The two men who led the expedition across the North American continent on Earth, Merriwether Lewis and William Clark, were sent on a mission to explore an expanse of unknown wilderness, to chart the lands they traveled, to seek out what new life there might be, to befriend the peoples they might encounter, to keep a record of their journey, and to bring that knowledge home. They called themselves the Corps of Discovery. Let us therefore, on this stardate, rededicate ourselves to that ideal.
-Commander Elias Vaughn, to the crew of the U.S.S. Defiant
In the beginning days of Deep Space Nine, Commander Benjamin Sisko was given two major tasks; he was to do everything possible to get the planet Bajor ready to join the Federation, and he was to explore the wormhole he discovered for Bajor-or more exactly, the space beyond the wormhole, in the Gamma Quadrant. Unfortunately, the Dominion War derailed both missions, and was forgotten in the following episodes.
But beginning with Twilight, the Mission Gamma storyline brings both of those goals back into the full picture. While the first third of the book is setup, the rest of the book goes in two different directions. On the one hand, the Starfleet personnel (Nog, Shar, Vaughn, Dax, Tenmei, and Bashir) are off on a three-month mission to explore new areas in the Gamma Quadrant, now that the Dominion has chosen to (for now) isolate itself to ponder Odo’s experiences. Then the other hand features the Bajoran front, with Kira, Ro, Quark, and some others as some very influential people in the Federation stop at DS9 for a semi-secret summit, discussing renewing Bajor’s petition to join the Federation.
First, though, the book wraps up some rather loose ends from the Gateways event; primarily the refugees from Europa Nova and the rather ticked-off Jarada who were really hoping for a benefit from the deal Vaughn had made with them. Then the book goes off into the preparations being made for the Defiant’s flight through the wormhole, and for the arrival of some unexpected guests. It’s not far into the mission, though, when the crew of the Defiant are called upon to save a world.
To be honest, the basic plot is kind of stock material; what sets the book apart (and a hallmark of the series to date) is the actions of the characters in it. In the opening third of the book alone, we get: more revelations of the troubled relationship between Vaughn and Tenmei; more Taran’atar and his attempts to understand this very different environment; lots more on Shar’s, er, romantic life, the intro of another Starfleet admiral, L. J. Akaar (points to people who figure out just who exactly he is right away; it wasn’t until waaay into the book where I finally remembered), and more!
Things get really moving once the mission is underway. As I said, I found the Defiant segments kind of “the usual”, although it continued to advance the plots of both Vaughn and Dax (who’s taken quite well to her second-in-command duties). The Bajor front is what really kept my interest, though. Kira’s a bit on the defensive, still feeling the emotional impact of her Attainder, not sure if the First Minister Shakaar’s playing straight with her, and dealing with suspicious questioning from Admiral Akaar. Quark and Ro’s relationship continues, as both come to realize that if Bajor is indeed accepted into the Federation, their lives will be turned upside down; Quark also has a new foil of sorts, as the Orion woman Treir proves to be as cunning as he is in running his bar. Actually, the truth is that Quark undergoes a number of self-revelations in this book, which I’m looking forward to seeing continue.
The continuing subplots of Deep Space Nine continue to make appearances; another mention of the search for Jake Sisko shows that he has not been forgotten; we discover a secondary mission of Taran’atar that makes perfect sense considering who sent him; Kasidy’s pregnancy proceeds as most do, although she gets hints that the Bajoran religion is about to have a little turmoil. While these don’t get much page time, they do continue to indicate the ongoing plot of the series, which is something that the television show did fairly well.
While there was a couple things that continue to annoy me (does Vaughn absolutely have to be on a first name basis with every single major player in Starfleet history?), there was far more that pleased me. While Mission Gamma itself hasn’t drawn me in as of yet, the continuing story of Bajor (and a shocking event at the end of this book) made this book more than worth the time to read…and made me want to read the next one that much more.
(2013 note: obviously, this book has NO relation to a somewhat more notable work called “Twilight”.)