Friday, October 29, 2010

Warpath

Warpath
© 2006 David Mack
339 pages
On the cover: unknown model as Taran'atar, looking "dangerous, yet vulnerable, awash in the amber of Jem'Hadar blood".

I am dead. I go into battle to reclaim my life. I do this because I am Jem'Hadar. Victory is life.

The opening Deep Space Nine Relaunch novels introduced Taran'atar, an elder soldier of the Dominion who was assigned to Deep Space Nine to serve its commanding officer, Captain Kira Nerys. Such an assignment is unusual, for Taran'atar is a Jem'Hadar: a genetically-engineered soldier bred for fighting and obedience to the Founders, the shape-shifting race of creatures who created and controlled the Dominion which attempted to conquer the Federation and the Klingon and Romulan empires through Deep Space Nine's final two seasons. Taran'atar proves to be a prickly, but valuable asset to Kira and her command crew,  rendering to her the obediance he once gave to his masters in the Dominion.

That makes the opening of this novel, in which he stabs her in the heart and breaks Security Chief Ro Laren's back a bit unexpected.  While Kira and Ro lay dying, Taran'tar sneaks aboard a station craft about to test its newly improved warp engines and takes the vessel's lone pilot hostage before speeding away toward an unknown destination.  Dr. Julian Bashir works desperately to save the lives of his captain, his coworkers, and his old friends while the station's XO, Elias Vaughn, pursues the craft in the USS Defiant. Meanwhile, Ensign Prynn Tenmei,  Vaughn's daughter, flies the craft at Taran'atar's knifepoint and wonders how she is going to overcome a super-soldier fully expecting her to stop him from from fulfilling his plan -- which, he's not entirely sure of himself. He only knows that he must make a rendezvous with a face he knows to be familar, but who is yet a stranger -- an ambitious, hateful stranger who we witness overcoming skilled bounty hunters.

This is the opening chapter, but not the origin, of a larger story arc which Deep Space Nine pursues in later books,  in which Illiana Ghemor -- a Cardassian intelligence operative genetically altered to appear to be Kira Nerys and implanted with false memories that make her think she really is Kira  -- goes insane and decides to kill every Kira Nerys she can get her hands on, which means knocking off the Mirror Universe's Intendant Kira as well. This story arc concerns me; I think of it as convoluted, and the other story arc being developed -- in which Bajor will be expected to defend its dominant religion and the Wormhole against the Ascendants, a Gamma-Quadrant power who also worship the wormhole aliens ("The Prophets"), but are imperial and fanatical, like Islamic extremists and Christian dominionists today  -- is likewise problematic. The last time I read of Ascendants and Bajor's religion, the universe was destroyed.

The arcs are just getting started in Mack's book, though, so they're not terribly...developed yet. Warpath is good. It's not Destiny, but nothing is Destiny.  Vaughn and Tenmei are the most compelling characters for me: they are an estranged father and daughter, and the moment in which they find forgiveness and a new start was for me the best moment of the book. The fight scenes were curiously compelling, keeping my attention -- and the humor was excellent, particularly one inside joke Mack included for Bashir fans.* The only part of the book that through me was Kira's experience laying in surgery: while Doctor Bashir operates, she dreams that she is attempting to lead a medieval army against a medieval fortress, only to find it's held by another medieval army and a third medieval army is on its way to take the fortress for themselves. At first I thought the General Kira of the dream was another universe's Kira, but I realized the dream was a metaphor for Bajor's future story arc.

Good read, though...I'm not really enthusiastic about these arcs. I'm fine with Ghemor on Kira, but the inclusion of a lot of alternate-reality Nerys makes potential confusion a safe bet. I'm still going to continue in the DS9 relaunch, but...well, it's lower priority than the TNG relaunch at the moment.

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*As soon as Bashir returned his attention to the monitor, Tarses resumed his presentation. "Now," he said, "as you see here, the postganglionic nerve--"
"That's a preganglionic fiber," Bashir interrupted.
Tarses did a double take toward the screen. "Are you sure?"
"Positive." Bashir made a sweeping, it-doesn't-matter- gesture with his hand. "Please, continue." (p. 148)

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