The Valley of Shadows: Doesn’t hold up to the rest of the series

The Valley of Shadows by John Ringo and Mike MassaThe Valley of Shadows by John Ringo & Mike Massa

The Valley of Shadows by John Ringo and Mike MassaMy 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.

Black Tide Rising by John RingoThere 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.

Published in November 2018. From his corner office on the forty-fourth floor of the Bank of the Americas tower on Wall Street, Tom Smith, global managing director for security, could see the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park—and a ravening zombie horde. Officially, Smith was paid to preserve the lives and fortunes of employees, billionaires, and other clients. And with an implacable virus that turned the infected into ravenous zombies tearing through the city, the country, and the world, his job just got a lot harder. Good thing Smith, late of the Australian special forces, isn’t a man to give up easily. But saving civilization is going to take more than the traditional banking toolbox of lawyers, guns, and money. Smith needs infected human spinal tissue to formulate a vaccine—and he needs it by the truckload. To get it, he will have to forge a shady alliance with both the politicians of the City of New York and some of its less savory entrepreneurs. But all of his back-alley dealing may amount to nothing if he can’t stave off the fast-moving disease as it sweeps across the planet, leaving billions dead in its wake. And if he fails, his only fallback is an incomplete plan to move enough personnel to safe havens and prepare to restart civilization. What’s more, there are others who have similar plans—and believe it or not, they’re even less charitable than a Wall Street investment banker. Sooner or later Smith will have to deal with them. But first he has to survive the Fall.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

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One comment

  1. My only observation is that even though they’re usually bad, Baen covers are always distinctive, so they have that whole brand-recognition thing down.

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