Musings of a fandom geek

Sometimes, you’ve just got to say “The laws of time and space? Who gives a smeg?”

Review – “What immortal hand or eye…?”

Posted by Michael Warren on July 12, 2008

Kira... or is it Iliana?

Writing your first Star Trek novel must be a daunting experience. But when that first novel is the eagerly-anticipated continuation of one of Pocket Books’ most successful ranges in the current era, a novel fans have been expecting for a number of years, that takes on a whole new dimension of daunting.

Olivia Woods has this problem, with the latest installment of the Deep Space Nine relaunch, Fearful Symmetry. It’s been two years since the last relaunch novel, Warpath, saw a hectic, weaving plot with a detailed story arc in continual motion, ending on a cliffhanger which promised an intriguing story to come. And this continuation has already seen an author change, and an extra year’s delay. Not the best scenario to be entering into.

Spoilers within…

It’s an interesting novel, because it both is, and isn’t, what is expected. In terms of fandom expectation, it falls short, because we have been expecting this grand confrontation that seemed to follow from the end of Warpath (thanks in no small part to the novel’s blurb, which hasn’t changed from when Leanna Morrow was the annouced author); but when you look at the storyline, it is exactly what is expected – a pausing for breath, a recovery, before plunging once more into the fray. In a way, it’s a chance for both the reader and the characters to regroup and reassess their situation. The problem is that we’ve already had that time, and that affects the novel’s impact.

I found the opening section of Side A – where Sisko encounters his alternate selves – absolutely fascinating. Woods does an excellent job of outlining each version’s basic history in a way that doesn’t get repetitive, and sparks all kinds of ideas in the imagination. I’m a huge fan of alternate timelines and histories, and this section left me wanting to know much more about these different Siskos, and how their universes had evolved (maybe the third Myriad Universes volume, just announced, might tackle one?).

Woods has an excellent grasp of the characters of the DS9 relaunch, capturing their ‘voices’ extremely well, and furthering their character development in intriguing ways. We see exactly why Ro is so angry with the result of Taran’atar’s attack, an intriguing conflict between Kira and Vaughn, and Sisko’s machinations to get Vaughn to travel to the mirror universe – a trip which it looks like he may not return from…

I’m not sure how successful the ‘flip book’ format gimmick is – it makes both sides seem too short and flimsy. If the Iliana backstory chapters had been interspersed between the continuing storyline, I doubt it would have had any impact on the story – I didn’t really notice any revelations that reading them together would spoil. [I read Side B (the Iliana side) first, though, so the experience of someone who read Side A first might differ.]

In conclusion, I think the added waiting time for this volume damaged its reception – obviously, that’s a matter beyond the author’s control (and I sincerely doubt we’ll ever hear what happened to Leanna Morrow’s original story), but it is a perception that fueled anticipation of what the fandom thought was going to happen. Still, it’s a strong entry from a fledgling author, and leaves us with a number of intriguing prospects for the next book…

Fearful Symmetry (ISBN 141656781X) is out now in the United States, and is scheduled for release in the United Kingdom on August 4th.

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One Response to “Review – “What immortal hand or eye…?””

  1. Tenmei said

    I agree about whether the flip-book format is succesfull. Was it needed for the story to work? The answer to that is a definite no, I think the Iliana segments could have been interspersed with the Part One segments – with a suitable legend at the top of the page like PAD has used several times in his novels.

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