After reading "Olympus Descending," the Dominion story in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: The Dominion & Ferenginar, I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. This feeling was heightened when I realized that there is no new Deep Space Nine book out this year (the only one on the schedule, Hollow Men, takes place during the television series). What a powerful ending to a fascinating series of stories. "Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed," the Ferengi story by Keith R.A. DeCandido, was also fun as well, but "Olympus Descending," by David R. George III was the perfect capper to the whole series. While quibbles can be made about both stories, none of these little nits can overshadow the fact that these were both great stories. The future of Deep Space Nine is well in hand with these people in charge.
DeCandido's "Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed" is a fun story, a calm before the storm right in between Volume 2's Bajoran story and "Olympus Descending." It does almost the exact opposite of what the other stories have done, as Quark is (albeit reluctantly) fighting to keep the changes that have already happened on Ferenginar. Thus, this is a fight for the status quo, rather than a fight to change worlds as has happened in the other four stories of this series. It's all the better for it, too, as there is some great comedy in it. While I think Ferengi stories are able to have depth, I don't think they work if that depth is too out in the open, without a veneer of comedy. The best Ferengi episodes (not many, I admit) always worked on two levels, and "Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed" is the same way. There are some wonderful scenes between Quark and Rom, especially when the possibility of Rom's having signed a horrible marriage contract comes up and Rom admits to some things that he would rather not admit to.
I think the story works for a number of reasons. First, we don't have actors trying to act smarmy and speaking in annoying, sometimes squeaky voices. That puts it a step above most episodes anyway. However, that's not the only plus to this story. DeCandido is able to examine not only Ferengi society, but the internal workings of individual Ferengi as well. Thus, we see Quark's thoughts about what is happening on his home planet. We see the fact that, while he hates what Rom has been doing to his world, the idea of Brunt being in charge is even worse. DeCandido also avoids showing us a completely stereotypical Ferenginar, showcasing all businessmen as horrible people. I think the show sometimes went too far that way, but DeCandido shows us some of the good in Ferengi society as well. Thus, the story is very well-rounded.
Even better, we get to see an outsider's view of the whole thing. The television show went to Ferenginar once, and it was a pretty horrible episode, partially because it consisted entirely of Ferengi. This time, Ro comes along to help out, and we get some wonderful scenes of her adapting to the planet. Her reaction to the ads that can't be shut off that show Brunt grinning in extreme close-up was hilarious. Even her reaction to the near-constant rain and humidity were very amusing. She gives us that perspective that we really need so we don't get lost amidst all of the Ferengi avarice. The fact that the story also deals with the developing relationship between Quark and her is also a plus. In fact, I think Ro is the best part about the book, though the other characterization is equally well-done. This is excellent work, all the way around.
"Olympus Descending," on the other hand, ratchets up the tension and is consumed by a very foreboding atmosphere. Yet that doesn't bring the story down at all, and in fact heightened my interest in it. I loved the entire philosophical discussions between Odo and Laas, especially when Odo begins investigating Laas' question about why the 100 were sent out. I won't reveal what answer Odo finds, but it brings up a lot more discussion of the nature of religion and the difference between faith and fact. The beginning of the story can be a bit slow, and part of me wishes that George had switched to Taran'atar a little bit sooner at the beginning, but overall it's extremely interesting stuff that has far-reaching consequences for the Dominion, and perhaps the rest of the Deep Space Nine mythos as well. The story ends up tying into Ben Sisko's dire warnings in "Fragments & Omens," which is a good thing and will probably lead into the next series of books.
If the Odo story is fascinating, the Taran'atar story is gripping. We have seen this Jem'Hadar struggle with the mission Odo gave him since the relaunch began, and it's not getting any easier. In fact, he's reached a point where he has to make a decision, but he can't do it without help. He and Kira go on a journey that he hopes will help him decide, but it only makes things worse for him. I've grown to like the character throughout all these books, and watching him go through this was almost agonizing, especially because I knew that something bad was going to happen (unfortunately, I also knew *what* was going to happen, as it had been spoiled for me).
Since the Bajor story had also left one of its plots dangling, it wasn't so jarring this time as "Olympus Descending" does the same thing. I think another reason for the difference in my thinking was because while "Fragments & Omens" just coasted to halt with that plot dangling, "Olympus Descending" was a true cliff-hanger. The wait for the next book is now going to be excruciating. In the meantime, the Worlds of Deep Space Nine books will sate your thirst.