When a book transcends genre, it reminds you that great books are just that: great books. The Crimson Shadow does this fantastically. The best in science fiction, as well as Star Trek, has always been about us, our struggles and problems allegorized in a palpable medium. McCormack’s continuation of “The Fall” is brilliant. With part of the story concurrent with David George’s book and the second half dealing with the aftermath of Federation President Bacco’s assasination, McCormack creates suspense on every page as the the Khitomer Accord alliance between the Federation and Cardassia hangs by a stembolt.
After ten years of negotiation, Cardassia is poised to break out of the past as the withdraw of Federation troops is about become a reality with the deal that Bacco and Garak have reached. Yet, trouble is brewing on Cardassia Prime as old factions push an even older agenda: Cardassia first. Cardassia grapples with the pains of doing the same things over and over again and expecting a better result, only to have the past repeat itself. This leaves the Cardassian people with a choice of saving their souls by learning from the past or annihilation through civil war or outside force. In the same way as Germany post WWI and WWII had a choice, so do the people of Cardassia. McCormack draws on past and recent history to bring us face to face with the challenges we still face today. Personally, nationally and globally, the issues are the same. Are we are own worst enemy, doomed to repeat mistakes or will we learn and change, forging a better future? This is the test that Garak and all of Cardassia faces.
For the Cardassian people, the homeland is precious. Like Tolkien’s ring, it holds a immense power over the people and the bond they feel with it is intense. This love of the fatherland has become twisted into racism and created a superiority complex in Cardassians, leading to occupations and wars. This misplaced love and trust into something temporal or institutional has led to some of the greatest atrocities committed by the Cardassian people. Garak dissects the problem when he says,
“But you understand, don’t you, that the institutions don’t matter? The Obsidian Order, Central Command, the True Way, Starfleet, empires, unions, federations-these are names and names only. They are tools. They count for nothing if the purpose is flawed. That was my mistake for a long time – confusing the purpose with the instrument….The truth is that the institution flourishes only when the people who comprise it flourish. And if the people are sick, the institution will be sick.”
What matters is people, fostering and building a world that promotes the most good for as many people as possible, remembering that we are all what matters. Responsibility for the good of the whole is the duty of each one of us, not just a select few. It is when we forget this that trouble finds us. This is the beautiful truth that Arati Mhevet, one of the main characters in the book, comes to.
This book has so much in it to love. One of the main highlights is the interaction between Garak and Picard. Seeing these two formidable wordsmiths together is a joy. It is a friendship that will hopefully continue in upcoming Star Trek books. So many other pivotal things happen in this book, but I won’t spoil them here. With action, political intrigue and a story that leaves the reader contemplating the implications of what they have read long after the book is over, it is rated 10 out of 10 glasses of Kanar.