A Far-Out Review of Shadows Have Offended
Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Star Trek novel debut, Shadows Have Offended, was exactly the wildly fun ride I needed to start the year off on a light-hearted note. A new writer to the Star Trek novels always generates questions of how successful they’ll be at writing Star Trek fiction, questions I pondered as I began this book.
Nuclear Peptide Cake with Mint Frosting, Anyone?
Set in the seventh season of TNG, Shadows Have Offended is a big, warm hug from the series. Season seven is notorious for its trippy episodes, and this book fits right in. It’s a delightful story that lacks meaty themes, heavy morality issues, and a Big Bad, which is exactly what I needed after the year we’ve had. It reads just like the TNG novels I grew up devouring!
My favorite aspect of the book was that the main women characters of TNG, Dr. Beverly Crusher and Counselor Deanna Troi, who have been my favorite characters since I was a TNG kid, each get to be the hero of their own storylines. In the series, these characters didn’t always get as much to do as they deserved, and it was wonderful to learn more about their work and personal lives in this book. (Who knew that Deanna loved holonovels as a teen, and that ham and cheese is Beverly’s favorite sandwich?!)
Betazoid History, Culture, and Secrets
In the first storyline, we get to know more about Troi’s home planet of Betazed, as she returns home for a long-awaited ceremony. Richly decorated costumes, quarreling among three houses of Betazed (two other houses were formed later), and the dancing, acrobatics, and music of a festival make the story feel very much like a lost TNG episode. Layer upon layer of world-building – with tantalizing descriptions of Betazed flower stew and honey cakes, and scents of flowers in the air – make this an immersive read.
I love that, as the story unfolds, we learn more of the history of Betazed, the founding of the five houses, and the significance of the objects each house holds sacred. Each layer reveals more secrets and more intrigue. And who better suited to peel back those layers than Deanna Troi, who doesn’t consider Betazed home but who gets to be the one to help recover the lost Betazoid treasures?!
But no-one can tell the history of her planet as well as larger-than-life Madame Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, and it was amazing to find her in the pages of this book. I loved the sweet callback to her relationship with Alexander, her “little warrior.” I so appreciated seeing Captain Picard beginning to interact with her with the same exasperation and trepidation we saw in the series. But as they worked together on a delicate diplomatic situation, he realizes that there is a lot more to Lwaxana than he thought, becomes impressed by her ambassadorial skills, enjoys her stories, and learns to become comfortable in her presence.
Worf and Deanna
Deanna, however, is not comfortable around her mother, and with good reason. Although not officially in a relationship with Commander Worf, the two have been having dinner together regularly, and we are treated to some gorgeous Deanna/Worf fluff: Worf passing Deanna a Klingon flower with a small smile, Deanna sharing her Betazoid pudding with Worf. And Lwaxana is embarrassingly excited for her daughter’s tentative relationship.
But the Worf and Deanna scenes aren’t all fluff. We get to see them working together as a team of professionals on an away mission that involves ancient Romulan vendettas, a Ferengi female acquiring profit undercover (a lovely callback to Pel and Ishka), and a daughter of the third house of Betazed who is more than meets the eye.
Away Team at Bluster Beach
I loved the second storyline as much as the first. Dr. Beverly Crusher volunteers to join a landing party on a mission to prepare a new home for refugees of a destroyed colony. She’s had a busy week in Enterprise’s sickbay and is needing a quiet shore leave.
My favorite part of the second storyline was being introduced to new original characters who do not die. I loved Lt. Rikkilä, field medic and scientist. Although she was not the most professional, being always a bit flustered and overeager, she helps save the day, and she reminds me of Tilly, my favorite DSC character.
Bluster Beach, on the planet Kota, should be just the place for a tired CMO to rest and recharge by collecting sand and water samples. However, it’s a cardinal rule of Star Trek (you might even say a second prime directive) that no-one who needs a quiet shore leave can have one… especially not in season seven of TNG. So, as is typical, shenanigans once again ensue.
The away team falls mysteriously ill on the beach. They recover quickly, but are obviously adversely affected. During a communal dinner Riker arranges to raise the morale for the team, some of the crew begin to act intoxicated, the replicator malfunctions and creates plate after plate of a spiced-lentils-and-rice dish, and Data begins wailing an alert siren.
Later on, the crew tries to sleep it off, and ends up dreaming about Bluster Beach. Things go from bad to worse when: a phaser goes rogue and begins firing inside the away team’s shelter; Data’s slang program involuntarily turns on, with hilarious results (“Peachy keen, Billy Jean!”); and the Starfleet equipment all begins to display in a variety of languages including Finnish and Bolian. To complete the disastrous away mission, a biomass structure the team is sheltering in begins to fall apart.
The culprit turns out to be a truly alien species trying to communicate. Appearing to scanners as ancient fossils on the beach, the aliens make first contact with Dr. Crusher. They welcome her to their world and let her see their planet through their eyes.
Final Thoughts and Ratings
So, did author Cassandra Rose Clarke manage to get the TNG characters’ voices right? In this book, does she tell us not just a good story, but a good Star Trek story? To answer these questions, I shall engage Data’s slang program:
That’s definitely an affirmative. And listening to the audiobook version of this novel, I found that the dramatic reading by Robert Petkoff is excellent too! All in all, I rate this book five out of five great houses of Betazed, and I’m pleased to report that Shadows Have Offended turned out to be a peachy-keen “beach” read.
Ruth Anne Amsden has been a Trekkie since she was a ten-year-old reader voraciously devouring Star Trek novels (her family did not allow television in the home). She is working toward her first BA and aspiring to professionally write Star Trek novels as love letters to the novels she loved growing up.