This week, the Library Computer brings you part two of our look at "Shards and Shadows", the latest Mirror Universe anthology collection from the folks over at Pocket Books. This week’s stories revolve around the 24th century era, so strap in, and get ready for some action, some intrigue, and Lwaxana Troi pulling a Mona Stangley. Plus we kick off a new book give-away trivia contest.
REVIEW (Part 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe – Shards and Shadows
The new "Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows" anthology is jam packed with a dozen short stories. To give each its due we are breaking up our review of the anthology into two articles. While the stories we covered in part 1 of our review took place over a vast time span (ENT era through early TNG), this week’s review of the remaining stories in the anthology focuses on stories set in the Next Generation – Voyager era. Each story features at least one or two supporting cast members from the Next Generation–Voyager era; some of them in the midst of some rather unusual circumstances. But hey, this is the Mirror Universe… that’s to be expected.
The Sacred Chalice
Forget a dusty old cup. The Sacred Chalice is a playground of pleasure that holds within its walls the remnants of a once-great civilization. Of course, don’t tell that to Mona, I mean, Lwaxana Troi, the proprietor. She’s been too busy for the past thirty or so years building up the clout (if you can call it that) to preserve the Betazoid way of life – even if it is confined to a small hole of a whorehouse in the middle of the Alpha Quadrant. Josephs’ story is interesting, and witnessing Deanna and Jean-Luc Picard interact as the story unfolds is quite a clever way to bring the tale to its ultimate conclusion, but this particular entry into "Shards and Shadows" suffered from short story syndrome. Too much potential; too few words.
Forbidden love, short lifespans, and a Vulcan whose real aim is ‘whatever it takes’ to complete the mission. That about summarizes Susan Wright’s contribution to the anthology. Lest I sound dismissive, however, allow me to continue. Wright, who has a bit of history in the Mirror Universe, provides an interesting and, ultimately, compelling visit with Kes, Tuvok, and their prey: B’Elanna Torres and Crell Moset. As Torres and Moset work towards securing telepathic powers for the Alliance, Tuvok leads a band of freedom fighters who struggle to keep such bio-engineering know-how out of the hands of their enemy. Wright’s writing, particularly focusing on the interplay between Kes and Torres was fascinating to read. On the surface, it may not sound like much to read, but Bitter Fruit definitely far exceeded the expectations I had when Kes showed up in the early going.
Keith R.A. DeCandido
Damn fine stuff, as usual, from the Klingon Master, Keith R.A. DeCandido in his tale Family Matters. He’s taken the usual Gorkon/Klingon Empire series suspects and tossed them into the ‘Land of the Goatee’ to provide us with a unique look at corruption within the Alliance, and in the heart of one of the noble houses of the Klingon Empire. Abandoning traditional prose, DeCandido weaves this story of setup, betrayal, and advancement through a series of communiqués, transcripts, and personal correspondences to give a unique story with a unique view of the inner workings of the Klingon High Council, and Alliance politics in general. Pay close attention… this story moves by fast, and a lot of interesting and fulfilling details can be missed if one reads it too fast.
I suppose at some point, the Mirror Universe formula of "take a crew, stick in blender, paste evil smirk and goatee on face or two, and write" has got to wear thin, and in no place does it wear as thin as in Peter David’s Homecoming. Fans of the New Frontier series may well enjoy reading the exploits of the mirror-Calhoun, but in this particular instance, the first twenty pages of the story, centered on a plot to create the ultimate doomsday device, wears terribly and predictably thin. Things improve in the second portion of the story as the relative unknown Praetor Hiren gets some time to shine and serve, in some ways, as the catalyst for the story’s progress. Ultimately, Homecoming suffers from a distinct "over-the-top" quality that comes to full coagulation in the closing pages of the story aboard the Excalibur. Unfortunate… for a while there, I was actually starting to enjoy it.
A Terrible Beauty
The life of Keiko Ishikawa takes center stage in Jim Johnson’s outstanding story A Terrible Beauty. Johnson follows Keiko’s life before meeting Miles O’Brien as she lives a dangerous life in the mines of the Alliance. Keiko’s back-story is woven through a ‘present’ storyline in which the station is preparing for an Alliance attack in the wake of a sabotage. Johnson crafts a unique story for Keiko, one that manages to suprise at every turn, and which actually (unlike others in this collection) benefits from the short story format. Hands down, Johnson’s A Terrible Beauty is the best story in the book.
Christopher L. Bennett
An interesting and creative story from Bennett, Empathy catches up with Deanna Troi’s father, Will Riker, and others from the Titan series as they race to stop ongoing Alliance experimentation into telepathic capabilities, this time on a planet that experiences life through a Gestalt. While the perfect confluence of Titan cast members initially provides a touch of an irritant, the story itself shines, and reveals much about the potential future of the Mirror Universe. Spock’s influence is still felt in the hearts of his disciples, just as the Terran Empire’s influence is still felt in the minds and bodies of many who found themselves subject to its brutal regime.
For Want of a Nail
Rounding out the collection of Mirror Universe exploits is an unusual one, featuring Alynna Nechayev, K’Ehleyr, and Reginald Barclay. For Want of a Nail explores the near downfall of the Terran Republic movement at the hands of a panicky strategic planner who elects to become a wild card in order to save her own skin. While much could be said about Nechayev and K’Ehleyr’s portions of the story, it is really Reg who takes the cake, going "A-Team" in order to save the day. Seeing Barclay go into the heart of a battle to save the future of the Terran people, and confronting his personal fears in the process, brings "Shards and Shadows" to an enjoyable and fulfilling conclusion.
In Summary – Star Trek Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows
On the whole, the stories from "Shards and Shadows" have the potential to appeal to a wide audience. Some will stick with their own favorite eras of Trek history and, for the most part, should find themselves satisfied with the offerings. However, "Family Matters" and "A Terrible Beauty" should be on the readers’ list, no matter their favorite generation. While several stories suffered from their length, others benefited from the short story format. Perhaps, in the future, Pocket might consider a blend of short stories and short novels as they think ahead to future anthology collections from the Mirror Universe or the recently-introduced Myriad Universes line.
"Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows" available now at Amazon
BOOK UPDATE – Another Aventine Sneak Peek
TrekMovie recently revealed Mark Rademaker’s design sketch for the USS Aventine, the ship captained by Ezri Dax which was introduced in last year’s Destiny trilogy and features in post-Destiny books for 2009 and beyond. The final design will feature on the 2010 Ships of the Line calendar, but Rademaker has updated his blog with another update on progress, see below and click for more.
CONTEST – Win one of three signed Destiny Trilogy sets
TrekMovie named the David Mack’s crossover Destiny Trilogy the best Trek books of 2008 and now TrekMovie, in conjunction with Pocket Books, gives you a chance to win a set of the trilogy, singed by the author himself. We have a total of three trilogies to give away. Each week for the next three weeks we will be asking a new trivia question. The winning entry will be chosen at random from those who answer the question correctly. For more details and the first question, see the contest page.
Please do not discus the answer in the comments section below. The correct answer and winner of the contest will be announced in the next ‘Library Computer’ column.
Next time, the Library Computer takes a look at "Sacrifices of War", the new Original Series novel from Kevin Ryan. This new book, available now, concludes the Errand of Fury trilogy… but does the conclusion come with a whimper, or a bang? Join us next week to see! Plus we will give away another signed Destiny trilogy.