BooksOpinionTelevision & Film

RISE LIKE LIONS: Mack Knifes Into Battle

by David Mack
Pocket, November 2011

It is a time of civil war. A band of rebels, striking from a secret base…

Oh, wait. It’s not that universe. But the Trek Mirror Universe first introduced in “Mirror, Mirror” certainly feels that way now. The Terrans are in a desperate struggle against overwhelming odds. Foes on every front: the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, the new Typhon Pact, and the renegade survivors of the Romulan Empire.

It certainly sounds like that other story-verse, but it stays cleanly within the lines of the Star Trek we all know and love (and not a lens flare in sight).

Rise Like Lions is a continuation of several story threads from several episodes of Deep Space Nine and other Mirror Universe novels, but you don’t have to know any of those to jump right in on the action. That’s the beauty of a Mirror story. Because it’s all different and familiar at the same time.

General Miles O’Brien is in charge of the ragged band of Terrans trying desperately to win any sort of victory they can get, and trying to do it with an albatross around his neck: the station Terok Nor. While battle after battle goes against them, in another corner of the universe, the Alliance is falling apart. The Vulcans have infiltrated the Alliance as “slaves” – hiding their mental abilities until such time as they could use them to manipulate the military and political leaders of both the Cardassians and Klingons into turning on themselves and each other.

All part of the desperate plan managed by Saavik, with her Memory Omega team.

In the midst of this chaos, Luc Picard is recruited to be the human face of the resistance. Saavik sees him as a leader that can be trusted both by O’Brien and Calhoun, who is currently in charge of the Romulan fleet.

Author David Mack has spun a nicely-crafted tale that leaves nothing hanging. And he provides enough back-story as an organic ingredient in the plot, that you’re caught up before you even realize you were behind. I like that I didn’t have to read umpty-jillion books just to get to this one.

The Mirror Universe has always been a fun place to visit, especially when you see your favorite characters doing something so grandly out of character. Picard’s reluctance to get involved, mainly to protect Deanna Troi, is a nice twist on the whole “reluctant hero” thing. Most times, the hero is reluctant because he’s selfish. In this case, he’s reluctant because he feels a sense of obligation to protect Deanna after the death of her homeworld.

The sub-plot involving Kes is an intriguing one as well. The interaction she had with Tuvok in “our” universe is mirrored here, but with completely different results. The idea that a super-powerful Ocampa could be driven to do what she does… well.. I’m not going to spoil it for you. Where’s the fun in that?

The pace is good. The action is written well, in a way that I had no trouble following what was going on at any given point in the battle sequences. And there’s just enough humor mixed in to keep everything real. It’s not a dark, grim tome where everyone is about to meet their doom… even though it looks very much like that could happen in a couple of places. I especially like his use of Keiko, a character I always felt got short shrift in the series.

The only thing I had a hard time buying was the SuperMegaTransporter that whisked our heroes to a galaxy far, far away (OK… maybe not that far). That particular element smacked of JJTrek, and almost had me crying “foul” at Mack. But I can forgive that one foible in an otherwise fun tale.

Rise Like Lions also satisfied the continuity nerd in me, bringing in elements from Peter David’s Excalibur series, along with a nod to the Vanguard set of stories. I always like it when the author understands the story in a shared universe sense. It feels like a piece of a larger whole, and yet it’s sufficiently self-contained that you don’t miss out on the gag.

Buy it. You’ll like it.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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