Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Star Trek DS9: The 34th Rule

On my vacation, I read Star Trek: Deep Space 9: The 34th Rule. This book was co-written by the actor who plays Quark. He pitched the idea to the show's writers, but they didn't like it, so he recycled the idea as a book. The book is seen as unique, in that it takes Quark and the Ferengi very seriously, whereas Star Trek generally treats them as comic relief.

The first part of the book is the best part. The premise is that the Ferengi and the Bajorans are having a big fight over a religious artifact. This naturally causes problems for Quark, because he's a Ferengi who lives in Bajoran space. He gets hit with economic sanctions and struggles to find a way to keep his business open. Eventually, he's arrested as a political prisoner.

Part Two shifts the focus onto Captain Sisko, who realizes there is a mysterious puppet master, manipulating both planets. Sisko tries to identify the puppet master, at the same time he tries to stop an all-out war. He is unsuccessful, and things steadily get worse. The situation reaches its peak, when the puppet master blows up a Ferengi spaceship and frames the Bajorans. The war officially begins after that.

During this part, we only have a few chapters about Quark. He and the other political prisoners have been sent to a concentration camp, where they are beaten and tortured on a daily basis. These chapters were disturbing and difficult to read. The man running the camp slowly descends into madness, until he snaps and decides to kill everyone. He's in the middle of torturing Quark to death when there is an uprising, and the villain is defeated.

The unusual thing is that Quark is mostly absent for this part of the book. Instead, the narrative focus is placed on Quark's brother. We hear everything from the brother's point of view. I don't know why the authors decided to switch main characters here. Everywhere else in the book, Quark is the main character, but for this 150+ page chunk, he's just a background character.

The book teases a big mystery, with the concentration camp section. The camp is officially closed, so how did the villain manage to reopen it, without the government or the military finding out? How did he kidnap the political prisoners without anyone noticing? How did he staff the concentration camp, and why? Sadly, the book introduces these questions and completely fails to answer them.

In Part Three, the narrative reverts back to Quark. He and the others escape from the concentration camp, around the time that Sisko realizes Quark is the only one who can stop the war, because the main character is obviously going to be the hero in this situation. Quark has one-on-one negotiations with the Ferengi leader, and the war is stopped, partway through the first major battle.

In the end, Sisko and Quark realize that the Ferengi leader is the mysterious puppet master. He purposely started the war between the two planets, so he could make a huge profit. As in, he sold the same war fleet, twice. A very bold move.

Overall, I liked the book, and it was nice vacation reading. I agree with the critics who say the book is too long. A judicious editor probably could have removed a third of the book, without much trouble. Speaking for myself, I didn't realize how slow the pacing was, until Chapter Seven. That chapter begins with five full pages of Shakaar looking at scenery. Nothing else happens, outside of that. Five pages of scenery. I can handle slow books, but readers who can't might want to stay clear of this one.


Anonymous said...

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Michael Gray said...