Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — Avatar, Book One

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. A rough cut of the Ira Steven Behr- and David Zappone-helmed commemorative documentary, What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, premiered in select locations; the finished version was shown theatrically this year, and has just beamed down to Blu-ray and DVD. While the series finale, “What We Leave Behind,” resolved the final season’s central Dominion war arc with genuine thrills and panache, it left the fate of key characters—most significantly Captain Benjamin Sisko, a.k.a. The Emissary—unresolved. Keith R. A. DeCandido quite rightly points out in his rewatch review that “the end of the war is not the same as the end of the show,” and that one of the series pilot’s major themes, namely Bajor’s entrance into the Federation, “was totally ignored” by the finale. Here’s DeCandido’s summary of the characters’ situations when the curtain falls:

DS9 ended with half the crew scattered to the nine winds. Sisko’s off with the Prophets, Odo’s off with the Great Link, Worf’s off to be a diplomat, Garak’s off to rebuild Cardassia, and O’Brien’s off to teach at Starfleet Academy. But Quark’s still at the bar, Kira’s in charge, Bashir and Dax and Nog are all still around, as are Jake and Yates.

The documentary What We Left Behind, aware of these dangling threads, features a reunion not only of the show’s main cast (minus Avery Brooks) but also of the core writing staff. Ira Behr challenges this writing team, comprised of Ronald D. Moore, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Hans Beimler, and René Eschevierra, to come up with ideas about a hypothetical eighth season of DS9, if such a show were going to debut now and were to kick off with an in-universe time gap that roughly mirrored how much time has elapsed since the finale—about two decades. As a longtime fan it was fun to watch these writers interact and break the story for a theoretical Season 8 opener, and this turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the documentary.

It was also accompanied by a certain sense of déjà vu.

The question of what happens to the DS9 slice of the Trek universe after the series finale was already answered—and may well continue to be answered—by a different set of writers. Their names include S.D. Perry, Jeffrey Lang, David Weddle, Keith R. A. DeCandido, David R. George III, Heather Jarman, Michael A. Martin, Andy Mangels, Robert Simpson, Una McCormack, J. Noah Kym, David Mack, Olivia Woods, Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, as well the actors who portrayed the Cardassian tailor/spy Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) and the Klingon General Martok (J.G. Hertzler). Over the last eighteen years these creators have dreamed up an incredibly rich and complex serialized continuation of DS9 in the form of dozens of novels, novellas, and short stories. This audacious publishing enterprise was launched in 2001 under the auspices of then-Trek editor for Pocket Books Marco Palmieri. In his words, he wanted this literary DS9 Relaunch to be “a true continuation, chronicling events that, like those of the TV series, would be fraught with consequences and free of resets.” With the support of folks like Paula Block, the endeavor became a resounding success, and covers the equivalent not only the equivalent of a Season 8, but also a Season 9, 10, and beyond.

I’ve written a little about my love for DS9 in this space, and I briefly covered the twelve young-adult DS9 novels published between 1994 and 1998.

Now, I’d like to be your tour guide through the full DS9 literary Relaunch!

As of this writing, these are the thirty-six books I’d like to discuss, tentatively in this order:

  1. Avatar, Book One
  2. Avatar, Book Two
  3. A Stitch in Time
  4. Section 31: Abyss
  5. Gateways #4: Demons of Air and Darkness (plus the story “Horn and Ivory” in Gateways #7: What Lay Beyond)
  6. Mission Gamma, Book One: Twilight
  7. Mission Gamma, Book Two: This Gray Spirit
  8. Mission Gamma, Book Three: Cathedral
  9. Mission Gamma, Book Four: Lesser Evil
  10. The Lives of Dax
  11. Rising Son
  12. The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One
  13. The Left Hand of Destiny, Book Two
  14. Unity
  15. Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume One
  16. Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume Two
  17. Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume Three
  18. Warpath
  19. Fearful Symmetry
  20. The Soul Key
  21. The Never-Ending Sacrifice
  22. Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game
  23. Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire
  24. Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night
  25. Typhon Pact: Raise the Dawn
  26. The Fall: Revelation and Dust
  27. The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses
  28. Lust’s Latinum Lost (and Found)
  29. The Missing
  30. Sacraments of Fire
  31. Ascendance
  32. Force and Motion
  33. Rules of Accusation
  34. The Long Mirage
  35. Enigma Tales
  36. I, The Constable

With a bit of luck, by the time we reach volume thirty-six we’ll have a few more stories to add to the list!

Following suit from Keith R. A. DeCandido’s splendid rewatch posts, I’ve devised categories to help break down the content of these Relaunch adventures. Given the character-driven nature of the series, I’ve made a number of these character-centric. That said, we’ll potentially see new categories spring up along the way as new characters and storylines become foregrounded over older ones. But for now, let’s kick things off with these:

Progress: Plot synopsis.

What you don’t leave behind: Nuggets of delightful continuity.

Your journey’s end lies not before you, but behind you: Bajoran prophecies and religion.

It’s not linear: The Emissary.

Don’t tell me you’re getting sentimental: Kira Nerys.

All I do all day long is give, give, give: Quark and his shenanigans.

A chance to enjoy paradise again: Bashir, as well as Section 31.

There’s a first time for everything: Ezri Dax and the life of Trills.

I will be waiting: Kasidy Yates.

Can you hear me?: Jake Sisko.

My people need me: Odo and the Founders.

If I get lost: Nog.

Have you ever considered Minsk?: Worf and the Klingons.

Try re-aligning the induction coils: O’Brien and his family.

This one’s from the heart: Vic Fontaine & holo-pursuits.

All bets are off: Bajoran affairs.

For Cardassia!: Cardassian matters.

Dramatis personae: Major new character introductions, where “new” means we haven’t seen them in any significant way on the screen (but they may have appeared briefly, or in other works of the Trek expanded universe).

In absentia: Series leads not featured in the current story.

Behind the lines: Overall assessment.

Orb factor: Rating on 0-to-10 scale. (It was originally believed by Bajorans that there were nine Orbs, but in the episode “Shadows and Symbols” Sisko discovered a tenth, the Orb of the Emissary, and used it to expel the Pah-wraiths from the wormhole).

One more item before we engage: If you’re looking for a comprehensive recap of the main events that took place during DS9’s seven seasons, chronologically arranged in one place, here’s the fourteen-page timeline that was helpfully included in the Avatar novels. It contains every essential piece of information you need to follow along.

And with these prefatory matters out of the way, let’s jump in!


 

Avatar, Book One
Written by S. D. Perry
Publication Date: May 2001
Timeline: Three months after “What You Leave Behind”; by general consensus, April 2376

Progress: An atmospheric Prologue shows us Jake on B’Hala, to which he has been invited by a group of prylars, known as the Order of the Temple, who are continuing excavations and uncovering mostly dull but occasionally interesting items. A monk by the name of Istani Reyla surprises Jake with an ancient document that seems to reference him directly. Jake interprets the text of the document to mean that he is to fly into the wormhole in order to be reunited with his father (about whom he has recently been dreaming).

Meanwhile, on DS9, Kira has been having vivid dreams of her own, specially one in which a ship full of Bajoran prisoners and their Cardassian overseers die aboard an old Cardassian freighter. Kira is woken up by news of a murder aboard the station; Istani Reyla is the victim, and the unknown perpetrator is also dead. Ro Laren heads the investigation, and one of her first moves is to interrogate Quark, who was to meet with Istani. Kasidy Yates undergoes a check-up by Bashir. She doesn’t wish to know the gender of her baby, and has decided she’ll be moving to Bajor. An Andorian science officer by the name of Shar assists with station repairs while Nog leads efforts aboard the Defiant to get the ship back up to speed. At this point of maximum vulnerability, three Jem’Hadar attack ships emerge from the wormhole. They destroy the Aldebaran, which was providing protective services for DS9, and next target the station itself. Kira orders the Defiant to do what it can. As the station is taking a beating, Quark return to his bar for some betting sheets and ends up saving Ro, who takes a bad fall. In the wake of Bolian Commander Tiras Jast’s death aboard the Defiant, Ezri assumes command, and the ship takes heavy damage, losing most of its power, including its gravity system. A fourth Jem’Hadar ship comes through the wormhole, but the DS9 crew, working in tandem with the Defiant, manages to take out the remaining Jem’Hadar attackers.

On Bajor, a secret Vedek Assembly hatches a plan to find out the location of an ancient heretical text; it appears that at least one of these vedeks, Yevir Linjarin, may have been involved in the death of Istani.

In the aftermath of the station attack, Bashir tends to the wounded and experiences deep regrets about those whose lives he wasn’t able to save. Shar helps Ro get back up to speed in the infirmary. Kira holds memorials service and is contacted by Admiral Ross. The Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans are naturally perturbed about the Dominion incursion.

Far away, in the Badlands, Commander Elias Vaughn is assisting the Enterprise-E in the search for Breen signatures. Instead, they find a Cardassian freighter that’s been derelict for some 30 years—the freighter from Kira’s dream. Several Enterprise crew members beam aboard the Kamal, and are soon overcome by memories, the result of the Orb of Memory, which they discover aboard the ship. The orb has a transformative effect on Commander Vaughn, who’s had a long life of service (he’s over a hundred years old) and had been trouble figuring out what he wanted to do next.

Back on the station, both Kira and Shar, shaken by the recent conflict, experience the sensation of someone right behind them. Kira, unhappy with Ro’s lack of results in the murder investigation, and more broadly with her conduct in general, has a heated conversation with her, which causes Ro to grudgingly reevaluate her own motives. After several false starts Ro does manage to unlock the code of an isolinear rod she obtained from Quark, and locates the Bajoran book from B’hala that Yevir and his cohort are searching for. By this time, Yevir himself has arrived on DS9, along with Jake.

Eventually Shar reveals the presence of Kitana’klan, a Jem’Hadar allegedly sent by Odo, cloaked at Quark’s. Naturally, the Jem’Hadar is questioned and confined. Shar also helps Nog deal with guilt he’s feeling over the recent death of Jast, and later assists Ro with the translation of the Bajoran text. Go Shar!

There are troubles on the domestic front for Bashir and Ezri, and Bashir ends up turning to Vic Fontaine for counsel.

Jake surprises Kasidy, and learns from her, to his dismay, that the Bajoran woman who gave him the ancient prophecy text has been murdered. Later, Jake buys a shuttle from Quark, and hangs out with his old buddy Nog. Having told Kasidy and Nog that he’s heading back to Earth to work at his grandfather’s restaurant, he boards the Venture, resolved to find his fate inside the wormhole, which is being triggered by debris from the Aldebaran.

Ro, after concentrated study, determines that all prophecies in the ancient Bajoran book have come true, and takes her findings to Kira, pointing out a terrible prophecy-yet-to-be: 10,000 are destined to die before Kasidy gives birth.

Admiral Ross, despite not hearing back from the Enterprise because of interference from the Badlands, commands his newly-assembled taskforce to move out.

What you don’t leave behind: In various episodes of TNG we saw Deanna Troi’s empathic sense blocked or deliberately attenuated. Here we learn that the Badlands not only disrupt mechanical sensors, but Deanna’s empathic sense as well. Fascinating.

When Riker is having his orb-induced set of flashbacks aboard the Kamal, he has a vivid recollection of the events of “Schisms.” Since I quite like that episode (considerably more than Mr. DeCandido; it would be a warp factor rating of 7 for me), those four paragraphs were quite gratifying; beyond providing fan service, I think that’s exactly the kind of traumatic experience that would stay with someone and be triggered during moments of elevated stress.

The extensive flashbacks experienced by the Enterprise away team include many other references to episodes and stories, as do multiple scenes aboard the station. One that I’d like to single out pertains to the last scene with spoken dialogue in “What You Leave Behind,” in which Kira questions Quark about a betting pool—and then emphatically declares all such activities illegal going forward—and Quark replies: “Just between you and me, the smart money is on Vedek Ungtae.” This thread is delectably picked up on pages 81-82, which provide perfect comedic relief during a moment of high drama and cleverly explain why Ungtae, who is now “barely in the running anymore,” was doing well.

Your journey’s end lies not before you, but behind you: I’m not going to quote all of the prophecies found at B’hala verbatim, because they’re quite long. The bottom line is twofold. One, Jake believes that he needs to go into the wormhole in order to find his father (“the son goes into the Temple and comes back with the Herald),” and he believes this needs to happen before Kasidy gives birth; hence his sense of urgency. Two, the prophecies, which refer to the Emissary’s second-born as the Avatar, seem to be adamant that in order for the Avatar to be born, ten thousand of the “land’s children” will have to die. If it’s any consolation, most of these will “choose to die” and will be “welcomed into the Temple of the Teacher Prophets,” which sounds a lot cozier than it probably is. Naturally, this puts Kira in a bit of a bind with her faith.

Don’t tell me you’re getting sentimental: Perry’s depiction of Kira throughout this novel is absorbing and highly believable. The story kicks off with her nerves already somewhat frayed, and it’s inspiring that she’s able to keep it together as much as does through the various unfolding crises (near-total obliteration, murder of an old friend, death of a friend-in-the-making, a problem officer to contend with, Quark, etc.). Naturally, she’s high strung. Most of her friends advise her to take a step back. Perhaps Yevir, who is admittedly working his own agenda, phrases it best:

… no matter how important the station is to you, you can’t make it your entire life. You can’t, because what will happen—what is happening—is that even the thought of it will become a terrible burden. It will make you tired and discouraged, and that’s not how the Prophets meant for their children to live.

That strikes me as pretty sound universal advice.

The Kira/Ro dynamic is also well executed. In the original conception of DS9, Ro was to have played a role similar to the one that eventually morphed into Kira’s, so in a way there’s a fascinating sense of time-dilated mirroring in the conversations between these two characters. Perry is clearly aware of this element, but handles it subtly, rather than hitting us over the head with meta-cleverness. There’s also an ironic dimension to their interplay, since Kira initially struggles with Ro’s disdain for her religion (“Ro didn’t hide her rejection of the Prophets, in everything from conversation all the way down to deliberately wearing her earring on the wrong side, as if she was daring anyone to object…”) but it’s precisely Ro’s skepticism, by the end of the book, that’s challenged by the seemingly infallible accuracy of the prophecies in the text she’s discovered. I’m very curious to see how this affects Ro’s beliefs in the next book.

All I do all day long is give, give, give: The Quark bits in this book are extremely good; the tone is exactly right. Quark’s interactions with Ro Laren are fun and flow smoothly. And it’s not just the witty banter and unusual dynamic between them that sells it, but the fact that Quark’s actions contribute significantly to the plot. It’s the information in the isolinear rod that he was going to give Istani Reyla, and which ends up in the hands of Ro, that allows Ro to decipher the prophecies in the ancient Bajoran text. Oh, and Quark does save Ro’s life. All day long he really does give, give, give….

A chance to enjoy paradise again: Bashir’s character is the only one in this novel that I feel is handled, well, inconsistently. When he worries about Ezri, who is onboard the Defiant during the conflict with the Jem’Hadar, in Chapter 5, the depth of their relationship shines. But his tantrum with Ezri in Chapter 14 is another matter; though the cause is understandable, his behavior just comes across as too histrionic for a post-Season 7 Bashir. The way he deals with the injured, and the toll taken on him by those whose lives he couldn’t save, on the other hand, are again compelling and feel true to the character. Also entertaining is the idea that he would ask Vic Fontaine for relationship advice. Will Bashir be more grown-up in the next book?

There’s a first time for everything: Ezri Dax was a late introduction to the series, and despite decent enough writing and a strong performance by Nicole de Boer, we didn’t have the chance to get to know her very well in what unsurprisingly turned out to be a very busy season. Part of her Season 7 arc was her own journey of self-discovery in the wake of unplanned Trillness, so a certain amount of nebulousness was probably inevitable. One of the strengths of this novel series is its potential to flesh out characters, but we really only get a glimpse of this here as far as Ezri is concerned. In Chapter 6, when she takes over the Defiant during the emergency, she taps directly into Jadzia’s command memories to pull through, but discovers her own confidence in the process—a rewarding scene, albeit brief. Holding Nog’s hand when they believe the end is near is also an effective moment. Later, in her quarrel with Bashir, she quite rightly says, “I’m a joined Trill, and that’s not going to change, ever. Why can’t you see that all of me is Ezri, that I’m a whole being? That I don’t have to limit myself to some species-specific concept of individuality?” Kudos to Perry for these lines, and here’s hoping we see Ezri play a bigger role, separate from her relationship with Bashir, as this series develops.

I will be waiting: In a way, though Kasidy Yates isn’t given much to do, she provides a kind of emotional bookending to the narrative. Her first appearance in Chapter 2, as she interacts with Bashir, and then her reunion with Jake in Chapter 17 both vividly evoke her sense of loss as well as her hopes and dreams for the future. And she is carrying the book’s titular Avatar, so this symmetry is pretty pleasing.

Can you hear me?: A major plus of this novel is getting insight into Jake Sisko. We’re there with him as he struggles with the absence of his father and eventually sets upon his own path, which, like his dad’s, appears to be closely tied up with Prophet designs. His reunion with Nog and his conversation with Kasidy, though brief, are excellent—and moving. As he prepares to say goodbye to Nog, he says, “And I will be back, you know,” echoing the Emissary’s final words to Kasidy: “But I will be back.”

My people need me: According to Kitana’klan, Odo sent him to DS9 to serve Kira and the station, as well as to learn “about the synergy among peaceful peoples, so that I can bring this knowledge to the other Jem’Hadar.” This isn’t intrinsically far-fetched. As Kira herself reasons, “It would be like Odo to keep trying; his conscience had been deeply disturbed by the very existence of the Jem’Hadar, created by his people to have no aspirations higher than killing for their keepers.” While I look forward to Kitana’klan coming into his own as a character, at this point his link to Odo is potentially his most intriguing feature.

If I get lost: Nog, who already went through a lot in the series, continues to grow in this story. His sense of culpability about Jast’s death weighs on him heavily, and he receives some counseling from Ezri to help in his recovery. One of Perry’s storytelling strengths is the degree of self-awareness with which she imbues her characters. We saw this acted out in various ways on the screen, but a novel gives us the benefit of direct access to their thoughts. Nog is no exception, and an especially telling moment occurs when he catches himself in “useless thinking”:

but if I had organized everything better, if I’d pushed harder to get things done on time…

It was useless thinking. At the Academy, he’d taken PTP 1 along with everyone else—post-traumatic psych was a requisite course, even the Klingons had a version of it—and they’d hammered on the concept of useless thinking, and how guilt was essentially worthless beyond a certain point. But thinking about that only made him feel worse.

Later, his farewell with Jake is tinged with melancholy: “… how things had once been was both sweet and sad. It seemed like they’d both just figured out that they couldn’t go back.” I think that this sentiment wonderfully captures not only the spirit of DS9, but the Relaunch series itself.

This one’s from the heart: Perry does a marvelous job with Vic’s word choices and the cadence of his speech. His phrase “Jem’Hadar goons,” for example, is kind of perfect, as is his question to Bashir about Ezri, “Say, you two still making the music?” It would be easy to overdo this, but Perry nails it, and keeps the scene with Vic to just right the length.

All bets are off: Bajor has renewed its petition to join the Federation, a welcome return to one of DS9’s central issues. There are two major cloak-and-dagger plot lines in this book, one involving a literally cloaked Jem’Hadar, and one involving a secret Vedek Assembly and Yevir’s approval by said Assembly to use his relationship with Kira to find an ancient heretical text and destroy it. We soon learn that Yevir, a smooth manipulator all around, firmly believes in a grand destiny for himself: “…he accepted the reality that he would one day be kai—perhaps not after the upcoming election, but it was inevitable. His path was clear.” It’s not entirely surprising then, that along with such certainty, and the Assembly’s general sense of disquietude about the spiritual future of Bajor, there are implications of complicity regarding Istani’s murder. Will Book Two continue to explore the line between vedek and zealot?

For Cardassia!: Other Relaunch works will tackle head-on the catastrophic destruction suffered by Cardassia at the hands of the Dominion, which is here referenced several times. A poignant reminder of these losses occurs in the Epilogue, in which Admiral Ross is haunted by his memories of witnessing the horrors of war firsthand: “…mangled bodies littering the streets, buildings burning, the oily, grimy dusk of choking smoke and dust settling over it all like a fetid shroud.”

Dramatis personae: The four main new characters to be aware of are the Andorian science officer Thirishar ch’Thane, or Shar for short, the tactical and intelligence specialist Commander Elias Vaughan, the Bajoran vedek Yevir Linjarin (who makes a brief uncredited/unnamed appearance in the episode “Rapture”), and the Jem’Hadar who claims to have been sent by Odo, Kitana’klan. The female Bolian Tiris Jast, the station’s new first officer, promised to be a fantastic addition to the crew, and I really enjoyed her budding friendship with Kira; unfortunately, Jast is dead by Chapter 4.

In absentia: Sisko, Worf, O’Brien, and Garak, we miss you. O’Brien is referenced a couple of times: Nog has basically taken over his job, and at one point during the conflict with the Jem’Hadar ships, he recalls O’Brien showing him the warhead control room. Later, aboard the Enterprise-E, La Forge remembers how O’Brien would intermittently contact his old friends to stay in touch and sometimes vent. Incidentally, that same scene with La Forge introduces the very cool-sounding “Weibrand logarithmic developmental scale,” which La Forge uses to determine that the Cardassian vessel Kamal is only at a “two-point” difference technologically from current standards. Garak, likewise offstage in this novel, is nevertheless maintaining a rather intense correspondence with Bashir; in Chapter 15 we learn that Bashir is reading—correction, re-reading (!)—a letter from Garak that’s at least 256 pages long. This is a lovely touch, reminding us of Garak’s love for Cardassian literature, which includes a form known as the “repetitive epic.”

Behind the lines: Avatar, Book One kicks off the DS9 Relaunch in a deft and accomplished manner. Perry adds significant depth to Jake Sisko, and in general does an incredible job with the voice of every character (the one exception would be Bashir). She also introduces new characters smoothly. In a way, this feels like the novelization of the first half of a two-part season premiere. There are obvious parallels with the series pilot itself, “Emissary”: the station is understaffed and in disrepair, a Starfleet officer somewhat existentially adrift is changed by his encounter with an Orb, new alliances are forged, etc. There are also some parallels with the fourth season two-parter “The Way of the Warrior”: ships attack, conflict looms, and a TNG-character, in this case Ro Laren, is now part of DS9. Finally, the introduction of a Jem’Hadar as a potential series regular is also a nod of sorts to a venerable Trek tradition exemplified in “Encounter at Farpoint,” which featured a Klingon (classically foes of the Federation) as a new ally and lead character.

Palmieri said that the team behind the Relaunch wanted “the novels to stay as close as possible to the tone and texture of the TV series while still presenting the audience with something new,” and in this Perry amply succeeds. She deserves praise, in particular, for the sense of veracity created by her writing; she has clearly done extensive research, which shows in a myriad of background details, but she never lets that get in the way of the story. Here is an example of her techie world-building verisimilitude:

Short-range shield emitters, down. Tractor beam emitters, down. Six of the RCS thruster modules were being re-paneled, almost half of the ODN system still needed re-wiring, and the entire computer network was running on one processing core without backup. In short, the station was barely functional. (p. 41)

Medical:

A sternal fracture that had caused a mediastinal bleed in a Bajoran girl, only 11 years old, healed. A compound fracture that had nicked the femoral artery of a Bajoran security officer, who would have bled out if Julian’s hands hadn’t been fast enough. (p. 107)

Or even sociological details, like this one:

There was a definite rise in the number of romantic relationships on board… and, Chang imagined, all across the Alpha Quadrant. There were innumerable statistics and sociological studies he could cite to prove his point, but put simply, as Captain Robinson himself had said, “It’s an end-of-the-war thing.” (p. 52)

In short, Perry thoroughly grounds her story in a carefully-considered world, which happens to perfectly dovetail with the Trek cosmos we’ve seen on the screen, but is in a sense deeper. She’s just as skilled at action and combat sequences as she is at descriptive prose. The conflict with the Jem’Hadar ships, for example, is genuinely exciting.

There were only two elements that didn’t fully work for me in this novel. One occurs in Chapter 14, which opens with Bashir and Ezri having sex, and their intimacy being ruined by Bashir somehow getting a glimpse of Jadzia via Ezri. I like the way that the setup of the scene is handled, and the instant of psychological disjuncture is powerfully rendered; it’s the melodramatic dialogue that follows that stretched my suspension of disbelief. Bashir’s overall response and the way he articulates his feelings are off. Throughout the series’ seven seasons Bashir came a very long way from his arrogant-yet-awkward introduction in “Emissary.” Not only does he now openly reap the benefits of his genetic engineering, he’s matured and become more sensitive as a result of all his experiences. Yet here he appears to momentarily regress to a Season 1 version of himself. I can appreciate that Perry is laying the seeds for fundamental challenges in the Ezri/Bashir dynamic, but the execution felt rushed.

My other minor complaint relates to pacing and narrative structure. The first nine chapters are all aboard Deep Space Nine; then in Chapter 10 we hard cut to the Enterprise-E, and stay with them for a sizable page count before returning back to the station. I wish the Enterprise material had been a little more evenly distributed throughout, with more back-and-forth between storylines. Chapter 11, in particular, which sees the Enterprise’s away mission on the Kamal fall subject to intense flashbacks, drags. I also thought it was odd to spend the number of pages we do with the point of view of Thomas Chang, the counselor aboard the Aldebaran, in Chapter 3, when the entire ship is blown up shortly afterward. I imagine Perry was trying to humanize the loss, to up our emotional response to this event, but the execution felt a tad stiff.

Overall, though, we’re off to an impressive start.

Orb factor: I give this novel an orb factor of 8. It thoroughly captures the feel of the series while introducing engrossing new elements; slightly demerited due to some pacing issues.

[Read the next installment on Avatar, Book Two here!]

Alvaro is a Hugo- and Locus-finalist who has published some forty stories in professional magazines and anthologies, as well as over a hundred essays, reviews, and interviews. Nag him @AZinosAmaro.

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