Star Trek the Fall: Crimson Shadow
© 2013 Una McCormack
After ten years of reconstruction, the Federation is preparing to leave Cardassia. Not all the locals gathering outside are there to wish its engineers and social workers a fare-thee-well, however. A new political movement representing the old Cardassia is growing in strength, and styles itself “Cardassia First”. Infiltrating civil institutions and orchestrating riots, it promises to field a candidate against the Federation-friendly administration and disrupt Cardassia’s growing relationship with the Federation and its allies. Worse yet, a high-profile political assassination puts both powers on the edge of falling away from one another. Assassinations and unruly mobs, with the fate of Cardassia hanging in the balance — this looks like a job for….Garak, Intergalactic Man of Mystery!
No longer the mere mysterious spy-turned-tailor of Deep Space Nine, Garak is Cardassia’s ambassador to Earth, having previously served in other Reconstruction governments.The Garak of Crimson Shadow has grown much from the Garak of the television show, who was already complex. Garak’s past association with an organization so ominous that it chills Cardassian spines fifteen years after its demise has left him with blood on his hands that cannot be rubbed out. His conscience was once becalmed by the thought that he was acting for the good for Cardassia, in the service of the State, but witnessing nearly a trillion deaths and the obliteration of so much of what he loved has broken Garak’s faith. Now, ever wrestling with his conscience, he hopes to help Cardassia find a new way — one that includes more engagement with the rest of the Quadrant — and gropes for how to fight monsters without again becoming a monster himself. Garak hasn’t hung up his cloak and dagger for good, though, as he proves to have a few tricks up his sleeve that don’t involve discretely killing someone. This quandry is also present in the stories of several police officers, who are trying to establish and protect their Constabulary’s integrity after past versions of it were co-opted by the State to hurt the people. One of the few non-Cardassian characters here is Jean Luc Picard, who with Garak has to somehow mitigate the damage that each man’s civil superiors threatens to wreack in the wake of both books’ events.
I enjoyed The Crimson Shadow
enormously, as I’m partial to Cardassian stories and especially to Garak. While there’s still a little obviousness in how McCormack portrays her villains, she did introduce an interesting idea about the origin of the Obsidian Order. Her portrayal of Garak, as he and his castellan (president) try to navigate away from the sirens that might destroy them, even as they attract so many citizens, more than makes up for the mustache-twirling antagonists. As a bonus, McCormack indirectly quoted CS Lewis, when she makes Garak observe that people are much more dangerous when their tyranny is effected with sincere intentions to help others. A comparative Lewis quote is here