Publication Date: January 2003
Timeline: April-August 2376; the Epilogue of this book syncs up with the Epilogue of Mission Gamma, Book Four: Lesser Evil
Progress: A Gamma Quadrant Tosk (the species we met in “Captive Pursuit”) discovers a mysterious “crystalline chunk of matter the size of a fist, of a luminous tint that seemed to shift between orange and red.” Touching it transports him elsewhere for an instant, and this experience instills in the Tosk a desire to find “something that was not the Hunt.”
Jake records a log on the shuttle Venture, recapping his decision (prompted by Bajoran prophecy) to enter the wormhole in search of his father. Unfortunately, he’s come up empty. Systems failing, Jake believes the end is near, and then thinks he hears the voice of the Emissary telling him that everything is going to be all right.
Jake wakes up aboard the salvage/retrieval ship Even Odds, greeted by a very chatty, canine-like alien named Pifko Gaber, or Pif for short. Pif tells Jake that they discovered his shuttle in a state of total meltdown, with him inside in similarly rough condition, and per the Captain’s orders beamed him aboard. As Jake recovers, Pif introduces him to some of the Even Odds’ crew: a Wadi first officer named Facity Sleedow, the muscular, gray-skinned Captain Dezavrim, or Dez for short, a tall, dour Cardassian named Allo Glessin, the resident medic, and the main engineer, a Karemman named Attarace Prees.
Captain Dez gives Jake a tour of the ship, and reveals that he went through the Venture’s personal records and therefore knows what Jake was doing in the wormhole. Dez confides that the Even Odds is wanted by the Dominion, as well as a few other organizations. They survive by hunting down “historical artifacts and other items of value that have been lost, or stolen, and we…once we find them, depending on the circumstances, we generally return them to the rightful owners.” Notice all the hedging. Jake’s shuttle is beyond repair. The storm-like phenomenon he encountered in the wormhole threw him a hundred parsecs away, depleting the shuttle’s energy reserves. Jake inquires about returning home and Dez gives him the skinny: Jake will be able to find transport to the wormhole on the marketplace planet of Ee, which the the Even Odds will reach in four to five months. Jake records his observations aboard the ship.
Facity, who has a close personal relationship with Dez, is upset that Dez unilaterally told Jake about the Even Odds’s work, since she is supposed to be consulted prior to such disclosures. Dez apologizes, and says he wants to help Jake, whose parental quest has clearly struck a chord with Dez. Jake learns more about the Even Odds and meets the Ferengi Feg and Triv and the gemologist Brad-ahk’la. He also learns about the Wa, a mysterious part of the ship (“some kind of dimensional-shift subspace deck, or something”) that appears to migrate of its own accord, without conforming to any exact pattern, and may be a bizarre form of alien holodeck. The crew is preparing for an important job on Drang, the name of the planet and people who stole an artifact from another party that has hired the Even Odds to recover it. Dez asks Jake if he’s interested in helping out with the Drang job.
Jake meets yet more members of the Even Odds’ crew, specialists in various areas such as weapons and archaeology, and is debriefed on the Drang operation, which involves the retrieval of an item named the Yaron Oracle. Eight days in, Facity drills Jake on the mission, assessing his preparedness, and we get the play-by-play of a nifty multi-species heist plan.
At the start of Chapter 6, the narrative shifts to Glessin’s point of view, filling us in on how he came to join the ship’s crew. Then the Drang mission starts. During the dropship part of the plan, the crew picks up an unexpected energy signature near their target, but Dez gives the order for them to proceed as planned anyway. Each player enacts his/her/its role perfectly, and they successfully locate the Oracle. There’s only one hitch: that device whose signature they couldn’t decode turns out to be a transport scrambler, so that they can’t be beamed away, and a contingent of twenty-plus Drang is headed to their location.
Dez improvises a risky plan to sneak past the Drang and disable the scrambler. Despite knowing that he’s not ready for this kind of hijinks, Jake decides to join Dez. Consummate teamwork saves the day, and eventually Dez and Jake are transported back to safety. After catching their breath, they review their loot, and discover that Jake unwittingly snatched an extremely valuable object, earning him everyone’s approbation.
Jake continues with his diary notes. He learns about the lost planet of the Eav-oq, known for a type of crystal that recorded Eav-oq culture and melts at a touch. Nearly sixty days into his stay, the ship has stopped at a number of abandoned Dominion outposts and a planet without a name, “one on the seemingly endless list of places to check for salvage.” Jake begins to have qualms about earning profits from the aftermath of people’s war-related losses. Dez senses the shift and has a one-on-one with Jake, offering a compromise and appeasing Jake’s conscience.
The crew proceeds to their next operation, the Hw17 job, but an unforeseen defensive measure by the Horgin kills vital parts of crewmember Stess, dooming the surviving part of the multi-body organism to certain death.
Glessin comforts the dying alien Stess as best he can. Jake worries that Dez is blaming himself for what happened, though in Jake’s opinion there was no way the tragedy could have been prevented. Dez tells Jake the story of his own complicated relationship with his father, and asks him to stay on the ship. Jake says he’ll consider it. By now his diary records that he’s been on the Even Odds for 109 days. One week away from Ee, he has yet to make his decision.
Once on Ee, Jake and company unwind at The Laughing This, a “spinewater” establishment, and Jake buys the first three rounds. Amid reminiscences, Jake spots a being he thinks he recognizes: Tosk. Tosk leaves the locale, and Jake follows him outside.
Tosk forcefully asks Jake if he knows what Tosk’s “new purpose” is, the thing “[o]ther than the Hunt.” After talking for a bit, they are joined by a humanoid Trelian female, who urges Jake to be cautious, as, based on her previous dealings with Hunters and Tosk, it’s not safe to converse out in the open with a Tosk as Jake is doing. She identifies herself as Wex and suggests that they follow her. She’s on her way to see a wise woman with the power to heal, a sage “whose very touch brings peace.” The group eventually locates her—and it turns out to be none other than Opaka Sulan, former Kai.
Jake asks Opaka how she was able to leave the Ennis moon on which she died seven years prior when the Yangtzee Kiang crashed on its surface, and Chapter 13 is comprised of Opaka’s backstory by way of answer to Jake. Her release from the world was facilitated by a humanoid alien Ascendant named Raiq who destroyed the satellite system around the moon, thus disabling the artificial microbial organisms responsible for the world’s cycle of death and resurrection.
Jake reinterprets the Bajoran prophecy that took him into the wormhole in light of his having met up with Opaka. Tosk tells Opaka, “you have to come with me, back to the star system nearest the Anomaly, to the planet where I touched the crystal,” and she agrees. The system is Idran, three light-years from the wormhole. Before agreeing to join them on their quest, Jake explains that he’ll have to talk to Captain Dez. Dez, to Facity’s dismay, agrees to take them to Idran. When she asks why, he reveals that Tosk’s chronicle of a melting crystal matches up with descriptions of the handiwork of the Eav-oq, who disappeared fifty millennia ago.
Jake’s diary entry notes a growing distance between him and Dez en route to Idran.
The opening paragraph of Chapter 16 concisely summarizes all the events of historical importance in Bajor’s history that have transpired since Opaka’s departure from the Alpha Quadrant, as she is brought up to speed. Jake also tells her about the Bajoran prophecy that he feels alludes to them. Dez is glad that they have almost arrived at their destination so that he can come clean to Jake about his real agenda.
On the planet, Opaka discovers that “the pagh was like a river, flowing over them from somewhere ahead, an invisible outpouring of spiritual energy unlike any Opaka had ever known.” After sprightly Pif scouts ahead, the group advances towards a cave. Tosk reveals that what appear to be random wall scratches to the others are in fact written in a language he can somehow understand, and his purpose is to have brought them here so they could see the markings and know what they say. Just at that moment, Glessin calls out the presence of Hunters.
We shift briefly to the Hunters’ perspective, and the Hunt comes to a very definitive end with Tosk’s death. Sad, but still hopeful that there may be other clues of note in the cave, the group realizes that several of the rocks are in fact materials once used by ancient Bajorans. (Jake is able to make this identification because of the time he spent on B’hala). The only thing Tosk was able to translate before dying was “and from the now to the beginning, in order touch the eras—”, and it turns out this is significant. Given that each rock represents a different age, they gather that the text is telling them to touch them in reverse chronological order, which Jake swiftly proceeds to do. The cave is replaced by a great chamber with “rows and rows of strange beings lining the walls.” From orbit, Prees and Srral determine that space appears to have shifted by three-point-three light-years from its previous position, meaning that this system is now only half a light-hour from the wormhole. They also detect the bio-signatures of over a thousand living beings at the landing site. One of these beings identifies itself as Itu, of the Eav’oq, and tells Opaka that they have been waiting for the Siblings—i.e. the Prophets—to guide a Chosen one to them. In order to escape destruction, the Eav’oq retreated into a fold of space and remained there in a meditative trance of sorts for fifty-thousand years.
Jake and Wex spend time with Itu and Opaka, learning more about the Eav’oq, but Jake is preoccupied thinking about Dez. He now understands what Dez’s interest in this planet was, and realizes that Dez didn’t reveal it because he wanted Jake to like him. A plan is made to escort Opaka back to Bajor in the Tosk ship, whenever she’s ready. Jake informs Dez that he’ll be joining Wex and Opaka on this trip, as he doesn’t feel that he belongs on the Even Odds. Dez takes the news hard. Jake bids his farewell to Pif and the others.
They stay with Itu for three days, and we return to Opaka’s perspective at the start of the novel’s final chapter. Shortly into their journey, the Tosk ship begins to tear itself apart, and the three of them—Jake, Wex and Opaka—are transported aboard a Dominion ship and greeted by Weyoun. Weyoun explains that they were in pursuit of the Even Odds and detected the imminent explosion of the Tosk vessel. And, as luck would have it, they are on an intercept course with the Defiant, which they recently detected as well.
In a brief Epilogue, Jake realizes that his belongings—including the journals where he recorded the details of all his experiences in the Gamma Quadrant—blew up with the Tosk ship, and have thus been irretrievably lost. But his experiences remain with him, and will make for a good story.
What you don’t leave behind: This is possibly the relaunch novel with the greatest number of references, grand and subtle, to episodes and prior stories in the series thus far. Herewith, out of dozens and dozens, my favorite eight:
- Jake, musing in his journal about the events seen in “Nor the Battle to the Strong”: “The war changed things for everyone, I know, but even before that, before I learned firsthand about mortal terror on the front line at Ajilon Prime, I thought I understood that death was never all that far away.”
- The Wadi are back! Allamaraine, count to four, Allamaraine, then three more… “The Wadi…Jake remembered them now. They had been among the first Gamma Quadrant visitors through the wormhole, a culture that seemed to live for games and gambling…though thanks to one of Quark’s rigged dabo tables, the diplomatic contact hadn’t been renewed.”
- A nice threefer in the following (which I’m only counting as one, because it’s a single line). I’ve always had a soft spot for “Whispers,” which introduced the Parada. “Hard Time,” in which we learned about the Argrathi, is one of my top episodes. We heard about the Karemma in “Rules of Acquisition” and met them in “The Search, Part I.” The line in question: “Most of Facity’s knowledge of the Alpha Quadrant came from database swaps with cultures that had had direct dealings with those on the other side of the Anomaly: The Parada, the Argrathi, the Karemma…and of course, the Even’s resident Alphies, Glessin and the Ferengi brothers.”
- In the episode “Heart of Stone” Bashir mentioned that Ensign Vilix’pran was budding, and it became a sort of running off-screen gag in future episodes, so that by “Business as Usual” Jake mentioned caring for Ensign Pran’s “hatchlings,” which is referenced in this novel, as he “flashed back to baby-sitting for Vilix’pran’s offspring one night on the station.”
- The enigmatic Wa has a definite response to the events seen in Gateways #4: Demons of Air and Darkness and the Gateway series more broadly: “A whole network of interspatial gateways, and people and ships either are wandering into them by accident, or they’re being sucked in. Instant transport. It’s a mess out there.” This helps connect that point in this novel’s narrative with the timeline of the relaunch adventures we know.
- Another core episode, “The Jem’Hadar”: “…that ill-fated science survey project with Nog, and Quark, and Dad. It was the first time any of us saw a Jem’Hadar, I remember.”
- We saw Jake fishing with his dad on a holodeck program in “Emissary”, so the following is by no means a stretch of the imagination: “Jake remembered going ice fishing with his father once, a holodeck program…had it been on the Saratoga?”
- And a nod to another episode I don’t tire of recalling, “It’s Only a Paper Moon”: “…he also remembered the time he’d taken Kesha to Vic’s when Nog had been staying there, and he and Nog had fought.”
Your journey’s end lies not before you, but behind you: The main prophecy that animated Jake on this quest was as follows: “A Herald, unforgotten but lost to time and removed from sight, a Seer of Visions to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, will return from the Temple…. The first child, a son, enters the Temple alone. With the Herald, he returns, and soon after, the Avatar is born.”
Jake took this to mean that the Herald was his father, but the Herald turns out to be Opaka.
Opaka herself, a subject matter expert, reflects on the difficulty of interpretations: “The Prophets weren’t always clear, but the challenge of interpreting Their meaning had always been her secret joy.”
It’s not linear: Jake recalls these words from the Emissary: “My father always said that war brings out the worst in the worst of people.”
I will be waiting: A lovely sentiment from Jake about Kasidy, when he’s recording what he thinks is his final message: “Tell Kas I’m sorry and that I love her, that she has become to me what I would have wanted with my mother, and I’m sorry I won’t be there for her and the baby.”
Can you hear me?: One of this novel’s most interesting elements is its rich depiction of Jake Sisko. We see him evolve into a fully-realized, autonomous character who wrestles with but is no longer defined by his relationship with his father. He becomes the title’s rising son—but also, a delightful adult in his own right.
Some standout emotional beats on this journey:
In order to grow, Jake has to be honest with himself and reconcile himself to the full sweep of his feelings regarding the Emissary, even when these emotions are unflattering. Recalling the events of “Rapture” proves an understandably bitter pill to swallow in this context, but Jake knows it’s the kind of medicine he needs to down in order to grow. His candid evaluation is quite moving: “His father had weighed his son’s—and Kas’s—tears and pleas against the visions, and chosen. That had been three years ago, but Jake remembered it as clearly as if it had been yesterday; Dad had chosen the visions. Jake had ordered the surgery when the visions had finally put him in a coma, and Dad had survived, all had been well…but he hadn’t picked Jake, and that was something he would never forget, if he lived to be a thousand….”
Jake’s relationship with Dez is well-crafted, with each character assessing and re-assessing the other as they share experiences and try to figure out their respective roles in each other’s futures. Here’s an early moment in their bond that I found endearing: “…though Jake knew he was being an idiot, knew that he wasn’t ready by any stretch of the imagination, he also knew that seeing Dez look at him like that made him feel incredibly, supremely brave.”
One of the biggest pressure points on their friendship is Jake’s guilty conscience about Dez’s line of work. This is nicely encapsulated in the following first-person statement by Jake: “Even if we’re only taking from the Dominion, even if the people were only relocated, not slaughtered like the innocents of New Bajor, we’re still making money from the aftermath of pain.”
Jake reaching this point in Chapter Ten made me smile: “I’m not waiting for my life to get started, anymore, and I’m not observing it as it happens; I’m just going to enjoy what comes, and trust in my friends, and in myself.”
And then that definitive moment when he stands up to Dez and tells him he’s not staying on the ship, but that it isn’t due to any kind of weakness or fear of making his own life: “I’m going back to a place I feel strong, where I have friends, and history…and family. […] Whether or not my father ever returns, this is my life, my decision. And I’m leaving.”
How far you’ve come, Jake!
If I get lost: A touching reference to Nog, again coming from Jake, who says: “Hey, do me a favor…tell Feg and Triv that my closest friend back home is Nog, son of Rom. Can you remember that?”
Yep, we can definitely remember that.
All bets are off: Opaka has gone through a lot over the course of seven years, and perhaps stretching herself theologically has been the most challenging part of this journey: “…even after seven years abroad, learning to loosen her definition of what it meant to love and be loved by the Prophets, she still found it difficult to accept that the relationship between the Prophets and Bajor was not a singular one. It was one of the first tenets of the faith, one of the first things taught to children—that the Prophets were for Bajor, that Bajor was for the Prophets.”
Apparently the Prophets are for the Eav-oq, too. One of this novel’s themes is finding one’s place (consider the arcs of Jake, Tosk, Dez), and that type of search often entails the gradual relinquishment of our notions of cosmic centrality and uniqueness. It’s nice to see this character work mirrored in a conceptual way with Opaka’s reflection, which is tantamount to the admission that Bajor may not be as singular as she’d once deemed.
Dramatis personae: There are so many new characters introduced in this novel, particularly in the first six chapters, that it would seem foolhardy to try to summarize them all. Captain Dez is obviously a standout, and his entry into the story illustrates Perry’s gifts for physical description and attention to detail:
The captain’s body and facial features were basically human, but his skin was light gray and highly textured, rippled like corrugated matter. The flesh was thicker and darker at the top and back of his head, giving the appearance of hair, and his eyes were the color of a ripe peach.
Dez is the new character that will probably linger with me the longest.
Pif, while not as dramatically compelling, is immediately likeable and sort of adorable. Perhaps Stessie (R.I.P., alas) and Srral are the most unusual aliens we meet, characters through which we sense Perry flexing her imaginative muscles, free of budgetary constraints and the need to actually have her creations appear on the screen. Bravo.
Stess, we discover, is “one-fifth of Arislelemakinstess, a quinteth Friagloim whom we call Stessie…though all you have to remember is that she’s basically a walking multipart mushroom, and Stess here is the one that talks.” Also: “Like all of Stessie, Stess was barely a meter tall, an armless cluster of purplish fungal growths atop a trio of low, stocky legs.” Stess has the ability to project various emotions, too, which plays a key part in the plot during the Drang operation, and also heightens our sense of pathos when she perishes.
Our introduction to Srral, who speaks in an “androgynous voice,” relies on a poetic turn of phrase: “Srral was another unusual crew member, a living machine that lived in machines.” It was engineered by a very technologically advanced species named the Himh, whose planet is apparently covered by “vast, complex network systems” inside which Srral-like beings dwell and work. Interestingly, “Srral named itself, after a sound it said it liked, of superheated plasma flow heard through a single thickness of conduit wall.”
Wex is intriguing, but feels underdeveloped. Hopefully her character will be deepened in forthcoming stories.
Raiq and Itu also felt thin. Maybe by this point I was suffering from new-character fatigue.
In absentia: This is Jake’s story, and he’s separated from everyone else we’ve been following, so don’t expect any of the post-finale regulars to show up.
Behind the lines: Though he popped up right at the end of Mission Gamma, Book Four, the last time we spent any quality time with Jake was in Avatar, Book Two, some eight books and one graphic novel ago. I found his return here, and Perry’s nuanced psychological portrayal, most welcome.
Besides Perry’s prose, which I’ve discussed in this space before, and which I continue to find highly satisfying, perhaps this novel’s most remarkable achievement is its character work, not just with Jake, who powers the story emotionally, but with the crew of the Even Odds, and later with Opaka. I can’t remember the last time I read a media tie-in book, including Star Trek novels, that so obviously relished the creation of a ragtag but believable crew of aliens working together and so successfully made them truly science fictional, rather than stock characters with a few quirky trademarks. From their physical descriptions and backgrounds to their beliefs and ways of communicating, they all felt thoughtfully developed. As the yarn progresses, we feel that we’re in the hands of a veteran storyteller who has artfully anticipated worldbuilding challenges and has devised clever solutions for them.
Perry excels at switching points of view, which has the advantage of immersing us in these other characters and quickly making them more empathetic to us. There’s also a drawback to this choice, though, because we end up spending more time away from Jake than I would have liked. I understand that perhaps Perry felt Jake couldn’t quite carry the full narrative, but the second half of the novel—roughly after meeting Opaka—felt a little scattered compared with the preceding material.
I don’t know that I fully understood why this particular Tosk had been anticipated or in some way selected to play the role he did with the Eav-oq. (Was it just happenstance because he randomly found the crystal? That seems disappointing). A sizable number of pages is expended on describing and hypothesizing about the Wa, too, but there was no proportional payoff later—or if there was, I missed it.
Knowing that we had to end up with Jake, Wex and Opaka on the bridge of the Dominion ship perhaps ruined part of the fun, and forced Perry into some structural contrivances, but on the whole this is a rousing adventure, full of clever ideas, offbeat humor, and subtle and tender moments of introspection.
Perhaps the most apt summary may be found in the Epilogue: “Helping alter the face of the Gamma Quadrant was definitely a promising start to a whole series of good stories.”
Orb factor: 8 orbs. A crystal-solid entry in the series, with a few puzzling plot choices but a splendid, unusually colorful supporting cast, and indispensable development for Jake Sisko.
In our next installment: We’ll be discussing The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One, by J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang, in this space on Wednesday, January 22nd!
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.