James Swallow - Shastrix Books

James Swallow

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Shadow

Shadow

James Swallow

28th October 2023

I’ve put off the fourth Marc Dane novel for years after finding the third less enjoyable, but finally got to it now.

This time out the world is threatened by a deadly virus attack (the book is from before the global pandemic), and Marc and friends need to rush around the world trying to stop everything.

I didn’t find it as readable as I feel I would have liked. I feel like my tastes at the moment don’t lend themselves well to the thriller genre, and I’ve never been good at reading action scenes, because my imagination doesn’t play them out visually enough.

I think this shift in my ability to consume is mostly why I struggled to read it, and that if I were at a different point the pacing and action might have appealed to me more.

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The Ashes of Tomorrow

The Ashes of Tomorrow

James Swallow

29th December 2021

The second book of the Coda trilogy, this time by James Swallow, is even more intense than the first.

While the survivors of the first novel try to convince the Federation of the need to take action, a second group of familiar characters is reuniting to join the battle for time itself.

The novel is again brutal, but flows at a much smoother pace than book one, allowing me to become properly hooked and charge through the pages.

There’s so much going on that it’s hard to remember everything, and it really feels like the authors are finally let loose to do whatever they want with no rules or restrictions. Which makes for really high stakes.

Really really good. And one book to go…

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The Dark Veil

The Dark Veil

James Swallow

14th February 2021

The second tie-in novel for Star Trek Picard is again a prequel story set some years before the events depicted in the television series (though after the events seen in The Next Generation series and movies). This time the action takes place on the USS Titan, featuring William Riker and Deanna Troi, and tells the story of an encounter with a new species, and some Romulans.

It is worth noting that although this story occurs before the TV series, it would best be read after watching season one, as there are elements which could be considered spoilers.

It’s a great book, along the lines of a classic Trek novel, mixing ongoing galactic politics with an adventure of the week, filled with familiar and new characters. I’m really pleased with how Swallow has blended the new canon of the Star Trek Picard TV series with the alternative world of the USS Titan that has been presented in the novel series, so that it feels comfortable for those readers who are fans of both.

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Ghost

Ghost

James Swallow

27th October 2019

Ghost is the third Marc Dane novel by James Swallow, and follows the character as he’s settled into his role as an operative working for a private secret agent operation defending the world against various nasties. This slightly more settled opening gives rise to a complex plot that takes his around the world in the style of the classic spy thriller.

The book didn’t quite meet my expectations based on its two predecessors. I felt that the plot was less gripping, less authentic, and the characters the opposed Dane felt like they were lacking slightly in realism. It’s possible that the specific nature of the threat felt a little unrealistic because I work in a tangentially related field, but it failed to absorb me, and so I found it hard to pick up and get into the narrative at the pace I usually like.

I’ve already got the fourth book, so expect I’ll be revisiting this world in a couple of months - I hope it picks up a bit again though as this novel didn’t live up to how much I enjoyed the first two.

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Exile

Exile

James Swallow

15th December 2018

Marc Dane’s second adventure begins with the blacklisted ex-spy-support-staffer working in a European backwater, as an analyst on loan to a grumpy boss who has no interest in following up on any of the interesting leads he finds, despite the world-changing implications.

I really enjoyed Nomad, the first novel in this series, and the same is true of Exile (though perhaps not quite as much). The plot is a well-threaded web of characters whose paths cross in interesting places, the pace is high throughout and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, and the action feels realistic and well-researched without turning into a boringly explosive techno-thriller like some I’ve read.

One of the things I appreciate about this series is that it feels like Swallow has put some effort into his baddies - they aren’t cardboard cut-out terrorist stereotypes - but instead have complex and relatable backstories and motivations, and are from a range of geographical, cultural and social backgrounds, which adds a level of humanity. This contrasts really well with a lot of thriller writers who only really care about the explosions and don’t put effort into painting a wider picture.

Probably the thrillers that I’m most motivated to read at the moment - I look forward to picking up the future books in the series.

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Fear Itself

Fear Itself

James Swallow

31st July 2018

The third novel set in the time of Star Trek: Discovery, the latest television series in the Trek universe. In this story James Swallow writes about Saru during his time serving on the USS Shenzhou patrolling the Tholian border.

It’s a fascinating exploration of Saru’s character that takes what we’ve learned about him in the TV programme and expands upon it - showing a step in his journey towards what the events of the show force him to become.

The plot feels like a fairly standard Star Trek novel, which of it had featured any other series’ characters might have been a little mundane. The addition of the Discovery characters though gives it the extra dimension it needs to tell an engaging story that makes the reader believe in and understand the characters in more depth.

Another enjoyable Disco novel. I hope that there are more on the way, perhaps continuing the trend of exploring a different character each time.

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Nomad

Nomad

James Swallow

26th July 2017

I've read several of James Swallow's tie-in books for Star Trek and Doctor Who before this, and have enjoyed all of them. This is the first stand-alone novel of his that I've read, and again I enjoyed it very much.

The story follows an MI6 computer geek - part of the support group for a small tactical assault group - who accidentally escapes a situation he wasn't meant to, and goes on the run in an attempt to prove his innocence and get revenge.

It's a good thriller, with all the key elements. The characterisation is what you'd expect - there but not too deep, and the plot contains sufficient twists to keep the pages turning.

There were moments where I felt the pacing was off, where my thoughts drifted and I had to jump back and read bits again, but these were mostly in the first half and stopped once I'd got more into it. The only other thing that felt a little off was the way it cut between scenes mid-chapter, which while totally acceptable and normal seemed to give quite abrupt jumps.

Overall, a good thriller, and I'll certainly be picking up the sequel soon.

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Other reviewed books

Sight Unseen
The Poisoned Chalice
The Stuff of Dreams
Synthesis
Day of the Vipers

Unreviewed books

Cast No Shadow
Peacemaker
Rogue
The Sky's The Limit

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  6. Ghost
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  8. Exile
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