Star Trek: Mirror Universe
One of the most delightful surprises about the last few years of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels (about which I have waxed poetic here, here, and here) has been the way the writers and editors have fleshed out the Mirror Universe.
This concept was first introduced in the Classic Trek episode “Mirror Mirror,” written by Jerome Bixby. A transporter accident throws Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and Uhura into an alternate universe where the beneficent United Federation of Planets has been replaced by a vicious, evil Terran empire populated by darker versions of all the familiar Trek characters. Year later, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explored the idea further through a series of episodes (“Crossover,” “Through the Looking Glass,” “Shattered Mirror,” “Resurrection,” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak”) in which we discovered that the Terran Empire had been conquered by an even more brutal alliance of Klingons and Cardassians. Finally, the two-part Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly” gave viewers a look at the origins of the dark Terran Empire.
That’s quite a number of Mirror Universe episodes that I just listed, but the Star Trek authors and editors at Pocket Books clearly felt that there was a lot more that could be done to flesh out the Mirror Universe, and thank goodness for that! The Mirror Universe has played a large role in the recent Deep Space Nine novels, but it was really pushed into the limelight with the two-part series Star Trek: Mirror Universe, each of which contained three novellas by some of Pocket Books’ best Trek authors.
Volume I: Glass Empires
Age of the Empress, by Mike Sussman with Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore — This story picks up moments after the end of Enterprise‘s “In a Mirror, Darkly,” with the newly-crowned Empress Sato in command of the fearsome 23rd century Starship Defiant. It’s not long, though, before her rule is threatened by enemies from without (a band of rebels with whom T’pol has gotten involved) and within (a coup organized by Sato’s consort, the Andorian Shran). The tale is just as much of an action-packed romp as the two Enterprise episodes were, although it fails to answer my biggest question that was left hanging by those episodes, which is what happened, ultimately, to the Starship Defiant?
The Sorrows of Empire, by David Mack — The highlight of the series. Spock’s exposure to “our” universe’s Captain Kirk (in the original Trek Mirror Universe episode) has convinced him that the Terran empire is illogical and must be replaced by a kinder, more just society. Mack’s tale unfolds over the decades that follow, as we watch Spock’s eminently logical plan unfold, step by step. In a fascinating twist, Mack casts Spock as a Trek version of Isaac Asimov’s Harry Seldon (from the magnificent Foundation novels). Spock knows that his efforts to change the Terran Empire are ultimately doomed to failure, but he develops an enormously long-term plan-within-a-plan to ensure that a better society will one day rise from those ashes. I have read that Mack is working on expanding this story into a full-length novel, and I for one cannot wait. This novella is phenomenal.
The Worst of Both Worlds, by Greg Cox — Terran archaeologist Luc Picard has created a decent life for himself, hunting down the universe’s treasures for his master, the Cardassian Gul Madred. (This is the fellow who tortured Picard in the famous “there are four lights” two-part episode of Next Gen, “Chain of Command.”) But when the beautiful resistance fighter Vash convinces Luc to help her save the life of an elderly terran scientist, Noonien Soong, Picard’s life crashes down around him. Soon he finds himself all alone against a threat even more monstrous than the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance: the Borg.
Volume II: Obsidian Alliances
The Mirror-Scaled Serpent, by Keith R.A. DeCandido — Terran rebels Chakotay, Tuvok, Annika Hansen, and Kate Janeway rescue a tiny ship from the Badlands. Its occupant, an unusual alien named Neelix, has apparently been flung across the universe, 70,000 light-years from his home. DeCandido’s reverse version of the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager is a remarkably clever and engaging tale. I was far more interested in the plights of the characters in this story than I ever was watching actual Voyager episodes! And I absolutely loved the story’s connection to the Classic Trek episode, “The Cloudminders.”
Cutting Ties, by Peter David — A Mirror Universe version of David’s popular New Frontier series of novels, Cutting Ties follows the sad, harsh life of M’k’nzy of Calhoun, a young slave of the Romulans who is consigned to a miserable death in the mines of Remus. Somehow he survives and many years later enters the service of a young Romulan woman named Soleta. Many of David’s New Frontier characters make appearances over the course of the story (and several meet with rather grisly ends). Cutting Ties is the only story in this series to feature any sort of a crossover with the “regular” Trek universe. It’s only a brief moment, and critical to the story, but I rather liked the way all the other stories were exclusively set in the Mirror Universe without any reference to the regular time-line. Other than that, though, this story is another winner from Peter David.
Saturn’s Children, by Sarah Shaw — This story picks up the plot threads left dangling at the end of the final Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episode, “The Emperor’s New Cloak.” The Terran rebels controlling DS9 and lead by “Smiley” O’Brien have scored an enormous victory against the Alliance, capturing the Regent Worf; and the once-proud Intendant Kira finds herself at the brutal mercies of her Klingon superiors. But fortunes are about to change as Kira plots to regain her former station, and the overconfident rebels make a terrible miscalculation.
All six of the above novellas are enormously excellent. They are fun and engaging, and together they flesh out various aspects of the Mirror Universe in some really interesting and well thought-out ways. The only down-side is that almost every one of these stories ends on a pretty enormous cliffhanger (most especially the first and last novellas, Age of the Empress and Saturn’s Children). This down-side will turn out not to be much of a down-side, of course, if it means that more Mirror Universe stories are coming!