17 November 2015

Deep Space Nine Reread, Season Two: Fallen Heroes by Dafydd ab Hugh

Previously read July 2005
Reread January 2015
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #5: Fallen Heroes
by Dafydd ab Hugh

This is an odd one-- I can see why people like it (it's one of the few pre-Avatar DS9 novels to ever get praised), but it's slightly off; characters sometimes feel like caricatures of themselves. Odo is more overtly mean to Quark than he usually is, and at one point we learn that Bashir persuaded Odo to bug Quark's holosuites so that he can spy on Dax and Kira. Like, really, either of them would do that???

But on the whole, I think ab Hugh has good command of the characters. Obviously this is a "reset button" story, but you can write a good one of those if it gives insight into characters, and this one does. If the station were overrun and everyone was killed, this is exactly how it would happen, I think. There's a lot of good stuff here: Keiko's death was actually quite sad, O'Brien's soldier/engineer balance (so rarely addressed in the series) is well handled, the way that Jadzia dies but Dax lives on for a few moments is creepy but effective, Bashir is actually quite brilliant as he goes out. Maybe the only character whose death is a little too perfunctory is Kira's. (She's written a little dumbly at times, actually; I don't think ab Hugh has a great handle on her. Oh those pesky angry women!)

Best of all is Sisko and Jake and Molly. Sisko is a great Starfleet commander here, balancing the immediate needs of his people with that of the Federation/Bajor and even his son. His death is amazingly badass. And poor Jake and Molly's survival narrative is harrowing but really quite great. I don't think we ever even see Sisko and Jake in the same scene, but their bond is ever-present and strong.

Quark and Odo form the core of this novel, which makes this the second Odo-centric novel I've read in a row. Watching the show, it's easy to see why: though early S2 is where the other characters begin to pop much more ("The Circle" is where I finally felt the writers had a handle on all seven), throughout S1 Odo is consistently the strongest character, with Kira just behind him. If you asked me to pitch a DS9 novel in 1993, I'd pick Odo as protagonist too. I think this is the first story to pair the two off, something the show wouldn't do until "The Ascent" in S5. It's handled pretty well (except for Odo's occasional unnecessary meanness): I liked Odo's callback to "Babel," where he revises his statement that being trapped on DS9 with Quark would be the worst torment he could imagine, to that being trapped with a repentant Quark is even worse. I also liked some of the touches ab Hugh gives Ferengi culture, such as that there is an enormous set of ritual cringes, from the "relative's cringe" to "okay, you caught me with my hand in the cookie jar, but society's to blame." Someone needs to enter these on Memory Beta.

The heroic triumph of both characters is great: Odo's journey into the still-hot fusion core of the station is truly gripping, and I like that Quark gets to actually save the day. Though everyone is a jerk to him about it, poor guy. (Does Quark ever do anything as bad as people act like he does?)

Continuity Points:
  • Not a lot here, but explicit references are made to a number of S1 episodes up to "In the Hands of the Prophets." Since that episode, Bajoran "Sunday schools" have sprung up on the station, and Sisko has been sending Jake to them. Through this, we learn some about ancient, pre-Prophet Bajoran gods, no longer worshiped except by radicals. Again, an area the show never touches on-- and given the first Orbs came to Bajor 10,000 years, and that the ur-B'hala was built 25,000 years ago, those must be some very old gods!
  • There are also references to other DS9 novels, which is neat. O'Brien thinks of himself as an "amateur magician," a reference to his attempts to learn magic tricks to amuse Molly in The Siege, and there's also a couple references to the poker game in The Big Game (which I last read many, many years ago). If there were any references to Bloodletter, I missed them.
  • O'Brien says he worked on the Enterprise when it was under construction at Starbase 13, which is why he transferred aboard the ship five years later. Given it's canonical that the ship was constructed at and launched from Utopia Planitia, do we take this to mean that perhaps some components were built at SB 13 in 2359 and sent on to Mars?
  • The enemy race is this novel is known to the Cardassians as bogeymen called the "Bekkir." A hundred years ago, the Cardassians tried to recruit their help in attacking the Klingons. The Bekkir declined and attacked the Cardassians, who couldn't launch a punitive expedition because the Bekkir reside in the Gamma Quadrant. Pretty much nothing about this makes sense.

Other Notes:
  • I liked the rhyming aliens.
  • Welshman ab Hugh populates his novel with a number of UK sorts: a Scot, a Welshman, and a second Irishman are all on the DS9 crew. Also Odo calls a flashlight a torch!
  • How generic is that cover?

Next Week: I know you've been anticipating it as much as I have... Eddington makes his Treklit debut in Time's Enemy!

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