Spoilers Coda: Book 3: Oblivion's Gate by David Mack Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by JoeZhang, Nov 18, 2021.

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Rate Coda: Book 3: Oblivion's Gate

  1. Outstanding

    26 vote(s)
    32.5%
  2. Above Average

    23 vote(s)
    28.8%
  3. Average

    13 vote(s)
    16.3%
  4. Below Average

    8 vote(s)
    10.0%
  5. Poor

    10 vote(s)
    12.5%
  1. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Coda is not nihilistic. The Devidians represent nihilism -- nothing to them means anything, nobody matters, life is irrelevant, they will destroy everything to consume mindlessly and let themselves eventually be destroyed in the process. The fact that the heroes of the First Splinter sacrifice everything to stop the Devidians and to save the rest of reality is in and of itself a rejection of nihilism, a declaration that life has meaning and purpose even though it will all inevitably end. Star Trek: Coda is not nihilistic -- it is existentialist.

    I think your reaction says more about your own unresolved issues with the inevitability of death than it does about the quality or meaningfulness of Star Trek: Coda.
     
  2. thribs

    thribs Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Doing all that without needing to sacrifice themselves. :)
     
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  3. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    That's not meaningful. That's just a generic adventure story with no deeper meaning at all.
     
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  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Star Trek: Coda is a story about finding meaning in life in spite of the inevitability of death. It is not a story meant to give us false reassurance that death can be cheated, because it can't. We are all going to die. Everyone we love is going to die. This is an inevitable, unavoidable fact. But we all have to find meaning in our lives until we do, and Coda is a dramatization of the act of finding meaning in spite of inevitable death.

    If that's not the kind of story you want to read, that's legit. We all need mental respite from thinking about the inevitability of death sometimes. If it's not a story that works for you, that's legit. Sometimes people just can't connect to a story.

    But to claim that Coda lacks "meaning" or is "corrupted" or was "pointless" just because it did not give the reader a false hope that death can be cheated -- because it cannot -- is reflective of the reader having unresolved issues about the inevitability of death and projecting those issues onto Coda, not an indication of the actual quality or meaning of Coda.
     
  5. Campe

    Campe Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I mean, it’s literally said as much in the final book.

    “A life only has meaning… when we make it mean something. So go make ours… mean something.”
     
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  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    In what possible sense is it pointless or meaningless to die to save other people?

    I'm making an argument about the thematic content of the books, not the real-world impetus for the books. The real-world impetus is not really important to the topic of textual thematic content.

    That is also not important to the topic behind discussed. "The book is badly-written" is an entirely separate claim than "the book is meaningless and nihilistic." Quality of the writing is entirely separate from whether or not it is meaningless/nihilistic.

    I can reach no other conclusion when someone makes ridiculous, self-contradictory statements like, "This story about people who die to save other people's lives is meaningless and nihilistic."
     
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  7. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Vice Admiral Moderator

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    @Sci , I feel this is getting needlessly personal. You're free to address the criticism in the post, but let's please not make it about the individual posters.
     
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  8. Sakonna

    Sakonna Commodore Commodore

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    Dude, I didn't like a book you liked, no need to make low-blow personal attacks about it.

    Your argument does a good job of clarifying reasons I found the trilogy to be trash, though. The reason it didn't resonate for me as a story about death is because the stakes are blown so outrageously out of proportion that it totally disconnects from any real experience of death. It didn't occur to me to think of it in those terms, because erasing your entire timeline from existence, against a backdrop of uncountable other timelines with uncountable billions of people also being tortuously destroyed, is so overdone that it has no relation to anything in reality.

    I have this problem with most stories where the stakes are some version of "the very fabric of reality will be ripped apart!" or the like (season 2 of Disco and that threat to "all sentient life in the universe" was probably TV Trek's biggest manifestation of this problem). It becomes too big to have any meaning, too big to connect with emotionally, too big to work as a metaphor for anything in actual life -- or death.

    I actually would have loved if Coda had something meaningful to say about the inevitability of death! Sadly, I didn't detect that anywhere in the three novels I read, which as they progressed were increasingly just nihilistic noise.

    I'm glad you were able to get something out of it -- just because I hated it doesn't mean I expect everyone else too -- but perhaps remind yourself that the reading you've put on top of it is only one interpretation among many. I'm sorry it offends you so deeply that I judged the books by their content, and not your own personal reading of them.
     
  9. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    See, that's not the problem. The problem is making false statements about the content of the book. Maybe you think Coda is badly-written; maybe you find the stakes too fantastical to relate them to real experiences; maybe you don't like the Riker subplot; maybe you found the villains too implausible; etc. Those are all evaluations of the text that are subjective but fair game.

    What is not fair game is to claim that the text says something it does not. Coda is not nihilistic. Claiming that Coda is nihilistic is frankly as absurd as claiming that Nineteen Eighty-Four supports Stalinism or that The Grapes of Wrath supports the free market. Coda is making a very clear philosophical statement against meaninglessness and nihilism. The characters all but turn to the camera and say, "We are going to create meaning and purpose in our lives to spite the inevitability of death by saving other people whom we will never meet." It is an explicitly existentialist, not nihilistic, text.

    Now, does that make it well-written? Is Coda a well-constructed story? Is it entertaining? Those are subjective evaluations of the text that are within the realm of legitimate reaction. But what is not legitimate is claiming that the text says something it clearly espouses the opposite of.

    I don't share that experience, but this is a valid critique of Coda. "The stakes are too big for them to feel real to me, so I could not connect to what it was trying to say." I have no problem with this argument -- because you are not trying to assert that the text says something it plainly says the opposite of.

    But right here, you appear to be contradicting yourself. Are you asserting, "I could not connect to what Coda was trying to say" or are you asserting, "Coda was not saying anything"? Because those are two different claims. The former is an assertion of subjective experience, but the latter is an assertion of objective fact. And it is a false assertion.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2022
  10. Sakonna

    Sakonna Commodore Commodore

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    Oh, or as absurd as claiming I only don't like the book because I can't face the inevitability of death! :bolian:

    This may highlight the difference in our views that causes you to have such odd reactions to what I'm saying: I believe that just because the characters state a worldview or motivation does not necessarily mean that the story told ultimately supports that same value system. (I also generally think that as soon as you have scenes that can be described as "the characters all but turn to camera and say", you are in serious trouble).

    Yes, obviously a grand statement of meaning is what they were going for, the books made that clear (to a somewhat exhausting degree). Unfortunately, authors can make execution choices that fail to successfully support their intended message, sometimes in a way that causes the finished work to communicate something dramatically different from what was planned. I'm not saying the authors were reaching for nihilism. I'm saying that's what the totality of their creative decisions communicated to me.

    :shrug:Apologies, apparently I missed the press release when you were announced as the ultimate arbiter of "What Fiction Really Means."

    I don't think there's much more to say beyond: just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they're making false statements. The parameters of what are and are not valid critique are not actually yours to set. If you're wondering any further about my positions, probably best to just search for all my posts in this thread and reread them until you can acknowledge my interpretation is valid, and anything that seems contradictory is coming from your insistence that I am only allowed to respond to Coda from within your framework.

    Or maybe I'll want to keep beating the book up, I dunno. I have found that venting about the nastiness of Oblivion's Gate does soften the unpleasant memory of reading it. Despite enjoying many things along the journey, I ultimately found Coda such an ugly, mean-spirited piece of work, and the most UN-Star-Trek "Star Trek" product I have ever consumed. It frequently reveled in the brutality it claimed to decry, and the choices made in plotting the resolution retroactively trashed anything I had enjoyed in the story along the way. Of course, YMMV.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2022
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  11. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Point of clarification: I did not say that you do not like the books because you "can't face" the inevitability of death. I said that you falsely imagined it to be nihilistic and meaningless because you have unresolved issues about the inevitability of death.

    Lack of enjoyment and falsely imagining things in a text that are not present are two entirely separate things, and inability to face death and having unresolved issues about the inevitability of death are also separate things.

    Sure. But it does if everything about the story is constructed so as to support those character's assertions and to depict them as being in the right for asserting them. Coda unambiguously depicts its protagonists as being in the right for their assertions. At no point does Coda depict their efforts as being meaningless or depict life as nihilistic.

    Once again, quality are an entirely separate question from content. For instance, Atlas Shrugged is by most accounts not a well-written novel, but no reasonable person could truthfully that it's a pro-socialist novel. I am not contesting your evaluation of the quality of Coda; I am contesting your assertions of its philosophical content.

    Okay. In what way did the construction of the narrative undercut the stated thesis?

    What do you want, dude? There are novels that just convey certain messages and it's not reasonable to claim they convey different messages. Atlas Shrugged is pro-capitalism. Nineteen Eighty-Four is anti-Stalinism. Beloved is anti-slavery. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold thinks that capitalist and communist societies are equally immoral. Looking for Alaska believes forgiveness is the answer to grief. Paper Towns thinks that idolizing people is dehumanizing. The Grapes of Wrath thinks unregulated markets harm people.

    Okay, so you're claiming it is a mean-spirited, nihilistic work because it "revels in brutality it claims to decry." Support that. In what way is the brutality it features depicted in a way that's designed to give the reader pleasure?
     
  12. Sakonna

    Sakonna Commodore Commodore

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    Look, your personal attacks on me are so shameful and nasty, I can't imagine why you think I'd want to split hairs about your phrasing and debate them with you. The decent response from you would have been an apology. I'm only interested in discussing this book with someone who can do so respectfully, so I'll just move on from engaging with you further. I might still post about the seemingly innumerable failures of "Oblivion's Gate", but no need to ask me questions if you see them, I won't be reading. I skimmed the rest of your post, and the only questions I noticed there were already answered in prior posts of mine, so if you're really wondering, you can just reread them. Anyway, bye! :bolian:
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2022
  13. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Can't support your false claims about the content of the books. Gotcha. :bolian:
     
  14. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Vice Admiral Moderator

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    @Sci , I'm not sure what's bringing this out. We are usually able to have review threads, even where people disagree, without this level of antagonism. Sakonna has already written about how they felt the book failed, and no one needs to be harangued over their personal reactions to a work. Discussion and back-and-forth is certainly OK, but we do want people to keep the discussion civil, and it feels like you are crossing the line. I know from some of your previous posts about this series that it impacted you deeply, but your odd assertion that there is only One True Interpretation is coming across as a little gatekeeper-y, and it's not really a good look.

    Further discussion is fine, but let's please try to reign in the hostility.
     
  15. DS9Continuing

    DS9Continuing Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Finally putting in some thoughts of my own, although I find that a lot of it has already been said. I got these books for Christmas and it's taken me till now to actually finish reading the full trilogy, which I think is a sign in itself. I have read and absorbed the various arguments being made on both sides in this and the previous threads, and they have been erudite and persuasive. But for myself I must admit I come down on the more "disappointed" side.

    I can't say the arguments in favour of the choices made are objectively wrong, and indeed I always read reviews precisely to get other perspectives. So I can understand that intellectually. But emotionally, my experience while reading was definitely "this is too depressing, violent and sad to be enjoyable."

    Maybe I was simply not in the frame of mind - I'd already been drifting away from TrekLit gradually over the last few years in response to some of the story directions, and I was ready to let it go in peace. Then I got myself excited in the run-up to the trilogy's release. Then, as Thrawn well explained many pages back, the product ended up simply not being what I'd hoped for.

    Well said - I couldn't see this trilogy as a "culmination" of 20 years of storytelling so much as just "the last thing that happened." Little here occurred as a result or follow-up to those stories, it was a separate story that just happened to the same people. Your idea about the Khitomer Accords, the Typhon Pact and the Dominion all teaming up (and the Mirror Universe if we must) because they realise this is bigger than any of them would have been pure Star Trek.

    And I can see the reasoning behind making Picard and the Enterprise crew the central characters – Picard is literally the central character of all 24th century Trek now, and his crew by far the most recognisable. But as also said, that's precisely why other people should have got more attention – they've had enough of it already. Meanwhile so many Trek-only characters to whom we have become so attached got nothing – they were line sayers and button pushers, then they're dead.

    I spent a lot of time assuming / hoping that the minor continuity errors – Ranjea still being alive, Hegol being killed in book 1 then alive in book 2, Troi's daughter being born on Droplet when actually she was born on that other planet while Riker was trapped on Droplet – were actually hints that we were already in a slightly different timeline, or that we were somehow slipping almost unnoticed between timelines as the story progressed.

    But no, I guess they were just continuity errors, of the kind that have been appearing more and more lately. I guess we can use that to say the "real" TrekLit continuity is still out there, and this was just the death of a continuity that was 99.99% like the TrekLit continuity.

    I took that to be a reference to Abyss, when he stopped Ethan Locken from launching a plague torpedo at a Romulan colony. But if so then that's another continuity error, since the planet is question was Orias, not Alhaya. So maybe it was referencing something else.

    We also had no final scene with Kasidy or Jake - they escaped Bajor's destruction, but so what when the universe is wiped out a couple of days later? Spock was last seen saying "well, that didn't work" and then had no final moment. And did I miss what happened to orig!Wesley after old!Wesley came through the gate? Some people seemed to get forgotten by the narrative, and others weren't in it at all.

    Kind of like Doctor Who's equivalent villain – Capaldi's "The Doctor Falls" established that the Cybermen aren't a "species" per se, they're just a thing that happens when other species face an environmental disaster and turn to technology to save them. Consequently there can be lots of different origin stories, and nothing to say they aren't all true or couldn't all inter-assimmilate.

    Ha! :lol: I never thought of that, but of course you're right!

    Ultimately I think this is the best final outlook on it. If this is the story we got, which it is, then this is the best interpretation to go with, the one that leaves the best possible taste in the mouth. I too wish they hadn't had to die, but on a meta-level and a character level both, I can accept it with this as a guide.

    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2022
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  16. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was reading an essay by Umberto Eco the other day, and came across a passage that made me think about why Coda left me cold:
    The characters in Coda leave posterity within the fictional universe nothing to believe in or find beautiful; no one in the surviving multiverse even knows that they existed or that they sacrificed anything. And that makes it hard for the sacrifice to feel meaningful on a thematic or metaphorical level. Any one of us might have to make a great sacrifice, yes, but none of us will sacrifice our universe to save a multiverse; none of us will face dying so that some other version of us can live in ignorance that we ever existed. It’s a case where sci-if trappings obfuscate rather than highlighting the universal values the story’s trying to reflect.
     
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  17. jaime

    jaime Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That is the problem isn’t it really. From the perspective of the universe(s) that were saved, nothing happened. None of it mattered. We are told in this book that it did and it does, but to all intents… it’s didn’t. It doesn’t. The central conceit even relies on the fact that for a bunch of universes to have existed at all where it did happen, a bunch of others always existed where it didn’t.
    ‘Thanks for sitting through the depressing bits, none of it mattered in the end’

    Even Star Wars managed better than that.
     
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  18. Cap'n Calhoun

    Cap'n Calhoun Writer Red Shirt

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    At the risk of feeling a little too close to Crisis on Infinite Earths, having a few survive and maybe go into hiding might've mitigated this.

    Though didn't they hint that Picard has some memories of what happened? Been a while since I listened to the audio book.
     
  19. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I see where you're coming from. Might some of your concerns have been addressed had someone been able to survive the apocalypse? I'm thinking of DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, where characters saw their universes die, lost their backstories, yet remembered their now non-existent past, just as the readers would remember the stories they had read. Perhaps Wesley might have been able to extract one character from the First Splinter during the final battle and cast them into the Prime Universe, and then you get into the question of who, and there I think there's really one option -- Rene Picard. Rene has no counterpart, and Rene remembers the universe that was and is now no more. If there were an epilogue like this, readers might well wonder when this would be followed up on, and it might not be for years, if ever. Not until someone has a story, not until an editor said it was time, not until Picard had shuffled off the stream, if then.
     
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  20. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    But here's the thing: Someone does survive the Temporal Apocalypse. Someone did see everything that the denizens of the First Splinter Timeline struggled to accomplished and will remember their sacrifices for all of eternity:

    The Prophets.

    They said so to Kira herself! The heroes of the First Splinter lived exactly as Eco suggests: Sacrificing of themselves, without reason to believe they would achieve divine reward or remembrance, merely to save those who would never meet them... and yet the Prophets still saw them and will still remember them and commemorate them.