So, with the narrative out of the way, let’s talk about the meat of the story: the things that make the characters tick, and make Mere Mortals
a fantastic and well-written adventure. In this instance, it’s easier to break it down by focusing on some select characters and explore how they’re written, and what they do that brings substance to the story.
ERIKA HERNANDEZ: I said it in the last review, and I’ll say it again: I absolutely love the inclusion of Hernandez in Destiny
. Her story takes the longest, and it was the one that really stuck out the most for me. Not only has she been isolated from her home for 12 years (2156-2158) in Gods of Night
, a group of rebellious MACO and Starfleet officers forced her into being exiled from her home for a lot longer than that, having been thrown back in time to the year 1519. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d handle it as well as Erika did. She handled herself quite nicely, and all the while, stayed true to form to Starfleet’s commission, to boldly go where no one has gone before
. True, she didn’t go it alone, having Veronica, Johanna, and Sidra with her, but she ended up being the last woman standing over the years. When this revelation occurred to her that she would be alone
, she found herself in despair, not knowing if she could handle the solitude until Inyx proposed the solution of all solutions: make her as one of the Caeliar. Considering Sidra’s fate, I’d probably question the intelligence of that solution as well, but Inyx assured her he’d found the flaws in the last attempt. Now, it’s this particular depiction that stood out for me so prominently in the entire book, and why I find Dave’s works so enjoyable: if I can relate it back to my own life, and find things in there that resonate for me, then I’ve found a good book. In this case, I’ve hit the jackpot. I’ll cite the passage that got me all excited:
“...he was offering her...eternal youth and near immortality. A bite of the fruit of the Tree of Life itself.
” – Page 273.
As I sat and read that book, my mind was left to wonder just how right
David actually has it. For some people, they may miss the relevance of this. I’ll therefore explain briefly what the Tree of Life is.
In the Book of Genesis, the Lord created the earth in six days, and on the seventh He rested. On the sixth day, He created man and woman, and placed them in the Garden of Eden. (Adam and Eve) The Lord commanded Adam and Eve to do two things: multiply and replenish the earth, and to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, for if they do, they’ll surely die. So, hearkening to the Lord’s counsel, Adam and Eve lived in the garden, and did not take of that fruit. However, Lucifer was also there. In the guise of the serpent, he tempted Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree. She told him no, and he responded by telling her that she wouldn’t die, but she’d be as the gods, knowing good and evil. Eve partook of the fruit, and then convinced Adam to do the same. The Lord returned, and sought out Adam and Eve. Adam told the Lord that they hid because they had found out they were naked. The Lord asked why they knew they were naked, and then asked whether or not they took of the fruit of the tree. Adam told the Lord that the woman that He gave to him had given him the fruit and he ate of it. The Lord asked Eve if she knew what she had done. Eve responded that the serpent had beguiled her. The Lord then cursed the serpent, and He also provided the way for the other commandment He gave Adam and Eve to be fulfilled: he placed enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman, and informed Eve as read in Genesis 3: 16:
“Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children...
So, after fulfilling this purpose and identifying that Adam and Eve had become as one of the gods, knowing good and evil (being able to choose right from wrong), the Lord drove them out of the Garden of Eden and placed cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the ‘tree of life’.
The remarks about fulfilling both of the Lord’s commandments in Eden will be relevant later, but right now, it’s required to say that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life are two distinct
trees: one tree grants knowledge while the other grants the immorality spoken of. Adam and Eve could not partake of the fruit of the tree of life and be imperfect. They had transgressed against the Lord’s commandment to not take of the ‘forbidden fruit’, and had thus become imperfect. God would have ceased to be God had He allowed Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever in an imperfect state. They’d then be subject to the vices of Satan, who had been cast out of heaven for rebellion (see Revelation 12) The Lord provided a way for humanity to return to Him, and eventually partake of that tree, and that was through His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
In the case of Erika Hernandez, the parallels are very similar and the imagery in this one paragraph makes her story even more tragic: near death, having wronged her crew by essentially killing them, (the Columbia
crew left on the ship when it entered the subspace tunnel in Gods of Night
, Sidra, Veronica, Johanna and the others who were in the other cities when they led their rebellion, and all of this because she didn’t point her ship back towards Earth, but looked to safe harbour near their position) and being unable to make it right again, she’s tempted to be as the Caeliar and have what they have. In this regard, Hernandez plays the role of Eve opposite Inyx playing the role of Lucifer. Inyx does what he does because he genuinely cares for her, and that does not make him bad whatsoever, but his failure to disclose what
will happen to Hernandez until after
she’s consented to undergo the process makes him Lucifer. When she realizes she doesn’t need to sleep, or to eat, he tells her that Axion’s the source of life for the Caeliar, that they’re replenished by the city’s energy, and to leave it would be to grow old and die. Hernandez understands she’s made herself a prisoner forever, and recognizes that which Veronica Fletcher had recognized earlier: not to accept any of the ‘gifts’ the Caeliar present, for they come with a price. In this case, Fletcher played the role of the Lord in offering that counsel. So, with Eve, Satan and God all depicted, who plays the role of Adam? That role falls to William T. Riker.
After learning about the massacre at the Azure Nebula and his inability to do anything about it, Riker’s left with little hope until Hernandez appears on the ship and offers him a chance to go home and make a difference. Riker’s torn between his duty to Starfleet and his duty to his wife. Hernandez spells it out for him: Deanna’s not going anywhere and he could always come back for her. However, if he doesn’t take this opportunity to go home now, he’ll never get the chance again. In Latter-day Saint doctrine, the choice that Adam and Eve made to partake of the fruit was more than ‘disobedience’... it was the first exercise in choosing for themselves, but it was still in a controlled environment. The Lord only gave Eve the ability to bear children AFTER she chose to partake of the fruit. So, how could Adam do anything but NOT take of the fruit? Had Adam NOT partook, he would have been left the sole man in the Garden of Eden (Eve would have been cast out because she was in an imperfect state), and that would have gone against God’s purpose that an helpmeet be created for him. So, as it’s said in The Book of Mormon
, “Adam fell that men might be...”
(2 Nephi 2: 25) So, in Riker’s instance, he only has one
choice, but he had to make it of his own accord. This hearkens back to the TNG Episode Thine Own Self
, when Troi attempts to become a full commander and cannot get past the Engineering simulation. Once she understood that a good commander must put the ship first, she was able to pass by making the one choice available to her: order someone to their death. In Riker’s case, it’s the same situation. He has to put the Federation first, and if it meant leaving his crew behind, then so be it. (Anybody who’s read the excerpt from Chapter One of Lost Souls
knows how this choice affects the away team.) Nevertheless, the emotional consequences will still play themselves out. After all, they’re only human.
I’ve only begun to read it, but from what I can gather, the thought that occurred to my mind is that the Erika Hernandez story plays itself out a lot like Milton’s Paradise Lost
. The symbolism, the imagery, and the thoughts invoked just screamed Paradise Lost
as I was reading, but again, that’s just me. It may be what David intended; it might not.
EZRI DAX: Having read Avatar
a LONG time ago, I found it weird back then to see a ship’s counsellor command the Defiant
in a time of crisis, especially one with the type of issues Ezri had to deal with, less than a year after being joined with the Dax Symbiont. I found it weird to see her jump to the command track, and didn’t understand why. Now, I see why it was a smart move, and it definitely had its payoff. Dax stood for me as a breakout character in Mere Mortals¸
and as the title suggests, she challenges herself, and thinks herself smaller than she ought to be, until she gets a fine coaxing from her XO, and, interestingly enough, her former husband. The scene with Dax and Bowers in the gymnasium where Dax questions herself and her entire ‘command’ experience going back to the death of Tiris Jast in Avatar
was golden. I understood completely her position and why she’d say the things she said, but I understood Bowers even better. The scene played itself out much like it did in VGR’s Shattered
where Janeway and Chakotay were discussing Voyager’s
life in the Delta Quadrant. Janeway exercises total fear and reservation, but Chakotay cuts her off at the knee and tells her she’s only seen part of the story. After telling her of the good (because for storyline purposes, she mostly just saw the bad), she understands that it just is, and that it’s one’s attitude that will make it a positive or negative experience. I cannot recall if this last part was from Shattered
, but I think I recall Chakotay saying something about how the captain doesn’t choose the mission; the mission chooses them. For Dax, this rings true. Bowers reminds her of all the good she’s done, and circumstances aside (yes, there were many for Dax in the DS9 fiction), she’s met every challenge with courage and determination. Apparently, she was the one who stood up and faced the crisis of the Mirror Universe (great pre-spoiler alert for The Soul Key
and it proved her worth as a command officer. To further this end, Dax has a run-in with Worf (or rather, Dax goes seeking him out), and when Dax asked if Worf were concerned with the quick promotion and the whole Soukara incident, Worf responded with the highest praise, saying that she’d done a fantastic job, that she was worthy of Jadzia’s memory, and that seeing her as a starship captain now justified Worf’s action in saving Jadzia’s life on Soukara. For Dax, I think it was that
moment that solidified her position as a captain, and up until that moment, she did defer to Picard because of seniority and experience, but at the end, it wasn’t about seniority and experience but rather, stepping up to the challenge and meeting it as she had so many others. Sure, Picard’s been the starship captain for a very long time, but Dax is Dax, and hasn’t changed since Lela Dax over three hundred years ago. It will be interesting to see how Ezri’s determination plays itself out in Lost Souls
JEAN-LUC PICARD: It must really suck being Jean-Luc Picard. Despite his reputation and despite everything he is, nobody can really know what it’s like to be him in the center seat of the Enterprise
at this moment of time, except maybe for Seven of Nine. For Picard, everything he does in the book seems at least for me to be something that prolongs the inevitable. When he heard the voice of the Collective in Gods of Night
, the Collective told him that humanity’s hour for assimilation had passed, but their hour of extermination was at hand. Knowing the will of the Collective, Picard knew it was no idle threat. So, despite everything, he keeps going forward and doing what he can to save as many lives as possible, but it’s only a Band-Aid solution. Unless the Collective could be stopped once and for all, these acts would mean nothing. So, when the Azure Nebula situation presents itself, Picard sees an opportunity to exploit a tactical advantage and shut the Borg’s access to the Alpha and Beta Quadrants down for good. But, he knows that two ships, namely the Enterprise
and the Aventine
can’t do it alone. So, he calls for a lot of reinforcements, both friend and foe. In this instance, the characterization that comes to mind is that of Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings
. Aragorn was, by nature, not one who wanted to be king. He knew his frailties and knew what they would do to him if he yielded to them. However, he was a natural leader who, as the story progressed, moved beyond such limitations and led the forces of Middle-Earth to victory against Sauron. He rallied friend and foe under one banner, and pushed the fight to the Black Gates. Picard’s rallying cry echoes that of Aragorn, but it’s a role he dually shares with Nanietta Bacco. And, in the aftermath of the Azure Nebula Massacre, Picard’s faced with a choice much like Riker’s: to stay behind and tend to survivors while waiting for Starfleet Command to issue new orders, or to go in pursuit of the Borg and the Aventine.
Picard chooses to go in pursuit, and we don’t see how that affects his crew in this book, but we do see that through his actions in the rest of the novel, again, his competency to command when this crisis is affecting him more personally than ever is coming back to haunt him. Sure, we don’t see another mutiny as we did in Before Dishonour
, but people are beginning to question his motives. I guess we’ll have to wait for Lost Souls
and the final confrontation to see this particular payoff as well.
NANIETTA BACCO: I guess the Federation ought to be thankful that Bacco’s calling the shots because of her ability to control herself and keep control of the situation. However, I’m sure her critics would soon rather see Min Zife (or by extension Koll Azernal) or even Fel Pagro on the fifteenth floor of the Palais de la Concorde. Bacco’s stuck with the most horrendous of calls to make: Picard sends a request for reinforcements, something that Esperanza Piniero reminds her he hadn’t done since Redemption Pt. 2
(the Klingon Civil War), in an attempt to push the front line away from the Federation. The task of gathering such forces falls on her
lap. In only a few chapters, we see why Bacco’s the perfect president for the Federation. She has a good grasp of the situation and knows how to handle herself, she knows her opponents, and she does not back down from a challenge. As well, she knows how to play stupid, especially when dealing with the Tholians. In her scene with Garak (which totally made me scream for joy in my head), we see a side of Bacco that is very reminiscent of Garak himself from his days on Deep Space Nine
. To secure Cardassia’s support, Bacco gives them exactly the things they need: food and land. Cutting Garak off at the knees, Bacco gives them several border worlds that would sustain them. Garak raises some concerns, especially since the Cardassians had played a role in destroying one of the colonies on Solarion IV years earlier. But, even he is silenced by the offer. Bacco’s gambit was purely Cardassian in nature (at least for me), and it paid off. Just as she worked with Ambassador Derro from the Ferengi Alliance, her tactics there were purely Ferengi. Bacco works best when she knows who she’s dealing with, and relating to them on those terms. The part that made me laugh was when she accepted Derro’s strip of latinum. Seriously, what is an older woman who sits at the pinnacle of power in the United Federation of Planets going to do with gold-pressed latinum
? The irony in that scene itself was worth the laughs.
However, there is a downfall to all the good that Bacco’s done: there still isn’t a solution to the Borg threat that everybody can agree on. And, the viable solutions that could
work are being rejected out of hand because of ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ issues. Just like in the aftermath of Azati Prime
when Archer suggests stealing a warp coil from a ship in the Expanse, T’Pol counsels him that he’s become like those marauders that stole from Enterprise
in the early days of their mission, and that if he doesn’t hold on to what makes him human, then what’s there to fight for? Despite the objection, Archer continues, and in the end, he has to deal with the fallout himself. In the tactical briefing, Seven suggests thalaron weapons, akin to the ones that Shinzon used in Nemesis
. Immediately, Bacco’s staff, and the admiralty present rejected the idea because it was a total violation of what the Federation stood for. However, it would make a more viable solution than conventional weaponry would do. Furthermore, Bacco’s put in the exact
same position that Zife and Azernal were placed in when Zife claimed the presidency from Jaresh-Enyo: the imminent threat of the Dominion, and the fact that the Federation was unprepared to meet such a threat was that which ultimately led to the installation of the nadion-pulse cannons on Tezwa. Yes, it was a violation of the Khitomer Accords, and yes, not telling the Klingons of their intention was not wise, even if it was necessary, but had the lines crumbled, nobody would be complaining when these cannons would have blasted Jem’Hadar ships to high heaven. The fact that Kinchawn armed the things in A Time To Kill
made the situation more dire because Kinchawn targeted the Klingons. Everybody feared that if the Klingons found out who
armed the Tezwans that it’d bring a total war, much like the one with the Borg, and to save face, Starfleet buried all the evidence, including the fact that Section 31 executed Zife, Azernal and Nelino Quafina for their role in the cover-up. Bacco was disgusted with the process, and even hauled Admiral William Ross before her to have him explain himself. Ross retired, and Bacco had hoped it’d be the end of it, but now it’s come full circle for her, and she’s placed in her own version of the Kobayashi Maru
. Does she hold a moral high ground, or does she execute a ‘Tezwa solution’ to this Borg crisis? With trillions of lives on the line, where does she draw the line? In DS9’s In The Pale Moonlight
, Garak showed Sisko the true meaning of the axiom ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ by telling him that Sisko had saved many lives, and all it had cost him was a dead Romulan senator, a criminal and the self-respect of a Starfleet officer. And yes, Garak was right. In this instance, Seven of Nine is right to propose such a radical solution. But, is Bacco willing to pay the price to save the Federation, or will her own desire for moral integrity bring her fall? Her’s is a job I don’t want either. But, despite the tragic flaw, Bacco’s still one of my all-time favourite Trek
characters, and I look forward to seeing her again in Lost Souls