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AVATAR, PART 1

A novel by S.D. Perry (2001, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Relaunch Book 1

The space station suffers a devastating attack as the partially new crew attempts to settle in after the long and bloody Dominion War.

 

 

4 stars

Read November 18th to 22nd, 2002  
   

I am completely amazed at how this author managed to create a new "pilot" for this series. It is fulfilling on both an emotional and an action level, and manages to insert a plot, as well.

This author obviously know these characters. I have not read too many Star Trek books before, but I don't think they come better than this. What is really amazing is that the heart of the series is gone -there is no Benjamin Sisko, no Odo, and no Chief O'brien. Worf, whom I never really missed when he was absent, is also gone, and I don't expect any them to return (except maybe Worf, since we will undoubtedly have Klingon stories in the future).

There are so many good things about this book, but foremost is the superb writing. This author writes well, is able to convey her message, and gives the characters so much depth that I was interested in each one of them from the very beginning. I only wish the series had given some of these characters this kind of depth, and consistently.

The core of this book is the settling back to "normal" life in the aftermath of war. Each of the characters carries baggage from the war, whether it's stress, anxiety, a loss of meaning, and so on. The author gets into the characters' heads, giving them thoughts that seem very natural and normal. There are so many day-in-the-life sequences, but none of them seem forced, and all of them have more than one intention.

The character that gets the most growth in this book is the one I came to loathe in the seventh season of the series: Ezri Dax. The new Dax was so poorly used on the series that I wished they had killed the symbiont when Jadzia died. I quickly changed my mind partway through this book. When the station is attacked, she is forced to take command of the Defiant, and suddenly becomes more than she ever was before. She draws on Jadzia's memories of commanding the ship, and the experiences of the others, without actually becoming them. This is expanded during the sex scene between her and Bashir. The sex was written so tastefully that once again I was amazed. She doesn't know what she is experiencing, except that it is growth, and it starts to tear their relationship apart. This is how Ezri should have been written, and instead of hating this beautiful and sexy woman, I could have loved the character.

The other character who normally was given one-dimensional treatment was Quark, but he shone here. Obsessing over Ro, the new head of security, he was terrific. But I loved the character when he was giving the party for Jake, he was a true Ferengi, perfectly written, obsessing over details, and over-charging Kira and Jake. I wondered about Jake, though, thinking that he would have hated the attention, since nobody seemed to ask him if he even wanted a party!

Kira was also well written, but she was almost always given the best material to work with, so there was little room for improvement here. She has been commanding Deep Space Nine for three months now, and is still settling into her position, not sure that all of her officers are up to the task, especially Ro, who has a history of making her own rules.

I am not sure Ro is the best choice for this book, but will reserve judgment for later, as she, too, was interesting to read, as she carried out the investigation of the murder of the Vedek who had been friends with Kira. She discovers that this woman had smuggled an ancient book of prophecies from the B'Hala ruins, of which every single one of them had come true. In order to prevent the "heresy" to continue, the other vedeks had had her murdered, but didn't find the book. Ro doesn't know this, yet, and I wonder what the consequences will be.

The woman had given a page of the book to Jake, as it mentioned him, saying he will go into the Temple and it implies that he will bring his father back. As the prophecies are never so straightforward, I can't believe this will happen, and I wonder what the author has in mind for Part II. The prophecy is now self-fulfilling, as Jake would never have made the attempt if he didn't receive that page...

The other major event that occurs at the station is an attack by three Jem'hadar fighters, which destroy a Federation ship, disable the Defiant, and nearly destroy the station. Thanks to some innovative fighting by Dax and another Jem'hadar ship which attacks the attackers, they manage to survive. I must agree with Kira in the aftermath, though it seems like a plot contrivance to me: it would have made sense to do only one set of repairs at a time, so that if the station was defenseless, the Defiant would be able to protect it, and vice-versa. But this is typical Trek, and it looks like the Dominion ships are back to being as deadly as they were when we first encountered them.

The battle is really the only place where I had a major complaint about the book. There was way too much technobabble! I don't understand the need for so much technical detail, especially from a fake universe -it could be written without, I am certain.

There are other new characters, an Andorian named Shar, who was extremely well-developed, a Bolian Starfleet first officer, who is killed, making a replacement necessary, and a few other technicians, as well. Bashir didn't really feel much more developed from the series, and I loathed the appearance of Vic Fontaine! Too bad the character survived the attack on the station. Nog is carrying on his engineering duties, and blames himself for not having the Defiant ready for combat when it was needed. His character is also well fleshed out.

Even Kasidy is given time in this book, carrying the Emissary's unborn child. I don't know why her relationship with Kira didn't feel right to me. I suppose Kira hasn't been able to talk with anybody like she did with Jadzia, and Kasidy never had any female friends that we knew about, so it makes sense. Which means I cannot explain my lack of enthusiasm for their connection.

I enjoyed the way the Jem'hadar supposedly sent by Odo was introduced to the station. After the attack, and with the letter from Odo destroyed, he stayed cloaked, watching the people on the station, because he rightly supposed he would be shot on sight! Shar gets to uncover him, throwing some kind of beverage on the sensation he felt with his antennae. I liked the way he slinked around the station, and I figured out the sensation only a couple of incidents before the crew did. I was certain, however, that he was responsible for the random power failures, which is still a possibility, if his story doesn't check out.

The other plot in this book comes from the point of view of the Enterprise, notably from Captain Picard and high-level officer Vaughn. I guess Voyager is no longer the only Starfleet ship that can navigate the Badlands, a plot necessary to Voyager's pilot episode. The experience with the Cardassian ghost ship reminded me of the encounter with the pirates in Tunnel Through the Stars, but written much, much better.

The memories on the ghost ship, caused by a Bajoran orb, were really fun. The author made them very personal, and very interesting to outside observers. All of the characters that we saw were also given depth normally unseen, and I was suitably impressed. With communications down, they don't know about the attack on DS9, though it is possible that Vaughn does, and they are heading that way.

There was a lot of continuity in this book, but somehow most of it didn't fell like it was there simply to show off, like a Star Wars author did in Jedi Eclipse and Hero's Trial. There were references to so many Next Generation and DS9 episodes, but more interesting were the reminders of O'Brien's electrical problems on DS9 (as related to Laforge), and Garak's novel-length letter from A Stitch in Time. There were references to the movie Insurrection and Ro's anti-Dominion group from Tunnel Through the Stars, but no mention of the artificial wormhole.

I was also impressed by the number of female officers on the station. Most authors, even other female authors, put males into the majority of Trek positions. Alright, so some of them died, but still...

Normally it would be difficult to review the first part in a two-part story, but this one was so full of good stuff that it was easy. Thankfully, the book is more of an emotional journey, and does not revolve around many specific events. The emotions are more fulfilling than a standard action plot, and the uncertainty about whether the Dominion sanctioned the attack on the station, combined with everybody's fatigue about the possibility of another war, gives the book a tense atmosphere.

That uncertainty, along with adjustment to the new circumstances after the long war, is really what this book is all about. And it does it really, really well.

 
   

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