Deep Space Nine

Rising Son, by S. D. Perry

risingsonA Herald, unforgotten, but lost to time, a Seer of Visions to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, will return from the Temple at the end of this time to attend the birth of Hope, the Infant Avatar.  The welcomed Herald shares a new understanding of the Temple with all the land’s children.  Conceived by the lights of war, the alien Avatar opens its eyes upon a waxing tide of Awareness.
The journey to the land hides, but it is difficult; prophecies are revealed and hidden.  The first child, a son, enters the Temple alone.  With the Herald, he returns, and soon after, the Avatar is born.  A new breath is drawn and the land rejoices in change and clarity.
-A portion of the prophecy of the Avatar


He has been a reporter and a writer.  He is close friends with the son of the Grand Nagus.  He’s seen the horrors of war, experienced the thrill of accomplishing a feat once performed by the ancient Bajorans, and acquired an extremely rare baseball card for his father just before the Dominion War.  He is the son of the Emissary.  And now, he is the star of his own book.  Jake Sisko has been missing in action ever since the events of Avatar, and not a peep had been heard from him until the very end of Mission Gamma.  The question has been hanging out there for quite some time now.  Now, the author who stuck Jake in the wormhole in the first place chronicles just what he’s been up to since in Rising Son.

As the reader may recall, Jake had read a prophecy that seemed to hint at the return of his father, Ben Sisko (former commander of DS9) from the Celestial Temple in time for the birth of his child-and it further indicated that Jake would have to go and get him.  So he took a shuttle and went into the wormhole near the station to do just that.  Unfortunately for Jake, he forgot one of the rules of prophecies (and really, as a writer himself, he shoulda known this one):  no prophecy is as straightforward as it sounds.

The novel opens up with Jake in a bad spot.  His shuttle is a mess, and he’s about to die-worse yet, he knows it.  He does, however, managed to get extremely lucky.  He is rescued before he succumbs fully to hypothermia (although it’s a close thing) by…well, a rather interesting group of characters in the Gamma Quadrant..  Their ship is called the Even Odds, and its crew consists of a hodge-podge of a number of Gamma Quadrant races, both familiar and new (and a couple of Alpha Quadrant races who have in the past had cause to be there).  They spend their time, as their captain Dezavrim put it, “looking for trouble”.  They’re a group of fortune-hunters, salvage experts, and retrievers, and their activities have gotten the attention of the Dominion (although things are pretty quiet with them lately).  And because they do business, they don’t really have the time to immediately ferry Jake back to the Alpha Quadrant.  And that begins a trip unlike any Jake has taken before, both physically and emotionally-and drives him to a meeting with destiny.

Where to begin?  Well, first, let me say that it was a distinct pleasure to open the first page and see the return of the first Gamma Quadrant species that the crew of DS9 had ever encountered.  It only got better from there:  the entire novel is sprinkled with exclusively Gamma Quadrant references.  For example, the war with the Dominion was known as the “Quadrant War”; the folks on the other side of the Anomaly (that’s the wormhole, for those who didn’t know) can be referred to as “Alphies”, and we meet again at least two other races known to exist in the Gamma Quadrant-races unaligned with the Dominion!  There’s even a brief segment that shows that the whole Gateways storyline had at least a little impact on Jake’s journey.

Then there’s the crew of the Even Odds.  Dez is the most interesting of the bunch (hey:  he’s the captain!  What’d you expect?), but Perry also has some other interesting crew members as well-such as Sraal, a life-form that interacts with machinery in a rather unique way; Pifko, who is certainly the most enthusiastic member of the crew; and Arislelemakinstess, a character I still haven’t been able to wrap my brain around (it doesn’t help that the character is actually kind of five characters, only one of which actually talks).  But it is Dez who takes an early personal interest in Jake, seeing perhaps a chance to be a better father to Jake than Dez’s father was to him; of course, he has to walk carefully, as he’s dealing with Jake’s memories of his own father, as well as the “Starfleet sensibilities” he was raised with.  The ship itself is an interesting one, as it has been patched together over time, and includes a portion of a subdeck that tends to migrate around (not to mention change size-although the ship itself doesn’t alter in size or shape).

But  make no mistake:  while the new characters and their ship are interesting, this is Jake’s story.  In the television series, we never really got to know Jake as well as I’d have liked; we knew he liked to write, and that he loved his father; he was best friends with Nog, and got along well with the entire crew of DS9.  Perhaps Jake didn’t even know himself that well, either-but in Rising Son, Jake manages to grow into a new role, at least for a while (in fact, he manages to overcome one of the more unpleasant episodes in his life in his time on the Even Odds).  And while I had a good idea of the end result from Mission Gamma and having seen the cover of this book before that, it was fun to see exactly what Jake Sisko was up to for the months he was missing; and the climax of the book will add a new dimension to the Bajoran religion as well (and I’m not talking about the obvious).  The Deep Space Nine saga continue to roll on, and Rising Son does a great job on advancing the DS9 storyline, and that of Jake Sisko-I sure hope that we haven’t seen the last of him in future books, because he does a respectable job as his own character here.

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Lesser Evil, by Robert Simpson

mgamma4I just wanted to thank you for your vote of confidence in me.  But I’m confused about what you said regarding my Starfleet status.  My commission was always supposed to be temporary.  I resigned it when I returned from Cardassia after the war.
Did you?  We must have lost the paperwork.
-Colonel (Commander?) Kira Nerys of DS9 and Admiral L. J. Akaar of Starfleet


Lesser Evil is the grand finale of the Mission Gamma books.  But is it truly grand?

On Bajor, things have gone to hell.  A major figure has just been assassinated, and it looks like someone in the Federation’s to blame.  At a time when Bajor was dead certain to be joining the United Federation of Planets, a bold move has derailed the process.  Needless to say, Kira Nerys is not happy with seeing the bright future that was opening up near the end of the last book go down the toilet.  For that matter, the Federation ambassadors aren’t too thrilled by it, either-and when a cloaking signature is found heading away from the station is detected, a Starfleet ship is dispatched to pursue, with a Bajoran officer (hm, wonder who) tagging along to help.  Ro Laren, on the other hand, isn’t at all certain that all is at it seems; and as chief of station security, she takes it very personally….

In the meantime, the mission in the Gamma Quadrant is reaching conclusion.  The previous books only have touched upon some of the highlights, as chapter one shows that they’ve made a bunch of new friends, some new enemies, and essentially done a pretty good job on fulfilling Starfleet’s charter to explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations.  But the Defiant stumbles upon something that isn’t at all new, and potentially very, very dangerous-and for Commander Elias Vaughn, something very personal-something that overrides his better judgment, but something he can not ignore.

And in a bit of a subplot, Joseph Sisko, father of that famous captain, is recovering physically from a collapse, but emotionally he’s a wreck, dealing with not only the loss of his son, but possibly his grandson as well.  We get to meet Ben Sisko’s sister (I didn’t know he had a sister; I guess I don’t qualify as being a serious Trekkie, I guess!), who seems to have a good head on her shoulders, but can’t figure out what to do about her father.  Luckily, her sister-in-law has a desperate idea that might help.

Of the four Mission Gamma books, this one certainly had the smallest page count; it also was the least impressive.  If this were an episode on television, I’d say this was a filler episode.  The encounter in the Gamma Quadrant seems contrived (even given the way the Orbs affected Vaughn, this stretches coincidence way too far); while I don’t have a problem with certain aspects of it (and I hate having to tip-toe around it, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise), the personal aspect makes little sense to me.  I also have a problem with the way it all turns out in the end.  This isn’t to say that there weren’t good points to it-because it does fill in some gaps in Vaughn’s background, which is good; and I did like the reasoning behind the reasons why the Defiant detected the signal leading to this encounter (although I refer to the personal reasons, not the coincidental nature of it).

On the Alpha Quadrant front; well, I didn’t see this one coming.  My predictions foresaw a certain shadowy organization (although I won’t rule out their involvement completely-they can make a guy paranoid!) behind all this.  However, the explanations create a nice tie between DS9 and the Next Generation-and explain a bit on just what was going on with Shakaar Edon before it all hit the fan in the last book.  Ro gets a chance to show off a bit, with a little help of the local Jem’Hadar soldier (nice to see him being useful again instead of scaring the locals).  I was also happy to see Kira getting a chance to show off a bit too, joining the Starfleet pursuit-especially when certain truths become known, which are setting things up for a very different kind of conflict that won’t necessarily be fought in space.  I’m also a bit cheered to see a little bit of the maverick in Admiral Akaar; “lost the paperwork”, indeed!

While Lesser Evil itself didn’t leave me with the same feeling as the rest of the series had, it did manage to put together a passable story (well, at least in the Alpha Quadrant); and we get to see the return of a number of characters-including the most tortured man in Starfleet, the slimiest character in the Dominion, and the-well, heck, I’ll leave the last couple as a surprise (and no fair peeking at the inside back cover).  It does advance the main storyline of Deep Space Nine, but it didn’t have the same “meat” to it as the other books had.

In closing, the Mission Gamma series seems to be pretty good; while it often seemed that the goings-on at Bajor overshadowed the Defiant mission, it did manage to blend the continuing storyline that fans of DS9 enjoy with the episodic stories that characterized the other Star Trek series.  We got insight on the most mysterious of the current cast, closure on some storylines, movement on the strange relationship between Quark and Ro, and a peek at the potential future for Bajor and the Federation.  All in all, I’d say Mission Gamma was a very respectable series.

So far, the Deep Space Nine relaunch continues to gather steam!

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Star Trek: Gateways, by Assorted Authors

Let us go and be brilliant, my friend.
-Ensign Thirishar ch’Thane to Lieutenent Nog, both of Deep Space Nine


Have a seat, and get comfortable; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride….

There were a pair of Star Trek episodes-one on the Next Generation, and one on Deep Space Nine-which featured devices from an ancient race known as the Iconians.  Specifically, there were devices called Gateways that could teleport individuals across interstellar distances.  Both the Gateways, for various reasons, ended up as rubble by the end of those episodes.  And now, they’ve inspired a massive Star Trek event, which crosses over all the franchises that have appeared in novelized form (except for Enterprise, for obvious reasons).  From the Original Series to the Next Generation, from Deep Space Nine to Voyager, and even the novel-only New Frontier and Challenger books-they all fall into the grand storyline called Gateways.

So why am I reviewing this all at once, instead of as separate reviews?

The main reason is that some of these books tie pretty close together.  In fact, all of the latter-era books happen at roughly the same time.  One of the best moments in these books is the conference between the leaders of various ships and stations; in the appropriate book, we see the same meeting under different points of view.  While I moderately loathed the method, the event itself was a great scene.  And a minor reason is because all of the books ended on a cliffhanger, with a number of major characters stepping into a Gateway to find “what lay beyond”.  Cute, huh?

So, I am presenting a series of mini-reviews.  I could, I suppose, do full reviews on each, but then I’d be until next year getting these done, and that’s just not happening.

The Original Series:  One Small Step, by Susan Wright

This takes place in the last moments of one of the third season episodes, “That Which Survives”.  One of the events of that show was the fact that the Enterprise had been flung a long, long, long way away.  That serves as the jumping point for this series, as Kirk and company attempt to unravel the mystery of the race of the Kalandans, who apparently all died out.  This seems to be disproved, however, by the arrival of a group of aliens masquerading as the Kalandans.  The truth is that this race is the Petraw, and they seem to be more along the lines of pack rats than any technologically advanced society.  So we get two groups of beings attempting to unlock the secret of the Gateway here.  I rather liked the book on the strength of the fact that this didn’t involve saving any worlds or galaxies, but simply attempting to understand a dead race, and keeping the technology out of the wrong hands.

Challenger:  Chainmail, by Diane Carey

This book is a follow up of the New Earth novels last year.  Commander Nick Keller explores an alien ship that his first mate and bosun ran into and promptly disappeared into.  Diane Carey has always written a good read, in my experience, and she manages to cover the presence of an alien race (or not so alien) on that ship and at their homeworld.  At the same time, though, the political situation between Keller and the allied race of aliens known as the Blood Many takes a bit of a hit.  Keller is so obviously unprepared for being a captain in the Starfleet mold, as he tries to hold together this alliance while staying loyal to his friends and shipmates and trying to figure out the mystery of the ship, its inhabitants, and its cargo.  This was probably one of the stronger books in the Gateways series, and worth picking up for its story alone.

The Next Generation:  Doors into Chaos, by Robert Greenberger

The first of three tightly-interwoven books, it sets up the situation in this era:  the Iconians have seemingly returned, and they have offered their Gateways to the highest bidder.  The bad news is that to prove their intentions, and to sweeten the pot, they’ve opened up all of their Gateways.  This has caused a great deal of problems across Federation space, not to mention the Klingons, the Romulans, et cetera.  The mission of the U. S. S. Enterprise and her crew is to muster up support for a coalition of governments to face the Iconians and to find out the truth behind this offer.  The crew splits up for this, to cover more ground quickly.  I anticipated this book more than any of the others (except for the next one), because the Iconians were of great interest to Jean Luc Picard, and I expected that anything about the Iconians was going to center on the good captain.  All the same, it did feel a little flat to me; probably because there were just too many supporting characters flying around, and it was beginning to get difficult to keep track of them all.  Still, it was a fairly solid book.

Deep Space Nine:  Demons of Air and Darkness, by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Tying directly into the events of the previous book, and following the events of Section 31-Abyss, we find that there are three major plots rolling here.  One, naturally, is the ongoing question of the Gateways, as none have been spotted anywhere near Bajor.  The second involves an effect of the Gateways, as one appears to be dumping large amounts of theta radiation to an inhabited world (fans of Voyager might have a pretty good clue here, although it’s explicitly pointed out in chapter one).  The third involves Quark, and his negotiation with the Iconians on the behalf of the Orion crime syndicate.  And through it all, a number of subplots from the DS9 series of novels continues to unfold, from Shar’s family problems, to Kira’s attempts to deal with her Attainted status.  It’s close, but I’d have to say that this was the strongest of the Gateways books; in such a close race, I stick with my favorite series.  But as I said, it was a real close call.

Voyager:  No Man’s Land, by Christie Golden

Still locked in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway suddenly finds herself trying to cross a region of space that is decidedly hostile, in a natural sense-asteriods, singularities, and red giant stars.  Then things get really interesting, as a bunch of Gateways start opening all nearby Voyager, including a Hirogen vessel; not all of the vessels are really friendly, and Janeway has her hands full getting various starships to follow her across the “no man’s land” while trying to figure out how to get these people back to their own regions of space.  While I considered this the weakest of the books, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad; a sort of murder mystery takes place during the book, as well as the discovery that one of the races involved are slave-lords.  Still, there are aspects of the book that seemed outright silly to me.  It does make sense with the final book in Gateways, but as a single novel….

New Frontier:  Cold Wars, by Peter David

The Gateways are even a problem in Thallonian space, which requires not one, but two starships to investigate:  the Trident, with Captain Shelby, and the Excalibur, with Captain Calhoun, her husband.  This book kicks off as many of Peter David’s books-someone ends up getting killed.  There are a pair of Gateways on two different worlds, brought by mysterious benefactors; the problem is that the inhabitants of these worlds hate each other, and were engaged in exterminating each other before the former Thallonian Empire separated them by locating them on different worlds.  Starfleet’s goal is to investigate the Gateways in Thallonian space, and at the same time, stop the cycle of violence breaking out between these worlds.  This was the other contender for the best of the bunch; while the cast of characters are beginning to be so many as to be unwieldy (two different starship crews!), David still tells a good story within the framework of this mega-storyline, while still being able to tell a stand-alone tale.  Fans of the original animated series get a special bonus as well in this book.

What Lay Beyond

I can’t really say too much about this book without spilling major beans.  I can say that this is a collection of short stories that finish the cliffhangers for each novel, and each features the assorted captains, commander, and colonel of these books.  Since I can’t go into details, I will at least let you all know my preferences, from least favorite to most (surprisingly, it doesn’t necessarily follow my opinions on the previous books!).  Original Series, Challenger, New Frontier, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Next Generation.  The reason for this order has a lot to do with how these stories followed up on the events that closed the novels.  Some made more sense than others, and some I ranked higher because they made great sense.

Final thoughts:  as far as it goes, it was a pretty decent set of books.  I am, however, extremely annoyed at the fact that I had to pick up a hardcover to finish the books.  It doesn’t really affect me all that much, but than again, I tend to read all these books!  For folks who only follow the Original Series, or Voyager for example, it might be a little upsetting to realize that to get the whole story, you need to buy a hardback (or wait a year until it hits paperback) to finish the story!  I really wish they hadn’t done it that way, because I think it was done mostly as a marketing ploy.  Just my opinion.  But if you decide to pick up these books, with the understanding that they all conclude in What Lay Beyond, and with an intention to read all the books…well, Trek has had worse stories to work with.

(2015 note:  this will likely be the post with the most tags attached.  Whew!)

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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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This Gray Spirit, by Heather Jarman

mgamma2The Cardassians aren’t our enemies any longer.  They’ve never been your enemy.  Your people served alongside them in the war.
Do you know their minds?
Bajorans aren’t telepaths, if that’s what you’re asking.
Do you have knowledge of their goals-their strategy?
I’m assuming they’re here to meet with the First Minister, but outside that, no, I haven’t tapped into their database or spied on their private discussions.
Then they are your enemy.  The unknown is always the enemy, Lieutenant.
-Lieutenant Ro Laren and Taran’atar, Chief of Security of DS9


You gotta love a book that starts out with an excerpt from Burning Hearts of Qo’noS.  It’s not central to the plot, but I just had to say it.

Mission Gamma continues with This Gray Spirit; it seems that Tennyson’s Ulysses is going to be the continuing inspiration for Mission Gamma, as both books thus far have opened with quotes from that work.  The last book ended on a very high note, having resolved issues both personal and galactic.  But this is DS9, the most edgy of the Treks out there, so as you might guess…things start to get a little out of hand.

There are about four plots moving along on this one; two center on the station, and two in the Gamma Quadrant.  I’ll cover the Defiant situation first; after all, the arc is called “Mission Gamma”.  The situation begins when the Defiant gets walloped by an attack by nanobots that cripple the ship.  It seems that the ship has blundered into a disagreement between a pair of races known as the Yrythny and the Cheka.  It turns out that the Cheka want to genetically engineer a servitor race (hm, that sounds familiar, don’t it?), and the Yrythny chromosomal segments that had jumped their evolution faster than usual (which they call the Turn Key).  The Yrythny aren’t enthused about being lab experiments.  To stir the pot a little more, the Yrythny are having some civil unrest from the two portions of their society:  the Houseborn, who are the “upper crust” so to speak, and the Wanderers, who are seen as flawed-and treated like it.  When Ezri Dax suggests a mediator, she discovers that she has been “volunteered” for the job.

As Ezri tries to find some way to find a middle ground between them, Shar ch’Thane is drawn into the Wanderer’s society; he also hopes to understand the Turn Key as well, in order to help the Andorian people.  Yes, at last, we get the full story (well, almost) behind the plight of the Andorians.  And it actually makes sense.

Speaking of the Andorians….  Back on DS9, the Cardassians come to call.  Well, specifically, Gul Macet (who still rubs many Bajorans the wrong way for looking so much like his more infamous relation, the late Gul Dukat), who has brought a Cardassian ambassador to the station to speak to present something to the Bajoran people…and perhaps resolve their long standing enmity.  That’s enough trouble to begin with; but Shar’s bondmates are also staying at the station, awaiting his return from the Gamma Quadrant; and one of them, Thriss, is giving every indication of being an extremely unstable person….

In some ways, we get the best of both Treks, in a manner of speaking.  The Mission Gamma is very much a Star Trek story, in that the crew of the Defiant is fulfilling the Starfleet charter of “seeking out new life and new civilizations”; and while it’s been seen before, the situation with the Yrythny would fit just fine for the Next Generation or Voyager.  And at the same time, we get the intrigue, politics, and character development that I’ve come to expect from Deep Space Nine.

And, naturally, we get the subplots moving along.  Taran’atar is about as untrusting a fellow as you could ask for, as shown in the above quote.  Quark and Ro actually go on a date (scary enough).  Bashir and Dax’s relationship again hits a bit of a bumpy spot due to his concern about her relying too much on her symbiont’s other memories.  And I especially like the nature of the presentation made by the Cardassians, bringing back memories of a character long gone.  (I was also moderately disturbed by what happens later….)

I admit that the book doesn’t stamp itself on my mind as much as previous DS9 offerings, but the last few chapters (including the epilogue) deliver some serious punches, and keeps the reader on edge waiting for the third book.

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Twilight, by David R. George III

mgamma1The 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”.)

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Section 31: Abyss, by David Weddle and Jeffrey Lang

abyss

A word of advice.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Don’t think for a moment that you’re going to be able to find evidence you can use to expose Thirty-One.  Just go in, do the job, and come home.
-Commander Elias Vaughn, first officer of DS9


One of the more controversial things to hit Star Trek was the introduction of a shadowy organization called Section 31.  It wasn’t that it was another secret-police style organization-it was the fact that it was apparently sanctioned by Starfleet.  Section 31 was empowered to use any and all means necessary to insure the security of the Federation.  It came to light when it attempted to recruit the genetically-engineered chief medical officer of Deep Space Nine, Julian Bashir.  Bashir was outraged at this, and refused.  He has since dealt with the Section on two different occasions:  once when the section discredited a Romulan ally for one more tractable; and once when it was discovered that Section 31 created the plague that was killing all of the Founders of the Dominion at the height of the Dominion War.  Each time, the Section walked away unscathed (although Bashir’s contact man, Luther Sloan, did kill himself in an attempt to keep Bashir from discovering the cure for the plague-he failed in that, at least).

In spite of any controversy, though, the Section seems to have become a rather popular idea to work with; recently, Pocket Books released a set of four books, set in each of the televised shows, centering on the activities of Section 31.  I am not going to go into the first three here, although Trek fans may be interested to see how the Section fared with Kirk, Janeway, and Picard.  I will, however, go into Abyss.

Abyss takes place after the finale of Avatar.  The station is crippled, now lacking even a main power supply.  Luckily, the Ferengi Lieutenent Nog has a brilliant solution (which may seem obvious to folks familiar with the series; I missed it, though).  The repairs require a good portion of the population to leave, including nonessential personnel-such as Bashir and former-counselor Ezri Dax.  They plan to visit Earth, but that plan gets derailed before it even begins by a gentleman named Cole, a member of Section 31.  He wants Bashir to track down a rogue operative named Dr. Ethan Locken, who also happens to be genetically enhanced.  This visit kicks off the story.

Unsurprisingly, Abyss offers a look at Julian Bashir as the man apart; even among his friends, he had led a life of secrecy, since the Federation (Earth in particular) has a dim opinion of genetic enhancement (Khan Noonien Singh comes to mind-as I touch upon in another review).  The only others he’s dealt with who have been enhanced are a few sandwiches shy of a picnic.  Locken can be seen more as an equal; or a dark reflection.

While Bashir is certainly a major portion of this book, the rest of the cast is by no means neglected.  Ro Laren and the Jem’Hadar “observer” get a fair amount of time, and we get a pretty good look at how the observer feels about being sent to the Alpha Quadrant and DS9.  Kira deals with the aftermath of Avatar, both in her personal life and in a professional capacity.  The crew also discovers that Jake Sisko didn’t exactly go to Earth as advertised.

For the most part, I liked Abyss.  Bashir has been a favorite character of mine from the series even before he was revealed to have been enhanced; while he was irritating early in the series, the arrogance he portrayed faded and he became more likable.  On the other hand, there are some disturbing trends in this book:  Vaughn is getting annoying in that he seems to know lots more than he should, even as a commander in Starfleet for over half a century.  I hope this gets explained sometime, because I think the character has loads of potential.

As a final note, I have noticed some people mention on the ‘net that they didn’t like the fact that there were things that seemed to be happening outside the novel; that it isn’t fully self contained.  I, personally, enjoy this fact.  Of course, I like the New Frontier series as well for the same reason.  Abyss is just another episode of DS9; it picks up from a past “episode”, and lays the groundwork for the next one.  And fans of the movies, take note:  we get a little surprise from “Insurrection” in the book too, which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

I’m rather looking forward to the next book in this “series”, which (unfortunately) will be a part of yet another multiseries story.  But Abyss has helped insure that my interest remains intact.

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The Left Hand of Destiny, Book Two, by J. G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang

Sirella, I have survived countless battles, both in space and on alien worlds.  I was held prisoner by the Dominion for two years and forced to fight Jem’Hadar in order that they could learn how to kill Klingons.  And now I am facing vicious attacks from my mad son and his mad mother.  Despite all these things, nothing in the universe inspires as much dread in me as the words ‘We need to talk, my husband’.
-Martok


The Klingon Empire is now in the hands of Morjod.  But the fate of the Empire is far from settled-still free from his control is the rightful chancellor, Martok, as well as a number of select allies-Worf and his son, Alexander; Martok’s wife Sirella and his gin’tak, Darok; the clone of the ancient emperor, Kahless; the Ferengi Pharh; and a recent recruit, Ezri Dax of Deep Space Nine (one of the more sane members of this assemblage).  As one might imagine, though, the fight for the future of the Klingon Empire is coming up.  But first, everyone needs a little background-and that kicks off the second part of The Left Hand of Destiny.

The book opens with a general meeting with the protagonists-a shock, really, when one remembers that Klingons aren’t all much for meetings-especially if they are the warriors and starship captains.  But it proves to be important, as it outlines just what Gothmara has been up to, and just how Martok came to know her-and also get some explanation as to how she’s managed to bamboozle just about every Klingon she’s come across (and it’s always interesting to see that there are some lines that Klingons won’t cross as a general rule for victory), as well as the rather gruesome origins of the Hur’q.  That explanation points to a rather obvious target for a strike against Morjod and Gothmarra; and Worf has a secondary plan to add to it, which falls into his own idea that Martok is-very likely-the leader of destiny to lead the Klingons into a new age.  But no plan survives contact, and this plan hasn’t even gotten off the ground before disaster strikes.  And as Martok demonstrated in the last book, he’s perfectly willing to do some things on his own.

A minor mystery is also unveiled involving Martok’s father; Kahless has discovered in his travels that Martok’s father was given a mysterious title-a title whose origins become a bit more clear in a vision.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this mystery crops up again later on in the book.  And it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that any victory does not come without cost-and in more than one manner.  The authors certainly aren’t shying away from upping the ante on Martok at every turn.

Hertzler and Lang continue to do a wonderful job with the characters.  Ezri is still dealing with a set of mixed emotions about the Klingons-a part of her (Curzon and Jadzia) feeling obligated to help them in any way possible, and the other part (Ezri herself) feeling that the Empire has been heading in this kind of direction for some time.  Worf demonstrates a fine sense of what the Klingons need right now-moreso than almost anyone-and knows that Martok is the best man to lead the Klingons, and that he also needs a potent symbol to aid him.  Kahless…well, if I’m comparing this to the Arthurian model, he’d almost have to be Merlin to Martok’s Arthur.  Pharh remains one of the rare examples of common sense-well, rare among Klingons, anyway; he’s also another example of an atypical Ferengi.  There’s also a set of characters that I have mixed feelings about; it makes sense that this grouping might exist where they are found, but it seems so…un-Klingon like.  In some ways, though, that’s the point.

On the whole, I found the book to be a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in the last book; the Klingons may-or-may not be heading towards a new era, but it isn’t because of any lack of quality in The Left Hand of Destiny.

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The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One, by J. G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang

Afterward, if you find yourself in a position to tell anyone about me, exaggerate nothing.  Don’t make me bigger than life.
But, General, you are bigger than life.
I’m not a general.
All right, Chancellor.
Or that.
Than what are you?
Just a Klingon.  Just a man.
-Martok and Pharh


Of the various alien species that have populated the universe of Star Trek, none have evoked the same fascination with the fans as the Klingons.  In the original series, they were the enemy, wishing nothing more than to conquer the United Federation of Planets.  By the time of the Next Generation, time had made them allies; we were exposed to their culture, their sense of honor and their love of battle to prove that honor.  They briefly became enemies again during Deep Space Nine, but the rift between allies was healed when the Dominion made their bid for the Alpha Quadrant.  It was that series which introduced General Martok-a character who started out as a minor one kicking off the temporary tiff between allies, but evolved into a Klingon unlike the others in Star Trek.  Where Worf was a Klingon raised by humans in the Klingon fashion and applied Federation morality to his Klingon side, and where most of the other Klingons were all “battle, glory, and honor” (or were underhanded weasels), Martok turned out to be quite different-a Klingon who loved the same things as most, but allowed his reasoning to rule his instincts.  By the time the series ended, Martok had ended up named as Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.

Which is where The Left Hand of Destiny begins.

Martok is aboard his flagship, arriving at Qo’noS, to be officially acknowledged as Chancellor at the Great Hall by the members of the Klingon High Council.  While Martok has some reservations, he seems to be in much more improved morale…right up to the moment the Great Hall is wiped out, with all the council members in it.  A Klingon named Morjod takes credit for it-and speaking as a “freedom fighter”, declares that the Klingons have lost their way, become a servitor race to the Federation, and vows to lead the Klingons back to greatness (read:  conquerors).  He has creatures from Klingon myth at his side; and he has a handy scapegoat for all the problems of the Klingon Empire-Worf!  And, naturally, since you need to get rid of a Chancellor to become a Chancellor….!

As Martok tries to get a handle on events, on the surface, Worf’s son-Alexander-is dealing with the fallout of the attack on the Hall; unsurprisingly, he feels as if he’s got a target on his back, being the big traitor’s son and everything.  Alexander also makes the acquaintance of a rather interesting Ferengi named Pharh, who is as unique an individual as Rom and Nog from DS9.  In the meantime, Martok’s wife, Sirella, is also in dire straits, as she recognizes that her home and family are likely to come under attack as well.  What she doesn’t know, however, is that Morjod isn’t exactly alone, and a major motivation for the coming events has everything to do with her and Martok.  And there’s a mysterious Klingon wandering around the edges, who isn’t happy about this turn of events one little bit.

For the most part, I’ve been impressed with books with former Trek actors as at least co-writers.  A Stitch in Time was a great book, and I had liked the early Shatner books (before they started looking the same).  This one is no exception, written in part by the actor who had played Martok.  It also helps that Lang had previously impressed the hell outta me with Immortal Coil.  As a team, Hertzler and Lang have put together a fine start to this two-part story.  I could draw some comparisons with some older, more famous stories-parts of the book had a King Arthur kind of feel to it (and not the action sequences); others put me in mind of Robin Hood (especially the last action sequence!).  I also loved a couple minor homages to one of the best (if not the best) Klingon books written (before Next Generation came along and revamped everything; kai the authors!).

New characters in the book stand out as well, both major and minor.  Pharh, as I’ve already mentioned, is a unique Ferengi-he actually wants to see the universe and keep as much of space between himself and his family as possible.  He also manages to rub shoulders with just about every major player in the story (at least the ones on the side of the angels).  Morjod starts out looking like a fairly charismatic Klingon (perhaps more than he should be), but later sections show that there is more to his story than is apparent to the Klingons in the Empire.  And then there’s Darok, gin’tak of the House of Martok; he’s a fairly minor character so far, but I absolutely loved his opinions about his mother, and just what her position in Sto-Vo-Kor (the Klingon afterlife) must be.

I can’t wrap the review of Book One without mentioning the main character-and that’s Martok.  Martok was more or less pushed into taking the title of Chancellor, and he’s still uncertain as to whether or not it really suits him.  It’s something that weighs on him as he infiltrates the Emperor’s Palace, and prompts him to make a telling set of statements at the end of Book One (which I won’t go into, because I think it has a much greater impact when read for the first time).  The book closes at a turning point for Martok, and I am eagerly looking forward to see just where the story goes from here in Book Two.

And to think:  when the books were first announced, I was saying “oh, no, not another Klingon book”.  Thanks for proving me wrong, guys.

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Avatar, by S. D. Perry

   

It is not necessary that I understand, only that I obey.  Obedience brings victory.  Victory is life.
-Credo of the Jem’Hadar


Okay, true confessions time.  I love Deep Space Nine.  I rank it only slightly above the original/classic series of Star Trek.  It had a shaky start, but it became pretty unique by Trek standard:  things that happened in previous episodes had consequences.  It probably helped that the setting was a space station that had to deal with such things, as opposed to being on a starship that could pick up and leave.  But eventually, the television series ended.  That was the last we’d see of the crew.

That’ll teach me.  I should’ve known that someone would run with this.

Avatar takes place a few months after the series finale, after the United Federation of Planets concluded a war with the Dominion.  If you don’t know anything about DS9, don’t worry:  there’s a marvelous preface at the beginning that hits all the highlights of the entire DS9 television series that brings you up to speed.  So if there’s something off in my review, take heart in the fact that S. D. Perry does a good job on the explanations.

For a few months, it seems that the Alpha Quadrant of the galaxy is at peace.  The commander of the Bajoran space station Deep Space Nine, Colonel Kira Nerys, is busy working on the station and their on-site battleship, the Defiant-after the war, it seems that the station and the ship are both getting long-delayed upgrades and repairs.  Unfortunately, this means that the station is vulnerable to a sudden attack from beyond the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant.  This attack makes the Federation and its allies wonder if the Dominion is already breaking the truce between itself and the United Federation of Planets.

Meanwhile, not too far away, the U. S. S. Enterprise-carrying a strategic officer named Elias Vaughn to advise on Breen tactics-stumbles upon a derelict Cardassian freighter.  The away team investigating-led by Vaughn-discovers something that not only has great importance to the Bajoran people, but changes his own life in the bargain.

And on the surface of Bajor, Jake Sisko, son of the former commander of the station, is given pages from book of prophecy in the archaeological dig at B’hala, which seem to imply great changes in store for Bajor, which center around the unborn child of Benjamin Sisko and his wife Kasidy Yates…and also imply that Jake must go into the wormhole to seek the Prophets of the Celestial Temple, and return his father back to the station for the birth of his child.  The woman who gave him the pages, however, meets a dire fate on DS9-which brings the attention of the religious powers on Bajor, still deciding who will be named Kai (their religious leader).

I’ve chosen to review both books of Avatar as one, mainly because it really is a single story, and because they came out simultaneously.  It does a great job with the backstory in the timeline mentioned above, and it picks up speed from there.  There’s a lot happening here, with the attack on the station, the fallout from that attack, Jake’s quest, the Enterprise involvement, and the prophecies of the Avatar.  The book seems to fall a little short on the new characters, who replace the lost members of the crew.  Ro Laren (a favorite character of many fans of the Next Generation), and Elias Vaughn get a fair amount of time in these books; I find Vaughn intriguing, as a 101 year old man who is still vigorous-and wears his age a lot better than the only other long-lived human I know of in the Star Trek canon; I think I might get a little tired, though, of him seeming to know characters or relatives of characters of almost everyone he meets-I realize a body can see a lot in 101 years, but the galaxy’s a big place.

There’s subplots being built up as well, one of which concerns the new science officer, an Andorian named Thirishar ch’Thane, and another involving the Jem’Hadar scowling at us on the cover of the second book.  Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir are still continuing their relationship, although bumps appear on the way; Nog is dealing with the problems of upgrading the station and fitting into the shoes of Miles O’Brien; and Kasidy is dealing with the reality that she’s the mother of the Emissary’s child-and all the heavy religious baggage that comes with it.  I also have to admit I enjoyed a couple of cameo appearances; a half-Romulan doctor from the Next Generation series seems to have improved his career immensely, and we get a look at a couple of DS9 characters who have moved onto bigger and better things in every possible way.

Avatar is the kickoff for the continuing line of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine novels, all set after the end of the series.  It not only sets the tone for the next set of books, but shakes up the status quo further (as if the end of a terrible war wasn’t enough) in the Bajoran sector and beyond.  And the finish of the book promises big things for the future.  This isn’t the first time I’ve really wanted to enjoy a book before I actually got around to reading it…but it seems that for once, the expectation was met by reality.  For fans of the television series or novels of Deep Space Nine-don’t miss this.  I think that newcomers will enjoy these books as well-while there’s plenty of continuity involved, I think that the timeline does a great job on filling things in.  Get on station for this series:  it’s off to a great start.

(2012 note:  Originally published as two separate novels, this can be found in a single book omnibus.)

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