Star Trek: Mirror Universe
Glass Empires

Authors: Mike Sussman, Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack and Greg Cox
Pocket Books
RRP: 9.99, US $16.00, Cdn $19.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 2459 5
ISBN-10: 1 4165 2459 2
Available 02 April 2007

There are moments glimpsed only in shadow, where darkness rules and evil incarnate thrives. You hope against hope that in your lifetime evil will be relegated to the shadows. But what if it wasn't? What if you lived in a universe where your life is measured only by what you can do for a tyrannical Empire? What would you do to survive? Would you sell your soul to free yourself? If you were offered the chance to rule, would you seize it? If you could free your universe from the darkness, but only at the cost of your own life, would you dare pay that price...?

The price tag may appear a bit steep at first glance, but it isn't - for this weighty 450-page tome is really three novels in one. It's the first of two collections of tales set in the parallel universe depicted in episodes such as Mirror, Mirror, with one story for each Star Trek franchise. This volume covers the timelines of Star Trek: Enterprise, The Original Series and The Next Generation.

It probably goes without saying that you need to be familiar with the "Mirror" episodes from the television series - though not any of the other published visits to this realm, such as DC Comics' Mirror Universe Saga, Diane Duane's TNG novel Dark Mirror and a trilogy of books by William Shatner, because each of those previous literary forays has been contradicted by subsequent TV episodes. (A possible explanation for all these divergent Mirror Universes lies in the TNG episode Parallels, in which Data explains that for every choice made, the other available choices are made in parallel universes. Therefore, at various points during the course of Mirror Universe history, choices made could have caused alternate universes to branch off, leading to a plethora of Mirror Universes.)

In addition to the main characters from each TV series, we also encounter Mirror counterparts of other major players, including Shran, Arik and Noonien Soong, T'Pau, Kang, Matt and Will Decker, Admirals Morrow and Cartwright, Saavik, Gorkon, Pardek, Vash and Gul Madred.

First up is a return visit to the Mirror version of Star Trek: Enterprise...

She seized power in a heartbeat, daring to place herself against all the overlords of the Empire. Empress Hoshi Sato knows the future that could be - now all she has to do is make sure that it never happens. For her to rule, she must hold sway not only over a starship from the future but also over her warlords, the Resistance, and her Andorian husband. But as quickly and brutally as Hoshi seized power, imperial rule is snatched away from her...

Penned by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore from a story by Enterprise writer and producer Mike Sussman, Age of the Empress picks up right where In a Mirror, Darkly left off. It's action from the word go as Empress Hoshi Sato, in control of the USS Defiant, faces off the combined might of the Terran Empire's Starfleet.

Inspired by In a Mirror, Darkly, there is no interaction with or participation by any "regular" universe characters in any of the stories in this collection. They are all set entirely within the Mirror Universe. However, we do see hints of the more familiar versions of the protagonists, the people that they could have been under different circumstances. The authors get inside their heads in a way that is not possible during a TV episode, thus demonstrating that these people are not simply inherently evil, but rather are forced into their actions and shaped by their environment. For example, we witness Captain Mayweather striving for excellence in his career, Reed and Tucker's loyalty in the face of rivalry, and Sato's capacity to love.

Though it cannot reach a proper conclusion, owing to its placement in Mirror Universe history, this tale nevertheless makes fascinating and engaging reading.

One man can change the future, but does he dare? Spock, intrigued by the vision of another universe's Federation, does what no Vulcan, no emperor, has ever done: seize power in one blinding stroke of mass murder. And at the same instant that he gains imperial power, Spock sows the seeds for the Empire's downfall. Is this a form of Vulcan madness, or is it the coolly logical plan of a man who knows the price his universe must pay for its freedom...?

Well, what do you think? David Mack's The Sorrows of Empire thoroughly and convincingly exonerates Spock, whom you might hitherto have assumed was a bit naive for exposing his newly founded Republic to the combined might of the Cardassians and the Klingon Empire (as detailed in the Mirror Universe episodes of Deep Space Nine).

Like Age of the Empress, this tale picks up the narrative immediately after the events of a television episode, in this case Mirror, Mirror. It then covers a period of three decades, detailing Spock's rise to power as captain, admiral and finally emperor, and his eventual dissolution of the Empire. Taking a leaf out of David R George III's recent Crucible trilogy of Trek books, the author steers a course through several familiar episodes, or rather the Mirror Universe equivalents thereof, including Journey to Babel, Elaan of Troyius, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

I was a little disappointed that the story doesn't fill in more details than it does about the events that took place during the century-long gap that exists between the previous tale and this one. The writing also goes a little off the rails and becomes less interesting during portions of the second half, involving Spock's and the Empire's rivals, when the Vulcan isn't present.

For the most part, however, this is a real page-turner.

Under the ruthless Cardassian/Klingon Alliance, humanity is a pitiful collection of enslaved and abused peoples. No one dares question the order, except at peril of their lives. One man survives by blinding himself to the misery around him. However, tomb raider Luc Picard resists, just once. And in that one instant he uncovers a horror beyond the tyranny of the Alliance. Can a man so beaten down by a lifetime of oppression stop the destruction...?

The Worst of Both Worlds must have posed quite a challenge to its author, Greg Cox. Because the TNG TV series never visited the Mirror Universe, the landscape is unfamiliar. We do know from the DS9 episodes that the Empire and its Starfleet have fallen by this point, which rules out any possibility of an evil ISS Enterprise D crew (as previously depicted in Dark Mirror).

Instead, the author combines elements from several of TNG's most popular episodes, including Captain's Holiday, Chain of Command and of course The Best of Both Worlds. His Picard is a freelance relic hunter employed by the Cardassian Gul Madred (the second time a David Warner character has been depicted in this anthology). Cox also throws in a Ceti eel from The Wrath of Kahn, clearly enjoying the opportunity to paraphrase Kahn's description of how the creatures "wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex"!

The writing is marred by some clumsy allusions to the fact that this story is set in a parallel reality. At one point, Picard wishes that he had a crew to assist him, but decides, "Not in this universe". A little later, when threatened by a pair of Klingons, he muses that "it wasn't like any Alliance doctor was going to waste an artificial heart on a mere human". The author also gets his timeline a little muddled. He refers to events at the end of The Sorrows of Empire as having taken place "over one hundred years ago" when clearly the dates are less than a century apart.

You could say that The Worst of Both Worlds is the worst of the three stories in this excellent volume, but only by a narrow margin.

If you could free a copy of Glass Empires from the bookshop, but only at the cost of 9.99 (or whatever Amazon is charging at the moment), would you dare pay that price? It's well worth it.

Richard McGinlay

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