Demons of Air and Darkness by Keith R. A. DeCandido: C+

From the back cover:
Once they moved from world to world in a single step, through innumerable doors that spanned the galaxy. They were masters of space, and to those who feared them, they were demons of air and darkness. But long ago they left their empire and their miraculous technology behind. Now someone has found the key to it, and all those doors have been flung open.

A world near Deep Space 9, threatened with destruction from the distant Delta Quadrant, becomes the focus of a massive rescue effort as Colonel Kira Nerys, her crew, and some unexpected allies fight to avert disaster on a planetary scale. Meanwhile, as Lieutenant Nog and Ensign Thirishar ch’Thane search for a way to shut down the spatial portals forever, Quark becomes involved in a dangerous game that could determine, once and for all, who will control the Gateways.

This is kind of an odd entrant into the DS9 relaunch series, since it’s actually the fourth book in a different series. The Gateways series has a novel for each of the pre-Enterprise TV series, plus a couple from some original novel series. I was not interested enough in the concept to check out the other books, so missed how this business with the gateways all started. One gimmick is that each of the novels ends in a cliffhanger and all the endings are compiled in novella form in the seventh book of the series (entitled What Lay Beyond). So, basically, anyone reading the whole series got annoyed six times before having to shell out for one more book containing all of the conclusions. Irksome!

DeCandido was better at keeping thoughts in-character for the DS9 cast than he was in the Buffy book I read by him, so there were some good character moments, though the basic plot was pretty dull. The writing was also heavily reliant on dashes—like so—to the point where it became distracting. Also, if books like this even have editors, someone should inform them that “a isolinear rod” and “a instrument panel” are grammatically incorrect.

Like the others in the series, Demons of Air and Darkness ends on a cliffhanger. Its resolution is the novella “Horn and Ivory,” which basically just deals with Kira having taken a gateway to Bajor’s past and realizing that she needs to stop waiting for Sisko to come back and take the responsibility of running the station off her shoulders. Or something. I didn’t read any of the other novellas, so if there was a definitive conclusion to the events of the series, I don’t know what it was. And don’t really care.

Section 31: Abyss by David Weddle and Jeffrey Lang: B

From the back cover:
Section 31. They are the self-appointed protectors of the Federation. Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, answerable to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group commited to safeguarding the Federation at any cost.

Mere days after the startling events of Avatar, Doctor Julian Bashir faces his darkest nightmare when Section 31 compels him to undertake a mission to stop one of their own. But this renegade is no ordinary agent. Like Bashir, Dr. Ethan Locken is genetically enhanced, a human superior in body and mind. But Locken dreams of remaking the galaxy in his own image—and creating a new human empire based on the example of the infamous Khan Noonien Singh.

And as he begins to understand the terrifying truth about his opposite number, Bashir will learn more about himself than he ever wanted.

I’m continuing to enjoy the DS9 relaunch series. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay the book is that, for the most part, I could easily see this story playing out over a few episodes of the show. Some little reveals wouldn’t have been possible in a visual medium, though.

Mostly, the interaction between the characters was good and felt in character. I appreciate that the series isn’t just about plot advancement, but about character development, too. None of the plot threads that were introduced in the first two books was abandoned, though some of them only had a chapter devoted to them. The main story kept my interest, though I thought the very ending wrapped up too tidily. I don’t understand how Commander Vaughn knew of the existence of some indigenous alien folk that needed rescuing. Especially after Kira was just telling Julian that he isn’t superhuman and shouldn’t expect to be able to save everyone.

I am also very intrigued by the character of Taran’atar. Taran’atar is a Jem’Hadar who is not dependent upon Ketrecel White. He’s also very old by their standards (22) and more wise than usual. He was sent by Odo to learn about the Alpha Quadrant by observing, and has been told to follow Kira’s orders. He is the catalyst for and participant in some interesting conversations, and is also a very capable guy to have around on a secret mission. I look forward to seeing what will happen with him down the line.

Avatar, Book Two by S. D. Perry: B+

From the back cover:
As the Federation prepares to launch a counterstrike against the Dominion, Colonel Kira Nerys searches for a way to prevent another galactic holocaust. But when a newly discovered prophecy propels Jake Sisko on an impossible quest and threatens to plunge all of Bajor into chaos, Kira is forced to choose between being true to her faith… and being true to herself.

Meanwhile, as the combined crews of Deep Space Nine and the Starship Enterprise struggle to stop a terrorist plot to destroy the station and the ship, lives change, new friendships are forged, and the shocking truth behind a grisly murder is revealed.

This was another solid entry in the relaunch series, though some things that happened were totally obvious, like the “shocking truth” mentioned above and who becomes the new first officer of DS9. Other stuff genuinely surprised me, however, and after a slow start the momentum picked up and carried on ’til the end. The conclusion manages to simultaneously satisfy and leave enough threads dangling for future installments.

Characterization continues to be quite good for a media tie-in book. This time, it was Kasidy’s dialogue that really rang truest. I could easily imagine Penny Johnson delivering these lines.

I also liked a couple of meetings between the crews of the Enterprise and DS9, including Troi meeting Dax (whose previous host had wed Troi’s ex-beau, Worf) and Picard encountering Ro for the first time since her betrayal in “Preemptive Strike.”

Points off: Some bad editing and the entirely cheesy “The Beginning” at the end of the book.

Avatar, Book One by S. D. Perry: B+

From the back cover:
In the aftermath of a war that brought the Alpha Quadrant to the brink of destruction, Starbase Deep Space Nine—the galaxy’s nexus of scientific and military intrigue—is once more the flashpoint of impending Armageddon as a surprise attack cripples the station, killing hundreds and threatening the fragile new peace.

Colonel Kira Nerys and the survivors—together with several controversial new officers—are all who stand against the outbreak of a new war and a terrible doom tied to the unborn child of Captain Benjamin Sisko.

Elsewhere, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise make a startling discovery… one that will affect the destiny of an entire civilization and forever change the lives of those aboard Deep Space Nine.

This is the first book in the Deep Space Nine relaunch, which is set after the end of the series and continues on from where the finale left off. Quite a few plot threads are spun out in this initial volume, including a prophecy about Sisko’s unborn child, relationship woes for Dax and Bashir, and an apparent renewal of hostilities with The Dominion.

Two new characters are introduced, both thoughtful and unassuming, though it was a little annoying to be consistently reminded how much the established characters liked or admired them. One familiar face is added to the cast: Ro Laren, who somehow impressed the Bajoran government with post-Maquis fighting prowess, was given a Lieutenant’s rank in the militia, and got assigned to DS9 as the new Security Chief. I was happy that elaborate excuses weren’t made for bringing back any of the departed crew or station residents.

The characterization is pretty good. No dialogue or inner thought seemed wrong, though it was a bit odd that Ro smiled so often. The author’s especially good at writing Quark. Sometimes the action dragged a little bit, particularly when everyone in a situation begins to experience the same thing (feeling watched, for example). It just reads as repetitive until it finally dawns that it’s intentional.

I haven’t read a plethora of media tie-in books, but this is easily the best of those I have read. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series.

A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson: B

From the back cover:
For nearly a decade Garak has longed for just one thing—to go home. Exiled on a space station, surrounded by aliens who loathe and distrust him, going back to Cardassia has been Garak’s one dream. Now, finally, he is home. But home is a world whose landscape is filled with death and destruction. Desperation and dust are constant companions and luxury is a glass of clean water and a warm place to sleep.

Ironically, it is a letter from one of the aliens on that space station, Dr. Julian Bashir, that inspires Garak to look at the fabric of his life. Elim Garak has been a student, a gardener, a spy, an exile, a tailor, even a liberator. It is a life that was charted by the forces of Cardassian society with very little understanding of the person, and even less compassion.

But it is the tailor that understands who Elim Garak was, and what he could be. It is the tailor who sees the ruined fabric of Cardassia, and who knows how to bring this ravaged society back together. This is strange, because a tailor is the one thing Garak never wanted to be. But it is the tailor whom both Cardassia and Elim Garak need. It is the tailor who can put the pieces together, who can take a stitch in time.

I haven’t much experience in the realm of Star Trek novels, but this strikes me as a particularly ambitious one. It succeeds in some areas, not so much in others, but ultimately offers a generally plausible background for Garak, filling in some of the questions about his past, his character, and his outlook. Some of the subplots were a little clunky; I think one existed only so Garak could give another story about a shuttle incident discussed on the show.

I liked best the parts about his school and the eventual consequences of relationships forged there. The author avoided having Garak meet characters from the series while in school, giving him original characters as important influences and factors in his life, which I appreciated. How all these things tie in with his position as DS9’s “plain and simple tailor” was also pretty neat.

The not so great… Some of Garak’s school exploits are a little bit twinky, such as learning valuable Wilderness (always capitalized) skills from a lizard. No, really. Also, sometimes the writing got to be rather repetitive, like Robinson found a favorite word to describe something and kept reusing it over and over (example: sartorial).

All things considered, I waffle regarding actually giving it a recommendation. To a select audience, perhaps, and one who has recently seen all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and is therefore more likely to understand/remember the various references.