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Star Trek Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions

February 22nd, 2012
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Now that’s what I’m talking about!!  I just finished reading David Mack’s novel Rise Like Lions, the phenomenal, long-awaited conclusion to the Mirror Universe storyline begun back in the second-season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued in several terrific Star Trek novels which have been published in the last half-decade or so.

But let’s back up.  Back in 2006, David Mack wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Warpath. It was a magnificent novel, a fast-paced, rip-snorting adventure yarn that really shook up the post-finale DS9 literary universe Pocket Books had been crafting.  It was one of the best Star Trek novels I’d ever read.

And also one of the most frustrating.

A huge chunk of the novel was a depiction of some-sort of alternate-world dream of the near-death Kira Nerys.  It was hinted, at the end, that this was a vision given to Nerys by the Prophets, and at the time I loved this oblique glimpse at what story-lines were lying ahead in the Deep Space Nine world.  As the years have gone bye, though, that glimpse given in Warpath has grown more and more frustrating to me, as those story-lines have not yet been continued.  Warpath is also notable for its absolutely brutal cliffhanger ending.  At the time, I was delighted by the boldness of the ending, but here again that delight eventually grew to frustration as the months and eventually years passed and no new DS9 novel ever appeared.  (The cliffhanger was eventually resolved in Olivia Wood’s 2008 & 2009 novels Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key.)

But the reason I’m bringing up Warpath is because of the other twist found in the novel’s closing pages.  As the events reached their climax, suddenly the story we were following shifted direction, and for a few pages we were taken back into the Mirror Universe and witnessed the death of a major character.

I’m not sure whether this was all planned before Warpath or not, but the next few years gave us several new Pocket Book Star Trek novels that explored the Mirror Universe.  There was the excellent duology Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances (click here for my review), each of which contained three novellas which explored the history of the Mirror Universe, from the time of Enterprise to the days immediately after the first crossover (in the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror”), to the post-DS9 finale time-period.  That duology was followed by a short-story collection called Shards and Shadows (click here for my review), which further explored the back-story of the Mirror Universe.  The key story, to me, in all of those novels was David Mack’s novella The Sorrows of Empire (which was eventually released, in expanded form, as a novel of its own — click here for my review).  This novella gave a totally new spin to the life story of the Mirror Universe Spock, setting him up as the Harry Seldon-like mastermind of a secret, centuries-spanning plan.

The Sorrows of Empire hinted at a future story (or stories) that would one day show us the end result of Spock’s plan, and I have been eagerly awaiting such a story for years.  I have also, with mounting impatience, been waiting for the Mirror Universe-set events of the end of Warpath to be addressed, as all of the Mirror Universe stories released in the intervening years have been set PRIOR to the events of Warpath.

It’s been a long wait, but finally, finally, Rise Like Lions has done just that, and who better to have written it than the author of both Warpath and The Sorrows of Empire, David Mack.

You’ve been patient through my extremely long-winded intro, so let me cut now to the chase:  Rise Like Lions is a spectacular Star Trek novel.  It’s everything I hope a Trek novel (or, heck, any Trek story, on-screen or off) to be: epic and exciting and filled with intergalactic fate-of-the-universe adventure and compellingly personal character stories.

I was extraordinarily surprised and impressed at the way Mr. Mack was able to incorporate, not just story-lines from his previous Mirror Universe stories, but story-lines from pretty much ALL the other Mirror Universe novellas and short stories Pocket Books has published!  Characters from Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Voyager story The Mirror-Scaled Serpent, Peter David’s New Frontier story Cutting Ties, and Greg Cox’s Next Gen story The Worst of Both Worlds all play key roles in Rise Like Lions. The dramatic events of Sarah Shaw’s DS9-centric Mirror Universe story Saturn’s Children (that saw the Intendant’s return to grace and her crushing of the rebellion’s new Defiant fleet) are also, finally, continued and resolved.  Mr. Mack even picked up characters and story-threads from a variety of the Shards and Shadows short-stories, such as Deanna Troi’s connection with Luc Picard (from The Sacred Chalice by Rudy Josephs), Keiko Ishikawa’s back-story (from Jim Johnson’s A Terrible Beauty), the destruction of Romulus (from Peter David’s Homecoming) and the K’Ehleyr/Barclay pairing (from Mr. Mack’s own story For Want of a Nail).

(Pretty much the only lingering story-thread from the previous Mirror Universe stories that Mr. Mack doesn’t address is the ending of Mike Sussman and Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore’s Age of the Empress, the Enterprise-set story that saw Empress Hoshi Sato finding a way to resurrect Jonathan Archer.  Since that story is set 200 years before the events of Rise Like Lions, I didn’t really expect that plot point to be addressed in this book!)

With incredible skill, Mr. Mack weaves all of those characters and story-points together into an epic tapestry.  Set over the course of several years, Rise Like Lions finally completes the story of Smiley’s rebellion against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, as well as the secret machinations of the Vulcan-led Memory Omega.  Pretty much every key surviving Mirror Universe character we’ve ever met gets some time in the spotlight, and somehow Mr. Mack also finds the time to introduce several new Mirror Universe characters, like Corat Damar.  I was extremely impressed by how Mr. Mack was able to juggle such a large number of characters and locations, while still maintaining a coherent narrative and a strong forward momentum to his story.

I loved that this Mirror Universe story-line was set entirely within the Mirror Universe, without any involvement from characters in the “main” timeline.  I appreciated Mr. Macks’s faith in the strength of the Mirror Universe story that he didn’t need to use any of the “real” characters as a crutch for the story.  I also loved Mr. Mack’s use of titles for the chapters (as he did in The Sorrows of Empire) — there was something delightful in reading the chapter title and then trying to guess the setting/events of that chapter.  (I also loved the cleverness of the titles, such as, just to pick one example, “Fury’s Reign” which was the title for the chapter in which Kes’ story-line reaches its climax.  The chapter title is a reference, of course to the Voyager episode “Fury” that was Kes’ final appearance on the show.)

Rise Like Lions is an epic achievement.  It’s a powerful climax to many, many years of story-telling, both on-screen (Smiley’s rebellion began all the way back in the second season Deep Space Nine episode “Crossover, which aired in May, 1994) and off-screen in Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.  It’s an immensely satisfying read, featuring a story that spans the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma quadrants (pretty much the whole known universe of Star Trek) and characters from all of the 24th century Star Trek shows and novels.  It is, at long, long last, a fitting resolution to the long-unresolved story elements from Warpath. More than that, Rise Like Lions represents everything I look for in a Star Trek novel.

I’d love to see the novelized adventures in the Mirror Universe continue (and the book’s epilogue provides a tantalizing hint of what might come next), but if this is the last Mirror Universe novel I would remain wholly satisfied.  Well done, Mr. Mack, and thank you!

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek — Unspoken TruthTroublesome Minds, Cast No Shadow

Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Sky’s The LimitDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending Sacrifice,

Star Trek: Voyager — Full Circle

Star Trek: Titan — Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesBook 5: Under a Torrent SeaBook 6: Synthesis

Star Trek: Typhon Pact — Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of Disharmony

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations — Watching the Clock

Star Trek: The Lost Era — Book 1: The Sundered

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) — Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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