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Old October 15 2013, 11:42 AM   #157
Jarvisimo
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Re: TF: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack - Review Thread (Spoilers!

Paper Moon wrote: View Post
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

WORLDBUILDING
NEW CARDASSIA
LITERARY PROSE

GAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

***

[written over the course of a few days, as I had time]

Spoilers abound.

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.
Paper moon, thanks for your words about my post, and I must agree with yours almost fully 100% too. Certainly this makes me smile '[t]he novel is arguably the best Trek novel ever published,' although I will reread The Never-Ending Sacrifice and [I]Brinkmanship[I] soon to compare. It is a 'Trek novel' whereas some people sadly might not see NES as such. I think NES was a novel anyone could read - it went beyond Trek conventions to create something more contemporary, more directed to any potential reader, than other Trek books. And it just happened to not read like Trek lit, either. And this style continued from and is developed even more in her other novels, but these are all more 'Trek'. But TCS as you correctly identified developed the tv Trek world sandbox, Robinson's excellent portrayal, and the prior literary (and I do mean literary, as I think you do) work of Una and Andrew Robinson to create something as equally new-feeling as NES (or Brinkmanship) in Treklit conventions, but one more firmly anchored because this is such an intimate knowledge of Robinson's magnificent performance, his playing with subtext and more broad literary conventions. I guess subtext was indeed another theme, even a poetic, in the novel I didn't discuss before. This would be true to Robinson himself - I remember in the DS9 companion his disgust for mirror-Garak's lack of subtext.

When I have more time it will be good to discuss Una's excellent novel again. I may be rereading it. And continuing to wish I could write like this.
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