Star Trek: Deep Space Nine recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. To mark the event, Pocket Books produced a short story collection called Prophecy & Change. Using the conceit from the episode "The Visitor," the framing story has an older Jake Sisko visited on a rainy night by a young woman, an aspiring writer. He spends the night regaling her with tales of his time on the station, which these happen to be. Despite the fact that a couple of the stories don't really fit this mold (the Garak story being the most unlikely for Jake to know), it's a nice idea that really works well. I can say that there are no bad stories in this volume, and some very good ones make this an excellent collection.
The stories take place along the timeline of the TV series, beginning with a story that takes place days after the series premiere, "The Emissary," and ending with a story set during the post-series novels. Each season is represented except the second, with most of the stories weighted toward the end of the series. While the stories seem to be leaning toward Quark and Odo, each character gets his/her time in the spotlight, which is a nice touch. Sisko and Kira are the most shortchanged, with only the first story, "Ha'Mara" (by Kevin G. Summers) concentrating on them. "Ha'Mara is an effective tale that ties together "The Emissary" and "Past Prologue" and explaining how the relationship between Sisko and Kira mellowed a little bit between the two. Kai Opaka proclaims that Sisko is the emissary from the Prophets. Kira has a lot of trouble believing that some outsider, especially somebody from the Federation could be their savior. They get a lot of time to argue, however, when they and two Bajoran children are trapped in an underground labyrinth by a cave-in. It's a very effective character story for the two of them, and the story is only marred by the heavy-handed characterization of Colonel Day, a Bajoran militia member who would also love to throw the Federation off Bajor and who hopes to use the cave-in as a way to discredit Opaka.
A few of the stories explain little continuity bits from the series that never were really explained. Thankfully, these stories move beyond that and are good stories in themselves, or else the book would have serious problems. "The Orb of Opportunity" (by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels) tells us why Nog decided to strike out on his own and eventually join Starfleet. In this story, an orb is being returned to the Bajorans by the Cardassians, but it gets hijacked by a band of Maquis (Federation citizens who are fighting the Cardassians because a treaty put their homeworlds in Cardassian territory). The orb is in a Ferengi lockbox, and only somebody with the ears of a Ferengi can open it. Rom refuses to go along after being browbeaten by his brother Quark, so Kai Winn secretly enlists Nog's help. After having an orb vision of the future, Nog even decides to forego payment in advance to help! He sees an opportunity that he feels he has to take. The story is very touching, with everybody being characterized wonderfully. Winn is the perfect balance between wily manipulator and a Bajoran religious leader who just wants what's best for her people. She's almost sympathetic, but then she does something that just makes you want to shoot her.
The book has a nice mixture of old and new writers, which is another plus. The pride and joy of the book, however, is another tale by Andrew J. Robinson, the man who played Garak on the series. The last story in the collection, it details the story of Garak and how he is helping Cardassia heal from the horrors of Dominion occupation, where millions died. Some time has passed, and the Cardassians have been through civil war and massive plague which has wiped out even more of his people. This takes place after A Stitch in Time and a stage play written by Robinson and performed at conventions when Robinson and Alexander Siddig are both there. Robinson writes Garak so well, and the story is only marred by the fact that I felt lost at times when he was referring to the events of the play. He tries to put explanations in there, but it just seemed too much. I think it was a mistake to have it be a direct sequel to something that hardly anybody (relatively speaking) is going to see. Still, Robinson shows that he is a gifted writer as well as actor, making the conflicts interesting even when the reader doesn't quite understand what's going on.
As I said earlier, there really isn't a bad story in the bunch. The weakest story is probably the Ezri Dax story, "Chiaroscuro" (by Geoffrey Thorne), which has Ezri going to Pandora station to open a puzzle that Jadzia Dax set so that only another Dax would be able to do it. The story takes place shortly after Ezri boards Deep Space Nine so she's still unsure of herself. I found that the writing didn't grab me and the puzzles that Ezri had to solve just weren't that interesting. Ezri sees a side of Jadzia Dax that she's never seen, but neither have we so we don't really identify with it. It's a young Jadzia, inexperienced and emotional, and ultimately the story just falls flat.
Overall, this is a wonderful collection. It's so great that I spent a Sunday morning plowing through it (which I never do) because I couldn't put it down. That's the seal of approval as far as I'm concerned. If you're a Deep Space Nine fan, you owe it to yourself to pick this up right away. And I'm anxiously awaiting Tales from the Dominion War as well.