Friday, 21 November 2014

Acts of Contrition: Beyer's Voyager Vision Continues

Having read the previous book in this series the dramatic conclusion left me priapic with anticipation for the latest novel. For those unaware my review of Protectors did not put it in the best light. 

It wasn't until I started reading Protectors that I realised that it was part of a series of which I had transported into mid-phaser fight. Did I end up going back and reading the previous three books in the series I hear you ask? Erm, no I did not. Although I do appreciate that this might help my understanding of matters. Not to be deterred by this and relishing anything Voyager related, I ploughed through it with some difficulty, struggling to follow the already established plots. 

I know what you're thinking, what do you expect, you've jumped in half way through a series. I agree with this is but I believe an author should be able to draw a reader into an established arc with sufficient backstory such as Kevin J Anderson and his Saga of Seven Suns. Nonetheless I was prepared for this with the latest book, eager to see where the story would go. I still hold the opinion that Protectors was a filler, meant to tie the readers over until Acts of Contrition where the story was hopefully going to engage warp engines instead of manoeuvring thrusters. We haven't achieved much more than impulse at the moment.

Acts of Contrition neatly picks up where Protectors left off. Admiral Janeway is in charge of the full circle fleet tasked with opening diplomatic relations with the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant, whose technology is on par with the Federation. In the previous book the Confederacy rescued the Federation starships Voyager and Demeter from an alien armada and although grateful, the crew of Voyager is disturbed in the way that the Confederacy was founded.

Introducing several of Voyager's adversaries from the original TV series, the Devore, the Voth, the Turei and the Vaadwaur all make interesting additions. The 'Karlon' and the 'Skeen' are the new faces which aren't explored in any detail. It would be interesting to have more development on these, especially as these have been created by Beyer. These have formed an unlikely alliance intent on forging war with the Confederacy, and Voyager's presence doesn't help matters. Recognise anyone mentioned above? The Devore were introduced in the season 5 episode Counterpoint where Janeway finally got a little bit of action, well as much as you can on Star Trek without the Doctor's approval. The Voth made an appearance in the season 3 episode Distant Origin and the Vaadwaur and Turei in season 6 Dragons Teeth. 
In my humble opinion there seems to be a bit of recycling of old characters going on here. It's nice to have some familar faces but we've got a whole quadrant of alien races that could have been introduced. Is this a wasted opportunity? I personally would have prefered more original content, these are races we have seen in the past. More to the point Beyer seems to have picked all the races with a grudge against Voyager and surprisingly they've banded together intent on capturing Voyager. The Turei and the Vaadwaur!!! Really, in what universe would that ever happen? These two species were at war with each for centuries. After discussing this with my colleague Mark who has seen this episode of Voyager more recently than myself, he considers it a major plot hole and had a look of horror on his face.

Beyond this both the Devore and the Voth had an element of xenophobia about them, would they really team up? Beyer is disregarding even the most basic established tenants of the series, instead opting to rewrite Voyager as she sees fit. Or as Tuvok elegantly put it in Worst Case Scenario (season three, Ep 25): "That is an entirely implausible plot development. Logic is an integral part of narrative structure. According to the dictates of poetics by Te'Hain of Vulcan, a character's actions must flow inexorably from his or her established traits."
Commander Tom Paris has escorted Seven of Nine back to the Alpha Quadrant along with Dr Sharak. As previously mentioned in my Protectors review, Paris' mother is seeking custody of Miral following a storyline from one of the earlier books in which Paris faked his wife and daughters death in order to protect them from some Klingon order. Mrs Paris believes that both Tom and B'Elanna are unfit parents and is applying for sole custody of Miral. I expected this part of the story to be quite boring, arbitration between mother and son, but was pleasantly surprised in the way this arc was explored.

This could be considered a soap style storyline, father of the child cliché. Was this a necessary sub-plot? My interpretation is that Beyer is wrapping up the Paris storyline, although beware, it looks set to continue in the next novel. Although it is not the strongest storyline Beyer portrayed the character very well causing me to sympathise with the issues facing the family.

Another continuing story arc is the catomic plague, from my review of Protectors, it has indeed developed into a more substantial reading point as I suspected. Unfortunately it is difficult to identify exactly what is going on, or where it is going. This is simply because amidst this devastating plague, Beyer chooses to focus on the Seven-Axum relationship which in my opinion is unrealistic and out of character. I imagine that Beyer intends to develop this plot in the next novel, my only hope is the Seven-Axum relationship isn't explored in as much detail. I believe a line needs to be drawn under this and for her to focus on the principle issue of the catomic plague. 

I have recently set myself the task of re-watching Voyager from start to finish and would like to revise my comment in my review of Protectors regarding the relationship between Chakotay and Janeway. The early seasons of Voyager were not may favourite and I haven't seen them for many years, but I believe these early seasons show the chemistry between Janeway and her former first officer. Although I believe that the relationship evolved into a friendship rather than a romantic relationship, it does give more credibility to the two being involved. This relationship is referred to in Protectors but isn't explored in any detail. This may be because it was covered in previous books in the series which I am unaware of, but it may have additional potential. Is an Admiral allowed to have a romantic relationship with a Captain?

If I said Riley Frazier to you would it ring any bells? It didn't for me but luckily I have just re-watched season three of Voyager and managed to connect the dots. For those of you unaware she is from the episode Unity in which she attempts to 'softwire' Chakotay into her mini collective. Once I made this connection I was a little disappointed. We've got Axum, Riley, various foes of Voyager banded together, Protectors from the season two episode Twisted, and that's just in the two books I've read. I feel that too much reliance has been placed on established storylines which have been merged together to create a series that is hard to follow. Not to say that I haven't enjoyed this book, each chapter ended on a cliff hanger compelling me to read on which is a credit to Beyer's writing skills. I just find that hers and mines version of Voyager following the conclusion of the series went on different paths.

At this point I'll offer you my conclusions but before I do, I need to get something off my chest.

I had a little theory from Protectors, I briefly mentioned it in an earlier paragraph but have decided to return to it as I no longer feel I had made a mistake. Sadly this chapter in her series has done nothing but strengthen my theory. I cannot escape the overall feeling that Beyer isn't actually writing the next Voyager installment, rather, rewriting the original TV show. With the ratio of 'recycled' material to 'original' material (and a distinct lack of detail in her original material), it does give me the impression that she watched Voyager and decided that it wasn't how she saw it should have played out.

Now, we all have ideas about what we'd have liked to have seen in the show, but we've known better than to disturb one of the best (in my 'humble' opinion) Star Trek shows thus far.
The continuation of this saga will be Star Trek: Voyager: Atonement, which is due to be released in either July or September 2015. I'm sure many people who have read the whole series will be anticipating the release of this next instalment with the dramatic cliff hanger that Beyer left you with. I say 'you' as to me it actually meant nothing, I've got no idea who this latest bad guy is.

How do you think Beyer is handling the Voyager series? Are these moves in the right direction?

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