Friday, 23 August 2013
Star Trek: The Original Series: From History's Shadow - Dayton Ward
Title: From History's Shadow
Author: Dayton Ward
The Book Depository
Whilst "From History's Shadow" by Dayton Ward is advertised as a Star Trek: The Original Series novel, the novel doesn’t really spend that much time following the crew of the USS Enterprise in the 23rd Century. Instead it focuses on a U.S. Air Force Captain James Wainwright (originally introduced in the DS9 episode: "Little Green Men") and his involvement with the attempts by the US government to investigate UFOs and alien encounters during the latter half of the 20th Century. Don’t get me wrong, we do get to spend time with Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew but Ward’s real focus has been on trying to explore the Star Trek Universe’s 20th Century.
One thing I really liked about this novel was that it tried to take a serious look at how things would appear from the viewpoint of the contemporary people who are encountering aliens from the future etc. I have always found that the various TV episodes that cover this type of encounter tend more to focus on providing light relief as the viewer gets to laugh at the silly contemporary people worrying about things. However, in this novel due to its focus on Wainwright we actually get to see and understand why people would feel the way they do. None of it seems that silly when you look at it from their viewpoint and this is something that I think Ward has captured well.
Another element of the novel I quite enjoyed was the way in which Ward has managed to link various elements of Trek lore together into a complex and interesting plot. I couldn’t help but smile as I recognised elements taken from various TV episodes that spanned multiple different Star Trek series. Ward doesn’t stop there however; he also tries to merge in real historical events to further enhance the narrative and detail behind it. The overall style was very reminiscent of Greg Cox’s “The Eugenics Wars” series and Ward does state in the acknowledgements that this was intentional. To be honest when I read Cox’s novels I wasn’t particularly fond of his attempt to shoe horn the Eugenics war into our own history. However as "From History's Shadow" is mainly based around government secrets etc. I feel that the link between real events and Trek lore works a lot better in this case.
Unfortunately I do think that this attempt to cram lots of links and detail into the novel did lead to its one flaw. Basically, I felt that it got a little bit too complicated towards the end and if you were not fully knowledgeable on Trek lore then some elements of the story could feel a bit undeveloped due to Ward’s reliance on the reader knowing what had happened on the relevant TV episode. Towards the end of the novel I actually found myself getting rather confused as the jumping around increased and the time travel elements of the story became a major element on the plot. I still enjoyed it myself as I was more than happy to try and work it out in my head but I can easily appreciate how some people may not enjoy trying to wade through the complexity.
In summary I felt that “From History’s Shadow” was a fun and well written book which takes the reader on a journey through our own history as depicted in Star Trek lore. Ward has done a superb job at splicing together multiple Trek episodes into a coherent and interesting story. The only flaw I can really think is that maybe there was too much here, it may have worked better if Wainwright’s story had been spread over more than one novel which would have enabled Ward to actually expand some elements further.