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THIS GRAY SPIRIT

A novel by Heather Jarman (2002, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Relaunch Book 6
Mission: Gamma book 2

The Cardassians aim for reconciliation with Bajor, while the Defiant is coerced into helping a segregated planet search for peace.

 

 

2+ stars+

Read October 20th to November 4th, 2003  
   

I had very little interest in either storyline, though they were fairly well-written, for the most part -especially for the author's first novel.

My first impression, especially true through the first half of the book, was that the dialog was stilted. I must have grown used to it, though, because by the time I finished the book, it didn't seem too bad. Perhaps this was just because I came off the professional-sounding and very descriptive Twilight. In that book, I complained about too much detail being given. This book doesn't have that problem- at all.

Although Kira was well-defined, I found the characters on the Defiant were difficult to differentiate from one another by their thoughts and actions alone. It was as if they were generic characters with the names of the DS9 staff.

The characters went where the story took them, and I'm not entirely sure that is a good thing. I could see the conflict that Dax would have within herself several books ago, but I found the author was not able to convince me this was an inevitable climax. I also don't know Shar enough to know if he is in character. He was rather reclusive and in the background in previous books. Here, he disregards orders from both Vaughn and Dax, several times, and even after being reprimanded and told explicitly not to meet, for example, with Keren again. Bashir also seemed rather inconsistent, hovering over Dax all the time. Thankfully, he wasn't featured in much of the story.

The Defiant story breaks up into two storylines. The ship is caught in a "web" weapon of some sort right from the first section. The Yrythny species comes to the rescue, but they seem to hold back a lot of information, and our characters don't ask very many questions to clarify the situation. A mob nearly kills them in the streets, but is broken up by Keren, the leader of the Wanderer tribes. These are Yrythny who are considered genetically deficient, because they are not able to return to their own homes after spawning. The Houseborn make sure the Wanderers are repressed as much as possible.

I really wonder what kind of people these aliens are. They seem to give away critical strategic information about their genetics and political turmoil in the first meal they share with the crew of the Defiant. At a suggestion from Dax, of course, things get blown all out of proportion. Is she the first person ever to suggest third party intervention? Once the Wanderer servant made the suggestion public, everybody was eager for her to start. Even the Houseborn were excited to negotiate with Ezri, but it is not clear why. Did they think she will settle in their favor? Were they so naive to think that a ruling against the Wanderers from an outside party would prevent future uprisings? In a book about Starfleet personnel, and injustice, it is clear from the outset that she must vote for equality, so the only thing that could be interesting (aside from a surprise ending), is the process.

Unfortunately, watching Ezri make mistake after mistake, even when she is doing the right thing, was more frustrating than interesting. It was also quite predictable, and therefore dull. Ezri really has no idea how to command, something she only admits at the very end of the book. She orders Shar around without even listening to him. She obviously thought she was Curzon, the bully. I don't know if this is a real personality trait of hers, or if it was just the author's style. Even Shar's excursions didn't do anything for me, though at least it was tied to the larger plot. The reason he went against orders so many times was because the Yrythny seemed to be a genetically created species, something which might help the Andorians avoid extinction.

I didn't like the way Ezri was constantly swearing, injecting "hell" into every second sentence for a while. It was unnecessary, and out of character. I would have liked a personal touch to her story, since it could have been made so easily. She speaks about how the Yrythny planet could not survive with so many mating pairs, so keeping one group from mating (the Wanderers), even on immoral grounds, is environmentally logical. The Trill have a very similar class system, in that only selected Trill can be joined with a symbiont. Of course, regular DS9 viewers know that a lot more hosts are capable of supporting the symbiont than is publicly acknowledged, and Ezri is a prime example. The point could have been made, but for some reason, it wasn't.

The other storyline is equally boring, but not as frustrating. Vaughn knows that he is being cheated, and is himself frustrated at being helpless. The Yrythny offer to fix the Defiant for free! Of course, then they blackmail him into allowing Ezri to mediate, because the ship can no longer go anywhere. In devising a defence to the nanobot web of the enemy Cheka, Nog devises the concept of femtobots, even smaller! How it would work is a mystery to me, but in Trek, absolutes always rule: there is no way the femtobots could destroy each and every one of the nanobots. Some are bound to get through, but of course, on the critical test, they work.

Why is Nog such an engineering genius now? I don't think O'Brien could do half the stuff he can, with much more experience, too. (Speaking of O'Brien, I would like to see him again sometime.) I guess they do teach miracles to the engineers at the Academy.

The only way to get materials strong enough for the femtobots, however, is at the Consortium, and the Yrythny offer to help. The Yrythny got quite a price for helping the Defiant, not only Ezri mediating to avert civil war, but also a defence against the siege weapon!

They bid for a chunk of material, but something goes wrong -even Nog (businessman by species) can't figure it out. Of course, there is a traitor in the midst of the Yrythny, so once they trick the Cheka into giving up their material (involving a topless Prynn -why can't they have an episode like that- and a computer virus), they set a trap for the traitor.

Nog puts on an act like he's upset at Vaughn, and tries to give the cloaking device schematics to the Cheka. He is stopped by Vaughn, but they leave the schematics behind. They didn't count on Nog being kidnapped, though, so they chase the Yrythny ship back towards their homeworld. The Yrythny seemed very pleasant when saying goodbye, which is very strange given the down and dirty way they behaved up to that point.

The two plots collide when Ezri and Shar (and incidentally Keren) are kidnapped by a Houseborn Yrythny councillor, who loves Keren (a Wanderer), and plans on giving live Yrythny eggs to the Cheka for genetic investigation (which is why they are under siege). In return, the Cheka "promised" to give weapons to support the Wanderers in a civil war. Turning Jeshoh into a bad guy at the last minute is as bad as having Shar come up with a genetic solution at the last minute. How did any of them understand the raw data he showed them? The computer certainly didn't write a nice neat report for Shar! Even I have trouble interpreting my own raw data until I've properly organized it. But, of course, this is Star Trek... and Shar figures out that the Wanderers were needed to ensure genetic diversity, so they are the future, after all! I couldn't see that one coming (sarcasm).

Shar has proven himself capable of violence in the past; I can't figure out why he didn't simply disarm Jeshoh. The Yrythny was distracted enough times that there was a good chance that he would have succeeded, especially since Jeshoh was not experienced with weapons. Ezri's "councillor tactic" was so transparent, with poor dialog, that I was quite embarrassed for her.

On the other side, Nog was taken on a shuttle towards the Cheka ship so that he could explain the cloaking device schematics to them, and Vaughn uncloaks the Defiant in its path, disabling it. He then frees Nog and creates a sensor shadow so that the Cheka ship sees two Yrythny ships of the same size. I cannot believe for even a second that the Cheka were fooled by this. If anybody was looking at their sensors, they would have seen the shuttle disappear, and a larger ship appear in the exact same place. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened, especially if they look outside!

So the Yrythny presumably live happily ever after, and the Defiant departs. One of my main problems with this Gamma Quadrant series, other than the dull stories of non-exploration, is that I have no sense of where they are. If it only took a short while to get to the Vahni homeworld (and why wasn't that mentioned more than once or twice?), and then to the Yrythny homeworld, then they can't be too far from the wormhole. Yet they talk about the "balance of power" in that sector. The entire mission is only three months long. How close is this region of space from the Dominion, which seemed to exist so close to the wormhole? If they have gone far from Dominion space, will they pass through it on the last leg of their arc?

There is another plotline going through this book, and that takes place on the station, as with the last book. Unfortunately, where in Twilight things were rushed to a head at the very end after a tortuous path, here nothing really happens in terms of Bajor. However, I really appreciated the Andorian plots.

Kira has to deal with memories of Dukat as the Cardassian who bears his resemblance, Gul Macet, returns to the station, along with Natima Lang, whom we have seen before on the series. They are looking to reconcile Cardassia and Bajor. Hasn't this been done before? Even so, the author refreshes it and explains it well. The only part I didn't like was the prominent treatment of Ziyal's artwork. I don't understand how it could draw such huge line-ups. It seems wholly made-up by the author. I never cared for the character of Ziyal, however, and that might explain my antipathy. When the art was vandalized, I was just relieved that it would be out of the spotlight.

The "peace talks" are stalled before they get started, though, as Shakaar prefers to wait until Bajor has been admitted into the Federation, since there are already treaties between those entities, and he sees no point in duplicating that effort. He also seems out of character (something Kira noticed) by not wanting to allow Bajor to continue to heal by creating a formal agreement.

Kira gets by far the best treatment of all the characters in this book. Her thoughts, about religion, command, Shakaar, the second minister, and so on are pretty complete, and rather revealing.

An even better plot that takes place on the station, however, is the way the Andorians are taking to Shar's absence. Thriss has become a full-fledged character here. We also learn about Andorian biology, and why Thriss and Shar were so close, because they shared a somewhat sexual act, something that could weaken their bond whenever they decide to mate. From Thriss' assault of Ro and the others in Quark's (Ro was stupid and unprofessional to approach the Ambassador so openly), to her undisclosed sessions with Councillor Mathias (a brand new recurring character, I hope, whom I loved), to her eventual and totally unexpected suicide (no sarcasm this time), she was allowed to grow quite a bit. The other Andorians were only seen relative to her, but they were able to shed a lot of light on the Andorian species. I liked it, and hope they adopt something like this on Enterprise when we next see that species.

I suppose Shar will be punished by his family for leaving and allowing an unstable Thriss to die, but he will likely come back with salvation in the genetics area. It seems like some of the plotlines started way back in Avatar are coming to a close, while others are expanding. I hope they continue adding new plotlines to the mix, as well.

The relationship between Ro and Quark seems to have cooled a bit since the last book, and their holosuite date didn't add anything new. Windsurfing? Did Ro learn that on Earth, or did she do it on Bajor first? The author doesn't seem interested enough to let us know.

Taran'atar also gets a brief appearance in this book. I find it very strange that he's allowed to carry a phaser around the station. He could probably kill many people with his bare hands before anybody got in a shot, anyway. Why does he need the weapon?

Kasidy also gets a small spot, at the very end of the book, where things seem to get very interesting before it abruptly ends. Vedek Yevir, who forbade Kira from openly practising her religion, seems to be in spiritual crisis. I wonder if the next book will deal with the religious split. Only time will tell, but not for a while.

I'm taking a break from these books for a time. I was anxiously looking forward to continuing the DS9 storyline, since the others were so good. There were a lot of good moments, but too much of the story was bogged down in uninteresting stuff.

 
   

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