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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Force and Motion
by Jeffrey Lang
Pocket Books MPB, 2016, $7.99, 340pp
Published: May 2016

This is a superb, hilarious, action-packed space adventure, the best ST novel I’ve read. It has everything: well-loved established characters, interesting new characters, great plotting, continuity with the ST timeline, humor, evocative references to memorable moments in the series, a significant first contact, and that best of ST traditions: a friendship based on a weird mixture of exasperation and mutual respect. It even has O’Brien singing at one point. Why he is singing, what he is singing, and why he stops is a profoundly telling moment in the story, a very moving one.

In a nutshell, here is the plot, sans spoilers: Lieutenant Commander Nog and Chief O’Brien pay a visit to one of O’Brien’s former Starfleet captains, Benjamin Maxwell. Maxwell has a certain notoriety, in that he realized what the Cardassians were up to long before Starfleet was willing to pull its collective head out of its collective a— ahem, out of the sand, and did something that got him sent to a penal colony in Australia for 20 years. Now Maxwell, in his capacity as a janitor, is the only thing keeping a Helios class hub station operational. Remember how Sisko was living in the moment when the Borg killed his wife? Maxwell has that sort of problem – cubed. The station is home to a very odd, eclectic bunch of scientists who have had trouble getting permission to develop their projects on inhabited planets. Giant, sentient spiders are just one of the ideas given form. The most controversial project has astounding potential applications – if it doesn’t go rogue like Dark Phoenix in the X-Men. Nog isn’t sure why he’s along for the ride, but it’s lucky he is. What with his Ferengi insights into economics, his engineering sensibilities, his intuitive feel for unspoken emotions, and his love of critters with many legs, we see him evolve from a sidekick into, dare I say it? a future Starfleet Captain.

Lang is such a good writer that I was visualizing every scene as if it were an actual episode (or movie) and frequently laughing out loud. The O’Brien-Bashir post-Alamo holosuite drink at Quarks – great! Nog’s best day ever – absolute genius. The crucial allusion to the Horta and a classic of children’s literature – so wonderfully done I had tears in my eyes. The way the villain was the only one to see the dark truth in the hero’s secret heart – masterful. Another thing: not many writers can make skillful, purposeful use of shifting timelines to actually enhance storytelling; Lang can and does. And the really hard thing, writing genuinely funny scenes and exchanges, seems to be an effortless joy for him. The caliber of writing is so good that a Lit major could easily spin a fantastic Ph.D. dissertation off of this book (in case any readers are Lit majors in need of a thesis.)

My only quibble with Force and Motion is that a major thread, or purple tentacle, was left dangling: what of the planet that commissioned the development of the “mother” that could decontaminate a planet of Borg toxins? Personal lives are the center of the story, and I truly, madly, deeply love how those were handled, but I don’t like losing sight of the big picture, which is that Cretak’s planet really, really needs decontamination .If a certain someone quietly tended to the problem with help from a certain … something, it happened off-screen. Okay, two quibbles: I wish one of the characters had thought to use spider silk to secure personnel and prevent gravity fluctuation-induced battering. Foreseeing this very problem, I was mentally yelling at characters not to cut themselves free when they were previously secured in cocoons. If I had been a beta-reader for this ms. I would definitely have suggested that solution. Okay, three quibbles: it was unclear whether Sabih was the real genius behind the development of the “mother” and Finch was taking advantage of the younger man, or if Sabih was the fall guy, pure and simple. The former is implied when Sabih yells, “You can keep the damned credit!” Also, people with delusions of grandeur rarely produce real, original work; they are too busy posturing.

Regardless, I want MORE about these characters, their what-happens-nexts. Does Nog visit Nita Bharad and Ginger? Does Nog get his own arachnoform? It looked like there was the potential for significant relationships to develop there. Let’s hope Pocket Books commissions- heh! – Mr. Lang to write a sequel.

This is hellaciously good SF, whether you are a STDSN fan or not. Even Sheldon Cooper would like this one. Not Space opera so much as space operetta. ~~ Chris Wozney

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