#SciFiMonth Book Review: Star Trek DS9: The Missing by Una McCormack

Title: Star Trek DS9: The Missing

Author: Una McCormack

Publisher: Pocket Books

Publication Date: December 30, 2014

Genres: Science Fiction

Shelves: Female-fronted, female-author

While it was an okay science fiction novel of first contact (albeit one with some big plot holes and unanswered questions), The Missing was (I’m sad to say) a very poor Star Trek novel.

This is supposed to be a Deep Space Nine novel, but Una McCormack puts far too much emphasis on The Next Generation characters she’s shoehorned into the plot. Doctor Beverly Crusher seems to have been temporarily assigned to the station simply so that she can be a part of the story, and while the concept of Katherine Pulaski leading a multi-species team of women on a pure science and exploration mission is laudable, there’s no reason for it to take her to DS9.

I was willing to overlook all of that, however, because I loved the idea of such a strongly female-fronted Star Trek novel, especially one that deals so powerfully with themes of motherhood and female empowerment. But then she goes and sabotages all of that by prefacing each chapter with a Captain’s Log entry from Captain Picard. Really? In a book teeming with strong female characters, including a starship Captain and a space station Commander, there is absolutely no excuse for arbitrarily pulling in log entries from a male captain who isn’t even part of the DS9 universe, much less a character in the book.

While all of that makes for a weak Deep Space Nine novel, the fact that McCormack seems to have only a tenuous grasp of the characters is what makes for a poor Star Trek novel. Outside of a few scattered scenes, character voices were almost entirely unrecognizable. It was as if she took a science fiction story she’d already written, branded it Star Trek, and then renamed her characters. She does a passable job with Ro and Beverly, but awkwardly pushes Katherine’s abrasiveness into petulant tantrum territory, and she completely robs actual Deep Space Nine characters like Garak, Odo, and O’Brien of their personality.

As for the science fiction aspects, I liked what McCormack was trying to accomplish here with the contrast between first contact scenarios. First we have the casual, friendly introduction of the People of the Open Sky, a travelling people who are very reminiscent of Romani culture with Hippie influences, and then we have the darker, more sinister confrontation with the coldly authoritarian Chain. Both are interesting enough on their own, but the debate between Pulaski and Delka, first-contact specialist on the Athene Donald, really unlocks some true Star Trek philosophical musing. Sadly, though, nobody follows through on that debate, nobody takes any action, and the whole story becomes an exercise in waiting it out.

Finally, while I won’t belabor all the plot holes and unanswered questions, there is one aspect of the story that I cannot shake. Without getting into spoiler territory, the reveal of who broke into Doctor Crusher’s office makes absolutely no sense, has no justification, and we’re never offered an explanation as to why it happened. I almost wonder if McCormack changed her mind at the last minute as to who the culprit was and just never got around to editing the rest of the novel to support that – which would be fine if it was a minor plot point, but it’s an event that triggers the entire story, on which potential war with a new alien race hangs, and which drives much of the novel, right to that perplexing reveal!

From what I’ve read, McCormack has apparently written some stellar Star Trek fiction that is highly regarded by fans, but I cannot say The Missing is one of those stories. Disappointing.

Rating: ♀ ♀ 1/2

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