Monthly Archives: December 2014

Cathedral, by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels

mgamma3I don’t deny that I might benefit personally from a last-minute rapprochement between Bajor and Cardassia.  If the price of such a peace is that I throw all of that aside, then I will gladly do it.  I come among you not as a candidate for kai, nor as a representative of any religion.  I am here with one agenda only:  to bring our peoples together without any force or coercion-even the benevolent kind that the Federation would surely bring.
-Vedek Yevir Linjarin


The previous two books had one thing in common with each other:  I felt that the Gamma Quadrant side of the Mission Gamma story wasn’t nearly as engrossing to me as the DS9 side.  Well, Cathedral doesn’t reverse that trend…but it does stop it dead in its tracks.

On the station, we get to see the fallout of the last book’s tragedy.  Even that tragedy, however, is overshadowed by the ceremonies to celebrate Bajor’s entry into the Federation.  But a crisis that’s been hinted at in the last couple of books begins to become a bit more blatant, as an offshoot of the Bajoran Religion (and based heavily on the Book of Ohalu…you remember-the book that indirectly got Kira Attainted?).  However, it is hardly shown as an evil cult like the one with the Pah-wraiths were.  Not only do they try very, very hard to get Kira on board with them, but they also try to convince Vedek Yevir to reverse the Attainder on Kira.  In the meantime, life goes on in the station, as Quark and Ro make some hard decisions about their future, and Taran’atar continues to try to understand this extremely contradictory society.  And Vedek Yevir decides to take upon himself a mission (inspired by a “gift” from Kasidy Yates) that he views as the last, best chance for a mutual peace between Cardassia and Bajor.

Then we have the fun with the Defiant.  Nog, Ezri, and Julian are on a survey mission in a shuttle (which does NOT get blown up!), and they encounter a rather unusual phenomenon-a construct that is half a billion years old, and exists in substantially more than the traditional three dimensions.  They do, however, manage to get a little too close.  And that proves to have unexpected side effects:  for Nog, a wondrous blessing.  For Ezri, an unexpected separation.  And for Julian…a loss of his very self, as his genetic enhancements slowly start to go away.  All this, plus a pair of alien races that refer to the object as a cathedral, and who are most definitely antagonistic toward each other.

Maybe I was in a better mood reading this book, but I felt that the Gamma Quadrant mission easily matched the DS9 segments in Cathedral.  Maybe it’s the fact that nobody really has a handle on what the “cathedral” is; maybe it’s because the aliens genuinely seem alien (possibly because the universal translator doesn’t exactly work too fast in translating the languages here).  Or maybe it’s because this one focuses heavily on the Defiant characters I know best-the ones who we followed on the television show.  But the other characters aren’t shorted too much-Vaughn is still Vaughn, to coin a phrase, trying to deal with a pair of alien races and find a way to deal with the consequences of the shuttle trip; and Shar is dealing with his new problems, as he feels the price of joining this mission may have been too great.  Even so, the big character development on this one belongs to Julian Bashir; once, he wondered what he would have been like had he not been enhanced, which brings to mind a favorite quote from a Star Trek movie…”Be careful what you wish for.”

The characters on the station get to deal with the schism in the Bajoran religion; we don’t get as much a focus on it, as the book tends to cover certain characters each chapter; the ones that do, however, show that there are two major forces here:  Vedek Yevir and Vedek Solis Tendren of the Ohalavaru (who has announced his own candidacy for kai, the religious leader of the Bajoran people).  Tendren, interestingly enough, has a view of the Prophets that actually matched the opinions of their Emissary not so long ago; while Yevir continues to be guided by an encounter with Captain Sisko that he believes set him on a path to become kai himself.  Yevir’s the character that most stood out to me in this book-prior to Cathedral, I viewed him as a religious fanatic, a power-seeking zealot, yet one who was absolutely convinced he was right.  Well, that opinion didn’t change much; but this book makes clear that he also has the well-being of Bajor at heart.  He also has the most impressive scene in this series so far; and given some of the things that’s happened in Mission Gamma, that says a lot.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that First Minister Shakaar’s actions in the last book have not been ignored; and as one reads through this book, one begins to get the sense that not all is right with Shakaar.  Clearly, there is more going on here than meets the eye, and it may not bode well for the future.

Cathedral continues to demonstrate that Deep Space Nine is a place of deep mood swings; the highs are really high, and the lows are really low; and nothing demonstrates that more than the last two pages (how’s that for a teaser?).  I feel that Cathedral is the most balanced book in the Mission Gamma series, and it’s been the only one in which I looked forward to each Gamma Quadrant chapter as much as the DS9 chapter.  It’s a trend I hope to see continued in the finale of this series-although I suspect the events on the station will be a far more engrossing read-and once you’ve finished this one, you’ll understand why!

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Aces High, edited by George R. R. Martin

aceshighI’ll get the arm!  You get the leg!
What about the hand?
-A scene between Devil John Darlingfoot and Croyd Crenson that has to be read to be believed


The first book about the Wild Cards took place over decades, introducing the reader to the jokers and aces-and occasional “nats”-that populate the Earth after the Wild Card Virus wreaked its havoc.  Well, Aces High shrinks the time frame down considerably-the first story takes place in 1979, and the bulk of the story takes place in 1985-1986.  That’s one difference.  The other difference is that the first book held completely self-contained stories, while this one has certain events occurring in the background that helps drive the plot.

Those events are related to an alien invasion from the Swarm, which Dr. Tachyon describes as a type of telepathic yeasts.  The invasion also coincides with activities of a group of Egyptian Masons that see the Swarm as an entity known as TIAMAT, for which they’ve been waiting for a very long time; and the Masons aren’t exactly what you’d call compassionate people.  These stories are still fairly contained, each dealing with differing aspects of the invasion.

A framing story is about a joker named Jube Benson, who is actually far more of a stranger than he seems; he is intimately involved with many of the goings on behind the scenes in this book-some events moreso than others.  His investigations reveal many of the secrets behind the Masons and the Swarm (well, kind of).

The first story, “Pennies from Hell”, involves Fortunato and his attempts to learn more about TIAMAT after discovering a second copper coin-the first having been found ten years ago.  It gets the ball rolling on the Egyptian Masons, and is an okay story.  I didn’t have many problems with it.  The second is “Ashes to Ashes”, which features the Sleeper, and is a rather amusing tale when Croyd is hired to recover a body.  It was probably one of my favorites in this book.

It all hits the fan with “Unto the Sixth Generation”, which introduces the android Modular Man, as well as his somewhat socially deviant creator-it also features the first strike of the Swarm, and the beginning of full activity for the Masons.  Continuing the vein of new characters, James Spector stars in “If Looks Could Kill”.  James is a bit of a sociopath, at least that’s how it seems to me; it probably didn’t help that he’s the only known survivor of a Black Queen draw of the Wild Card-but the price he paid wasn’t exactly worth it.

Next are a trio of stories that work well together, as the characters from each have parts in each of these to some extent.  “Winter’s Chill” is a story of Thomas Tudbury, during a lull in the invasion, and how he deals with the marriage of an old sweetheart…and how he reflects on how he came to reach this state.  Then, “Relative Difficulties” brings Doctor Tachyon face to face with his relatives, and believe me, they’re as dysfunctional as any family on TV…if you add lethal tendencies to the mix.  And there is “With a Little Help From His Friends”, in which Mark Meadows and his “friends” work to prove that a joker didn’t commit a murder in Jokertown, only to find that the true culprit is far more dangerous.

“By Lost Ways” features a young woman who goes by “Water Lily” who gets caught up in the whole Masons mess.  I wasn’t all that impressed by this story, to be honest.  I really can’t say why…it just didn’t grab me.  “Half Past Dead” features Yeoman, and his continuing war against his enemy Kien…which gets tied into a final chance to defeat the Swarm.

The stories are a mixed bag.  I found I really liked some, and didn’t like some others.  Actually, “didn’t like” isn’t really the right term; it’s just that I didn’t enjoy them as I did some of the others.  And, again, I have to question the format of the re-release of this book at such a high price.  If the publishers are hoping to drum up interest for a new set of Wild Card books, they certainly chose a lousy way to do it.  My recommendations for the first book holds true for Aces High.

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