I'm rather split on this book. You have two seperate stories, one that truly is a short story and another that I feel could have been it's own novel. If this review was based only on Una McCormack's "The Lotus Flower," I may have given it an average rating. Yet, there's a lot more to this first volume. Not only do you have DS9's staple alien foe, the Cardassians, taking the spotlight, but you also have the mysterious Andorians, only touched on by the Original Series, Enterprise and this relaunch of Deep Space Nine.
First, McCormack's "The Lotus Flower." While Robinson's look at the Cardassians post-DS9 series finale was engaging and in depth, I felt this story was just weak. It didn't get my interest until the ending, then I was left having to review the entire story in order to understand all the outcomes. It took me forever to get through this book simply because of this story. Here, the O'Briens make their move to Cardassia, which is letting in the Federation to help rebuild it after being decimated by the war. The entire plot seems to hinge on if Keiko's new position and project are going to be well received. By the second chapter or so, the outcome is rather predictable. You have a touch of Cardassian religion, which I found interesting since the series never touched on it.
There are a lot of characters involved here as well. I felt as if a review of the Cardassians in the government could have benefited the story some. I contiually paused and asked "who's this?" or looked up the episode reference to see where all of these characters appeared and how they fit into the plot. You'd have to have read Andrew Robinson's "A Stitch in Time" to get a proper introduction to all of these characters and the current political situation on Cardassia. Not only that, but you'd have to have all the information from that novel pretty well memorized in order to make all the connections in this story.
The plot seemed to go quickly in some parts and drag on it others. To me, Keiko's characterization was also a bit off. I mean, I never took her as being a chippy, hyper, continually optimistic person all the time. The last few seasons of Deep Space Nine portrayed her differently, perhaps a little more pessimistic and moodier than she was here. She continually was yelling or having a whine-type feel to her with too many exclamation points that simply made my eyes role. O'Brien seemed to be on mark, but he was reduced to being rather angry or tense. The Cardassians for the most part were the most interesting of the bunch. Garak less so than those Keiko is working with.
The Andorian story, "Paradigm," by Heather Jarman is a different story. It's much more engaging and plays between different emotions and subject matters. While "The Lotus Flower" seems to be more of an allegory for the world situation today where politics and religion can't seem to find a way to meet in the middle with one another, "Paradigm" takes Ensign Shar's story even further. He returns to Andor at the request of his mother. Her career is on the line, Andor's future is also threatened.
It reads like a romance novel at some places. The weakness of the story comes from the inclusion of Prynn Tenemi and how sappy and juvenile she's portrayed. The added bonus of this story is that the new character, Counselor Phillipa Matthis. She's not the usual counselor, not what we've come to expect from such a character. Seeing her interact with Shar, Prynn and the other Andorians is the best part of the story. Also, it's easy to follow all the plot threads. It starts off slow, picks up and keeps your interest throughout.
Even though some of this novel conflicts with Andorians as they were seen in the series Enterprise, it's a great read. I'd pick up the novel just for Jarman's story. Perhaps others will find the Cardassian story more engaging and interesting than I did. Regardless, it's worth your money and attention.