- Part of the Deep Space Nine Relaunch
- Follows directly from Rising Son
- Published by Pocket Books in 2003
- Space Opera Adventure
- 303 pages
Returning from the Gamma Quadrant with unexpected guests, the Defiant finds DS9 surrounded by Cardassian ships. In their absence, a terrible conspiracy has taken hold. As the fate of Bajor hangs in the balance, an old friend looks on . . .
I’ll go on record as saying I don’t think Deep Space Nine is the best Star Trek series. For me, that title belongs to Voyager, a show where the peaks and troughs of the Trek formula are at their greatest. However, I do think that Deep Space Nine is the best television show to come out of the Star Trek wheelhouse. As a military, political, and social drama, it’s up there with the greats. One of the things that makes it stand out is the commitment to serialisation in later seasons, a trend which continued into the relaunch novels. But while this makes for great storytelling opportunities, it makes it much harder to find an entry point to the books. With so many authors involved, and series-within-series, starting from the very beginning is a daunting prospect. Yet starting with a randomly grabbed book of a charity bookshelf can hardly be expected to be a good way in. Even so, that is exactly what I have done here.
Unity marks the culmination of several long-running story arcs, some of which go back as far as The Next Generation‘s second season. For those who haven’t read previous books in the relaunch (or more likely, for those who haven’t read them recently, Perry provides a timeline recapping important events since the end of the TV show. This allows even a newcomer like me to keep up with developments. Honestly, given how spread out and complex stories can become, I’m surprised ‘previously on…’ sections haven’t become more popular. It’s a much easier way of doing things than simply dropping that recap into the main text, allowing the story that follows to stand on its own merits, rather than having to catch people up.
In later books, the DS9 crew become more scattered, and many are replaced with new faces. Unity feels more like a continuation of the show than any of the post-Destiny books I have read previously. I think everyone from the show makes an appearance here, even if they only get a few lines. It also makes amends for one of the show’s most questionable decision, in finally admitting Bajor to the Federation without fake-outs or last-minute changes of heart. There’s a lot of good accomplished in a fairly short book, aided by other books having put the pieces in place, but also by the smoothness of Perry’s prose. She has a firm grasp on all the characters, who all embody the characteristics they displayed on screen, but with a little touch of natural evolution and growth where appropriate.
Of course, this is just one book, and so there’s not quite enough breathing room for all of DS0’s familiar faces. Garak and Odo are largely cameo appearances, while Worf has already shuffled back to the Enterprise (where, arguably, he deserves to be). It’s good to see Bashir back to being a doctor rather than the spy he later becomes, and I will always champion the appearances of Ezri Dax. But the main emotional focus of the story is on the Sisko family, and the others must make room for that.
This is a book that brings and end to one phase of the Litverse, and as things go, it’s by far one of the better endings we’ve been given. I dare say it’s a better ending than the show itself received.
Deeper Dive: Reviving the Sisko
As the cover suggests, Benjamin Sisko plays a major role in this book. His is a presence that looms over the novel, but when he finally appears, it is in the form of fiction writer Benny Russell. Now, Far Beyond the Stars isa phenomenal episode of television, but every time Benny’s story is revisited, be it in the show or in the books, its impact is diluted. Benny goes from being a possibly-real struggling author with a great deal to say about race relations, to being a tool of the prophets used to shove the plot along. Every consecutive visit to nonlinear time is weaker than the last, and dragging new characters in only weakens Benny’s arc further.
Sisko actor Avery brooks famously protested the ending of his character’s arc, and he was right. Sisko is better when a living man than as an absentee god. Sisko’s return to linear time, whatever may happen in later books, is a solid decision, and fulfils promises made in the show. Wisely, I think, the book only brings him back fully at the very end, or his story would drown out everything else. But that last minute appearance brings the story to a more satisfying close than dropping his corporeal self off a ledge.
Much as I will complain about suffering through the fictions of Benny Russell, it is good to finally see Sisko back where he belongs.