Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Review of "The Siege" [1993 tie-in novel]

This review was originally posted on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.


Here’s a bit of analysis of the first original Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel, 1993’s The Siege, by Peter David.  This, of course, is not to be confused with the second-season episode of the same name.  Doesn't it seem like somebody ought to have said, "Hey, there's a DS9 book with that title already, y'all.  Gimme something different"?

The story deals with the station having to cease activity with the wormhole due to technobabble reasons, and also having to deal with a serial killer who has set up shop on the station and is claiming victims with no apparent rhyme or reason.  All of this leads to Odo discovering a link — pun intended — to his mysterious past.

This novel was written by David with nothing but several screenplays for the first season of DS9 to go on, and it shows, as the end result in many ways bears little resemblance to the series as we know it today.
However, as with Diane Carey’s Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Ghost Ship and (to a lesser extent) Smith/Rusch’s Star Trek: Voyager novel The Escape, this is an enjoyable novel that offers a tantalizing look at some of the directions the series could have taken, but ultimately didn’t.
Points of interest:

  • The shape-shifting he a member of the same Changeling species as Odo?  It’s somewhat surprising that Paramount would have even allowed David to get close to this subject so early in the show’s history, since Odo’s origins were presented initially as such a mystery…one, presumably, that would either never be solved or would become an integral plot point for the series.  Either way, David is seriously stepping on the show’s toes here.  And that’s kinda cool, from a history-of-Trek standpoint.
  • Miles and Keiko are having some fairly serious marital discord thanks to the relocation to the station, a plot thread that runs throughout the series.  It’s definitely presented in at least one early episode, and since Keiko spends the vast majority of the series off-station, this does not seem to be a rosy union.  David does a solid job of showing us what’s going on in Keiko’s mind, an always-welcome example of what to do with prose.  I like it when these novels do something that the series can't do.
  • David is right on the money with his depiction of Sisko.  Presumably, he’d have been given a copy of the series bible, which would have had a more detailed description of Sisko than of any other character, but it’s still admirable that David nailed the character with so little of the series to go on.  Throughout most of the novel, I could practically hear Avery Brooks speaking.  Jake is well-drawn also.
  • Dax, on the other hand, is almost unrecognizable.  Granted, she (along with Bashir) changed a great deal as the series went on, so this is not at all David’s fault.
  • Religion, which would be a very important element of the series, is one of the primary concerns of this novel, as well.  Similarly, Quark’s connivery takes a very prominent role.
  • The killings are gory enough to make Stephen King happy, if not quite envious.  In some ways, this seems antithetical to the Trek aesthetic; but a novel has free reign to be R-rated, whereas a TV show does not, and I appreciate the occasional effort to remind us that death can be (and sometimes is) a very messy thing.
  • I’m a bit less comfortable – though, again, this is chalk-uppable to the novel’s place in history relative to the series – with how dynamic Odo’s shape-shifting abilities seem.  After all, he has plenty of occasions on the series to do this sort of thing, and rarely does; I can accept that on the series, because I understand it’s due to budgetary constraint, but when I read it in a novel, it just makes the series seem cheap.  And that’s kind of a shame.  Then again, introducing a high-budget character onto a medium-budget show was probably not a great idea in the first place.
All in all, this is another moderately entertaining example of something that amounts almost to an alternate-universe version of a Trek series.  You will either roll with that and have a decent time, or you’ll be too distracted by the differences between novel and series to get much out of it.

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