(Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
By Alex White
Gallery Books — December 2021
ISBN: 9781982160821 — Paperback — 320 pp.
Along with re-reading/continuing with the Star Trek novel series from their starts, I restarted getting the newest releases to read as well. They’ve certainly improved a lot, on average, but I felt a bit frustrated that so many were from the original series cast, or its reboot. Where was the greatest Trek of all time? Where was Deep Space Nine? With the novels in disarray due to Picard upending canon, I was even more disappointed. Finally, after more than a decade (?) a DS9 novel appeared on the scheduled horizon. Revenant is fantastic, and I can only hope that more DS9 books will arrive to come, whether set during the timeline of the TV show as this novel is, or tweaked to mesh with the new canon.
Alex White’s Revenant is set near the start of DS9‘s fourth season, after “The Way of the Warrior” and prior to “Indiscretion”. A longtime friend of the Dax symbiote arrives on the station to beg Jadzia Dax’s help in guiding his rebellious granddaughter Nemi, who has turned from family and friends after being twice rejected by the Trill Symbiosis Commission for joining. Jadzia had served as a mentor, and a ‘big sister’ role model for Nemi, and decides to take a vacation leave from the station to go find the young woman who she has regrettably let drift away from her busy life in Starfleet. Jadzia is shocked that the Nemi she finds has changed even more than Nemi’s grandfather had realized. With horror, Jadzia learns that Nemi harbors an unauthorized symbiote. Her investigation into this meets resistance from Trill officials, and puts her life in danger by poking at a hornet’s nest of bureaucratic secrets and a threat from Dax’s own unclear past.
Revenant is a novel that will only really work for fans of DS9 who retain familiarity with the show, particularly how Trill society works and Dax’s past hosts. White returns here to the plot of Dax’s suppressed memories of a psychopathic host named Joran who committed murders, a history that the Symbiosis Commission knowingly tried to cover up and hide, even to the danger of Dax’s life. What has occurred to Nemi forces Jadzia to further face memories of Joran, as well as aspects of Curzon’s personality and choices that sit badly with her.
With this, White does something really important for DS9 and Dax’s character, confronting the problematic aspects of Curzon as a selfish, lecherous man who used power, and his weakness, to harass. The novel also provides more ‘humanity’ to Joran’s character, rationale for his acts of murders, and an answer to what happened to him. While that first really well into the plot of novel, and makes the story engaging, it does change how Joran’s personality is depicted within the TV series. Though still monstrous and disturbed, readers (and Jadzia) feel a great deal more sympathy for him. This also twists this thread out of canon alignment with later points in the TV series (such as Ezri’s grappling with previous host Joran.) But, given that such changes to ‘canon’ and logic happen all the time even within the TV show itself (just look at the introduction of the Trill in The Next Generation to what they are in DS9,) I hardly mind.
The other interesting aspect of Revenant is its inclusion of other DS9 crew members. Jadzia starts out on her own, but soon enlists the help of Kira. With Kira featured along with Jadzia on the cover of the book, I expected this partnership to remain. However, Kira stays for only a bit before heading back to the station to tag-team swap with Bashir and Worf. White handles the Jadzia-Kira friendship very well, and it would have been nice for that to be explored in more depth, particularly on that Kira side of things.
Again, I can’t complain about this too much, because the inclusion of Worf is one of the best aspects of Revenant. The relationship and marriage of Jadzia Dax and Worf did make sense (far more than any Troi-Worf relationship,) but I don’t recall the TV series spending too much time on the two characters getting to discover one another. White uses this Jadzia-centric novel as an opportunity to show just how she and Worf move past assumptions to a friendship, respect, and attraction. It’s not a plot thread I ever thought about wanting to see more of, but reading it here made me realize how great it can be when handled as well as White does.
In the acknowledgments at the end of the novel, Alex White asks that readers get their other books as well, and I’m now going to have to do this. I don’t recall reading their work before, but I am very impressed with Revenant‘s style, architecture, and characterization. I didn’t want to go much into the plot development, as I think that works better for readers to discover fresh. But, White handles the pacing and ultimate conclusion of the novel very well, even including a bit of technological science fiction that is more fitting than the usual techno-babble solutions that magically save the day in typical Trek.
CBS/Gallery Books, give White more Star Trek to write, and please – enough with the early periods of Trek, give us some more DS9.