Book Review: ‘This Gray Spirit’ by Heather Jarman

May 11, 2022 at 5:35 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: This Gray Spirit is the third book in the Mission Gamma series for Pocket Books, written by  Heather Jarman, and was released in September 2002.

Following up David R. George’s Massive book Twilight would be a challenge for any author, especially to newer authors. Well, this book is Heather Jarman’s debut (one of her only books), and it is a killer book! I had read her book String Theory: Evolution for Voyager, which I thought was just fine, but not a great book. Here she is obviously much more comfortable writing for Deep Space Nine, and it works in her favor.

The first major point I’ll make is that this is an impeccably paced book. It is really strong because of it’s longer chapter lengths and its structure. This book alternates between the plotline on DS9 and the Gamma Quadrant plotline with the Defiant. Literally every chapter goes back and forth, and thus I was constantly aware of where I was as a reader and I was always brought into a new aspect, never lingering too long on any one plotline. This kind of mirrors what I liked about Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris, which is evenly divided up between three plotlines.

I don’t know why, but I will always be more interested in the DS9 plot than the Defiant plotline. Julian Bashir, who is on the Defiant, is my favorite Star Trek literary character, and yet his plotlines aren’t particularly interesting here. All of the political intrigue and familiarity of the station plotline is infinitely more fascinating to me than the exploration aspect of the Defiant plotline.

Don’t get me wrong, the Defiant plotline in this book was really good. What makes this book a slight step up from it’s predecessor, Twilight, is that Jarman’s usage of action, politics, and adventure is much more interesting than David R. George’s intimate character/exploration focus. The storyline with Shar and Ezri was fun to read, had excellent themes about bigotry and about compromise, and had plenty of well written action. I got a little confused at the Nog/Vaughn plotline, but it made sense in the end.

The plotline on DS9 was just as excellent as David R. George’s, but in a different way. David R. George really writes the characters of Kira, Ro Laren, and Quark well, almost as if he had created the characters. Every line of dialogue from him felt authentic. Where Jarman lacked in authenticity and voice, she definitely nailed their tone and kept the story exciting. There is a big twist in this book that frustrated me when I read it and I HAD to keep reading to find out what would happen next.

Jarman puts focus in this book on the Andorians and their culture, which is a Trek culture I by nature do not enjoy reading about. But she really handles themes about marriage, duty, honor, and responsibility really well. And the tension between the Andorians was really palpable. I can see why Jarman was given the Andor book in the Worlds of Deep Space Nine series.

This book has a certain failing in that it doesn’t feel like the events of the last book have huge weight in this one. It feels like the authors had a vague connective tissue (probably their editor: Marco Palmieri), but it doesn’t feel like they worked as a group on the book. Ironically, Jarman mentions several authors in her acknowledgements, and none of them are her co-authors on the series. That seems to indicate just how much of this book was written in a bubble, which does dampen my view of it, compared to The Fall, where you can tell all of the authors worked closely together on the story.

Also, I noticed that Ambassador Lang was named after Jeffrey Lang and Ensign Beyer was named after Kirsten Beyer. I think I would have noticed it on my own, but Jarman literally puts their names in the acknowledgements and the characters show up in the first few chapters, so it wasn’t as subtle as it should have been.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. No, it’s not the absolute best Trek book I’ve read, but I must admit it is high on my list! I’m interested in reading the rest of the series soon, exactly as I should feel after reading this book. Four and a half out of five! Way to go Heather Jarman!

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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