In an attempt to try and tackle the onerous job of looking into the Star Trek book universe, thanks to the help of Memory Beta’s chronology section, I am intending to look at the saga in book form from stories which take place earliest in the franchise’s timeline onwards. This hopefully should provide an illuminating and unusual way of examining the extended Star Trek universe.
This story takes place 27,000 years ago…
It’s worth me making a confession before you read any further: I haven’t yet read any of Star Trek: Gateways, the 2001 book series which connected all of the Star Trek properties of that time together in a shared uber-narrative concerning the ancient Iconians and their titular gateways through time and space. Luckily, that doesn’t make Horn and Ivory too impenetrable as a story.
One of six novellas within What Lay Beyond, the Gateways conclusion, it is based on the idea that six characters from each of the collected series stepped through one of the gateways at the end of their journey in the preceding book, and these novellas chart what happened to all of them. Horn and Ivory, as a result, follows on from the Deep Space Nine Gateways book, Demons of Air and Darkness, also written by Keith R. A. DeCandido, and focuses squarely on the character of Kira Nerys, who finds herself in Bajoran antiquity at the heart of territorial wars between numerous nation states in the ancient history of her home planet.
It’s a credit to DeCandido’s writing that Horn and Ivory doesn’t in any way seem a baffling experience if you haven’t read any of the previous Gateways novels, his prose explaining quite clearly the basics needed to understand how Kira has ended up in the ancient past before getting on with a short story which neatly resonates with the character we know from the show and subsequent relaunch book series.
Kira stories on Deep Space Nine were often tied into Bajoran religion and history, sometimes in tandem with Benjamin Sisko’s own Emissary episodes, but more often related to the recent past of Bajor and the Cardassian Occupation.
Episodes of the show such as Shakaar or The Darkness and the Light delved into her history with the Bajoran resistance movement during the Occupation, while Ties of Blood and Water or Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night used different vehicles to dig into her relationship with the Cardassians themselves. These are just a few examples as Kira’s entire character arc over seven seasons, and the books beyond, felt connected to the core ideas of resistance, war and psychological recovery from conflict. Kira will always be a Star Trek character defined by those ideas and that’s why Horn and Ivory does a good job of placing her in a setting in step with Kira’s experience.
The gateway flings her back to a time long before Bajor even *became* Bajor, when it was instead a world made up of different city states and nations vying for control, all being courted by the Bajora to create a singular global government and civilisation, except it comes as something of a surprise that the Bajora—who eventually succeed in their aims, given their name—are a slippery, calculating group willing to side with whoever has the best prospect of success. They are at one point likened to the Federation, who by this point in book continuity, Bajor have become part of, but it doesn’t paint the best picture of the future galactic civilisation we know so well in contrast. Kira has to adapt to life living with the Perikian people, who have just resisted and overthrown the Lerrit Army to seize back control of their territory, and particularly finds herself in the orbit of the stubborn but good natured General Torrna Antosso.
DeCandido takes great pleasure in fleshing out ancient Bajoran culture, which he has a clean slate to explore beyond certain key facts regarding the Prophets and the Pah’Wraiths ancient conflict which will affect the mythology of Deep Space Nine, but he includes them without them being intrusive. They rather add to a recognisable tapestry, with Bajor here recalling more of a late-medieval/early Renaissance period of naval and land-based warfare, long before the Bajorans developed any kind of space-faring technology. It is strange to also see the early pre-Bajoran city states considering the Prophets to be a niche religious interest of the Bajora, the alien Gods having not yet asserted their cultural dominance among the entire civilisation that we will later most associate with Bajoran society. Yet they most certainly exist, as the Iconians later tease a level of contact with them which begets more mythological, open questions.
The fact Kira therefore believes the Prophets guided her back to this point of history for a purpose is nicely at odds with the more pragmatic ancient Bajorans she lives, works and fights with, particularly Torrna – who ultimately ends up key to the nonetheless fairly ambiguous reason Kira ends up at this point in time, which by 24th century Bajor remains as distant, alien and largely unknown as early human civilisations do to modern eyes, few records having survived the many millennia. The core of Horn and Ivory ends up being Kira’s dynamic with Torrna, who recalls characters such as Shakaar or the strong, masculine figures of survival Kira has always been drawn to, personally and professionally. Their friendship anchors this story as DeCandido manages, in a short space of time, to flesh out these ancient wars nicely to paint a picture of formative Bajor.
Though it does connect back to Gateways, and doesn’t really impact on the Deep Space Nine TV series or relaunch narratives in any great measure, Horn and Ivory is a fine read for anyone who enjoys Kira or Bajoran culture, tapping as it does into a period that is a lot more intriguing that you may ever have imagined, if you ever imagined it at all.