Despite being an avid reader and having done plenty of other reviews all across the board this is actually my first book review so I’m not really sure how to go about it or where to start. I guess I’ll tell you some bare facts about the book and go from there.
A Stitch in Time is a Star Trek book, and a welcome addition to the broad pantheon of expanded Universe narratives in the series, it follows some of the plot and characters established in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a series which aired from 1993 to 1999 and departed from the established Star Trek setting in many ways, for example it was set on a fixed space station rather than a starship and followed broad story arcs more so than its sister shows.
A Stitch in Time was written by Andrew Robinson and it was the first Star Trek novel written by an actor from the series without the aid of a ghost writer. The structure of this book was in place well before Robinson was convinced to write it properly, he says that it developed because he wrote a biography of the character in fact he had this to say about why he did it in the first place:
“it’s an old actor’s trick, if you’re hired for a role that you’re not familiar with, you write a biography of the character” he would apparently read excerpts for fans at Star Trek conventions and was once overheard by David R. George III who suggested that it would be good as a novel. He then sent a proposal to the licensed publishers of the Star Trek books and once he received a positive response he got to work developing and fleshing out his biography into a full length story. During the development he made good use of the Star Trek Encyclopedia to ensure that events lined up properly with how they did in the Star Trek universe.
A stitch in time is presented as a series of Letters from Garak, the resident Cardassian aboard DS9 to Julian Bashir, the Federation doctor and perhaps his closest companion during the show. Its split into three story arcs, the first follows him as he grows from a child to a young man, undergoing the arduous training demanded by the Cardassian military and his later recruitment into the Obsidian order, his falling out with Enabrain Tain (which they touch on in the TV series) and his eventual exile to Terok Nor, later renamed Deep Space Nine. The second follows him on mission with Major Kira as they prepare for a mission to support Demars resistance movement. The third follows him after the occupation of Cardassia has ended as he returns to his homeworld and tries to help rebuild it after the destruction caused by the Dominion war.
As I mentioned before Robinson wrote this himself and I’m glad they gave him the chance because while he didn’t create the character he made the character his own over his tenure of DS9 and as such I feel that he brought something real and personal to it that might have been lost if they’d had someone else write it, even under Robinson’s supervision.
Those feelings are summed up quite well in this quote from Andrew Robinson:
” I started writing about Garak because, coming to the Star Trek franchise and being cast as an alien, a Cardassian, I had no idea what that was. I barely know about Human beings. But then suddenly to be cast as an alien… it was a challenge. So I decided to write about the character and create the world of the character and I did this in the form of a diary that Garak kept: every day he would write about his experiences and so forth. And then I started going to conventions, like this one, and I started reading from the diary and the fans, the audiences loved it. So I started writing more, and I started crafting it more and, like a lot of people, I’ve always wanted to write a novel! That’s when I started working into a novel. Then the people at Simon and Schuster, the publisher, agreed to let me do it, and it was a bit of a big deal because I was the first actor to write a novel without what they call a ghost writer, or with someone else writing it for me. Because I wanted to write it by myself, I didn’t want anybody else writing it.”
Now it’s clear that he wanted to write this book to get a sense of closure after having played the character for 7 years, and I feel that a lot of fans also felt the same, because he gave us insights into this character who had no real resolution because the character was meant to be a mystery, he was designed to be ambiguous.
Now if you didn’t like Garak or you only like the Star Trek stories that are all action and danger then this book probably isn’t for you, the only war in the books it dealing with the aftermath, and even the scenes of him growing up in the harsh conditions of the military academy are tinged with introspection. However even if you are just into bloodshed and valor and epic space battles I’d still give this a read because it’s really well put together, it’s not woven together perfectly, but it’s not meant to be it’s truly told from the end, a man living among the rubble of his shattered world, trying to rebuild and trying to piece…or stitch…sorry bad joke…together his past and work out how it came to be that he arrived where he was. It isn’t one continuous narrative but three distinct stories, told from three different periods in Garak’s personal history which are connected first of all by the framing device, letters to Garak’s dear Doctor, and also by the fact that as I mentioned the story is truly being told from the end, with him reflecting on his life and in a way not only confessing but also providing the closure we talked about. And I, and Garak, and Andrew Robinson, and Bashir and hundreds if not thousands of fans are grateful because it ties up loose ends and gives us context to the tailor and spy and all around enigma that is Elim Garak.
One thing I liked was that despite taking due care not to break canon and keep in line with the background and established events of the Star Trek universe it never seemed like he was just fitting his narrative into the ‘real world’ of the show, instead it was just providing much needed backstory, and he was careful not to truly rewrite anything to better suit his interpretation of the character, instead he took the building blocks that were already there and built something, took subtext and made it text, and took what was unsaid about Garak and went ahead and said it.
Speaking of subtext, If i had to find one real fault with the story it might be that Garak was at times too plain spoken, he said what he meant and what he felt, early on in the narrative when he was describing Garak’s childhood I felt this was a deliberate choice to show who he was before he became Garak, ex Obsidian order agent and all around Master of obfuscation. But at times further along in the characters development he still seemed like he didn’t have a mask up and that was an important aspect of the character, he was someone who regularly told detailed lies just to keep his skills at deception sharp. But perhaps I only felt this way because I as the reader could see his internal monologue, because the story dealt with subtly well in other areas and it wasn’t too in your face so I can’t claim that Robinson crafted a story without subtext just that at times Garak was too…honest?
I wish I had a physical copy of this book, for the record I’m not a purist who thinks the only way to read is with a physical copy of the book, ebooks are incredibly useful and in no way hinder my enjoyment of reading but occasionally with a book you just want to have it there with you, I devoured the book over the course of a day, my screen barely dimming as a engrossed myself in Garak’s letters to Bashir detailing his life. I just wish that I had a real copy because the whole experience would have been that little bit better if I’d been turning pages. Speaking of the book itself I think this ranks very highly in terms of Star Trek novels, I’ve read a few although I do tend to stay away from narratives connected to established franchises because you already have a clearly defined image of how a character looks, and acts and talks and it can be difficult to manage that with how the book deals with them. But in this case I think it was right on the money, I think that it dealt with Garak perfectly and was the perfect way to close the door on the character.
This was Robinson’s first real foray into writing and certainly his first novel, and as such it’s even more impressive how well written it is, and sure he probably has an editor, or two or three but even if just the bare bones are his own then it’s still incredibly well written. I will admit taking an unbiased look at it, it’s not a literary masterpiece but nothing is these days and more to the point it doesn’t have to be to be good, jeez something doesn’t even need to be good to be a success, so I think with all that in mind it is a great piece of work. Its straightforward and well put together and it travels through a weaving narrative well, dealing with him at different points which maintaining the correct style and portrayal for each period of the character. I would like to read more from Robinson because he was a writing style that both clear and manageable as well as entertaining and cohesive.
Finally one thing I wanted to touch on was that Robinson said that when writing this book, because of the family orientated nature of the books he needed to tone down any sexual content in the novel. Now to preface this point I didn’t want smut or a nonstop orgy but I feel that being constricted like this meant he couldn’t explore an aspect of the story he himself was instrumental in pushing forward. Robinson has previously said that he deliberately portrayed Garak as sexual ambiguous on the show and on the show they wrote him out of situations where it would show so this book was his chance to address these issues, and sure you can still see it subtly in some interactions but I feel for the sake of pleasing his publishers he missed out on addressing some important element he brought to the character..
With all that in mind I think I’ll Give Star Trek: A Stitch in Time a 4/5 for being a fantastically crafted biography of Elim Garak, the spy and tailor who was as much a reason to watch Deep Space Nine as anything else the show had to offer.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org