Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tales of the Dominion War

Tales of the Dominion War
Published in 2004, editor Keith DeCandido
370 pages


O'Brien: Engage, retreat, engage, retreat. I tell you, that's becoming our favorite tune. 
Bashir: Well, we'd better think of a new tune fast or the only song we're going to be singing is "Hail the Conquering Dominion". 
Dax: I wouldn't start learning those lyrics just yet. ("Favor the Bold")


If you've ever seen an episode of the original Star Trek series, you know the essential formula for most of the rest: a crew of gallant Starfleet personnel travel through the galaxy, solving a mystery or problem every week amid playful banter and warm idealism. These standard series each have their strengths and weaknesses, but their foundation is the same. Deep Space Nine stands alone: set in an outpost at the outskirts of the Alpha Quadrant, its stories are not weekly events but large arcs. The Dominion War was one such  arc: the series' second season introduced a vast trade federation known as the Dominion, protected by super-soldiers whom everyone feared. The Dominion matured through the show's early seasons, eventually being realized in full as a vast empire controlling much of the Gamma Quadrant -- a region of the galaxy so far removed from the Alpha Quadrant that only a stable wormhole providing a shortcut from Deep Space Nine to the fringes of the Dominion's borders made traveling between the two feasible. A group of aggressive shape-shifting xenophobes known as the Founders created the Dominion to protect them from outside persecution, and they used their empire to establish order by subordinating weaker powers.  In season five, the Dominion set its sights on subduing the various powers of the Alpha Quadrant, resulting in a war that lasted several seasons and culminated only at the series' finale.

Tales of the Dominion War is set during that time, in which the Dominion fights and nearly destroys the Federation as well as the Klingon and Romulan Empires. The book begins with a tribute to Deep Space Nine, crediting it for making Trek literature more varied: in breaking with the format of the original series and The Next Generation,  Deep Space Nine allowed authors to explore the entire galaxy, creating book series about characters and powers not mentioned in the television shows. Many of the characters from various series produced following Deep Space Nine's beginning make appearances here, like Michael Jan Friedman's Stargazer crew and  Peter David's New Frontier cast and ship. The stories here not not just set aboard ships, though; authors take us to Earth, when Breen ships stage a surprise attack and level Starfleet Command; to Romulus, where Ambassador Spock watches as Romulan politicians and generals struggle for command of Romulus' fate, and decide whether or not it shall enter the war; and to a world of the Klingon empire, in which a one-armed Klingon fights off a ship of Jem'Hedar warriors on foot. There's even a story about Shinzon, the foe from Nemesis who led Reman combat troops on special operations, one that sets the stage for Nemesis. Scotty and McCoy also have a day in the sun, although the Voyager crew is excluded -- having spent the war lost in the Delta Quadrant. The collection's captstone story ("Requital") is the only one that includes Deep Space Nine's characters: a young Federation officer assigned to guard the Founder who instigated the Dominion War and the slaughter that follows struggles with his desire for vengeance while reliving in his mind some of the war's most vicious battles.

For my money this book is strong indeed; I've never been able to enjoy New Frontier or Klingon stories before, but the authors of those respective stories kept my interest. David's New Frontier story is one of the few stories in the collection that comment on war itself -- while his comments on the way emotional appeals are used to glorify, promote, sell, and maintain wars, the collection's final story addresses the way individual psyches are warped by battle. The rest simply explore themes common in Star Trek war stories: bravery under fire, idealistic determination, the value of quick wits. This is a superb collection of Trek stories that is an easy recommendation to Trek fans.

Related:

  • "Tales of the Dominion War" Memory Alpha article.
  • "Call to Arms" video depicting one of the Dominion War's largest battles from Deep Space Nine. The music fits it well, I think, and the video chosen will give you an idea of the scale of the conflict.
  • The Dominion War, a four-book set divided between one of the Enterprise-E's most crucial missions during the war and the novelization of DS9's story arcs with greater context. The TNG books are two of my favorite Trek novels. TNG fans may enjoy the inclusion of Ro Laren and several characters from "Lower Decks".
  • The Battle of Betazed, set during the Dominion's occupation of Commander Deanna Troi's homeworld, which  she infiltrates in order to rescue a gifted telepath whose abilities might help the Betazoids create a potent resistance. This book integrates with the post-DS9 Relaunch canon. 

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