Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Terok Nor

I raved a bit about the first Terok Nor novel a couple of months ago. I don't seem to have quite so much to say about Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry and Britta Dennison.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed both books, but they make for a very different experience. James Swallow was showing us something we hadn't seen before -- how the Cardassian takeover actually played out. These two books move into more familiar territory, bringing more familiar faces into the mix and drawing on the many episodes of the show that established the invasion backstory. So Perry and Dennison have gone back to TNG's "Ensign Ro" and a lot of DS9 episodes. I'd been thinking in terms of episodes like "Necessary Evil" while waiting for these books; I'd forgotten how much had been established in other episodes.

And that's the (minor) problem with these books. So much of the story has already been told in bits and pieces that it sometimes feels like the books were an exercise in compiling and imposing a structure on all that we learned about pre-"Emissary" DS9 on TV. There's so much for Perry and Dennison to work with it sometimes feels like they don't have enough room to make the story their own. And balancing the story threads of all the major players must have been a challenge, too... Dukat, Kira, Odo, Opaka, Ro, and eventually Quark are all viewpoint characters, along with guest stars like Natima Lang.

So what we have is a sprawling saga rather than a taut thriller. Does it hold up? Yes. I enjoyed it, I liked the way the authors made connections between events, made sense of certain established events, put things into context. I liked the characterization of Dukat; it explained both how he could be hated by the Bajorans while still believing in himself as a benevolent despot. I liked revisiting a lot of the characters who made the pre-Dominion War DS9 interesting (I was one of the people who liked the Bajor stuff, who liked the show from the beginning instead of when it became the war show). Kira Meru, Tahna Los, Shakaar Edon, Li Nalas, Winn Adami, Bareil Antos, and more make appearances. We see the major cultural changes the occupation has on Bajor, including the move away from the D'jarra caste system, and also the changes in Cardassian society.

And we also get some things that connect to the relaunch novels, as the Oralians begin to rebuild on Cardassia following their near destruction during Day of the Vipers.

For anyone who was a DS9 fan from the beginning, the Terok Nor trilogy is a must read. For casual DS9 fans more interested in the Dominion War arc, it may not seem as necessary -- but if you're one of those people and also read the relaunch books, you'll find the same mix of intrigue, character development, and action here that you get in the relaunch. If you don't like DS9, well, why have you been reading this?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

And speaking of comics...

Allyn Gibson says over at the TrekBBS that the forthcoming GIT DVD collection of all pre-IDW Star Trek comics will include the old newspaper comic strip from circa 1980.

There was a fan-produced unofficial CD ROM collection of these strips a few years ago, but this official release should mean that a lot of fans who missed out or didn't even know about it can discover some entertaining but hard to find Trek.

I published a few of the strips on my old blog. Curious?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Looking at IDW

In its steady and unspectacular way, producing a few monthly miniseries titles in regular comic format, IDW has now published more individual comics than Wildstorm, the last holder of the Trek comics licence. No hardcovers, no perfect-bound extra-length stories, just a handful of issues of a handful of titles.

What's more, IDW's line of comics has improved from its shaky beginnings (The Space Between and Year Four). It's also experimenting more. The Alien Spotlight stories ranged all over the map, in terms of the presence (or lack thereof) of major characters from the TV series and in terms of how the creative teams approached the series concept. Some merely featured the cover aliens as guest stars; others made them more pivotal to the stories being told. Add the fact that we're finally getting a Gary Seven series, and DC Fontana's writing TOS again, and we're getting a better mix of standalone and continuing stories... well, things are looking good.

Four of IDW's Trek miniseries so far have been collected in trade paperback. The Next Generation series The Space Between and the first original series IDW title, Year Four (volume one), are skippable. But Klingons: Blood Will Tell and Alien Spotlight are both rewarding and entertaining reads for Trek fiction fans. The former revisits a few classic encounters with the Klingons from the latter's perspective; each issue has a standalone flashback story, but there's also a framing story that continues from issue to issue. Alien Spotlight is a collection of standalone stories dealing with various iconic Trek alien species, set in different eras and with some interesting choices in guest stars (two Pike stories! Bring on a new Pike series!).

It's premature to say this now, but I'll go out on a limb... the series that haven't been collected yet will all be worthwhile buys for Trek fiction fans who don't generally buy comics. Intelligence Gathering is a solid TV-era TNG story that builds nicely and has a strong climax; New Frontier is carrying PAD's story forward from the last novel; Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment is TV-era TOS written by that show's DC Fontana and building on her "Enterprise Incident" episode (as well as looking ahead to a TNG episode or two); Assignment: Earth is a light romp with Gary Seven, Roberta Lincoln, and Isis in the late 1960s. The first issue has the feel of a '60s espionage show, while the second puts a spin on another of the Enterprise's visits to the past.

Wildstorm's approach mixed one-shots, graphic novels, and a few miniseries. It was splashy, and many of the stories were good, but it was unpredictable. IDW's model is simple: produce a miniseries of five or six issues and collect it in trade paperback a few months later. It's not nearly as flashy, but I think it may have better results with both comics buyers and book buyers. Long may it last.