Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma – Original Sin
Written by David R. George III
“Sisko pondered the nature of the Glant’s idea of humanity’s lack of uniqueness. Two arms, two legs, a head, a torso – did all those basic commonalities make all human beings like all other human beings? This felt wrong to Sisko, flying in the face of individuality, but at the same time, it had been humanity’s collective acceptance of itself as a single race that had allowed it to evolve as a society, to rid itself of its internal fears and prejudices.”
David R. George III’s new novel is an odd duck of a book. It welds together two stories in parallel – one a fascinating and gripping sci-fi yarn bursting with intriguing and unusual concepts, that is filled with real terror, real suspense, and real interest, and the other what seems to be a by-the-numbers procedural that by its nature eliminates all interest and suspense from the start. Admittedly, eventually this second storyline turns out to have a kicker of an ending.
Original Sin picks up its story with Captain Benjamin Sisko – a decade following the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – embarked on a long-term voyage of exploration in the Gamma Quadrant, in command of the Galaxy-Class starship, the U.S.S. Robinson. Also along for this journey are his wife, Kassidy, and his nine-year-old daughter, Rebecca. The ship is suddenly attacked by a fleet of tiny alien vessels, no two of them the same, which trap the Robinson on a “sandbar” of normal space, surrounded by a “moat” of null space, in which the normal fabric of space and time does not exist. And these aliens make off with 87 of the Robinson’s crew – all children, including Rebecca Sisko. Can the Robinson escape the null-space bubble around them, locate the children, and rescue them from a fate worse than death? What is the nature of these aliens, whose ships and bodies are each completely unique, and whose language is all but untranslatable? Can they find a way to communicate? To understand each other? This storyline is fascinating, and the ideas in it are fresh, unique, and exciting. I enjoyed every minute of this part of the book.
But every other chapter flashes back to six years prior, after Sisko came back from his time with the wormhole aliens, but before he returned to Starfleet. This second storyline follows the tale of Rebecca Sisko being kidnapped by an extremist member of a Bajoran sect, with a cat-and-mouse game between the kidnapper and the investigative teams. Can the authorities find and rescue Rebecca before harm comes to her? Well, yes. We are told early in the Gamma Quadrant storyline that Rebecca had been rescued from her previous kidnapping suffering no ill effects, either physically or emotionally, robbing this second story of any interest or suspense whatsoever.
Even the motivation behind the kidnapping remains a mystery as we only learn that it was because of his unique interpretations of Bajoran prophecies, but are told nothing of what those interpretations are. In the end, the kidnapper just comes across as a sad, mentally-ill crank. And the lead investigator, introduced about halfway through the novel, is described in such terms of perfection and competence that we never once question whether she will succeed in her task. She takes no wrong turns, she has no personality quirks or flaws. She is the best at what she does, and does it flawlessly. And so, reading about her is flat and dull.
Both storylines come to a head as the Robinson and the Bajoran investigator close in on their respective quarries, and mount their rescues. The Gamma Quadrant rescue features a ton of action, tense negotiations, phasers and transporters and runabouts and close escapes. The Bajoran rescue features detailed studying of flight logs of travel pods. But in the end, the climactic scenes in both time periods take place, and there is a stunning reveal in each case. And the book wraps up on an intriguing and mysterious note.
About 1/3 of “Original Sin” is flat and suspenseless, while the rest is fascinating and gripping. I guess I’d say it’s worth toughing it out through the Bajor chapters in order to finish the Gamma Quadrant chapters, and the climax of each tale is worth waiting for. But it will take some stamina to accomplish it.
Deep Space Nine is my favorite Star Trek show, and Benjamin Sisko is my favorite Starfleet Captain. George finds Sisko’s voice, and it was fun reading his stuff. No other DS9 character appears in this novel, nor does the station itself. This is simply a Ben Sisko adventure. I guess the other DS9 characters appear in other novels, but I haven’t read them. I wasn’t lost during this novel, despite not having read the other books in the series, but I did miss Kira, Odo, Quark, and the rest.
Original Sin suffers from its structure. I’m not sure how it could have been fixed. There’s enough worthwhile stuff in here for me to recommend it, but not without the reservations expressed above.
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