Glass Empires

Star Trek Mirror Universe:  Glass Empires
© 2007 Greg Cox, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack, Dayton Ward, and Mike Sussman
458 pages

The original series episode “Mirror, Mirror” visited an alternate universe where familiar characters and institutions existed, but as vulgar perversions of themselves: the Federation was a cruel empire that  bullied smaller powers into subordination,  its members preyed on one another for promotion-by-assassination, and man’s animal passions rather than the better angels of his nature ruled the day.   Deep Space Nine revisited this universe, revealing that the Empire had collapsed and that humans were now slaves to a Klingon-Cardassian alliance, and leaders of a new resistance.  Glass Empires is a trilogy set throughout the rise, fall, and aftermath of the Terran Empire — opening with the reign of Empress Hoshi Sato, who leads the Empire’s expansion, continuing with the tale of how Emperor Spock single-handedly destroyed the Empire in an attempt to reform it, and ending with Jean Luc Picard and Vash’s tale of resistance as they are forced to choose between the appearance of cybernetic creatures called the Borg, and the hated Alliance.

Action-wise, I enjoyed all three novels thoroughly.  I was more interested in the characterization than the plots, since the conclusion of  the first story was a given and I’d already read the full novel-sized version of the second story. The third was the only major unknown for me.  A few of Trek’s more interesting characters are here (Shran, the Soong family), and it’s amusing to see once-familiar characters behaving somewhat badly.The Enterprise characters become more interesting in general when they’re evil, unlike the DS9 characters who were just silly. (At least, in the show: the Niners are noshows here.) The collection has some continuity bugs, though, not surprising given how many authors contributed. One story alludes to the family of Khaan Noonien Singh as the original imperial family, but another story mentions that genetic engineering was forbidden, almost as if the writers forgot this was the mirror universe. Maybe Khan and his family forbad genetic engineering to make sure they had no rivals, but if so that should have been mentioned.  Secondly,  as much as I liked the idea of an alternate Wolf 359 where a Klingon-Cardassian fleet is trashed, why were the Borg there? In the original TNG run, Picard was introduced to the Borg by Q, who wanted to punish him for his arrogance;  the Borg then became interested in the Alpha Quadrant after reading the Enterprise’s databanks and began sniffing around.  Here they just show up and start assimilating, as if it were preordained.  The problem with the mirror universe of DS9 and much of these stories is that it’s just not different enough:  the only distinction is that humans created an empire instead of peaceful federation, and interstellar affairs have developed differently as a result.  We’ll see if things improve..


  • Dark Mirror,  Diane Duane. Easily my favorite Mirror Universe novel, this was published before DS9 ever revisited the mirror universe and builds on the same premise as the original: the Enterprise-D exists, but all of our favorite characters are corrupted and evil.  Humanity itself is darker at its core: when the “real” Picard browses his counterpart’s library, he is appalled at the directions mirror-Shakespeare had taken in his work. 
  • The Sorrows of Empire, David Mack. A full-length version of the middle story here, about Spock doing his Hari Seldon impersonation. 

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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7 Responses to Glass Empires

  1. James says:

    Great review Stephen. One of these days I've got to dig in to one of these Star Trek based novels. I'm afraid I might get hooked.

  2. Mudpuddle says:

    i've read a couple of these, but most of them i've looked at were poorly written and difficult to assimilate (for us Borgites)…

  3. Stephen says:

    If you start with the right one, that can certainly happen!

  4. Stephen says:

    I'm not surprised — the novels published during the series runs (the numbered novels that came out on a monthly basis) weren't very good. There were some good authors in there, but most of the plots were recycloed over and over, and nothing was allowed to really happen to disturb canon. The Relaunch books have more leeway, and have have a few dedicated authors who really know their craft as well as the material.

  5. Mudpuddle says:

    tx, Stephen… i'll give one a try… i looked up “Relaunch” and nothing was very clear… do you happen to remember the title of one?

  6. Stephen says:

    Sorry for indulging in fan jargon — basically, after Star Trek on television ended with Enterprise back in 2003, the franchise was 'relaunched'. Deep Space Nine was the first one, I think, with the two Avatar books. This was crazy successful, and soon thereafter TNG and VOY both had 'relaunch' books, basically continuing their characters' stories past the shows' ends in book form. Then ENT relaunch and eventually it grew into a massive project and all of the Relaunch series joined together for ST Destiny, and there have been smaller series and smaller crossovers after that. Tomorrow when I am back on my PC I will post some helpful links.

  7. Mudpuddle says:

    tx a lot… i'm pretty out of date, but i still like good sci fi a lot… i reread the old ones sometimes…

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