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Old December 5 2011, 02:12 AM   #55
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Re: Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions review thread (spoiler

I have to admit, this one wasn't my favorite.

I feel like Trek technology has been retconned and overwritten and justified and technobabbled over itself so many times that on a pure tactics level I don't find space battles in the Star Trek universe all that interesting. With Genesis torpedoes and Trilithium weapons and even the fact that, properly used, a transporter is basically a superweapon (though no one ever quite seems to use it that way), I just feel like the whole thing is sort of ridiculous. So in Trek, I'm just not really that interested in the mechanics of the space battles, the way I am in for instance an X-Wing book in Star Wars, where the rules are a little more well-defined.

My favorite battle scenes in Trek have been the ones that focus on the personal struggles, like the amazing apocalyptic Destiny fights. If Mack had wanted to, he could've come up with tactics for the Federation to win those fights, but that wasn't the point. The point was that the Federation was really staring annihilation in the face. My other favorite example of Trek action scenes done well was also by Mack, in what I feel is possibly the emotionally strongest story in the whole Trek corpus, Wildfire. Those action scenes mattered, because we saw each and every moment where a character faced their death or the deaths of others. We saw the struggles.

So I'm used to that being a strength of Mack's, but this book went kind of the opposite direction. We had long, long scenes of all of the leaders talking about tactics and where to attack next and how to maneuver and all that stuff, but the actual battles were almost glossed over a lot of the time. In particular, the two-pronged attack that led to the most main character deaths had the entire action sequence told from the enemies' perspective, leaving the emotional beats of our heroes dealing with their losses for after the fact.

Almost every time I thought an interesting character moment was coming, it was quickly blunted or shifted aside; almost rushed through. Picard feeling like a puppet and then growing into a leader? One short scene; then he's comfortable in command, and his former commander is now his first officer. Kes exploding in rage? I was incredibly surprised at that twist...then it was over less than one chapter later. And none of the NF people really had any development, except for Calhoun realizing he'd sacrifice himself for innocents, which again happened almost in the background. The only character that really had a fleshed out story was O'Brien, I thought.

Also, thematically, I feel like the real story here, the choice of these people to reject violence and become democratic, was only really in the last 15% of the story. That has been the theme of the interactions between the MU and the real universe, and it was almost lost.

So overall, this felt, in a weird way, a lot like the last Romulan War book. Like there was a great story here, but not enough time to tell it in; like Mack focused a little too much time on the mechanics of getting this huge cast of characters to move to all the right places to accomplish everything, and not enough on actually telling their stories.

It's worth noting that it's a pretty mean feat just to actually tie all this crap together in the first place; there were a TON of loose threads in the MU, and Mack grabbed all of them, tied them off in (at least theoretically) satisfying ways. But it still felt more like an outline than a novel, and the emotional impact I was looking for wasn't there.

I mostly found myself kind of... bored.

I mean, the man has written like 7 of my top 10 Trek novels of all time (Destiny, MU: Sorrows of Empire, his three Vanguards so far), and I recently re-read Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game and found a lot more to like there than I had my first time around, since I wasn't expecting a bigger story. And I'm so excited for the Vanguard finale and the trilogy next year that I can't even explain. I just think this one just moved too fast. I'm really glad it seems to be working so well for everyone else, though; I hope he'll catch me again next time around
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