned Chalice

Purchasing Links: A Ceremony of Losses from | |

Spoilers ahead for A Ceremony of Losses and The Fall!

From the back cover:
Despite heroic efforts by Thirishar ch’Thane, the Andorian species is headed for extinction. Its slow march toward oblivion has reached a tipping point, one from which there will be no hope of return. 
With countless lives at stake, the leaders of Andor, the Federation, and the Typhon Pact all scheme to twist the crisis to their political gain—at any price. 
Unwilling to be a mere bystander to tragedy, Doctor Julian Bashir risks everything to find a cure for the Andorians. But his courage will come at a terrible cost: his career, his freedom . . . and maybe his life.

My thoughts:

After Una McCormack’s absolutely stellar The Crimson Shadow, how could another book in The Fall possibly measure up?

Quite well, as it turns out.

I do not envy David Mack's task of having to follow Una McCormack's fantastic entry in The Fall, but unsurprisingly, he handles the task with his usual aplomb. A Ceremony of Losses continues the story of the Andorian reproductive crisis; a story-line that, surprisingly, has now been with us for over a decade. Against the backdrop of the recent tragic events that have befallen the Federation, Dr. Julian Bashir embarks on a personal mission of mercy to help solve the Andorians’ dilemma. His plan is to access the Shedai meta genome, and act which, if discovered, would led to the end of his Starfleet career at best, and at worst, charges of treason and a life in prison. The meta genome is the Federation’s most closely-guarded secret, possibly for good reason. Featured in the unparalleled book series, Vanguard, the Shedai meta genome was discovered by Starfleet a century earlier. Its discovery and the fallout from that event led to a short but brutal conflict with the Tholian Assembly. In addition, while the meta genome could yield a plethora of benefits, the knowledge it contains could also be used in very destructive ways. In fact, Project Genesis was derived from information in the meta genome, a device that could be used as a devastating weapon. Needless to say, Starfleet and the Federation will do everything it can to ensure that the information contained in the meta genome stays under lock and key.

Dr. Bashir must overcome overwhelming odds in his fight to bring a cure to the Andorians.
It is against all of this that Bashir must struggle to find a cure for the Andorian people. This herculean task is the ultimate embodiment of Bashir's frequent "uphill battles," famously enacted in the holosuites on DS9 through the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of Thermopylae. Instead of a small force of Texans holding out against a vast Mexican army or 7000 Spartans against a force of 100,000 Persians, Bashir and a few genetic scientists must go up against the entire might of Starfleet and the Federation, as well as a reactionary Andorian government that would rather consolidate its hold on power than allow their people to be cured.

A Ceremony of Losses touches on a lot of topics that are worth deep examination. The political party in power on Andor is very right-wing and reactionary, and their base is very much against science and anything that goes against their religious beliefs. Key to maintaining their power is getting their base riled up and ready to fight. The "President Pro Tem" of the Federation, a Bajoran by the name of Ishan Anjar, is also extremely reactionary and a true "warhawk." Quick to anger and looking to score cheap politcal points at the expense of the prudent course of action, Ishan's (hopefully short) regime is a stark contrast to the presidency of Nanietta Bacco. It is in the middle of this charged political climate that Bashir finds himself.

As usual, David Mack handles the characters in his book as expertly as he does the grand, epic plots. In particular, the strained-of-late relationship between Bashir and Dax gets some very welcome development, and I'm eager to see where it goes in future novels. Also, this novel features the return for one of my favorite lit-only characters: Thirishar Ch'Thane, formerly the science officer of Deep Space Nine.

Thirishar Ch'Thane ('Shar'), formerly of Deep Space Nine.
A Ceremony of Losses, much like David R. George III's Revelation and Dust, leaves several plot points dangling at the end. A few of these are obviously specific to The Fall and will be picked up in the remaining two books in the series. However, Bashir's story in particular looks to be continued in David Mack's 2014 novel, Section 31: Disavowed, which is set to be released toward the end of next year. In addition, due to the lack of mention of the plot points revealed at the end of Revelation and Dust in this novel, we can probably assume that those stories will be continued in another novel further along in the DS9 story, and will not feature in The Fall.

Final thoughts:

I was a little worried about being disappointed after the high level of quality of Una McCormack's The Crimson Shadow, but my fears were completely unfounded. Truly, this is unsurprising, as I have yet to be disappointed by anything of David Mack's that I have read. He keeps his streak going with A Ceremony of Losses. This epic and far-reaching entry in The Fall will be an influence on story-lines going forward for many novels to come. As usual, Mack remains secure in his position as one of my favorite Trek-lit authors of all time. Another winner! 4/5 stars.

Blink and you'll miss it...

In one of my favorite references to something outside of Star Trek EVER, keep an eye out for a hilarious call-out to the animated series Pinky and the Brain.

Further resources:

Also by David Mack:

The Fall

My next read:

Look for my reviews of the stories from the second volume of S.C.E., titled Miracle Workers. First up: Interphase, Part 2 by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.

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