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A novel by Robert Simpson (2002, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Relaunch Book 8
Mission: Gamma book 4

Vaughn finds a surprise on the way home from the Gamma Quadrant, while Kira chases a parasitic lifeform responsible for the death of an important person.



3 stars

Read August 27th to 29th, 2004  

This book was very fast-paced, and a very easy read. However, there were so many different plots that we had very little room for anything else, including character development.

Once again, the book is divided up into the Station Plot, and the Defiant's Gamma Quadrant Plot. On the station, nearly everything goes to Ro, as she picks up where the last book left off, trying to figure out why Shakaar was killed.

I suppose my grasp of politics is incomplete enough that I initially thought the Federation/Bajoran treaty should have continued in spite of the attack the same way the peace treaty between Federation and Klingons did in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, the new First Minister Wadeen's judgement is very sound: if an organization within the Federation killed Shakaar, does Bajor want to "risk" entry? They really do need to re-evaluate their resolve to do this. Kira's emotions toward the Federation were strange however. Just because a rogue organization killed Shakaar, it doesn't mean the Federation is not worth joining. She has worked with some officers worthy of huge praise, and others who were pitiful, both in the Federation and on Bajor. She knows better, and it seemed like the author was trying to make an issue out of something that shouldn't have been an issue.

Ro's plan to search the station for the assassin made perfect sense to me -it's actually similar to what I said in my review of Cathedral! The cloaked ship that they tracked was an obvious decoy, except that it didn't exist in the first place! Sending Kira on the Gryphon to pursue it was very strange, but was really only a way to get one of the main characters on-board the ship. Even Kira says "what the hell?" This left Ro in charge of security, with higher-ranking officers who disliked her.

I love the way Starfleet Admiral Akaar is such a pompous character. He personifies the Starfleet attitude, which is modeled on the American government. He thinks he can assume authority on the Bajoran station, though he is an invited dignitary. He tries to summon security, forcefully suggests policy, and so on. To try and arrest Ro for implementing security procedures is beyond his authority, and I'm glad General Lenaris saw fit to let Ro do her job, making Akaar eat his words, though he didn't seem very sorry afterward. Ro and Taran'atar seemed perfectly capable of working together. I liked his attitudes toward her "you're not supposed to do that" speeches. He sounds like Garak, who once said that "humans make rules for war, which makes war much more difficult to win". He doesn't realize that the means does not justify the end, without having the people who do the investigating lose their humanity, like Section 31. Still, it was an interesting conversation.

She finds the assassin hiding in a small alcove in ops, of all places, and when he recovers from his fall, he reveals that Shakaar was no longer himself -which the readers no doubt figured out by the last book. He had been implanted with those gross aliens that Picard found trying to take over Starfleet Command back in the first season of The Next Generation. This feels more like setup for another series, than an actual plot point. Was that what Shakaar had in the little green box in Cathedral? Did Ro or Asarem ever go through his stuff and find it? It turns out that these creatures are related to the Trill -when did that happen? Is it like Vulcans and Romulans? Is that the big secret Dax was holding in Cathedral that it thought put the whole Alpha Quadrant at risk? I'm sure the details have been given in some form somewhere, and more than likely in The Lives of Dax, which I suppose should be my next Trek book. Regardless, now we know why Shakaar disliked the Cardassians so much: the creature didn't seem to be able to invade Macet, which is one of several plots left hanging for the next book (or books).

On board the Gryphon, we are given hints that the Captain has also been infected with one of those nasty parasites. Which means that either the story is too simplistic, or that she was not the one infected. I expected the latter, and was correct. But it seems to me that Kira should not have started a mutiny before she checked her fellow mutineers -both the second officer and the doctor- for the telltale gill at the back of the neck. Once the second officer takes over the ship, the story turns into a re-take the ship tale, which is pretty predictable. We've seen this too many times before for it to be completely interesting. In the end, Kira kills the parasite, and sends a cryptic message to the intercepting ships, captained by Solok from the baseball episode, so that he helps them regain control of the phasers and torpedoes before the ship can open fire on Trill.

The book seems to end too abruptly for all the stories. A Trill officer docks with the ship to tell Kira all about the parasites' plot, but we don't get to hear it. Somehow, it seems that they plan to disrupt the Federation by getting Bajor admitted into the Federation, though. That doesn't make sense, but it brings the title of the book into play: which is the lesser evil -entry into the Federation, or remaining isolated?

Before I get to the Gamma Quadrant plot, we get a few scenes with Joseph Sisko, who is recovering from his stroke in the last book. He is severely depressed, however. His daughter's solution, with Kassidy's advice? Call Miles O'Brien! Although I was ecstatic to see him again, my first question was whether O'Brien had ever met Sisko's father, and how useful he would be. Being the every-man, however, O'Brien found a way. He made cabbage in Sisko's kitchen, bringing the old man out of his room to take over. "Got a phaser?" was his response to what O'Brien should do with the cabbage! He takes an immediate liking to Molly and Kiryoshi, teaching Molly to ride a bicycle. In the end, he asks O'Brien to bring him to DS9 to see his grandson be born.

The author did a great job in bringing Joseph Sisko to life. His dialog was just perfect. He, too, assumes what he thinks is what is best for everyone, though. Who is to say that O'Brien's children will like Creole food at all? Being part Irish, they might like their food plain! O'Brien's dialog didn't really do justice to the character, for the most part, though Keiko's was just as I remember her -stilted and annoying. Regardless, I love having O'Brien return to the station!

One interesting piece of this plot took place from Judith Sisko's point of view. She recalls her conversation with Benjamin Sisko before he left for Bajor, in orbit around Mars. I thought it was pretty cool.

Even though nearly half of the chapters in the book were devoted to it, the Gamma Quadrant plot was rather mundane. As with the Station plot, it started out really interesting, and became dull afterward.

I dislike it when normally-rational people go out of their way to become irrational. I like it even less when a reputable commander like Vaughn doesn't tell his crew, or at least his inner circle, what is going on. When the Omega crisis occurred on Voyager, what would have happened if Janeway was on an away mission at that time? The ship would have been helpless. If she had been killed, would the information have been given to Chakotay? I doubt it.

Here, Vaughn doesn't share anything about what he thinks is down on the planet even with Dax. How can she effectively prepare for what lies ahead? Bowers had every right to question his Captain, and shouldn't be threatened with insubordination for it.

As Dax explains to him later, even if he felt like he should put his personal feelings above duty for once, the crew of the Defiant has supported him for a long time on this mission, and would actually be anxious to help.

The initial search on the planet was very exciting. I liked the way the mystery deepened, when they found a crashed Jem'hadar ship, then a stranded Founder, then a Borg ship, which turned out to be a Borgified Federation ship. On board, they found Prynn's mother, also Borgified. It seems like a stretch to think that all Federation special operations officers have transmitters implanted in their brains. Wouldn't that make detecting them by the cultures they were spying on rather easy?

Although I somewhat enjoyed Vaughn's story of how his relationship with Prynn's mother developed, it wasn't really interesting. Maybe it just wasn't well-told. Compared to the rest of the book, it was kind of stilted. Maybe Vaughn's character just doesn't interest me as much as it should. After the tale, I figured the Borg ship must have been one of Lore's, though it appeared to be still connected to the Collective before it crashed. This brings in another plot point -that the Borg might be sending scouts into the Gamma Quadrant. I would rather see that one of Hugh's -or Lore's- Borg ships survived, and went on its own. However, I also liked the reference to the Pathfinder mission. As of this book, Voyager had not returned to Earth, and the Borg had not been reduced to a Pakled-type species.

This plot doesn't go anywhere after Prynn started to talk with her mother, and Vaughn felt sorry for himself. Prynn lied when she said he was a good father, even though he was never there. Is only knowledge of his love enough? I seriously doubt it, when he never demonstrated it. In the end, he kills his former lover because he is convinced that she was trying to infect Prynn with nanoprobes, after another Borg corpse tried to infect the Founder -and might have succeeded, I think, if not for the ingenuity of the shapeshifter. Strange. Also strange is that Bashir couldn't restore Rurriko from her Borg self. Considering what an artificial lifeform did with Seven-of-Nine, Bashir should have had a much easier time, especially since Voyager's Doctor had sent his reports back to Starfleet long ago.

I don't understand how we could go from a 50% finished mission at the end of the last book, to a 90% finished mission on the first page of this one. Where are all the good stories? Instead, we get a list of numbers of friendly and hostile species.

Strangely enough, the series ends at an emotional position nearly identical to where Avatar left off, for each of the characters. Specifically, Prynn hates Vaughn again for killing her mother -a second time. The other characters have some strange near-regressions, as well. Does this mean that the books in between have no meaning?

This book was like a couple of episodes, but without the resolution required. I don't see the reason to end a series like this on a cliff-hanger. Aside from the thought of a parasite war in either the DS9 series or a completely new series (how would they get these characters to Trill justifiably?), we even get the return of Jake Sisko! More than that, he returns with former Kai Opaka! Their tale will undoubtedly be told in full in Rising Son. There is also the mystery of how an entire solar system was transported light-years to where the wormhole emerges into the Gamma Quadrant.

Unfortunately, the return of Opaka is foreshadowed really poorly. O'Brien relates how she "died" and was brought back to life just pages before her actual return. Other background material was similarly presented.

The book read very quickly, but was short on introspection, especially compared to the other books in this series. The story was all plot, and although it started out with a big bang, it started to get strange halfway through. The first half felt like a conclusion to the previous book, and the second half felt like setup for the next books. It didn't feel like a conclusion to a four-book series at all. Actually, on the Defiant side of things, only the Gamma Quadrant related the tales, as they barely mentioned each other!

I said previously that I enjoyed seeing so many characters from the TV show appear, but this author seems to have gone a little overboard. Weyoun's appearance was superfluous. I don't understand why Vaughn was so adversarial toward the Vorta, either. There is no reason to suspect that Odo failed in his mission. Also, if he was cloned from a Gamma Quadrant source, how would he have known Ezri, who appeared only to the Alpha Quadrant version, which was lost.

In total, however, I did enjoy this book, probably more than I should have. It was very much like an actual TV episode, which doesn't usually dive deep into the psychological state of the characters. Spelling mistakes aside -and rude cliff-hangers that changed location every second break, this book did give us some interesting clues as to what's ahead for the Deep Space Nine series. The book could have been twice as long, and resolved some of the issues presented within, but it was action-packed, and filled with tension. I wouldn't like to see too many of these books, but once in a while, light-weight is fine.


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