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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-21 14:55
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack
Enigma Tales (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) - Una McCormack

Just as a report about war crimes during the occupation of Bajor is published on Cardassia, Pulaski and Alden come to visit - and are embroiled in internal politics, kidnapping and the attempt at defamation of Natima Lang, the next hopeful for head of the Cardassian Union's university.

 

I love McCormack's Cardassia, it's rich, well-nuanced, and her Garak is to die for, pure and simple. 15 years have passed since the end of the Dominion War and Cardassia is on a good way to becoming a lasting democracy. One important step is facing its own role in past events, like the occupation of Bajor, and its consequences - in this case putting criminals on trial. But the situation is still unstable enough that accusations against a popular figure might put democracy as a whole in danger. And this knife's edge comes through beautifully. However, ultimately, as long as Garak's in power I simply don't quite see any serious threat to Cardassia's fledgling democracy. He's too vigilant and circumspect - but after his term, I guess all hands are off. For we know a young democracy is most in danger of falling back into old authoritarian patterns when people begin to feel safe and stop paying attention.

 

Garak's own position is, of course, rather unique; he was a member of the Order back on Bajor, did his own share of criminal acts, has always frowned upon democracy and the rule of law - but keeps steering Cardassia on the right path. Of course, he has his agenda, of course, he keeps secrets, and I think Garak wouldn't be Garak if he didn't, but he's the one character who has changed most consistently throughout TV and treklit, and having him as the strongest supporter of democracy now feels right and true. One thing I find really extraordinary is how drawn he seems to be to doctors, as in Parmak, as in Bashir who have always acted as some sort of moral compass for him. Just one thing: How long is the castellan's term? And can't Garak be reelected for another term?

 

As for Bashir: Since I haven't yet read "Section 31: Control" I don't know what happened there, but just the few little scenes (the last one with Garak especially moving) have moved that novel up quite a few spots in my to-read list.

 

As much as I love McCormack's portrayal of Cardassia, I really can't relate to her Pulaski who smells conspiracies and shows prejudice whereever she goes. She's annoying as hell, and even if she doesn't care about diplomacy she's old and experienced enough to realize when to speak and what to say (and in what way). So her blunder with Garak and the media is a bit tiresome. But I like Alden - so he should keep popping up in McCormack's novels, but please spare me Pulaski!

 

Overall, another solid entry about Cardassia - nowhere near Never-Ending Sacrifice or Crimson Shadow, but still an entertaining glimpse into Garak's reign as castellan.

 

As a sidenote: Apparently, this novel is meant to be set 3 years into Garak's term as is mentionned multiple times within the narrative (which makes sense, given the various changes and developments Garak's pushed through since), but the historian's note has it set one year after Crimson Shadow... well, since TrekLit doesn't have the license to move beyond 2387 (the Romulan supernova), they've certainly hit a bit of an obstacle here.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-01 07:36
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow - Una McCormack

This novel is another excellent entry about Cardassia by McCormack and closely follows "A Stitch in Time" and "The Never-Ending Sacrifice".

 

Tthere's a new political movement coming to power, Cardassia First, populist, isolationist, xenophobic, just on the eve of the withdrawal of the Federation from Cardassian soil. Civil Unrest is threatening, just as a Bajoran Starfleet officer is killed. Then Nan Bacco is assassinated, and the withdrawal put into question by the pro-tem UFP president. Garak and Picard work tirelessly to prevent open civil war on Cardassia and maintain the shaky alliance between the UFP and Cardassia.

 

Cardassia is a perfect example for a state that has never really known democracy, just an oligarchy or dictatorship, and now, still fighting the effects of the Dominion War, poverty, pollution etc, it's on the brink to fall back into old systems. I appreciate the matter-of-fact way of story-telling instead of swinging the moral hammer, because, yes, we see this every day, and how many states that only recently embraced democracy have fallen back into the abyss?

 

Garak's one of the most complex figures in all of Star Trek. He's a murderer, a spy, he dragged (together with Sisko) the Romulans into the Dominion War... but somehow he retained or regained a (shrewd as it might be) moral compass. He's not acting out of a need to prove himself or to gain advantage for himself, but for the good of Cardassia. And right now, what he perceives as the good of Cardassia aligns itself with reality. Let's see what happens when he's actually in power.

 

I enjoyed the letters which start almost every chapter, sent and unsent, by Garak to Bashir (and one to Parmak, his closest friend on Cardassia) because they bring insight into his thoughts and anguish. I loved the painting by Ziyal which is sort of his shrine to her and how he uses his memory of her to remain within moral borders. And I love Bashir's one reply warning Garak not to become his father.

 

McCormack leaves the reader to figure out all the emotional intricacies, just as she did in The Never-Ending Sacrifice. Her prose isn't really made for action-sequences, but it's perfect for relaying emotions, motivations... and slowly captivating her readers until they're hooked and can't put the novel down until it's finished.

 

This, together with A Stitch in Time and The Never-Ending Sacrifice is certainly a must-read novel regarding Cardassia.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-06-07 18:49
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never Ending Sacrifice - Una McCormack

This novel covers the story of Rugal, the Cardassian boy who was raised by Bajorans and remanded to the custody of his birth father by Sisko in DS9's season 2 episode "Cardassians", following the next roughly 10 years of his life, and turns it into a powerful tale of loss, being lost, being the pawn of powers above, and ultimately taking charge of your own fate and coming home. And curiously, this doesn't just pertain to Rugal himself but to Cardassia as a whole whose fates are weaved expertly together.

 

But what remains, outside of political intrigue, the developments on Cardassia after the fall of the Obsidian Order, after Tora Ziyal's rescue that eventually drives Dukat from office and into exile, only to return heroically with a fleet of Jem'Hadar and the prospect of war, is the endless love and patience of a father, Kotan Pa'Dar, towards his child, willing to sacrifice everything just to see said child happy. And the confusion of a child, taken from his home and family, yearning to get them back, but not yet realizing that that's impossible and that he can only create a new bonds and a new home.

 

The only minor point of criticism is perhaps the prose that doesn't flow easily, especially in the beginning - but perhaps, in retrospect, that's a reflection of how Rugal feels in his first months on Cardassia: disjointed and out of place.

 

Overall, this is a deeply emotional journey that sucks you in slowly and keeps you on the edge of your seat right till the moment when Rugal finds his home, in more than one sense of the word, and at least some sort of happy ending. All this is interspersed with Cardassian politics and the Cardassian point of view of the events depicted in DS9. This might well be, together with "A Stitch in Time", the ultimate novel about Cardassia and the Cardassian way of life. But maybe in the end, the cycle of the "never-ending sacrifice" is broken, even if it took endless sacrifice, each more painful and personal than the one before, to arrive at that point. Highly recommended.

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