24 November 2015

Deep Space Nine Reread, Season Three: Invasion!: Time's Enemy by L. A. Graf

Reread May 2015
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #16: Invasion!, Book Three: Time's Enemy
by L. A. Graf

Of the three books I've read so far, this one-- for obvious reasons-- fits the series the best. While my books for S1 and S2 were set early in their respective seasons, Time's Enemy actually takes place in the S3/4 gap; Sisko is a captain, but he still has his hair. The book has a strong grasp on all the characters. Sisko, Dax, Bashir, and Kira are the focuses, but just like in the show at this point, Odo, Quark, and O'Brien shine even though they just have brief appearances. I especially liked the protracted sections told from Kira's perspective; Graf really gets Kira's mix of hot-headedness, persistence, and professionalism, and balances her terrorist past with her administrator present very well. I'd have liked to have seen her tackle a Kira-focused novel.

The book really captures the nuances of the DS9 world better than preceding ones, with references small and big; it's definitely the most interested in Bajor of the ones I've read so far. Kai Winn is in it (not quite her first prose appearance; Memory Beta tells me she appeared in Objective: Bajor first), and her schmarmiess is perfect. Though to be honest, her role really should have been taken by Shakaar (who is mentioned as Kira's former Resistance leader, but not in the context of being First Minister). The only thing that feels off is that there's very little worry about the Dominion; no one suggests that they might be responsible for an attack on the wormhole, or the destroyed ships they find. They are used well as an ancillary threat, though.

In terms of plot, this is also a good book. There's a real sense of desperation, both from the time paradox that begins the whole thing, and from the unclean/viroids themselves, who are really creepy enemies-- not really sentient, but very determined space locusts. They're very effective, especially in the early sections of the book, where our protagonists keep on coming across ships with their crew and power sources missing. The book stands alone from the rest of Invasion! easily; I haven't read that for over a decade, but all you really need to know is that the Furies used to control local space and are trying to take it back, and the unclean kicked them out.

Graf is surprisingly deft with the science stuff, which actually feels "real" for the most part-- too much Star Trek science comes across as substanceless babble. There's some neat stuff with the wormhole, especially; I really liked it when they realized the wormhole was opening and closing, but they couldn't see it because its light had moved out of the visible spectrum.

Continuity Points:
  • Earth is supposedly eleven hours from Bajor at maximum warp. In "Emissary," the Enterprise was the closest ship, and two days away, so this seems unlikely. Even in the context of how quick the journey is in S4 and beyond, this makes little sense.
  • Rom says he makes extra money on the side (doing repairs) to send to Nog: "He likes going out with his hu-man friends when he isn't in engineering classes." At first, I thought this was a prochronistic reference to Nog being at the Academy, but on reflection, it's probably the Academy preparatory program Nog was trying to get into in "Facets"; it seems plausible that that would be off the station, and there's no references to (present day) Nog from "The Adversary" to "Hippocratic Oath," so he could very well be off the station for an extended period.
  • There's a group of former Bajoran resistance fighters who oppose Bajor's alliance with the Federation who play a key role in the novel; I'd assume they were affiliated with the Circle, but one ever says that. Their leader gets away to fight another day, but Graf never brought her back.
  • Sisko talks to the Prophets here, which is his first time doing so since "Emissary." Nothing in the later "Accession," however, contradicts this. No one seems to know that Quark talked to them in the interim, though.
  • Something my wife and I noted was that in S3, Eddington only turns up to do something suspicious or shady (in "The Search," "The Die Is Cast," and "The Adversary"). In S4, he starts to get used much more often, and much more nicely, usually when the plot needs an extra Starfleet character, or O'Brien is away ("Rejoined" and "Our Man Bashir" spring to mind). Time's Enemy is actually the beginning of this trend, it turns out; he fights the Bajoran paramilitary group on the station, and is part of the Defiant's skeleton crew for its desperate Gamma Quadrant mission.
  • I really like what we learn about Jem'Hadar self-destruct codes: all you have to do is say "self-destruct," because no Jem'Hadar would wrongly engage self-destruct (so no need for multiple authorizations), and there's no time for codes in the kind of situations where you need to self-destruct. The catch is that no one ever hears the Jem'Hadar speak their own language (they always speak the language of their opponents), so the code is virtually impossible to come by. I wonder if the show ever does anything to contradict this; I hope not, because it's a great idea.*
  • We're also told Jem'Hadar have no junk DNA (actually, the book uses the nonsense term "junk genome," but whatever). Also a cool idea. "Junk DNA" is more properly non-coding DNA, and it does serve some purposes, but many of them would not apply to a species that doesn't reproduce, so that makes sense.

Other Notes:
  • Odo flying himself through the wormhole with the Dax symbiont inside himself is pretty badass. Odo has got awesome things to do in every novel so far, none of which could have been afforded by the series's effects budget!
  • Graf does a good job of populating with minor-but-distinctive characters; I liked Admiral Hayman and Cadet Petersen.
  • Has anyone ever expanded on what castes mean in Andorian culture? An Andorian disease is mentioned that only affects members of the "shesh caste."
  • Dax being an ansible is also a cool idea.
  • As an academic, I appreciate the references Bashir, Dax, and Petersen all make to journal publishing. (Bashir seems surprised that no one else reads his articles. Of course. This tracks pretty well with Bashir's enthusiasm about conferences in S5's "Nor the Battle to the Strong," so good on Graf.)

In Two Weeks: Quark steps into the spotlight with The 34th Rule!

* Note from Season 5: When we watched "Statistical Probabilities," where the Jack Pack replay some of Weyoun's recorded dialogue untranslated from the Dominionese, I was a little sad to hear this, as it kind of contradicts this point. Maybe if you squint you could imagine that the Vorta do speak their own language, while the Jem'Hadar do not, but I'd think that the Vorta would have even more incentive to speak foreign languages for diplomatic reasons. And you'd have to assume that the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar speak different languages to stop the self-destruct codes from getting out.

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