Book Review: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Cover of Shadows Have Offended, featuring Worf's face in profile

From the Publisher: 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….

 It makes sense for the title to refer to Shakespeare’s Tempest, because like the play, this book sends the TNG cast into a world of illusions. For Picard, it’s working with—*shudder*—Lwaxana Troi to question outraged Betazoid dignitaries, any of whom might be hiding something, about their missing treasures. For Worf and Deanna, it’s venturing into the criminal underworld to deal with people who have neither empathy nor honor. For Crusher, it’s trying to cure an illness that affects people and technology – and Data, who is both – in  ways that seem to defy science.

By taking the crew out of their comfort zones, Clarke manages to both keep them in-character and help us see them from a fresh perspective. Lwaxana, for example, is still the overbearing diva we all know and love, but also a really good ambassador. We get to watch her see through the pretenses of a Romulan, make a Vulcan smile, and impress Picard enough to compliment her twice. As for Worf, the author was downright prophetic there, since she had him planning an undercover mission—and enjoying it, to his own surprise—years before his appearance as a Starfleet Intelligence operative in Star Trek: Picard. Speaking of PIC, for those of you watching it, the scenes in this book involving Data may hit differently. His malfunctions are funny, frightening and pitiable all at once. You can almost hear Brent Spiner’s voice in dialogues like this:

“Data, are you all right?”

“Peachy keen, Billy Jean.”

What?” Crusher rubbed her temples. “Data, could you please deactivate your slang program. Now’s really not the—”

“I do not have my slang program activated, Doctor. (…) I merely stated that I am perfectly fine. I—” He stopped. “I did.” He looked at her. “Doctor, this is disturbing.”

But while Clarke shines in her depiction of the characters, her pacing is uneven. Picard suffering through an introvert’s worst nightmare (as funny as that is) and the station on Kota going haywire take up half the book before the plot gets moving, only to end in a headlong rush that leaves important points unresolved. The treasure thief is still at large and may or may not be pardoned, the refugees who were supposed to settle Kota still don’t have a home, and will Worf and Deanna ever get to have that dinner date? (As an incorrigible Worf/Troi shipper, I enjoyed the hints of romance between them, such as the Klingon flower he gives her with a warning about the thorns, or their disguises as a crime boss lady and her bodyguard during the mission. But if this pairing isn’t your cup of raktajino, you can still enjoy them as an unlikely detective team.)

Since the story takes place during TNG Season 7, shortly before “All Good Things … ”, it works as a nostalgic callback to classic Trek, though not without a few surprises. Pacing issues aside, these shadows are much more likely to entertain than offend.

Shadows Have Offended was published by Gallery Books on July 13, 2021 with an MSRP of $16.00 US for the paperback edition. It is available online or at your local retailer.

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