Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Missing

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Missing by Una McCormack
Release date: December 30th 2014
Read January 3rd 2015

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Section 31: Disavowed

Next book (Deep Space Nine): Sacraments of Fire

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Spoilers ahead for The Missing and the current state of Trek novel continuity!

From the back cover:
The entire sector is waiting to see what the newly reopened Bajoran wormhole will mean for the shifting political landscape in the Alpha Quadrant. On Deep Space 9, Captain Ro Laren is suddenly drawn into the affairs of the People of the Open Sky, who have come to the station in search of sanctuary. Despite the opposition of the station's security officer, Jefferson Blackmer, Ro Laren and Deep Space 9's new CMO, Doctor Beverly Crusher, offer the People aid. But when Dr. Crusher’s highly secure files are accessed without permission—the same files that hold the secrets of the Shedai, a race whose powerful but half-understood scientific secrets solved the Andorian catastrophe—the People seem the likeliest suspects.

As tensions rise on the station, the science vessel Athene Donald arrives as part of its journey of exploration. The brainchild of Doctor Katherine Pulaski, this ship is crewed by different species from the Khitomer Accords and the Typhon Pact. Pulaski’s hope is that science will do what diplomacy has not: help the great powers put aside their hostilities and work together. But when the Athene Donald is summarily stopped in her voyage by the powerful vessel of a hitherto unknown species, Pulaski begins to wonder—will this first contact bring her crew together or tear them all apart?

Notable quote:

"I know," Pulaski said with a laugh, "that I'm not the kind of person to attract confidences. So I appreciate your trust. I've always felt that because of that brief time I spent on the Enterprise that people ... I don't know ... put us into competition somehow. Compare and contrast us. But I was always more than chief medical officer on the Enterprise."

"I know exactly how you feel," said Crusher.

Dr. Katherine Pulaski, formerly of Starfleet, plays a starring role in The Missing.

My thoughts:

I have long been a fan of Una McCormack's Star Trek work. The first of her novels that I read was the outstanding Deep Space Nine novel, The Never-Ending Sacrifice. From that moment on, I was hooked. McCormack has a way of getting to the core of what a story is about, with redemption being one of her favorite topics. The Missing is no exception.

There are a number of plotlines that make up the story of The Missing. First, the Olympic-class science vessel Athene Donald is embarking on a civilian mission of exploration. Aboard the Athene Donald is Katherine Pulaski, the one-time chief medical officer of the Enterprise-D, as well as one of the "co-conspirators" in devising a cure for the Andorian reproductive crisis. The mission of the vessel is to bring together various species in the spirit of peaceful cooperation in scientific endeavors.

The Athene Donald, an Olympic-class starship, hosts a civilian mission of scientific discovery.

At the same time, a rag-tag fleet of starships arrives at Deep Space Nine, populated by a group calling themselves the "People of the Open Sky." Meanwhile, a Cardassian civilian petitions Odo to act on her behalf in repatriating her son, a prisoner of the Romulans since the end of the Dominion War, along with a number of other Cardassian POWs.

Una manages to stitch each of these stories together quite well, creating a "day in the life" feel on this new Deep Space Nine, a feeling that has been missing for some time. In many ways, The Missing felt like an actual episode of DS9.

While I didn't quite enjoy The Missing to the same extent I liked McCormack's previous outings, including Hollow Men, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, Brinkmanship, or my favorite Trek novel of 2013, The Crimson Shadow, The Missing is still very well-written and engaging. With Una McCormack, I tend to set the bar very high, and her weakest novel is still miles above most others!

Earlier, I mentioned that Una McCormack likes to deal with redemption in her novels. In The Missing, a highlight for me was the character of Peter Alden, a character that was first introduced in Brinkmanship. His character arc surprised me by being one of the great parts of this novel. His relationship with unwitting Tzenkethi defector Corazame (also from Brinkmanship) was a touchstone of the character work in The Missing. The contrasting ideas of politics and conflict versus the ideals of exploration and discovery have been a central theme in Star Trek novels lately, and that contrast was played out very literally in the character of Peter Alden.

Final thoughts:

The Missing brings us back to Deep Space Nine in a way that made the series great. More than any other Star Trek series, the premise of DS9 allowed for "day-in-the-life" vignettes and on-going story arcs, and The Missing showcases those features expertly. I very much enjoy Una McCormack's writing, and I love that she feels free to experiment with different styles of narrative. For example, each chapter in The Missing begins with a personal log entry by Captain Picard, discussing various aspects of discovery and exploration. Each log entry set the tone for the chapter, bringing the story together in a fun and interesting way. For this and many other reasons, The Missing was definitely a joy to read.

More about The Missing:

Also by Una McCormack:
My next read:

Look forward to my review of a classic from my childhood: Dark Mirror by Diane Duane!

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