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Nostalgia Compels Us: The DS9 Young Readers Series, Ranked

Have some fun with Jake and Nog.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

CW: The title of a book on this list contains a slur that was, unfortunately, still part of common parlance upon its publication.

The year was 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation was wrapping up its final season, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had been on the air for only a year, and I was going through my cowgirl phase. I was also reading every chapter book I could find, especially those that tied into my favorite TV shows and movies. And Star Trek was definitely a favorite!

Fortunately for me, 1994 was also the year Paramount started publishing a series for young readers based on Deep Space Nine that focused on all the adventures Jake and Nog were having off-screen. I know I had my flashlight confiscated at least once when my parents caught me reading these after bedtime! Seeking nostalgia and comfort while sheltering in place this summer,  I decided to revisit this series and share my thoughts on them now, ranked from least favorite to favorite.

11. Arcade, by Diana G. Gallagher (1995)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

There’s a new video game arcade on the Promenade and the Ferengi owner is anxious to have Jake, Nog, and their friends try an exclusive game, but they have to keep it a secret. He even does that greedy hand thing on the cover so you know he’s up to something. After the immersive video game puts three kids, including Nog, into comas, we discover that the game is really the Crown of Ultimate Wisdom, a Zhodran artifact that serves as both a test of outsiders’ integrity and a treasure map. Jake beats the game, frees his friends, and forces the Zhodran to open talks with the Federation. If only he could apply that same dedication to his Earth history paper on the Crusades, of which there were only three. (There were significantly more than three Crusades.)

10. G*psy World, by Ted Pedersen (1996)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

The secretive Fjori are visiting DS9 and that means their ship is off limits to everyone, including Jake and Nog. But, of course, Nog hatches a scheme to sneak onto their ship and copy the starmap to their hidden home world. Jake and Nog get caught, but the Fjori captain lets the matter drop since Nog didn’t actually see anything. His crew has other plans; they kidnap Jake and Nog, forcing them to stand trial on their home world of Ryft. As Jake and Nog face their crisis, they ask themselves “what would O’Brien do?” Between references to Dune and The Princess Bride, Jake and Nog prove themselves to the Fjori and are allowed to return home.

9. Cardassian Imps, by Mel Gilden (1997)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Garak gives a very bored Jake and Nog the idea to explore Level 45 in one of the station’s abandoned areas. There the boys find a small Cardassian figure with wings. After the press of a few buttons, a living replica of the toy appears. It presses a few more buttons and the station is overrun with small winged Cardassians saying “Moop” and running amok. Moops aren’t the only thing replicating themselves – Keithorpheum dust brought onboard by two miners is clogging the power circuits. Garak eliminates the Moops by turning off the original figure, and the Keithorpheum disappears when Sisko cuts power to the station. It really is a shame that Garak’s only appearance in the series comes in this ridiculous book. While I enjoyed the image of the Moops playing baseball on the Promenade, this story just felt a little too absurd.

8. Trapped in Time, by Ted Pederson (1998)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Jake and Nog fight Nazis. Don’t worry, O’Brien is there to help! He’s fought the Battle of Britain so many times that he’s now an expert in World War II history. This book takes place after the season four episode “Paradise Lost,” making Jake and Nog older than in the other books. They chase a changeling through a time portal to 1944, where the changeling intends to prevent the invasion of Normandy, ensuring a German victory and a much more orderly Earth. This book bucks belief at pretty much every turn, especially when the French girl they meet turns out to be an ancestor of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. My biggest question: can you really knock a changeling unconscious by hitting them on the head?

7. The Star Ghost, by Brad Strickland (1994)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

In this first book in the series, Jake makes first contact with an alien named Dhraako, whose people exist in a different dimension. Dhraako briefly makes Jake non-corporeal so that they can have a conversation, but the transporter brings Jake back just in time to warn his father about a bomb planted on one of DS9’s reactors, which he could only see because he was hanging out with Dhraako in another dimension. There’s a frustrating amount of adults not believing kids in this book as Nog and Molly O’Brien both try to help Jake. The best part is when Commander Sisko gives a speech on the nobility of sheep to a group of angry Bajorans. Trust me, it makes sense in context.

6. Field Trip, by John Peel (1995)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Keiko O’Brien gets permission to take her class on a field trip to a planet in the Gamma Quadrant inhabited only by plants. Everyone, including Keiko, is excited to travel through the wormhole for the first time and spend a whole week on Cetus Beta. Imagine their surprise when Cardassians shoot them down, forcing the runabout to make a crash landing. After making camp in a nearby cave, Jake and friends realize that they’re not alone – something is stealing all of their technology! It’s a community of fuzzy cyborgs called Trofars who escaped from Cardassian enslavement. Together, they use weaponized plants to steal a Cardassian ship and make it home to DS9. Dukat disavows any knowledge of the Trofars or the Cardassians who shot down the runabout.

5. The Pet, by Mel Gilden and Ted Pedersen (1994)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

I mostly enjoyed this book because the title character is really cute! He’s described as a cross between a Saint Bernard and a Rhinoceros with golden fur. Jake names him Babe after Babe Ruth (I checked – this was before the world met a certain fiction pig named Babe) and agrees to take care of him after Babe is brought to DS9 by a freighter. But, it can’t be that simple. There’s a trader that wants to sell Babe, and there’s a mysterious alien warship that wants its crown prince back. Big surprise – we learn Babe is really the crown prince of Pyxia and he transforms into a biped and introduces himself as Joryl. Not a very complicated plot, but it does feature adorable scenes of Babe playing baseball with Jake and Nog!

4. Highest Score, by Kem Antilles (1996)

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After an exciting opening demonstrates Jake and Nog’s video game prowess, a mysterious alien named Kwiltek offers them the chance to put their skills to use. With Quark and Commander Sisko signing off, Jake and Nog leave with Kwiltek to spend their week’s break running remote equipment for a mining consortium. Visual filters and “simulated attacks” make the job just like playing a video game and whoever gets the highest score gets paid double. Sound too good to be true? Hidden behind the visual filters, Kwiltek’s company is strip mining the lush rainforest home of a pre-warp civilization. With some creative thinking, Jake and Nog halt the mining operation and lead the other kid gamers on strike. Much more fun than the other high-stakes video game installment in this series, especially when Commander Sisko and Quark work together to shut down the operation and make sure the kids all get paid.

3. Prisoners of Peace, by John Peel (1994)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

There’s a new Bajoran kid on DS9 and he’s got a bad attitude and hates Cardassians. Probably because he grew up in the Bajoran underground, his mother was killed in a Cardassian raid, and his father was tortured for three months before he finally died. Yeah, this book gets dark. Unbeknownst to Riv Jakar (that’s his name), there’s another new kid on board, but she’s living in the ceiling and keeps reprogramming the replicator to only make stew and cheesecake. This Cardassian Gul’s daughter (Kam Garron) wanted to see if the Federation was as bad as everyone always told her back on Cardassia. Kam and Jakar save each other’s lives and everyone learns a lesson about prejudice. Yay for everyone! Except for Kam, who is sent home to her abusive father in exchange for him not blowing up Deep Space Nine.

2. Space Camp, by Ted Pedersen (1997)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Commander Sisko sends Jake and Nog to Starfleet Space Camp on the planet Rijar for the summer. They work hard, discover ancient ruins, prevent ancient booby traps from blowing up Space Camp, and they compete for a girl’s attention. The plot is fun despite being pretty straightforward, but this book contains more character development than previous volumes in the series. You get to see how Jake realizes he wants to be a writer, and Nog decides he may have a future in Starfleet. Also, neither of them gets the girl.

1. Stowaways, by Brad Strickland (1994)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Two words: Space Falcon. That’s Doctor Julian Bashir’s secret code name when he plays spy on vacation. We know this because Jake and Nog decide to stow away on his runabout when Bashir spends a few days in Sakelo City on Bajor – “a hotbed of revolt” according to Commander Sisko. Except Bashir’s make-believe antics lead to his kidnapping by the Turnaways, a terrorist group who have rejected the Prophets and the authority of Bajor’s government. Of course it’s up to Jake and Nog to rescue the wayward Doctor, prevent the assassination of a new Vedek, and stop a plot to set off a deadly bomb on DS9. I loved this adventure because of Bashir’s ridiculousness and because it does not shy away from discussing the treatment of Bajor under Cardassian occupation.

HONOR-able Mention: Day of Honor: Honor Bound, by Diana G. Gallagher (1997)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

While the other 11 books concentrate on Jake and Nog, this outlier shifts focus to Alexander Rozhenko and Worf to tie in with the other Day of Honor novels released that year. It doesn’t seem fair to rank Alexander’s story alongside Jake and Nog’s antics. Worf comes to visit Alexander and the Rozhenkos to help Alexander adjust to changes from his Klingon heritage. Basically, Klingon puberty brings on fits of uncontrollable rage. Worf and Alexander have a few Mok’bara sessions and Alexander starts to get himself under control. Too bad the bullies at school won’t leave him alone. The upcoming Day of Honor presents the perfect opportunity to settle matters with the bullies for good…by challenging them to a gymnastics meet. That’s right. A gymnastics meet. Alexander impresses the bullies with his moves and everyone becomes friends. I promise it’s better than it sounds.

Ethan Peck Reads Too Many Tribbles

Annie Muirhead (she/her) is a Public Historian and lifelong Trekkie. She tries to read as much as possible and she no longer needs a flashlight to read after bedtime. Follow her on Twitter, @LariaHoD.