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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-09-17 12:04
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson
A Stitch in Time - Andrew J. Robinson

Stories about Cardassia and Garak have easily become my favourite part of TrekLit nowadays, so it was time to reread this excellent "autobiography".

 

Divided into 3 parts, A Stitch in Time sheds light on Garak's history, the way others always made decisions for him, the way loss and betrayal shaped his life more than loyalty and friendship. And it all starts at school where he meets life-long friends and equally life-long enemies, and the love of his life, Palandine, who indirectly causes his fall from power and exile on DS9.

 

This part is a fascinating glimpse into Garak's history with various characters (such as Dukat, the story behind "The Wire", Tain), Cardassian society as a whole, but also into the microverse of Garak and his family. Tolan Garak, the man he believed to be his father and who turned out to be his uncle, ultimately perhaps influenced his life more than Tain and his mother Mila. Because while Tolan only belonged to the frowned-upon service class he nevertheless was more independent from outside influence than upper-class men, including who Garak comes to be. It takes years for Garak to see that.

 

The second part are diary entries between "In the Pale Moonlight" and his departure for Cardassia which relay Garak's conflict (culminating in the panic attacks) between betraying Cardassia and ultimately saving it from the Dominion together with the Federation. It highlights the growing distance between Julian and him, and the anxiety just what Cardassia he'll be able to return to. What will be left? As a side story, he meets a friend of Ziyal's who turns out to be an agent of the Khon-Ma, assigned to kill him - a woman who survived the destruction of the shuttle back on Bajor that cost her family their lives and for which she holds Garak responsible (again see "The Wire").

 

Finally, the third part is set on post-war Cardassia. Garak has returned home, a world in perpetual twilight after the Dominion tried to exterminate the population, leaving over a billion dead, a world in ruins. He turns Tain's home into a memorial, a place where people can mourn and slowly move on. And for the first time in his life he finds himself able to choose his own path, meeting old friends and enemies and determining Cardassia's future.

 

In the end, Garak comes full circle, open to new ideas because he's learned to adapt due to his ever changing surroundings. And I think Tain would turn in his grave if he saw Tolan's influence prevail over his own, resulting in Garak's interest in the Oralian Way (even if also as a means to find his love Palandine after the war - BTW, curious how the later novels don't mention her but emphasize Garak's friendships with Bashir and Parmak)... but it's gratifying to see that all of Tain's machinations, his power and loyalty plays, his treating people like pawns on a giant chess board ultimately fail.

 

A highly recommendable book - and together with "The Never-Ending Sacrifice" maybe the key to understanding the Cardassian mindset.

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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! 2017-05-02 09:38
Worlds of Star Trek: DS9: #1 Cardassia by Una McCormack & Andor by Heather Jarman
Cardassia and Andor - Una McCormack,Heather Jarman

"The Lotus Flower" depicts the problems and antagonism Keiko is facing in her multispecies effort to render Cardassian soil fertile again. Meanwhile, the new castellan Alon Ghemor and Garak are fighting to keep the fledgling democracy alive in the face of isolationist movements.

 

This is quite a good story about the rise of isolationist movements, about the recruitment of young people for extremist purposes (because they lack certainty and purpose over their own future), and about finding where you belong in a democracy that is still forming after the age-old reign of dictatory leaderships. Quite a mirror of modern politics... if just finding similarities and common ground (or at least having the intention to do so) were so easy in real life, many atrocities could be prevented, I guess.

 

"Paradigm" forces Shar to confront the loss of his bondmate Thriss, his guilt and his position in Andorian society... all while being under pressure by his "mother" and having increasing feelings for Prynn Tenmei.

 

I'm afraid I'm not going to become a friend of Jarman's style any time soon. Her prose doesn't flow as well as that of other authors and I had the feeling of being stuck on a single page for ages. So that's a definite negative point. On the other hand, by the end I was fully engaged in this story and moved by the final few scenes. Shar's being pressured by practically all sides, reminded of his duties in a diminishing Andorian society (due to reproductive issues which led to a population of 3 billion dwindling down to a mere 90 million) but also fighting for his own freedom. Because how can anyone in a society that only revolves around bonds, that are matched artificially instead of naturally, and parenting duties be free? What about individual desires such as careers or partners outside a bond? And what about those who can't withstand that pressure (like Thriss)? This is quite a melancholy story about a person who fights to escape but in the end decides to go through with his societal obligations after all, even though the outside pressure (and inborn guilt) is more or less removed from him. A decision which left me pensive.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-29 12:27
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Missing by Una McCormack
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Missing - Una McCormack

While Ro is approached by Odo to act as an intermediary in the question of missing Cardassian prisoners of war in Romulan space, first contact is made with a new species, the People of the Open Sky, laid back, friendly, with lots of children. Meanwhile, Katherine Pulaski has joined the Federation ship Athene Donald dedicated to exploration, and crewed by a multitude of species, even non-allied ones like a Tzenkethi. In the last moment, SI commander Peter Alden joins the crew to Pulaski's displeasure. He was supposed to be accompanied by another Tzenkethi, but somehow she missed their departure just as a robbery occurs on DS9. And within days they make first contact with an advanced species, the Chain.

 

Suspicions, prejudices, secrets and spies could be the tags to this novel. Everyone is suspicious of everybody else, especially Pulaski of Alden, Alden of the Tzenkthi crewmember, Blackmer of the missing Tzenkethi on DS9 etc. That gets tiresome quite fast because even if some of the suspicions are warranted, they don't influence the main story. And then there's the Chain who after learning about the People's presence on DS9 demand their extradition based on prejudice. That Starfleet even considers that demand without any kind of proof is ridiculous at best and perpetuated prejudice at worst. Frankly, I could have done without the waxing about war orphans and the history-lessons about the Romani on Earth because common sense and an adherence to the rule of law where evidence is needed before any kind of claims are heard, would have sufficed to solve that issue - even if, of course, the Chain ship was superior in force to the Athene Donald. But why does no one suggest to just accompany the Chain ship to DS9? That would have removed the immediate threat and offered the opportunity to deal with the issue directly.

 

What I enjoyed very much was Odo's portrayal, his sense of justice coming through again, be it in dealing with the PoW-issue (and Garak) or with the missing Tzenkethi Corazam who is somehow groomed by Alden to return to Ab-Tzenketh as a spy for the Federation but finds herself for the first time making a stand for herself. Alden himself turns out to be quite an interesting character, a scientist turned spy. I'm curious to find out more about him, especially his background with the Tzenkethi, and whether or not he really can shed his ties to Starfleet Intelligence.

 

Crusher's interim stay on DS9 as CMO remains rather bland, as do her issues with returning to the Enterprise and Picard that tie back to "Silent Weapons" when Picard protected her instead of the president. I don't know, perhaps it's because it's been years since I read the Data-trilogy, and in the Fall novels the rift between Picard and Crusher was more of a pretense for outside observers so that her leaving the Enterprise makes sense... but all that introspection here doesn't work for me. And DS9 itself suffers from a lack of interesting crewmembers. The only ones that actually get some kind of "screentime" are Ro and Blackmer, with appearances by O'Brien, Tenmei and Nog (though the latter two are absent here), so I wonder: How can a space station so vast be led by just 2 or 3 officers? Where is the rest of the crew?

 

Overall, "The Missing" leaves me feeling ambivalent. There are a few things I'd like to follow up on, but those were unfortunately few and far inbetween.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-16 10:02
Star Trek: The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward
Peaceable Kingdoms (Star Trek: The Fall) - Dayton Ward

This is the conclusion of the "The Fall"-miniseries. And come to think of the series as a whole, I still question the decision why the parts aren't numbered on the cover. Especially here, it's an illusion to maintain the statement that every single part can be read on its own without prior knowledge - yeah, that may apply to "Shadow" (and Revelations since it's the first part), but to the others (especially Chalice and Kingdoms) not so much. So why not be upfront about it and put the reading order on the covers?

 

But back to this novel:

 

While it brought the series to an ultimately satisfying (if a bit predictable) conclusion, the only really engaging parts where the flashbacks and the introduction of the Cardassian doctor. Everything else (Enterprise being redirected, Starfleet ships pitched against each other, last minute-rescues etc) felt a bit repetitive after the other parts of the series. "Ishan"'s story was an interesting one, it shed light on the occupation, its cruelty in exploiting Bajor and the Bajorans, and it highlights its last days, the sort of burned earth-policy the Cardassians employed. But to be honest, I didn't quite understand the reason for the identity change in the first place since the Cardassians don't change Baras' features to match the original Ishan's and kill all those who could identify Baras (and the late Ishan) anyway. So while the actual twist worked well, the reason behind it seemed contrived and that wasn't really explored all that well. But then again, I thought it would go in a sort of Iliana Ghemor/Kira Nerys-direction...

 

I also liked the way that exploration should be back on Starfleet's agenda after all the political upheaval. That's what has been missing since well before the Relaunch-novels, as the 9 part series "A time to" that came before Nemesis also dealt with political upheaval and conspiracies on the highest level. So it's time to go "where no one has gone before" again.

 

Otherwise the novel spent pages upon pages repeating itself (and its predecessors) which let my attention wander a bit - never a good sign. I observed the need to endlessly summarize previous chapters in quite a few ST-novels (David R George is another author who employs that manner of story telling...) now, and I wonder why that is necessary as I don't think the readers are incapable of retaining the memory of what they've just read. Fortunately, the action picked up speed in the second half of the novel, but during the first half it was a real chore to wade through those repetitions. I think much of the space used for those "summaries" could have been used exploring the aftermath, Ishan's removal, Bajor's reaction, the actual election (even if the election of the Andorian candidate was a foregone conclusion), even the race to get the information back to Earth/Louvois. Riker's end of the story, his confronting Schlosser, even the part where they got Velk out, all that got awfully short-changed. Why not show the actual events instead of just mentioning them in a conversation after the facts?

 

So, overall this is a rather average novel - it was an entertaining story, but it could and should have been more.

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