Just finished it.
Spoiler free review:
I think this book is going to make a lot of people around here very happy, people who've been disappointed with the dark epic scope of everything recently and have been wanting some smaller-scale, more episodic stories. This book might feel the most like a TV episode of any Trek book published since Destiny, including the TOS books early this year. Minor but interesting strides in character development, A and B plot, small bits of exposition into a new culture that could be built upon later… it all feels exactly like it’s coming from a TV perspective.
Which on the one hand is kind of a nice change of pace. The Voyager and Titan books last year were pretty emotionally heavy, the TOS books this year tried to fill in gaps but mostly sucked, and the Destiny & fallout from before all that was epic and enormous. A quick little tossed-off action thriller is something that hasn’t been seen in a while, and it’s welcome for that. And as part of a Typhon Pact exploration, this does a great job setting the political scene and establishing how it all operates; there are plenty of behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Breen relationship with the Romulans, and the cold war aspect in general is beautifully done.
But on the other hand, this is the first 24th century novel to arrive in a year, it's marketed as a fairly major event, and the best parts about it are the hints about the ongoing DS9 story that another novel might pick up… eventually. Especially coming from David Mack, who hasn’t written a novel that wasn’t HOLYSHIT epic since his Wolverine thing, I found it a little disappointing, I won’t lie. I mean, he posted in this very thread about how he loves putting his favorite characters through hell, but no one actually goes through anything in this book. There’s a strong implication that major, soul-wrenching things are going to happen soon in these characters' lives, which I find excellent, but the character development actually present was completely shallow and unconvincing.
And no one on the Aventine did anything that any other crew couldn’t have done. I actually really like the Aventine crew, and was hoping I’d get something new from them, but even the quirky banter thing that everyone had going in staff meetings in Destiny was notably absent here. The attempts at punchlines from Dax and Bowers didn’t do much for me, and ultimately nothing was even as interesting as Kedair’s one-chapter investigation from A Singular Destiny.
In general, I think that this is the kind of book that would’ve fit in perfectly with the DS9 relaunch as it worked before, much like the Section 31 and Gateways books did: fun one-off adventures that played with larger stories around the edges. But getting only one or at most two books to continue these particular threads each year, and especially promising “THE SAGA OF DEEP SPACE NINE WILL CONTINUE” at the end when I know that it won’t until February 2012 at the earliest, I find this kind of incremental development unsatisfying. The book provided several brilliant hints, glimpses, or foreshadowings, and the like, but it didn’t actually do much of anything. Not what I was hoping for, unfortunately.