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DEMONS OF AIR AND DARKNESS

A novel by Keith R. A. DeCandido (2001, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Relaunch Book 4
Gateways, Book 4

Deep Space Nine commits to evacuating a planet threatened with environmental crisis after spatial gateways open all over the galaxy.

 

 

3 stars

Read April 1st to 4th, 2003  
   

A good story with good characterization, but the writing style was rather complicated and had so much technobabble that it was frustrating at first.

This book continues the DS9 relaunch, and does an admirable job of maintaining the series continuity. The characters continue to grow in natural and sometimes surprising ways. The plot is just a backdrop to show off the characters.

Normally, I love character novels, but in this case, the plot got in the way. The author spends too much time giving technobabble reasons for what is happening, along with sensor adjustments and long stretches where we are witness to a couple of people with nothing to do but wait, with barely anything going on in their minds, either.

I have not read more than brief summaries of the other Gateway books, and am not interested in the books from the other series. Like the Section 31 book Abyss, I am only interested in reading the DS9 section. Fortunately, at least in this portion, the book stands alone. It is set against the backdrop of the opening of the Gateways by a race claiming to be the Iconians, but who are obviously faking it. We learn early on that they don't know all there is to know about the Gateways, but that is really just a side note.

We briefly meet with some of the other players, like Picard and the captains of the ships from New Frontier, among others. From what I can tell, I think the only one that really matters is Picard. We get a small bit of dialog telling us at the end that Nog and ch'Thane's disruption of the Gateways, discovered because there are no gateways around Bajor's special Denorios Belt, helped expose the Petraw for the fakes they are, and I assume that more detail would come from the Enterprise -hopefully their motivations were exposed in that novel, as well. It might be nice to see people from the other books, especially Kirk, who inadvertently helps the Petraw gain control of the Gateways, or Troi, who gets to make a trip to Ferenginar to see Rom, but not for the moment.

The DS9 plot revolves around the best use of a Delta Quadrant species we've seen to date. The Malon, a species that Voyager met on numerous occasions, discovers the Gateway and dumps their toxic theta radiation through it, not caring that an inhabited planet lies on the other side. The Malon crew is killed by a Hirogen hunter, another species that Voyager bested too many times to count.

Kira and Vaughn lead the teams to relocate the inhabitants of Europa Nova, a human settlement. They encounter many difficulties, but most of those are overcome quite easily. The knowledge that these people have almost works against the story, as people like Vaughn and Bashir seem to know exactly what to do in any given situation. For example, Vaughn is able to fire a phaser on a man holding up the use of a Gateway to another planet, as the inhabitants of that planet are very picky about the number of people they will let through. Vaughn gets away with it only because the other man is using an old style phaser, which doesn't work with high radiation doses, and the planet is now saturated.

The author uses even more continuity than the last author did in Abyss. It seems that every single chapter has at least one, often several mentions of people or events that occurred throughout the series, or in other series. As with Abyss, this was neat at first, but got annoying as the book went on. It's hard to think of a situation that wasn't mentioned in the book, as opposed to list what was. I think Gul Macet was there only to cause a reaction from Kira, because he was, of course, played by the same actor who played Dukat. He has a good explanation about building peace for being there, but it seemed like overkill, especially since near the end, it is made to seem as if he is going to leave with the refugees instead of following the convoy.

I enjoyed a little more Quark's plot. Negotiating with the Orion that he met with in Abyss, for control of the Gateways on their behalf, Quark is in over his head, and he knows it. I was really wondering through most of the book where Ro was, as she didn't appear in any of the plots. She shows up as Quark's dabo girl in the negotiations, so I really didn't have much to complain about -except that whenever Quark thinks about her, at his side, he thinks of her as "the dabo girl", not as Ro. That is intentionally misleading by the author, because Quark would think of her in a more familiar way. Still, the glee in his eyes must have been amazing when Ro proposed it to him! After the Gateways are disrupted, the Orions expose the Petraw and Quark manages to escape. They save Galia, Quarks' cousin and negotiator for the "Iconians" just before both ships are destroyed. Predictably, they can't escape when the Gateways go offline and are nearly trapped.

The best part of the story goes to Kira and Taran'atar, once again. They go into the Delta Quadrant to try and stop the radiation at its source, and encounter the Hirogen. Both bred to fight, Taran'atar and the forever nameless Hirogen spend a good amount of time in battle. The description of the battle was great, and really well written, as opposed to a lot of the rest of the action. It's a wonder, however, that Starfleet managed to kill any Jem'hadar at all in the Dominion War, as Taran'atar survived even with so much of his body mutilated and broken.

Pairing Taran'atar with Kira is a great move, because they both have questions of faith. They are the two characters who grow the most, especially since Kira is still coming to grips with being cast out of the religious order. She is actually worse off than we thought she was in the past few books, constantly finding herself reminiscing about the "good old days" fighting the Cardassians! Things might be bad, but they aren't that bad. She is forced to abandon the runabout, allowing it to plug the Gateway to stop the flow of radiation, and she is prepared to die. We get a good description of her faith during those moments, until she sees a Gateway on the planet, and decides to go through, choosing to be with the Prophets rather than going to Ops on DS9, its other destination (but wouldn't Ezri notice that Gateway, and perhaps even Kira on the other side?). This is where the To Be Continued sign comes in, meaning that we have to wait for the resolution of the story in Book 7. I have no problem with that. The story being told here is finished, except for Kira getting home, and presumably exposing the Gateways and closing them down on the journey.

The teams managed to evacuate the entirety of Europa Nova. How, I have no idea. They went through a lot of work, but I cannot believe that they were able to get every single person off-world. This is where one piece of continuity would have come in nicely, from an early DS9 episode where Kira had to convince a lonely man to leave his lunar home, and he refused. Sadly, the author doesn't mention that one. Their sensors were being harmed by the radiation, and so there is no way that they could confirm every person was off, and they should not be so confident.

Still, the book was entertaining. I am enjoying the way this series (DS9) is progressing, with little things keeping the overall arc going, even in the midst of a series such as this. Quark even gets an Orion dabo girl, who I think might be more than she appears to be. ch'Thane gets another chance to reconcile with his "mother" (for lack of a better term), but still doesn't want to go back to Andor and start a family. I like this portrayal of the Andorians much better than in the TV series Enterprise. Their gender is obviously more complicated than Archer's era makes it out to be, and I look forward to learning more about it. Even Kasidy makes an appearance, though with the radiation, I think she would be more worried about her unborn child. I think Nog was right, but Kasidy was thinking more of herself, and I thought that was just the author's way of getting her in the scene, so it felt forced. Ezri's small moment concerns the symbiosis committee, and the idea that maybe something is wrong with her joining.

The author told a good story; it was the writing style, especially at the beginning, that I had some trouble with. Combine the technobabble with the slang the author also uses, and many parts of it were difficult or frustrating to read -he even says, from Vaughn's point of view, that the mayor of that city is "accompanied by a blonde" -such a sexist remark! Taking that into consideration, though, I think this book would be the equal of the previous relaunch novels if he had avoided it. I am still looking forward to the next set of novels -into the Gamma Quadrant!

First, though, I have to find out what happens to Kira in What Lay Beyond...

 
   

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