Book Review: Garak and Pulaski Fight For Cardassia In ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales’

REVIEW: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales
Author: Una McCormack
Publisher: Pocket Books
MSRP: $7.99

Format: Paperback (368 pages), also eBook and unabridged Audiobook

“[Katherine Pulaski] wasn’t, generally, let in front of journalists, not without a minder, and not unless her superiors were bored and in need of a busy afternoon or desperate. The problem was her tendency to tell the truth as she saw it. Someone had offered her ‘media training’ once. They hadn’t offered again.”

What does it take to get me to love a Star Trek novel? Give me a handful of interesting characters and have them do a handful of interesting things while having a handful of interesting conversations. So as far as I am concerned, Una McCormack has hit the Trek Trifecta with Enigma Tales, the latest Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel from Pocket Books. I found myself laughing out loud more times than I could count, absorbed by the plight of a post-Dominion Cardassia, and genuinely invested in the characters’ lives.

Cardassia Prime did not fare well at the end of the Dominion War

The novel revolves around two major Trek characters, and it is to McCormack’s credit that she picks two of the most interesting ones, Dr. Katherine Pulaski, known to Star Trek: The Next Generation fans as the Chief Medical Officer on the Enterprise-D during Season Two of the series, and Elim Garak, perhaps the deepest, most fascinating character Trek has ever produced, who was a regular on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and is, at the time of this novel, the castellan (chief executive) of the Cardassian Union. McCormack draws these characters, with all of their prickliness and conflicts, with exquisite care. Pulaski leaps off the page to wrestle the reader with her characteristic frankness, and Garak – oh, Garak! – struggles to become a new man, leading a new society, amidst all the temptations of power.

“Popular culture,” said Garak portentiously, “can tell us a great deal about a society.”

Dr. Pulaski, arriving on Cardassia Prime to receive a humanitarian medal for helping to avert a medical crisis among the Andorians, is drawn in to a political and social crisis as one of Cardassia’s most honored leaders, Dr. Natima Lang (DS9: “Profit and Loss”) becomes accused of complicity in horrific war crimes against Bajorans during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. Is Lang guilty, or is Castellan Garak orchestrating the accusations to destroy her reputation? Enigma Tales explores the challenges of life in an emerging democracy struggling with freedom of the press. McCormack has studied post-war European history in great detail, and her depth of knowledge gives this story resonance and meaning.

Garak and Pulaski are the main characters for Enigma Tales

And Garak – oh, Garak! The torturer for the Obsidian Order, turned “plain and simple tailor,” turned freedom fighter and now planetary leader fights to keep his soul clean when his instincts and training offer him the temptation of dark expediency. Before each chapter, we read an unsent letter from Garak to his beloved friend, Dr. Julian Bashir, who is still recovering from the events in David Mack’s Control. And the letters are lovely, and heartbreaking, and insightful. Between Garak’s exploration of Cardassian geography and Dr. Pulaski’s exploration of Cardassian culture, Enigma Tales dares you to fall in love with one of Star Trek’s most vilified peoples.

“I’m a doctor, not a diplomat.” “We know, Kitty. We know.”

There are other characters in the book, too. We meet Dr. Pulaski’s colleague Peter Alden, a former agent for Starfleet Intelligence, now working as a researcher aboard Pulaski’s starship, Elima Antok, a Cardassian historian with a secret, and an assortment of other Cardassian citizens, none of whom comes across as a stock character, and all of whom have interesting roles to play.

And Garak quotes The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So, what more could you want?

Final analysis

I loved this book. Pulaski drew in my attention, and Garak arrested it. I couldn’t put it down. Enigma Tales makes reference to a great deal of Cardassian history as explored in other novels, but easily stands on its own. Well worth reading.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack is available now in paperback and ebook.

Enigma Tales is also available as an unabridged audiobook. You can listen to a sample below. It is available via Amazon and iTunes. You can get it for free and get a 30 day free trial by joining Audible (and help support TrekMovie) by visiting audibletrial.com/trekmovie.

More Star Trek books this summer

And there is more Star Trek reading to keep you company by the pool this summer. In June Pocket released Star Trek: The Next Generation – Hearts and Minds by Dayton Ward in paperback and e-book [see TrekMovie review]. They also released the novella Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Shield of the Gods by Chirstopher L Bennett on e-book [TrekMovie review]. And coming on August 29th, Pocket releases Christopher L. Bennett’s fifth novel in the ‘Rise of the Federation’ series: Star Trek: Enterprise: Patterns of Interference.

And Dayton Ward has another one of this Star Trek travel books coming out on July 11th, with the Hidden Universe Travel Guide to the Klingon Empire [see TrekMovie exclusive preview].

 

Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Cardassia’s Stunde Null. I wonder if they have a “Gruppe 47” also. ;)

Without the help of Elim Garak , the Federation would have lost the entire Dominion War . He was never evil , but his background certainly was . I most definitely could see former enemies on Cardassia working to undermine and destroy his efforts for a new Cardassia !

It’s a shame these Star Trek audiobooks can’t be voiced by the actual DS9 and TNG actors themselves. I’d be all over that in a micro-stardate.

Bingo.

And shouldn’t be too difficult to add some FX audio as well !

“Dr. Pulaski, arriving on Cardassia Prime to receive a humanitarian medal for helping to avert a medical crisis among the Andorians,…”

I would hope that there is more to this as it seems quite odd that
1. Andorians would have a medical crises unless it was a peace corps type group actually on Cardassia – it’s not the early 23rd century where some planet “needs that medicine and the dilithium crystals are all cracked” anymore.

2. Going all the way to Cardassia for just a medal seems almost like flying first class to Doha, Qatar to listen to a speech on fossil fuels and global warming.

Is there a way you could do an article on the post-series DS9 books? It’s very difficult to keep track and know the reading order or where you could jump in.

Ok so she choose the best character (Garak) and the worst character (Pulaski). Seems like it could only be mediocre at best.

Ugh, Pulaski. I know the novels have made a go at fleshing her out, but let’s face it, the woman is roundly disliked by the fandom because she came across as a bully, if not outright bigoted, during her short stint on the Enterprise. There’s no polishing that turd. I like McCormack’s Garak, so I’ll probably get this, but I suspect I’ll be skipping Pulaski’s bits.

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