Friday, August 31, 2018

A Stitch in Time

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #27
A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson
Published September 2000
Read November 14th 2017

Previous book (numbered): #26: Rebels, Book Three: The Liberated

Previous book (published order): Millennium, Book Three: Inferno
Next book (Deep Space Nine): Avatar, Book One

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for A Stitch in Time!

From the back cover:
For nearly a decade Garak has longed for just one thing -- to go home. Exiled on a space station, surrounded by aliens who loathe and distrust him, going back to Cardassia has been Garak's one dream. Now, finally, he is home. But home is a world whose landscape is filled with death and destruction. Desperation and dust are constant companions and luxury is a glass of clean water and a warm place to sleep.
Ironically, it is a letter from one of the aliens on that space station, Dr. Julian Bashir, that inspires Garak to look at the fabric of his life. Elim Garak has been a student, a gardener, a spy, an exile, a tailor, even a liberator. It is a life that was charted by the forces of Cardassian society with very little understanding of the person, and even less compassion. 
But it is the tailor that understands who Elim Garak was, and what he could be. It is the tailor who sees the ruined fabric of Cardassia, and who knows how to bring this ravaged society back together. This is strange, because a tailor is the one thing Garak never wanted to be. But it is the tailor whom both Cardassia and Elim Garak need. It is the tailor who can put the pieces together, who can take a stitch in time.

My thoughts:

I have a hard time defining an absolute "favorite," whether it's a film, television series, food, or character. But if pressed on the question of who is my favorite Star Trek character of all time, Garak would be an answer that I would at least consider.

There are many reasons for this admiration: he was always incredibly engaging, masterfully written, and brilliantly performed by Andrew Robinson, a true treasure in the Star Trek cast. I have always admired his portrayal of Garak, and when I got the opportunity to meet him at the Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas a few years ago, I was blown away by the intelligence and insightfulness of this talented actor.

It turns out, of course, that acting isn't the only thing Andrew Robinson excels at.

A Stitch in Time, written by Andrew Robinson, is the definitive guide to who and what Garak is. In fact, at the recent convention in Vegas, a fan asked Andrew Robinson what kind of backstory he thought Garak had, to which he responded, "it's all in my book!" A Stitch in Time is assembled from notes and musings from the actor himself from seven years of playing the enigmatic Cardassian tailor. This proximity to the source material, and the fact that Robinson himself wrote the book, makes Garak's voice come through the pages of A Stitch in Time extremely clearly.

A Stitch in Time features Garak's backstory, as told by the man himself, and written by the actor who played him: Andrew J. Robinson!

Garak's story is one of tragedy, heartbreak, determination, and, ultimately, a sort of redemption. A Stitch in Time follows his life from his early years as a student at the Bamarran Institute for State Intelligence up until his experiences on post-Dominion War Cardassia. There are many surprises revealed here, and as someone who really likes the character of Garak, I certainly appreciated these insights into his early life and what led him to where we see him during DS9.

As much as I love Garak, I have to admit that he is not, at his core, what one would term a "good person." He has a very dark past and has done many morally questionable and outright wrong things in his life. He has worked as a brutal interrogator, an assassin, and a spy. One of the things I love about A Stitch in Time is that Robinson doesn't shy away from that characterization at all. Garak is as multifaceted and "dark" in the pages of this novel as he is during Deep Space Nine. Intrigue, murder, and duplicity populate the pages of A Stitch in Time as much as you would assume a story about Garak should.

In the pages of A Stitch in Time, we discover the answers to a myriad of questions we have always had about Garak: what was his relationship with Obsidian Order head Enabran Tain? How did he come to be exiled from Cardassia? What about Garak's personal life? And how did he come to be a tailor? We get answers to all of these questions, but I submit to you that because we get those answers from Garak himself, can we actually trust those answers? Or, is this entire book yet another web of lies, with the truth somewhere to be found among the misdirection, dissembling, and outright falsehoods? It is Garak, after all...

The novel explores the major relationships throughout Garak's life, including with his father, Enabran Tain, head of the Obsidian Order.

A Stitch in Time isn't just a story about Garak, but a story about Cardassia as a whole as well. In the Star Trek universe, alien societies don't usually get a ton of depth. Beyond the Vulcans and the Klingons, and to a certain extent the Romulans, there aren't many alien worlds we know a ton about. With DS9, that changed considerably with regards to Bajor and Cardassia, but I would contend that the novelverse has done a lot more to flesh out Cardassia in particular. Beginning with this novel, we get a deep dive into Cardassian society, politics, and even spiritual beliefs. The baton is carried further in later novels, especially those by Una McCormack. If you are wanting to read a lot more about Cardassia in general and Garak in particular, I would point you towards her novels, most notably Hollow Men, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, The Crimson Shadow, and Enigma Tales.

I have never pretended that this website was for any kind of deep insights or revelations about literature. I am not a literary critic by any means, just someone who loves Star Trek novels. I can't speak to where A Stitch in Time falls in relation to other literature, but I can say that in the library of Star Trek novels, it is pretty darn near the top. As I stated earlier, I'm not good with the whole "favorite" concept, but A Stitch in Time is at least in the top five best Star Trek novels of all time. Am I biased because of my love of Garak? Possibly, but I make no apologies for that. In the list of Star Trek essential reads, A Stitch in Time will always have a place.

Final thoughts:

An absolutely essential Star Trek novel for fans of Deep Space Nine and Garak in particular. Garak's life story as told by the actor who played him? How can you not love this? And Andrew Robinson is more than up to the task of telling this particular story. One of the best Trek novels of all time, A Stitch in Time earns absolute top marks from me. 5/5 stars.

More about A Stitch in Time:

My next read:

Another Shatnerverse novel, the first book in the Totality trilogy: Captain's Peril by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens.

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