Ossus Library Index Star Trek Index

THE LIVES OF DAX

Short stories edited by Marco Palmieri (2003, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Through all eight lifetimes, Dax was at the forefront of discovery and adventure. These are some of the events the symbiont witnessed.

 

 

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Read April 15th to 24th, 2005  
   

This is a nice set of stories, but like all short story collections, there were good ones, bad ones, and others that didn't affect me much.

The main problem I had with these stories is that they talked almost exclusively about the hosts, not about the symbiont. Only in the case of Jadzia do we get any sense that these Trill are joined. The other aspects of their lives, of the stories that we are told, could be those of anybody at all, of any species.

We start the collection with Ezri, and once again I let out a depressed sigh when Vic Fontaine made an appearance. The authors got the character down properly, but I've always found his archaic and stereotypical speech to be annoying. The authors obviously disagree, because they could have easily reduced the amount of it he was given. He took up way too much screen time on Deep Space Nine as a TV series as it is.

The framing story doesn't do much except set up Ezri's need to give her memories a voice. She starts it off by describing the events that led to her being joined. I dislike it when authors change the details that we know, like her not being the only Trill on board the ship when Dax became unstable, and the presence of a changeling. In fact, she was the only Trill available on the ship, because the other one had been replaced by the changeling and was missing somewhere. Still, there were lots of descriptive details, and the story was engaging, showing us how not all Trill believe the stereotype that they should yearn to be joined.

Dax's first host was Lela, a politician in the time before Trill became truly spacefaring. They had had contact with Vulcans, but wished to remain isolationist forever. Lela showed them that they must change, as the galaxy might come to them. As it turns out, an impatient species visits, desiring a rather rare mineral, which they steal when the Trill government decides to ignore them, killing fifty people. Lela shows others in the government that progress can be a good thing, and that knowledge about the other species in the galaxy is absolutely required.

Still, although I enjoyed the story, I thought there should have been more to it. I also thought that the first Dax story should have focused more on Dax, as opposed to the host. The joining was new for both of them. We don't get to know how Dax feels, only Lela. The only change Dax apparently gave her was a desire to know the stars. But perhaps the lack of experience and excess of passion she shows in the Council chambers stems from that inexperience.

This story and the next one have distinct contradictions to the Star Trek continuity as shown in Enterprise. Frankly, I like these better. I like T'Pau as an ambassador who speaks her mind to Lela, not an outcast, even though she speaks of Earth in a strange way, having just achieved First Contact recently. I also like the idea that humans were not the ones to invent the transporter, in Tobin's story. Perhaps it made its debut in Starfleet, and then became standard equipment within a short time period, as opposed to Enterprise, where every species already has a transporter. The Romulans in this story don't even have faster-than-light drive. As I recall from previous Trek canon, Romulans ended up using Klingon birds of prey.

Tobin's story barely held my interest at all. Set near the end of the Romulan wars, the Vulcan on board doesn't even know that he is distantly related to the intruders, anothing thing that I liked (as opposed to T'Pol, who knew everything anyway). The tale itself was rather boring, and the writing was nothing special, either. It was standard Star Trek, with a standard tech solution. Nothing much happens, at all. I did wonder, after the ship was torn in two, why the Romulan vessel wouldn't chase after the saucer section, especially after having picked up their crewmembers ejected from the airlock. For if they could find their crew, then finding the saucer section should be very easy. Tobin's use of the transporter showed some discomfort, but I think the author was trying to give us an idea why Trill didn't like being transported during the Next Generation era. It was so vague, however, that it didn't give us nearly enough information.

I rather liked Emony's story, though only because of the interaction with McCoy as a teenager. McCoy really goes for older women, and I'm not talking about the symbiont -his mother saw Emony win athletics before he was born!

All throughout these stories, we get little nods to continuity. There was the First Contact reference with Lela, the Romulans and transporters with various safeties with Tobin, and McCoy here. Even better, however, they order Chateau Picard wine!

McCoy finds out how bigoted he actually is in relation to other species, even though he thinks he has a very open mind. At the first mention of the symbiont within Emony, he runs off. Later, after the attack on Emony and the death of the other Trill athlete, he gets to feel inside. As Jadzia mentioned in Trials and Tribblations, when McCoy and Dax made love, he had the hands of a surgeon, even if he didn't know his true calling at that time. It is unfortunate that the story ended so abruptly, with the cliché of Emony telling McCoy that their destinies lay along different paths. Not a subtle way of giving rejection.

The dialog and narrative of this story was rather simple and somewhat stilted, however they were still pretty interesting. I wonder if the problem simply lies in the short nature of the stories, so that there is no time to do things more subtly. I was proven wrong, of course, by a few of the next stories in this collection...

Audrid's tale was the first that I could say that I truly enjoyed. Told by the author who would bring us the superb Avatar novels, this story was crisp, contained well-developed characters with good dialog and an abundance of plot, and continuity that doesn't seem out of place.

Audrid's story is told in the form of a letter from Dax to her estranged daughter, who blames her for letting her father die when it was not necessary. Here, we finally get the backstory for some of the events that occurred in Lesser Evil. From Dax's point of view, the information seemed to come out of nowhere, especially since the parasitic aliens appeared in the same book on DS9.

At this point in Trill history, they have opened up to aliens and space travel, but still hold their symbiotic nature secret from everybody. So when Starfleet tells them of an asteroid approaching Trill with biosignatures similar to some of their inhabitants (the joined ones, of course), they rush to investigate. An aging Christopher Pike joins them, before his accident and the events in The Menagerie. Audrid's husband is infected by the parasite, because it is most definitely not a symbiont, but a related species, the parasite that took over so many high level Starfleet officers during Picard's time. The host and symbiont were affected, and had to be both allowed to die when the mission was over.

But the plot doesn't really matter compared to the narrative and the emotion that the author puts into the story. I was amazed at how quickly the story flowed, and how interested I was, compared to the others in this book so far.

The story of Torias, however, was just way too technical and typical, and barely interested me at all. It seems that Torias only had the Dax symbiont for about six months. I don't recall the details of the previous hosts, but that seems like a very short time to be considered a "lifetime of experience". Is Torias' wife the love of his life that Jadzia encountered in the episode Rejoined? Torias is a test pilot, and is testing the Transwarp engine that will be used in the Excelsior project that we see in Star Trek III. Who knew that Saavik was part of the project, as well, as a Starfleet Ensign?

The transwarp concept is very strange. Was Excelsior supposed to travel to "everywhere" at infinite speed as described by Torias in his shuttlecraft? Or was that project abandoned to more traditional engines when the ship finally used its transwarp drive in Trek III? It certainly didn't revolutionize space travel as expected. Perhaps after Torias died, they didn't make any more progress.

Fortunately, the next story is co-written by S.D. Perry again, and is very, very interesting. Joran was the host who wasn't quite suitable, became a monster murderer, and who was erased from existence for a while. The story was very engaging, as we watched the detective hunter and Joran the hunted do a musical dance. Once again, the plot was not important; it was just there to showcase the characters, who were wonderfully written. The two stories by this author were so far above the others in terms of quality, they raised the whole calibre of the book. We know a lot about Joran from a couple of DS9 episodes. This story just fills in the details. Joran Dax was different from the person he was when unjoined. His musical masterpiece was written from the emotions of his victims as they died. It is a twisted story, balanced by the meticulous nature of the detective. Wonderfully done.

Of course, we can't get two great stories in a row. Curzon's tale was quite bizarre, but not all that interesting. It features a young Benjamin Sisko, who was way too sex-crazed to be recognizable. In fact, I can't see him as a younger version of the Captain we knew from DS9 at all. He and Curzon spout meaningless philosophy like it was second nature. He even gives nicknames to the strange creatures of the Azziz, derogatory comments that annoyed me greatly.

This author wrote a Star Wars book that I read recently, The Cestus Deception. Like this story, it was riddled with inconsistencies. He wasn't even consistent about his units of measurement, as Sisko used miles, inches and millimetres within a few pages of each other. Somehow Sisko was late for a meeting, even though the computer woke him up. Wouldn't he have been the one to set the alarm in the first place? I also found the Azziz to be too much like a peaceful version of the Yuuzhan Vong. The author seems to enjoy hive-like aliens, judging from these two stories.

Like an Enterprise episode from the second season, the other species in this story required a third sex in order to reproduce. She is very sensual, though she was supposed to have been put to death after the recent deaths of the royal family. Curzon manages a compromise by sending her home with the Azziz when one of their members was killed. That seemed like a really stupid race, too, despite all of their biotechnology. They sent out a spaceship that couldn't lose a single piece of itself without the ship dying. For a spacefaring race, they don't seem to understand the dangers, natural and from other species, of being in space. At the beginning of the story, Sisko says that the Azziz are his first First Contact, but later, we learn that humanity had met the Azziz two hundred years earlier. I wish somebody had checked this author's continuity.

In spite of all Sisko's efforts, he doesn't get to have sex with the wonderfully sensual woman from the bar. He gets to dance with her through the night, though, before she leaves. This story just frustrated me... and I also wondered how Ezri could tell a story from Sisko's point of view...

The best story, however, was saved for last. Jadzia's tale was the most powerful of all told in this collection. Wow. I was shivering from the outstanding character work done here. I don't recall mention of Jadzia having a sister in the series, but I loved Ziranne immensely and immediately. She shares a bond with her sister that is stronger than any other. The trust that she put in Jadzia was absolute and marvellous, whether it was when they were children sledding and she got hung over a cliff, or in the time of this story, when she brought a stolen symbiont home to Trill.

Having a black market for symbionts is a very strange concept, but Trek has been stranger... But it also brings into the stories Verad, who temporarily stole Dax from Jadzia a year earlier. He had plans to share a symbiont among many of the unjoined, though some of the plot was a little confusing.

It is strange that some of the best discussions of Dax come in the form of flashbacks to when Jadzia was not yet joined. When her sister talks about how Jadzia will still remain part of herself, we can see the selflessness there. But it also talks about how the symbiont becomes part of the host. Needless to say, Jadzia saves her sister and the symbiont. This story was one of only a few in the book that were truly enjoyable and very well-written.

Through all the stories, we might gain a little more appreciation of Trill society, as it developed from introspective and isolationist to more and more open, reducing the stigma attached to discussing symbionts. Unfortunately, the symbionts and their effect on the hosts was largely ignored. Most of the authors didn't discuss the symbionts at all, except to say that the hosts were joined. There was nothing really special about the people they described, except that Dax seemed to be involved in many scientific and political breakthroughs through history. These could have been any set of individuals. Fortunately, there were a couple of authors who did more than just tell us a story about a host. The joined Trill who were described that way were very well described. Jadzia's story in itself brought my rating of the book up half a point by itself.

So the final tally goes as such: I really liked Audrid, Joran and Jadzia. Ezri, Lela and Emony were pretty good, Curzon and Tobin didn't do much for me, and I didn't really enjoy Torias.

I have never really been a fan of short stories, mainly because they are always too short. However, a couple of authors showed how to write excellent short stories that told more than I would have expected, and made the book worthwhile.

 
   

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