This week, the Supreme Ruler of Jibet flees an uprising, but misses a few million snoozes on his alarm. Eight hundred years later, his missing Uhaul has been found, and now the entire Alpha Quadrant is stopping by to rubberneck—and get in on the storage wars. What qualities get an ensign picked for Defiant duty? What does the officers’ handbook say about swearing? And can Smith and Rusch make alien fetch happen? All this and more in The Long Night, the book that—BAH GAWD! THAT’S JAKE SISKO’S MUSIC!
We start with a prologue that, unlike many prologues in Star Trek novels, is an actual legitimate prologue and not simply a misnamed Chapter One.1 The jig is up for Jibim Kiba Siber, the Supreme Ruler of the planet Jibet. A revolution is knocking at the castle gates, and he’s taking a thousand of his most loyal followers and a hoard of Jibetian treasures in a ship called the Nibix and striking out for greener pastures. Jibim and his people tuck in for seventy years of cryostasis, by which time hopefully they’ve reached a world without the pesky nuisance of a disgruntled citizenry.
[SpongeBob narrator voice] Eight centuries later…
…a patron at Quark’s tries to sell him a statuette that Dax immediately recognizes as being from the Nibix. Both she and Sisko are aware that this means the Nibix, by now long since passed into the annals of legend, has been found. Jibet has since grown into a loose empire comprising eighty worlds, and they have an agreement with the Federation that if the Nibix is ever found, the Federation will keep it under their protection until such time as it can be returned to the Jibetians.
Sisko and Dax light out for the Nibix as quickly as they can, with Bashir and O’Brien in tow for medical and engineering emergencies. But the rest of the galaxy is already starting to get wind of the marvelous find, and the simultaneous convergence of so many visitors upon DS9 raises tensions considerably. Starfleet sends three Galaxy-class ships to keep the peace, while the Cardassians, of course, have to have their fingers in any pie baked at Terok Nor. The Grand Nagus smells profit and shows up. Various freelancers and mercenaries find themselves a parking spot. And the Jibetian councillor en route has an ulterior motive for skipping the whole Federation protection bit and getting the Nibix back right now—which could be seriously complicated by the discovery that the Supreme Ruler is still alive after all these years…
Boy, this Nibix sure seems like a big deal! There is definitely a good reason why everyone in the Alpha Quadrant is losing their mind over its reappearance. Why else would Ben and Jadzia speak of its every detail with hushed reverence? This thing must make the Ark of the Covenant look like a shoebox full of Pokémon cards. I mean, why would Sisko literally give security the order to shoot to kill if the Nibix wasn’t the most important archaeological discovery of no less than the last billion years? You know those Star Trek characters—never can stop flapping their gums about that dang Nibix. And now here it finally is. Crazy, amirite??
I hope I ladled enough sarcasm onto that paragraph to drive home one of the major things wrong with this book, which is to say, it’s a pretty tall order to ask a reader to feel the same level of excitement as Sisko and Dax for some rando ghost ship that we have never heard a single peep about before now. TV Tropes calls this kind of thing an informed attribute, essentially saying there’s a lot more telling than showing going on. Julian and Miles seem befuddled by the hype, preferring to stay in their respective lanes and keep their noses to the grindstone, and I can’t say I blame them. At no point did I pick up what this book was laying down, about the Nibix or anything else.
Worse, the book can’t keep what it does lay down straight. The Long Night is bookended by contradictory accounts of the Supreme Ruler. At the beginning, we get a picture of a monarch who has clearly failed on all counts. His mother is quick to remind him what a pale imitation of his father he is, and he’s unpopular enough to have to flee the planet, though he still has a few loyal subjects. But when he is miraculously revived later, he is gregarious, affable, and whip-smart, and it’s mentioned several times that even though he’s been out of the game for 800 years, he’s got as modern a mind as anyone. And I’m just sitting there like, “Wait a minute, I thought this guy sucked?”
It’s too implausible for me to accept that the Supreme Ruler surviving eight centuries of cryostasis thanks to a nigh-endless number of failsafes in his royal cryo-chamber and the tireless efforts of Dr. Bashir is an exciting bonus for all involved and not the immediate dawning of a day of reckoning. You’d think this guy would be pretty scared to be taken to account for crapping the bed hard enough to move the populace to revolution and then running away from it. But the book completely forgets about that and recasts him three-fourths of the way in as a nice guy with a sharp mind who gets the last laugh by nailing the councilman heading up the Jibetian fleet for trying (and failing) to keep everyone from learning that his ancestor, the Supreme Ruler’s royal assistant, betrayed the Supreme Ruler by sabotaging the cryo-chambers to ensure his family ascended to the throne and stayed there.
Mother of mercy, this was a sloppy one.
MVP & LVP
- My MVP this week is Bashir. He only has to pull a groundbreaking and unprecedented procedure to cure the cellular equivalent of freezer burn completely out of his butt—no big deal, no pressure—and he does it like that’s just something that happens on days that end in Y. Plus the scene where he dresses down the doctor from one of the other starships for constantly complaining about how said procedure is impossible is pretty rad. He’s all business in this book, which is a side you don’t see from him too often, but I dug it here.
- The LVP of the week is Quark. The book’s B-plot concerns Jake using all that know-how O’Brien’s been giving him to ferret out a secret passage no one’s found yet, which he explores with Nog, eventually finding an elaborate hidden camera room, which leads to the discovery of a well-hidden relay that is the reason everyone knows about the Nibix. Quark knows all about the secret room and soon shows up with Rom in tow to check in on it, and they all get stuck together when the room goes on lockdown during red alert. Throughout this ordeal, Quark is super whiny and not on his usual rapid-fire game. And of course, I won’t allow anyone to be mean to Rom, the most perfect and pure character ever, not even his brother.
Nuggets & Stray Bits
- By now, it’s folly to point out individual typos in these books. We’d be here all day and getting way off course if I did that. But it is worthy of mention whenever a book is just sort of all-over covered in them, and this is one of them. There are mistakes from front to back. I have serious doubts that a proofreader ever looked at this book even once.
- This book is desperately trying to make Caxtonians happen. What are Caxtonians, exactly? Some race of big, bulky, hairy, smelly people. Are they interesting in any way whatsoever? They are not.
- “The six ensigns [Sisko] picked were all known for their attention to duty and their closed-mouthedness. They had few close friends and were not known as gossips.” — Oh, so that’s how you get selected for Defiant duty: you have to be a total dweeb that no one likes enough to dish with. Well, since I’m an awesome cool guy, I’ll do something else way more fun and not life-threatening, like the totally sweet gig mentioned below. (p. 52)
- Nog, p. 120: “I thought it was against Starfleet protocol to swear during a crisis.” — Man, buncha dang nerds working for Starfleet in this book. What, pray tell, is on the approved list of words for venting your spleen during a red alert? Did Data get written up for when he did it?
- If you ever wanted to read a Star Trek novel where Jake Sisko absolutely bodies Quark with a chair, this is your lucky day! (p. 121)
- “[The Supreme Ruler] had been like a child in the infirmary. Each moment he was awake he asked questions. Sisko finally assigned him two around-the-clock ensigns just to answer the ruler’s questions about the past.” — Now that sounds like my kind of duty. Sit next to a hospital bed and read Wikipedia articles off a padd for a guy who missed the last 800 years? I’ll do that 25 hours a day, eight days a week, and you can pay me in raktajino. (p. 272)
Bad. The Long Night can’t keep its story straight about the principal character of its central setpiece, and it relies way more on telling than on showing to hype the reader up for that setpiece, which works about as well as you might expect. As a result, this is a hard one to want to get through. Combine that with a real snoozer of a “Jake and the Ferengi” B-plot, and this is an easy call for the “nope” pile.
NEXT TIME: The crystal ball says we’re headed to Gypsy World