28 December 2015

Review: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow by James Swallow

Mass market paperback, 360 pages
Published 2011

Acquired June 2012
Read December 2015
Star Trek: Cast No Shadow
by James Swallow

Cast No Shadow is about a secret mission into Klingon space to stop a war, set seven years after The Undiscovered Country, and featuring Valeris (from that film) and Elias Vaughn (from the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels), with Spock and Sulu in minor supporting roles. I've never read a Tom Clancy novel, but I've seen Hunt for Red October, and I can recognize that this is a Star Trek take on Clancy, down to the attention to technical and political details; Swallow fills in a lot of the gaps in Star Trek's loose approach to worldbuilding by drawing on the old FASA sourcebooks, which just seems tonally right.

The book is a decent, well-executed example of its genre. Vaughn starts out as a desk analyst, and ends up deeper and deeper as the situation escalates, and I enjoyed that, and Swallow's attention to detail serves him well. But the character stakes aren't quite strong enough (though I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this is true to Clancy novels). Vaughn feels like he's along for the ride, and though that's accurate to his position and status, I didn't have a sense of what this adventure meant for him. Meanwhile, I really liked Swallow's handling of Valeris at first, but ended up feeling that he'd taken a potentially fascinating character-- a counterpart to Spock who decided that because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, peace was not the answer-- and flattened her into a simple victim of childhood trauma.

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