Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Millennium Trilogy Continues With The War Of The Prophets, The Best Of The Bad Bunch!

The Good: Concept with moments of execution, Hints of character
The Bad: Lack of genuine sense of danger/menace, Writing style
The Basics: Despite having a chance to recreate and destroy the Star Trek universe, two masters fall down with a decent middle act of a terrible trilogy.

Trilogies are a tough thing when they are telling a single story in three volumes. I appreciate that, as both a writer and a reader. Sometimes, though, I wonder why some people bother with them, though this more from a reader's perspective. In the case of the Millennium trilogy of books in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series, I wonder why revered Star Trek authors Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens sullied themselves with this one. If the Star Trek universe is going to end, it's not going to be done in book form, no matter how many people consider them to be cannon. Yet, from the outset of The War Of The Prophets we are meant to believe that the end of the universe is coming and there is no hope for those trying to stop it!

Having reviewed volume one of the Millennium trilogy, The Fall Of Terok Nor (reviewed here!), on its own, I felt somewhat compelled to continue with the series. The War Of The Prophets is the second book in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Millennium Trilogy. For those who insist upon going against my ultimate recommendation and looking into this book and series, the far more economical way to do it would be to pick up the Millennium omnibus (reviewed here!). Because Pocket Books made no bones about how they were producing a trilogy with these books, they are clearly intended to fit together and those who suffer through this novel are probably going to want to find out how the book continues and ends. The best way to do that is through the omnibus edition.

The War Of The Prophets explores the world of the future in the Star Trek timeline, wherein the Bajoran Ascendancy - a fanatical group led by Kai Weyoun - has just about decimated the known universe in a religious war to bring about the end of the universe. With space station Deep Space Nine destroyed by the Red Wormhole opening in Quark's Bar and most of the important crew members from it stuck on the U.S.S. Defiant and trapped outside linear space for twenty-five years, the universe has pretty much gone to hell. The Ascendancy has taken over, the result of a war with the Grigari, a race discovered on the other side of the Red Wormhole.

The crew of the USS Defiant, thrown into the future when the red wormhole opened, arrive to a very dark universe. Kai Weyoun sets about capturing Benjamin Sisko, believing his presence is needed to help bring about the apocalypse. Other members of the crew interact with the last remnants of the StarFleet of the day, which is on a desperate mission to stop the Ascendancy and make sure the end of the universe does not come. This effort is led by Captain Nog, one of the few members of the Federation/Borg alliance. He works under the senile Admiral Picard, who is doing what he can to try to save the future of the universe, despite being pretty much crazy by this point.

As Sisko resists and Thomas Riker comes into the mix, those fighting to end and save the universe clash.

Sigh. Where does one start on a project like this? Let's go with the things I enjoyed about The War Of The Prophets, because it's likely to be a short list. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens are certainly the right people to reforge the Star Trek universe and they do a decent job of making a much darker vision of the universe. They play it out well in some respects, like references to the entire Klingon Empire being wiped out in an attempt to circumvent the Ascendancy's main forces by traveling through the Mirror Universe!

In order to make this whole concept work, the Grigari - a race mentioned in passing in the Star Trek novel Federation (reviewed here!) - are brought in to help create the menacing Bajoran Ascendancy. The Grigari end the Dominion War by simply wiping out the Dominion and Cardassia before they turn their sights to doing exactly what the Dominion was doing! In the dark future of The War Of The Prophets, they have more or less succeeded. As StarFleet attempts to use the Guardian of Forever to stop the Ascendancy, it is the Grigari who are present to try to thwart them. In other words, The War Of The Prophets is filled with characters and situations completely unique to the novel and, frankly, it stretches the limits of suspension of disbelief, even for die-hard fans of Star Trek.

Still, it is pretty cool to read about such things as Project Phoenix and Looking Glass. Captain Nog makes for an intriguing, tormented character. And the Reeves-Stevens's do something no other author has succeeded in presenting plausibly: they make us believe that the Borg Collective could have allied with the remnants of the Federation against the greater threat (the Ascendancy). In that respect, the novel works and even the passing character elements are enough to push the book up into average territory (even if I still would not recommend it).

That said, The War Of The Prophets is still pretty bad. First, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens do not seem to be up to their usual standards of writing in this book. The phrasing tends to be expository and dull, lacking in any sense of poetics. As a result, much of the book reads like a text book and far too much time is spent with characters explaining how the plot works. And some of the coolest concepts of what made the dark universe that we see in the book is reduced to a few simple lines (like what happened to the Klingon Empire).

Part of that, though, has to do with the Reeves-Stevens working in a universe they do not seem to want to believe is dark. This is not entirely their fault, but they certainly play into it in The War Of The Prophets. One of the beautiful things about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is what is not shown on screen, which allows us to make our own conclusions. We are told in various episodes that when Cardassian joined the Dominion, one of the first favors the Dominion did for Cardassia was eradicate the Maquis. In fact, in one episode, viewers witnessed the final enclave of Maquis soldiers escaping the Jem'Hadar. The Maquis are dead in Star Trek cannon. We get it and it's pretty cool, because it instantly established the brutality of the Dominion. These are not people who wait around for a lengthy trial with appeals. You commit terrorism, bang, you're dead!

So, we are being asked to believe that while the Dominion would wipe out every terrorist on the borders, they wouldn't kill the ones that are in prison?! Come on! I am referring here to the presence of Thomas Riker. Thomas Riker is set free by the Grigari when they are wiping out the Dominion. Why do the Reeves-Stevens join the pack mentality of writers determined to keep this pointless character alive as opposed to acknowledging that when he no longer had a purpose, the Dominion would have executed him! After all, if Gul Dukat had wanted to curry favor with Major Kira by keeping Thomas Riker alive for her (the only viable theory I can come up with for his continued existence), wouldn't he have turned Riker over the moment he became the head of state of Cardassia?! And using Thomas Riker to replace William Riker is an utterly asinine idea when one understands that the Dominion is run by shapeshifters (i.e. they don't need Thomas Riker to replace William!). So, the whole plot with Thomas Riker seems pointless and is executed in a way that ultimately just kills pages in the book.

Ultimately, The War Of The Prophets is a necessary evil, a middle act that pretty much has to happen, given that the prior book opened the Red Wormhole and caused the Defiant crew to fall out of time. But what is here is a complicated narrative told to the reader and told without any real sense of style, much like a child pitching a story idea of "wouldn't it be cool if . . .?" To which the natural response is, "okay, what else, where do you want to go with that idea?" But, being a child, the response is just more ideas of "wouldn't it be cool if . . .?" And that's pretty much what happens with The War Of The Prophets.

"Wouldn't it be cool if there was a second wormhole and a race even worse than the Dominion and they enslaved most of the galaxy and was ready to bring about the end of they universe?" Okay . . . so what happens? Sadly, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens leave a lot at the end of this book to answer that question and on the surface, it seems they don't even know.

For other Star Trek novels, please check out my reviews of:
Imzadi - Peter David
The Return - William Shatner
Diplomatic Implausibility - Keith R.A. DeCandido


For other novel reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the books I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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