Review: Abyss: Section 31, Book Three

3 stars
A fun DS9 novel that doesn't quite deliver on its intriguing premise

Abyss, published in 2001, is the third novel of the “DS9 relaunch”, a series of books and comics that continue the story of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine beyond the excellent television series, which ended after 176 episodes in 1999.

Abyss focuses on Doctor Julian Bashir’s continued entanglements with the mysterious and amoral intelligence agency that calls itself “Section 31”. In a galaxy where many planets, including Earth, have chosen the path of cooperation through the United Federation of Planets, Section 31 claims to quietly do the Federation’s “dirty work” necessary to keep the peace—even if it involves mass murder.

Section 31 recruits Bashir on a mission to subvert a secret base run by a genetically enhanced scientist like himself. (Bashir, for his part, hopes to also collect information to take down Section 31.)

In Star Trek’s alternative history of Earth, genetic engineering ultimately led to the Eugenics Wars, where enhanced “superhumans” nearly destroyed the planet. After the wars, genetic enhancement became taboo, and those who (like Bashir and his adversary) live with such enhancements are regarded with suspicion.

Bashir tried to use his talents for good, while his opponent appears to more interested in using his expertise to breed an army of super-soldiers and take on the Federation.

The premise is interesting enough, and much of the story is quite captivating. Unfortunately, the book loses steam in its final third. Neither Section 31 nor Bashir’s confrontation with his enemy really get the space they deserve. Instead, the book spends a bit too much time on an Avatar-style subplot of an oppressed local population, and on Ro Laren (who is DS9’s security officer in the relaunch, and a part of Bashir’s team for the mission) being angry.

Bashir fans will likely still enjoy this novel, and it integrates nicely into the DS9 relaunch series. Personally, I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded down—a solid premise, well-paced, but limited resolution and payoff.