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Continuing Adventures in the Mirror Universe

Yesterday I discussed the two terrific collections of Star Trek: Mirror Universe novellas, “Glass Empires” and “Obsidian Alliances.”  I commented that my only real complaint was that so many of the stories ended on cliffhangers that seemed to beg for further tales to be told.

I still sense that there’s a lot more to the Mirror Universe story that we have yet to see, but for now I have to be content with Pocket Books’ recent follow-up, “Shards and Shadows.”  Rather than a collection of novellas, “Shards and Shadows” contains twelve short stories written by a “who’s-who” of great Trek authors and spanning hundreds of years of Mirror Universe future-history.

Nobunaga, by Dave Stern — Continuing the story begun in the Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” and the novella Age of the Empress, this story follows the sad final days of Charles “Trip” Tucker.  His body has been broken and his mind scrambled by too many years working in close proximity to the dangerous energies produced by starship warp engines.  But beyond the pain of dying, Trip is tortured by scattered memories of something he can’t quite recall.  Was he involved in a plan by Empress Sato to construct a second ship like the miraculous 23rd century Starship Defiant?  If he was, what happened, and why can’t he remember?  Dave Stern’s story is a great mind-bender of a fractured narrative.  It also hints at what happened to the character re-introduced in the final pages of Age of the Empress, but I am still left wanting to know more about that character’s full story!  Hopefully some-day soon…

Ill Winds, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore — A story of the Mirror Universe Robert April (commander of the Enterprise before Christopher Pike and James T. Kirk).  April and his crew aboard the I.S.S. Constellation are sent to investigate the rumors of a new super-weapon being constructed by the Klingons, but which crew will prove to be the more ruthless?  A great, brutal ending fits right in with the Mirror Universe.

The Greater Good, by Margaret Wander Bonanno — It’s the tale of how James T. Kirk gains command of the Starship Enterprise, how he meets Marlena Moreau and how he gains possession of the powerful Tantalus Device (a key plot device in the very first Mirror Universe episode, Classic Trek’s “Mirror Mirror”).  It’s one of the most well-written stories in the collection, gripping and fast-paced.  At the same time, it’s a little disappointing in that it all seems a little too, well, easy.  Kirk just happens to find the Tantalus Device?  I’d have hoped for a more epic story about his acquisition of that amazing and mysterious machine, and perhaps more information on its origin.

The Black Flag, by James Swallow — This is a Mirror Universe story about one of Pocket Books’ recent new series of novels, Star Trek: Vanguard, the story of a Federation space station in The Tantalus Reach, a turbulent region of space near the Klingons and Tholians.  I haven’t read any of the novels in that series, so I wasn’t familiar with any of the characters (well, except one, the Vulcan T’Prynn, who was part of the back-story of Elias Vaughn, a character in Pocket Book’s DS9 re-launch series of novels), but Mr. Swallow’s pirate story was still engaging and fun.

The Traitor, by Michael Jan Friedman — This is a Mirror Universe story about another of Pocket’s series of novels, Michael Jan Friedman’s Stargazer series that followed Jean Luc Picard’s adventures before becoming captain of the Enterprise.  This is an older series than Vanguard, but it’s also one that I haven’t really followed.  So again, this story might have lost a little of its impact as I wasn’t really familiar with the characters whose Mirror Universe versions were introduced here.  However, as with The Black Flag, this is an engaging story nonetheless, filled with some great twists and turns.  It also features, in a lead role, a character that I absolutely did not expect to see.  Although the first mention of the name of that character’s ship should have tipped me off!

The Sacred Chalice, by Rudy Josephs — A throughly twisted story in which we learn that, after the total destruction of Betazed, Lwaxana Troi gathered together whatever surviving members of her race that she could find in order to form, well, the galaxy’s best brothel.  Lwaxana and her people are able to use their telepathic powers (the existence of which is a tightly-kept secret known only to other Betazoids) in order to create the perfect fantasy situations for their guests.  Things get over-turned, though, when young Deanna Troi discovers the secret that her mother has been keeping from her about her sister Kestra, long believed dead… at the same time as two Klingon visitors, Lursa and B’Etor, arrive at Lwaxana’s establishment.

Bitter Fruit, by Susan Wright — This story picks up the tale of the surviving Mirror Universe Voyager crew-members following the events of The Mirror-Scaled Serpent.  Tuvok is still keeping Kes hidden away, for fear of her telepathic abilities being discovered by the Alliance.  But a new threat in the form of the half-breed they thought they had killed, B’Elanna Torres, brings Tuvok and Kes out of hiding.  It’s another great story, but as with Nobunaga this wasn’t quite satisfying in terms of tying up loose ends left hanging by the previous Mirror Universe novellas.  This is a complaint but also a backwards compliment about the quality of the writing — I want to read more about what happens to these characters!

Family Matters, by Keith R.A. DeCandido — Mr. DeCandido must have a thing about using letters to tell a story.  His most recent novel, A Singular Destiny, used correspondence to start each chapter, and this short story is told entirely through back-and-forth messages.  This is a Mirror Universe version of DeCandido’s series of Klingon novels (another series that I haven’t read much of — boy, I thought I read a lot of Trek novels, but the holes in my reading are showing!!), but it features so many familiar faces (Gul Dukat, Gul Macet, Worf’s brother Kurn, Martok’s son Dex, and Captain Klag) that I had no trouble jumping right in.

Homecoming, by Peter David — This short story continues the Mirror Universe New Frontier story begun in the novella Cutting Ties.  Calhoun and his motley crew aboard the Excalibur have been gathering allies and fomenting rebellion along the edges of Alliance territory.  But when they discover a Romulan plot to develop a terrible weapon utilizing Thalaron radiation (a nice nod to Star Trek: Nemesis), their strategy changes and Captain Calhoun begins to consider a terrifying plan.  My only complaint with this story?  Peter David also continued his story-line of the Mirror Universe New Frontier characters in a terrific recent 5-issue comic book series published by IDW, and I was really hoping for this story to connect to that one somehow.  Oh well!

A Terrible Beauty, by Jim Johnson — Taking place very shortly after the devastating events of Saturn’s Children, this story follows “Smiley” O’Brien’s attempts to pick up the pieces of the rebellion against the Alliance.  Flashback stories fill in the background of the Mirror Universe Keiko Ishikawa,who was introduced in Saturn’s Children.  This story DID answer some big questions posed by that novella, although the story of the final fate of Smiley’s rebellion is yet to be told.  The most recent DS9 novel, Fearful Symmetry, ended with Smiley’s stronghold on Terok Nor under brutal attack.  Hopefully the next DS9 book, coming this summer, will bring resolution to some of these fascinating story-lines!

Empathy, by Christopher L. Bennett — A Mirror Universe story of the Pocket Books’ Starship Titan series.  (Yes!  One that I have read!  This on-going series of five-and-counting novels follows the post-Nemesis adventures of the Titan, commanded by William Riker.)  A band of rebels, including Captain Ian Troi, Tuvok, and the savage William Riker come across an Alliance experiment that could spell great trouble for the struggling rebellion.  Can Tuvok get through to the Bajoran scientist leading the Alliance team, and convince him to change his plans?  As expected, things don’t go smoothly.  A tough, twisty tale, this story also contains a number of fascinating scientific notions, something that I have found to be a mark of Mr. Bennett’s work.

For Want of a Nail, by David Mack — What started as a rescue mission by Rebel operatives K’Ehleyr and Reg Barclay turns into something much more desperate when then discover that Alynna Nechayev has decided to defect to the Alliance.  Nechayev carries the secret to Memory Alpha, a critical component to the long-dead Spock’s far-reaching plan (introduced in the novella The Sorrows of Empire) to one day defeat the Alliance.  The adventures of the Mirror Universe team of K’Ehleyr and Barclay (two characters I never expected to read about in the Mirror Universe) is a blast — their pairing is an inspired notion.  I have high hopes that, in stories that are hopefully soon to come, we will see the culmination of Spock’s grand plan!  Nechayev’s certainty that his plan cannot succeed is alarming.  I wonder if the x-factor that will tip things over the edge in their favor is the quest to find the Mirror Universe’s Emissary, a sub-plot that began in the last DS9 novel, Fearful Symmetry. We’ll see…

I can’t wait for more stories!  Meanwhile, more Star Trek fun tomorrow!  (And I am seeing J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film on Thursday night, so my full review will be posted on Friday!  Don’t miss it!)

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