ST DS9: Force and Motion
© 2016 Jeffrey Lang
All Miles O’Brien wanted to do was visit a research lab and catch up with an old friend, along with his engineering chum Nog. He didn’t expect to be thrown into a fight for his life, one involving giant robotic spiders and a massive blob of organic materials using a dead engineer’s head as a sock puppet. But that’s a day in the life of Miles Edward O’Brien.
Force and Motion had two immediate lures for me: first, the friend O’Brien is visiting is none other than Benjamin Maxwell, the captain who went ‘rogue’ in TNG’s “The Wounded”, insisting the Cardassians were re-arming and launching a one-man war to stop them. Maxwell was cashiered and imprisoned after that, but it’s been twenty years and now he’s out and about, actively avoiding any serious responsibilities. He just wants to serve, why is why a twice-decorated captain is now the maintenance engineer of a private space station. No one watches “The Wounded” and regards Maxwell as villainous; by the end we know perfectly well the Cardassians are up to mischief, and Maxwell had lost so much at their hands — his wife and children — that he was determined they’d never ambush the Federation again. Maxwell was a good man, merely one who had made an error in judgement, and I was eager to know him better.
The space station was the other lure for me: it’s a privately-owned science station. Star Trek and economics are like reality and political rhetoric; they never intersect. The show writers invariably portrayed business owners as rats and pirates, so I was hoping that a novelist might produce a…well, novel approach. A privately owned research station, home to fringe scientists and the hub for otherwise outlawed genetic engineering? Cool! But….the premise fails to launch. Our enterprising private-owner-of-a-space-station is not a visionary trying to push science outside the smothering watch of a Federation bureaucracy; he’s just an amoral eccentric whose self-absorption gets people killed and absolutely ruins O’Brien and Nog’s day off. We don’t learn too much about the kinds of science and tinkering being done, besides (1) bacteria-eating bacteria (2) robot spiders and (3)..rumors of a shrink ray.
What Force and Motion delivers is good content on the growing friendship between O’Brien and Nog, both of whom have seen their friends drift away. Maxwell himself is a central character, but mostly we find him in flashbacks, brooding with his shrink and doing things like building robotic legs to amuse himself. At the end he takes charge of a crisis and earns redemption, which is nice — but the book’s promise never catches fire and delivers for me.
My introduction to Maxwell, with he and O’Brien singing “The Minstrel Boy”. Star Trek has introduced me to so much good music over the years…