Star Trek: Mirror Universe
Obsidian Alliances

Authors: Keith R.A. DeCandido, Peter David and Sarah Shaw
Pocket Books
RRP: 9.99, US $16.00, Cdn $19.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 2471 7
ISBN-10: 1 4165 2471 1
Available 08 May 2007

Some say the line between good and evil is narrower than we imagine: a divide as subtle as a mirror, and perhaps just as deep. To peer into its black, reflective glass is to know the dark potential we each possess, and we cross that obsidian boundary at our peril - into a world where we no longer recognise who we are or what we believed ourselves capable of. In the late 24th century, the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance dominates the worlds that, in another reality, make up the United Federation of Planets. But a downtrodden few have found the courage and strength of will to act. Inspired by visitors from another continuum, they have rekindled hope, and rediscovered an ancient truth: that every revolution begins with a vision...

This volume, the second of two visits to Star Trek's "Mirror Universe", presents stories set within the timeframes of Deep Space Nine, New Frontier and Voyager.

In my review of the previous book, Glass Empires, I commented on how it disregarded previous excursions in licensed fiction to this dark realm, such as DC Comics' Mirror Universe Saga and Diane Duane's Dark Mirror, because they had been contradicted by subsequent television episodes, and how those divergent Mirror Universes might be explained. In the Next Generation episode Parallels, Data theorises that for every choice made, all other available choices are carried out in parallel universes. Therefore, at various points during the course of Mirror Universe history, choices made could have caused a plethora of alternate universes to split off.

Another problem with the Mirror Universe is the unlikely manner in which characters seem to be drawn together in patterns that resemble the regular Trek universe. In this volume, for instance, the Mirror counterpart of B'Elanna Torres is born to a Klingon mother and a Terran father, just like her Voyager equivalent, even though the circumstances of her conception are vastly different (B'Elanna's mother Miral has a fetish for human males, and has slept with several of her slaves). We also encounter a Thallonian vessel crewed by Mirror versions of most of the major characters from Peter David's New Frontier series of novels. The odds against such eventualities are astronomically high.

The real-life explanation is, of course, that it makes for better entertainment if we see twisted versions of familiar protagonists rather than a completely different set of characters. It wouldn't be as much fun if, say, vessels such as the ISS Enterprise had never been constructed, the Mirror B'Elanna had never been born, or the Mirror Bashir and "Smiley" O'Brien had never met.

A fictional explanation lies, once again, in the episode Parallels. If we accept that there are an infinite number of parallel universes, then even these unlikely possibilities must occur in at least one of them. It may also be that the universes in which events most closely mirror those of the regular Trek universe are those most likely to breach the dimensional barrier. This could explain why characters crossing that barrier into a Mirror Universe usually encounter alternate versions of themselves and their crewmates.

Having said all that, the first story in this collection does feature a coincidence that is, for a change, quite believable...

A rebel ship commanded by a former slave named Chakotay attempts to evade pursuit in the Badlands - only to encounter a strange craft that has been catapulted 70,000 light-years across the galaxy. On board are two aliens, one of whom has the potential to alter the balance of power within the Alliance. But as both sides of the struggle race to get to the stranger first, treachery throws all schemes into a tailspin...

In a clever reversal of events from Voyager's pilot episode, Caretaker, Keith R.A. DeCandido's The Mirror-Scaled Serpent sees the Mirror Universe counterparts of Neelix and Kes being flung across the galaxy to the Alpha Quadrant. Having suffered torture at the hands of the Kazon, Kes's telepathic powers are beginning to exhibit themselves with deadly force. This turn of events is a believable outcome in a universe where there is no USS Voyager to come to the rescue.

A rather less believable coincidence is the fact that once again it's the Asian guy (this time Harry Kim) who sports a facial scar, just like Sulu in Mirror, Mirror. However, as with Hoshi Sato in In a Mirror, Darkly and Glass Empires, there's no denying the fun of seeing the most timid character in the series become the nastiest.

All the other regulars are present and correct in one form or another, including Annika Hansen (alias Seven of Nine in the regular universe) and even Seska (in full-blown Cardassian mode), though not all of them are on the side you might expect.

And they seem to be having lots of sex. Chakotay likes it rough with his engineer Kate Janeway, the latest of Annika's long list of flings is with Harry, and B'Elanna has inherited her mother's passion for Terran males, which she satisfies with her favourite slave, Thomas - who serves her in bondage in more than one sense. Numerous characters spend a lot of time naked, both willingly and unwillingly (as prisoners), and towards the end of the story there are descriptions of some particularly gory violence. This is certainly not kids' stuff.

DeCandido overuses the phrase "to his/her credit" but, to his credit (darn, now I'm doing it!), this is a most exhilarating read.

Almost a century after the collapse of the once-mighty Terran Empire, its long-time rival, the Romulan Star Empire, has absorbed many of the fringe civilisations spread across that part of the galaxy. One of the Romulans' slaves is M'k'n'zy of Calhoun, a savage and unpredictable Xenexian who dreams of death - and who learns the value of freedom from the unlikeliest of teachers, a Romulan named Soleta...

A collection of six novels spread over two volumes - but only five Star Trek screen franchises to work with. What's the solution? Pocket Books has delved into its own New Frontier range of novels in order to make up the shortfall. Other series could have been explored, such as Vanguard (which would at least have allowed for three Terran Empire stories in the first volume) and SCE/Corps of Engineers, but New Frontier is the longest running and best known.

Even so, author Peter David addresses the fact that many readers will be less familiar with this series than they are with the television franchises. He has concocted a story, Cutting Ties, that does not rely on total knowledge of the range (though of course you will enjoy it more if you're a regular New Frontier reader). M'k'n'zy of Calhoun, renamed Muck by his Romulan overlords, senses mysterious connections with some of the people he encounters, including a Terran slave called Elizabeth - those with whom his counterpart has served in another universe, as we discover.

What remains reliably constant is the author's talent for dramatic situations and cracking dialogue, and that's what really counts.

One fallen dictator's struggle to regain her power and position leads to the discovery of a bold rebel plan for a decisive military strike against the Alliance. But while Kira Nerys navigates the dangerous road of politics, sex and military intrigue that she believes will allow her to reclaim the Intendancy, cracks begin to form in the rebel leadership, leading to a showdown that will change the course of the Mirror Universe...

As was the case with the first volume, the shortest story happens to get the biggest portrait on the front cover, in this case Sarah Shaw's Deep Space Nine tale, Saturn's Children.

It may seem strange that the DS9 entry comes last. I, for one, would have expected it to come before the Voyager tale. However, this story is set chronologically later, concurrent with DS9's seventh season, and it appears to lead in to the Mirror Kira's appearance in the post-Season 7 DS9 novels.

Like Keith R.A. DeCandido, Shaw alternates between depicting the power struggles experienced by a female member of the Alliance and a Terran male on the side of the Rebellion, and how these two struggles affect each other. In The Mirror-Scaled Serpent it was B'Elanna versus Chakotay. Here it's Kira and Smiley O'Brien. Without ever meeting, they influence each other's fortunes. Even more so than in DeCandido's story, I almost found myself siding with the supposed villain, so successfully does Shaw get inside the mind of the Bajoran, showing the suffering she has endured following her fall from grace and her drive to restore herself to a position of authority.

It's a pity that this volume could not have ended with one of the other two stories, because both of them conclude on more positive notes than this one does (especially DeCandido's, which offers pleasing tie-ins with the events of Glass Empires). Nevertheless, this is an impressive debut for the author, her first professionally published work of fiction.

The Mirror McGinlay must hate this book, because I love it!

Richard McGinlay

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