Mass market paperback, 272 pagesPreviously read May 2006
Reread November 2014
by Peter David
As I've alluded to before, my wife and I are (re)watching Deep Space Nine. Because I get nostalgic about old Star Trek books, every time I finish a season, I read a novel set during that season-- and, of course, review it.
What's impressive about this book is how much Peter David gets right, given how little he knew about what the show was actually like (he discusses in the introduction what he had access to). Mostly this is accomplished by sticking to elements of the show that were clearly defined in the first five episodes. So, Odo is the main character: something my wife and noted in Season One was that Odo is basically always the best regular in every scene, enlivening even the dullest of dialogue. Kira is the other strongly depicted character of S1, but there's not much to grab onto in the first five episodes except for "Past Prologue," so she's pretty much sidelined here, along with Dax.
Anyway, my favorite bit about Odo actually comes from O'Brien's perspective, where he reflects that Odo has a similar naïveté about human(oid) nature to Data, but where Data is curious about what he doesn't understand, Odo is just offended. I feel like this is a pretty apt summation of Odo.
Speaking of O'Brien, he's almost right but not quite; his dedication to figuring out magic tricks doesn't really feel like the guy we know. On the other hand, David falls right into the Keiko Trap the writers of the show sometimes did too: treating her as a Generic Motiveless Nagging Wife, and not an actual person with some kind of interior life.
Bashir is a pretty Generic Crusading Starfleet Doctor in some respects, but this works pretty well for Bashir, especially when he's still all idealistic in Season 1. David has a good handle on Sisko, too, except that at the very end of the book Sisko turns into a Generic Peter David Character and begins cracking terrible puns at Odo's expense for some reason. A thing I do not believe Sisko would ever, ever do.
The only character that rang really false for me was Quark; though he is obviously greedy, he was never as stupid as depicted here. The idea that the Ferengi would try to buy DS9 is actually a pretty good one, and has potential to be a real plot line, but here it's an unfunny joke, and Quark pursues it with a business acumen below that of Nog (or even Rom!).
It's interesting that David doesn't really emphasize the decolonization aspects of the series, but that's something the show itself largely avoided in Season 1, until "Duet," the Circle trilogy, and "Cardassians." Instead, The Siege is a pretty standard "weird things come to the station" plot that we saw a lot of in Season 1, and David pulls it off better than the show itself usually did at that point.
- It's amazing how well Meta fits with what we later learn about Changelings; there's nothing here that contradicts the idea that he couldn't be one of the Hundred. The only thing that doesn't quite work is that Odo doesn't mention him again, but I can assume that he and Laas talk about Meta off screen in "Chimera" next time I see it.
- At first I thought Meta was a different goo color than Odo because he's described as red, but late in the novel, Odo's goo is described as red as well. (I'd say it was more orange.)
- Sisko says he's never seen Odo shift before this novel, but Odo turned his head gooey to avoid that thief in "Emissary."
- Also Odo is described as maintaining his mass in smaller forms, which is realistic, but contradicted by "Vortex" (though of course that was yet to air at this point).
- Dukat's ship is called the Ravage here, which seems familiar to me, but I can't figure out where else I've seen it used. Dukat never seems particularly attached to his ship on the show, though. (Indeed, it's not particularly obvious if there is a singular "Dukat's ship" on the show.)
Something that's really interesting to me in rewatching the series is how fascinating the decolonization of Bajor ought to be-- anyone who's read their postcolonial history or literature or theory knows this is a violent, bloody, fraught process, and we get glimpses of that every now and then. But not many, and I often feel like that's where the real meat is and instead we're watching Alexander Siddig ham it up as Ray Oh Van Tika. I'd love to read (or write!) a novel that delved into the upheaval that Bajoran society must be experiencing at this point in time. I find Bajoran politics and religion fascinating.
Even in microcosm, how did Kira go from being a terrorist one week to being an effective administrator the next isn't something we really see on screen. Like, that's a big job adjustment, surely? How did the Bajoran military get organized-- who got to be generals? How did so many smarmy politicians come into being so quickly? I noticed when watching Season Six that Dukat's Bajoran aide from during the Occupation wore a uniform that's clearly the ancestor of the one used by the Bajoran Militia. Even that implies something interesting, in my mind!
Next Week: Everyone dies during Season Two in Fallen Heroes!