Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: media tie-in, science fiction
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Published by Pocket Books on July 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
An original novel based on the acclaimed Star Trek TV series!
The USS Enterprise has been granted the simple but unavoidable honor of ferrying key guests to Betazed for a cultural ceremony. En route, sudden tragedy strikes a Federation science station on the isolated planet Kota, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard has no qualms sending William Riker, Data, and Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher to investigate. But what begins as routine assignments for the two parties soon descends into chaos: Picard, Worf, and Deanna Troi must grapple with a dangerous diplomatic crisis as historic artifacts are stolen in the middle of a high-profile ceremony…while nothing is as it seems on Kota. A mounting medical emergency coupled with the science station’s failing technology—and no hope of rescue—has Doctor Crusher racing against time to solve a disturbing mystery threatening the lives of all her colleagues….
This caught my eye for a number of reasons. I was more than a bit surprised to see it pop up on Edelweiss, because the Star Trek media tie-in books in general don’t make many appearances on either Edelweiss or NetGalley. After all, the audience for them is built in, to the point where reviews probably don’t make much difference.
But it kept calling my name because it filled a bunch of niches in my reading brain. I was looking for something SFnal after the excellence of A Psalm for the Wild-Built and Project Hail Mary last week. I’m still in the mood for competence porn, and Trek fiction at its best has always scratched that particular itch. The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, whether or not there’s a “bloody A, B, C or D” or even E in the name, have always been the best of the best.
This is a world I could sink into from the very first page. I’ve known this place and these people for a long, long time, after all. And the title was intriguing because there’s a long history of Trek borrowing from Shakespeare, going all the way back to the 9th episode of the 1st season of the Original Series, whose title, “Dagger of the Mind” comes straight out of Macbeth.
So the copy of The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works that Jean-Luc Picard keeps in his quarters, or the still ironic reference to not having “experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon” are far from the first times that the Bard has been referenced in Trek.
The 1960s assumption that if Shakespeare was still being performed and read 350 years after his death that he would still be considered a classic another 350 years in the future – when the Original Series was set – still seems like a good bet.
All of the above is a long way of saying that I got trapped into this story for the title, which is, as you might have already guessed or remembered, a quote from Shakespeare, specifically from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended…” I found myself wondering what the quote, or the context of the original play, might have to do with this particular story. So here we are. And that, I think, relates to another Shakespeare quote, this one from The Tempest. “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
And doesn’t that require a bit more explanation?
Very much like one of the episodes of any and all of the Trek series, there’s an A plot and a B plot in Shadows Have Offended. Sometimes they did plot and subplot, but I’m not sure that either plot here is subordinate to the other.
The A plot follows Picard at a diplomatic function on Betazed. Picard may be an excellent diplomat, but the pomp and ceremony that is a huge part of the Betazed culture leaves him totally cold – although the Betazed Ambassador Lwaxana Troi does her best to warm him up by embarrassment as she’s been completely unsuccessful at every other method she’s tries – and she’s tried them ALL.
Lwaxana ropes Picard into participating in the ceremony, while she gets to watch her daughter, the Enterprise’ ship’s counselor Deanna Troi, while she attempts to figure out if Deanna and Worf are in a relationship or not.
But the ceremony goes haywire when the cultural artifacts that are scheduled to be displayed are stolen, leaving Picard on Betazed attempting to calm the agitated diplomatic horde while the Enterprise goes off to catch the rather surprising thief.
The B plot is where the title quote comes into play. On the way to Betazed, the Enterprise dropped Commander Riker, Doctor Crusher, Data and a couple of scientifically inclined junior officers on a planet that is being evaluated for a new colony. Glitches have arisen at the last stage of the evaluation so the scientists on station have requested more hands on their rather sandy deck to see if they can resolve the remaining issues and sign off on the colonization effort.
Picard’s part of the story feels lighthearted throughout. Not that the stolen cultural artifacts are not important, not that the diplomatic mission he’s been roped into isn’t necessary, but no one – except possibly the thief – is going to die on this unexpected mission. There will be a lot of hot tempers, there’s a lot of potential political fallout but the stakes always feel a bit small – at least relative to Riker and Crusher’s mission.
Because the colony that needs to be signed off on is for a large group of refugees whose planet has been wiped out. They have no home and need one rather desperately. But the glitches aren’t just minor glitches, and the more the newly expanded group looks into them, the more desperate things get.
Either the planet is trying to communicate with them, or the planet is trying to kill them. And it might succeed at the latter if someone doesn’t figure out the former before their shelter is destroyed, and their equipment, including the food replicators and communications, have ceased to function. There are no ships currently available to rescue them, so they are on their own with a dwindling supply of food and a group of people who keep passing out and screaming. Including the android Data.
It’s up to Crusher to figure out what is making both the people and the equipment “sick” before it makes them all dead. And that’s where the Shakespearean references become all too relevant.
Escape Rating B: It’s difficult to review this, not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I’m part of its built-in audience. It doesn’t reach beyond those of us who love Trek and want to dip back into it again. In that, it succeeds admirably as it feels like reading an episode. The entire thing painted itself in my brain without a single hitch. If that’s what you’re looking for, and I kind of was, it does its job very well. If you’re looking for more general SF, I highly recommend Project Hail Mary, which is sort of how I got here in the first place!