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The Deep Space Nine Saga Continues…

October 16th, 2009
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Deep Space Nine remains, by an order of magnitude, my favorite of the Star Trek series.  Not surprisingly, then, it was the terrific DS9 relaunch of novels set after the series finale (which I wrote about in depth here) that rekindled my interest in (and love for) Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.

But after the publication of David Mack’s phenomenal novel Warpath in April, 2006, the DS9 relaunch series hit something of a snag.  Warpath ended on a brutal cliffhanger, bur for whatever reason the next installment in the series, Fearful Symmetry, wasn’t scheduled to be published until a year later.  Unfortunately, it was actually over TWO years until that next novel was finally published (written by Olivia Woods, a different author than the one originally announced) in July, 2008.  Fearful Symmetry wound up being one of the shortest DS9 novels published (in the relaunch series, at least), and then we all had to wait still another year for the next novel: The Soul Key, also written by Olivia Woods, released this past August.

Such a long a wait put a lot of pressure on The Soul Key.  Things were exacerbated even more (in my mind, at least), when, a few months ago, Pocket Books released their schedule of novels for 2010.  Only one DS9 novel was included, and according to the description it will be set several years after the events of the entire DS9 relaunch series of novels, so that it can be a part of next year’s “Typhon Pact” Next Gen crossover story.  That sounds like a cool novel, but one that will be much more about the post-Destiny Next Gen stories as opposed to all of the DS9-centric stories of the DS9 relaunch.  So it might be another two years at least before more actual DS9 proper novels are published.  All of that means that Ms. Woods’ two novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key) could conceivably be the only new DS9 relaunch stories published for FIVE years.

That means that The Soul Key would have to be really magnificent to live up to all of the expectation placed upon it.  Sadly, it is not.

Although not as short as Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key is still a fairly short novel — and it feels even shorter than it actually is.  That might be because, while there is a lot of PLOT covered in this novel (we do, at last, get some resolution to several of the story-lines that have been running through the past several DS9 novels, which means the last several YEARS of my life), there doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot of depth to the proceedings.  Many of the great previous DS9 novels really explored individual characters (like Garak in A Stitch in Time) and/or explored in detail the situations that certain characters found themselves in (such as, just to pick a recent example from Warpath, the page-count Mr. Mack expends to involve the reader in Ensign Tenmei’s experience as a captive of the Jem’Hadar soldier Taranatar).  I didn’t really feel that depth in The Soul Key — the story moved along at such a brisk pace — boom, boom boom — that I didn’t really feel like sufficient time was spent focusing on any of the events that occurred.  There’s nothing wrong with fast-paced story-telling — that can make for a really exciting, action-packed novel (as Warpath was), but to me it almost felt as if Ms. Woods was just in a rush to get some of these long-running story-lines resolved already.

I also felt that Ms. Woods spent way too much time in the first half of the novel filling us in on the back-story of the characters and situations (particularly that of the two Iliana Ghemors).  This back-story is interesting stuff, but I really felt that it should have been included in the previous novel, Fearful Symmetry, whose raison d’etre seemed to me to have been the filling-in of important backstory before the story-lines moved forward.  I have no idea why some of this important info was left out of Fearful Symmetry.  It’s inclusion in that novel would have helped Fearful Symmetry feel like more of a complete story, and it would have left more room in this novel for the events depicted herein to be fleshed out more.

So… is there anything that I liked about Fearful Symmetry?  Well, yes.  There is a lot of exciting action here, and there is (as noted above), some nice resolution (finally) to some long-running story-lines.  Most of the major DS9 players have a role to play in the proceedings, which I appreciated.  In particular, I’ve been really enjoying the continued development of the created-in-the-novels character of Elias Vaughn, who gets some more tough breaks here.

I was also happy to see that, as the novel reached its conclusion, we got some tantalizing hints that other long-building DS9 story-lines (such as the emergence of the mysterious and dangerous Ascendants) had not been forgotten.  (And — small spoiler alert!! — I was quite surprised and pleased to read about the return of the Even Odds to the storyline.)  Who knows when the DS9 saga will continue (in addition to the lack of DS9 in the 2010 schedule, Pocket Books’ Star Trek line has been in upheaval recently with the firing, within the past year, of the two editors primarily responsible for shepherding the Trek novels: Marco Palmieri and Margaret Clark), but the final pages of The Soul Key give me hope that the same story-lines and questions that are on my mind are also on the minds of the Trek authors, and that we will see these stories continue (and reach a hopefully compelling conclusion).

I just hope I don’t have to wait too many more years!!

Pocket Books did publish one additional DS9 novel this past summer, albeit one that didn’t directly connect to the main story-line: The Never-Ending Sacrifice, by Una McCormack.  Was I more satisfied by that novel than I was by The Soul Key?  Indeed I was!!  I’ll be posting my thoughts on that novel next Friday.  For now, have a great weekend!

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