I don’t know if it’s possible to separate people who read Star Trek novels into casual fans and more than casual fans since if you’re reading a Star Trek novel you’re probably rather conversant with the franchise’s details—at the very least the details from the particular show the novel’s characters and circumstances are drawn from. But if it is possible to separate them, Dayton Ward’s From History’s Shadow is not for the more casual reader; much of the story features relatively obscure guest characters from three different series, and the plot linking Kirk and company to the story being told in the past is based on the Temporal Cold War.
In the abstract, I like what Ward did bridging fictional circumstances established as part of the past with the Star Trek universe still to come. The story itself is well told and, despite the time travel, never really devolves into something where you expect a reset button. He also did a great job building Wainwright—a character I remember as little more than a caricature from Deep Space Nine’s “Little Green Men”—into someone with depth.
The Temporal Cold War comes into play as the device that links the past with the novel’s “present.” It also creates the motivation for the antagonists threatening the Enterprise. I’ll admit I groaned a little when I read the phrase “Temporal Cold War;” I was never a fan of that plot in Enterprise because while it created some interesting notions and moments it was virtually impossible to define the nature of the conflict or feel like there would ever be any lasting consequences.
What doesn’t work for me is that the story in the novel’s “present” feels extraneous. I almost wish the story took place solely in the past—stretching over a longer span of time perhaps. By far the most interesting character is Wainwright, but it feels like there is a lot of potential in Mestral and the Aegis agents that never gets developed.
I wasn’t sure what I thought about From History’s Shadow when I finished it; I think it grew on me afterwards, so I’m glad this wasn’t posted right away. I’d be very interested to see the threads developed here built up in a subsequent piece.
I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.