I 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!