A Book by Cassandra Rose Clarke
I must admit, my knowledge of Star Trek novels may not be as extensive as some, but I can confidently say that Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke is a delightful read that captures the essence of the TV series like no other. Considering this was apparently the author’s first Star Trek book, it’s crazy how well she stuck the landing. From what I can gather, this story takes place towards the end of the seventh season of the show itself, and feels very much like something from that era. The main plot of this novel is split into two intertwining stories, a classic trope employed in nearly every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But what truly anchors this book into Star Trek: TNG lore is its opening, a familiar and, dare I say, infuriating plot device straight out of a television episode. I listen to a few Star Trek podcasts that would cringe once they realized that this is, in fact, a “Lwaxana Troi episode!”
“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….”
Diehard fans of the show will recall the notorious visits of Counselor Deanna Troi’s mother, Lwaxana Troi, the Betazed ambassador, tormenting none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Seeing Picard teetering on the edge of anger and despair as he evades Lwaxana’s relentless advances and finds himself entangled in awkward situations constantly is always pretty hilarious. Well, hold on tight because Ambassador Troi has managed to secure the USS Enterprise’s presence during a diplomatic mission to the Betazed home world. And guess what? A VIP for a crucial ceremony can no longer attend! Can you guess who Lwaxana Troi selects as the replacement? You’ve got it—Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself!
What follows is an uproarious few chapters where Troi subjects Picard to comical costumes, Betazed theatrics, and other mischievous antics, all while the real plot brews in the background. It turns out the entire ceremony hinges on the participation of various artists representing Betazed culture and a display of ancient artifacts. But lo and behold, during the main event, the artifacts mysteriously vanish before their very eyes. Now Picard, Worf, and Counselor Troi must navigate a labyrinth of diplomacy between noble houses, averting a colossal crisis and restoring order to the planet. Meanwhile, on the planet Kota, the remaining crew members embark on a routine scientific mission that, unsurprisingly, takes an unexpected turn. The crew starts having wild visions involving the ocean, machinery malfunctions, and a growing list of medical emergencies that afflict almost everyone start knocking crew members out left and right. The daunting task of unraveling these mysteries falls upon the capable shoulders of Doctor Crusher, Commander Data, and Commander Riker.
The book gracefully alternates between these two parallel storylines pretty well. Though they do not intersect directly, the structure evoked nostalgia for me as a fan of the television series. Many Star Trek novels attempt to reinvent the wheel, introducing complex structures or adding depth to elements that never demanded it in the first place. But Shadows Have Offended resists such temptations, faithfully reproducing the tone and pacing of an actual episode. I’m sure others will likely not enjoy that as much as myself, but I ate it up! If this is indicative of the author’s style, I eagerly anticipate exploring more books in this line.
While I’ve enjoyed every Star Trek novel I’ve encountered thus far, a franchise that are far superior and more consistent than some recent Star Wars reads, I acknowledge the tendency for some of these tales to devolve into excessively detailed military fan-fiction, albeit with a Star Trek sheen. Shadows Have Offended defies that trend, offering a refreshing and satisfying experience. If you’re a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and have yet to delve into the realm of Star Trek novels, this is an ideal starting point. The author flawlessly captures the essence of each principal character, and the book’s structure compels you to keep turning pages, eager to uncover the next scene, and the one after that. Trust me, you won’t want to put it down!