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A novel by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels (2002, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Relaunch Book 7
Mission: Gamma book 3

After an encounter with an alien artifact, three Defiant crew members begin reverting to earlier versions of themselves.



3+ stars+

Read August 15th to 25th, 2004  

Extremely well written, and I enjoyed the plots, as well. I only think the authors didn't go far enough with the Defiant crew.

The fast-paced style is a nice change from the slow and plodding stuff we got in the last two books. It is very familiar, and I wonder if that is, simply, because it feels so much like an episode of the TV series. There is plenty of action, lots of thought-provoking events, and some development of the main characters, as well!

The plot in the Gamma Quadrant was the most interesting, and took most of the book. The Defiant intervenes in a dispute between two species who are firing upon each other, and offers to help repair the smaller damaged ship. Meanwhile, Bashir, Ezri and Nog are on a survey mission when they encounter a strange structure that oscillates in and out of different dimensions.

The interesting parts occur when those three start having strange symptoms. Ezri starts getting spacesick again, and eventually her body rejects the Dax symbiont. Nog's leg, which had been amputated during the Dominion War, starts to grow back. Bashir's genetic engineering starts reversing itself. The authors explore the way these characters react to their situations.

Bashir gets the bulk of the story. There was way too much technobabble as he was describing his condition, and way too much when he was treating Ezri and Dax. However, Bashir becomes angry and panics at losing himself. Even before he re-entered the Cathedral, however, I think he started coming to terms with who he really is.

As I did in Abyss, this is a good place for me to rant over my interpretation of the DS9 writers decision to make Bashir genetically engineered. I think they go out of their way to explain why a person is so smart, when they didn't need to. He could be naturally intelligent! However, they did come up with some amazing stories about his genetic engineering, that I could forgive them. In this story, Bashir seems to regress too far. He becomes simple-minded. I hoped he would not degenerate into an imbecile. Even if he went back to the person he would have been without the advanced genes, he should have been able to think about complex things. However, I realized before he did that he probably overshot his childhood, because he was so advanced to begin with. Did he fall so far because he started off so high? I think so.

So Bashir's fall was interesting in the way he panicked. He was able to regain some of his dignity, however, by continuing to go to work, and at least trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy. At other times, he sat in his room, worrying about losing his mind altogether. I wish he would have thought about O'Brien once in a while. (Speaking of which, I have to reiterate that I'd love to see him again -soon.)

The resolution, with Bashir running around the hospital and rescuing his younger self from the procedure, was very strange, but satisfying. He seemed to bounce around to a lot of different alternate realities compared to the others. In one, his genetic engineering went awry, and he ended up with Jack and the others (whom I wasn't too pleased to see again). I liked the way he came to terms with the fact that Jules was still inside him, and that the man was not somebody to hide from or be ashamed of. Still, he seemed to start to come to that realization when he shifted into another reality before going back to the Cathedral: Jules seemed to be a very happy person, and he might like to become that person, given the chance. Great!

The other interesting aspect of Bashir was his memory cathedral. I loved the way he kept everything organized in rooms and shelves, and they way they were boarded up when he started to regress. It was like an actual physical place.

The other person who became really interesting was Nog. As would be expected, he was more than happy to get his real leg back -ecstatic, really. I loved his guilt at feeling so happy, considering what Bashir and Ezri were going through. I think it was a real cliché that all three of them had to go back to the cathedral to reverse its effects. It seems a little convenient that Nog starts fluctuating into another universe, forcing him into the cathedral. It would have been a really cool subplot and a fresh start if they let Nog keep his leg. However, the thought that he might be willing to sacrifice the others for his leg was appealing enough. Nog's restoration was very weird. What about putting him back on Ferenginar? Instead, he stands around and lets an image of Taran'atar cut his leg off again. Very strange.

Ezri gets the short shrift in this book. She gets the clichéd feelings of being useless, the same clichéd stuff she went through when she arrived on DS9 to begin with. She feels inadequate, since she was given the job of first officer because of her huge experience -as Dax. I would have expected serious depression after she had just gotten used to the symbiont, not just an empty feeling inside. As expected, Vaughn's talk to her is just and straight. She should have enough of her memories, and perhaps even enough residual memories from Dax, to do her job. She has bolstered her own self confidence over the last year and a half, not Dax's, that she could easily stay on the command track. Ezri faced her fears, in an interesting way: through her mother, she personified her last doubts about being joined. It wasn't quite satisfying enough, though.

As for the Dax symbiont, what secret has it been hiding for 125 years? Perhaps it was an event that took place in The Lives of Dax, which I have not yet read.

And the aliens they met at the beginning of the book? The race they helped actually wants to destroy the artifact, though they don't figure this out until the end, as the universal translator takes a very long time to work out the language, and the aliens are not very forthcoming. I liked the mention of Sato translation routines -yay, Hoshi! The other aliens, for their part, think of the artifact as a cathedral (as did everybody who first saw it in the book!), and won't let the away team go back inside to fix their problems, because they think Vaughn will try an destroy it, as they have one of the enemy aliens on board. Nog and Shar find a way around this by using self-replicating transporter pods on the cometary bodies nearby, reminiscent of the self-replicating mines used in the TV show. I hope they destroyed them on the way out of the system. The destroyers turn on the Defiant when the crew won't yield transporter technology, for it would be used to send explosives inside. These aliens actually have a natural organ that can communicate through subspace, so have been kept up to date all through the mission! Shar's antennae make themselves useful figuring this out.

Speaking of Shar, he gets to unburden himself about Thriss' death to Nog, after being reclusive for most of the book.

Back on the station, only about a day passes through the book, and most of it is spent waiting for Bajor to sign the Federation entrance papers. Everybody continues to wonder about their place in a Federation that considers them to be outsiders.

Kira gets a lot of unwanted exposure, as the religious schism she created back in Avatar sees the alternate religion wanting her reinstated into the faith. Her situation is very interesting, as she does not want to join the alternate faith, but believes in their open-minded ways, nonetheless. Her faith is so very strong, and her introspection was a very interesting part of the book. It was neat to see so many characters from the series continue to pop up, including the woman who had a baby with Dukat in the Pagh wraith cult.

Ro and Quark, meanwhile, continue to debate what they will do when the Federation takes over. Ro is unwanted in Starfleet, which makes her situation very interesting. I can't believe the writers put her in the series only to take her out again so quickly. I sincerely wonder what kind of journey she will be going on. Quark, of course, does not plan to stay around when the money-less Federation arrives, so he and Ro decide to go into business together, during their date at Vic's. What kind of business, I don't know, but that's for future stories to tell.

One of the continuing plots of this series is the reconciliation between Bajor and Cardassia, before it entered the Federation. Everybody seems to think it necessary, but Shakaar kept delaying it. Vedik Yevir, who we've grown to dislike in this "season" of the show, takes it upon himself to go to Cardassia and seek the peace that the diplomats failed to bring about. It was nice to see Garak again, if only briefly, and that he is still going about the restoration of Cardassia after A Stitch in Time. He helps Yevir and the Cardassian religious order find the last missing Orbs of the Prophets.

This is the way the book should have ended. I don't see the need for the cliff-hangers. However, at least one was a great cliff-hanger, turning the station part of the plot of this series on its head. About to sign the documents bringing Bajor into the Federation, Shakaar is murdered!

The Trill assassin, in charge of security for the ambassadors, played Ro so very well. Quark was suspicious, but only because he was jealous of the attention that Gard gave Ro. The man flirted with her endlessly, and was handsome, perfectly picked for the part. Now, the question is why? Might it have something to do with the green box Shakaar was fondling in his quarters, and his strange behavior? People seem to think that Gard left the station, but with the shields up, I doubt it. Regardless, if I hadn't been ready to read the next book right away after this one, this would have caught my interest...

The other cliff-hanger comes out of nowhere, in that Joseph Sisko, wasting away after his son and grandson disappeared so close to each other, is discovered unconscious in his garden. It really has nothing to do with the entire series, but is part of an ongoing plot that I suppose has to be dealt with. Again, we'll see where this leads.

I liked this book a lot. The tension on the station side of the plot, and the talk about faith, was quite powerful. The Defiant side of the story gave the characters some great moments to think about who they actually are. I liked Vaughn's thought that they were turning into alternate versions of themselves, from other timelines. Unfortunately, very few of the Cathedral experiences were really completely satisfying.

I also wonder how the Defiant's mission could be only 50% over, with one tiny book left in the Mission Gamma series. Shouldn't Vaughn cut the mission short as the replicators are no longer working? It seems unreasonable to continue when they no longer have the means of creating spare parts for repairs, even if they have enough meals to survive.


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