Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dark Victory

Star Trek
Dark Victory by William Shatner
Published April 2000
Read April 24th 2017


Previous book (Shatnerverse): Spectre

Next book (Shatnerverse): Preserver


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
MMPB: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Kindle: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Dark Victory!

From the back cover:
The Mirror Universe is a dark and twisted reflection of our own, where all that is noble and compassionate is instead cruel and barbaric. Now our universe has been invaded by that other reality's most feared tyrant: the dreaded Emperor Tiberius, the Mirror Universe counterpart of James T. Kirk. Just as Kirk survived his own era to live into the 24th century, so has Tiberius returned from the past to menace a new generation of Starfleet heroes.  
And only Kirk can stop him. 
With Spock, McCoy, and Spotty at his side, and teamed with Jean-Luc Picard and the valiant crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E, Kirk is propelled into his most personal and dangerous mission yet as he fights to uncover the secret of Tiberius' return and learn the terrible truth behind the madman's nightmarish plans for the Federation. 
But how can he defeat an enemy who knows Kirk's mind as well as he knows his own?

My thoughts:

Dark Victory is the second book in William Shatner's Mirror Universe trilogy, following on from the previous novel, Spectre, and concluding in the next, Preserver. After Kirk faces down his evil doppelganger, Tiberius, a few months have passed. Starfleet considers Tiberius dead, and tries to convince Kirk of that fact, but he is not having it. However, life must go on, and soon Kirk finds himself marrying the love of his life, Teilani. On the wedding day, Teilani is poisoned, and Kirk believes that Emperor Tiberius is responsible. Kirk sets off to track down Tiberius and get the cure for the toxin that has incapacitated his wife, not knowing that it is in fact a rogue agency within Starfleet, Project Sign, that has set everything in motion.

The idea of Kirk and Starfleet being against one another is a theme that comes up again and again in the "Shatnerverse" novels. Quite often, Kirk comes up against a conspiracy within Starfleet's ranks, and Dark Victory is no exception with its use of "Project Sign," a shadowy secretive organization that reminds me more than just a little of Section 31.

Dr. Andrea M'Benga plays a role in Dark Victory. If that name sounds familiar, it's because she is the great-granddaughter of the Dr. M'Benga who appeared twice in the original Star Trek television series (pictured).

In the course of this novel, we learn more about Project Sign and the underhanded tactics it uses, mostly through the secondary character of Dr. Andrea M'Benga, the great-granddaughter of the Dr. M'Benga character from the original Star Trek television series. It is revealed that Project Sign regularly uses Dr. M'Benga as an expert to conduct their research, subsequently repressing her memories of the events after each instance of her work with Project Sign. Interestingly, the character who uncovers this is none other than plain, simple Garak, the enigmatic Cardassian spy/tailor from Deep Space Nine! Garak has always been one of my all-time favorite Star Trek characters, and Dark Victory uses him to great effect. In some ways, this is surprising, as I often find that the Shatnerverse novels tend to use characters from the other series in a haphazard way, throwing them in the story so as to have Kirk interact with as many different Trek characters as possible. Garak, however, plays a really interesting role in this story, and I feel like his character is used quite well.

Garak's role in the novel was a surprise, and one that worked quite well in my opinion.

I rather enjoyed the immediate precursor to this book, Spectre, but I found myself somewhat let down by Dark Victory. For one thing, the pacing of this novel felt very off. Although they are part of a trilogy of stories, I am of the firm belief that each novel should feel like a complete book in and of itself. This is not to say that you can't have a story stretch over three books, but rather just that each book needs to have a defined arc with a complete beginning, middle, and end. In this respect, Dark Victory failed. Instead, the beginning of the book seems to wrap up the cliffhanger from Spectre quite quickly, and then the story seems to meander for quite awhile before finally upping the pace again towards the end. However, rather than ending on a really high note, the conclusion to Dark Victory fell flat for me. Instead of having a strong beginning middle and end, Dark Victory ends up feeling like it is just connective tissue between books 1 and 3 in this trilogy, and for my money, a book needs to be a little more than that.

Having said that, there were things I enjoyed. The story's use of Garak, as I mentioned, was quite welcome, as were the insights into Kirk's character. At one point, Kirk talks about the need to keep moving and making a difference in order to sort of "outrun" old age and death. I rather liked this insight into what makes Kirk tick, and as Bruce Gibson and I mention in the Literary Treks podcast about this novel, it seems as though this is something that William Shatner himself believes about his own life. Definitely a fascinating insight into James T. Kirk as well as possibly William Shatner.

Final thoughts:

While there are certainly aspects of Dark Victory that I enjoyed, I feel that it falls short of being a good Star Trek novel. Instead of feeling like a complete book in and of itself, it simply serves to connect the novels that precede and follow it. The conclusion is also fairly clunky, and I would have preferred a more compelling cliffhanger or conclusion than the note the story ends on. Unfortunately, this has been the low note in the Shatnerverse novels up to this point. 2 out of 5 stars.

More about Dark Victory:


Also by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens):

My next read:

Next up is my video review of Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin!