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

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

Progress: A nifty Prologue takes us back to the Founders’ homeworld, where Odo is having a hard time convincing the Great Link that solids are simply different from shapeshifters, not necessarily bad, and that peace with solids is possible.

Back on DS9, Kira examines the book of prophecy Ro has given her, trying to determine its authenticity. Jake, aboard the Venture, revisits the text of the prophecy Istani gave him—which is comprised of the missing pages from Kira’s book—as he nears the wormhole.

On the Enterprise-E, now en route to the station for a rendezvous with the newly-formed Federation/Klingon/Romulan taskforce, Picard visits Vaughn as he is meditating, and Vaughn discreetly urges Picard to be “on guard” regarding his forthcoming assignment. Nog vents to Vic Fontaine about Kitana’klan—the Jem’Hadar who claims to have been sent by Odo to DS9—expressing his antipathy for all Jem’Hadar and his frustration that others seem to have accepted Kitana’klan’s story at face value. In an effort to start building some kind of relationship with the Jem’Hadar, Ezri engages him in supervised combat and is spectacularly bested.

Jake finally enters the wormhole. Nog, Lieutenant Bowers, and Shar observe the debris that Jake is using to mask his shuttle signature as it triggers the wormhole, but don’t pick up Jake’s shuttle itself. Kira meets with Ro and declares the book—and therefore the prophecy about the ten thousand who must die in order for the Avatar’s second child to be born—to be heretical and false. Ro encourages Kira to share the book with Kasidy Yates; after all, it concerns her.

Following Ro’s suggestion, Kira visits Kasidy, who is understandably upset at the news. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise Vaughn immerses himself in a holodeck time-lapse nature meditation program, pondering why he saw Benjamin Sisko in his Orb-related vision. On DS9, Ezri and Julian have lunch, continuing to try and patch things up; Ezri asks Julian for patience, as she will need some distance/time to figure out her path.

Nog and Shar talk about Quark being in love with Ro, and exchange some words about their respective cultures, teasing at some fascinating Andorian reveals. Quark pressures Nog into helping with his bar’s replicator repairs, and realizes that Shar’s mother is Charivretha zh’Thane, who holds the Andorian seat on the Federation Council. After a frustrating call with his mother, Shar lets out his anger by destroying the computer monitor in his quarters. Calm on the outside and cool under pressure, it looks like this Andorian has a little emo streak below the surface.

In her ongoing efforts to untangle the prophecy, Kira discusses the book with Yevir, and is surprised when he confesses that he knew of it and came to DS9 specifically looking for it. He claims that it infects whoever reads it with its evil, and must therefore be destroyed. Ro and Kasidy join Kira and Yevir, and Ro reveals that Istani was killed by a vedek named Gamon Vell. Yikes.

Jake waits a whole day in the wormhole for a whole lot of nada, though he does decide that he wants to resume his writing career, which is cool.

Kira meditates and realizes how dangerous it would be for Yevir to become Kai. The Enterprise-E docks and Kira brings Picard and Vaughn up to speed. It becomes clear soon thereafter that Ezri and Vaughn already know each other. Bashir takes a cartridge of ketracel-white to Kitana’klan—and is gorily attacked by him.

Picard has the Orb of Memory beamed to a private room adjoining the shrine of the Orb of Contemplation on the station, and Kira expresses her gratitude. Yevir accuses Ro of having uploaded the ancient book to a public comnet, for all to read, but Kira reveals that she was the one who did it. The Jem’Hadar kills two people and escapes from confinement.

Vaughn, using his tactical expertise and previous experiences with the Jem’Hadar, assists in tracking down Kitana’klan. Ezri comforts the badly wounded Bashir, her deep feelings for him clear.

On the bridge of the Enterprise-E, Riker gets a report from Vaughn that DS9 has gone to red alert. Crusher takes over the station’s infirmary in Bashir’s absence, and Deanna Troi helps her. An evacuation of the station is ordered.

Shar uses a graviton residue scan to determine that Kitana’klan is at the station’s fusion core and the hunt begins. Kira and Vaughn lead a team to grid 21 in search of the Jem’Hadar, but Kira is badly wounded. We now switch to the perspective of a second shrouded Jem’Hadar, named Taran’atar, who successfully hunts down Kitana’klan, though not before Kitana’klan sets the station fusion core to overload. Kira, barely holding on, manages to jettison the core just before it explodes.

Under Crusher’s ministrations, Bashir begins his recovery. Picard lets Kira know of an imminent meeting with Admiral Ross and representatives from the Klingon and Romulan Empires to discuss the new taskforce. When she arrives, Kira is introduced to Taran’atar, who explains his story. She is skeptical: fool me once, etc… But his narrative, and his having killed Kitana’klan, are compelling. Also, he offers proof, giving the assorted group a chip with a message from Odo. The group dutifully considers Taran’atar’s claims after listening to Odo’s message, and decides not to venture with the taskforce into Dominion space after all, though peaceful exploration seems in order. They also resolve that each ship will donate an emergency generator to help with DS9’s power situation. Vaughn then pressures his superiors into giving him a new job—one he’s decided will be a perfect fit for where he’s at in his life.

Things having settled down some, Quark hits on Ro, and she agrees to have dinner with him “as friends.” Picard visits Ro in her office, says goodbye to Kira, meets with Vaughn on the Enterprise, and the ship departs. Kasidy informs Kira she’s decided to go back to Earth, rather than Bajor.

Vaughn approaches Kira about being an executive officer under her command, and they realize the freighter she dreamed about is the same one in which he discovered the Orb of Memory in the Badlands. Vaughn feels like the Prophets led him to bring Kira the Orb. Trusting her own faith and prayer, Kira leads Yevir, Ro, and Kasidy on a trip to B’hala, where they discover ten thousand crypts, accounting for the prophecy. These were the people who over time died to protect the ancient book written by a man named Ohalu. There’s a spot left for Istani Reyla.

Yevir, changing his tune about Ohalu’s book, addresses the people of Bajor in a performance that Quark aptly characterizes as “megalomaniacal.” Ezri meets with Taran’atar and starts the process of relationship-building again. Shar and Nog need to assist with the Defiant’s repairs, but Nog comes up with an idea to solve the station’s energy problem in a more permanent way. Ezri lets Julian know that she will be an unofficial assistant commander on the Defiant‘s exploratory mission to the Gamma quadrant. During a welcome party in his honor, Vaughn meets Ro. An Ensign named Prynn Tenmei has a strong reaction to finding out she will be working with Vaughn. Kas decides to move to Bajor after all. My goodness.

Kira praises Ro for a job well done, and reveals that she has been Attainted, meaning essentially locked out of her own religion, at least publicly. That scoundrel Yevir strikes again.

After three days in the wormhole, Jake decides to give up and head back to DS9. Just then, an energy surge nearly destroys the shuttle. Right before passing out, he sees his dad.

Cut!

 

What you don’t leave behind: As with the previous book in this duology, there are enough references and bits of continuity here to fill up a cargo bay or three, but I’m just going to highlight two that I particularly enjoyed. The first occurs when Quark is daydreaming about Ro and reliving his past romances. One of these is Natima Lang (featured in the episode “Profit and Loss”) and another, the one that made me smile, is Grilka from the thoroughly diverting “The House of Quark”: “The Lady Grilka, now, she had been something; one of his closed deals, and he had the scars to prove it.” No argument there!

The other continuity nugget concerns Bashir. Curious as to where this genetically enhanced man’s mind might go during his final moments of consciousness, after suffering extensive, life-endangering injuries at the hands of a brutal Jem’Hadar? To Ezri, sure… but where else? Look no farther than page 100 of this book: “…and he thought of Kukalaka, his stuffed toy from childhood, and then he thought of nothing at all.” This stuffed teddy bear, introduced to viewers in the episode “The Quickening”, appeared several more times throughout the series, and at one point Bashir addressed the teddy as “old chum”. It’s moving to think of Bashir, near death, remembering his old chum. As per Wordsworth, the child is indeed father to the man.

Your journey’s end lies not before you, but behind you: This book offers a clever interpretation of the prophecy about the ten thousand introduced in volume one, sparing us the loss of ten thousand lives in the present by relegating it to the past. Temporal misinterpretation tends to be a staple of oracular foretellings, so this feels appropriate. It’s interesting to return to the words of the prophecy itself now that we know how things shake out:

 “The child Avatar will be the second of the Emissary, he to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, and will be born to a gracious and loving world, a world ready to Unite. Before the birth, ten thousand of the land’s children will die for the child’s sake. It is destined, but should not be looked upon with despair; most choose to die, and are welcomed into the Temple of the Teacher Prophets.”

By sharing the text of Ohalu’s book with her world at large, Kira sets in motion a process of spiritual debate for Bajor. It would seem that this re-evaluation of its own practices, and its relationship with the Prophets and the guiding Vedek Assembly, are necessary to achieve the “gracious and loving world” described in the prophecy. It’ll be fascinating to watch this process play out. In what way will the promised Unity manifest? The title of S. D. Perry’s forthcoming book in this series, Unity, certainly suggests potential answers on the horizon…

Let’s not forget, too, that the part of Ohalu’s book concerning Jake still remains to be explored.

I wonder if in future stories we’ll get more insight into who exactly Ohalu was, why the Prophets touched him, and how his text was protected from the dogmatic vedeks who considered it heretical and worked so hard to suppress it.

It’s not linear: The Emissary remains MIA. He did appear in Vaughn’s Orb vision in Book One, and Vaughn now takes some time out to wonder why (if it wasn’t simply a hallucination) that should be the case. His connection with the Orb and Kira seems related to Sisko’s appearance, but we’ll have to wait to learn in what way. In this book’s very last line, Sisko might make his first proper post-finale appearance with Jake: “he saw his father’s unsmiling face in his mind’s eye.” Should we be worried at that “unsmiling face,” or is Benjamin simply concerned for the wellbeing of his son? Please let this not be Jake hallucinating.

Don’t tell me you’re getting sentimental: If any single character can be said to be at the core of a novel with such a large ensemble, it would probably be Kira. She’s given a lot to do here, from profound soul-searching to straight-up action, and there are several standout moments; most of these occur in her interactions with Ro. This arc is subtle and affecting. Despite the friction between them, Kira starts off by respecting Ro’s acumen (“Kira wasn’t sure about a lot of things when it came to her new security officer, but Ro’s intelligence had never been in question”—p. 8). Their differing interpretations of Ohalu’s text fuel some solid drama that Perry manages to avoid turning into melodrama. At the end of the novel, considering everything she’s been through, it’s warming to see Kira praise Ro for the way she handled both the evacuation and the investigation. When Kira apologizes to Ro for having been too quick to judge her, it represents a trademark Trek moment: personal betterment and growth, the ability to admit to one’s mistakes and work to improve the situation. I can appreciate how Ro becomes a little verklempt; this reader did too. Ro’s apology in turn is also deftly handled.

Another excellent moment for Kira occurs when she decides to take matters into her own hands regarding Ohalu’s book and gives a brief speech to Yevir, part of which I think merits being quoted here:

I see it as an opportunity for all of us. Here it is, almost eight years since the Occupation ended, and we still haven’t found our balance. I see our world as a place that’s trapped in transition. I see a struggle to integrate the cultural spirituality of thousands of years with what we’ve learned in the last century, and I think a good look at ourselves is exactly what we need to get through it, to create an atmosphere of positive change.  (p. 110)

Great writing; the plot is moving along as a result of Kira’s actions, and we’re simultaneously granted insight into her maturity and sensitivity, her ability to see the broader picture rather than just her own difficult personal situation.

That said, there was one Kira instant that didn’t work for me. It occurs at the end of Chapter 6, when after a tense conversation with Yevir, Ro, and Kasidy about Ohalu’s book, she literally throws it at Yevir (“She turned and thrust it at him, the book actually hitting his chest before he could fumble his hands into catching it”). Yes, Kira has been under a lot of stress, and it was probably inevitable that she would crack in some way. But this felt forced.

All I do all day long is give, give, give: Quark’s role in the plot of this book is slighter than in the first, but his scenes are amusing and convincing. His relationship with Ro, both imagined and real, hits all the right notes. Let’s see how he tries to curry favor with Shar’s mom, now that he knows of her position on the Federation Council.

A chance to enjoy paradise again: We knew Bashir was going to survive because he’s the protagonist of the upcoming Section 31 novel we’re going to cover, but his attack was vividly rendered, his struggle genuine. I’m glad that, even though things with Ezri aren’t totally patched up, when it comes to their relationship he behaves in a more adult, considerate fashion in this volume. Will the distance between these two grow when she heads out to the Gamma quadrant?

There’s a first time for everything: Speaking of Ezri: Curzon knew Vaughn, and apparently it wasn’t just a fleeting acquaintance (“His hand was warm, his grip as firm as Curzon remembered”). When Kira asks if they know each other, Ezri merely replies that it’s a “long story”—one which we can likely expect to see unveiled in forthcoming relaunch novels.

Outside of this little enigma, it’s good to see Ezri crystallize her path to a degree by deciding to pursue a command track. This promises to deliver some exciting beats.

I will be waiting: As though she didn’t already have enough on her plate, Kasidy is put through the emotional wringer by being the subject of a, to put it mildly, controversial prophecy. The moment she stands up to Kira and Yevir is fantastic (“I’m a person with a life, I’m not some indirect religious figure in a cause, and if you think I’m going to let my child be involved in any part of this particular dilemma, think again”), underlining her determination to be her own best self and to protect her child. Perhaps she flip-flops a little too much regarding her destination, but on the whole it’s understandable.

Can you hear me?: We get introspective Jake here, hopeful for the future, and also somewhat regretful of having deceived his friends in the pursuit of his dad in the wormhole. Though his scenes are short, they continue to add welcome richness to his character.

My people need me: The return of Odo! What a fantastic opening line for the novel: “Odo sat on the speck of rock in the great golden sea, on the barren island where he had last seen her face, watching the ocean glimmer and wave.” Chills.

Though perhaps a little skeletal—pun intended—the Prologue solidly conveys the difficulties Odo is having in getting through to his people. The Link’s attitude can be annoying, particularly when voiced through Laas, but Perry effectively manages to engage our empathy for the series’ former baddies. Odo’s recorded message (p. 171-174) is also credible because Perry captures his voice so perfectly.

If I get lost: Nog is upset about the Jem’Hadar on the station, and his sizzling dislike is played out several times as he grouses to other characters. And yet after the truth about Kitana’klan and Taran’atar is finally revealed, Nog’s arc is given short shrift. We’re told in a single line that he objects to Taran’atar but after considering the additional evidence he “lapsed into quiet grumbling.” I’m not sure what seeds Perry is planting here for future Nog, but I felt like there was too much setting up of a “character-affected-by-trauma-ultimately-realizes-he-is-being-biased” journey that got mired in the first part of the equation and failed to deliver on the second. Onward.

This one’s from the heart: Perry again nails Vic Fontaine in his brief conversation with Nog. His parting line—“I still owe you for rent”—may be his most endearing.

All bets are off: For my money the most significant addition to Bajoran spiritual matters here is the concept of being Attainted. In Kira’s own words: “… I am no longer welcome within the Bajoran faith… I’m forbidden from entering any temple, nor can I study any of our prophecies, or wear my earring, or look into an Orb, or even pray with other Bajorans. Ever.” I imagine this can be formally undone, but nevertheless it introduces a formidable challenge for Kira, especially after she so heavily relied on her relationship with the Prophets in this novel to orient herself.

Dramatis personae: The major new one in this book is Taran’atar, the twenty-two-year-old Jem’Hadar envoy hand-chosen by Odo. He appears pretty late in the book, but I like him already.

Of minor note, Simon Tarses (“The other doctors and infirmary staff had been a pleasure to work with . . . most especially Simon Tarses, who, to her [Crusher’s] delighted surprise, was now a full MD”) pops up in Chapter 14. I like “The Drumhead” so much that I had to mention it.

Lieutenant Bowers is back from Book One; he has a few lines of dialogue here and there, and may be worth keeping an eye on.

In absentia: Worf and O’Brien.

Behind the lines: Picard facilitates two of my favorite scenes in this novel. One occurs early on, when he’s talking with Vaughn, and they share an understanding that sometimes “strange things happen… things that can’t be explained away.” Over a decade of Star Trek, both on the small screen and large, we’ve seen Picard champion morality, exploration, and diplomacy. He’s mostly depicted as a fantastically conscientious, learned, and somewhat aloof man, strong on humanistic principles and reason but not given to public displays of emotion. This quiet, understated moment with Vaughn is a beautiful coloring in of the wisdom Picard has gained through his vast experience, and his willingness to grant that some things remain beyond human comprehension. Picard is tuned in to the pure wondrousness of the universe. It also dovetails nicely with Vaughn’s priorities having shifted from strict security to a warmer sense of kinship with his fellow officers.

The second exchange of note is the final one with Ro. Picard has forgiven her for her betrayal, and he provides a vote of confidence in her future without bringing up any of the specifics of their past. “Commitments can be difficult,” he says, “but there are benefits to following through. You’ve done well for yourself; perhaps you should stay for a while.” Knowing how carefully Picard measures his words, this is powerful stuff.

Ro’s refusal to allow Kira to give the vedeks Ohalu’s book, on the grounds that it is a piece of evidence in an ongoing investigation, is also elegantly written, and elicits our respect for the character. Ro may be unpolished, but her head and heart are in the right place, and she’s not lacking in backbone. This, and several other scenes, illustrate why Perry was such a great choice for kicking off this relaunch: her approach is undoubtedly character-centric.

On the whole, this novel is shorter than the previous one, and better paced. While the upside is a faster read, the downside is that a few elements feel rushed. Ro’s discovery of the identity of Istani’s killer, courtesy of Bajor’s Central Archives, is just a little too conveniently timed; Troi’s perceptions of her relationship with Worf, and her thoughts about Worf having moved on to Jadzia Dax, and now Ezri Dax being with Bashir, are handled in about half a page; and so on. The copyediting is also a bit more perfunctory.

My only other reservation is a minor stylistic one. Several times in the course of the novel Perry deliberately withholds information that characters would be thinking about in order to generate suspense and mystery. Case in point: Vaughn meets with his superiors about his new job request, and makes it clear that he’s willing to resign if the request isn’t granted, but we only learn what the specifics of his request are after the fact. This technique is effective in making the novel more episode-like, since Perry limits our knowledge to what we see externally, as we might on the screen. That’s fine, but because the approach isn’t consistent—in most chapters we have direct access to her point-of-view characters’ thoughts—it can come across as overtly manipulative. Still, it probably only occurs two or three times, so it’s not egregious.

All things considered, this is a thoroughly engaging two-part debut of the relaunch, and I’m certainly looking forward to Perry’s future books in this series. A finely crafted continuation of the story launched in Book One, with all the essential threads (except for that of Jake searching for his dad) satisfyingly resolved.

Orb factor: Like its predecessor, I give this an orb factor of 8.

Alvaro is a Hugo- and Locus-award 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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