So, like I did in the RaD
thread, I'll post my initial thoughts, from before reading the thread first, followed by some responses to what others have said.
[written at 5am, immediately after finishing the book
AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! MIND BLOWN!!!!!!
GARAK AS CASTELLAN
GARAK AND PARMAK
GARAK AND PICARD
[written over the course of a few days, as I had time
The Crimson Shadow
is a masterpiece of TrekLit and science fiction. Brinkmanship
convinced me that Una McCormack had ascended to the realm of TrekLit writers who could consistently deliver. For my money, The Crimson Shadow
has secured her a place among the best TrekLit writers we have, full stop. The novel is arguably the best Trek novel ever published. (Arguably, as in, we’d probably argue. But I do not give such an endorsement lightly.)
I cannot think of a single thing I disliked about this book. Garak is masterfully written. The relationship developed between Garak and Picard is every bit as brilliant as could’ve been imagined. Garak’s cadences and mannerisms are perfect.
But it’s not just that McCormack has given us a carbon copy of the Garak from the show. She has given us a Garak who has grown
. Can you imagine the Garak we saw on TV running for public office? No, absolutely not. But McCormack recognized the seeds that were laid throughout the entire series of a Garak who has renounced the old ways; she also recognized the seeds that Andrew J. Robinson himself put into A Stitch In Time
, over 10 years ago, that hinted, in the slightest of ways, that Garak was being forced by circumstance into public leadership.
Sometimes, Trek novels that feature one story with familiar characters and another with unfamiliar characters can feel laggy and choppy, with the familiar character story moving along smoothly, and the other getting more bogged down than molasses in winter. Not so here. Garan, Nemeny, Mhevet, Blok, Dekreny, they are all pleasures to read.
The worldbuilding, is, of course, magnificent. The same deftness which McCormack displayed in describing Ab-Tzenketh in Brinkmanship
is present in full force here.
All of the Enterprise
characters are handled perfectly here. My concerns about McCormack’s handling of Picard in Brinkmanship
are totally washed away here, as are my complaints about her inattention to the non-canon characters. (Šmrhová, in particular, shines in this novel.)
I read a large part of this novel in one night. At about 3am, I said to myself, “Alright, I’ll finish this chapter and then go to sleep.” And then Garak’s skimmer blew up. I was skeptical that he really was dead– this is Garak we’re talking about, remember?– but it seemed oh-so-very possible that McCormack was making a point: the situation is so bad that even Garak is not immune. Needless to say, I finished the book that night.
The continued presence of Ziyal in Garak’s life is a stroke of genius whose inclusion pleases me to no end. With the two major resurrections of previously-deceased characters this year, it was nice to see a realistic depiction of how people actually
continue to have relationships with loved ones who have passed on.
The last chapter is truly exquisite. For the entire novel, we had been getting hints about Garak and Parmak. And here, we get a reveal that isn’t so much of a reveal as it is an unsarcastic way of saying, “Oh, hadn’t you noticed?” And the way they’re depicted together is so beautiful. The tenderness of an old couple. The forgiving nature of old friends. The dignity of care.
(And the intimacy of Garak confiding his fears about public leadership!)
Bashir’s letter is the perfect way to end the book. It is not a jubilant cry of victory. It is an honest, pleading missive of caution, one which rings true to Bashir’s character. It ties together the entire arc of Elim Garak from “Past Prologue” to The Crimson Shadow
in one tidy, elegant letter. Marvelous.
There is so much more I wish to say about this novel, but I shall have to stop here. Outstanding, 10/10, and arguably the best Trek novel ever published.
Don't forget about Martok!
I bet this is what we're gonna see. Though the blurbs suggest that Riker (of all people??) actually
knows who is behind it, so I wonder how that will fit in.
Nob Akimoto wrote:
Great book, do wish we could have an audio book version with Sir Patrick and Andrew Robinson exchanging lines. That would be the only thing that could make it better.
This was GREAT. I'm on a trip and don't have time for a long post, perhaps later, but goddamn this was fantastic. McCormack's best yet.
Better than Never Ending Sacrifice ?
This was my favourite Trek book since ... The Never-Ending Sacrifice. I loved the playfulness of the prose, the strength of the three central characters (Garak, the investigator and Dygal). I loved the subtle suggestions of this world - Cardassia - that lives, breathes and carries on outside the novel, from the red red to the geographies and communities to the continuity of identities established before but not necessarily focused on (the Tragar, HARP, etc). All this world building was so skillfully done! Oh, to be able to write like this!
Thematically, this was a complex novel. Several themes stand out. One is age, of which Garak was the most immediately apparent figure (but for whom the middle aged police officer and the younger Dygal provided the chorus of different generations). Another is that idea of self- and societal-control. The tensions of Garak's desire for control with his more progressive views, the sense of the old guard liberal caught out by the chaotic potential of a slowly free-growing society was very interesting. Though our hero, Garak is always a challenging antihero, and people's revulsion and fear of him and the Order he was a leading light of - in the media centre, in the police station, the gelata bar, and also reflected in his own thoughts - was an excellent innovation in the writing of the character. The final letter by Bashir, the main character's reaction (anger and careful study), was an excellent capstone to this tension in Garak - he is a man who thrives on control, he is indeed a son of Tain, but also with a 'greater' potential.
Carrying on with control, also very well done was the idea of information-control that came up throughout the novel. The biggest plot moments were the leak of the treaty agreement, and Garak's angry call to the media, the reveal that the Castallen's government had sat on the information about the assassination, and Picard & Akaar's own silence. But other moments equally played with the idea of perspective - the off-camera viewpoints of the reporters, the flawed view point of the more conservative youth movement (including the opponent politician), the hidden truth (forgotten even by itself) behind the Obsidian Order and the True Way.
All this added to that cental tension in the book, the twinned dangers of freedom and of control: neither position was quite comdemned or condoned in the text, authorially. Also, I liked the lack of actual villains: the novel was without a specific nemesis (the North Torr thugs notwithstanding). More of this please!
Also, the novel was so powerful, and so like NES, in that it made more complicated the world of Cardassia and also the Federation. For me, as with NES and Brinkmanship, this was the complification of the classes, sexualities and religions of Cardassia: all these nods to ideas that don't need to be laboured over, be it the two women living together in East Torr (whether a couple or not), the ideas of accents and haircuts, the use of but not focus on the Oralian Way and Paladine's daughter, Kel, the physicality and fondness of Garak and Parmak's relationship, etc. This wealth of unlaboured detail reminded one of (and indeed deliberately alluded to) the grandfather Garak/Cardassia text, of course, A Stitch in Time, but far further developed.
Most of all, when reading this, I couldn't help wishing that this more subtle depiction of a divided society was what The Path of Disharmony had been. But I loved that the Andorians were mentioned, and the contrast between the narrative outcomes noted, in that section of Picard's narrative. Looking forward to next month and whatever happens with the blue skins.
the ideas of accents and haircuts, the use of but not focus on the Oralian Way and Paladine's daughter, Kel, the physicality and fondness of Garak and Parmak's relationship, etc.
That was a very close friendship, right, not anything romantic? I read it as the former, though I was delighted to note in passing that Garak was unimpressed by Temet's handsomeness. Canonical novelverse confirmation of Garak being non-heterosexual, if there hadn't been already, right?
This wealth of unlaboured detail reminded one of (and indeed deliberately alluded to) the grandfather Garak/Cardassia text, of course, A Stitch in Time, but far further developed.
It was remarkable.
Regarding Garak and Parmak: I think she intentionally left it a bit ambiguous, but I think their relationship is more romantic than non-romantic. It's interesting, though: Una puts nothing in the text to suggest a sexual relationship between them, which might make you think it's platonic.
But what I got out of it was that their relationship is romantic in the way that two widowers might fall in love late in life. Yes, they are probably having sex at some point, but they're both much too old for it to be the main focus.
Regarding A Stitch in Time
: yeah, this is definitely the
successor to that work. What a treat for us.
Una McCormack wrote:
Thank you to everyone who has expressed such enthusiasm for the book! I wrote it in a big burst of energetic and riotous joy/passion and I've been so looking forward to seeing what people would make of it. I wanted a fast and exhilarating but not slight read, and it sounds like I've pulled this off. Phew! And thank you again.
You absolutely succeeded. You seemed to take many cues from A Stitch In Time
; at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I think you should send a copy of The Crimson Shadow
to Mr. Robinson. I bet he'd be floored (in the best way possible).