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Old February 10 2013, 06:27 AM   #1
rfmcdpei
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TNG: Dark Mirror by Diane Duane Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Diane Duane's 1993 Dark Mirror is one of the select Trek novels to have its own Wikipedia article. That speaks to the high quality of this novel, the first to take a look at (a) Mirror Universe in the 24th century.

Dark Mirror is set largely in the mirror universe of the original series, where the benevolent Federation was a genocidal Earth-dominated empire and the personalities of the crew were twisted to match. Deep Space Nine took the mirror universe in a rather different direction from Dark Mirror, what with Earth by the 24th century being a conquered holding of the joint Cardassian-Klingon hegemony and all. In Dark Mirror, the empire is quite intact, thank you very much, having spared the Klingons to serve as warrior slaves (but as we learn in passing, having obliterated the Romulans and countless other unmentioned species). All of the crew of the Enterprise-D save Data (Soong died in a purge) have their counterparts on the I.S.S. Enterprise, and yes, they are very twisted, as our Picard discovers to his horror when he reads this ship's record (the destruction of an alien lifeform menacing Farpoint Station, the prejudicial terraformation of the Ferengi homeworld, the sterilization of Ligon II's secondary continent in response to an attempted hostaged-taking, et cetera). Oh, and the Empire is looking to our universe as ground for conquest, and has abducted the Enterprise-D.

Dark Mirror depends on a single twist for much of its effectiveness: What would the characters we know from ST:TNG be like if they were evil? It's proof of her genius that Duane makes the evil be the product of some of their good versions' personal aspirations. Does Deanna Troi wish she had stronger telepathic powers? She does here; what she does with them, now ... Do fans wish that Crusher and Picard had a relationship? They do here; what happened to Jack, though ... Are Deanna and Riker together? Yes, and they're horrible together and to each other. Is Geordi a powerful figure commanding respect? Yes, and he's a monster. Probably the most compelling of Duane's alternate-universe characters is the amiable monster Picard, the Worf who quietly maintains as much dignity as he can in trying circumstances, and the Security Officer Deanna Troi whose inquisitive steely viciousness prefigures Deanna's televised appearance as an undercover Tal Shi'ar officer. (I read somewhere that Duane received multiple requests from fans asking for pictures of her mirror universe version of Deanna.) Duane's original character on our side, the dolphinoid scientist Hwiii, did work for me, although friends have told me otherwise.

The broader plot, depicting the skill and bravery of the Enterprise-D's crewmembers as they infiltrate their Imperial counterpart and foil their dastardly plans, is equally entertaining. Somewhat surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the technobabble: the depiction of the multiverse as a sheaf of universes moving at varying speeds in relation to each other, some easier to reach than others, sounds plausible, while mining the idea of cosmic strings likewise worked for me.

Dark Mirror doesn't fit in with televised canon on the Mirror Universe--the Terran Empire that was crushed by the Klingon-Cardassian alliance thrived here--while the physics of interuniversal transfer and the consequences likewise differ. More subtly, knowledge of the Mirror Universe is much more widely known in the televised canon than in Dark Mirror, where knowledge of the Mirror Universe has been strictly classified for a combination of strategic and ethical reasons. That still doesn't mean Dark Mirror mightn't be wedged in. There's a very large number of universes out there, after all, including multiple iterations of the Mirror Universe, while the specific mechanics of interuniversal transfer chosen by this universe could well be much more traumatic. Even if it isn't, Dark Mirror still stands as a very good novel written by a talented novelist at the height of her powers.

(I saw a 2009 thread talking about Dark Mirror, but no ratings thread. I thought it was about time.)

Last edited by rfmcdpei; February 10 2013 at 06:44 AM. Reason: typos
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