I was not entranced by the idea behind this first book of the
Dominion War: the construction of an artificial wormhole by the
Dominion. If it were possible, surely they would have built one
before this. It was plausibly explained, but I am still not
satisfied. Sure, a Trill scientist, obsessed by his work, was left
behind on DS9 when it fell, studying the only example of a stable
wormhole, and he was given a chance to continue his work through the
Ro Laren, formerly of the Starship Enterprise, finds out about
this giant construction project in the badlands, and after a few failed
attempts to get out of Maquis territory and back to Bajor, where they are
attacked by Jem Hadar, they are rescued by the Enterprise E.
Picard and crew are anxious about this information, and while
Picard believes her, Riker is skeptical, because of who she is. They
all agree, however, that the information needs to be verified.
Picard decides that he must be the one to lead the mission, and
that they will use Ro's ship. The explanation is typical of Star
Trek, while they don't even signal to headquarters to find out the opinions
of the Admiralty.
For the rest of the book, Data tries to track the ship, but is
forced to leave the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft when they come under attack.
He lands on a hostile planet, and is detected by a Jem Hadar ship, but
tricks them and is able to destroy their ship in an ingenious use of thermal
grenades. So he is able to escape, but he is also unable to track
Ro's ship, or the Enterprise. For all he knows, they are both destroyed.
He is a very lonely android.
But the Enterprise is not destroyed. They are heavily damaged,
but are saved by the timely arrival of a couple more Federation ships.
The battle is neat, and requisite of this kind of story, but I'm sure it
would have been better off seen than read.
After going to a Starbase for repairs, the Enterprise is forced
to wait, and Riker seduces the head of repairs. That doesn't get
his ship fixed any faster, but it does give him some much needed human
contact during a break from this horrendous and very expensive war.
Of course, the main plot centers around Picard, Ro, and Geordi,
who have entered Cardassian space. They use some really neat tricks
to shake off some Cardassian and Jem Hadar patrols, even so far as to outwit
a Cardassian boarding party. To make it look more real, they land
on a farming colony, and trade some goods. But the Jem Hadar ships
are watching them from orbit. Picard discovers that this is a prison
world, and the Cardassians are dissidents, so they help him send an alert
that will send off the orbiting ships for a while, so they can make their
I think the dissident group is a little too convenient.
Surely, if they had been normal Cardassians, Picard could have found a
way to shake off their shadows?
But the Jem Hadar ships get back on their tail, with support,
before they get to the badlands. I was enthralled with the chase,
and how the Maquis tactics worked against their enemies, using torpedoes
to simulate a ship in warp. Of course, there has to be one battle
in the badlands, and it, too, is quite neat.
They find a safe harbor, in an ancient space station, created
by an unknown race. There is a Ferengi ship waiting there, and they
board Ro's ship, and question Ro and Picard using truth drugs. But
they let the group go, because they want to prolong the war, increasing
profits. They do this by giving Ro and Picard the coordinates of
the artificial wormhole, and information that they can use to slow its
Three Romulan spies beam over from the Ferengi ship, however,
and proceed to take over Ro's ship, killing everybody on board, except
for Ro, Picard and Laforge, due to some questionable circumstances.
Simply having Laforge tired, and there to provide conversation so that
Ro doesn't have to talk seems contrived.
They manage to retake the ship, but they need a new crew. Luckily,
their target contains Federation slaves.
A good portion of the story takes place from the point of view
of Sam Lavelle, the junior crewman from the episode "Lower Decks".
He and Taurik, his Vulcan friend, were taken captive and forced to work
on the artificial wormhole. He has done so well, that the Vorta has
decided to give him a ship, and a crew, to go mine a special metal from
the depths of a Black Hole. This is the only metal that can withstand
the forces of the opening wormhole.
All the while, he plots escape, but with the Trill scientist,
and a Jem Hadar ship looking over their shoulders, that seems impossible.
But Geordi finds that they can tow an asteroid at low warp and impact the
Jem Hadar ship, which then gets sucked into the Black Hole. They
beam over the Federation crew, and the work on the wormhole is delayed.
What really left a sour taste in my mouth is the words of the
Trill then: that there was a second, secret team sent to extract
the metal from another black hole. It isn't even necessary, since
other tankers and other slave labourers are available to mine the stuff
if the first mission fails. And there are more ships and people after
that, too. So destroying the tanker wouldn't do much except slow
the project down anyway.
Another thing is the Founder at the construction site.
It was made clear that the female changeling who linked with Odo in the
sixth season was lonely. She implied that she was the only one on
this side. It is possible that her operatives on Earth were just
too busy, but for the rest of the war, we don't see another changeling,
so it seems reasonable to assume she was the only one. She had a
specific reason to go to Odo, of course, to gain his trust again, but for
company, she could have gone to the overseer at the wormhole construction
But overall, not much happened in this book. Certainly,
the Enterprise could not have taken on a mission behind Cardassian lines,
but this was not a real Next Generation novel. I wanted to see the
Enterprise in battle, or at least doing something.
I still can't figure out why they needed the Ferengi, or the
Romulans. Nearest I can see, they wanted to scare us by indicating
the Romulans were about to enter the war on the Dominion side. But
they already have a non-aggression pact. Were they thinking of actually
attacking the Federation, and potentially taking damage? Maybe that
will be made more clear in Book 4. They ended up seeing the wormhole
construction site on sensors anyway, so they didn't need the Ferengi for
that. A non-hostile source, without questionable motives, could have
provided the coordinates.
Now, Picard is thinking about destroying the wormhole on his
own (he now has a new crew, of course), Data is silently waiting in space,
and Riker is lounging around at a repair dock, waiting for the Enterprise
to be ready to enter the fray again. At lease it can't be destroyed
there. Riker is always the one who brings the most damage to that
ship. I wish Picard was commanding it.