Strip-mining a planet to the bone has to begin somewhere. This week the Library Computer reviews "Day of the Vipers", the opening salvo of the Deep Space Nine prequel "Terok Nor" trilogy, from which any would-be planetary overlord might learn a thing or two. We also have a mini-interview with the book’s author and some thoughts on the works of Arthur C. Clarke.
REVIEW: "DAY OF THE VIPERS"
"Star Trek – Terok Nor – Day of the Vipers" is not your typical Star Trek novel. It doesn’t feature the adventures of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. It doesn’t have a lot of rip-roaring outer space exploration. There is no impending Romulan plots or Klingon threats…and the Brain Slugs from the Brain Slug Planet aren’t leeching the souls out of everyone they meet. "Day of the Vipers" is so very much more than that.
Author James Swallow forges two very real, very vivid worlds – the calm and pastoral Bajor, where abundance and relative peace reign, and Cardassia, a world that is lacking everything necessary for genuine peace and stability. Cardassia’s situation is grim. She is facing (perceived) threats on every side, her climate isn’t particularly suitable to providing the needs of her people, and slowly but surely the freedoms of the people who call Cardassia home have been eroded away by the nearly-sacred triumvirate of the Central Command, the Detapa Council, and the Obsidian Order.
Most of this back-story will be somewhat familiar to those who regularly watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but it is the way that Swallow presents the story that makes the difference between a dry historical narrative and a living, breathing tale. Swallow blends a few well known figures from Bajoran/Cardassian lore (Dukat, Jaz Holza, and Keeve Falor among them) with a mostly unknown cast to create an amazingly deep story interweaving faith, the struggle to survive, and the politics that is requisite with any cultural collision.
Swallow takes his vision of Bajor to the next level, giving it a day-to-day quality that the writers of Deep Space Nine never had the budget or time to develop. Bajor becomes a real functional society in "Day of the Vipers", and the insights and depth of that society only serve to heighten the sensitivity of the reader to the ultimate end that must come… the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.
While appearances from some familiar Federation faces are interwoven, and other races are mentioned, this is truly the story of Bajor and Cardassia… the origin story that fans of Deep Space Nine have waited a long, long time to see actualized.
Swallow’s writing style is also unique in Star Trek lore. Never before have I read a novel that felt so little like a Star Trek book, while maintaining such deep roots in established televised and literary history. One can only hope that the two successive volumes in this three-part series will maintain the excellent beginning of "Day of the Vipers"
"Star Trek – Terok Nor – Day of the Vipers" is available now from Amazon
INTERVIEW: JAMES SWALLOW
British author James Swallow is no stranger to the Star Trek universe, or to science fiction in general. He recently took some time to share with TrekMovie.com about his involvement in the Star Trek universe and about his new novel, "Day of the Vipers", the first installment of the Terok Nor trilogy.
TrekMovie.com: How did you first get involved in Star Trek?
James Swallow: As a kid, I devoured any pieces of science fiction I could get my hands on, and Star Trek was right there as a bit of my TV landscape. I watched the original series, but I think I really became a fan after seeing "The Wrath of Khan" in the 80’s, and from then on I followed it through every incarnation.
My pro career owes a lot to Trek; I started out as a media journalist and among the publications I wrote for was the UK’s official Star Trek magazine, and through that I got to know a lot of the writers on the series. In turn, that led me to the opportunity to pitch for Star Trek Voyager, where I sold two original stories that became the episodes "One" and "Memorial".
TM: "Day of the Vipers" is an ambitious story. How was it born?
JS: Marco Palmieri, my editor at Pocket Books, came to me with the Terok Nor concept. He had the core idea of a trilogy of books that went into this period of Trek history and politics that had never been explored before, and immediately I saw that there was a lot of great story to be told there. I have to admit, at first I was a bit wary of taking on something that’s essentially a science fiction political thriller, but he talked me around. To be honest, it was the challenge of telling this kind of story that really hooked me. It’s a very different book for me, and I felt it stretched me as a writer. Marco gave me a very broad brief and let me unfold the story as I saw fit.
TM: Is there something particular about the Bajoran/Cardassian story that intrigues you personally?
JS: I’ve always liked the Bajorans, and the Cardassians too have a very interesting dynamic to them. The idea of two cultures in conflict and the drama that creates is very compelling to me. It’s something we see in the real world every day, and in science fiction you can run with those themes, and explore them in interesting ways.
TM: Star Trek is at its best when it comments on the human condition. Did you have a particular element of the human condition in mind when writing "Day of the Vipers"?
JS: It’s funny to talk about humans when we’re discussing a novel that has hardly any of them in it! But really, aliens are always a kind of funhouse mirror for our experiences and our attitudes. I think if there’s a theme at the heart of this book, it’s about the impulse to survive – as a species, as a political entity, a faith or as an individual. That imperative means making difficult choices and sometimes it takes us to places we might not want to go to.
TM: Faith (both Bajoran and Cardassian) plays a major role in "Day of the Vipers". While we know a great deal about Bajoran beliefs, relatively little is known about the ‘Oralian Way’ of the Cardassians. What were your inspirations for that faith tradition?
JS: The Oralian stuff grew from Andrew Robinson’s writing, most notably his excellent novel "A Stitch In Time", which I consider to be one of the best bits of Trek fiction ever. I tried to build on that to create something that both felt real, and could also be seen as a faith that shared parallels with the Bajoran worship of the Prophets. That connection is a key factor in the storyline of "Day of the Vipers", and writing about it also gave me the opportunity to talk about a facet of Cardassian life that’s pretty much non-existent in the TV series.
Swallow’s next Trek effort will be in the Myriad Universes collection "Infinity’s Prism" and next year’s Mirror Universe anthology "Shadows and Shards". He is also doing audio dramas for Doctor Who and Stargate and has a new Warhammer 40,000 novel due out in the summer. More info at his official site.
"Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism (Star Trek: Myriad Universes)"
is due out in June and is available now for pre-order
FAREWELL TO ARTHUR C. CLARKE
For most, Arthur C. Clarke is best remembered for the film and masterful (yet very different novel) "2001: A Space Odyssey". Yet, no matter how much I enjoy this more prominent work, it is not my favorite from the pen of Clarke. That honor goes to 1986’s "The Songs of Distant Earth, a haunting novel taking place in an era after the Earth’s demise, and featuring a vessel making a stop at a colony that had long been cut off from earth. Everything about this work is emotionally gripping, and when I think back to the first time I read it (1998), I can remember as clearly now the emotions I felt as the tale unfolded. In addition, Clarke’s short stories, also, are outstanding. I had the good fortune of obtaining an unabridged audio version of "The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke." I was skeptical, at first, as I generally hate short stories, but Clarke’s wit and insight made almost every last one of them an absolute feast. Both these are highly recommended for those who may want to review Clarke’s work.
Clarke’s death is a loss to the Science Fiction community, but his works will live on as a testimony to the dream of exploration that we can only hope that all of humanity will one day share.