Lives of Dax and Avatar

April 15, 2006

The Lives of Dax, Avatar 1, and Avatar 2, along with the previously mentioned Stitch in Time, form the basis for the ‘Deep Space Nine Relaunch’. The novels revitalize the DS9 property by breathing new life into the station past the end of the series. The Dominion Wars has come to an end, and life on the station moves on.

Lives of Dax was originally a stand-alone novel, like Stitch In Time. It was retrofitted into the series because it nicely dovetails the events of the last episode while filling us in on Dax’s past hosts. Indeed, Lives of Dax is something of a tell-all for previous hosts of the Trill symbiont. Bookended by a long conversation Ezri has with lounge singer Vic Fontaine, the short story collection is a greatest hits album with some good and bad moments. Some stories are very strong, and resonate with events and situations that came up in the show. There is one story per host, and unfortunately the closer to Ezri we get the stronger the material. The last stories, detailing moments from the lives of  Curzon and Jadzia are easily the strongest in the book. Curzon’s tale, involving he and Sisko’s first mission together, is probably the best in the book. The stories detailing older Dax hosts are considerably weaker, with Lela’s being forgettable, Emony’s being insulting (trysting with McCoy, huh?), and the rest mediocre. Tobin’s is a delightful exception, giving us insight into one of the first encounters the Federation had with the Romulan species. The book, taken as a whole, is kind of a wash. If it hadn’t been airplane fodder I would have come away disappointed, but as it was it filled the time quite nicely.

Avatar is basically one longish novel broken into two mass market-sized chunks, and so I’ll treat it as one novel. The first ‘official’ book in the DS9 relaunch, the story introduces us to life on the station after the Emissary has left for the celestial temple. O’Brian, Odo, and Worf are gone, and new crew members are stepping in to take on their roles. Some familiar faces take the places of more popular cast members; Nog is now Chief of Operations and Ro Laren (yes, that Ro) has returned from fighting the Dominion in the demilitarized zone to fill Odo’s bucket as Head of Security. Colonel Kira is, of course, commanding the station. New characters include an Andorian named Shar (science), a Commander Vaughn (XO), and a Jem’Hadar soldier sent to the Alpha by Odo. Like many DS9 storylines, the twists are what make it enjoyable to read, so I won’t go into the plot. Highlights include a reexamining of Bajoran faith, a longish set of crossover chapters with the NCC-1701-E crew, and a lot of interesting characterization. The only plot elements I didn’t like in the novel was the burgeoning relationship between Dax and Bashir. That love story was handled quite badly, and was very inappropriately interspersed throughout the story. I’ve read romantic Trek fanfic that was better than those plot elements. Ignoring that, Avatar was a good read. I only made it through the first one while I was traveling, and was surprised at how eager I was to tackle the second book once I got home.

Bottom line: Feel free to skip ‘Lives of Dax’, but Avatar will get you started on a series that I’m really looking forward to tackling more of.

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