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.