This is the first book in a series focusing on Bajor before and during the Cardassian Occupation.
Only one major character from the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
is here - Dukat. However, some minor characters from the series do make an appearance
- and at least one of them is quite a surprise.
Gul Kell of the Cardassian Union has been assigned to make first official contact with the peaceful, religious people of the planet Bajor. Cardassians,
on the other hand, are a secular people who in fact marginalize their own largest religion, the Oralian Way. Oralians preach peace between everyone,
but the Cardassian commanders are mostly interested in conquest. Because Bajorans are known to be spiritual people, the Cardassian High Command has sent a couple of the Oralian priests along
to help convince the Bajorans to eventually join the Union. The leader of the Oralian envoy sees this as the last opportunity to save his religion and is willing to fully exploit it. Gul Kell himself would rather be fighting on the front lines for the glory of the Union and resents his diplomatic tasks. But he does have an ambitious, opportunistic first officer called Dukat,
and Ico, a Cardassian scientist, has her own plans.
The Cardassians have found a Bajoran space vessel afloat and its crew dead. They have been ordered to return the ship and the bodies ito gain the Bajorans' trust and possibly open up official trade routes;
unfortunately for the Cardassians, some of the Bajoran politicians fear the aliens, and their party is quite influential.
The religious peoples on both sides do find common ground quite quickly. In fact, the speed with which they start to agree with each other
frightens some Bajorans and causes distrust among the Cardassians.
On Bajor, Constable Darrah Mace does his best to uphold law even at the expense of his own family. His wife belongs to higher caste, which brings its own tensions to the marriage.
Darrah's friend, prylar Gar Osen, is a priest of the Prophets who experiences firsthand how similar the faiths
of the Oralians and the Bajorans are. This frightens and intrigues him at once, and he starts to form a friendship with one of the younger Oralian priests.
Lonnic Tomo, senior assistant to Minister Jas Holza, doesn't trust the Cardassians and advises Jas not to trust them either.
Jas has seen a good opportunity, though, and one of the more influential Ministers
urges him to take it. Lonnic finds this very frustrating.
The book starts with a short teaser from the day the Occupation started, but
the majority of the story is spent first ten then five years before the Occupation.
A shorter section set one month before the Occupation precedes an epilogue that
happens twenty days after the Occupation has begun.
Focusing on political intrigue but also on how ordinary Bajorans experience their budding alliance with an alien nation very different from them, Day of the Vipers is a
dark but not hopeless tale full of ambitious, short-sighted people. Despite multiple point-of-view characters and
a raft of secondary characters, and despite extensive lists of characters, places, ranks, and almost everything else, the
narrative flows smoothly (and the lists are not really necessary if you have seen most of the television series).
In spite of the many point-of-view shifts between characters and eras, the transitions are smooth.
I was a little disappointed that the other major Deep Space Nine characters were not seen here. While it is of course understandable that the younger characters would not be yet available, there are a number of older secondary characters who might have been used.
For example, the religious characters would have had to start their careers at this time, and they
might already have been somewhat influential.
Dukat's character is rather complex one; I was delighted to see him play such a large role in Day of the Vipers.
He does seem very hostile toward the Bajorans right from the start, while in the television series he
seems more understanding, perhaps even compassionate toward the Bajorans in his own way.
His resentment and envy of the Bajorans here stems from their living on a planet
that provides abundantly for them - Cardassians often go hungry on their own
rather inhospitable planet. Dukat focusing his hatred toward Bajorans feels
weird; surely he must have seen more verdant planets than Cardassia during his space military career.
Highly recommended to Deep Space Nine fans, Day of the Vipers is probably not the best first introduction to the setting
for new readers.