REVIEW: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales
Author: Una McCormack
Publisher: Pocket Books
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.