Book Review: ‘From History’s Shadow’ by Dayton Ward

February 15, 2022 at 8:47 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek: The Original Series: From History’s Shadow is a standalone novel written by Dayton Ward and was released in August 2013. 

This is definitely one of the more unique Star Trek books, but I mean that in a good way. It is very difficult to make a Star Trek novel stand out, especially in a novel in “The Original Series” line since there are literally hundreds of TOS books. However, Dayton Ward not only wrote a novel that stands out from the crowd, but is actually really good! Considering Dayton Ward’s track record, that is indeed surprising. 

The best part of this book is the setup and execution of it’s plot. This is clearly a love-letter to alien encounter stories popularized by movies like First Encounters of the Third Kind and Race to Witch Mountain. The way Ward goes through American and earth history in order to tell a story of aliens who are secretly on earth observing humans and the humans who are trying to hunt down the aliens was really fun and fascinating.

I should preface my review by saying that if you want a good old “Kirk-Spock-McCoy” adventure, then this is not the book for you. The Enterprise part of the story, which takes place in 2268, only accounts for a little less than one-third of the entire book. The other two-thirds focus on the storyline unfolding from 1947-1969. As a result this book doesn’t really feel like a Star Trek novel, but rather an original novel with Star Trek “window dressing”. I really like that, because this allowed Dayton Ward to take a big risk with his story, and it definitely paid off.

My personal favorite character to follow was James Wainwright, who made a few appearances in other Star Trek lore. His whole story of working in a post-war world and trying to hunt down any and all Alien activity was really fun to read about. His relationship with his assistant, Allison Marshall, was really engaging and I continuously wanted to see where it was going. 

Oddly, the TOS part of the story was pretty par for the course. That storyline was not particularly outstanding or poorly written, but simply served as a bookend to the events of the main part of the story. I actually found myself both interested in seeing when Kirk would show up again and also wanting to get back to Wainwright’s plot.

There were several other characters included in the 20th century story, all of whom I assume make appearances in other Star Trek lore. I was unfamiliar with all of them, so it was interesting to see who would be good and who would be bad. I particularly was fascinated with Gejalik and Mestral. 

There is an overtone in the book about information sharing and governmental secrets and the diffusion of knowledge which I appreciated. This isn’t simply a fun adventure with aliens, but it also has a little bit to say about society. I disagree with some of the themes in the book, but Dayton Ward does a good job of displaying them here. 

The action scenes in this book are actually pretty good for Dayton Ward. Since I didn’t know the fates of any of the characters, Ward did a good job of making them all suspenseful and made me worry that some of them would not survive.

I must again emphasize the importance that risk taking was for this book. This is not an easy sell to publishers or to audiences, many of whom would rather a traditional Star Trek book or an original Sci-Fi novel, but not both. Dayton Ward, Margaret Clark, and everyone involved at Simon and Schuster took a step outside of the traditional tie-in boundary and turned in a beautiful novel. If tie-in properties are going to continue to flourish and survive long after the original property is finished, the books must evolve and convey original ideas. Much like other books that I’ve reviewed recently, like Keith R. A. DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation or John Jackson Miller’s Rogue Elements, this book expands the genre in new and fascinating ways, and shows that tie-ins have true value to society, not simply a way to make money for movie studios.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It is unconventional, but so enjoyable. This book definitely deserved to be nominated for the Scribe Award, and it was unfortunate that it went up against John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi, which I still think is the best tie-in book ever written. This is definitely my favorite Dayton Ward book, just narrowly edging out Moments Asunder. However, the TOS elements of this book were just mediocre enough to keep it from getting a perfect rating. So I give From History’s Shadow a 4.5 out of 5. Well done Dayton Ward.

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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