Saturday, January 4, 2014

This Gray Spirit

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Mission Gamma, Book Two of Four
This Gray Spirit by Heather Jarman
Published: September 2002
Read December 20th 2013

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Mission Gamma, Book One: Twilight
Next book (Deep Space Nine): Mission Gamma, Book Three: Cathedral

Purchase This Gray Spirit:
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E-book (Kindle): | |

This Gray Spirit is also available as part of the omnibus These Haunted Seas, containing the first two books of the Mission: Gamma miniseries.

Purchase These Haunted Seas:
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E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for This Gray Spirit, Mission Gamma, and the rest of the Deep Space Nine relaunch!

From the back cover:
The political intrigue aboard Deep Space 9 escalates when Gul Macet's warship arrives at the station with an unexpected passenger. Cardassian Ambassador Natima Lang has returned to the station on a mission of hope, but it's one that will bring back old wounds and old ghosts. As tensions rise on all sides, Colonel Kira Nerys discovers that the line between friend and foe is narrower than she ever imagined.
Elsewhere, the crew of the damaged Starship Defiant forges an uneasy alliance with an unusual alien species -- one whose unique biological makeup is the key to the balance of power in that region of the Gamma Quadrant. As the crew becomes ensnared in a web of deceit, Lieutenant Ezri Dax and Ensign Thirishar ch'Thane struggle to stave off a genocidal civil war.

My thoughts:

As with the previous book, there is a great deal happening in This Gray Spirit. There are four major plots taking place, and Heather Jarman does an excellent job giving time to each of them.

In the Gamma Quadrant, the Defiant deals with having to find a way to navigate a treacherous area of space filled with hidden traps and weapons. Meanwhile, Dax and Shar remain on an alien world to negotiate a settlement between two competing castes. I enjoyed the turn that Dax's character took in this part of the story. As she struggles to find her own voice amid the chorus of previous hosts, she realizes her true potential, and also recognizes when and how she can use the experiences of her previous hosts to great effect.

Back on the station, preparations continue for Bajor's entry into the Federation. Meanwhile, a Cardassian delegation arrives, hoping to negotiate with Bajor for a normalization of relations between the two worlds. When the negotiations don't go as planned, Kira is shocked to discover why. This plot development sets up a number of events in later novels. Jarman's handling of Kira's character was perfect, and I think she was the most well-written character in the novel. I especially appreciated the exploration of Ziyal's legacy. Ziyal and Kira were very close, and the effect that Ziyal's short life had on Kira was very well represented in this novel.

The memory of Tora Ziyal and what she represented plays an important role in This Gray Spirit.

The subplot involving Shar's bondmates is tragic and fraught with very heavy emotions. I have known people dealing with depression, and those experiences resonated with what I was reading in this book. Thriss, the bondmate with whom Shar was closest, is deeply troubled due to Shar's departure on the Gamma Quadrant mission. While I had read these novels years ago, the tragic culmination of Thriss's story was no easier to read than it was the first time. In fact, the foreknowledge might have made the impact even more brutal.

When I first began reading This Gray Spirit, I was unaware that it was Heather Jarman's first professional novel. She does a fine job navigating the various complicated plots weaving their way through this book. One interesting trend I noticed was the tendency to describe actions having taken place rather than showing them. This happens a couple of times in the book. One example was an incident involving Thriss threatening a patient while volunteering in the infirmary. Rather than showing the incident, a chapter begins with two characters discussing what had happened, using a "did you hear what happened?" type of conversation. While I generally prefer to have things shown rather than told, I found that this way of presenting the story made for an interesting read. Sometimes less traditional methods of exposition can be fun!

Final thoughts:

An excellent entry in the DS9 relaunch! All of the characters get ample "screen time" (or would that be "page time"?) and the stories are just as emotionally relevant and character-driven as the Deep Space Nine television series often was. In particular, the author's handling of Kira and Ezri are excellent. The invocation of Ziyal's memory and the use of characters from DS9's past are particularly welcome. Heather Jarman is clearly someone who knows her Trek!

More about this book:

Also by Heather Jarman

My next read:

I am currently finishing up the final book in The Fall, Dayton Ward's Peaceable Kingdoms. After that, I will be reading Peter David's The Captain's Daughter.

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