The Conquered Become The Courageous and The Liberated
With Deep Space Nine leaving broadcast this month and no Trek films planned for at least two years, the possibility of new adventures for the characters appears to rest with Pocket Books for the immediate future. This spring, the new Rebels trilogy by Daffyd ab Hugh becomes the first multi-book story set entirely within this series - specifically during the show's fourth season.
Canon has always been a problem for DS9 books more than the three ship-based series, in part because the characterizations and relationships are more complicated. As publisher John Ordover has said, it's hard to work out a time frame when the series' writers may suddenly decide Bashir has always been an enhanced human. Hence, the events of Rebels' three volumes - entitled The Conquered, The Courageous, and The Liberated - have already been rendered implausible by the televised concluding arc. Kai Winn, a major player in this trilogy, develops in a very different direction, and her relationships with Kira and Sisko deviate accordingly.
Still, the Rebels books are the most satisfying Deep Space Nine novels I've seen yet, other than adaptations of the show's own scripts. I highly recommend them. Two separate storylines weave together concerning the machinations of Cardassian Gul Ragat - whom Winn was forced to serve during the Occupation of Bajor, and whose later exile led him to discover a planet of extremely sophisticated technology in the hands of natives who clearly lacked the skills to have built it. While the Kai and Kira preside over a trial of Bajoran sovereignty on the space station (meaning that all Starfleet officers must leave), Sisko and the crew of the Defiant arrive at the mysterious world orbiting Sierra-Bravo, where Ragat's brutal soldiers slaughter the natives to take their equipment.
Both plots develop with surprising twists and strong showings by several original characters, while the presence of Quark and Odo on the planet with the Starfleet officers provides both humor and the most enjoyable Ferengi storyline I can recall. The main characters don't hold precisely to their typical behaviors on the series - Sisko acts a bit like Kirk, which I mean here in the best possible sense, choosing to maintain the spirit of the Prime Directive by violating the letter of the law, and Quark comes through heroically in several tough situations.
Kira in turn finds her rebellious, nationalistic urges held in check under the governorship of Kai Winn, who takes command of the station, replacing personnel with religious Bajorans...only to find herself locked out of the Federation weapons in the midst of a devastating attack by an unknown species seeking to steal an Orb of the Prophets. The major expects the worst from the conservative Kai, whose political ambitions bring her into personal and ideological conflict with Kira's lover Shakar. Yet Winn's own experiences resisting the Occupation have taught her strategies Kira herself would never attempt, which ultimately save both the station and the Prophets from the invaders.
These are rich, satisfying stories, and if there is some dissonance with the televised show, it doesn't diminish the enjoyment of reading; it's rather like watching an episode set in an alternate universe. In Rebels, Winn hears the voice of the Prophets at a critical moment in her life, and consequently never feels abandoned by them: rather than despising Sisko, she accepts his importance for Bajor, going so far as to rename the station "Emissary's Sanctuary" when she takes command. Her relationship with Kira is particularly intriguing - the Kai sees the former terrorist as her protegee, possibly even as her successor. Like the captain, Winn strives to take personal responsibility for her people and the decisions she is forced to make in their name.
Sisko in turn must lead an away team when Dax is injured making first contact; then he becomes stranded with his crew after planetary defenses damage the Defiant, which hides under the sea. Discovering that the childlike natives have no concept of what makes their mysterious technology function, the captain makes the dangerous decision to turn it all off...before the Cardassians do it for them, leaving the natives completely defenseless when the slaughterers arrive. Sisko, O'Brien, and Worf subsequently attempt to guide the inhabitants towards the invention of the wheel - and the crossbow - while Dax and Bashir stumble upon the horrifying secret of the abandoned technology as they race to find safe food for the landing party.
The story's pace becomes a bit erratic in places, particularly since the events of the second and third books jump between the Kai's present reign on the station, described largely from Kira's point of view, and Winn's past on Bajor several decades earlier. The first book is set almost entirely on Sierra-Bravo, so while the station seems neglected, the story flows more smoothly.
I was a bit annoyed by ab Hugh's repeated descriptions of Winn as unattractive - except to a Cardassian would-be rapist - particularly when he puts those thoughts in the minds of characters whom we have never observed to be obsessed with 20th century standards of female attractiveness. This kind of anachronism is more disturbing than such general problems as the fact that ab Hugh cannot call Winn by her given name, Adami, presumably since the producers did not decide on the name until a few weeks before the series finale in the episode "Till Death Do Us Part."
There are also some odd linguistic choices such as a German strategic term, and a few too many quotes from English literature by O'Brien and Bashir. When Kira finds herself thinking in human colloquialisms ("a rapid-fire energy pulse weapon carved through the bulkheads like a hot knife through frozen yogurt"), she rationalizes that she picked up the terms from Chief O'Brien, but when "the divine Ferengi right to kvetch" is defended by Quark, there's no good reason given for the use of a phrase which could be interpreted as anti-Semitic given the stereotypical Ferengi behavior being described. Still, the voices of the characters - especially Quark, Odo, and Worf, the non-humans - are superbly rendered.
In general, I would say that the planetary battle "sounds" more like Deep Space Nine than does the Bajoran historical plot, but ironically that is precisely what made the latter more interesting for me. DS9 has rarely resorted to flashback episodes other than in terrific segments like "Necessary Evil" and "Ties of Blood and Water." The writers also have avoided station-in-danger plots other than the takeovers in the Bajoran revolutionary arc and again in the Dominion War arc. Thus, those developments work well here, whereas in a Voyager novel they might seem redundant.
Despite Winn's insistence to Kira that those in the Resistance were not the only Bajorans fighting the Cardassians, we never learned on the show what Winn herself did during the war. Her backstory here makes compelling reading and turns her into a more complex character than she became on the series. Other than excessive comments about their physical appearances, the women in this trilogy generally come across very strongly. We get to see Dax in command of two away missions, fighting insurmountable odds, demonstrating that Jadzia would have made an excellent captain in her own right; we also get to see Kira as a Resistance fighter, first as an adversary and then an ally of the Kai. Dax spends less time mooning over Worf than she did at a parallel point in the show's history - she even indulges in some fantasizing about a cute Bajoran pilot - while Odo's hidden love for Kira is mentioned in a touching context.
There are some tantalizing hints of criticism of the series and the franchise - parallels between Sisko's paternalistic treatment of the natives of Sierra-Bravo and the Federation's paternalistic treatment of Bajor, hints that the natives share physical similarities with the Bajorans and reminders that the ancient Bajorans were spacefarers. It's not quite clear how an exiled Gul and his entourage found the technological marvel of a planet...nor why Winn's deception turned an arrogant but comparatively peaceful Gul into a mass murderer.
I wouldn't call these questions weaknesses, though. They leave the reader thinking long after finishing the books about some of the ideological dilemmas rarely addressed on television.
Click here to buy The Conquered (Deep Space Nine Rebels Trilogy #1), The Courageous (Deep Space Nine Rebels Trilogy #2) and The Liberated (Deep Space Nine Rebels Trilogy #3) from amazon.com.
Trek Book Reviews