Friday, May 25, 2012

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season Eight Opens With The Omnibus Twist Of Faith!

The Good: Interesting new characters, A strong sense of history and future concept
The Bad: Not exceptional writing, A bit of repetition from the series.
The Basics: With a strong concept of the universe painted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,Twist Of Faith collects the new novels to reboot the series as if it were the start of Season Eight!

My love of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!) leaves me with a strong desire to get some reading done and having just finished the omnibus Twist Of Faith, I find myself pleased to put in my two cents on it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was arguably the least commercial of the "modern" Star Trek series and also the most adult. As the show progressed, it became more serialized and the emphasis was strongly on characters as opposed to plots. Actions had consequences and characters rose and fell as they struggled to overcome their issues and the circumstances they found themselves in. It was pretty much guaranteed that the series would not see the light of day on the big screen and as a result, it was pretty much assumed that it was a dead little corner of the Star Trek universe.

But Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had something the rest of the franchise didn't have; a core of rabid, adult fans who had both a limited disposable income and the desire to see the story progress following the series finale, "What You Leave Behind" (reviewed here!). Designed for the fans, then, Pocket Books picked up the story of space station Deep Space Nine three months after the loss of Captain Benjamin Sisko. The concept of Twist Of Faith is to present a Season Eight of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that tells the story of the station and its vital characters following all of the cataclysmic changes that were depicted in the series finale. This mandated the presence of several new characters.

This is an omnibus edition, collecting the novels which rebooted the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine storyline and it is a simple collection of the previously-released novels:
Avatar Volume 1
Avatar Volume 2
Demons Of Air And Darkness
and the novella "Horn And Ivory"

In Avatar (Part 1), Jake Sisko is working at the archaeological excavation of B'Hala when a Prylar hands him an ancient prophecy concerning him and the Emissary (Captain Sisko). Eager to see his father again, Jake abandons the dig and makes plans to make a journey that will allow the prophecy to come true. Elsewhere, in the Badlands, the U.S.S. Enterprise-E is hunting rogue Breen ships that have been sighted following the war. Instead, they come across an old Cardassian vessel that is housing a secret of its own, a secret that will call the 101 year-old Elias Vaughn to change his life.

Unfortunately, it is at this time that space station Deep Space Nine is running a complete and total retrofit of the station and the Defiant and it is at its most vulnerable. Protected by a lone ship, the new command staff of Deep Space Nine - made up of familiar faces like Colonel Kira Nerys (now the commander of the space station), Dr. Bashir, Lieutenant Nog (Chief of Operations), and Lieutenant Ezri Dax (ship's counselor) and characters entirely new or new to this context, like Security Chief Lieutenant Ro Laren, Ensign Thirishar ch'Thane (Andorian science officer), and Commander Jast (first officer) - is overrun with mechanical problems when Prylar Istani Reyla arrives on the station and is killed in an apparent robbery which also results in the death of her assailant. As Ro and Kira square off over the new security chief's handling of the situation, the station comes under attack by three Jem'Hadar attack ships. Normally this would not be a problem, but with the station and Defiant in the middle of complete overhauls . . .

In Avatar (Part 2), space station Deep Space Nine is in disarray following the Jem'Hadar attack and the revelation to Kira of a prophecy that tells of ten thousand deaths to bring a new age of enlightenment to Bajor. Kira begins to question her faith, though she believes in the strength of the Bajoran people and the wisdom of the Prophets. While she seeks for proof that the supposedly pacifistic Jem'Hadar, Kitana'klan, is telling the truth about his mission from Odo, Vedek Yevir arrives on the station to recover the heretical text that her friend apparently died for. Kassidy Yates and Lieutenant Ro rail against the prophecy, but Kira suddenly finds Yevir's playing religious politics strangely familiar.

No sooner has Kira become resolved to a course of action than the U.S.S. Enterprise arrives with Commander Elias Vaughn, preparing to meet with a fleet for an impending invasion of the Gamma Quadrant to retaliate for the breaking of the treaty. Vaughn and Picard return the Orb of Memory to the Bajoran people when Kitana'klan shows his true colors and Deep Space Nine is sabotaged and hovers on the brink of destruction.

In Abyss, Nog and his engineering crews haul Empok Nor to Deep Space Nine to salvage the station's reactor. As a result of the repair efforts, Colonel Kira orders all nonessential personnel to get lost for a little while. This includes the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Julian Bashir and the station's counselor Lieutenant Ezri Dax, who has now transferred to the command track. Eager to take a trip to Earth together, Bashir is frustrated when moments before his departure from the station he is intercepted by a Section 31 operative named Cole. Cole explains that the Federation's most covert organization needs Bashir's assistance. It seems in the Badlands there is a world called Sindorin where a genetically enhanced human - Dr. Ethan Locken - has taken over an abandoned Jem'Hadar production facility. Utilizing his medical training, Locken is breeding a new strain of Jem'Hadar soldiers who are loyal to him and will help him to take over the Alpha Quadrant for the genetically enhanced as the new Khan.

Eager to stop Locken from bringing his army to a truly menacing strength - whatwith the fragile peace between the Klingons and Romulans to maintain - Bashir agrees to attempt to stop Locken and thwart his ambitions on Sindorin. To accomplish his mission, Bashir and Ezri take Ro and the new Jem'Hadar attache, Taran'atar, to Sindorin. En route, they discover Locken's handiwork in the form of a derelict Romulan ship complete with corpses showing evidence of torture and when approaching Sindorin, the runabout is shot down. As a result, Taran'atar and Ro find themselves meeting with a diminutive race Ro recognizes to raise and army to attack Locken's facility. And inside the facility, Bashir becomes tempted by his madman "brother" in his quest to take over the galaxy.

In Demons Of Air And Darkness By Keith R.A. DeCandido, Commander Vaughn and the Defiant are recalled immediately after getting the new communications array in the Gamma Quadrant online. StarFleet has gone to a fleet-wide yellow alert when the mysterious Iconians return after two hundred thousand years of being absent from the Alpha Quadrant. They activate all of their gateways and the potential represented by the appearance and activation of the space and planet-bound gateways is astonishing to the leading governments of the Alpha Quadrant. While Quark goes on a mission to represent the Orion Syndicate's interests in acquiring the gateways, Kira, Vaughn, Taran'atar and Tenmei head to Europa Nova to deal with an environmental crisis while Nog and Shar try to figure out why there are no gateways near Bajor.

Quark is soon faced with a serious problem; he is negotiating against his cousin Gaila, a Ferengi who absolutely hates him. While Ezri remains in command of Deep Space Nine, Nog and Shar reason that the Denorios Belt might be responsible for the lack of gateways in the Bajoran system, before Shar is waylaid by his politician mother with additional pressures to return home. But the situation at New Europa is the crisis that seems most devastating. As Bashir works to save lives by evacuating colonists using a small fleet of ships, Kira and Taran'atar pass through the Iconian gateway to try to disable the Malon freighter that is dumping antimatter waste into New Europa's atmosphere. Unfortunately, the Malon themselves are dead, fallen prey to a Hirogen, whose hunt may cost more than just Kira and Taran'atar's lives!

Keith R.A. DeCandido also wrote "Horn And Ivory" a novella that concludes the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine portion of the Gateway saga by returning Kira to Deep Space Nine. Last seen lost on an arid planet in the Delta Quadrant, dying of theta radiation poisoning, Kira leapt through a newly discovered gateway. She awakens in Bajor's past, some thirty thousand years in the past, where she struggles alongside a local general, Torrna, for the freedom of a peninsula.

In the process of liberating the peninsula, establishing a local government, fighting off pirates and becoming besieged for the newly valuable port that the peninsula contains, Kira draws parallels with events in her own life and in Bajor's larger history. She ultimately finds the strength to go on and is returned to both the present and Deep Space Nine.

Twist Of Faith actually works a little bit better than the books on their own, because it establishes well the new characters, like Elias Vaughn, ch'Thane, Taran'atar and introduces the less vital newbies, like Bowers and Prynn. As well, it creates a larger sense of the Star Trek universe by bringing Ro Laren into "Deep Space Nine" as well as Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise-E. The arc of the overall story works well in an omnibus form.

For example, Kira has a decent arc as the new commander of Deep Space Nine between assuming more the mantle of leadership and her conflicts with the religious hierarchy of Bajor. Those who just pick up the latter two books as opposed to this omnibus are likely to be confused about the circumstances surrounding Kira's becoming Attainted.

Still, this is not exceptional literature and there is a lot that a reader would need to know from the series. This, unfortunately, runs smack into the writing problem: those who were attentive to the television series will wonder why Kira is so beleaguered when she spent about the same amount of time in command of Deep Space Nine under arguably worse circumstances between the sixth season finale and the seventh season premiere. The stress she seems to be under is dramatically disproportionate to her experience.

But there is enough here for science fiction and certainly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans to enjoy and celebrate. And it is a decent start to a new vision for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the underdog Star Trek series. So, in this case, the sum is greater than its individual parts. This is a good way to get back into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and save some shelf space!


For other novel reviews, be sure to visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the fiction books I have read.

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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