Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day of the Vipers

Star Trek: Terok Nor (A Saga of The Lost Era)
Day of the Vipers, 2318 - 2328 by James Swallow
Published April 2008
Read March 18th 2014

Previous book (The Lost Era): The Next Generation: The Buried Age
Next book (Terok Nor): Night of the Wolves

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Spoilers ahead for Day of the Vipers and the Terok Nor miniseries!

From the back cover:
A seemingly benign visitation to the bountiful world of Bajor from the resource-poor Cardassian Union is viewed with cautious optimism by some, trepidation by others, and a calculating gleam by unscrupulous opportunists. What begins as a gesture of compassion soon becomes something very different. Seen through the eyes of participants on both sides -- including those of a young officer named Skrain Dukat -- the personal, political, and religious tensions between the Bajorans and the Cardassians quickly spiral out of control, irrevocably shaping the futures of both worlds in an emotionally charged and unforgettable tale of treachery, tragedy, and hope.

My thoughts:

The Cardassian occupation of Bajor is a 60-year period of history that was explored at various times in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the aftermath of which is the setting of the series itself. In the course of several episodes (such as "Necessary Evil," "Things Past," and "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"), we have seen what Bajor and Terok Nor were like during the occupation, but what about before the Cardassians arrived? What was Bajor like, and what led to the beginning of the occupation? It is the answers to these questions that make Day of the Vipers so compelling.

Many episodes of Deep Space Nine have shown us flashbacks of Bajor during the occupation (such as this scene from "Ties of Blood and Water"), but how did the occupation begin? Day of the Vipers answers this question.

Dramatic irony is used throughout the story. As readers familiar with the occupation of Bajor, we know where this is all headed: to a very dark, disastrous place. However, the characters in the story aren't privy to that information, and their plight is made all the more tragic due to the inevitability of what is to come. At times, you just want to reach into the pages to grab characters by the lapels and scream, "don't you see what is happening?!?" It is frustrating to witness the mistakes and deceptions that led to the horrors of the Cardassian occupation.

The true tragedy is the fall of two worlds, Bajor and Cardassia. Like Bajor, Cardassia was once a verdant planet with a population that lived in peace with nature. However, Cardassia has forgotten this and is now a desolate wasteland, home to a people who are desperate. This desperation is visited upon the Bajorans, who can't conceive of a people who would take what is theirs because they have none of their own.

The occupation is not only the story of Bajor, but of Cardassia as well. The famine and hardships experienced by that world directly led to the occupation of Bajor, a resource-rich world that proved extremely tempting to the resource-poor Cardassians.

Reading a few on-line reviews of Day of the Vipers, I noticed that some readers seemed to have been put off by the slower pace of the novel. However, I felt that the pacing of the story was very fitting. The Cardassian occupation was not an event that happened all at once; rather, there was a slow build-up. The Cardassians didn't arrive and invade Bajor militarily en masse, but instead insinuated themselves into Bajoran government and day-to-day life. The build-up to the occupation was slow and methodical, culminating in a horrific "false flag" incident in which a Bajoran fleet was destroyed by Cardassians acting as allies, while pinning the blame for the attack on the Tzenkethi. The slow build-up was perfect for the monumental importance of these events.

Final thoughts:

Day of the Vipers is an excellent beginning to the Terok Nor miniseries, setting up the horrors of the Cardassian occupation very well. At times quite dark and depressing (we all know where this story is headed), this novel nonetheless shows the resilience and pride of the Bajoran people. This is not the most accessible of Star Trek novels. I think that a casual fan of Star Trek would have a much harder time picking up this novel than a more conventional TOS or TNG novel. However, for ardent fans, Day of the Vipers introduces a pivotal piece of Star Trek history, and I would recommend this novel for any reader who loves Deep Space Nine and the rich, well-developed lore of that series.

Also by James Swallow:

My next read:

Continuing my series of reviews of the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels, my next review will be for S.D. Perry's Rising Son. Look for that soon!

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