So far, the Worlds of Deep Space Nine books have been very good. Volume two, which contains "Unjoined" (about Trill) and "Fragments & Omens" (about Bajor) continues the strong showing from Volume 1. This time, though, both stories are extremely strong. "Unjoined" is by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, while "Fragments & Omens" is by newcomer J. Noah Kym (though that is a pseudonym, so maybe the author isn't that new?). As with Volume 1, one of the stories is fairly quiet while the other one has huge ramifications for the planet involved. Both are excellent, with only the Bajor story leaving me slightly wanting, but in this case that can be a good thing.
Both of these stories are powerful in their own way. "Unjoined" hits you in the gut and keeps doing it as you need to find out what's going on. As the violence escalates, we wonder if there will be a Trill society left for Dax to save. There's also a great deal of tension between Bashir and Ezri, and the authors handle this very deftly. All throughout the story, I was wondering if the tension was from what was going on around them or if it was internal to them. It was definitely interesting to watch.
Mangels & Martin show us an intriguing look at a world under siege by terrorists, though these terrorists have a point. The government *is* hiding something from them all, part of which has been established way back in the television series, but some other information that's just in the books as well. The story is very dark and downbeat, which is unusual for them. However, dark does not mean bad in this case. When the terrorists do something truly horrifying, I felt my gut clench a little bit. The finale, which is a harbinger for massive change on Trill, leaves any long-term reader of the re-launch (or even a fan of the television series) wondering what will become of this world.
The entire story is gripping, with the only real fault being that the sequence where Dax is trying to find the answers to what happened in ancient Trill history drags on a little too long (despite being interrupted by other, more interesting scenes). It's nothing major, but I do wish that Mangels & Martin had avoided using the "a character is in an environmental suit, so something has to go wrong with it" cliché. They do make good use of it, however, as in the process of being saved, she encounters the horror of what the terrorists have finally done. The story also starts in the middle of the action and then backtracks. While this can be annoying at times (and is overused in televised Trek), I think it was put to good use here. It draws us into the story and bridges what could have been a slow beginning otherwise. This story is definitely a keeper.
"Fragments & Omens" has a lot of pluses and minuses, mostly pluses. It sets up a large part of what is probably going to follow in the next sequence of books, with Ben Sisko warning about the coming of the Ascendents (a race of beings that even the Founders may fear). The tone of the story alternates between dark foreboding (Sisko's warning, not to mention the destruction of the village) and somewhat lighter fare (Jake's story). Kym handles this change in tone very deftly, however, never leaving the reader reeling.
Jake's story is very sweet, and told from the point of view of Rena, a woman that he meets in a Bajoran village. The romance is quite sweet, but the story does even more by giving us a layman's view of how Bajor is being integrated into the Federation. We see the common person's point of view, the worry about how all of a sudden there is no money, whether the Federation will rob Bajor of its core values and what life will be like within rather than as an outsider. There is nervousness there, understandable given the massive change that is coming.
What I found the most interesting part of the story, however, was the interaction between Ro and Cenn, a Bajoran major who is very leery of the Federation and what it represents. Thousands of Bajoran militia members are leaving to join Starfleet now that the opportunity is there, and he feels that Bajor may lose a lot of its uniqueness. He also doesn't like what Ro did, abandoning Bajor to the Cardassians to join Starfleet. The tension between them is very nicely done, and I see great things ahead for the Cenn character.
One major annoyance with this story, however, is that the story feels unfinished. The first three stories, while leaving vast changes in the worlds' societies that will have to be dealt with, actually finished the story they were telling. They just left a lot of room for the story to go afterward. This story seems entirely setup with no resolution (except Jake). The village destruction is left dangling (we don't even find out who the villain is in this piece, though we're given a very big clue), Sisko's story is made up entirely of "Omens" (though it was nice to see him trying to settle in on Bajor), and we are introduced to Cenn and what his status will be on the station, but without anything actually happening with it. I realize that this was intentional, as the relaunch stories have always been "continuing," and that this story is intended to be the launching pad for the next series of stories, but this story left too much hanging in my opinion. When you only resolve one of the four plots that you've introduced, it gets annoying. Still, that's no reason not to read the story. While it's mostly setup, it's *good* setup. It will hold your interest and keep you coming back for more.