More and more these days, Star Trek novels tease me, offering great promise in the opening chapters but slowly falling back into the limitations of tie-in fiction in the waning pages.
With the franchise effectively rebooted by the movie series, it would seem the books could pretty much take some greater risks these days, exploring some new corners of the universe and offering up some compelling stories about the characters both major and minor we’ve met over the course of four decades.
And for the first hundred pages of “Cast No Shadow,” I really felt like James Swallow was going to do just that. The story is set seven years after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.. When Klingon ship yards are attacked by a terrorist vessel that is linked to the conspiracy from the earlier film, the only connection to the group involved is the disgraced Valeris. Serving out consecutive life terms for her role in the events surrounding Gorkon’s death, Valeris is given the opportunity to wipe the slate clean legally.
Up to this point, Swallow’s story is a compelling one as he weaves in not only a lot of classic Trek history but incorporates some of the elements from the DS9 reboot. The exploration of the implications of what Spock did to Valeris and how it has affected them both in the years since it one of the most compelling and interesting aspects of the opening chapters. Even the psychiatrist sent to study and try and understand Valeris is interesting, at first.
It’s once Valeris agrees to be part of the mission to stop the terrorist cell from attacking again that things suddenly become less compelling. “Cast No Shadow” then falls into the standards tropes of the bulk of the tie-in Trek universe and makes the last two-thirds of the novel not nearly as interesting as they could be. There are a few flashbacks to how Valeris got tied into the group that offer some insight into the character and her growth, but they aren’t enough to rescue the novel from being something of a disappointment.