Two stories, one of which was bland and
uninteresting, the other of which was incredibly written and supremely
I don't read short stories anymore because they are very short, and
have trouble keeping my interest. The last few short story books I read
did not hold my interest at all. In terms of reviews, they are very hard
to rate. If they had been stand-alone novels, I would rate The Lotus
Flower **, and Paradigm *****. Together, the rating is very muddled.
The Cardassia storyline (The Lotus Flower) is mostly
forgettable. The main characters here are Miles and Keiko O'Brien, and
Garak. There are other characters, including Cardassia's leader Ghemor,
whom I believe we met in A Stitch in Time, and Dukat's physical twin,
Macet, who was reintroduced in Demons of Air and Darkness.
Cardassia, of course, is enduring a time of transition. As always in
a devastated society, there are people who are trying to help, others
who are trying to bring down the government, and others who deal in the
Keiko is heading a research study to make Cardassia's deserts grow
food, so that it can satisfy a depressed population. The government is
trying to decide whether it should sponsor that project with the aid
money it has received, or another project, which has a potential weapons
offshoot as well. Miles is sent to make an engineering presentation as a
The author resorts to a terrorist plot to give life to the story, so
Keiko and everybody around her are stuck in a hall where Vedek Yevir was
giving a speech. Nobody can even move, and I have trouble believing the
human children there could sit still for hours without driving the
potential suicide bomber mad by crying or horsing around. Did anybody
get to use the toilets?
The government's reaction is to send Macet to negotiate. O'Brien goes
with him. Macet succeeds only in making the bomber, a young Cardassian
girl, more agitated. Fortunately, Yevir steps in, and talks to her, and
keeps talking to her, showing how alike Bajorans and Cardassians are,
and telling her about the Occupation, though not telling her that the
Cardassians were the Occupiers. By the time the troops are sent in,
Yevir has her hands, so she cannot pull the trigger.
Meanwhile, Garak recognizes something in the girl's demands, that
sends him off to an old acquaintance, somebody he had tortured a long
time ago, and who still fears him. The man readily admits everything,
that the True Way was behind the attack, and that a political rival to
Ghemor, a parliamentary member who is working against everything the
government is trying to do, is associated with him.
The group will undoubtedly come up again, because a bunch of unnamed
people, part of the True Way, meet at the end of the book promising to
keep an eye on Garak...
The demands the terrorists made were the typical unrealistic things
all xenophobic people want, like having the government step down, and
throwing all non-Cardassians offworld, and so on. The religion Garak
witnessed in A Stitch in Time, the Orelian Way, also surfaces, adding to
the problems people have with advancing a society. By the end, all the
coverage makes Keiko's project the winning one, and she and Miles keep
on moving. The government is saved for the moment, and a threat is
sort-of exposed. I don't understand why Garak had to make such leaps of
intuition, which didn't make sense, nor was it necessary. The author
didn't capture Garak at all, except in the line "You, O'Brien, are just
a simple engineer in exactly the same way as I am just a simple tailor."
I didn't like the way the author used short chapters, which rotated
between Keiko's point of view, O'Brien's, Garak's and the unnamed True
Way members. The breaks in the chapters were random, and the unnecessary
rotation was annoying. At least this story was relatively short.
After that, I didn't know what to expect going into Paradigm.
From the first chapter on, however, I was hooked. There isn't too much
plot in this story, which is a good thing, because it lets us focus on
the characters. There are really three main characters, and thus, points
Shar is heading back to Andor to try and help his mother through a
political crisis, as she is being threatened with being unseated from
her Federation Council position. He is pointedly not invited to the
sending funeral of his bondmate, Thriss, who committed suicide back in
This Gray Spirit. But he ends up at the castle-keep where her family lives, so things
get more complicated.
Prynn has been courting Shar over the course of the last couple of
books. She doesn't like what he is forced into doing, especially since
she is a rebel at heart, and doesn't like the restrictive Andorian
culture. She decides to back her friend up, for more than just
friendship. Prynn's point of view gets the most time, and we see her
gain an understanding of the Andorian way of life, we see her fall in
love and in lust with Shar, and her recoil when she sees him being
brought back into the Andorian fold.
Commander Mathias (also wonderfully introduced back in
This Gray Spirit) was the last person to interact with Thriss, and
as such, is invited to Thriss' funeral. There isn't much time spent on
this point of view, but her best moments are her observations of Prynn
and Shar. From her perspective, as a Councilor, she can see how
romantically linked these two are. It is obvious to everybody else, as
well, even without her training.
The main thrust of the story is Shar's return, and how it affects
him. From Prynn's point of view, it is a love story. And the story
contains all sorts of love. There is the hidden love, when the two are
still on Deep Space Nine and contemplating a relationship. They become
more physically reactive, without actually making love, as they arrive
at Andor. When Shar decides he has had enough and has to escape his
is wild and reckless love, as they steal an aircar and go to a city
where the people are partying all night long. Andorians use a drug to
help in the mating process, for which producing a child is extremely
difficult. When Shar and Prynn ingest some food and drink laced with
this drug, their love turns to lust, though Shar keeps his head long
enough to get them away from the "party", where they are found. Prynn is
a very sexual and sensual young woman. I liked the way she couldn't help
herself to check out Shar's body when he stripped (Andorians don't value
physical privacy as much as they do mental privacy), thinking that they
could make it work, if they decided to get physical. After all, with
four genders, who knows how compatible they are.
Throughout the entire story up to this point, I found every bit of it
fascinating. I don't think we've seen Prynn so well written in the
series until now. She has such a feminine character, that I wondered how
much the author put of herself into it. Every thought and action felt so
The Andorian culture was also fascinating. They seemed to live in a
medieval society, but use the high technology of the Federation that
they helped create. Their ancient culture was well-preserved so that
even though Terrans gave up their religion long ago, the Andorians held
onto theirs. Unfortunately, it is not much more than the simple Terran
idea of Earth, Air, Fire and Water (you would think an alien society
would come up with something different). Still, the way it was written
made me feel like I could go on exploring it for a long time.
The author didn't feel that way, and rightfully so, I think. When
Shar's mother was kidnapped, my first thought was to roll my eyes at
more terrorists (haven't we had enough of those plot threads?), and that
a jeopardy plot wasn't necessary. Still, it gave us more insight into
the Andorian society.
Prynn feels scorned love when Shar focuses his attention exclusively
on finding his mother. Fortunately, an Andorian mother, whom they had
met earlier in the book, knows who the kidnappers are and where they
most likely went. Thia's bondmates are part of the violent opposition to
the government, and used the opportunity to make a point.
The point of contention comes from the rumor that Andorian
researchers are studying ways to turn their species from four genders to
two, which would radically change their culture. Obviously, many good
people are shocked by this when they find out it is true.
Prynn feels jealous love when she sees Shar massaging Thia, as she
has just given birth, and has some physiology that requires the help of
(typically) the male-male gender in the bond-group.
It became obvious where the story was headed at this point. Shar is
shown to still love the other members of his bond-group, and I wasn't
sure Thia's bond-group would survive the story. Given that Thia had the
same role as Thriss, it occurred to me that they would form another
bond-group. They do, but it is not one that was matched by genetics. So
they turn to research performed on the Yrythny eggs Shar brought back in
This Gray Spirit to help the breeding process.
Still, Shar has feelings for Prynn, and he hoped to continue their
relationship at a later time. It was shown very clearly in this story
that bond-groups often go their own ways after the child is born, paving
the way for a future romance.
None of the plot points, however, felt in any way contrived (except
perhaps the flash-floods, which I saw coming the moment the dry riverbed
was mentioned). Whenever something happened, there was a plausible
reason for it -more than that, actually: it felt like a logical
occurrence, based on what came before. Even when Mathias was infected by
those burrowing insects, puffing out her skin, some authors might have
paired Shar and Thia because these were her bondmates, but it was also
mort logical for her to stay with Mathias, having the most experience
with healing. In this way, Shar and Prynn managed to work out their
The story ends on a note that these characters will continue to grow,
and that is a good thing. Based on this author's last book, I was hoping
we would get more than the endless description she provided there. This
was certainly more, and better. The authors are continuing a very good series of
books, from an excellent TV series.