Monday, 9 November 2015

Igniting the Blaze with Sacraments of Fire

David R George III helms a great entry to the Deep Space Nine expanded universe but don't expect too many answers with Sacraments of Fire... May be a few spoilers so be warned.

Taking place during and after the dramatic events of five-reel series The Fall, George finally satisfies those of us who have been wondering what happened to Kira and where she's been for god knows how long. In fact I'd go as far as to say that this thread dominates the book even though it shares page space with a story more solidly located on the station.

It seems that Kira has managed to escape the confines of the wormhole but has taken a minor skip back in time to experience events she witnessed previously from a very first hand point of view. While the Prime Temporal Directive is clearly in consideration here, David R George III has written a richly engrossing story here as we accompany Kira on her exploration of the past during a time when she was still commander of Deep Space Nine

But that would make life pretty simple so while you're getting to relive those moments, we also have, to a lesser extent, the return of Ilyana Ghemor who has worked her way into the ranks of the Gamma Quadrant race, the Ascendants. Now just to recap for those who might be wondering who that is, you might remember her as the Cardassian "double" of Kira from the third season Second Skin episode. Well it seems she wasn't dead and that she's far from a lovely person and is out looking for a fight in whatever universe she can. Complicated? Yes and it just gets even more so.

While your mind is juggling both of those threads there's a third which you need to bear in mind that brings a visitor seemingly from the distant past of Bajor to the station. The precise nature of this arrival isn't totally revealed by Sacraments of Fire and while there's a lot happening as we try and understand the importance of this person, nothing is really concluded. To be honest you would be forgiven for the comparisons of this arrival to Accession and the appearance of Akorem Laan as the faux-Emissary but the novel doesn't shy away from that incident and does link into it. Cleverly this is left dangling for upcoming Deep Space Nine stories and George definitely makes you think about why Akorem has arrived and precisely where he's come from. He's a fairly passive character in Sacraments of Fire and very underplayed so I suspect this is all about laying some groundwork.

Talking of the Emissary the book does allow us to spend some time with former station captain Ben Sisko on his Galaxy Class command,  the Robinson. Keeping him in the sector has worked to the series' advantage and retained a key character even if he had to come back from beyond the wormhole. George has Sisko in a very comfortable role on a starship by this point in the timeline. Weaving his mission into the parallel story of Bacco's assassination is a neat sideline and works well. In fact all the suspicion and dangers that came out of that incident are well handled here while still playing second fiddle to the Ghemor/Ascendant threat which gathers pace fairly slowly through Where the Sisko "B" plot works is that it helps anchor the story within the framework of the expanded universe and the events of Nanietta Bacco's assassination in Revelations and Dust. Certainly it helps to maintain an air of suspicion and uneasiness that is only built upon through the other events detailed.

The challenge with Sacraments of Fire though is that there are a lot of parts which are being juggled here and not wrapped up. As you make your way through the story it becomes more obvious that there's no way all of this will be tied up neatly. As you discover, nothing is concluded and it's a massive set-up for George's next Deep Space Nine novel, Ascendance,  which is due in 2016. I suspect that we're going to need to know all of the information we're exposed to in this novel to "get" where the story is heading in that sequel.

Your knowledge of the expanded literary universe will be tested and for one who did miss a chunk,  David R George III does manage to bring you back into the loop successfully. If you did read through the original incidents in their original novels then you'll understand the relevance of events even more so but I gathered enough from the text here to have a pretty good insight to what happened. Even the bit when it started going all transdimensional on me and I had to reread a section to clue up.  

Sacraments of Fire does stand up on its own as a novel but unless you're definitely planning on keeping track of this new, ongoing, storyline then I'd be tempted to say stick to the recent The Next Generation or The Original Series releases which are more in line with the one-off policy that's been back in force in the last year (until this novel!).  Truth be told this is as solidly written as ever by David R George  and I can't fault what he's doing with the Deep Space Nine element of the franchise. It's exciting,  believable and engrossing in every way even though there's only a smattering of original characters still closely involved. 

Be reassured though,  Captain Kira will return.... 

What do you think to the ongoing Deep Space Nine saga? 

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