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A novel by David R. George III (2002, Pocket Books)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Relaunch Book 5
Mission: Gamma book 1

Vaughn seeks reconciliation while attempting to help a Gamma Quadrant species, as Bajor petitions for Federation membership.



2+ stars+

Read October 5th to 17th, 2003  

I'm conflicted, because I love character stories, and this was definitely a story about characters. However, it was so slow, and the author's obsession with giving every single detail about a scene made it difficult to read.

This book explores Vaughn, delves deep into his soul, his relationship with his daughter, and gives him a change in his life. It may be a big thing for him, but it was a small change for me. We don't really know this character very well, even after this very long book, so we didn't get to see the struggle he was going through, and we barely got any detail on who he and Prynn were, through four previous books.

A significant part of the book takes place on the station, before the mission to the Gamma Quadrant leaves. The book actually starts with the rescue mission to the Jarada planet, where Vaughn was able to convince that xenophobic species to accept refugees in Demons of Air and Darkness. On the first page, we get Vaughn's first thoughts on losing his daughter, as Prynn seems to have been killed on the Defiant, because the Jarada discover the Gateways won't be reopened, thus the information they received about the passageways is now meaningless.

Defiant makes its way back to the station, and Prynn is healed. Vaughn attempts to take her off the Gamma Quadrant mission, but relents when she yells at him for it, and he pleads to keep her there when a Starfleet Admiral thinks her presence might hinder his command.

The other characters get very little time in this book. Shar's story is the most interesting, a continuation of the story as it has been told over the last few books. His mother tries to convince him to return to Andor so that he can mate -at least that's how it seems to be. We don't know anything about Andorian biology yet, so I can't be sure. It seems that Andorians mate in fours, and Shar is the true male of the group. There is a male who has female tendencies, a female who has some male traits, and a very stereotypical female. Shar's mother brings them all to the station, in the hope that they will convince him to go home. Shar gets angry, however, resenting this "conspiracy". Eventually, he relents to the true female, Thriss, and promises he will return home after the Gamma Quadrant trip. It should prove to be very interesting by the time they arrive back.

Ezri gets a little story of her own, which continues her command training. In the Gamma Quadrant, she loses a crewwoman due to one of her decisions, something which weighs heavily on her. Then, later, she takes a great risk to a great reward.

Nog and Bashir didn't get much to do except hang around the background and react to the situations. Nog had a significant moment near the beginning of the book, when he runs into Taran'atar, and is frightened nearly to death. Of course, he lost his leg to a Jem'hadar soldier in the seventh season of the series, so he has every right to feel that way.

I don't yet find Vaughn to be a compelling character, which may be why I had so much trouble getting through this book. Perhaps I need more familiar points of view. We'll see, as the series progresses.

Perhaps, though, it was the plot that left me feeling less than enthusiastic. Vaporizing the remains of the Vahni moon, admiring the scenery with so much detail, and wandering a deserted planet for so many pages didn't do anything for me. The plot of the Gamma Quadrant mission, for what it was, dealt with a giant pulse that swept through space to the world of the Vahni, an interesting species that communicates by sight, rather than sound. I was really puzzled by the geometry of the pulse. If it originated from the world they found, which was rotating once a day or so, revolving around its star once a year or so, what are the chances that it would hit any other world, which would also have its own days and years, on a different scale? I think the chances of it hitting the Vahni world once are very small -but the author wants us to believe that this has happened many times in decades! Worse, that two pulses in a row would hit the Vahni world!

Vaughn, Prynn and Shar end up in a shuttle crash while trying to penetrate the huge cloud barrier that surrounds the planet of the pulse. Shar seems to be near death, though he makes a typical recovery through the rest of the book, despite a leg bone that tore through his skin, and severe damage to an organ that Vaughn didn't even recognize. When they first crashed, Vaughn knew that Shar needed to see a doctor "quickly". I guess he meant within the next few days.

These people seem to be able to go to the brink of death, and recover without even a scar. I thought it would be interesting to have Shar lose his leg, so that he would be similar to Nog. Nog's experience was far more traumatic, so there could be a real learning experience between them. It was not to be. The main cast, though, has a remarkable ability to survive those near-death experiences. Vaughn survives the tower collapsing, Ezri in the shuttle (how did the Defiant get a tractor beam to her, if they were so deep in the atmosphere, surrounded by thousands of rocks?), Prynn on the bridge, and Shar and Prynn both in the shuttle crash!

I don't generally like shuttle crashes, as they are cliché in Star Trek, simply as a way to either get characters to bond, or to extend the story time, usually unnecessarily. While Prynn works on the damaged transporters in the shuttle, Vaughn sets off across country to try and disable the pulse on his own. So he walks, and walks, and walks... He encounters moments in his life where he felt lonely, thus enforcing his desire to reconcile with Prynn. Somehow, Prynn comes to the same conclusion at exactly the same moment.

The plot was tedious, but at least we got some great character development. If only it didn't take on such a dull form.

The author is very wordy, giving descriptions to every minute detail. It borders on irrelevant at times, as it delays so much of the story. While it's nice to see attention to details of our lives at times, describing everything in everybody's life is too much. At least the author deals with thoughts and emotions in the same manner, which I enjoyed a lot more.

As a contrast to such incredible detail, at times we are left hanging about an event, such as Prynn's recovery at the beginning, and the reader has to make the connections between what came before and what the author was telling us, though he does fill us in later. I rather enjoy that method of storytelling at times. On the other hand, when we did flash back to whatever happened, it was also given in great detail.  There must be a happy medium!

The only place where I found the author's great detail to be more interesting than irritating, was ironically in the second shuttle crash. In the aftermath, when Vaughn comes to consciousness and surveys the landscape, the full description actually aided the storytelling.

The author also put in too many last-minute circumstances, like saying that Shar would have died only hours later if they hadn't found him (if that's so, then the explosion should have killed him, even in an EV suit), or that the pulse would fire again in days (then hours) when it hadn't fired in a year before the pulse they first saw. Why did Nog send exactly thirty-two bombs to seal the subspace breach? What kind of engineer doesn't allow for a safety factor?

So what was the pulse? Energy building up to allow a new sort of creature to emerge from its own universe (or subspace pocket) into ours. It learned of our universe through the former inhabitants of this planet, who had tapped into the thoughts of this creature as a virtual reality thing. When they stopped, realizing that it was a living creature, it became very lonely, and entered through the VR entry, enlarging it as it went. Vaughn decides to set it free, instead of sealing the gateway as Nog had intended.

The interesting part of this, which didn't take nearly enough time (which was devoted to Vaughn instead) came from the communication between Dax and the "thoughtscape". If Dax stopped communicating with Ezri, then it could feel what happened in the life of this creature. That, of course, put Ezri's life in danger, but with Bashir's help, she survived (of course).

Of course, there are other plots in this book, though the one just described would have taken up a book of its own. I wonder if this book should have kept a tighter focus, and not dealt with so many things at once.

Intertwined with the Gamma Quadrant mission is Bajor's renewed petition to enter the Federation. Most of this comes from Kira's point of view, as she deals with Starfleet Admiral Akaar, who doesn't seem to like her very much. I suspect that's just who he is, maybe what his species is like. In such a very short time, which is excused by Kira thinking that it really was a short time, Bajor is actually admitted! I think this should have spanned the whole Mission Gamma series, but presumably the authors have something different in mind. Kira's introspection was at least more interesting, though the minute details of her life were as overexposed as with Vaughn. The most interesting part of her story was her religious development, even though she is still forbidden to pray with other Bajorans.

Ro and Quark fared a little better, surprisingly. We get a love story between them! Who would have thought? Ro is lonely, and feels that she will lose her place in life, again, if Starfleet takes over the station, since they will never accept her re-entry. Just when she was settling in, her life will once again be turned inside out. Quark is his usual self, except that he is smitten with Ro. He doesn't realize that he should behave differently towards her because she actually has feelings for him! He gets into trouble by flirting with the Orion girl that he and Ro picked up in the last book.

I still hate Vic Fontaine, but he was put to relatively good use with Quark. I thought Quark didn't like Vic in the TV series, either. As far as I know, Vic's seemed like competition, since people would tell the hologram their secrets instead of him. At least we didn't have to put up with his singing. He had some pretty good words for Quark, and the author captured his sentences and mannerisms perfectly.

Kassidy gets a little time, enough to remind us that she is still pregnant, worried about Jake, and getting used to the Bajorans treating her like a religious idol. Nothing more.

Taran'atar gets as little time as Kassidy, but his is far more interesting. He is still observing people on the station, but he has gone to different sections, instead of just the operations center. He visited the daycare! He scared the educators, but not the children. The author's style seems much better suited to long stretches of conflict rather than when the characters aren't doing anything. His emergence into Quark's bar also interested me, especially since Quark could hear him move!

On a technical note, I agree completely with the author when he uses "Defiant" or "Trager" for ship names as opposed to "the Defiant", but it is inconsistent with the way the characters and writers on the TV show used it. It also feels more clumsy, probably only because we've used it the other way for ages. Kirk would not sound right saying "We'll see you on Enterprise". "We'll meet on the Enterprise" sounds much more natural.

I also nearly laughed out loud when I read that Jonathan Archer was a great explorer, according to Vaughn! Ha! Maybe he's a good explorer, but he's a lousy captain, from what I've seen on Enterprise!

The Bajoran people get to grow up in this book, albeit rather quickly. I don't understand why they still use oil lamps -they are far older then Earth's society, and have advanced ships. Maybe they don't like electricity.

As for the rest of the characters, particularly the ones in the Gamma Quadrant, they go through typical near-death experiences, and long periods of isolation, which changes their lives. In the case of Vaughn and Prynn, it's for the better, as they do reconcile in the last pages. We still don't know who Vaughn is. We know who he wants to be, and we definitely must get to know him better as a character. Somehow, though he was the focus of this book, I don't feel that I know him better because of it.

Hopefully the next book will be more lively, while at the same time giving the characters the character growth that we've seen so far in this series.


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