In Defense of Warped

K.W. Jeter’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Warped goes in for a lot of abuse within fandom–the story was inaccessible, the writing was bizarre, the take on the Trek universe was unbelievable, the book sold so poorly that Pocket wouldn’t think of doing another DS9 hardcover. I’ve heard all of these arguments, I’ve thought about all of them, and of all of them the fourth may have some validity, but none of the rest do. Warped may be “out there,” but there’s a reason for its outreness, and in the end the story holds together and does something different with the Star Trek universe. Realityclasm stories have been done in Trek before, most notably in the writings of Brannon Braga, but Braga’s stories are merely watered down Philip K. Dick or Jeter, both of whom made careers of writing about the conflict between reality and the perception of it.

Warped, at its core, is a Philip K. Dick pastiche. I’ve likened the book to The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Holodeck technology isn’t quite Perky Pat and its drug-fueled hallucinations, but if you have the power to build a living, breathing reality with holodeck technology, cannot that same technology be used to rebuild reality? And if it can, what happens if the new reality opens the door to evil, and how can a person tell the difference between the world as it exists and the twisted world as they believe it to be? These are the questions at the heart of Warped, and Jeter explores them thoroughly. I think this is why so many readers find the novel inaccessible–Dickian speculations on the nature of reality are not every reader’s cup of tea. Reading Dick (or Jeter) takes time, effort, caution, and carefulness. Hasty reading can cause deeper philosophical musings to be lost.

I can’t imagine this story being told with any other Star Trek crew. It fits Deep Space Nine, from the anarchy of Bajor post-Occupation to the dual nature of Dax to Sisko’s relationship with Jake. I don’t think any other novel captured quite as well the arrogance of Julian Bashir as did Warped.

I don’t expect to sway others with my opinions on Warped. It pains me to see so many that hate, despise, or reject the novel altogether. I think Pocket was right to take a chance on Warped, and to this day I rank it among the top twenty Star Trek novels published.

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