Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hollow Men

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Hollow Men by Una McCormack
Published April 2005
Read April 22nd, 2012

Previous published book (Deep Space Nine): Worlds of Deep Space Nine Volume 1: Cardassia and Andor
Next published book (Deep Space Nine): Warpath

Spoilers ahead for Hollow Men and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

From the back cover:
At the turning point of the Dominion War, Captain Benjamin Sisko of Starbase Deep Space 9, facing certain defeat by the relentless forces of the Jem'Hadar and the Cardassians, went through with a secret plan to secure the aid of the Federation's longtime adversaries, the Romulans.  What began as a desperate attempt to save lives became a descent into an abyss of deception, moral compromises, and outright criminal acts, as Sisko sacrificed every ideal he held dear in order to preserve the civilization that espoused those selfsame principles.
Now the aftermath of that choice is revealed for the first time as Sisko is summoned to Earth to take part in the first Allied talks to come out of the Federation's new partnership with the Romulans.  But Sisko's conscience weighs heavily on him, compelling him to seek some kind of penance for what he has done ... while elements within Starfleet itself set in motion a scheme to use Elim Garak as a pawn against a human political dissident who may hold the key to the outcome of the war.

About this book:

Hollow Men is a follow-up to the very popular Deep Space Nine episode "In the Pale Moonlight," a personal favorite of mine.  In that episode, Captain Sisko engages the service of DS9's enigmatic tailor and former spy, Garak, in order to create a forged depiction of a meeting in which the Dominion discusses a planned invasion of Romulus.  The purpose of this forgery is to convince the Romulans to enter the war against the Dominion on the side of the Federation.  The ruse is discovered, but the plan ultimately succeeds when Garak sabotages the shuttle of a Romulan senator, casting suspicions on the Dominion.  The Romulans enter the war, and the momentum of the conflict begins to shift.  Sisko is furious, of course, and wrestles with a guilty conscience for his part in the deception and subsequent assassination.

"That's why you came to me, isn't it captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren't capable of doing. Well, it worked. And you'll get what you wanted: a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal... and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain."

Hollow Men deals with the fallout from that incident.  In the novel, Sisko and Garak are invited to Starfleet Command to attend a conference which both the Romulans and the Cardassian "government in exile" will be attending.  Sisko, still trying to come to terms with his feelings about the matter, is torn between informing his superiors of the truth of Senator Vreenak's death and keeping the secret.  Garak is very much against revealing what happened, and manages to convince Sisko to keep the information to himself for a time.  However, things come to a head when elements within Starfleet Intelligence seek to co-opt Garak for their own purposes.  Added to the mix are a former Starfleet officer and colleague of Sisko's, turned peace protester.

My Thoughts:

Hollow Men was a great read!  I admit to some bias, in that Elim Garak is one of my favorite Star Trek characters of all time, and Una McCormack writes him superbly.  Although Star Trek literature is often painted with the "low-brow" brush, Hollow Men is anything but.  Many issues are explored in this novel's pages, causing me more than once to put the book down and really contemplate where I stand on issues I felt were black and white.  For example, a sub-plot of the book is Odo's suspicion and pursuit of a former criminal aboard Deep Space Nine.  Odo suspects that he will attempt to steal a valuable shipment, but he has no evidence whatsoever.  However, he believes it to be all but certain that this former criminal will strike.  When Starfleet hands down a wartime directive that extraordinary measures may be taken to ensure the security of Starfleet installations, Odo uses this as an excuse to incarcerate this individual.  Now, I firmly believe that incarceration without due process is a violation of civil rights and liberties, but in this instance, Odo is proven correct.  Was he right in suspending the rights of the criminal?  (Incidently, it should be noted that Odo's capture of this being in no way prevented the theft.  What does that say about the effectiveness of heavy-handed techniques such as this?)

More than anything, Hollow Men is an examination of the thoughts and beliefs of Benjamin Sisko.  Wracked with guilt over the Vreenak assassination, Sisko does a great deal of soul-searching.  This led me to think of the people around him who have turned their backs on Starfleet ideals over the years, and paid the price for it: Cal Hudson, a Starfleet commander who turned his back on his uniform to join the Maquis, and was killed by the Cardassians.  Michael Eddington, an officer under Sisko's command who also joined the Maquis; he was captured by Sisko himself, jailed, and later killed by the Jem'Hadar.  Finally, Admiral Leyton, who sought to overthrow the presidency of the Federation and install a military dictatorship when he believed that the president wasn't acting in the best interests of the Federation.  In fact, in this novel, Sisko confronts Leyton about his actions, and how what Sisko has done mirrors them.  In gaining the aid of Mr. Garak and ultimately being party to an assassination, Sisko has also turned his back on the ideals of the Federation.  However, in this case, he is not being punished for it; rather, a great deal of good has come from that decision.  Understandably, this causes a lot of internal conflict for the normally principled and virtuous Captain Sisko, and Una McCormack writes this tension superbly.

There were a couple of small nerdly quibbles I had while reading Hollow Men: at one point, Garak seems unfamiliar with champagne.  However, if memory serves, Garak had already encountered champagne by this point, and in fact made a snide remark about Dr. Bashir's marksmanship with a champagne cork in the episode "Our Man Bashir."  Also, towards the end of the novel, the main power of Deep Space Nine is shut down, and the entire station is locked down and cut off from communications and aid from the outside world.  However, at this point in the series, the Federation's Ninth Fleet is permanently stationed at DS9.  Shouldn't they have been able to help?  As I said, these are merely the ramblings of a Trek-obsessed geek, and these minor quibbles did nothing to take away from the wonderful experience of reading this very well-written novel.

Final Thoughts:

With Hollow Men, Una McCormack has written a very "high-brow" novel, dealing with issues of betrayal, guilt, and redemption, while also expanding upon one of my favorite episodes of all time.  I highly recommend this novel to any fan of Deep Space Nine.  I also urge readers to check out McCormack's other Trek novels.  The Never-Ending Sacrifice, which I have also reviewed, was excellent.  And, in a few months, she has another novel coming out entitled Brinkmanship, published under the Typhon Pact banner.  Look for that soon!

Final score for Hollow Men: 10/10.  Superb, absolutely superb.

More about Hollow Men:

Also by Una McCormack:

My next read:

I'm a little behind on my reviews.  Look for write-ups of Star Trek #22: Shadow Lord by Laurence Yep, #78: The Rings of Tautee by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Ex Machina by Christopher L. Bennett.  Also being released at the end of this month is Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night, the first book of a duology by David R. George III.  Look for a review of that novel shortly after its release!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an enthusiastic review. This is one of many ST books I have on my TBR but have never gotten around to despite having similar reasons to yours (Garak is one of my favourite characters and In the Pale Moonlight is one of my favourite episodes). I may have to bump it up. I look forward to reading your review of Plagues of Night, can't wait for it to come out!!!