Personally, I think the series lost its way after Missing in Action.
I enjoyed the time skip of After the Fall
and I liked how Missing in Action
tied itself in with Nemesis
through Soleta's little arc. (I also particularly enjoyed how the two named warbirds that confront her Spectre
are ships that we'll "later" see as part of Donatra's fleet - a rare moment of reciprocal continuity for New Frontier
). After that successful jump forward, though, it was as though the series didn't know where to go. Once the Priatian issue was resolved, what direction would the series take itself in? Once the interest in seeing where everyone was and how they were doing wore off, what could the series do
with this new status quo? I mean, we have the New Thallonian Protectorate now, which is fantastic, but nothing gets done with it - because we keep jumping instead to new super-powerful adversaries that have less and less to do with the conflicts that defined the original setting. After Si Cwan died, it was as though the story of Thallonian space and the crew's purpose there came to an end, at least as far as the narrative was concerned. The narrative doesn't in fact seem to care that much about the Thallonians.
Other interesting set-ups were quickly abandoned over the next two books, to my disappointment. Soleta had her nemesis/lover and then he was killed off in the next story (not that I expected the relationship to last, of course, but I was disappointed in how quickly it was all undone).
If I had to name one story element that was the nail in the coffin in terms of my enjoyment of the series, I'd have to say it was Si Cwan's ghost, to be honest. That deflated for me the impact of his death, which I had felt quite keenly. I loved how we saw his ghost silently interact with Kalinda at the end of Missing in Action
. That felt right, and there was still an ambiguity to it since only Kalinda could see him. We know Kalinda can talk with the dead, and while we'd never seen a ghost manifest to her visually before (as far as I can remember), she was very close to her brother, so I accepted it. The fact that he doesn't speak and it's clearly all in her mind (not the same as not being real
, of course - probably
) leaves me comfortable with the scene. But then Si Cwan comes back in Treason,
in a way that doesn't even explore the sense of what his new existence might be like. It finally crosses the line. It entirely negates the emotional impact of his death if he's going to continue being a character - indeed, the same
character, with no sense that dying might have changed anything.
I always enjoyed New Frontier
, as an interesting and deliberately wacky take on Star Trek, and Peter David wrote the characters well. In the last few books, though, it seems to have descended into something directionless, with too little in the way of coherent plot or well-defined character arcs to keep the corny jokes and the dialogue-inserted-solely-for-the-sake-of-setting-up-those-jokes from grating on me.
I'd like to see the characters again, though. I also appreciate the semi-regular sightings of Thallonians in David Mack novels (and references to Danteri, Xenexian flora, etc).