Spoilers TOS: Cast No Shadow by James Swallow Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Thrawn, Jul 22, 2011.

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Rate Cast No Shadow.

  1. Outstanding

    22 vote(s)
    33.3%
  2. Above Average

    34 vote(s)
    51.5%
  3. Average

    9 vote(s)
    13.6%
  4. Below Average

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Poor

    1 vote(s)
    1.5%
  1. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    Ditto here... it's just another sterotype added to the mix. Granted, I can understand that stereotype far more than using the out that makes its way into the bulk of the story... and I can't see a way around said view of the forced meld (especially having just read Yesterday's Son last night!)

    That begin said...

    Cold hard logic leading Valeris to her conclusions during the Gorkon/Khitomer conspiracy would have been far more compelling, cold, and Vulcan than what we got...
    At least, in my opinion.

    Rob+
     
  2. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    I finished it over the weekend and I thought it was very well done. I liked the parallels between Jack Ryan from the Hunt for Red October (move version) and Elias Vaughn (Next time Jack, write a goddamn memo) as it showed the beginning of the latter's career. Valeris was always a flawed character and regardless of the type of flaw it is, it will always be cliched because there are only so many flaws and therefore they are used all the time.

    The terrorist plot was also interesting as it showed yet again how one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. I think the only way to stamp out terrorism is to understand why they do what they do and make them know that you understand and are willing to do something about it. The politics of this novel are great, with everything the bad guys have done swept under the rug so no one knows anything.

    I do have one question though. We saw a Kriosian in TNG but was Krios independent by then or just left alone by the Klingons as a result of the events in the book?
     
  3. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    All the more reason for a very different take (see the spoiler in my post above) on motivations for Valeris.

    Rob+
     
  4. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    You forget that
    Vulcans are not without emotion, they just bury them under what is arguably a thin veneer of logic. To me, Vulcans lie and scheme just as much as the Romulans, but they say it is logical, as if that will cover it. Very few Vulcans appear to have achieved Kolinahr and therefore their emotions are bound to come through at times, no matter how much they bury them. She had hatred for Klingons as a girl and held on to it for decades, nurturing it and twisting her logic.

    Vulcans are as susceptible as the rest of us when it comes to revenge it would seem. Just as humans become blinded by revenge, so do Vulcans, but it manifests differently, and seemingly more potently. Because they bury their emotions and don't really deal with anything, when they erupt, they do so like Pompeii instead of something more.

    In my view, Valeris wasn't even sure of her own motivations at any given point, she was working on instinct, not logic.
     
  5. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    But the problem is not with her being a vulcan but that the reasoning behind her motivation is maybe the most clichéd (just behind "I was abused as a child!") in modern fiction, her species is irrelevant in that regard, she could be a talking octopus for all the difference it makes to the use of that tired plot point.
     
  6. Jedi_Master

    Jedi_Master Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread


    Just because the "childhood trauma" has been used many times in fiction does NOT mean that no writer can use it ever ever ever. If plot devices were banned after a certain number of uses, then the world of fiction would be bare.
    An individual reader can certainly look for the "new" and "interesting" in fiction, but seeing as this book was a tie in novel written about a universe that has had a lot of fictional exploration - expecting something new and exciting from it or any other Star Trek book every single time is IMO unreasonable. We buy these

    A Vulcan's emotions do run very, very deep. They are also taught to control and suppress and have greater mental acuity and recall than humans. So a traumatic event would really impact their entire life, in a way that is deeper and more real than a human, especially if they chose to conceal the traumatic events.

    Swallow's use of that plot device was necessary if he was to portray Valeris as a sympathetic character. Perhaps it would have been more "interesting" if she was a coldly calculating menace, but that also has been done in other novels.

    The book was a great story overall, and one that delved into a very interesting period of time.

    :techman:
     
  7. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    I didn't walk away from Cast No Shadow with any inkling of Valeris as a sympathetic character, and while I am not the author, I can't see how the idea of making her sympathetic ever entered into his mind. (He is free to correct me if I am wrong.) The conclusion of her story in the book makes the fact that she isn't a sympathetic character crystal clear.

    She could fall out of her shuttlecraft without a parachute as far as I am concerned, the sorry, good for nothing ingrate.

    Rob+
     
  8. Jedi_Master

    Jedi_Master Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread


    I have a somewhat opposite view. Star Trek VI positioned her as a traitor and a murderer - without giving any context to her decision. This book seems to be designed to provide that context, flesh out her character, explain her thought process, and do so in an entertaining framework. It also highlights the motivations and actions of various types of "traitors".

    As to her final action:
    She loves being a pilot, and she seems to be determined to be of service in about the only way possible, and to cut all ties to her past. That is not a hero, but not a villain either.
     
  9. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    Now I think about it, the other thing that's bugging me is a very particular Star Trek cliche - "Vulcans are a very emotional people no matter how they try and repress it" - that's been done to death as well over the last decade.
     
  10. Jedi_Master

    Jedi_Master Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread


    Chuckle. There must be a lot of Star Trek fiction that you avoid then. Trek lit is one of the most cliche cluttered environments in fiction.
     
  11. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    Sure it's the nature of franchise fiction but even then you get the odd jem which is why I continue to pick up books. Well except for the Enterprise books, I'd rather have a prostate exam on stage than read another Enterprise book...
     
  12. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    My copy just arrived, so I'll likely read it - or most of it -tonight. I really enjoyed Day of the Vipers and Synthesis, as well as Swallow's Myriad Universe story, so I'm looking forward to this. :)
     
  13. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    Just remember not to clinch too tightly when you hear the snap of the glove. We'll be watching... :devil:

    Rob+
     
  14. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    Finished. :)

    I certainly enjoyed it - Swallow is always a good writer - but I do agree it was a bit generic. It didn't have the same shining originality as his earlier Trek stories. That isn't to condemn it as such - it's a perfectly good Trek novel, and I'd give it an "Average" rating. Swallow's previous novels Day of the Vipers and Synthesis got "Outstanding", and his Myriad Universe story "Above Average", so this isn't as good as his other works. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, though, and it's a perfectly solid story that gave me my regular fix of continuity-conforming Trek lit. However, it is struggling against the content a Valeris novel simply had to have - Klingons and troubled Vulcans. As others have pointed out upthread, both of these have been used so often it's hard to make them truly memorable.

    More below.

    There's lots to enjoy with the novel, but unlike in Swallow's previous stories nothing really stands out. Among the positive content that still felt like it could have been more: the Kriosians. Using the Kriosians was a pleasing choice; they were (sort of) already established as a Klingon client race (I much prefer the "all uses of Krios are the same world" idea to the "two planets" idea, which KRAD hinted at but I don't think ever explicitly confirmed..) and we know enough about their history to want more. That said, they ended up being rather generic. That's not a complaint about the characters among them, who were perfectly interesting, only that there wasn't that much to mark them as Kriosians particularly (some interesting notes about their people's history of resistance aside). Then again, Kriosians weren't a particularly alien culture to begin with, were they? They were just proud colonist-monarchists, with spots, and with a pretty stratified social order. So while the Kriosian characters could have been of any race really (again, those references to Krios' independent spirit deserve mention, but weren't particularly defining of this one culture), that's probably more Swallow being true to what we've seen of them than anything else. Still, Thorn-as-Kriosians did feel a little like wasted potential.

    On the other hand, the Thorn-as-a-terrorist-resistance-group was fully successful in my view. Their portrayal avoided both heavy-handed villainy and overly sympathetic softening. Their cause was logical, their attitude sensibly antagonistic, and they avoided being any sort of commentary on any real terrorists. Swallow did very well here.

    I liked the use of subspace weapons again. I think the only other novel to explore them was Serpents Among the Ruins, and we do need to see them, I think, to justify why they're so frowned upon. Also, Vaughn's always good to see. There were a couple of nice continuity references to those relatively few things previously established about his early career and background, and the tale of his first major success for Starfleet was something I guess many of us have been wanting to see.

    I actually don't really mind another Klingon tale, though as others have said the setting makes it hard for the novel to stand out. It's certainly true that Klingons are overused and a bit stale, but given the nature of their society and culture it doesn't bother me that they keep flaring up. There's always going to be some sort of trouble in the Empire. And this particular point in their history was underexplored - we've had the immediate fall out of Praxis's destruction (as well as plenty of stories leading up to the event), but our next exposure to Klingons was set in 2311, when they were recovering and Azetbur was losing power. 2300 is a good mid-way point between Praxis and Tomed.

    I suppose I'm a little torn, basically. Klingons are used so often, but the idea of yet another Klingon issue isn't unrealistic, because these are Klingons we're talking about. We also had another barely-prevented major attack on Qo'noS (remembering the strike in Forged in Fire), but, again, this is an unstable empire that has enemies all over and considers internal conflict a normal part of life. So the "we've seen this before" complaint rings a bit hollow. Still, it does lurk in the back of the mind. Swallow's writing is always good, so that certainly helped keep me interested and keep the lurker at bay, but I do agree that Klingons might be just too over-used to let this novel carry the weight it should. Not really Swallow's fault, but it makes his novel have to work harder than it should to be more than average.

    On the other hand, Swallow does try, I sense, to offer a little variety. There's good use of a range of Klingon ship designs, rather than simply Birds of Prey or K't'ingas. And one short scene features a Yan sword rather than a Bat'leth. Those are only little details, but they did help raise the Klingon depiction out of the standard fare a little. I suppose while I'm on the subject, we also get a reversal of sorts with Kaj, in that in previous stories featuring Imperial Intelligence (KRAD novels, mostly), II is usually less sympathetic than the Defense Force. Whether it's Qaolin in The Art of the Impossible or Klag in the Gorkon stories, the Klingon we're rooting for is usually the fleet officer, and the II agent is rendered an antagonist of sort. Here, it's Kaj towards whom the story is favourably biased. On top of that, her crew including non-Klingons was a nice touch. So overall there was an effort made, I feel, to twist the Klingon setting around a bit.

    A few little notes: we got a name for Chang's BoP, which I believe is taken from the novelization of The Undiscovered Country - Dakronh. We get a little of Chang's backstory, too, which I believe is all original, and welcome. While we're on Chang, the line "Let's keep the Shakespeare appreciation to a minimum" did make me smile. :lol: Another character thread followed up on was Nanclus - I'm glad, because he was always a bit of a loose end. Maybe he got tied up a bit too neatly, but I liked Kaj, so I didn't mind Nanclus' comeuppance at all.

    Random continuity point: I believe this novel marks the earliest chronological apperance of a Grazerite. On a related note, the Federation and its starfleet are nicely diverse - we get Cygnians, Andorians, Rigelians and Caitians rather than just Humans all the time. This diversity is always a good thing in my book.

    As for the cover, I agree it's misleading, but it's not, I feel, a bad cover if you take it non-literally. I know most people would take Spock's picture as an advert of his being in the book, so I agree it's a bad choice, but I thought it actually worked quite well thematically. Valeris indeed doesn't cast a shadow because she was the shadow. She was Spock's student and subordinate, quietly lurking.

    So, overall, it was perfectly enjoyable but nothing special. By James Swallow standards it was a bit disappointing, but I do keep in mind that Swallow's quality is such that disappointing for him doesn't mean lack of quality. Also, he was struggling against some very over-used aspects of the Trek 'verse by virtue of it being the Valeris novel, and this means he's having to fight upstream. Not the best Trek lit, but I have no real complaints. :)
     
  15. ToddCam

    ToddCam Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    Nasat:

    There was one thing Swallow could have used. There was no mention of sexual metamorphs or whatever Jean Grey was called in "The Perfect Mate". It was supposedly common in males and rare in females. I would have loved to see more of that challenging the patriarchal assumption that only women are sexy.
     
  16. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    That's a point. :) That is indeed the most interesting established fact about the race, and I agree that exploring it (particularly in a manner that dealt with some of the odd layers of assumptions and/or aversions that can be read into the on-screen portrayal, one way or the other) would have been nice. On the other hand, I suppose it was also nice that Swallow didn't try to shoehorn them in if they didn't really fit.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  17. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    You must not read much. I'll admit they might not be the greatest thing in the history of literature, but I wouldn't go that far.
     
  18. kc5hwb

    kc5hwb Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    I'm about half way through the book and I am loving it. I wish there was more in the "Sulu/Excelsior" line. I could see them doing an entire series on this and it being popular.
     
  19. shanejayell

    shanejayell Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    About half or so through. Liking it a lot, will post more later. :)
     
  20. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Cast No Shadow Review Thread

    I finished it yesterday. I neither thought it was great or was trash.