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.)