Book Review: Star Trek: The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice

Star Trek: The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice

James Swallow

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. . . .

This was the fourth entry in the five-book series, The Fall.  It was a damn good read, even if it didn’t quite measure up to the three novels prior.  That slight shortfall, I believe, has more to do with my Star Trek preferences more than the actual quality of the book.  Though this is titled as part of The Fall, it is essentially a Titan book, and I sometimes struggle with the Titan novels due to the tone and feel of them.  However, Swallow did an excellent job — this truly and deeply felt like a Titan novel.  (And the variation of styles throughout The Fall series is refreshing, and allows me to read each book sequentially.  Sometimes I can’t read an author or series for more than two books in a row — but I’ve had no problem with The Fall.)

By now, readers should be aware of the main plot threads that have been resolved and are continuing, but if you are new, beware of SPOILERS AHEAD!  President Bacco is dead and the evidence is shaky and misleading as to who did it.  In the previous entry, A Ceremony of Losses, Dr. Bashir solved the Andorian reproductive crisis at huge personal risk, having been arrested and confined in a high security cell in some remote asteroid.

This book, The Poisoned Chalice, is finally where the disparate threads of the last three books are suddenly pulled together and we see how these plots tie together.  Something has been reasonably clear from the outset and is suddenly clearer — something dark and sinister is pervading throughout Starfleet, and that all seems to be coming from President Ishan’s office, the temporary president until a special election can be called.  Whether it’s Ishan, himself, or Velk, his assistant, that is pulling all of these strings and bringing the Federation to the brink of war with the Typhon Pact, is unclear.

As mentioned earlier, this has the deep feel of a Titan book; Swallow does an excellent job penning this entry to the series.  It was a gripping read from start to finish and did an excellent job of bringing some much needed cohesion to The Fall.


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