Review: Shadow of the Storm

Shadow of the Storm (Martin J. Dougherty; Far Future Enterprises) is a tie-in novel set in the universe of the Traveller role-playing game. It’s military SF set against a troubled political background, with the Solomani Confederation facing off against the Third Imperium in a tense peace and the Confederation’s border worlds restive.

Lieutenant Simon Crowe wants to defend his nation against the Imperium, but the Confederation’s internal politics are so vicious that it’s sometime difficult to know who is friend and who is enemy. Decorated for heroism after the Battle of Pavel, he is beached after an incident in the Boötes War for thwarting a rogue political officer’s plan to slaughter troop transports that had surrendered.

But being restored to command isn’t necessarily an improvement. His new ship is a prototype, his crew is a collection of misfits, and they’re ordered onto patrol half-armed because the Confederation’s shortage of hulls has become acute. And rebellion is brewing…

The constraints of tie-in books are not conducive to great SF. The most one can reasonably expect of a work like this is that it will manage to be an entertaining read even if you’re not a fan of the property it’s attached to.

The author actually carries this off pretty well. The space battles don’t reach the SFnal quality level of the big one in my previous review subject A Sword into Darkness, but that’s because where Mays is a railgun engineer Dougherty is a martial artist; the action scenes of duel and personal combat in this book are actually better. They are grounded in an extensive knowledge of sword and empty-hand fighting and are very well done.

Old-time Traveller players like myself will, of course, find additional value in this book. The events take place during the period of the Classic Campaign and the Fifth Frontier War, as a rump Solomani Confederation schemes to retake the lost homeworld Terra while the Imperium is distracted by a larger war with the Zhodani.

In sum, this is a decent read even if you don’t know the Traveller background but just like military SF, with bonus goodness if you like the setting. I’m glad I read it.

13 thoughts on “Review: Shadow of the Storm

  1. Hm. Sounds a lot like On Basilisk Station, at least the beginnings…

  2. So many book reviews lately, have you had all these just backlogged and are finally getting to writing them down, or do you have suddenly have an amazing amount of free time to read?

  3. “Hm. Sounds a lot like On Basilisk Station, at least the beginnings…”

    – Prototype ship/weapon system: check (grav lance)
    – Vicious internal politics: check (backstabbing aristocratic system commander, and gets worse later in her career)
    – Crew is collection of misfits — no, Honor had a good crew
    – Decorated for heroism, then beached — (happens later in Honor’s career, but not in _Basilisk_)
    – Action scenes of duel and personal combat — (later in Honor’s career, but not in _Basilisk_)

    So, definitely same sub-genre, but I wouldn’t overstate the parallels between the first book in each series.

  4. Eric, Jay, what’s your take on Elizabeth Moon’s _Trading in Danger_ series?

  5. I enjoyed it, myself. I haven’t read it through in a while; I should do that again. One thing I especially liked is that Moon put a definite, final period on the story, ending it in a very complete way.

  6. >Eric, Jay, what’s your take on Elizabeth Moon’s _Trading in Danger_ series?

    Haven’t read them.

  7. Dear ESR, apologies if this is not the place for this. Guidance on the proper venue for meta-questions would be useful and appreciated. And if I missed previous discussion of this, I’m sorry.

    The recent flood of SF reviews leads me to wonder how long it will continue. If it is to continue indefinitely, I hope it is benefiting you in some way. Also, does this mean that you won’t be able to do the analysis of the Dark Enlightenment that you mentioned a while back? I’m not trying to tell you how to run your blog, I just want to know whether I should clear my eager anticipation bit for that. Thanks.

  8. > “Hm. Sounds a lot like On Basilisk Station, at least the beginnings…”
    [...]
    > – Crew is collection of misfits — no, Honor had a good crew

    If I remember it correctly (it was some time since I have read it) in “On Basilisk Station” Honor got misfit and dregs crew, and turning it into capable crew by NCO was part of the story.

  9. If I remember it correctly (it was some time since I have read it) in “On Basilisk Station” Honor got misfit and dregs crew, and turning it into capable crew by NCO was part of the story.

    She had a lieutenant who was good enough to operate an independent command at the wormhole transit point, with no one to oversee him. Her #2 in command was the major weak point in her command, and getting him on her side was a major issue throughout the story, but he was quite competent.

    Overall, I don’t recall her crew being that weak. Demotivated by the situation, perhaps, but not dregs.

  10. It reminds me of Keith Laumer’s 1973 novel The Glory Game. But then, I’m an old fart.

  11. >The recent flood of SF reviews leads me to wonder how long it will continue.

    Until it stops getting me free books from netgalley, or I get bored with doing it.

    >Also, does this mean that you won’t be able to do the analysis of the Dark Enlightenment that you mentioned a while back?

    That’s still on my to-do list; I even have topics for a couple of the posts roughed out.

  12. >Overall, I don’t recall her crew being that weak. Demotivated by the situation, perhaps, but not dregs.

    In this book, some of the officers are subpar, others have long-stalled careers because they’ve been marked “politically unreliable”, and one of them hates what he did in the Boötes war enough to connive at murdering him. There is a very rough resemblance to the setup of On Basilisk Station, but the biggest problem – a superior trying to get him killed or cashiered – is absent.

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