Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shadow Lord

Star Trek #22: Shadow Lord by Laurence Yep
Published March 1985
Read May 6th, 2012

Previous book (The Original Series): #21: Uhura's Song
Next book (The Original Series): #23: Ishmael

Spoilers ahead for Shadow Lord!

From the back cover:
Angira is a primitive, violent planet--and young Prince Vikram returns from Earth filled with new ideas.
When Sulu and Spock accompany Vikram home, they walk into a bloodbath: reactionary forces, afraid of any modernization, have seized Vikram's rightful throne.
Suddenly, the men from the Enterprise are on an underground journey with a prince who is coming of age.  the future of Angira is at stake, and each man's survival depends on his skill--and daring--with a sword!

My Thoughts:

Well, where to begin?  Star Trek novels, I think it's fair to say, can definitely be hit or miss.  It's no secret that the earlier Star Trek novels had their fair share of misses, but there were obviously some great early books as well.  Highlights from this time are Diane Duane's My Enemy, My Ally, and what many consider to be the best Star Trek novel ever written, John M. Ford's The Final Reflection.  Unfortunately, Shadow Lord is miles away from being considered among these classics of Trek literature.


The story begins with the Enterprise ferrying Prince Vikram home to his native world of Angira.  The Prince has spent his youth living on Earth and learning about the Federation's ways.  His goal is to take this knowledge back to his homeworld in order to help his people "modernize."  First of all, Angira is at about the level of the 18th or 19th century, basically just now entering the industrial age.  Why is the Federation sticking their noses into this society?  What happened to the prime directive?  The prime directive does get some lip service toward the end of the novel, when Sulu is concerned that he has interfered in the natural development of Angira's affairs when he briefly takes command of the Prince's military forces.  However, Spock is working to modernize Angira's star charts and everything that Vikram learned is being introduced to the society as well.  How do these not count as "interference"?


Another problem with Shadow Lord is the portrayal of the characters.  I fear that Laurence Yep is very unfamiliar with Star Trek, as he gets a number of basic things plain wrong.  On a number of occasions, Spock is actually described as "smiling"!  Also, he takes the hand of a character during the novel in order to comfort her.  Gone is the pragmatically logical Spock of the original series who has forsworn emotion, and in his place is a man who shares none of the characteristics of the Spock we know and love.


There were a couple of things in the novel that did vindicate it a little.  The sniping between Spock and McCoy was well-written, and rang somewhat true.  Also, the descriptions of the sword-fighting and armies meeting on the battlefield were interesting; however, they seemed very out-of-place in a Star Trek novel.  I do wonder why this is a Star Trek novel in the first place?  As a work of original fiction, it seems competent and interesting, but the Star Trek elements seem tacked-on and forced.


Final Thoughts:

An interesting story, but very much not a Star Trek novel.  The characterizations were all wrong, the plot seemed completely out of place in a Star Trek story, and I question why this was written as a Star Trek adventure in the first place.  Sadly, I have to rate Shadow Lord quite low.


Final score for Shadow Lord is 2/10.  Interesting story elements, but the author's seeming-unfamiliarity with Star Trek makes the story suffer horribly.

My next read:

Novels I've read recently that still need to be reviewed: The Rings of Tautee by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, and Christopher L. Bennett's Ex Machina.  Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night by David R. George III coming soon!