Despite the engineered tragedy residing at the story’s heart, David Mack’s Star Trek Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire is a fun romp for one reason: it has nothing to do with the main Star Trek timeline, so anything can happen.
This book bridges the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror” and the Deep Space Nine episode “Crossover” and mainly follows Spock as he attempts to reform a violent, conquest driven empire toward democracy and freedom. Mack’s portrayal of Spock is the winner throughout the book. This is a Spock built on almost pure audacity who suggests radical social engineering (and inevitable defeat and slavery) as casual as most would discuss the weather. And it’s a good thing that Spock is so interesting because this book is very Spock-centric. There are diversions here and there with mirror characters—Matt Decker, Empress Sato, Carol Marcus, Saavik—but ultimately none of them are as intriguing as Spock.
The central premise, of course, is built on a tragedy. We know from the episode “Crossover” that the Terran Empire is doomed to be conquered. Mack’s story turns this into a central part of his story; Spock concludes that true freedom will only be obtained by forcing his people to fight for it. Expecting to lose a war shortly after his reforms are enacted, he creates the seeds for an eventual revolution. This turns what could otherwise be a flaw in the story—knowing the story’s end—into a strength since the inevitable conclusion is advertised well in advance and the reader is invited to be curious about how that conclusion will reached.
In the end, Mack has created a very entertaining read. It is perhaps a more casual, more popcorn book—by that I mean fun, lighter reading—than most Star Trek novels because it has no impact on the main story or the “real” characters. In this case, though, that may be the book’s greatest strength.
I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.