SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Hollow Men by Una McCormack

Hollow Men - Una McCormack

This novel is set after "In the Pale Moonlight".

 

Sisko and Garak travel to Earth for a conference of the allied forces. While Sisko's struggling with his role in bringing the Romulans into the war, Garak is debriefed by apparent Intelligence officers and tasked with making a former Starfleet officer and colleague of Sisko's, now turned into prime fighter for the peace/isolationist movement, disappear. Meanwhile, the station is lending help to a ship transporting liquid latinum while a former acquaintance of Odo's, whom he sent to prison, surprisingly reappears just at that moment. But Odo doesn't believe in coincidences and, at Dax's request, enlists Bashir's help, who's quite moody after his return from a "medical" conference, in trying to solve the puzzle.

 

While this novel shows the aftermath of one of my favourite DS9 episodes with Sisko looking for absolution at every corner (and not getting it until he reconciles himself with his actions and rediscovering his limits), this novel isn't quite as engaging as I would have hoped for. The conference part is more or less skimmed over, which is a shame, as I would have loved to see more of that. The focus, though, firmly lies on Garak - which isn't a bad thing necessarily. And his confronting Earth's democracy, hearing contrary opinions voiced right outside the conference site, learning that the lists of war-victims are published uncensored, himself being allowed to roam more or less freely on Earth (albeit with an escort), facing SI's attempts at interrogation etc. is frankly hilarious, the best way to get a glimpse at Cardassian society, I guess. Until it's not all fun anymore, and he's confronted with an organization that might be rather similar to his own Obsidian Order.

 

And that leads us to Tomas Roeder, the leader of the peace movement and Garak's target. That's perhaps the second point of criticism that his motivations remain in the dark. He's a tool to advance the plot, nothing more. Any mention of a prior relationship with Sisko is unnecessary - because it's a non-issue in the end.

 

And honestly, I'd have wished for less of the plot on the station: Granted, it gave us a glimpse into Bashir after his first confrontation with Section 31, and Odo who's close to being obsessed, but never crossing the line (which makes for an interesting discussion between those two, especially in regards to "Inquisition"). And everyone's trying to get Kira and Odo together. So, it fits nicely into continuity, but I'd rather have had the focus on Sisko and Garak and Earth.

 

The plotthreads only come together in the final pages, hinting at what is to befall the Founders, and I realize of course that there can't be a solution then and there - because then season 7 likely would never have happened... And while I truely appreciate all the little hints and realizations, especially Garak and Odo's who perhaps are the only ones to smell something bigger going on, something hidden and sinister (with Odo going through a repeat performance of the transformation-inhibitor-debacle Garak's put him through in "Improbable Cause"/"The Die Is Cast"), the path to getting to those realizations is a bit rocky and lacking in surprises and suspense.

 

Overall, good novel, first-class characterization (especially Garak, Sisko and Odo), little moments that would have been well worth exploring, but ultimately nothing really outstanding.