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Star Trek Voyager: Unworthy

In my opinion, Star Trek: Voyager was by far the weakest of the Star Trek TV series.  I felt that the show never lived up to its premise (of the difficulties one lone starship would face, all on their own eighty thousand light-years from home), and even more disappointingly, I felt there was almost zero character development over the course of the series’ seven years.  (You could watch a first season episode and then watch a seventh season episode and see little to no difference in the dynamics of the characters.)  I watched Voyager all the way through its seven years, but there are hardly any episodes I have ever re-watched.  (Whereas I have seen every episode of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine many, many times… and I have even watched Enterprise through a few times over the years.)

Pocket Books has published some Voyager novels over the years, but I never bought any of them until Kirsten Beyer’s Full Circle in 2009.  (Click here for my original review.)  I am not sure what prompted me to buy a Voyager book.  Maybe the gorgeous cover image (Voyager has never looked so good!).  More likely I was excited to read any book picking up the pieces after David Mack’s incredible trilogy Star Trek: Destiny, a story that chronicled the long-feared Borg invasion of Federation space and all of the catastrophes that followed.  I was eager to see what happened to all of the Trek characters following Destiny, and I think I was also very interested in reading about the Voyager crew’s reactions to the death of Janeway (brutally killed off by Peter David in his TNG book Before Dishonor).

To my surprise, I loved Full Circle.  Kirsten Beyer’s lengthy book spanned several years of Trek continuity, catching up the Voyager crew with the events of the past few years of TNG novels.  I enjoyed the character arcs given to each member of the Voyager ensemble.  I felt that I got to know and care about the Voyager crew in this book far more than I ever did in the TV series.  Full Circle ended with Voyager leading a fleet of nine starships on a mission back to the Delta Quadrant, hoping to confirm what had happened to the Borg following the events of Destiny.  I was excited to see what happend next.

But then, though I bought the next several Voyager novels written by Ms. Beyer, I never read them.  I think that as the months went on, though I remembered enjoying Full Circle, my over-all dislike for Star Trek: Voyager reared its head, and I just never found myself interested in reading the subsequent books.  Last month, after a delay of several years, I finally decided to dive back in.  Since it had been five years since I’d read Full Circle, I decided to first re-read that novel, and then to move on to the next book, Unworthy.

I am pleased to report that I enjoyed Unworthy just as much as I did Full Circle.  Though Full Circle certainly felt to me like a complete novel (albeit one that clearly set up a lot of story-lines meant to be further explored in subsequent novels), in many ways Unworthy feels like the second half of that book, bringing to completion many of the plot elements begun in that novel.  Ms. Beyer dives right back into several plot-lines left hanging by the end of Full Circle: the haunting visions afflicting Seven of Nine and an exploration of what exactly happened to her when the Caeliar merged with all the Borg in the universe at the end of Destiny; the mystery of Fleet Admiral Willem Batiste and his true motives in leading a fleet back to to the Delta Quadrant; Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres’ secret plan to leave the fleet and disappear into the Delta Quadrant with their daughter Miral, as a desperate attempt to escape the Klingon warriors who are hunting her; and more.

This relaunched series of Voyager books is set up to be not just a return to the locales/stories of the Voyager TV show, but also a forum for classic Star Trek stories of exploration, and the discovery of Strange New Worlds.  I was pleased that Unworthy jumped right into the deep end of that pool, as we encounter an enigmatic new alien race known as the Indign, made up of six distinct species who co-exist in a symbiotic, collective relationship.  This collective is hauntingly similar to the Borg collective, and indeed we learn that, horrifyingly, this race idolizes the Borg as a perfect species, and strives to be live the Borg so as to be worthy of assimilation.  This is a fascinating concept.

But more so than the sci-fi, Ms. Beyer is clearly most concerned with the characters.  That focus on character is what makes these first two Voyager re-launch novels work so well, as I came to care about these people more than I ever did in the TV show.  The book gets a little close to soap-opera territory, as quite a lot of the plot has to deal with which Voyager characters are having a relationship with which other characters, but luckily Ms. Beyer keeps things on the right side of that line.

I was surprised to get such huge revelations about Admiral Batiste so early in the series, but I am glad Ms. Beyer didn’t waste time digging into his story, and I loved learning of Batiste’s connection to a memorable alien race previously encountered by Voyager.  I loved seeing Nelix again, and Reg Barclay, and I was pleased that even Icheb was worked into the story.  Over-all, I really like the way Ms. Beyer has woven ALL of the Voyager cast back into the story, allowing the crew to be re-assembled in a way that doesn’t feel like everyone is stagnating (the way they did on the TV show).  I’m pleased that all of the major characters got a lot of attention over the course of the novel.

I also loved the development of a variety of new characters, including Admiral Batiste, Voyager’s new Captain Eden Afsarah, Counselor Cambridge, and more.  So far these new additions have proven every bit as interesting as the returning TV characters, which bodes well for this series.  (This was a key ingredient in the success of the post-finale Deep Space Nine relaunched series of novels over a decade ago.)

With the close of Unworthy, it feels like all the pieces have been put in place and this new series of Voyager novels can truly begin.  I had the next novel, Children of the Storm, already sitting on my shelf, so as soon as I finished Unworthy I dove right in.  I’ll be back soon with my comments on that next installment.

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The LimitResistance and Q & ABefore Dishonor and Greater than the SumDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal CoilCold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of MemoryCold Equations Book 2: Silent WeaponsCold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending SacrificePlagues of Night and Raise the Dawn

Star Trek: Voyager – Full Circle

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi MaruThe Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s WingThe Romulan War: To Brave the StormRise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures

Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesUnder a Torrent SeaSynthesisFallen Gods

Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of DisharmonyPlagues of Night and Raise the DawnBrinkmanship

Star Trek: The Fall — Book 1: Revelation and DustBook 2: The Crimson ShadowBook 3: A Ceremony of LossesBook 4: The Poisoned Chalice, Book 5: Peaceable Kingdoms

Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overviewStone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in ActionTreason and Blind Man’s Bluff

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the ClockForgotten History

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298)Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311)Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions –  Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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