The Shadows: 7 out of 10
The Shadows has both great strengths and great, uh, areas with room for improvement. The author, Jordan Acker, suffers from what I like to call "hyper-descriptive syndrome;" the act of over-describing every action, scene, and character. It is a common and understandable syndrome; your first book is your baby (and yes, I could tell just by the writing style and the hyper-descriptive syndrome this is his first published book), you spend countless hours going over every aspect; you build a rich background into the most minor of characters and locations. I had much the same problem with my own first novel until I received a piece of advice from another author: trust your reader; and I would add: leave plenty of room for your reader's imagination to populate the novel with their own ideas and images: it will be far more enjoyable for them.
An example: Rather than just saying "He took a drink," you will have to read an in-depth commentary on the simple process: He extended his arm, grabbed the glass of [some liquid], picked that glass up off the table, brought it to his lips, tilted the glass, and took a drink. The same syndrome leads to extensive discourses on random character backgrounds. These backgrounds may occur in the midst of an action sequence, completely removing you from the excitement and killing the story's momentum.
It is very exhausting to dig through all this clutter (if all the clutter was removed and condensed, the novel would likely be half the size).
On top of all this, the novel suffers from a few weak spots in the plot. The cover synopsis leads you to believe there is a thrilling mystery to be discovered: why did the assassination occur? But unless there are some great twists in the sequel, the mystery was almost non-existent. I also have to wonder why the team flew to another plan just to check DMV records on the assassin spacecraft. Did it really require a personal visit by a team of highly trained personnel? It seems like a phone call would have sufficed.
It may sound as if I am being very harsh so far, but the truth is I loved The Shadows. Yes, it had some big weaknesses, likely inherent in any first novel, but once you cut through all the clutter there is a gem beneath. The universe Acker created is phenomenal. Set far in the future, humanity has immigrated to a distant star system and become part of an interplanetary community with several alien species. The worlds visited in the story are rich, unique, and believable. Adventure goes from the cloudy, regal capital planet to the blue-lit slums of a planet stuck in perpetual night. The plot builds up the tension between worlds as the team races to discover the truth behind several related plots. And Acker brings it all home with a strong showdown on a winter world with the evil, plotting aliens.
Would I recommend The Shadows? Yes, but with the advice to skim often to keep the story from sagging. However, the real question is, "Will I recommend Jordan Acker's future novels?" Absolutely. Acker has some things to learn and work on, but his imagination and universe-building skills are undeniable. I completely expect Jordan Acker to one day become a big name in the sci-fi universe. Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to more.