A Part of Me: A Review of DS9: Revenant
After the apocalypse of the Coda trilogy and the advent of a new variant of COVID-19, Alex White’s debut Star Trek novel, Revenant, was the “comfort Trek” my heart needed to close the year on a hopeful note.
A new writer to the Star Trek novels is always an event. Will this author “grok” Trek? Will they get the characters’ voices right? Will they tell us, not just a good story, but a good Star Trek story? Let’s find out!
The book is set during the DS9 series, immediately after “The Way of the Warrior”. The novel’s opening scene shows Jake, hanging out at his favorite lookout spot on the Promenade, people-watching with Jadzia, and talking about his latest writing project. When I read that, I knew I was home. I have been a Niner since the time of the beginning, and the entire book felt like the biggest, warmest hug from the DS9 series.
It’s funny that I consider this book “pure comfort Trek,” because the story itself is the opposite of comforting. We meet two very old, very dear friends of Jadzia Dax: Etom Prit, an elderly diplomat, and his granddaughter, Nemi Prit. We learn about these characters by seeing them through Jadzia’s eyes and memories. We share in her late night dinner with Etom and her tongo game with Nemi. And by the end of the book, we mourn with Jadzia when these two friends lose their lives to their nemesis: a symbiont turned evil, named “Vess”.
Lost Lights… and Shadows
Not only do we become emotionally attached to two characters, only to lose them tragically, we learn Joran Belar Dax’s tragic story. Joran, his music, and his terrible end have haunted me down the years since I first heard “Equilibrium”. Learning more about the tragedy that was Joran Dax made me a bit more sympathetic to this tormented character. He was undeniably warped to evil… but he suffered in his life, and he lost everything, even his life.
I have long been fascinated by the mysterious Trill homeworld, and Revenant contains some of the most richly detailed world-building of Trill that I’ve ever read. It was painful to learn that such a beautiful world harbored secrets even darker and uglier than the ones we were introduced to in “Equilibrium”. Yet without the darkness of the evil Lost Lights (i.e., the symbionts that had killed their hosts in order to be completely in control), the lightness of the truly well-meaning and well-doing Trills, both joined and unjoined, would not have shone so bright.
So, why have I characterized a book with so much darkness and violence as “comfort Trek”? Because the overriding theme of the book was that of getting through hard times by drawing strength from the nearness of our friends.
The first friend who was there for Jadzia as she confronted dangers and shadows from her past was Kira Nerys. I love the friendship between these two women and have always wished we saw more of it on screen, and Revenant gives us wonderful scenes of the two sharing delicious meals, wild adventures, Trill rituals, and traumatic events together, side by side and hand in hand.
I also deeply enjoyed the portrayal of the friendship between Dr. Julian Bashir and Jadzia. By this time, Julian had matured considerably, and the relationship had matured from the youthful infatuation of the first season to the deep, foundational friendship of mutual respect we saw so beautifully portrayed in “Equilibrium”. Julian’s friendship steadied and comforted her throughout the book. He was the friend who stayed up all night to be at her side when she was experiencing terrifying hallucinations; he was the friend who abandoned an experiment he and Jadzia had been working hard on, because it was more important to him to be at her side when she needed a friend; and he was the friend who faced death at her side as she faced down her nemesis, the evil Vess.
Yet, there were hints of more than friendship when Commander Worf arrived on Trill to fight at Jadzia’s side. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the Jadzia-and-Worf relationship in the show. But this book, by showing the very beginning of the growing attraction between the two, absolutely sold me on the pairing. Revenant showed us Worf and Jadzia bonding by working side by side in a crisis situation, and learning each other’s warrior courage. The attraction between the two, as portrayed in the book, was far deeper than fleeting sexual attraction, and was based instead on mutual trust and admiration.
Rites of Closure
My favorite element of the book was the closure we get from threads the series left a bit ambivalent. We get a heartfelt apology from Dr. Renhol for the way the Symbiosis Commission treated Jadzia when she was an initiate. We really get to know Audrid Dax, and through her perspective, to gain insight into the workings of the Symbiosis Commission.
But most poignant of all, we get closure with Curzon. Like many other Niners, I was deeply troubled by the revelations about Curzon’s motivations for dropping Jadzia from the initiate program, as revealed in “Facets”. I felt that the portrayal of Curzon as a “dirty old man” was inconsistent with his relationship with Ben Sisko and did a disservice to the character. But the end of Revenant dives more deeply into those revelations and shows even deeper motivations on Curzon’s part. The final scene is one of deep reconciliation between Curzon and Jadzia. She realizes he was “a force for good with a dark stain” (Revenant, p. 304) but that she can overcome it. As the novel states, “His life was her gift. His legacy, her future. Dax would keep the good in him and learn from the bad. She was more than this one man’s mistake.” (Revenant, p. 305)
I give this book ten out of ten successful Trill zhian’tara rituals, and I’m delighted to find that my answers to my initial questions are a resounding yes!
Ruth Anne Amsden has been a Trekkie since she was a ten-year-old reader voraciously devouring Star Trek novels (her family did not allow television in the home). She is working toward her first BA and aspiring to professionally write Star Trek novels as love letters to the novels she loved growing up.