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Literature / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine A Stitch in Time

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A book in the so-called Star Trek Novel Verse (and one of the novels that provided its foundation, actually). It presents the Back Story of Elim Garak, of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Of course, it is completely and utterly true. All of it. Even the lies. Especially the lies.

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."

Considered an honorary part of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch, it is one of the most popular Star Trek novels around. Part of its appeal is its being written by Andrew J Robinson, the actor who played Garak.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Enabran Tain is a horrifically poor parent, particularly when his "we are the night people" speech is considered in full. In the framing arc, Garak is finally forced to confront the simple fact that, yes, Tain was a terrible parent. This occurs after Dr. Parmak reacts with horror when hearing how Tain once tried to have Garak killed. The "for the good of the state" arguments just don't hold weight anymore, and Garak's rationalizations are spent.
  • After the End: The framing arc takes place on Cardassia post-Dominion War. The planet is in ruins.
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  • Arc Words: "Finding your place".
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Can you find your place? Do you know your place? Anything to do with "your place", really.
  • The Atoner: Garak, who has finally realized the evils of My Country, Right or Wrong and acknowledges his role in promoting these attitudes.note 
  • Boarding School of Horrors: To the human observer, Garak's school (Bamarren Institute for State Intelligence) is this. See Training from Hell, below.
  • Call-Back: Many.
  • Double Consciousness: Young Garak, caught between two cultures; the mainstream disciplined Cardassia promoted by his mother and Enabran Tain, and the Oralian Way represented by Tolan. Garak feels drawn to the latter, but cannot escape entanglement in the former. His attempt to resolve his Double Consciousness will last him the rest of his life. Mila acknowledges the struggle in the quote below, when attempting to keep Garak focused on the realities of modern Cardassia:
    "You are my son and you are a Cardassian. Not a Hebitian!"
  • Eye Scream: Three Lubak loses an eye to a honge when he panics.
  • Fantastic Racism: In the brief Klingon subplot.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Spoonhead" for Cardassians.
  • Flower Motifs: Edosian Orchids. Lots of symbolic significance in various ways, throughout the novel.
  • Giant Flyer: Not too giant, but the Honge.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Garak, in his first person narrative, frequently comments on humanity as they appear to a Cardassian.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Endemic in the Cardassian Union. Bashir actually makes the point that this is precisely why the Dominion found Cardassia easy pickings - they call themselves a "union" but in fact they weaken their resolve and their ideals constantly, through in-fighting and petty rivalry.
  • Ironic Echo: "You're always welcome..." The closing line of the novel, addressed to Bashir by Garak, this is the same line given to Garak by Astraea, the leader of the Oralian faith. Its use at the end therefore signifies the genuine spiritual confidence behind Garak's invite, and suggests he has truly found a sense of peace within himself, at least on some level. He is "opening up" to Bashir, implicitly with genuine eagerness to make a connection. This represents considerable Character Development. It's ironic in that Garak, a "night person" is echoing Astraea, vessel of the light.
  • Like a Son to Me: Tolan says this of Garak.
  • Mask of Power: This is the first appearance of the Oralian Way, a Cardassian religion featuring masks in its rituals and ceremonies. The masks channel a being's spiritual power, even allowing a priestess to serve as a vessel for Oralius, the guiding spirit. The masks became important in Star Trek: The Lost Era.
  • Misery Builds Character: A large part of the thinking behind Cardassian education, apparently.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Something else strongly encouraged in Cardassian education. However, following the Dominion bombardment of Cardassia Prime, and the horrors of the aftermath, Garak rejects the idea. He also says he finally understands why Kira Nerys hated him (and any other Cardassian with the My Country, Right or Wrong attitude).
  • Noodle Incident: Reference is made several times to Garak’s mission to Tzenketh (where the walls fell in on him leading to a claustrophobic attack), but as usual nothing is revealed as to what exactly the mission entailed.
  • Only One Name: Averted; in the TV series only a minority of Cardassians ever had their first names given, but the novel reveals them for many of the others, such as Skrain Dukat and Corat Damar.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Krim Lokar (Nine Lubak) ends up with elements of this, after rising rapidly through the Cardassian social hierarchy due to the political manipulations of Barkan Lokar.
  • Properly Paranoid: Arguably Procal Dukat.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Some of the Cardassian military believe this, most notably Procal Dukat.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: By the end of the novel, Garak no longer cares for the manipulative politics of his people, and chooses to walk out on a meeting between reactionary officers and would-be-politicians, declaring that he has no place among them.
  • Spy School
  • Stealth Expert: Garak, hence his Obsidian Order identity "Agent Regnar" (a Regnar being a small animal capable of changing colour and texture so as to blend into its surroundings). Garak achieves his stealth through a meditative technique that allows him to "blend" his personal energy signatures into the background energy fields. It's hinted that all Cardassians could in theory learn the technique - if they were paying attention and weren't conditioned into ignoring the deeper realities of life around them.
    • One of the best examples is when the other students are arguing about him next to his bunk, while he's lying on it. One of the students then reaches to open a secret compartment behind the bunk, when Garak suddenly jumps to his feet, startling the student, who was convinced that Garak was elsewhere.
  • Training from Hell: The Cardassian children at the Bamarren Institute. It's unclear what age they are - it could really be anything from the equivalent of 12 through to 20. The academy is run as a rather brutal military camp, with extensive physical training and combat. It also utilizes harsh discipline and extensive, often physical, punishment for failure or rule-breaking.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The novel is presented as a letter from Garak to Bashir. As it's Garak, we should probably be somewhat wary of his first-person recollections. However, despite that valid point, it's presented as Garak seeking to get a lot of his personal baggage off his chest, with the passive assistance of the one man he probably trusts the most. So he's quite possibly being the most honest we've ever seen him. At the very least, his religious and philosophical insights are almost certainly truthful, even if some of the historical background might be a bit uncertain.
  • War Is Glorious: The Directorate, a reactionary militant movement opposed to democratic reform, still believe this. Most of the Cardassian population now think differently, and the Directorate are unable to truly rally support. They are therefore forced into accepting the proposed elections, forming a reluctant part of the new government.
  • Would Not Hit a Girl: At least some of the Cardassian soldiers, apparently. It's somewhat ambiguous - he may be angry because the men present are violating his A Real Man Is a Killer beliefs - but a Directorate thug at a public rally announces "this is sh* t. Shall I fight women?" before leaving without a fight. It should be noted, in a possible subversion of the usual trope, the possible Would Not Hit a Girl tendencies are not necessarily presented as admirable here, or a "redeeming" character trait.
  • You Are Number 6: The youths training at the Bamarren Institute are not permitted to use their names; instead they are assigned a group and a number. The number (one to ten) signifies their position within the group, with the higher numbers considered superior. Supposedly, they are numbered according to skill level, but politics and birthright play just as large a role. At the end of each three-year course, the numbers switch, and it is here that lower-born youths with talent can achieve a more deserving position. It's a mix of meritocratic principles and social stratification.


Example of: