Friday, 6 December 2013

The Fall: Revelation and Dust - Previously on Deep Space Nine

Oh my god, is this a breath of fresh air after the Enterprise novel. The Fall kicks off in style - a style I hope it maintains for this five book run.

I've said it before and I'll say it again now; I missed a whole chunk of non-canon fiction in the last few years but have managed to catch up thanks in no small part to Memory Beta and the works of authors such as David R George III and David Mack.

The opening move of this series ensures you won't be left in the dark for very long. I had a whole heap of questions from page one; where's the old Deep Space Nine? Why is Sisko back? Ro is commanding what? Ezri's a CAPTAIN?! Kira's dead?!

Ok, the last one's not strictly true but Revelations and Dust manages to get new readers up to speed as well as giving that refresh to anyone who's not been out this far for a while. Remember that it's been 2012 since we saw any deep space action with the slew of The Next Generation and The Original Series novels in particular which have packed out 2013. 

So onwards we go and while there's not much in the way of Hollywood-style action, David R George appears to have aimed for a much more solid character piece which echoes something of the focus of his last Star Trek effort, Allegiance in Exile which we reviewed back in March. That same style is here and while we're not looking at the world from the eyes of Kirk and Sulu we are seeing events unfold from, mainly, a quartet of characters; Captain Ro, Captain Sisko, Vedek Kira and Captain Ezri Dax. As one of my erstwhile colleagues has also noted the transformation of Ezri from reluctant host to Starfleet super-captain is amazing and still doesn't hold that true in my mind although the author of this book cannot be held to account on that front. Nor am I massively convinced by Ro's Starfleet-court-martial-Starfleet-Maquis-Starfleet career jumping but hey, that's all in the past so let's move on.

Then there's an entire thread that seems unattached to some degree dealing with a land-based story of freedom fighters which is linked with the "missing" Kira. Now that's a line which takes some reading to find out what it's all about. It seems a random segment to keep returning to and did lose me a little however as with everything there is a purpose. Stick with it.

Kira does indeed feature from page one and her story is almost a separate piece to the rest of the book, placing us back into events both seen and unseen that took place during the initial discovery of the wormhole and first contact with the Prophets. Action from Emissary is replayed word for word but David R George III also weaves in some new bits which make perfect sense and could easily have been lost scenes. I'd go as far to say that while it's a nice twist on past events and keeps us grounded with the Prophets even though the wormhole is gone, Nerys actually has the least to do here, being stuck in one place for a fairly long time...and also seemingly not involved in any way - but there is a point and a payoff to it and no doubt will be continued within the quintet of novels

While there is a lot here which is about looking to the future and also about rebuilding, it's definitely acting as a bridge to the rest of the series; it's a beginning, a beginning and a beginning all rolled into one; most certainly as it should be. Revelation and Dust heavily emphasises the loss that occurred in the destruction of the first Deep Space Nine and never really revels in the commissioning of the second. While you can see the grandiose is there, the assembled heads of empires in attendance, each of the main viewpoint characters are in some way facing a difficulty, making this less than a celebratory occasion. Whether it be family, relationships or assignments, there are a lot of demons to be confronted although David R George III seems to keep them concealed within the psyche of each player, no doubt to be unuravelled and revealed as we go through The Fall

In relation to the rest of the series there are one or two line drops in there which are signposting the stories we are due; the first however does take a sizable 200 plus pages to appear and nods to Picard and that starship of his - guess we know where he'll be going in Book Two then! How the rest of the show will intertwine is going to be fascinating as this isn't Cold Equations and a single author - there are five different styles and personalities combined here to cover the events of a window in Star Trek time. I'm guessing there will be numerous cross-references and I'm 99.9% certain these will be essential to hold the reader. David R George III probably gets the hardest job setting out the plan but it's done exceptionally well.

For a fair chunk of Revelation and Dust I didn't know where the heck this was going. I was pointed one way, directed another, introduced to X, spent a bit of time in Y but then I had to pause when the "moment" came because I wasn't quite expecting it nor was I expected it to be at that point in the story. It's all about understanding the relationships and the nature of our characters here and as with his previous effort, David R George III has captured them as we remember them from the TV series. There is a little wisening here and there but we can still see the childishness and exuberance of Bashir especially when he's paired with O'Brien or Ezri's awkwardness when she meets the doctor for the first time in a few years. 

I'm glad in a way that Sisko is back because it wouldn't be Deep Space Nine without him but he seems to be a different man since his time with the Prophets. His Emissarial role is almost insignficant and Ben's place is firmly as a starship captain and nothing more. There is almost a calm about the character that we only saw maybe in the early evolution of the role. I actually found Sisko's parts here among the most enjoyable alongside Ro's preparations for the commissioning. Oddly, while he does share a good portion of the narrative pre-commissioning, his story, for once is not the main focus of the show but a part which forms the whole. I don't doubt it will all be significant but at the moment this is one series which is playing its cards close to its chest.

That goes in particular when discussing the Romulans, the Gorn and the Cardassians to some extent. For thoose of you who have been following the series through Destiny, Typhon Pact and Cold Equations you'll be glad to know that the hissing Gorn imperator is back - must be one of my favourite literary Star Trek creations thus far and means there is a good deal of continuity being retained which adds a factor of "belivability" to proceedings if only to point out that there is a level of acceptance for all that has gone before.

With Odo's return/enforced Alpha Quadrant exile I might even hasten to add the even more mysterious and reclusive Founders into that mix - but that's just me thinking out loud and because the author has managed to drop an awful lot of stones into the pool. There are a lot of splashes and ripples and something tells me that a few of them might, just might, be attempts to take the reader off the main scent so we can be hit with the big guns over the course of the next four tales. 

Yes, it does seem a bit of a fluky excuse to have all the main characters including Kasidy, Nog, Rom and Martok all back in the same place (I waited for Odo to turn up and wasn't disappointed by his returning no-nonsense character) but could we do Deep Space Nine new or old without them? I'd argue not. Sadly though Martok gets almost nothing to say while Rom manages to at least get a typically nervy speech at the dedication ceremony. They could have done with a bit more page time but then I would note that having anything more would have detracted from the story.

There does however seem to be a more personal feel to some points here. As I was reading the section where Dax and Bashir view the memorial to the original station I couldn't help but think about the tragedy of 9/11. The perseverance of those who survived to push on in life; the rebuilding and refusal to be stopped are all here but so is the anguish and mourning that will always be present. Perhaps it's best in that respect that this is a more sombre and retrospective start to the series. It could have easily have fired off a volley of quantum torpedoes and set sail for the sea of high octane action but with this slower, more "talky" start I think David R George III establishes that this is going to be a more "diplomatic" series delivering a few classic twists and turns along the way.

Let's close this off with a bit of personal opinion. As I said back at the start it's a breath of fresh air after the last Enterprise novel but then I've become a fan of this author since Allegiance of Exile. This is definitely slower in pace. Don't expect action all over the shop and use your time here to get to know the characters once again. It's Thinking Man's Star Trek; you do wonder where it's heading for a long time but I would thoroughly recommend sticking with it to the end because you will be rewarded. 

One thing that is made clear here is the significance of the 60 day arc in which this set of stories is placed. I had wondered what the relevance of that was when I saw the press releases. It won't be an over-riding factor in the plots of the upcoming novels but does act as a point to tie them all together subtly. If this is the quality we can expect from The Fall then this could well be one of the strongest Star Trek novel series there has been to date.

Next up we'll have the review of Book Two, The Crimson Shadow....Picard and crew are back for the first time since Cold Equations! We're a little bit excited about that you know....

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