Tie-in fiction was a staple of my reading life for much of my teens and early twenties. I eagerly picked up each new installment as it hit the shelves and would quickly consume them over the course of a few afternoons and evenings.
But then, in the late ’90’s, Star Trek fiction began to become a bit more insular. It started wit the annual (generally summer-released) cross-over events, then it continued with advancing the story and characters beyond the finales of DS9 and Voyager. Slowly, Trek fiction demanded (at least it seemed to this reader) that you have read a half-dozen or so novels leading up to the current one and be aware of the various new directions the characters were going. Alas, I started to get behind on my Trek reading because it felt too much I was missing details and was so far behind that I’d never catch up.
Which is why Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Shadows Have Offended is such a welcome, breath of fresh air to the Star Trek fiction universe – a standalone story set during the seventh season of TNG and focused on Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher. Like many of the most memorable Trek novels of my earlier days, this one felt like an episode of the series, only without the constraints of a television budget.
The Enterprise is “volunteered” by Luxwana Troi to ferry guests for an upcoming Betaziod ceremony across the quadrant, much to the chagrin of Captain Picard. While doing this, a research station in a nearby sector suffers a tragedy. Picard sends an away team of Riker, Data, Crusher, and several other original characters to investigate while the ship continues its duties on Betazed.
The biggest compliment I can give this novel is that Clarke really knows the ins and outs of these characters. It’s easy to hear the actors saying the lines she gives these iconic characters. But she also takes a page from J.M. Dillard and other Trek writers and introduces her own creations into the canon. The members of the away team with Riker and Crusher are all well-drawn and interesting enough to warrant returning in a future offering should Clarke decide to visit the Trek universe again.
Shadows Have Offended won’t be mistaken for a great piece of literature. But, it’s a quietly, comforting novel that reminded me of the days when I was immersed in Trek fiction. I hope Clarke has another novel or two set in the TNG universe in her. This one is a lot of fun and every bit as entertaining as I’d hoped it would be.