Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Continued Reboot Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Continues With Avatar, Book 2!

The Good: Interesting characters, Resolution, Moments of concept
The Bad: Very simplified plot, Somewhat simplified writing
The Basics: A good, but not great, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel reboots the franchise with a story that caps off the story begun in Avatar Book One!

With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rebooting with the Avatar books, I think ultimately what I feel most bothered by is the title. The books work as a two-part season premiere or pilot to the novel series for the continuing adventures of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And while the pilot to the television series, "Emissary" was all about Benjamin Sisko, the Emissary, Avatar is not, actually about the title character. This is like "Prelude To Avatar's Eventual Arrival," with this being part 2. And Avatar, Book Two is very much dependent upon reading Avatar, Book One (reviewed here!). This is very much a second part and it is also the introduction to an entirely new chapter of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

And it's good. It is not great, but it is good and near the end, Avatar, Book Two took a turn that made me say "that's just too convenient." A chapter or two later, I was saying, "ahhh . . . that's my Deep Space Nine!" So, it is not problematic to refer to Avatar, Book Two as erratic. It is. But it truly is a setup for a new run of novels for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that continue the story with the same emphasis on character that the television series had. And while this book is a little more plot-heavy than most episodes of the television series were, it ends with a number of character threads established that make it enjoyable to think about coming back for the next novel.

With space station Deep Space Nine 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.

Avatar, Book One set up a number of plot threads that needed to be dealt with, as did some of the characters brought on from the various Trek series'. So, for example, the presence of Ro Laren and her betrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard becomes rather imperative to be dealt with as both Picard and Ro are put in the same place for the first time since the episode "Preemptive Strike" (reviewed here!). More than any other episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the reader is serviced by watching that episode before reading the second book of Avatar.

Avatar, Book Two finds the crew of Deep Space Nine dealing with the deaths from the first book, while Jake Sisko makes his attempt to bring his father back from the Celestial Temple and Nog and Shar, the new Andorian science officer, bond. The opening for Elias Vaughn was made in the first book and he seems like a good fit for the Deep Space Nine crew, though his integration is more of a plot contrivance than a character act.

Similarly, the use of the Enterprise crew seems somewhat tired when they are mentioned. The only sensible use of the Enterprise crew in Avatar, Book Two would have been for Data to use his super-speed to try to save the station when the threat was finally revealed. Data, fortunately, is not featured in this book, but there are scenes with Deanna Troi and Will Riker that seem forced in this book. Conversely, Picard's part in the book is decent, especially as it relates to Ro and her position.

Even better is the cameo by Odo. Odo, having left the station in the series finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is allowed a scene in Avatar, Book Two that serves as the passing the torch all of the modern Star Trek series' have possessed. Odo was always one of the most compelling characters on the show and continuing the novel series without him represented a serious difficulties for the writers, but S.D. Perry smoothly replaces Odo with Ro and still allows a cameo that keeps Odo's absence sensible and well within the character of the Changeling security chief.

Most of the book does focus on Kassidy Yates and Kira Nerys, with a subplot for Ensign Shar and one for Commander Vaughn. Vaughn's mostly just sets him up to be the new first officer on the station and to finally get rid of the Enterprise crew, Shar's sets up a backstory and history of Andorians that opens an entirely new door for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel writers.

Kassidy Yates is portrayed largely as afraid of Bajoran fanatics and who can blame her? Yates is presented as a moody pregnant woman stereotype, but is otherwise interesting and an effective character who is struggling to be a woman whose baby is a religious icon and is now the source of serious spiritual controversy. Her character is almost entirely devoid of the perky, quietly wise and principled character who was evident on the screen. Perhaps even more problematic is that Perry sets up a whole romantic subplot with Ro and Quark and never once mentions that Yates and Ro both were working for the Maquis at one point. In other words, there seems to be a fundamental shift between Yates from the television series to the books and it does not entirely work.

Similarly, Kira is too often characterized simply as a woman of faith. Kira was a very well-rounded character on the show and while she started the series as something of a religious fanatic, she was played more often as a former-terrorist. She then developed into a leader who had an awkward relationship between her personal faith and her proximity to the religious icon of the Emissary. But the television series never made played it as overtly and blindly dogmatic as Perry's Kira does. In fact, outside of being a woman of faith, she is little else in Avatar, Book Two. This is especially problematic when one considers that three months prior, the head of her religion died after allying with the enemies of her gods. That that is not truly addressed is bothersome.

However, when Perry allows Kira a moment of choice in relation to the Prophecy, it works beautifully and is very Kira. Moreover, the final moments of the book have a great Kira character moment that is very Deep Space Nine.

This book is far more likely to be enjoyed by fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine than fans of literature or even science fiction in general. It is more a political novel with that type of espionage and twists between religion and politics than indicative of any sort of science fiction premise. I actually like that about it and that is why I was ultimately very enthusiastic to recommend it, even if it was a pretty average book.

For other Star Trek: Deep Space Nine books, check out my reviews of:
The Fall Of Terok Nor
War Of The Prophets


For other book reviews, please visit 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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