Thursday, August 15, 2013

From History's Shadow

Star Trek: The Original Series
From History's Shadow by Dayton Ward
Release date: July 30th 2013
Read August 11th 2013

Previous book (The Original Series): The Shocks of Adversity
Next book (The Original Series): No Time Like the Past
Next book (From History's Shadow-related): TOS: Elusive Salvation

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Spoilers ahead for From History's Shadow!

From the back cover:
2268: Following the encounter with the mysterious Gary Seven in the twentieth century, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is startled by two intruders who have transported through space and time from Earth circa 1968. Incredibly, one of the infiltrators is a Vulcan, who asserts that he’s lived among Earth's population for over a decade. The other represents a little-known race, and reveals to Captain James T. Kirk that she has spent that last twenty years working to bring about humanity’s destruction. It is then that Gary Seven’s young protégé, Roberta Lincoln, arrives seeking Kirk’s help...
1947: In the wake of the infamous “Roswell Incident” involving a crashed alien craft and beings from another world, Captain James Wainwright finds himself recruited as one of the first members of Majestic 12, a secret organization with two goals: Collect evidence of extraterrestrial activity on Earth, and develop strategies to combat alien invaders. And it is this very mission that will consume Wainwright’s life for the next two decades, driven by the knowledge that the danger is as real as the aliens living among us...

My thoughts:

From History's Shadow is certainly not your typical Star Trek novel. While there is a significant part of the story that takes place in the 23rd century aboard the Enterprise, the majority of the novel is set during the mid-20th century. The central character during this period is James Wainwright, last seen in the Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men." Since the army's encounter with the Ferengi in that episode, the U.S. government has taken an interest in investigating sightings and encounters with unidentified flying objects, or "U.F.O.s," which may represent the vanguard of a new invasion by the Ferengi or another hostile extraterrestrial species. Captain Wainwright, recruited into "Majestic 12" and later "Project Blue Book," is responsible for many of these investigations, as well as debunking alien encounters so as to keep the existence of alien beings from becoming public knowledge. We follow his life and career through much of the 20th century as he works with his partner, Allison Marshall, to fulfill the directives of Majestic 12 and Blue Book.

"Little Green Men" was an extremely fun episode, and one of my favorites upon first seeing it years ago. The B-movie campiness and general silliness of the episode really made it stand out. However, I felt that the character of Captain Wainwright was very flat and one-note: a military man who only sees threats wherever he looks and automatically resorts to threats of torture in order to gain information. Thankfully, the Wainwright presented in the pages of From History's Shadow is much more fleshed-out and likable. We see his motivations and can empathize with the threats he is dealing with, as opposed to the one-note villain-ish character we saw in "Little Green Men."

Clockwise, from top left: Mestral from "Carbon Creek" (ENT),
Roberta Lincoln and Gary Seven from "Assignment: Earth" (TOS),
Captain John Christopher from "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (TOS),
and Captain Wainwright from "Little Green Men" (DS9), 
Dayton Ward does a superb job linking many different parts of Trek lore together, from the 1947 Roswell incident, to T'Mir and Mestral's visit to Earth in "Carbon Creek" (ENT), and the "Aegis" agents operating on Earth such as Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln from "Assignment: Earth" (TOS). His "continuity stitching" is reminiscent of Christopher L. Bennett's work, and the linking together of events in Trek history with real-world historical events is very much in the style of author Greg Cox, who penned The Eugenics Wars series, a superb set of tales which also used the characters of Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln. According to the acknowledgements in From History's Shadow, the attempt to write in the style of Greg Cox was wholly intentional, and Ward even sought Cox's blessing before going ahead with the novel.

Just a few of the "UFO sightings" that occurred during the 20th century.
Clockwise from top left: Quark's Treasure, Roswell, New Mexico, 1947 ("Little Green Men" - DS9),
Vulcan survey ship, Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania, 1957 ("Carbon Creek" - ENT),
U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, over Omaha, Nebraska, 1969 ("Tomorrow is Yesterday" - TOS),
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656, Los Angeles, California, 1996 ("Future's End" - VGR).
If I have one very minor complaint about From History's Shadow, it's that at times it seems as though the novel is too full, and that Mr. Ward attempted to cram too much information into its pages. The book is certainly dense with plot and can seem confusing at times with all of the jumping around in time. The only part where I kind of lost the thread of the story was towards the end, but the author included a pretty cool reveal that made everything make sense again. For the most part, I enjoyed the complexity of the story, but I see where some people may not appreciate it as much.

Final thoughts:

From History's Shadow is a fun romp through our history as depicted in Star Trek, masterfully stitching together the many temporal incursions and alien visitations that Earth experienced in the 20th century. I also appreciated the links to other aspects of the Trek novel continuity, most especially the mentions of Commodore Delgado and the experiments he conducted with the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise as depicted in Christopher L. Bennett's novel, Forgotten History. I was hugely impressed with this novel, and as a fan of Greg Cox's Eugenics Wars novels, I would love to see more stories such as this one. Is it too hopeful to want a follow-up to this novel by Dayton Ward himself? Personally, I would love to see more novels following the exploits of Wainwright, Carlson, and Majestic 12. I feel as though this novel covered a lot of ground, so I don't know what's left to tell. But if a story such as this could happen again, I'd be all for it!

More about From History's Shadow:

Also by Dayton Ward:

My next read:

I think it's time for another Corps of Engineers week! Look for reviews in the coming month for the four novellas that make up the S.C.E. omnibus, Miracle Workers. Up first is Interphase, Part Two by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.

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