The Fall: Revelation and Dust
David R. George III
Publication Date: August 2013
Timeline: August-September 2385
Progress: This novel opens up a new five-volume miniseries within the broader relaunch series. It acts as both a natural extension of the preceding Typhon Pact miniseries, and as its own significant crossover chapter in the grander saga, connecting various DS9, TNG, and Titan storylines. Collectively these books advance the timeline by approximately two months. In this review and the next, we’ll be focusing on the first and third volumes, the Ds9-centric ones.
A prologue recaps the events that happened inside the wormhole in Typhon Pact: Raise the Dawn from Kira’s perspective—and we see that once inside the Celestial Temple, she appears to meet Sisko.
Despite the fact that this is a nearly four-hundred-page novel, the plot of the remaining bulk can be summarized pretty concisely, and boils down to two alternating stories:
(1) Approximately two years after the main events of Raise the Dawn, the new-and-improved same-named DS9, a state-of-the-art Federation space station near where the wormhole used to be, is ready to be officially opened up to the broader quadrant. Naturally, this momentous occasion draws together dignitaries from many worlds, including Bajoran First Minister Asarem Wadeen, castellan of the Cardassian Union Rakena Garan, Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire Gell Kamemor, Klingon Chancellor Martok, Ferengi Grand Nagus Rom, and even Imperator Sozzerozs of the Gorn Hegemony. Not to mention the crews of both the Aventine (Dax and co.) and the Robinson (Sisko and co.). Other familiar characters drift in: Quark, Odo, the O’Briens, Nog, and so on. We also get recurring peeps from recent previous books, such as Sarina Douglas and Zivan Slaine.
The book opens with a tour of the facilities, as it were. Everything has been expanded, and in many cases renamed: Ops is now The Hub, the infirmary has become a full-fledged hospital, the new station sports a vast inner park and a plaza, an Observation Gallery and memorial deck dedicated to its predecessor; it can support up to 13,000 residents, and permits a dozen ships to be docked simultaneously. The station crew, captained by Ro, runs drills (reminiscent of “The Way of the Warrior,” but here involving the Defiant).
The Cardassian castellan is required to leave the station on short notice to deal with ultra-nationalist troubles stirring back home at the hands of the Cardassia First movement. Sisko has been getting used to living on the Robinson with Kasidy and Rebecca. Just in case you were curious, he shaves his head but doesn’t regrow his goatee. Federation President Bacco enlists Sisko’s help in contacting Odo, who’s been spending some time on Bajor. When they meet, she reveals that a ship named the Nova recently discovered a substance they believe could be a kind of proto-Changeling or shapeshifter infant, and Odo agrees to help with its evaluation. Kamemor pays Wadeen a visit, offering an apology for the destruction of the previous DS9 on her watch and trying to build common ground for future cooperation.
In short, everything is looking pretty good, except that when the appointed day of the new station’s dedication ceremony comes, Bacco is assassinated. A suspect—Enkar Sirsy, most recently chief of staff under Wadeen—is apprehended shortly thereafter. But the evidence against Enkar seems a little too obvious, and Enkar herself swears to having no memory of shooting Bacco. At the end of the novel, Bashir discovers a subcutaneous implant in Enkar, bearing Tzenkethi cellular traces.
(2) Inside the wormhole, Kira experiences Sisko’s first encounter with the Prophets. Then she travels back in time, or to a parallel reality, or more likely both, and inhabits the life of someone named Keev Anora. Through Keev, she helps free Bajorans through an underground railroad, and comes into contact with an Aleiran physician named Altek Dans. Several hardships and close scrapes ensue. Eventually Kira interfaces with Sisko in a vision once more, this time dovetailing with the Benny Russell Prophetscape: this is the same sequence we saw in from Raise the Dawn, where Kira occupies the Kay Eaton persona, and Kasidy appears as Cassie Johnson. Back as Keev, Kira is on a mission to get the Tear of Destiny to the city of Shavalla.
Though these two plotlines are apparently disconnected for about 98% of the novel, fortunately for us these particular twain shall meet. Right at the end of the book, the wormhole reopens and an Orb floats out. Altek Dans materializes on the station. Meanwhile, Kira returns to her own body someplace far away, and discovers Taran’atar.
Behind the lines: This book expends a considerable amount of its narrative resources on character development, albeit with limited success.
Some highlights: Finally, there’s a clearing of the air between Bashir and Ezri Dax, and it’s handled believably and with maturity. Both characters emerge from the interaction feeling richer and, dare I say it, wiser. I appreciate Sisko’s efforts to rebuild trust with Kasidy, and I loved how the seed of his exploratory impulses was tied back to “Explorers.” All of the Odo scenes are pitch-perfect, from his reflections to his mannerisms and dialogue. Tarkalean hawk Odo? Priceless. It’s fun to get follow-ups to characters like Morn and Vic Fontaine, which have been largely absent from the relaunch series for, I dunno, a thousand pages. Bacco, we learn, has lost Esperanza (that happens in David Mack’s Cold Equations novel Silent Weapons), but George brings us up to speed elegantly and we feel the full weight of Bacco’s loss. And, in turn, Ro’s introspection after Bacco’s murder is also compelling and affecting.
Despite those examples and a few other fun moments, I didn’t find this book particularly enjoyable. I’ve gone over several George-specific stylistic gripes in previous reviews, but I’m going to continue to bring them up each time they bother me. One of them is the infamous declarative foreshadowing. Example: telling us flat out at the end of Chapter One that there’s been a major breach in security feels lazy. Another is dialogue—some conversations are stilted even by George III standards: At one point. Wadeen says, “I am understandably disappointed.” Being “understandably X” makes sense from a third-person perspective, because the judgment of what is understandable is derived externally, but for someone to utter this in the first person comes across as self-aggrandizing. Another issue with dialogue is the extreme length of minutiae-laden interstitial description in between speech tags, and how it forces the author to keep repeating lines in order to refresh our memories. A simple way to illustrate this is to remove the connective tissue and strip down an exchange to its speech tags. Example from Chapter Six:
Veralla: “Why were you chasing my friend?”
Altek: “I was not ‘chasing’ your friend.” […] “I mean, I was chasing her, but probably not for the reason you think.”
Jennica: “You have no idea what we think.”
Veralla: “Why were you chasing my friend?”
Altek: “I was looking for you.” […] “I was looking for all of you. I want to join your efforts. Grenta Sor sent me.”
Jennica: “That still doesn’t explain why you were chasing Keev.”
Altek: “I was sent by Grenta Sor, who told me how to reach your location.”
This condensed version represents about a page and a half of text. It shouldn’t.
Let’s talk about the Kira thread. I feel like it goes on too long. While I could see a few individual connections with the other narrative, I wasn’t able to elucidate any kind of systematic one-to-one correspondence, causal or metaphorical, between these two storylines, and the tie-in at the novel’s conclusion was more of a head-scratcher than anything else. So the whole thing felt weirdly isolated and anticlimactic, considering its proportional wordcount. Also, having Kira’s consciousness essentially inhabit an imaginary or historical setting has already been done several times in this relaunch series—my favorite version of this occurs in David Mack’s Warpath.
In Chapter Two, Kira witnesses contact between the Emissary and the wormhole aliens, and George does a thorough job of recreating those scenes. The problem is that Michael Piller’s writing in the pilot episode, specifically for this sequence, is so emotionally powerful, the writing so heightened and affecting, that it casts a long shadow over the material that follows in this book. Has anyone compared J. M. Dillard’s adaptation of these same scenes in the Emissary novelization to George’s here? (Also, continuity flub—Sisko was aboard the Defiant in the wormhole, not the Robinson. Oops.)
Bottom line, I didn’t walk away from the Keev section feeling like I had gained any significant insights into Kira, and that’s unfortunate.
Also: Sarina Douglas is in this novel—at least in name. What happened to the incredibly precocious, complex personality we saw in Zero Sum Game?
Tonally, George doesn’t have a convincing handle on the Ferengi in this book. The Quark we meet in Chapter Nine is lackluster. He thinks insipid things like, “I’m going to have to be exceedingly careful.” Rom’s speech patterns are definitely off from Keith R. A. DeCandido’s wonderful work in Ferenginar: Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed.
The way in which Sisko delivers the news of Bacco’s death to Akaar merits inspection. This might seem like a small item to harp on, but Sisko has long been established as someone who speaks directly. In this instance, though, there’s so much preamble that it almost feels like he’s toying with Akaar. First he tells Akaar that he’s on the Robinson, that they’re docked at the station, and that they were there for the dedication ceremony. Akaar is already impatient, since this was a “red one transmission,” categorized as “priority one.” Then, instead of cutting to the chase and saying that during said ceremony Bacco was assassinated, Sisko continues with these words: “The dedication ceremony was held a few hours ago. […] While President Bacco was speaking, she was shot with a projectile weapon.” So of course Akaar, very reasonably, asks, “What is the president’s condition?” and immediately begins to play out scenarios in his head about her potential recovery and the gravity of her injuries. Only after these thoughts does Sisko finally say, “I’m afraid that President Bacco is dead,” and even that he manages to needlessly delay the grim news by preceding it with a separate beat for “Admiral.”
Compounding these issues, Bacco’s assassination elicits a pervading sense of what I’m going to call D&DDV—death and destruction déjà vu. If you’re a VIP, you should seriously reconsider any plans to visit DS9. Remember the assassination attempt on Vedek Bareil (“In the Hands of the Prophets”)? How about the the death of Chancellor Gowron in hand-to hand combat (“Tacking Into the Wind”)? Or the assassination of First Minister Shakaar Edon (Mission Gamma: Lesser Evil)? Not to mention the successful sabotage of the station itself (Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night). Considering the fact that I thought George did a really nice job with Bacco in Raise the Dawn, something I commented on explicitly, I think this development marks not only the loss of a complicated, intriguing character, but also needlessly undercuts George’s work. And wasn’t the previous Federation President, Min Zife, also assassinated (in that case by Section 31)?
I don’t buy that the Tzenkethi are behind this. Problem is, I’m not itching to find out who is.
—Kamemor: “I hope to establish a rapport with you, with your people, to create a relationship between Ki Baratan and Ashalla, between Romulus and Bajor. For where there is knowledge and understanding, where there is amity, there will be peace.”
—Odo: “Thank you, but there is nothing that I need.”
—Dax: “Quark has two establishments? So he’s finally a business magnate?”
Orb factor: Slow moving, and suffering from unresolved-first-book-syndrome; 4 orbs.
In our next installment: We’ll be back in this space on Wednesday September 2nd with David Mack’s The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses!
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.