Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Missing
What a delight it is to have a new Star Trek novel that is officially titled as a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine book!! Though characters and situations from Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek TV shows) have played a major part in the last decade or so of Pocket Books’ wonderfully interconnected universes of Star Trek novels (particularly David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novels Rough Beasts of Empire and the spectacular Plagues of Night/Raise the Dawn duology), it has been many years since one of these novels has actually born the banner of Deep Space Nine. I am glad to see that drought come to an end with Una McCormack’s new book, The Missing!
Giving this book that Deep Space Nine label is appropriate. Though this book is set squarely in the continuity of Trek books following last years’ five-book The Fall series, The Missing is very much a stand-alone novel. I love the tight continuity of Trek books and all the stuff about epic galactic politics, but having a small stand-alone story like this every now and then is a refreshing change of pace.
The Missing tells two parallel stories. Firstly, Dr. Katherine Pulaski has assembled an interspecies civilian crew of scientists on the space-ship the Athene Donald, filled with scientists from across the members of the Khitomer Accords and even the Typhon Pact (the association of races who have long stood in conflict with the Federation), including a member of the mysterious Tzenkethi. Dr. Pulaski’s hope is that these civilian scientists can learn to work together and thus set an example for their respective governments. But this effort is disrupted by two events. First, a Starfleet intelligence officer insists on being allowed to join the mission, and the Tzenkethi scientist takes offense, seeing this (correctly) as a sign that she is not trusted and that Starfleet as sent someone to spy on her. Second, a large, technologically-advanced, alien vessel intercepts the Athene Donald and threatens their safety. These aliens, who refer to themselves as The Chain, consider themselves vastly superior to the members of the Athene Donald.
Meanwhile, on Deep Space Nine, a small fleet of ships arrives at the station, containing a community of adults and many, many children from different species, who together call themselves The People of the Open Sky. At first these friendly People are welcomed with open arms, but soon questions arise as to their history and motives, and Captain Ro must deal with a quickly-escalating situation.
The Missing is a fairly short book and a very quick read. I quite enjoyed both stories, though both unfold fairly quickly and straightforwardly. I wouldn’t have minded a few additional twists and turns. But, on a positive note, both stories feel like very “classic” Star Trek types of stories, while avoiding the trap of feeling like a retreads of stories we have seen before in Trek a million times.
I loved that Katherine Pulaski popped up in The Fall, and I was thrilled to see her continue to be involved in the story of this novel. I loved the focus on her in this book, and I would be delighted to see the crew of the Athene Donald again. Ms. McCormack has created a number of interesting new characters for that ship, to accompany Dr. Pulaski, and I’d love to see what happens next to them all. I also loved the book’s focus on Dr. Crusher, a rarity. (Ms. McCormack also focused on Dr. Crusher in one of her previous books, Brinkmanship.) Dr. Crusher was never all that fleshed out on TNG, let’s be honest, but Ms. McCormack really has a great ear for the character. I was intrigued that a development in a previous book had seen Dr. Crusher get appointed interim Chief Medical Officer on DS9, and I was pleased to see that plot point picked up here. It was also great to see Odo back on DS9 and back in the spotlight of a Trek book. Because of what happened with Odo in the series finale of DS9, the DS9 Trek books have had to keep him, for the most part, out of the action. I am glad that is starting to change, and I hope to see a lot more Odo in future books.
Ms. McCormack’s first several Trek books focused on the Cardassians, and so it’s no surprise that a certain plain, simple tailor, who has — as of the events of The Fall — found himself in the very public position of Castellan of Cardassia, features in this novel. The very best scene in the book is a wonderful conversation between Odo and Garak. What a pleasure it is to see these characters back together after so long! Ms. McCormack’s ear for both characters’ dialogue is absolutely perfect. That scene alone is worth the price of the book.
It’s also great seeing Odo and Quark back together on the station. There are some great moments between the two characters that really warmed this DS9 fan’s heart. At the end of the book, when Quark begs Odo to return to his old job as the station’s chief of security, so that they can “do it all over again,” I was very moved.
The book has a few weaknesses, the main one being that, as I’d noted above, it’s too short. I’d have appreciated a few more complexities in the stories being told. Ms. McCormack also displays a weird habit in this book of skipping over major plot points, or of having key events take place “off-screen” and only get described to us by a short bit of narration or the report of another character. For instance, a member of The Chain gets attacked on board the Athene Donald, which would seem to be a major event. But it happens off-screen and is barely mentioned. Things like this give the book something of a herky-jerky feel, as events that feel like they should have taken a chapter or two are summarized in just a paragraph or less.
I also felt this book was somewhat light on character development for our main DS9 characters. Why don’t we get more information on what’s happening between Ro and Quark these days? With all that Odo has to do in the book, why isn’t there one single mention of his feelings about what happened with Kira? And why is Miles O’Brien, newly returned to DS9 as per Raise the Dawn, not in this book at all except for one or two quick mentions?
I also had no idea until about two thirds through the book that the characters of Peter Alden and the Tzenkethi Corazame were characters who had been introduced in Ms. McCormack’s previous novel Brinkmanship. I spent much of The Missing wondering just what the heck was going on with those two characters — I didn’t really understand who they were or what their relationship with one another was. I guess it’s my fault for not remembering, though I wonder if this book couldn’t have done a better job giving us more insight into what these two were thinking or feeling. (It could also be a small knock against Brinkmanship that I had totally forgotten about those two characters — maybe if they’d been more memorable they would have stuck in my head more than they did.)
The Missing is not an epic story, but it’s a fun Trek story and a welcome return to the world of Deep Space Nine. More please!
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The Limit, Resistance and Q & A, Before Dishonor and Greater than the Sum, Destiny trilogy, A Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal Coil, Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory, Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons, Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric, The Light Fantastic
Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi Maru, The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel
Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overview, Stone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in Action, Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff
Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions – Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light