Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Sorrows of Empire

Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
Published January 2010
Read: July 14th, 2011

Previous book (Mirror Universe): Shards and Shadows (Anthology)
Next book (Mirror Universe): Rise Like Lions

Spoilers ahead for The Sorrows of Empire!

From the back cover:
One man can change the future ... but at what cost? 
"In every revolution, there is one man with a vision." 
Captain James T. Kirk of the United Federation of Planets spoke these prophetic words to Commander Spock of the Terran Empire, hoping to inspire change.  He could not have imagined the impact his counsel would have.
Armed with a secret weapon of terrifying power and a vision of the alternate universe's noble Federation, Spock seizes control of the Terran Empire and commits it to the greatest gamble in its history: democratic reform.
Rivals within the empire try to stop him; outside enemies unite to destroy it.
Only a few people suspect the shocking truth: Spock is knowingly arranging his Empire's downfall.  But why?  Have the burdens of imperial rule driven him mad?  Or is this the coldly logical scheme of a man who realizes that freedom must always be paid for in blood?
Spock alone knows that the fall of the empire will be the catalyst for a political chain reaction -- one that will alter the fate of his universe forever.

About the Novel:

In the mirror universe, immediately following the events of the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror," Spock kills the mirror Captain Kirk and takes command of the Enterprise.  He begins formulating a plan to seize control of the Empire and take it down the road of democratic reform.  Marlena Moreau, the former "Captain's woman" of Captain Kirk, helps him by showing him the Tantalus field, the fearsome device Captain Kirk used to kill his enemies.  Using it to eliminate those who threaten him, Spock begins to acquire more and more power until he eventually rivals the Empress, Hoshi Sato III.

Now in control of the Terran Empire, Spock initiates a series of reforms to change the Empire into a more benign Republic.  However, his actions seem to have the effect of weakening the Empire significantly, opening it up to attack by the enemies that surround it.  Unknown to most, however, is the fact that Spock has begun a secret project called "Memory Omega," designed to store the sum total of the knowledge and culture of the Terran civilization.  The hope is that the Republic would be conquered by her enemies, and the former citizens would be enslaved and persecuted.  After many years of subjugation, the people would rise up and overthrow their oppressors, forming a new society formed on the foundations of freedom and liberty.  The beginning of Spock's vision comes to pass when an alliance between the Klingons and Cardassians attack and conquer Earth, and ultimately, the entirety of the Terran Republic.  However, scattered throughout the former Empire are Vulcans who have been employed as sleeper agents, awaiting the day when the plan to overthrow the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance can be put into motion.

My Thoughts:

When Peter Allan Fields and Michael Piller wrote "Crossover" in Deep Space Nine's second season, their aim was to show the unintended effects of Kirk's influence on the mirror Spock in the original mirror universe episode.  I always felt that this was a very interesting choice: there is a reason that empires can be so brutal.  Often, the "barbarians" are just outside the city gates waiting for the empire to show a little weakness.  According to "Crossover," that's just what happened.  Or is it?  We see here that Spock's weakening of the empire was all part of a ploy, a long-term strategy to establish a civilization based on peace and freedom.  While I always admired Deep Space Nine for taking a contrary view of the mirror universe, I was always disappointed that Spock seemed to lack the foresight to avoid that outcome.  David Mack has solved this problem with The Sorrows of Empire.  Far from being blindsided by "the barbarians," we see that Spock is playing the game four or five steps ahead of everyone else, which makes the mirror universe episodes of Deep Space Nine that much more satisfying!

I love the breadth and scope of this story, spanning so many years, places, and events in the mirror universe.  I also loved the inclusion of many characters whose counterparts in the Prime universe are known.  For example, what were Admiral Cartwright, Valeris, Dax, Gorkon, etc. all up to in the mirror universe?  In The Sorrows of Empire, we find out!

At times the story seems a little rushed, which is amazing seeing as The Sorrows of Empire was originally much shorter.  It was initially published as a novella, part of an anthology of mirror universe stories in a collection called Glass Empires in 2007.  Mack's story was so good that it was requested that the story be expanded and published in a stand-alone paperback.  Rightfully so, I might add.  In this new, expanded format, The Sorrows of Empire is much better able to tell its story fully.

Final Thoughts:

One of the best Star Trek novels I've had the pleasure of reading.  Also, there is a follow-up to be published in December of 2011 entitled Rise Like Lions, which will see the 24th century conclusion of the Memory Omega storyline.  I cannot wait to read it, as The Sorrows of Empire has made me thirsty for more of David Mack's vision of the mirror universe.

Final rating: 9.5/10.

Also by David Mack:

My next read:

I am almost finished catching up reviewing all of the books I read this summer!  The next (and last) on the list is an anthology of Vanguard novellas, entitled Declassified.

I'm also currently reading Christopher L. Bennett's The Struggle Within.  I will try to post reviews of both in a timely fashion.  Until next time, take care!


  1. Do you have this novel in paperback, or on your Kobo?

  2. I have it in paperback back home in Canada, in a box in storage. Here in Korea, I purchased and read the ebook.

  3. Guess I'll have to wait until August to borrow it then ;)

  4. You won't regret it, it's a hell of a book!