01/11/2008. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Simon and Schuster. 512 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK), $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4165-5093-8.
check out website: www.simonsays.co.uk
'Deep Space Nine' is by far the darkest of the various 'Star Trek' franchises. A major part of that darkness comes from the background of the serial: the departure of the militaristic Cardassians from a world, Bajor, that they had occupied for the last fifty years. By all accounts, the Cardassian occupation of the planet was harsh and exploitative, but while some Bajorans actively resisted the Cardassians, others fled Bajor and some even collaborated with the Cardassians.
James Swallow's novel 'Day Of The Vipers' is the first of a three-book series chronicling the Cardassian Occupation from the arrival of the Cardassians through to their departure shortly before the years featured in the television series. As such, it's a historical novel of sorts, filling in the details of the Occupation absent from the serial. The downside to historical novels is that they tend to lack dramatic tension because the reader already knows what's going to happen and who is going to live or die.
Several of the characters in the novel have richly defined biographies within the television show, most notably the Cardassian officer Dukat, but also some relatively minor characters such as the Bajoran collaborator Kubus Oak. In keeping with the novel's quality as a well-written pseudo-historical SF tie-in it's a delight to see some extra depth added to popular characters. Dukat, in particular, is among the most finely nuanced villains in the 'Star Trek' canon and getting to see him earning his stripes and reputation as a relatively junior officer while the Occupation gets established is a pleasure.
On the other hand, the paucity of a Federation presence on Bajor means that most of the story involves only Cardassian and Bajoran characters. The lack of a human perspective isn't necessarily a bad thing if the alien characters are well developed and for the most part Swallow keeps the reader interested in everything that's going on without too much trouble. There is a Federation sub-plot, though, thanks to the USS Gettysburg, but more than anything else this part of the novel serves only to explain why the Federation stood by while Bajor was invaded and occupied by the Cardassians.
Lack of suspense aside, the novel is well-written and, so far as it can be, exciting. The motives of the Cardassians are explored and rather than painting them as simple villains there it is revealed that not all the Cardassians who came to Bajor did so with malicious intent. It's also enjoyable to see what pre-Occupation Bajor was like and if nothing else the book reveals the complex and multi-layered nature of the Bajoran-Cardassian relationship. So while definitely a book for the dedicated 'DS9' fan, those readers will certainly find it a detailed and rewarding read.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA