The Valley of Shadows by John Ringo & Mike Massa
My experience with authors who write in another author’s world has been mixed. On the good side you have the work that Janny Wurts did with Raymond Feist in the EMPIRE CYCLE. On the less impressive side you have The Valley of Shadows (2018). This is the fifth installment in the BLACK TIDE RISING series and takes a tangential track describing what happens with Tom Smith, the corporate security guru, Australian Special Forces stud and brother to Steve Smith, the main protagonist in the entire series.
I think that Mike Massa must have done a lot of the writing because there is a different feeling to the prose that long-time fans of John Ringo may identify. It’s not off-putting per se, but there is a lack of some the classic phrases that I’ve grown to expect from Ringo. What was also missing is the nastiness that I expect when Ringo writes his heroic special ops types. Tom comes across as kinda soft and not able to bring the kind of hard, angry, violent hero that I feel fits the situation.
The Valley of Shadows takes us on a parallel track as Tom steers the Bank of the Americas through the events that happen in Under a Graveyard Sky. New York City is the economic hub of the United States and Massa/Ringo do a pretty good job of depicting the almost obsessive need to make money that the senior executives of the bank revolve around. There are different details about what happens as the NYC mayor and his staff try to come to grips with what’s happening. That actually made sense to a point.
There are plenty of ties to Under a Graveyard Sky to keep things in step with that a reader will remember having happened. Faith and Sophia make a few cameos and if Faith is your favorite character then you will get a kick out of some of it. She’s not my favorite character … she’s simply the least realistic of all of the characters that I have read from Ringo across every series that I have read by Ringo. There is even a nod to the PALADIN OF SHADOWS series if you read that one, which I have.
That’s the good parts of Valley of Shadows. The bad parts cover everything from stupid characters who are just annoying, unrealistic weapon systems in the hands of people who wouldn’t have them, and really dumb character development for someone who we are led to believe is a cold-as-steel killer. I got to a point where I just about wanted everyone to die and get eaten by a Zombie because they were so stupid over and over and over again. That’s fine when you are talking about people who are not meant to have really come to grips with an “end of the world” scenario. When the authors do that with the guy who is supposed to be the hero… well, I hated it.
As a long-term reader of Ringo’s Sci-Fi, alternate history and dystopian future work I was able to slog my way through The Valley of Shadows. I might have enjoyed it more if I had enjoyed the other books less. I really hope that they won’t write more of the BLACK TIDE RISING series because it just annoyed me on so many levels. I want Ringo to write Ringo even if it’s chock-full of all the anti-politically correct humor and activities that have filled the pages of much of his work. It’s nice to read about characters who take a stand and kill everyone who gets in the way. It’s hard to read about characters who get so mired in business politics that they get rolled over by everyone else who seem to have the hardness of heart that I expect from a Ringo hero.