This is it, the end of an era, the final stopping place story of the much loved expanded trek lit universe (ETL). As a final entry in a storyline that’s included dozens of books, dozens of authors, and dozens of years, can it possibly hold up to the expectations and obligations that it has to the fans that have followed along?
This is going to be a spoiler filled review, and will touch on things that happen through the expanded trek lit universe (and nearly every show & movie), so beware and be ready!
In many ways, this is an impossible task: take the characters that we all know and love and wrap up their stories in a way that will please the majority of the minority of Trek fans that have been reading all these books all this time. The ETL started after the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise was aired back on May 13, 2005, In fact, the ETL is responsible for redeeming Enterprise to many fans, as it took the missteps of that finale, undid the bad ones (Trip!), then continued the story to it’s logical next steps. The ETL continued to do this for Next Generation, Voyager and even the TOS era, with various marriages, children, deaths, resurrections and brand new franchises being brought to life (Vanguard, Titan, Seekers, DTI, Corp of Engineers, and yes I even count New Frontier in here too). It was everything a Trek fan that enjoys reading could hope for, with stories that advanced the characters and their universe, there were assassinations, space stations exploding, the Borg were put to a final rest, new technologies were brought forward, and new areas of the universe were opened up.
The Star Trek ETL was much like the Star Wars Expanded universe, albeit Star Wars’ version version was much larger and much more fleshed out than the Trek universe was, they both ultimate faced the same issue of cannon. Obviously the movies and television series aren’t going to have to hold to the new events that occured on the page, and why should they? Is a casual fan of either series going to want to know why DS9 looks completely different now, or why Luke Skywalker has three kids and is married to a ninja assassin red head? Likely not, they’re going to want to watch those events happen in a show or movie, and not have to read 20+ books to be in the loop. When Star Wars started production of movies and television back up in earnest, they had a decision to me, should they keep everything in cannon, should they wrap up the cannon universe somehow, or should they just turn those older stories into just ‘legends’, effectively saying “well this didn’t actually happen that way, stay tuned for what really DID happen”, as told by a Disney approved author. Their choice was to just jettison the entire SW-EU into legends, and the book fans were rightfully upset at the situation, but I can honestly see how the decision was made and how they got there, after all, if you want to catch up on the SW movies, you’re looking at maybe a couple weeks of watching TV, but with the books (and even tv to a smaller extent), that’s likely years of just reading. With a proposal from David Mack, James Swallow, and Dayton Ward CBS decided to go in a different direction, not just wrapping up the universe, but deleting the entire thing from existence, all to save the “Prime” universe from being extinguished by a transdimensional threat that was caused by Time Travel during one of the TNG movies. What timeline they’re talking about as the “Prime” one is never fully explained, much to their credit I think, because dropping the line on that would surely cause an uproar in the TrekLit circles. Would it be the TOS timeline? The Mirror Universe? The Kelvinverse? How about the Mirror Kelvinverse? Or the Green Lantern / Kelvinverse? IMHO, the best would be the Transformers / TOSverse that yes, exists in comic book form.
How how well did the ETL get wrapped up? I’d say it was done as well as possible. The three books were well written, the story made sense, there were plenty of character moments in which it was obvious all three authors truly understood the character’s voices and motivations, and I have no major complaints. I mean, I’m still going to complain, because who wants to sit around talking about how nice something is, especially when they have a lolipop stuck on their forehead, and in this case I just can’t get over the behind the scenes decisions to not include some of the universe level characters that were introduced throughout Trek. No mention of the Squire of Gothos, Douwd, Metrons, Organians, or even the Q Continuum. Yes, the Prophets are a heavy influence in the story, but of all the god-like beings in Trek, they’ve always been the among the most aloof and non-interventional and to my mind, the least interesting. That being said, the Coda trilogy uses them perfectly in terms of how I previously viewed them, they’re about as powerful as I could hope for, all while being about as worthless as they could possibly be.
So final verdict, should you read Star Trek: Coda? Let me answer that question to two different types of people: Are you a casual Trek fan and want a good story? If you’re ok with getting about 30-50 books worth of data dumped on you in a 5 page pre-story timeline with author notes, then absolutely, this is a great page turner and you may find some story elements that will prompt you to read previous books in the series.
The other answer goes to the fervent Trek fan that’s watched every show, every movie, every parody, read every book, and might have even subscribed to the magazine. If you’re that person, then you’ve likely already read the books, but if you haven’t, you absolutely need to read these before your own personal timeline is wiped out by mischievous Borg from an alternative timeline.