Star Trek: Section 31–Disavowed by David Mack
Published by Simon and Schuster, Pocket Books, October 14, 2014. Paperback of 330 pages at $7.99.
The cover: A close up of a bearded Julian Bashir has been scanned by someone and a data file has begun to open. I love the haggard look on his face, as if he’s done with the world. I like how his eye has been highlighted, as if that’s being used to identify him, after the retina scan from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The cover art is by the superior artist Tim Bradstreet and the design is credited to Alan Dingman. I like this cover so much I’d seek out other Section 31 books if they featured similar covers with different Star Trek characters. Overall grade: A+
The premise: From the back cover, “Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answerable to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rouge shadow group committed to safeguarding the Federation at any cost. Doctor Julian Bashir sacrificed his career for a chance to infiltrate Section 31 and destroy it from within. Now it’s asking him to help it stop the Breen from stealing a dangerous new technology from the Mirror Universe–one that could give the Breen control over the Galaxy. It’s a mission Bashir can’t refuse, but is it really the shot he’s been waiting for? Or is it a deadly trap from which even his genetically enhanced abilities can’t escape?” I’m a big Bashir fan and a huge fan of the Breen, one of the most mysterious races in the Star Trek universe. Mack has done several books featuring the Breen and they’ve been a lot of fun. I also enjoy Mirror Universe tales, but I have to admit to absolutely hating Section 31. I groaned every time they reared their head on Deep Space Nine. However, Mack has yet to disappoint me, so I’m more than willing to take a chance on what he’ll do with them. Overall grade: B+
The characters: Julian Bashir now lives on Andoria, having saved the population of that world due to his genetic know-how. He can’t practice medicine anywhere else in the galaxy, and feels stuck on this cold world. He’s approached by Section 31, but he believes he can play they and destroy them. He’s involving himself in a game of cat and mouse where he could end up being the mouse with any turn of the page. Something absolutely tremendous occurs on 167 that sent me tearing through the pages. It was completely unexpected, but makes perfect sense considering where he is. What he does because of this page was fantastic. He’s accompanied into the Mirror Universe by his partner, of many ways, Sarina Douglas, also a character from Deep Space Nine. Like Bashir, she has been genetically modified and was once a member of Section 31. She, too, would like to see the organization destroyed, so she, like Julian, walks a fine line in making them think she’s still loyal, while trying to end them. Cole is the senior member of Section 31 responsible for recruiting the protagonists into going into the Mirror Universe. He’s smug and always a step ahead of everyone. He is the type of character readers long to see taken down a peg or out. The unpredictable is his specialty, though he may be over his head in the Mirror Universe. The second villain of the novel is Trom, the Breen captain of the Tajny who is sent with his crew into the Mirror Universe to get something. He’s completely focused and is able to get his crew in and out of tight situations constantly. If he wasn’t so evil, I would have admired him and his crew. I found myself rooting for him until I remembered he’s the cause of this book’s troubles. There are also several very familiar Mirror Universe versions of characters that had me going gonzo wherever they appeared. Overall grade: A+
The settings: Andoria and the Mirrror Universe are the primary locations. Andoria sets up Julian and Sarina’s situation, and it’s very different from anything one may have seen on the small screen. The Mirror Universe features several locations familiar to fans of the series, though most of the action takes place on starships. I can’t reveal the ships’ names for spoiling things, but if one was fan of Star Trek in the 1990s, this book should be read. Overall grade: A+
The action: The books starts at a slow pace, as Julian and Sarina are drawn into Section 31’s web, which parallels the Tajny‘s entry into the Mirror Universe. Once in that location things escalate quickly, with fleets ready to do battle as characters try to manipulate each other. Political maneuvers become skirmishes that were thrilling to read. I was completely absorbed into the action by characters just thinking about what to do next. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in a court room scene. The ending is a nail biter. Overall grade: A+
The conclusion: Fantastic in every possible way. There is a satisfying conclusion for every character, with some meeting their fates, while others may return another day. I actually gave a cheer at the end of Chapter Thirty-two. This is how to end a Star Trek novel of intrigue. Overall grade: A+
The final line: Mack could write a novel focusing on a Tribble’s life and make it stunning, I’m sure. This was an exceptionally exciting, surprising, wonderful trip to the Mirror Universe with Doctor Bashir trying to destroy an organization that won’t quit. The Breen continue to evolve to greatness under Mack’s pen and I eagerly await his next chapter in the Star Trek universe. Highly recommended. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.