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FEARFUL SYMMETRY

A novel by Olivia Woods (2008, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe Book 1

Kira consults with a Tear of the Prophets in order to determine whether she was truly replaced by the Cardassian Iliana Ghemor sixteen years earlier.

 

 

Read March 14th to 20th, 2010  
   

Although much better than Warpath, this book had just as much setup, making me wonder what was the real point of the first half of the book.

I find myself saying this more and more, making me wonder if the series is worth continuing with. This book and the last one were almost all setup. The character moments had to define everything, and although they were well presented, such that I enjoyed reading almost every moment of the story, there wasn't enough movement to make it truly fulfilling.

The authors are having trouble finding a place for Sisko in his new role. He is still on leave, but comes onto the station in order to bring about peace and stability to the characters who need him most. He does this, strangely enough, as Emissary of the Prophets, rather than a Starfleet Captain. In the first pages of the novel, he has another orb experience. Considering how vague and non-linear the Prophets were in the first few seasons of the TV series, they have learned a lot, now, since they are not vague at all, and have come to an understanding of linear time perfectly. We've known since Rising Son that something big is around the corner in time, and apparently it will take the Emissaries of nine universes to repel it. Only, Sisko was killed in the mirror universe. But the authors are once again rewriting the TV series history, and claim that he only faked his death, and that Sisko has to become Emissary there, too. So our Sisko talks to Kira about Vaughn, and then Vaughn about Kira, so that she takes him with her when she finally decides to go to the mirror universe.

Vaughn doesn't get much time in this book, as he is relieved of duty after making events in Warpath "personal", something Kira has done numerous times, as has the rest of the crew. After talking with Sisko, Kira reinstates him, and when the moment comes, she takes him with her.

Quark probably gets the best character moments in the book, when he shows his worth to Major Cenn, who has taken over security in Ro's absence. Cenn does the usual wondering about a for-profit bar on the station, and is about to leave in disgust when Quark produces some useful intelligence on the three remaining prisoners that were picked up on Harkoum in Warpath. Cenn uses that information to pit each against the other to reveal more information, but one of them triggers a suicide device, killing the other two.

Ro and Kira are still recovering. Ro refuses to allow herself to heal, instead pursuing the investigation of Taran'atar's mental programming. But one of the nurses does what I fully expected (because Ro was being a stubborn fool), and let her prove her point by refusing to give her a padd so she trips over her useless feet. Kira has recovered more, to the point where I expect only lip service to her near-death experience in the next book.

The other main character here is the alternate Iliana Ghemor, whose father Kira once met, years ago, when she had been surgically altered to look like the Cardassian agent. This one is Cardassian, and aims to prevent the one from our side, who looks like Kira, from becoming Emissary in that universe. That woman is crazy. Mirror Iliana confronts the three prisoners with Kira, preventing the last one from committing suicide.

Kira instructs Nog to duplicate Smiley's transporter device for crossing over to the other universe, and by the end, he does. They are able to communicate with Smiley O'Brien, who has just enough time to be convinced of who they are, when Intendent Kira (Iliana in disguise), takes over communications and starts jamming inter-universe transports. Kira and Vaughn manage to get through just in time.

The second half of this book is dedicated to Iliana Ghemor, the one from our side, who grew up as a Cardassian and was eventually altered to look and think like Kira.

As a young girl, Iliana wanted to be an artist, even though both her parents served the state, her father on the Council, and her mother as a lawyer. She has a profound dislike for the military, which is furthered when she meets Dukat at one of her father's meetings. At that same meeting, she notices Entek of the Obsidian Order, and rekindles her childhood romance with Ataan, who is being sent to Bajor with the military.

They continue as lovers as she goes to her art school, and he proves that some Cardassian soldiers really did believe they were taming a planet. Cardassia had food shortages in the recent past, so it annexed several worlds. Bajor was one of the latest, and the locals didn't take well to helping out. He believes that if he learns their language and tries to discuss their mutual needs, the Bajorans can be reasoned with. I like the way the author presents letters from Ataan to Iliana, showing his increasing disillusionment, and the methods he gradually realizes are necessary to keep the locals from uprising, though they do so anyway.

Eventually, of course, he is killed, and we learn later that Entek allowed the security grid to "malfunction" at the wrong time, so that Kira's group could blow up the complex where Ataan was staying. This pushes Iliana over the edge, so she chooses to give up her artistic career and join the Obsidian Order. She trains, and we see her personality eroding until she has no artistic notions left. As her father says, she might someday realize her true self as what she lost along the way. This part of the book was very well done, and was quite interesting, especially since it was a digression from the main DS9 storyline. But it does give us a better understanding of our adversary, instead of simply giving us small snippets of backstory that might otherwise seem contrived or shoe-horned in.

When she accepts the assignment to Bajor to take Kira's body and memories, Dukat interferes. In part 1, we saw Kira's experience through the Orb of Memory, recalling her experience that she was certain never occurred back in the TV episode. It was "proven" at that time that Entek's stories about things she told him were untrue, but apparently they were only suppressed.

It turns out that Dukat promised Kira's mother, who was of course Dukat's mistress, that he would take care of her daughter. That promise was fickle, at best, of course. But in this case, he made sure that Iliana didn't replace Kira and that Kira was set free, instead of being killed by the Obsidian Order. So what happened to Iliana after that? It was a question that the TV show didn't answer, and we learn here that when Dukat visited the dying Ghemor on DS9, he told the man that he knew where her daughter was. In fact, she was being held in a deep cell in the prison moon orbiting Cardassia.

There, isolated for sixteen years, Dukat came to rape her and taunt her, over and over again. Sometimes he pretended she was Kira, and at others, he revealed her true name. As the memory inhibitors wore off over time, she remembered fragments of her past life, but she always thought she was Kira. No wonder she turned crazy!

I have a bit of trouble with this section. If Dukat was repeatedly raping his own version of Kira whenever he wanted to, I don't think his attitude toward the real Kira would have been as it was on the TV show. It just doesn't seem consistent.

Regardless, her escape from the prison, earning the loyalty of the three aliens who end up as captives on DS9 in part 1, is truly engaging. As the Dominion is being beaten back and attacking Cardassia as the Cardassians turn on them, the moon shudders and they lose power, which lets Iliana out of her cell. She meets her caretaker, who reveals the existence of a long-range transporter that Dukat used on his last visit, one of the technologies that he stole from the Dominion. Her allies download the videos of Dukat taunting and raping her, as well as all other information in his private quarters, and they kill the caretaker and leave -for Harkoum, the planet where Taran'atar was led at the end of Warpath.

I liked Iliana's story, and the character work in the first half of the book was also very interesting. But it is obviously setup for things to come. The book is not labeled as the first in a trilogy, but it obviously is, and as such, it doesn't have a real conclusion -not that any of these books do, as they all seem to end on a cliff-hanger. The next book promises a little more action, which in addition to the character work, will be welcome. I also liked that the name of the book, Symmetry, dealt not only with the mirror universe, but had flip sides to the novel.

 
   

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