Next up, we read The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, by Neil Barrett, Jr. This is the fifth of nine stand-alone novels. Given how the first four weren’t that great, we were hopeful this one might shine a little, but ultimately we were disappointed. While not as bad as Clark’s Law, this book felt like a short story crammed into a full-length novel. As a result, this made Barrett’s book just okay, at best. And that’s not a strong endorsement. There was also an issue with where the story fits in the overall timeline. The book never says, and there’s disagreement out on the web. The best estimate is provided by the Lurker’s Guide, and even that doesn’t fully address the continuity issues. The bottom line is, by the time this novel was written, the TV series was in the third season, yet it seems like the author may have never watched an episode.
We’re back to riots on the station, and they’re presented in a way that suggests this is sort of a normal thing. Balanced against the TV show, we know this isn’t the case, so the suggestion is becoming somewhat annoying now that it’s appeared in several of the novels. While not well done, the reader can assume that some of this is caused by, or enflamed by, the emergence of an alien entity that causes everyone on the station to misbehave. It’s a reasonable explanation, but somehow still falls short, primarily based on how the author unfolds the story. In the end, a giant, green worm-like creature (9 million miles long and half a million miles wide!) approaches the station. It’s somehow real, but also not real, in that while everyone can see it, it doesn’t register on sensors. No one knows what it is, where it came from, if it’s hostile or not, or where it’s going. The odd behavior of station personnel seems to increase in severity as the creature draws closer. In response, forces from Earth and B5 approach it, examine it as best they can, and even fire at it, with no real consequences. While this appeared to be a way to build drama, it didn’t. Frankly, it took too long and made the story boring.
The space worm finally arrives and passes through the station (or the station passes through the worm…) and everything returns to normal. We’d like to tell you there’s more to the story than that, but there really isn’t. The worm is referred to as a shadow because of the problem that it’s seen but not apparently substantive. By the way, there’s no connection between this shadow and THE Shadows we’re all familiar with from the B5 universe. Your hosts seemed to agree there were enough comedic elements here (intentional or not, like Fermi’s Angels) that this may have been better written as a light-hearted comedy novel. But it wasn’t, so some of these kinds of characters and events fell flat or just seemed silly since they weren’t a part of a real attempt at humor. There was also some agreement that the one redeeming character in the story was Martina Coles—someone who could have been better developed and even appeared in other novels. But she was unique to this story, and not a part of the TV show or subsequent books. Oh well.
Two interesting aspects of the story that we briefly discussed toward the end of the program. First, there was a real potential for a cool story about a creature (the space worm) that even the Vorlons didn’t have knowledge of. This could have been very interesting and even a little terrifying. The author toyed with this concept a bit, but in the end, let it fall on the floor. Second, this novel is in some ways comparable to the movie Thirdspace. The movie wasn’t all that great either, but there are some real similarities between the two. We leave that for your consideration.
Well, we unanimously disliked the book—sadly a developing trend. Our ratings were a 1.3, a 0.5, and a 1.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 1.1. Once again, based on the much higher ratings out there on the socials (GoodReads, Amazon, etc.), if any of our listeners enjoyed this, we genuinely want to hear why. Not to be critical of you, but to see if the three of us missed something in our own reading of the material. Also, keep in mind, these standalone novels are what they are, and aren’t considered canon except for the 7th and 9th books. With that in mind, it’s a little easier to manage expectations. It also means we’re drawing closer to at least two that should be pretty good. Not saying numbers six and eight aren’t good—we just don’t know yet. Then as noted during the episode, the three trilogies are all considered to be solid and definitely worth the time to read, so hang in there.
Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss the sixth stand-alone novel, Betrayals, by S.M. Sterling.
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Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow. There’s always boom tomorrow!