When I saw February's blurb about reading the next book in a series you've let slide, this was the first book to pop into my head. I had bought it before Into Darkness came out but it had gotten lost in a plethora of borrowed, checked out, and bought books. I'd managed to read Countdown to Darkness, the comic that set up the movie, but wasn't able to find this one at the time (buried under countless other books labelled 'To Read'). Even after buying Volumes 5 & 6, I just never seemed to pick this one back up, even though I've watched the two movies enough to quote them.
Perhaps I put it off because I had a hunch about the story "Mirrored," but more on that later.
Hendorff: Apparently we're finally getting a Below Decks story! For those who haven't seen the new movie, Hendorff is the guy Kirk labelled 'Cupcake' in the 1st movie. Here we see him creating a video letter to his parents addressing a fear and situation at least two universes have faced, the death rate of red shirts. From his response, we can see the pride and respect this man has for Starfleet, the ship, and its crew (including the Captain), and his job. During this we also see a re-imagining of the episode "The Apple", with the flowers that shoot poisonous spines at the crew. Hendorff saves Spock's life and the story we know changes from there. It's one of the better retellings the series has done yet and the characterization of Hendorff in here is extremely good. I was sad to see the story end.
Keenser's Story: I've long been waiting for the back story on this character, so this Below Decks tale was a long time coming for me. We see his trials on the Enterprise, as everything is built for taller beings then him. A far cry from his world, where he was a giant and picked on. First Contact with the Kelvin crew, including George Kirk, leads to him enlisting in Starfleet and trying to find where he fits. A great story about a character that is really underused in the movies.
Mirrored: Ah, the story that gave me so much trouble. I really loved the episode "Mirror, Mirror" because we get to see a different universe and some different versions of the beloved crew. However, what I think the episode did right was keep a few key characters we knew and through them we can experience the horrors of this blood-thirsty and dark universe.
Here, we see only the people in the Reboot Mirror Universe and it is, of course, even darker then the TOS Mirror universe. Spock is the captain, Kirk is the commander, and the Klingon home world is in flames. A character from the TOS movies, Chancellor Gorken, makes an appearance, though not a long one. Things proceed as one might expect, badly, with Kirk sporting the scar on his face (Sulu had it in the episode) and is not the Kirk we know. I frankly don't like his character (I know you're not suppose to) and I don't particularly care for it. The best part is how the story is set up, with Scotty and Bones in the AOS universe discussing how Spock Prime came to their universe and the numerous other universes out there as well.
The art style is different from some of the others (it reminds me of the art style used in the Romulan/Vulcan story in...Vol 3, I think), and a very good one, in my opinion.
A good volume, particularly with the Below Decks stories, that gives us more of a look at the great ship and wonderful crew when they're not saving the world and getting the ship shot up.