Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Bloodletter, by K.W. Jeter — a book review

DS9Bloodletter

I picked up Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Bloodletter at a library sale here in central Arkansas, just last year.

It was #3 in the DS9 expanded universe media-tie-in novels published by Pocket Books. I already owned the hardcover Warped, another DS9 novel by K.W. Jeter, even though I haven’t read it yet. I assumed that K. W. Jeter must have written several DS9 novels, or else this was a “house” pseudonym. As it turns out, Jeter’s written only these two DS9 novels. It was purely by chance that I own both of them.

While I have read several of the TNG novels, this was the first I’ve read from any of the other series.

This novel is set prior to the Season 1 episode “Battle Lines.” As such, it suffers from a lot of the same problems that the other first season episodes do. The characters aren’t fully-formed yet. Dr. Bashir is essentially a hormonal teenager, not the genetically-modified super-doctor he’s destined to become. Kira Nerys is an angry Bajoran underground fighter. Benjamin Sisko is just a commander. Odo is an adequate chief of security, but his personality isn’t developed yet. Quark is barely an extra, as is Jadzia Dax, and Jake Sisko and Nog (not to mention Rom) don’t seem to exist.

As I was reading this novel, these characters didn’t feel like the characters I came to know and love in the series. When I put the timeline in perspective, though, I had to admit that this felt consistent with the first-season episodes I watched. No, it’s not an example of the best that DS9 will be, but, for all that, it’s not too bad.

The heart of the story is that Major Kira is forced into a showdown with a Bajoran religious zealot on the far side of the wormhole. The fate of the space station and the Bajoran claim to the wormhole lies in the balance as the Cardassians try to claim the Gamma Quadrant entrance to the wormhole. Sisko and the DS9 team try to prevent the Cardassian claim by staking their own claim on the other side of the wormhole, in a repurposed medical decontamination module, manned by Dr. Julian Bashir and Major Kira Nerys. Unknown to both of these characters, a Bajoran religious extremist with ties to Kira’s past is a stowaway, and he wants Kira dead.

The story proceeds predictably. Bashir ends up communing with the Prophets, the wormhole aliens. Kira ends up battling it out with her Bajoran opponent. The Cardassians don’t get to claim the other side of the wormhole (sorry, spoilers).

I can only critique this novel as I would if it were an episode of the series. It would be okay. Just okay. Probably 3 out of 5 stars, if I were watching it. The set up of the story is pretty good, as is the resolution. The middle part becomes somewhat of a slog.

Add to that the fact that this doesn’t really feel like the Deep Space Nine I came to love, and this is an overall lackluster read for me. Not terrible, by any means, but not particularly memorable either.

K.W. Jeter, as it turns out, is a real person, not a pseudonym. He was a contemporary, and friend, of Philip K. Dick. In fact, he’s written several sequels to Bladerunner. He’s not a bad writer. This just isn’t a great book.

Jeter has one more DS9 book to redeem himself. I’ll write about that one after I read it. Sometime in the distant future.

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