Star Trek 884: The Big Game

884. The Big Game

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #4, Pocket Books, November 1993

CREATORS: Sandy Schofield (pen name for the collaborative team of Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

STARDATE: Unknown (between The Storyteller and Progress)

PLOT: Quark invites a number of known rogues to his first annual high stakes poker championship, but when one of the competitors is murdered, Odo enters the tournament to ferret out the killer. Meanwhile, the station is rocked by subspace disturbances that also threaten nearby Bajoran and Cardassian ships. The Cardassians are blaming DS9 and threatening war. Down at Quark's, a power outage covers an attempted murder, but Odo captures the killer who tried to cop a plea by giving Sisko information on his subspace problems. Seems they are caused by the Ghost Riders, phased hunters out to capture energy creatures called the Espiritu. O'Brien modifies some runabouts to go into phased space and the Riders are bumped back into normal space. Meanwhile, Odo continues to play and wins the whole pot against Grand Nagus Zek's final hand, despite having just learned the game (he knows people) and the many cheating schemes of the participants. He gives all the money to the Bajoran Children's Fund.

CONTINUITY: Among the players at Quark's game, we find Zek and his son Krax (The Nagus), Berlinghoff Rasmussen (A Matter of Time), Cynthia Jones who is a descendent of Cyrano Jones (The Trouble with Tribbles) and has a sterile tribble with her, the Duras Sisters (last seen in Past Prologue), and Etana Jol (The Game). Other characters on show include Danar (Past Prologue), George Primmin (The Passenger, Move Along Home) and of course Maihar'du. This may just be the first appearance of Bashir's tuxedo (Our Man Bashir). The Ghost Riders use phase cloak technology stolen from the Romulans (The Next Phase, its events are mentioned).

DIVERGENCES: I'll leave the likelihood of Garak, Lursa and B'Etor being good poker players up to you. Bashir should be an incredible card counter because he's a mutant, but this his portrayal is correct for the first season. The crawl spaces used by Jake and Nog don't resemble anything we've seen on the station. The Bajorans make use of Federation runabouts. Odo seems to think he won't be able to get a smell out of his clothes, but as he's proven earlier in the book, he doesn't own any clothes. And he doesn't have a sense of smell (If Wishes Were Horses).

REVIEW: Rather enjoyable, especially the poker elements. And while the "station shaking because of subspace phenomenon" subplot is something we've seen again and again, the reason behind the station's troubles is at least original and pays off nicely. The best thing about the novel is that the characters are all well captured, their voices recognizable. This is an especially good representation of the Odo-Quark relationship, Odo proving himself better at the art of the bluff. Good bits for almost every character, in fact, including Garak. The book does awkwardly transition between the various subplots by consistently going back in time a few moments rather than show simultaneous action. This device can work, but not here where it undercuts momentum. A couple of small mistakes (like a non-humanoid suddenly being described as humanoid, for example) can be distracting. Overall though, a good character piece with some ideas we haven't seen before.


De said…
The first batch of DS9 books were pretty good, this one in particular. I remember smiling upon seeing Rasmussen's name.

If you haven't already, give Betrayal a go. I thought it really captured the voice of the first season.