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2024 Hugo Awards Progress
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26 June 2024

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Gamma: Original Sin

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin
by David R. George III

March 2386 / 2380
Published: 2017
Acquired: June 2023
Read: May 2024

Ah, we've finally tied off all the lingering threads of the Deep Space Nine time jump. Now the story can move forward at last! David R. George III set up some new concepts in his previous book, so surely we'll be building on them.

What's that? We never heard the story of Rebecca Sisko's kidnapping? Oh, well, I guess so...

To be honest, I had forgotten this had even happened. It was part, I think, of the litany of bad things that was used in Rough Beasts of Empire to justify Sisko running away from his family, along with "neighbors who the reader never saw died." Because, as we know, the thing good fathers do when their children are kidnapped is spend less time around them. I don't think this was a story that actually demanded to be told.

Original Sin has two parallel plotlines; in the present day, Sisko's command, the USS Robinson, has set out on a journey of exploration in the Gamma Quadrant, but Rebecca is kidnapped (along with a bunch of other children aboard the Galaxy-class starship). This reminds Sisko of the last time she was kidnapped, so we get that filled in, too.

It is dead boring. I can't imagine anyone reading all the post-Destiny DS9 novels up until this point and thinking to themselves, "Gee, I really want more of Sisko sitting around thinking about how worried he is," but that's exactly what we get here. Ad nauseam. It may be realistic that Sisko does nothing to find Rebecca in the flashback while a trained investigator works on it... but that kind of realism is not what I read Star Trek books for! Seriously, he's barely in the flashbacks, it all focuses on some investigator lady who I assume must have been in earlier books but whom I did not remember at all. Like, what's the point of this? It just goes on and on and on. Also, at at least one point, the frame narrative deflates the flashback by telling us something about it before we actually get to see it (p. 142). C'mon, why do this?

In theory, Sisko is the active character in the present-day narrative, but it also feels like little happens here. The kids are kidnapped, the Robinson crew putzes around a lot, they rescue the kids, the end. No plot twists, no character development, no interesting worldbuilding. The whole thing is incredibly linear and dull. Thematically, there doesn't seem to be anything going on, there's just people doing stuff... but why? The original Mission: Gamma novels (see below) largely managed to explore interesting alien cultures and tell gripping character stories, but this does neither.

Other Notes:

  • Am I supposed to parse this as a book called Gamma: Original Sin? Or a book called Original Sin in a subseries called Gamma that only lasted one installment? Or was this supposed to be book five of Mission: Gamma but someone screwed up? (This is, after all, the publishing era where Section 31 and The Lost Era were revived for further installments, a decade on.)
  • Are the crew of the Robinson the least interesting "leads" to ever grace the pages of a Star Trek book?
Deep Space Nine
Overall:

Other than a Cardassia-focused Una McCormack book, this is our last Deep Space Nine novel. As someone who found the original sequence of DS9 relaunch novels from Avatar to Unity one of the best things Star Trek fiction has ever done, I have found the sequence from Rough Beasts of Empire to here one of the worst. All the characters have been dispersed, many of them eliminated, others changed to the point of unrecognizability. The characters never seem to do anything except think about the past, slowly; ongoing plots are doled out so slowly as to become profoundly tedious. I really like how Alvaro Zinos-Amaro puts it in his review of the novel for the late, lamented* Tor.com:
The sequence in which the Robinson is encased in null space is neat, but it sticks in my mind as a microcosm of the relaunch series itself at this point. We’re in uncharted waters, but seem to have become adrift in a kind of oblivion, with too many recent books expending significant effort on filling in previous gaps in the chronology and slowly crawling us back into the “normal space” of present time, rather than boldly pushing the story forward.​
Or as the TrekBBS's David cgc once put it, referring to the very slow doling out of ongoing plotlines in this era, "'When are the[y] going to get to the fireworks factory?!' ... [T]he answer turned out to be 'never.'"

But worst of all is surely the handling of Sisko. The trajectory of the original show was to take a guy who was uncomfortable with this alien planet and its society and to show him slowly becoming part of it. He began a Starfleet officer and ended up the Emissary. (I have my issues with Sisko in "What You Leave Behind," but this was not one of them.) Post-Destiny, this was entirely undone. He totally abandons Bajor, he becomes a guy obsessed with exploration. Why? Nothing about this captures what made the character appealing in his original run. Fundamental to the way I think about Sisko is something Michael Piller says in the Deep Space Nine Companion: Picard is the explorer, but Sisko is the builder. But the Sisko of the books builds nothing: not a planet, not a station, not even his own family.

I don't think David R. George understands Sisko at all and if there is any saving grace to the abrupt cutting off of the DS9 novels with so many threads unresolved, it's that I don't have to keep reading about this boring character masquerading as Sisko.

I read Destiny-era Star Trek books in batches of five every few months. Next up in sequence: Prey: The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller

* You don't have to find it funny but this is a joke. I have been reliably informed that despite the seemingly misguided rebranding to the bland Reactor, the site is very much alive. I hope this is true but I promised to eat my hat if it wasn't, so now I am hoping the site dies, sorry.

2 comments:

  1. Haven't read the new Star Trek comics yet but I'm rather excited for a new take on the post-DS9 era, Sisko's return, etc. Like you, I consider Avatar to Unity near perfection, so I'm eager to see if lightning can be caught in a bottle twice, albeit this time in comics form.

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    Replies
    1. I am way behind on IDW's comics at this point. I will admit to being somewhat skeptical about what I've heard about these, but I'm sure I'll get them from Hoopla or something someday.

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