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The Trek Nation - Avatar, Books One And Two

Avatar, Books One And Two

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 24, 2001 - 11:50 AM GMT

'Deep Space Nine: Avatar, Book One' - image copyright Paramount Pictures, Pocket Books Title: 'Avatar, Books One and Two'
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Author: S.D. Perry
Publication Date: May 2001
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-0050-X, 0-7434-0051-8


With Deep Space Nine gone from broadcast and the likelihood of a revival remote, the series' semi-official future has passed to Pocket Books' Star Trek division -- semi-official because the franchise owners still might decide to produce a film or TV show that could instantly invalidate anything published by Pocket. Yet these books introduce new characters who are already appearing in other Trek book series and comics, creating a consistent and memorable storyline to continue Star Trek's most complex, ambitious series.

The first new releases, the two volumes of Avatar, make a promising and ambitious start. The first book starts with two shocking events -- a surprise attack on Deep Space Nine by a Jem'Hadar squadron, and the discovery of a book of prophecy considered heretical by the Vedek Assembly that sets Jake Sisko on an unexpected path and may be connected to a murder on the station. Deep Space Nine is woefully understaffed and protected by a single starship, the Aldebaran, which suffers a terrible fate during the battle. Ezri Dax calls upon Jadzia's memories to take command of the Defiant, but can't prevent either the ship or the station from suffering major damage.

While Starfleet wonders whether to go on the offensive against the Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant, Colonel Kira must cope with a personnel shortage, a compromised station, the killing of a Vedek who was also a friend, and her continued sorrow about the absence of Odo and Sisko. She also has to contend with a Bajoran security officer she didn't choose and doesn't trust -- Ro Laren, former Starfleet criminal, recent Maquis terrorist.

To complicate matters even further, a Jem'Hadar appears on the station, claiming he was sent by Odo on a peaceful mission to learn about Alpha Quadrant solids. Even if Kira trusted him -- which she's not sure she should -- the thousands of other inhabitants of the station have many reasons to loathe the visitor. Kira's friendship with Kasidy Yates keeps her stable and her faith keeps her sane, but an ancient prophecy concerning the Emissary and his child the Avatar could force her to choose between them.

Meanwhile, Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E finishes up reconaissance in the Badlands with the discovery of a Cardassian freighter trapped for decades in the plasma streams. On board, Commander Elias Vaughn discovers the Orb of Prophecy -- and a vision of Benjamin Sisko that leads him to rethink his long career as one of Starfleet's top soldiers and rogue operatives. When the Enterprise brings Vaughn to Deep Space Nine, he uses his knowledge of the Jem'Hadar to help solve the mystery of the visitor from the Gamma Quadrant, but his revelations from the Orb may be too late to save his life or the station. Like Vaughn, Vedek Yevir's life has been altered by contact with the Prophets, and when his fanaticism and ambition bring him to Deep Space Nine, the consequences may be just as devastating to Bajoran religious life.

S.D. Perry, a relative newcomer to the DS9 universe -- she wrote two stories in The Lives of Dax anthology -- does a fine job capturing the personalities of familiar DS9 characters, as well as many from The Next Generation. Kira isn't the same person she was on the series -- she's in command now, which has made her a bit more conservative, a bit more formal, though in Avatar she undergoes a spiritual upheaval that may change her forever. She seems a touch envious as well as contemptuous of Ro Laren, who disavows the Prophets and maintains her position only because Starfleet has not pressed charges for her past activities. Yet Ro can get away with asking questions no one else would dare, though she too has grown up in the past several years -- for one thing, approval from Picard and Kira now matter to her. Still, with her forceful manner and firm hands, she's Quark's dream girl.

Bashir and Dax also have been changed dramatically by events from the end of the Dominion War. The Doctor has finally grown up; we don't once see him fooling around on the holodeck, nor even wishing he could. Still, he's uncertain how to approach his relationship with Ezri, who frightens him when she suddenly becomes a previous Dax host at the most intimate of moments. There's quite a bit of strain in their relationship despite the post-war romances blooming all over the place, which works well from a storytelling standpoint because their pairing seemed so rushed during the series finale.

Ezri comes into her own during the events of Avatar, discovering that she can no longer try to live as the person she was before receiving the symbiont. Though she's no longer sure of her value as a counselor, she discovers how to put the memories of her previous lifetimes to good use...and she finally accepts them as part of her, though it takes perceived rejection by Julian to make her realize it. She's a much stronger character in these novels than she was on Deep Space Nine, even as she's trying to figure it all out. One wishes for similar introspection from Kasidy, who comes across as forceful in her wishes for her child but far less defined in terms of her own life; she doesn't want to be defined as the Emissary's wife, yet we never learn if she wants to return to space, to work, to any sort of role beyond protecting her child from the inflated hopes of Bajoran spiritualists.

Vaughn's supposed to be an enigma, but it's never easy to create a real live mystery man who doesn't quickly get annoying. Though he's a guy with a secret past -- I'm betting Section 31 shows up soon -- the writer clearly wants to keep his aura of mystery, and as a result, too much about him is dictated rather than portrayed. We're told Picard finds him intriguing, we're told he's one of the few people who gets away with calling Admiral Ross by his first name, but other than some perfunctory heroics at the end of the second volume of Avatar, we don't learn nearly enough about him to make all these accolades seem fitting.

Personally, I really dislike the whole Section 31-type secret agent nonsense in which a group of typical older white male humans secretly control half the Federation, so I'm not terribly thrilled when Vaughn decides he wants to stay on DS9 and lead Starfleet forays into the Gamma Quadrant. This guy comes across as patronizing and condescending to a very strong Kira and Picard -- the latter extremely well-characterized in these books -- and he doesn't even know what Sisko looked like until having vision of the Dominion War hero in his role as Emissary. I'm really not interested in Vaughn's powerful, heroic past and I hope that next time Kira needs saving, she saves herself before he shows up.

Perry does an excellent job with the supporting crew, some elevated here to major players like Nog. Shar, the young Andorian science officer with powerful family connections, is intriguing and personable, but as with Vaughn there's too much obvious effort expended on making him mysterious. I had really reached the end of my patience after the fifth time he thought worriedly about what a disappointment he might be to his family without any hint about the source of his distress. Odo appears very briefly at the beginning of the second book and Sisko in three different visions, but one really misses their presence -- in my case, Odo in particular, because it's so wonderful finally to get to see Kira in command. The absence of familiar villains like Dukat and Damar will definitely make some readers nostalgic, though Perry manages to work in references to Worf, Rom, Kai Winn, and many others who either died or left at the end of the television series.

Some scenes are simply superb, as memorable as if they had been televised -- Kira confronting Ro to ask why she accepted posting to DS9, Dax explaining to Bashir that she has come to realize she can't be just Ezri any longer, Vedek Yevir making Kira realize a corrupt religious leader like Winn is sometimes preferable to a fanatic. If the universe seems small and a bit incestuous, especially in Dax's case -- she ponders the number of people recurring over several of her lifetimes, much as Vaughn contemplates the names he has heard over and over during his 80-plus years as an officer.

It may not be realistic -- or it may require explanations involving fate, destiny and other concepts with which an agnostic like Ro would be uncomfortable -- but it makes for a comfortable, familiar universe for readers. Avatar won't delight all Deep Space Nine fans any more than every episode did, but it's an excellent beginning to the continuation of the story, with a compelling balance of Bajoran mysticism and Starfleet science, humor and action, past and future.


Both 'Avatar, Book One' and 'Avatar, Book Two' can now be ordered from Amazon.com.

This is the eight installment in a series of regular book reviews Michelle Erica Green is writing for the Trek Nation. You will soon be able to find her reviews in a new column entitled 'The Book Padd'.

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Michelle Erica Green writes regular book reviews for the Trek Nation. She has written television reviews, interviews and other features for sites such as Fandom.com and SlipstreamWeb, as well as a a number of other web sites and magazines.