This was a fairly peculiar anthology of the ongoing SCE novels in that the stories contained within are all heavily reliant on each other in terms of continuity - much more heavily than the ongoing story threads that run throughout the series. Indeed, you may argue that this compilation has been cleverly put together as you could say that this is almost a standalone story in itself, made up of a couple of important events.
This reliance between stories all taking place within a specific time frame (and on occasion one story crosses the timeline of another) can lead to some confusion; and unfortunately can inadvertently give away spoilers to the conclusions of upcoming stories.
The entire compilation takes place in the general area of Deep Space Nine, so it's nice to see some favourites from the post-DS9 series turn up to help out and get some of their own character development.
1. This starts with Malefictorium, which to be honest I didn't think was a particularly strong story. It starts off as a murder mystery then becomes an inter-quadrant manhunt for a Crazy Vorta, but the logic behind the whole story doesn't seem to make much sense - the aim being to enslave or kill residents of the Alpha Quadrant with a particularly gripping novel by an unknown author. The conclusion to the novel seems to be fairly cut and dry, but seems to be contradicted by other stories in the compilation... Also, Gold is absent for a good chunk of this story - which is bizarre considering what is unfolding on his ship. Unfortunately, to me, it came across like this was a mystery story first then adapted to be an SCE story later on...
2. Lost Time sees the crew of Da Vinci and Nog hunting down a device that is threatening to tear the universe apart. This leads Soloman to find an alternate version of his lost bondmate and the Da Vinci crew. While entertaining enough, my complaints with this story are that the motivations and fate of the alternate universe crew are never fully explained - unless this is setting up a future story, the whole thing seemed to spend too much time jumping into another set of characters' lives without going into enough detail to warrant much sympathy from the reader.
Also, the first of the bizarre timeline issues is apparent here as the memorial service for the dead crewmen from Malefictorium is strongly hinted at to be on Earth, and has Corsi and Gold interacting with characters there in person - only for them to be back in Bajoran space again in this story without apparently having taken leave from the ship to attend the service.
3. Identity Crisis is quite a fun story where Gomez is trapped on a station being bombarded with a very familiar spam email and resulting in her becoming the Federation's most wanted terrorist. However, the story in some places seems to be a bit too convenient, and the mastermind behind it is lauded as a genius - but to the reader he drops some pretty major clangers along the way, leaving you to wonder how the blatant clues are missed for so long. Meanwhile, Corsi is still dealing with the loss of people under her command and is seemingly starting to fall apart. There's also mention of an unseen mission to Artemis IX in this story which has happened prior to this story but after Lost Time... More on this later.
4. Fables of the Prime Directive sees the crew splitting into teams to pick up the pieces of pre-warp worlds that were subjugated during the Dominion War. We only see the Coroticus III side of this mission, while the Sachem II mission is mentioned in passing. While the latter mission is run of the mill, the team on Coroticus are coming up against a deep-rooted religion based around the Vorta and Jem'Hadar who set themselves up as the inhabitants' gods - and a mysterious beast is tearing up the locals. Again, there are mentions of the mission to Artemis IX.
5. We finally get to find out a lot of the motivations behind Corsi in Security - not just why she's been falling apart recently but why she is the way she is, but going back all the way to beginning of the series when she decided to seduce Stevens. The story is mostly told in flashback about Corsi helping a Federation world hunt down a serial killer; but again, the climax is all a bit too convenient. The character development given to Corsi here, though, does promise to significantly change the character and have her evolve into something other than the hard-headed chief of security archetype.
A particularly enjoyable exchange comes from Tev's increasing feeling that Gomez is attracted to him and his arrogance spills over - as does Gomez's rage. Tev's unshakable superior attitude and the unique way he interacts with humans is further proof of why he's easily my favourite character of this series!
Security concludes with a rescue mission and the conclusion to Lost Time; as well as a hint that Lense and Bashir's mission may have been far from over when they were yanked away.
6. Wounds parts I and II deals exclusively with what Lense and Bashir were up to for the 2+ weeks they were missing. Both being doctors, there is more of an emphasis on medicine than engineering in this story. For a casual read, the story does go far too in-depth into medical explanations and surgical procedures; and readers with a weak stomach may find themselves cringing or struggling to keep their lunch down when reading some of the lengthy and frequent descriptions of war injuries sustained by the natives.
This last story irked me for more reasons than just the gore factor. It probably didn't need to be a two-parter as nothing much really happens. If you trim all the heavy medical jargon down, there isn't much left except the bare bones of the story. Also, while I'm not any kind of medical expert, the terminology did all seem rather familiar - a little too familiar for a totally alien culture in an alternate universe. It's not for me to say whether this would be the case or not, but I wouldn't have thought two alien biologies would be *that* similar.
Again there wasn't any real reason to feel sympathetic for the alien characters as their motivation didn't really make much sense. One half uses cybernetic implants to better and repair themselves, one half are against it. They all have deep and troubling pasts, and lo and behold, the convenience wand is waved again and it turns out all the characters have interacted previously...
While I found the story trying at times, it has some of the strongest character interaction I've read for a while in the form of the one-sided argument Lense has with Bashir in the runabout at the start. Bashir's voice really shines through and you get to see both sides of a story never really explored on the show - how did Bashir cope when he was outed as being genetically enhanced, and what do other people think of him?
All in all it was a fairly easy to read compilation, but the things that brought it down to three stars for me: Far too much of convenience, stopping just short of being Deus Ex Machina; repetition of themes (i.e. Crazy Vortas); the Artemis IX mission that has Tev doing his own thing and resulting in Corsi's staff getting a major dressing down is only mentioned as something that happened while the novels were going on... As was frequently the case on televised Trek - the things they reference far too often sound more exciting that what you're experiencing! And a minor niggle for me but Tev has almost faded into the background of late, as the novels become heavily centred around strong female characters. Not that this is a bad thing, but other main characters are starting to be left by the wayside a little. Also the squiffy continuity - did Corsi and Gold go to Earth or not? Was Luaran killed in Malefictorium or taken into custody (as was hinted at later on)?