As someone who is more of a social gambler, I prefer to mindlessly funnel my money into a one-armed bandit and push the button. I become mesmerized by the flashing lights, the whirling wheels, hoping that I manage to hit the bonus game (I won't play a slot machine that doesn't have one), and pray to every deity on the planet that I miraculously depress the button at the exact moment the jackpot combination is being shot through the circuitry. If that doesn't happen, I happily continue to lose my money with no expectation of a return. I'm amused by gambling. But there are those who take it more seriously.
'The Big Game' centers around Quark and Odo, that dynamic duo of outer space. Quark has yet another get-rich-quick Ferengi scheme in which he invites not only the best poker players in the quadrant to participate, but most of them are also the most dangerous. Before the tournament can even get underway, a murder takes place, which threatens to close down the game unless Odo can learn poker in one night, sit in on the tournament, and survive play long enough to catch a killer.
Meanwhile, Sisko and the Ops Crew have a larger mess on their hands. Disturbances in space are causing havoc all over Deep Space Nine. Systems are crashing, communications are down, and both the Bajorans and the Cardassians are pointing fingers at each other, threatening to begin a war if the Federation doesn't do something to destroy the other side. A re-emergence of a species called The Ghost Riders are the cause of the disruptions and it's up to Kira and Sisko to convince them to give up their hunting of Espiritu or be taken into Federation custody.
What is most entertaining about this novel is the bringing together of all your Star Trek favorites. Commander Riker is mentioned as a potential player, only to be waylaid by an emergency. Rasmussen (remember that pesky guy who claimed to be from the future but was really from the past?), Lursa and Betor, and even the Grand Nagus all make appearances. Watching Bashir squirm under the romantic advances of Cynthia Jones isn't too bad, either.
However, the downsides far out-weight the upsides. The plot, while interesting, failed to hold my attention. Poker was kept to a technical minimum -- even a complete novice at the game would have understood what was going on. But the two plots, so divergent from each other, caused my head to whirl and my brain to shut down so completely that I often had to read whole chapters a second time to understand what was going on. Scenes seemed disjointed. Time frames over-lapped from chapter to chapter, and I had difficulty keeping track of which character was what species, who smelled like wet dog, and who was eating live grub worms. About the only consistent in the novel was that Quark had about six different means of cheating going on at the same time.
While there were some light-hearted moments, there was little redeeming value to a novel which did not seem at all well-outlined ahead of time. It felt more like a 'let's see where we end up' approach. Maybe if you're stuck in an airport somewhere this title might keep you occupied for a couple of hours.
Title: The Big Game
Author: Sandy Schofield
Review by: CL6 Sorsha, The Chosen One