on 12 December 2004
With Unity ending the most recent Deep Space Nine storyline and sending many of the characters off in different directions, the editors have decided to devote three books to stories about various planets involved in the overall story. Call Worlds of Deep Space Nine, each book will have two stories. The first one, dealing with Cardassia and Andor, is a hit or miss affair, depending on which story you're talking about. It consists of a Cardassian story, "The Lotus Flower" (by Una McCormack) and an Andorian story, "Paradigm" (by Heather Jarman). Overall, the book is well worth reading, with even the weaker story having its moments.
"The Lotus Flower" begins the book with a very strong story. McCormack, who currently has only a Deep Space Nine short story to her name, proves to be very adept at capturing the O'Briens and their interesting marriage. O'Brien is a tinkerer, and one of the best scenes in the story is when he's attempting to fix the air conditioning when he should be preparing his presentation to the Cardassian council. The exasperation and the affection that Keiko has are perfectly done. The story itself is kind of pedestrian, but it does highlight Keiko's ability to lead and be strong, something that wasn't really emphasized in the television series very often (though that may be from Rosalind Chao's performance than anything else). O'Brien's feelings of helplessness when he sees the takeover of the auditorium is also well done. It's even a little forgivable that, given all of the concentration on O'Brien and Macet, that they don't have much to do with the resolution. Everything ties together quite beautifully.
Garak, as usual, stands out in this one, though. He has some great lines, especially when having lunch with O'Brien. He's cognizant of what Cardassia has become, he loves the planet and the people but he knows that the old Cardassia is dead and that a new one must be reborn. He fully supports Ghemor, but you get the feeling that it's more because he's the best of a bad lot than because he thinks Ghemor can get the job done. He is devious and recognizes that deviousness in others as well. In essence, he's the tailor/spy that we all know and love, with the exception of a line or two here or there that didn't ring quite true.
Ultimately, this is a story about the new Cardassia, and how many problems will continue to spring up as its people attempt to bring it back to prominence in the Alpha Quadrant. It's a story of patriots who realize that a new Cardassia must be born, and ultra-conservatives who feel that the Cardassian way of life will disappear as it's more and more heavily influenced by Federation and Bajoran values. It's this constant war between the two sides of Cardassia that keep this story interesting, and seeing how our familiar characters (Garak and the O'Briens) react to it that will insist on dragging me along with them. This is a first class story.
I wish I could say the same about "Paradigm," but I can't. I have criticized Jarman's work before, but this time it may not be completely her problem. While "The Lotus Flower" was a story about the new Cardassia, we already know a lot about its society, so it didn't have to set up a lot. "Paradigm" must give us a lot of information about Andor, and thus it becomes way too much of a travelogue rather than a story. We hear a great deal about all aspects of Andor society, almost too much. Pages go by as Prynn and Shar walk the streets of Andor, absorbing all the sights and sounds and causing the story itself to retreat to the background for a little while. I have made no secret about how the Andorian aspects of the Deep Space Nine books have been the least interesting to me for the most part, though there have been some good uses of it. Thus, spending this much time just getting to know the society felt really useless to me. Perhaps you will feel differently if you enjoyed these aspects of the previous novels.
Thus, the first half of the story (it's 200 pages long, with small type as mentioned above) just drags to a halt many times. When the Fodor's Guide aspect to the story isn't intruding, it's the developing relationship between Prynn and Shar getting in the way. This was the least interesting and believable part of Unity, a fault that I didn't mention because the rest of the book was so good. To see it highlighted here just made me cringe a little bit more. Jarman handles them as well as she is able, but she was unable to get past my dislike of this coupling, at least at the beginning.
Once the kidnapping occurs, however, things really begin to take off. What this ultimately means to Andorian society grabbed me like nothing else Andorian has before. It also helps that things actually start happening, but even the philosophical parts of the book have a bit more bite. The arguments between Prynn, Shar, and another Andorian female who wants Andor to remain the way it has been, are riveting and it's almost a shame (though completely understandable) when Phillipa commands them to stop and continue on with their mission. Shar's ultimate decision about his place in Andorian society is agonizing, and poor Prynn is caught in the middle. In the last part of the story, Jarman's characterization of all the regulars is great.
So the first Worlds of Deep Space Nine book gives us a great story and a so-so story. Not bad, though not up to the level of the other Deep Space Nine books. Let's hope the other two books are better, but this one is definitely worth checking out, even more so if you actually like the Andorians.