Star Trek Voyager: Children of the Storm
I never much liked Star Trek: Voyager. It was always by far my least-favorite of the Trek TV shows. However, I’m quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Voyager novels. (Click here for my review of Full Circle, and here for my review of Unworthy.)
It’s interesting that Pocket Books has given one single author, Kirsten Beyer, sole control over these Voyager novels for now. The post-finale Deep Space Nine series, as well as the post-Nemesis Next Generation series, have all been guided by multiple authors working in collaboration. It’s an interesting choice to give one author control over the Voyager books, and so far I am enjoying the tight continuity and consistency having a single author, with a single voice, gives to this series of books.
Children of the Storm picks up immediately following the events of Unworthy. Eden Afsarah has replaced Willem Batiste as Fleet Admiral, allowing Chakotay to resume command of Voyager. The Voyager fleet of nine starships is proceeding on their mission of exploration of the Delta Quadrant. Their first order of business: to follow up on Captain Dax and the Aventine’s brief encounter (chronicled in David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy) with a mysterious race called the Children of the Storm that was apparently able to defeat the Borg. (When Dax and the Aventine used one of the Borg’s transwarp conduits to journey briefly into the Delta Quadrant, they encountered an enormous field of wreckage from hundreds of Borg vessels, apparently destroyed somehow by the Children of the Storm.) Unfortunately, the Voyager fleet’s return to this area of space does not go well. The xenophobic Children of the Storm destroy one of the fleet’s vessels, capture another, and wreak havoc on a third. This leave Voyager and the rest of the fleet in disarray, struggling to determine how to proceed.
The set-up for this series of Voyager novels is that Voyager isn’t returning to the Delta Quadrant alone, but rather with a fleet of nine vessels. One of my favorite aspects of Children of the Storm is the way Ms. Beyer began to explore the different ships of the fleet, and the different characters on those vessels. Over the course of this novel, we get to know several of these new ships in-depth. There’s the U.S.S. Demeter and its captain, Liam O’Donnell, a brilliant academic who leaves most of the business of actually running the ship to his XO, Lieutenant Commander Fife. That arrangement works well until the Demeter gets captured and the two men disagree strongly on how to proceed, with Captain O’Donnell certain that a scientific solution can be found to their predicament, while Lt. Commander Fife insists that using their weaponry is their only option. There’s the U.S.S. Quirinal, a ship that turns into a battleground when boarded by the Children of the Storm. We get to know the heroic captain, Regina Farkas, and many of the ship’s crew including the captain’s close friend, the CMO Doctor El’nor Sal, as well as the young but gifted engineer Phinn. We already encountered, in Unworthy, the U.S.S. Galen — a medical ship staffed primarily with holograms including Voyager’s former CMO, the Doctor. Reg Barclay also serves on that ship, and we have started to get to know the captain, Clarissa Glenn. In this book we also get to know a bit more about the huge U.S.S. Achilles, a ship equipped with enormous industrial replicators which are intended to be used to repair and resupply the ships of the fleet, far away from any star-bases. The Achilles’ captain is the tall Lendrin (a new alien species) named Drafar, whose culture’s approach to child-rearing puts him in conflict with young mother B’Elanna Torres. Over the course of the novel, all of these characters and more are fleshed out and brought to life by Ms. Beyer. I love this expansion of the ensemble of characters featured in these Voyager books. I really enjoyed starting to get to know these many new characters, and I hope to see lots more of them in future books.
I also love the way Children of the Storm focused strongly on some classic Star Trek exploration of new alien races, as well as being, ultimately, a story that was about finding a way to overcome our fear and our differences to start a dialogue with people/creatures who, at first, seem nothing at all like us. This is Star Trek storytelling at its finest, and I praise Ms. Beyer for tapping into that. In the very alien Children of the Storm, we are presented with a dramatically different, seemingly impossible to understand group of creatures. The “Children” are noncorporeal entities, traveling through space in what appear to be “thought bubbles” containing a toxic alien atmosphere. These creatures seem nothing like any race Starfleet has encountered before. And when ships from the Voyager fleet enter their space, they are greeted with what seems to be immediate hostility, resulting in the shocking destruction of an entire vessel and the deaths of all aboard. This would seem to scuttle any chance at understanding, but in the best Star Trek tradition, a few heroic officers insist on trying to find some way to communicate with these aliens in an attempt to build some sort of understanding.
I wrote recently about the Next Gen/DS9 crossover five-book series “The Fall,” and how much I enjoyed that series’ focus on forcing our Starfleet heroes to find a way to hold onto their ideals even in the face of great threats on all side, and the fear spreading throughout their society of implacable enemies all around them. The struggle between the path of war and violence and the path of mutual respect and understanding is just as central to this book, and here too this proves to be a compelling hook for a story. These issues are profoundly relevant today, and the best science fiction — and the best Star Trek — always shines a light back on our world and the situations we are grappling with. I was very happy to see these issues be so central to the story of this book.
After spending the first two novels in this Voyager relaunch series getting the main Voyager characters back where she wanted them, as I commented above, in this book Ms. Beyer was free to explore the other ships and crews in the Voyager fleet. The result is a rich novel that dramatically expandes the tapestry of this Voyager series. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Ms. Beyer neglected the main Voyager characters. I was pleased by the way each of the Voyager characters had an arc, one that continued their development from the first two books. Matched with a fascinating sci-fi story, and you have a real winner of a novel.
So far Kirsten Beyer’s Voyager relaunch series is three for three. I will be back soon with my thoughts on book four, The Eternal Tide. That looks to be a controversial book, as it has Katheryn Janeway’s face huge on the cover. Is her death (in Peter David’s TNG novel Before Dishonor) being undone? That would be annoying to me. I’ll be back soon to tell you what I thought of the book. See you then!
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The Limit, Resistance and Q & A, Before Dishonor and Greater than the Sum, Destiny trilogy, A Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal Coil, Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory, Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons, Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric
Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overview, Stone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in Action, Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff
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