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A novel by John Vornholt (1998, Pocket Books)
The Dominion War, Book 1

Picard and the Bajoran Ro Laren go into Cardassian territory to find and possibly destroy the artificial wormhole the Dominion is building.



2 stars

Read March 15th to 20th, 2000  

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 Dominion. 

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 escape. 

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 construction. 

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 site.

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.


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