Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sacraments of Fire

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Sacraments of Fire by David R. George III
Release date: June 30th 2015
Read July 9th 2015

Previous book (The Next Generation): The Missing

Next book (Deep Space Nine): Ascendance

Spoilers ahead for Sacraments of Fire!

From the back cover:
Days after the assassination of Federation President Nan Bacco on Deep Space 9, the unexpected appearance of a stranger on the station raises serious concerns. He seems dazed and confused, providing—in a peculiar patois of the Bajoran language—unsatisfactory answers. He offers his identity as Altek, of which there is no apparent record, and he claims not to know where he is or how he got there. A quick scan confirms the visitor is armed with a projectile weapon — a firearm more antiquated than, but similar to, the one that took President Bacco’s life. 
But the Bajoran liaison to the station believes that Altek has been sent from the Prophets, out of a nearby wormhole. The last time such an event occurred, it was to reassure Benjamin Sisko of his place as the Emissary. For what purpose has Altek now been sent out of the Celestial Temple?

Notable quote:
"I am Taran'atar," he said again. "I am dead. I go into battle to reclaim my life. This, I do gladly ... for my friend, Kira Nerys. Victory is life."

My thoughts:

In 2009, Pocket Books released the DS9 novel The Soul Key, which set in motion a plot in which the Ascendants, a group of zealots bent on the destruction of all who blaspheme in their eyes, are led by Iliana Ghemor, an insane Cardassian operative who wants nothing more than the death of Kira Nerys. Unfortunately, due to editorial regime change at Pocket, this storyline was effectively dropped and the Deep Space Nine series moved forward in time about five years to catch up with the ongoing post-Nemesis continuity. This left us with a rather glaring time gap in which a number of startling changes took place. Ro Laren is now captain of Deep Space Nine with Kira Nerys having moved on to become a vedek in the Bajoran faith. What happened during that time gap? What became of Iliana Ghemor, the Jem'Hadar Taran'atar, and the "independent courier" Even Odds? How did Bajor overcome the Ascendant threat, and at what cost? In this novel, we finally get a story that begins to answer those questions.

This novel is the Full Circle of DS9.
In many ways, this novel serves that same function that Voyager's Full Circle by Kirsten Beyer did. In that novel, Beyer advanced the Voyager story to catch up with the main continuity post-Destiny. However, Sacraments is almost more creative in some ways. Rather than simply going back and filling in the gap, David R. George actually uses the gap as a plot point, having Kira travel back in time and be a player in the events. This makes the gap in the story almost feel planned, an organic part of the story rather than a failing. While this was obviously not the intent from the beginning, DRG is able to craft a story that makes use of what has been a glaring oversight for years.

One thing I noticed about Sacraments of Fire is that it contains a lot of recapping. This makes sense, as the storyline that it picks up was last touched six years ago. Not everyone reading this novel has just completed a whirlwind re-read of WarpathFearful Symmetry, and The Soul Key like I have done! Having just read those stories, I found the recapping bogged the story down a bit, but had I not recently read them, I bet that the reminder of what came before would have been very welcome.

Taran'atar has been one of my favorite characters in the Deep Space Nine relaunch. I really enjoyed what DRGIII has done with him in this story. His freedom from being in thrall to the Founders was very refreshing, as was his unwavering loyalty to Kira, which seems to have been earned rather than forced. We have hints about what his fate is in the battle to come. Will that history play out, or will history be changed?

Another storyline in this novel is the discovery that the Bajoran moon Endalla hides a massive "falsework," which looks to be left over from the construction of the wormhole. This sets in motion a spiritual crisis for some Bajorans, exemplified by the character of Colonel Cenn Desca, the first officer of DS9. I really felt for him in this story, as his belief system is seemingly shattered by this discovery. It is unfortunate that he seems unable to reconcile this discovery with his faith as others seem able to do. I look forward to following his journey as this story plays out.

We all know that the Bajoran Wormhole was artificially constructed. Does the manner in which it was constructed make all the difference in whether or not the Prophets are gods or "merely" wormhole aliens?

Final thoughts:

There are many more things in this story that I haven't even touched on in my review. In many ways, Sacraments of Fire is like the middle book in a trilogy consisting of The Fall: Revelation and Dust and next year's Ascendance. It is difficult to judge the finished story with a lot of the plot still in the air. Still, I loved this setup for what is to come and if Ascendance is as gripping as this novel has been, I'm on board. I'm overjoyed to finally have answers to what happened during the time jump, as well as this story's efforts at moving the current timeline forward. Bring on Ascendance!

More about Sacraments of Fire:

Also by David R. George III:

My next read:

Another new release! Next week, look for my review of Peter David's continuation of the New Frontier saga, the e-book exclusive The Returned, Part 1.

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