Monday, March 12, 2018

The Siege

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #2
The Siege by Peter David
Published May 1993
Read February 15th 2017

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): #1: Emissary

Next book (Deep Space Nine): #3: Bloodletter

Spoilers ahead for The Siege!

From the back cover:
When Deep Space Nine is forced to curtail entry to the wormhole due to increased graviton emissions, an air of biting tension settles over the station. But when this anxiety leads to the murder of an Edeman religious leader, Commander Benjamin Sisko and Security Chief Odo realize they face a larger problem.

The missionary is only the first to die; soon Sisko and Odo have more lifeless bodies on their hands and a killer who strikes without motive. Then, both the Edemans and the Cardassians arrive threatening to destroy the station unless the murderer is given to them for retribution. Now in order to save Deep Space Nine and stop the killing, Odo must try to destroy a powerful assassin who is the only link to his mysterious past.

My thoughts:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went on the air in January of 1993, and The Siege, the first original novel set in the DS9 series, was published just four months later. This means that the author, Peter David, had not seen any completed episodes prior to beginning work on the novel. In fact, he only had access to the series bible and scripts for the first few episodes. I therefore find it quite remarkable how well he was able to capture the tone and the characters of what, at the time, was a huge departure from the Star Trek we knew and loved.

The Siege is certainly a dark story, dealing with a murderous shapeshifter roaming the station and killing visitors and residents in a number of horrific ways. However, in true Peter David style, there is a great deal of humor present in this novel as well. This can make the story seem a little tonally disjointed at times, but for the most part, I think the balance works. Some readers may be put off by the violence present in the story, and it is indeed graphic at times. However, I feel like it works in the context of this novel.

There is also a B plot to the story, in which a group of religious missionaries are on the station attempting to convert followers to their beliefs. The son of the head of this group is stricken with a life-threatening illness, and Dr. Bashir of course wants to do everything he can for the boy. However, the child's father, Mas Marko, will hear none of it. One of the tenets of their religion is the belief that their god wills all things to happen. Anything that occurs "naturally" is his will, and it is heresy to go against it. Seeing this illness as their god's will, the family will do nothing to intervene. This, of course, does not sit well with Bashir, who goes to great lengths to convince the family to allow him to treat their son.

Dr. Bashir finds himself caught up in an ethical dilemma, and he responds as you would expect of the naive season 1 Bashir!

This plot reminded me a great deal of a first season Babylon 5 episode, "Believers," in which a similar situation is dealt with. Dr. Franklin must choose between saving a boy's life and honoring the wishes of the parents who believe the treatment involved contravenes their religious beliefs. These stories end in different ways, but both are tragic for the people involved.

I do have one problem with how this plot is resolved, and that is that we do not see any fallout from Bashir's actions. For all of his good intentions, he does violate Starfleet protocol as well as the prime directive quite flagrantly. I would have liked to have seen some consequences, even if it was just one of Sisko's quite effective castigations.

Once again, I want to call out Peter David's excellent grasp of the characters in this novel. This being the first DS9 original novel, I would have expected the characterizations to be all over the place. Rather, David has managed to capture their voices quite well. There are a few misses here and there, which is to be expected, but there are far more hits than misses overall. Kudos to Peter David for crafting an excellent story that fits very well in Deep Space Nine's first season!

Final thoughts:

A well-crafted, interesting story. The Siege can get a bit dark at times, but that is offset with Peter David's typically humorous writing. The characters are very well represented, especially given this novel's place so early in the creation of the Deep Space Nine television series. A lack of payoff to some of the plot elements doesn't detract too much from an otherwise excellent story.

More about The Siege:

Also by Peter David:

My next read:

Look for my video review of last year's Enteprise: Rise of the Federation novel, Patterns of Interference by Christopher L. Bennett.

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