Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Never-Ending Sacrifice

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
Published September 2009
Read January 7th, 2012

Previous book (Deep Space Nine): The Soul Key
Next book (Deep Space Nine): Lust's Latinum Lost (and Found)

Spoilers ahead for The Never-Ending Sacrifice and the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

From the back cover:
A boy looks up.  He sees a Cardassian's hand on his shoulder and knows that this is usually a prelude to a beating or, if he is fortunate enough, arrest.  The boy knows how many disappeared during the Occupation of Bajor.  So he does the one thing he can think of: he bites the Cardassian.  Then the nightmare begins.
He is ripped from the family that took him in as an orphan, clothed him, fed him, always loved him unconditionally.  And no matter how earnest, how caring the commander of Deep Space 9 is, the boy knows this is all a horrible mistake.  How can someone from Starfleet judge him by what he looks like, not by what he is?  He prays to the Prophets; he is Bajoran.  They all keep telling him that the test proves the large Cardassian man is his father, that the other Cardassian -- that oily gul -- took him away from his father.  But the boy keeps telling them that he is Bajoran, he only wants to go home with his father.  So they send Rugal home -- to Cardassia.
On the homeworld of the Cardassian Union where sacrifice and devotion to the state are surpassed only by the government's need to keep its people in check, one very lonely boy discovers that if he doesn't resist, his life -- like those of so many others -- will be added to the tally of the never-ending sacrifice.

About the Novel:

The Never-Ending Sacrifice is a sequel to the second-season Deep Space Nine episode "Cardassians."  It tells the story of Rugal Pa'Dar, a young Cardassian boy sent to live with his biological father on Cardassia after being taken away from his adoptive Bajoran parents.  After living through the end of the occupation, Rugal has come to despise Cardassians and their treatment of the Bajorans.  Now, he must attempt to make a life for himself on Cardassia among the people he has learned to hate.

As the reality of his situation becomes apparent, Rugal must learn to live with the fact that he may not be able to return to Bajor in the near future.  From his perspective, we relive the trials and tribulations experienced by the people of Cardassia throughout the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and beyond.  From the destruction of the Obsidian Order ("The Die is Cast"), to the Klingon invasion of Cardassia ("The Way of the Warrior"), from the joining of the Dominion ("By Inferno's Light") to the attempted extermination of the Cardassian people ("What You Leave Behind"), all is seen and experienced by this unique Cardassian.  And through it all, Rugal learns what it is to sacrifice everything to the state.  He discovers that being a true Cardassian requires nothing less.  The question is: is Rugal a true Cardassian?

My Thoughts:

The Never-Ending Sacrifice deals with a number of topics and themes.  An obvious subject often raised in this novel is sacrifice.  Kotan Pa'dar, Rugal's father, makes an enormous sacrifice in bringing his son home to Cardassia.  He risks losing his political career and status in society as a result of the scandal of failing to properly take care of his family.  Other characters similarly sacrifice their own well-being and futures on the altar of family or duty to the state.  Finally, Cardassia herself makes the ultimate sacrifice when the Dominion turns on their supposed "allies."

The Never-Ending Sacrifice is very well-written and compelling.  Una McCormack has done an amazing job in bringing Cardassia to life.  We see all aspects of the society, from the powerful elites to the down-trodden homeless.  In many ways, the portrayal of Cardassian society mirrors what I've learned in my studies of North Korea.  Before the fall of the Obsidian Order, all Cardassians are terrified that the slightest criticism or comment about the government will be treated as seditious.  The eyes of the Obsidian Order are everywhere, and dissent of any kind is not tolerated.  After making some comments about the reality of the occupation of Bajor in his class, for example, Rugal and his father are paid a visit by a representative from the "Ministry of Public Order," in reality, an arm of the Obsidian Order.  Rugal soon learns what he can and cannot say in public.

The Never-Ending Sacrifice tells the story of Cardassia from a unique perspective:
Rugal Pa'dar, an outsider who grew up on Bajor and must now live on Cardassia.

I particularly enjoyed the scope of The Never-Ending Sacrifice, providing a re-telling of the story of Cardassia throughout DS9, but from the perspective of one man.  It offers a unique view of events that Deep Space Nine fans are familiar with, allowing us to see it from a different angle.  Cardassia experiences a great deal of change in the few years of Deep Space Nine, and Rugal is perfect person to share his unique perspective.  Kudos to Una McCormack for providing this unorthodox view of some very turbulent years of Trek history.

Final Thoughts:

Excellently written, and very compelling.  The Never-Ending Sacrifice had me hooked, and I blew through the novel much more quickly than I expected to.  The atypical style works well for this novel, and I felt I was reading a true cultural epic rather than a Star Trek novel.  Highly recommended!

Also by Una McCormack:

My next read:

I'm reading Synthesis, a Star Trek: Titan novel by James Swallow.  It is the only Titan novel I have not yet read, and with a new one coming out later this year, I'm trying to make sure I'm all caught up!


  1. This may be my favorite Trek novel. It would be a good choice for a future podcast I think.

  2. I went looking through through Literary Trek's history for their episode on this book, justbto find to my horror... there isn't one.

    This book transcends the usual star trek novel that only appeals to the fans, I feel this could be at home in an English class in high school, talking about sacrifice for family, friends, comrades and even strangers.

    The themes about censorship, love, duty, nationalism, all read as strong as Orwell and could be set in Russia or East Germany through the end of World War 2 and getting out like escaping to a warm torn west Germany.

    Dan, you need to do this on Literary Treks. I know you've had Una on before. Maybe hold out for her being available but this is such a strong work for something that would normally be typecast as just tie-in fiction!