A nice coming-of age
story for Jake, with an interesting plot and well-developed characters.
When Jake disappeared back near the end of Avatar Book II, something
strange was happening to him, and he disappeared for at least 6 books.
This single book takes place during the same timespan as all of those
books, and even includes a reference to the Gateway crisis that appeared
in Demons of Air and Darkness. The end is known, of course, because the
last chapter of Lesser Evil actually takes place after the end of this
This was the author's chance to show off a non Star Trek crew with
totally new aliens, who generally have a different culture and some of
whom are not humanoid. I like the fact that the authors are starting to
branch out into the stuff that the series never did. Imagine Pif, the
canine-like alien who can't stop talking. I know a lot of dogs like
that! There is also Stess, a multipart alien, reminiscent of some rarer
aliens I've read from other books, and a crystalline alien who can
inhabit electronic machines. There are several humanoids, including a
Cardassian left over from the ill-fated attack on the Founder homeworld,
two Ferengi who keep track of the accounting, and some Gamma Quadrant
aliens who we haven't seen since the first couple of seasons of DS9.
Glessin's Cardassian points of view were some of my favorites. His backstory came as an emotional reaction, not as exposition. He still
carried the scars from his time in the Obsidian Order's attack years
Most of these aliens are well depicted, and get to show off their
different nature and their unique abilities at several instances. Stess
gets to be in many places at once, especially during the Drang mission.
Pif can run like the wind, and keeps the Drang busy while the rest of
the retrieval team attempts to abort the compromised mission.
My favorite part of this culture, however, was getting to know the
Gamma Quadrant lingo, especially their terms for technology, like the
"quadrant war" for the Dominion War, among other things like
the holodeck. These aliens
don't know everything, except a general knowledge of who Jake's father
was, which was also refreshing. This crew also answered a question I had
throughout most of the Mission: Gamma series. Dominion territory didn't
extend to the wormhole until they noticed a distinct influx of ships
from the Alpha Quadrant. After that, they kept a steady presence, but
when the war was over, they retreated to their original territory again.
I treat this book as an extension to the Mission: Gamma series,
because it deals with the same themes: the alien cultures of the Gamma
Quadrant, and the reactions of the main characters to these differences,
which are much more extreme than anything we saw in the TV show. Unlike
the Mission: Gamma series, however, this book was anything but boring,
and actually gave some enlightenment. In fact, it's the only book so far
to show us how the Gamma Quadrant was affected by the Dominion War,
though only tangentially. It would have been nice to visit a world that
was still recovering.
However, because of the nature of the "retrieval" crew, that was not
possible. The captain of the ship is Dez, with first officer Facity, a
Wadi gambler. When they stumble upon Jake's ship, Dez takes in immediate
liking to the boy, and is determined to be his father figure, because
Dez's father abandoned him very young and refused to have anything to do
with him later in life, and because he knows that Jake's father is gone,
for who knows how long.
Those of us who know Jake better than Dez also know that Jake will
never be suited to a life of profiting from the misfortune of others,
even if those others are long gone. That is spelled out explicitly when
they stumble upon New Bajor, which had been destroyed at the end of the
Dez sets the right tone, however, appealing to Jake's archaeology
background, his yearning to be a true adult, and his desire to separate
himself from his recent loss. We get to see a couple of missions, the
ones that affect Jake most. Some, like the Drang mission, we get in
detail. Given how much we were told about that mission before it
took place (in a set of awkward dialog between Jake and Facity), there
was no doubt that it would backfire on them. It was just a question of
how badly. Unlike the other Mission: Gamma stories, however, I actually
cared about the main alien crewmembers, showing how much better this
author is than those ones. Fortunately, nobody was killed. That had to
wait until later, when two parts of Stess triggered land mines, killing
the whole being. Stess' death was quite a poignant moment, and one of
the best parts of the book.
Looking back at all of the missions that the readers got to
experience, the team was never truly successful in any of them. Sure,
Jake so innocently found the living artwork box that made them all rich,
but the actual mission was a failure.
Jake himself is written as a very honest character. The way the
scantily-clad Facity described him is just the way he was portrayed on
DS9, very easy going and eager to help. It was nice to see him find a
niche, even though we knew it couldn't last. Dez and his crew don't come
off as manipulative (at least until Stess's death). He was genuinely
concerned for Jake, and really thought that the salvage business was the
right place for Jake to grow into a mature adult. He didn't have any
ulterior motives, except to be a father figure. When he saw that he was
losing Jake, he became desperate and started hiding things from the boy,
but he wasn't being malevolent, as he could have been portrayed, given
Jake's naiveté. That would have been yet another frustrating story.
When they reach the port of Ee, however (I love that name!), the
story becomes manipulative itself. It stops being an adventure, and
starts fulfilling the prophecy that sent Jake on this mad search for his
father in the first place.
The crystal that sent the Tosk into a frenzy, putting pressure on him
to find the seer of visions, and easing that pressure when he was
nearing his goal, is very frustrating because there was no real reason
for it. The task was there only because it needed to be there for this
part of the story to function. Tosk finds Jake, and they are overheard
by another Gamma Quadrant alien, who takes them to see the Seer, who
turns out to be former Kai Opaka. We already knew that this was going to
happen from her appearance at the end of Lesser Evil, so it is not so
much of a shock.
I liked Jake's reaction to her, since her appearance reminds him of
the prophecy and the Prophets, making him an unwilling pawn in their
determination of the future. Of course, Opaka is the Herald specified in
the prophecy, not Benjamin Sisko, as he had assumed. I like the
misdirection. Opaka's short description of her time on the planet where
people couldn't die was very well written, especially considering that there were
no main TV characters in it. I'm not certain of the way the destruction
of the satellites caused the micro-virus to stop working, and I
definitely don't like the way it reversed their sterility, but the
author obviously wanted to offer some hope. Opaka has a way of doing
that. Her discussion with Jake about his father was quite emotional and
very engaging. I wished that we had seen Opaka's interpretation of the
Opaka and Tosk play a part in what happens next, in the trip to the
Eav-oq planet, where they manage to restore an entire people from
subspace, and rotate an entire section of space in no time at all. This
is very strange stuff, and I hope we get some sort of explanation in a
future book. Eav-oq is Bajor's sister planet, and now resides a similar
distance from the wormhole as Bajor, but on the Gamma Quadrant side.
This makes the future of the wormhole very interesting, and Bajor's
relationship with the Prophets much more complex.
In the end, Jake resigns from Dez's crew, and he, Opaka and Wex take
off on their own. When their ship malfunctions, they are rescued by
Weyoun, who was about to arrest Dez and his crew, but thought he could
gain better political leverage by saving a Bajoran. We know from
Evil that Jake is ready to go home after this adventure.
Most of the book was a very good story, and the whole thing had
extremely well developed characters, making it quite enjoyable. My chief
complaint falls around the fulfillment of the prophecy, which felt more
like a role-playing game than people inadvertently doing what fate dictated.
Much of the dialog, especially early on, felt clipped and stilted, much
to my surprise. I think it was supposed to feel more casual, because the
Even Odds was not a military vessel (the Wa was a very strange thing in
its subdeck!), but it was very distracting sometimes.
In all, though, due especially to the intense character work
involved, this was a book very much worth reading. Only one character
really got any development, but it was a lot of development. I really
enjoyed Jake's diaries, which often went on for pages at a time. Plus, we
get the return of Opaka, who will undoubtedly cause a major stir on
Bajor when she returns. I look forward to the next book in the series.