Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fearful Symmetry

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods
Published June 2008
Read June 23rd 2015

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): Warpath

Next book (Deep Space Nine): The Soul Key

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Spoilers ahead for Fearful Symmetry and the Deep Space Nine relaunch!

From the back cover:
In our universe, a Cardassian sleeper agent—Iliana Ghemor—was once surgically altered to resemble and replace resistance fighter Kira Nerys, future Starfleet captain and hero of the planet Bajor's liberation. That plan never reached fruition, and the fate of the agent remained unknown...until now. 
Robbed of the past sixteen years, Iliana Ghemor is back with a vengeance. Over a decade and a half of imprisonment and abuse by her former masters has brought her to the brink of madness, sustained only by the twisted belief that she is, in fact, the real Kira Nerys. She has already made one near-successful attempt on the real Kira's life, but instead of assuming the identity of the woman she was intended to replace, Ghemor has set her sights on the most unexpected target of all: Kira's other double, the malicious Intendant, Bajor's iron-fisted ruler in the alternate reality commonly known as the "Mirror Universe." But far more is unfolding in the Mirror Universe than Ghemor realizes, and the heroes of Deep Space Nine somehow must stop the false Kira without derailing the delicate flow of history that must unfold if both universes, and countless others, are to survive.

My thoughts:

Following the harrowing events of Warpath comes the next novel in the series, Fearful Symmetry. Split into two parts, the story advances the storyline of the "present day" a little, while filling in the backstory of the new nemesis that our heroes face: former Obsidian Order operative Iliana Ghemor.

Iliana Ghemor, surgically altered to look like Kira Nerys and given her memories, is the primary antagonist in the story of Deep Space Nine going forward.

As Kira and Ro slowly recover from their ordeal at the hands of a berserk Taran'atar, the crew makes progress in learning why the Jem'Hadar observer turned on them. Their investigation eventually reveals that Iliana Ghemor has crossed over to the "mirror universe," where she has killed Intendant Kira and taken her place in a scheme to become the Emissary of the Prophets in that universe.

Even after his death, Dukat casts a long shadow.
In the second half of the story, we get Iliana's backstory and learn where she was following the beginning of her mission to impersonate Kira Nerys and take her place, a mission that never actually commenced. In her story, we learn that she was thrall to Gul Dukat, who tortured and assaulted her on a regular basis while keeping her prisoner in his own private dungeon. This story made Iliana a very sympathetic character, while making Dukat even more of a monster than he already was. In many ways, the shadow of Dukat looms long over Bajor even after his death; he is still responsible for the horrors visited upon that world even now.

Corbin Entek, another architect of the current crisis.
The format of the book itself is interesting, with the first half of the story being presented normally, and the second half being on the "flip side" of the book. While a little gimmicky, the format does emphasize the "symmetry" between Kira and Ghemor. Story-wise, there were a number of elements that showed the symmetry between their lives as well. The most striking to me was in the characters of Dakahna Vaas and Ataan Rhukal. Dakahna was a friend of Kira's in the resistance who was captured by the Cardassians and used in Iliana's training, while Ataan was Iliana's lover who was killed by Kira's cell while stationed on Bajor. Because Iliana was given Kira's memories, when she later realized who and what she was, she both remembered loving and killing Dakahna, while also both loving and killing Ataan. It is moments such as these that lend a credibility to Iliana's madness. She is a product of the people who manipulated her, such as Gul Dukat and her Obsidian Order overseer, Corbin Entek. Rather than simply being a one-note insane villain, we learn the motivations behind her actions.

Final thoughts:

While Fearful Symmetry is well written and great insight into the character of Ghemor, it doesn't advance the overall storyline a great deal. The backstory is very much appreciated, but I found myself wanting the story to get under way. Additionally, due to the fact that I have been spoiled by the very high quality of writing in the Deep Space Nine relaunch series so far, I felt that Fearful Symmetry was just a tiny bit lower on the scale than the previous books. The gimmick of the "flip book" idea was interesting, but it wasn't enough to save the story from getting into over-the-top territory at times with suspect motivations for many of the characters. Still, a welcome entry in the current storyline that helps the reader understand the reasons behind Iliana Ghemor's actions.

More about Fearful Symmetry:

Also by Olivia Woods:

My next read:

Onward and upward in the DS9 relaunch! Next up is The Soul Key, the final Deep Space Nine relaunch novel before getting to the new release, Sacraments of Fire, which promises to continue the Ghemor/Ascendants storyline!

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