Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a wonderful television programme. I’ve seen it all and loved it from start to finish. It’s a show filled with memorable and well-written characters. One of my absolute favourites was Elim Garak, the Cardassian tailor with a mysterious past at a shady government organisation. Andrew J. Robinson, the actor who brought Garak to life, wrote A Stitch in Time and it serves as a biography for Garak, as well as an epilogue for the character after the ending of the series.
First things first: don’t read this novel if you haven’t watched the entirety of Deep Space Nine – not only will it spoil several major events from the series, but a few things just won’t make sense if you don’t have that knowledge going in. But if you are well versed in the story of DS9 and Garak in particular, then this book is a real treat.
There are three storylines going on at the same time, the first of these is set after the series. Garak had always been a very likeable character, despite the fact that he has a dodgy past, but no matter what you may think about that, by the end of the series, he’s lost so much and you can’t help but feel sorry for him. The parts of the story in the modern day with Garak working to help re-build Cardassia are really very sad, but not in an over the top kind of way – in a melancholy, bittersweet kind of way and there’s a painful nostalgia which you get when you contrast it against what you learn of the character’s past. Ultimately, this story thread gives us a chance to see how Garak has grown for the better.
The second story thread is the story of Garak’s life before DS9, starting with him as a child living at home, before then being sent off to school and later working for the secret group, the Obsidian Order. Not only is this the most in-depth and fascinating look at Cardassian culture I’ve ever seen, but this storyline shines light on much of Garak’s behaviour and even his little personality quirks. I don’t want to spoil anything, so it’s hard to say too much about this story thread, but it really compliments what we already know of Garak, helping him to feel more whole.
Finally, there’s a third story thread about Garak during his time on DS9. These chapters give you an opportunity to see other characters from the series and provide you with personal insights into Garak’s relationships with other members of the crew. Though there were less big revelations about the character in these chapters, I think that they were important in giving you a look at every period in Garak’s life.
Sometimes, when you have a mysterious character in a story, learning their backstory can be disappointing because the mystery was one of the biggest reasons that anyone liked the character. Not so with this – if anything, it makes Garak feel like a more three-dimensional person. I liked him a lot before reading this and I like him even more now – he’s a very tragic character and with everything brought together like this, you feel the tragedy even more.
Interestingly, this novel confirms the character as non-heterosexual, which is nice, because a lot of fans had interpreted him in that way. Unfortunately, this is only really mentioned in passing, which is disappointing – particularly as Cardassia is portrayed as a planet which places a lot of value on a “traditional family”, which would probably have caused some conflict. I definitely like the fact that it was included, I just wish that more had been done with it.
The only other real criticism I have of this book is that I felt that portion of the novel concerned with Garak’s time in school was drawn out a little too much. It wasn’t bad and there were certainly really interesting parts to his time in education, but after a while, I did find myself hoping the story would move on and we’d get to learn more about his life afterwards.
Overall though – a brilliant book. This was my first foray into the world of Star Trek novels and I think it was a good choice. A very addictive read which I made my way through fairly quickly. I strongly recommend it (to Garak fans).