Just a tip: since these are spinoff novels of a TV franchise, I'n going to regularly infodump for the readers who, well, never saw the show and very likely won't anyway. You know, so they "get" what characters are all about, stuff that happened in the past, what the fuck the Prime Directive is... you know, stuff people who DON'T watch the show won't know about.
Okay, Voyager is a spinoff which tried to be very literal about the "boldly go where no man/one has ever gone before," since frankly all three previous Star Treks constantly had the heroes going where other people HAD gone before. Hell, DS9 took place on a mostly-stationary space station, and even when they got a ship, it was a warship rather than an exploratory vessel.
Voyager is a new speshul starship (its speshulness never really does anything but cause more trouble) that is sent out to capture the Maquis, who are a semi-sympathetic terrorist faction who were basically abandoned by the Federation and now fight for Great Justice or whatever. But instead, both Voyager and the Maquis ship get abandoned, the people on both ships are probed (not there, you pervert) by a weird powerful alien. Stuff happens, ba-boom, Voyager is stranded across the galaxy and it'll take them until they're elderly or dead to get back home.
So the captains decide to merge their crews, which seems like it should cause some awesome friction but doesn't, and they have generic Star Trek adventures mostly recycled from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But not written as well.
Got that? I'll fill in backstory and characterization when people pop up.
We start off with Captain Janeway.
She was the first starring female captain in the Trek franchise, which caused a lot of excitement. I think they were trying to make her a girl version of Captain Kirk who is sort of a passionate maverick or something, but since most TV writers don't know how to write strong women, she ended up a bipolar bitch who swings wildly between "slavishly follows the rules" and "happily breaks the rules," "mothers the crew" and "busts balls."
And ironically, the most Captain Kirklike of the spinoff captains was not the first female one, but the first African-American one.
Seriously, go watch DS9. It's not perfect, but it is quite good most of the time and it actually broke from a lot of the static Trek traditions, such as having a long-term arc. Granted the first couple seasons are kinda generic, but after that things really get awesome. Some people don't like it as much because it sharply deviates from the Gene Roddenberry formula of moral fortitude and the perfect, perfect Federation... but it's so much REALER that way.
So now that I've bored non-Trek fans into a stupor...
It was never truly silent aboard the Starship Voyager.
For instance, there were those damn ensigns banging like ferrets next door.
There was always far too much going on for that--the activities of the crew at all hours, whether on duty or off;
"TURN DOWN THE DAMN MUSIC!"
the constant faint sounds of machinery operating smoothly and efficiently as it had been designed to do.
Yes, the sounds of machinery with no moving parts. I'm regularly kept awake by the sound of my laptop.
So Captain Janeway is suffering from insomnia, despite being totally used to the constant noise. You know, the kind of insomnia where you just lie awake for hours, turning one way or the other, trying to turn your brain off but you just keep thinking about your upcoming school play and how much you need to dust, and your pillow is all squashed and your blankets are too hot and....
Uh, never mind. I sort of got off track there.
She shifted in the smooth, dark blue sheets, trying to mentally transform the faint, constant hum of her ship into the comforting white noise that had so often eased her insomnia into much-needed rest.
... errggghhhhh... this is what separates a good Star Trek book from a bad one. See, the good ones are written in a normal style, just with references to futuristic stuff.
This is... clunky. "Mentally transform"?
She keeps trying to sleep, and Christie Golden drops a few clumsy references to Janeway's dog and fiancee. We're also assured that she thinks daily of her boyfriend and wears the sexy nightie he gave her as a going-away present... which seems strange. If I were engaged to a dude who was going to Afghanistan for the next few months, I don't think I'd give him a Speedo. Maybe in the 24rd century, they've seen the wisdom of the Anita Blakemethod of packing.
Oh, and this is... sort of inconsistent with the series, for better or worse. Her fiancee and dog were only represented in the series as a photo in Janeway's room, and they were only mentioned a couple times. For instance, when they get stranded far from home, Janeway's focus is on a general "home and loved ones." We don't see, for instance, her going to her quarters, holding the photo and crying.
So on one hand, this is inconsistent. On the other... this is really what the show should have done.
By day, busy with either major or minor activities, Janeway could banish intrusive thoughts of her loved ones to the back of her mind.
"Oh, Robert DeNiro, one day I will return to the Alpha Quadrant and you will be mine!"
So since she's suffering from insomnia, Janeway decides to torture herself by thinking about stuff that will make her even LESS likely to sleep. Instead of trying to, I dunno, think about SOMETHING ELSE, she decides that now is the time to go LARP by her lonesome on the holodeck.
Oh, what's the holodeck? It's a magical sci-fi tech room that creates life-size holograms that can be interacted with... or not. It's sort of like 3-D video games.
"Computer," she called, "what is the status of holodeck one?"
"Lieutenant Paris is currently running the program 'Naughty Nigelian Nymphs Part 6.'"
"Uh, thanks. I didn't need to know the specifics, computer."
"He has just ordered a large tub of lube."
"SHUT UP NOW, COMPUTER!"
Janeway starts brushing her hair... then gets out of bed. Maybe I'm weird, but I don't brush my hair while in bed. Maybe Janeway keeps the hairbrush in her bed so she can sing along to her favorite songs.
We're also helpfully informed that she has a closetful of costumes that she uses on the holodeck, because the replicators (which conveniently produce just about everything you need/want) are inexplicably under too much strain to use them regularly. Yet they waste plenty of power on frivolous simulations instead of running old movies or reading books.
In case you're wondering, Voyager is possibly the worst-built ship in Star Trek history, since it has debilitating power shortages after just a few days in space, parts of it are incompatible with other parts, and it has irreplaceable "bio-neural gel packs" in the computer which will get sick and die if you eat a grilled cheese sandwich. Not kidding about that. It really happened. Also, the Engineering section is at least twice the size of the MUCH LARGER Enterprise-D's Engineering, and the captain has a private cafeteria while the crew have no communal area for themselves. Oh, and the sickbay is equipped for a whole THREE PEOPLE.
For an idea of how stupid this is, the above DS9 is an aging mining station cobbled together out of the tech of THREE different civilizations, infested with disgusting alien rodentia, riddled with booby-traps, and populated by any weirdos who feel like coming on board. And yet they manage to not only keep it running better than Voyager, but manage to transform it into a formidable battlestation. Their resident starship is the size of a shoebox but less inviting, but it still has a communal area, a better sickbay, and a proportionate Engineering section.
I can only assume that Voyager was designed the same way as Mr. Blanding's dream house.
It was a good thing that the holodeck's energy did not have to be rationed,
How joyously convenient. Heaven forbid they keep the shields up by shutting down the fun center.
A ball gown from Earth's Regency period in England.
I guess Captain Janeway secretly wants to be Elizabeth Bennett.
A muslin dress from that same planet's western pioneer days.
Ah yes, the western pioneer days... of planet Earth. Because North America is the whole planet.
The sleek, inviting garb of a Marillian gem trader.
... inviting to WHOM? Is Golden trying to say that it's sexy?
The prim, proper garb of a British governess.
... covered in spit-up and crayon marks.
(This is only mentioned, by the way, because there was this subplot where she plays a Jane Eyre governess in a gothic story. It never turned into anything).
"I want to fight something," she announced aloud. She had just found the perfect outfit--the garb of a twenty-second-century Orion pirate--
... a pair of pasties and a G-string?
(Only sort of kidding here. The Orion women were supposed to be very scantily clad)
Janeway's about to put on her puffy pirate shirt when she's contacted by Tuvok, the token Vulcan. What does Tuvok want? "I apologize for disturbing you during your off shift, Captain, but we have picked up some signals that are... most interesting. I suggest you come up to the bridge and examine them for yourself."
"It appears to be... kittens... doing cute things!"
Janeway puts one of her uniforms on the bed, then devotes her attention to putting all her hair up in a nice tidy Bun Of Steel.
She forced the excitement out of her own voice as she replied, "I'm on my way."
I think showing up on the bridge in your satin nightie might give away that you're a little excited.
I'm not kidding. There is a sentence devoted to Janeway doing her hair, but no mention of her picking up the uniform from the bed and actually putting on her body.
Her eyes snapped with excitement even as she tried to quell the hope that bubbled within her.
Maybe it was pizza day again!
Then we switch over to Commander Chakotay, who wins a prize for being the Most Wasted Character since Lieutenant Uhura. Wanna hear why? Well, for one thing, he is a former Starfleet officer who left when his planet was handed over to a cruel militaristic alien empire, so he could fight that empire as a terrorist/freedom fighter.
There's nothing wrong with this backstory. In fact, in a better series like Babylon 5 or DS9, I could see it being put to good use - it means that Chakotay has a very different perspective from your average Starfleet officer, and he shouldn't give much of a crap about regulations for their own sake. But how did it actually unfold? He turned into Generic First Officer who hardly ever clashes with Janeway, and never really shows any outside-the-box attitude.
And it's not just bad writing. It's also because Chakotay is a Generic Native American as imagined by clueless white people whose only familiarity with Native American traditions... is the regurgitated New Age shit meant for clueless white people. Also, the man they hired as a consultant turned out to be a massive con man. Not kidding!
This means the writers couldn't be assed to choose a particular tribe, research its language and traditions, and make Chakotay part of that tribe. After all, Indians are all the same people with the same traditions, right? Just like how Chinese and Filipino people are exactly alike! They're both Asian, after all!
Oh, mid-90s with your unintentionally racist depictions of Magical Native Americans. Yes, Chakotay was given Generic Amerindian New-Age Spirituality, with tribal history that veers madly between at least half a dozen tribes and civilizations, from Amazonian Brazil up to the Plains tribes.
Even worse, they sorta ditched this after a couple seasons. It was like the writers came up with "spiritual Indian guy IN SPAAAAACE!" and never thought about ANYTHING else to fill out the characters. So they just sorta semi-dropped the New-Age-hijacked spirituality and... there was nothing left.
This character just frustrates me so much. Part of it is that "He's an Indian... IN SPAAAAAAACE!" seems to be all the thought that went into Chakotay, and that is just really, really racist. Uhura wasn't defined as "She's a black woman... IN SPAAAAAAACE!", and Sulu wasn't "an Asian guy... in SPAAAAAAACE!" It's a credit to Robert Beltran (the actor on the show) that Chakotay had the depth he had, because he was working with jackshit.
Another part is... his character had more promise than anyone else in the series. There were two or three MAIN CHARACTERS that he had great potential for conflict with, including one he explicitly HATED in the pilot. There was his checkered history of both Starfleet and the Maquis. There was the division between loyalty to the Starfleet captain he had agreed to serve, and the feelings of responsibility for the people who had served HIM and were now faced with being outsiders, on a ship crewed by the very people who had ABANDONED THEM to their enemies.
What did we get? Well, each of those was handled in one, maybe two episodes serieswide... and never again. Because the writers for Voyager apparently feared and dreaded character conflict or anybody not being a TNG-style Starfleet pillar of fortitude. It's a shame, because in a show like Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5, Chakotay probably would have been a really great character.
Anyway, rant over. Back to the story!
A flash of amber eyes lit with warm amusement. A quick flick of gray tail, the smell of musk, the soft sound of wise feet on green grass.
"What's that, girl? Little Timmy fell into the pit of barbed wire?"
And no, Chakotay doesn't have a pet dog. Instead he has a spirit guide. According to an Internet quiz, which is 100% accurate, mine is an owl. And according to the Web, which is never wrong, it means I have the "capacity to see through deceit" and "ability to see what others do not see." Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
He sees his spirit guide in his dreams; since the TV show never revealed what his spirit animal WAS, Golden just sort of wings it by making it a wolf that acts nothing like a wolf.
He stood, his brown body fit and firm, clothed only in the loincloth of his ancestors,
... with glistening sweat on his firm pecs and bulging biceps! TAKE ME, MAN-MEAT!
Seriously, no other male character in this book gets so much loving detail, or gets stripped down to his skivvies. I think we know who energized Christie Golden's phaser banks!
So Chakotay and his wolf-spirit just sort of look at each other, so he can think about what he's doing... which he has allegedly done hundreds of times.
Chakotay closed his dark eyes and breathed deeply the heady scents of honeysuckle and cool moss, the furry musk of the unseen creatures who shared the realm of the subconscious with him.
... what creatures? Are there a BUNCH of spirit animals there, and only one of them wants to talk to him? Or is he just hallucinating the rest for the "atmosphere"?
It was real, yet it was only in his mind. Janeway had never said anything, but he suspected that she had problems understanding that the animal guides were very real and, at the same time, solely a product of one's inner consciousness. Most who were not of Chakotay's people had problems with that concept. Of all the crew, Chakotay suspected that only Tuvok, the Vulcan, whose own people had spent centuries unlocking the secret powers of the mind, could really understand that the two realities were not diametrically opposed.
Okay, I am not going to speculate on shamanistic religious practices and whether I think they are real or in someone else's mind. But... dammit, do not draw attention to the fact that your sci-fi perspectives are totally incompatible with spirituality! "Oh yeah, it's totally real... except for it NOT being real. It's all in my head, but it's REAL."
Unlike a lot of (more easily-led) sci-fi readers, I don't believe that religion and science are opposed. You can accept both as reality... IF you acknowledge that there is a side to existence that science doesn't apply to. Science is about the physical, concrete part of reality, and religion and spirituality are about everything that CANNOT be measured, acknowledged or even SEEN by science.
Also, the "it's part of my mind, but it's still real!" thing is really offensive to people who actually follow shamanic religions. Listen, dipshits, not everybody's spiritual experiences are just a cute little eccentricity which they use for personal therapy. LOTS OF PEOPLE ACTUALLY BELIEVE THEIR BELIEFS, and your condescending bullshit that tries to OPENLY integrate religion into Star Trek's "all science all the time" perceptions is just offensive. If it doesn't work with the series' viewpoints, JUST LEAVE IT A MYSTERY.
But then again, Tuvok would never admit to the powerful, primal joy that surged through one who was visited by an animal spirit.
He wouldn't admit to all the orgasms either!
So having bored us into a stupor, Chakotay and the spirit-wolf go running through the woods, and we get more semi-fetishized descriptions of his limbs, his glistening skin, and how he collapses into the grass when he's all worn out. Why do I have the feeling that Christie Golden has a life-sized Chakotay doll in her room?
He rolled over onto his back and she joined him,
plopping herself down and rolling happily as if she were a mere newborn.
... why don't you just say "cub"? It's pretty obvious you're talking about a wolf.
Also, newborn wolves are deaf and blind, and they can barely move except to nurse. They don't roll around happily. Or do much of anything except eat and cry.
He laughed and reached for her. Her gray fur almost glowing in the soft radiance of the moon, she snuggled into his loving embrace, placing her beautifully shaped head on his chest.
I don't think Golden meant for this to sound so... icky. Chakotay, she may be an ancient tribal spirit, but SHE'S A WOLF TOO. Just remember that!
after a moment, he thought to her: What is wrong, my friend?
Nothing is wrong, she replied without a sound. But there will not always be time for mirth and laughter, my playmate and friend.
People who are actually friends don't call each other "my friend." That is reserved for Richard and Kahlen.
Tell me. Chakotay sat up, reaching to touch the animal spirit behind the ears in a gentle gesture.
You know, if you want a dog to concentrate on ANYTHING, you don't scritch their ears. All they'll do is thump their leg and melt into a furry puddle.
But because this is a poorly-written book, the wolf-spirit starts spouting more pseudophilosophical gibberish that makes me want to cry:
You are a teacher. You are also a student.
Sometimes you are a llama.
You teach the ways of your people.
"Which people, I'm not really sure. You seem to be teaching the ways of a whole bunch of different ones!"
That is easy to do.
Sez you, mutt. Have you ever tried to teach a class?
What is harder to do is to be wise and teach me the ways of people you do not know.
... which is such a stupid line that Chakotay basically points out how dumb it is, and the wolf-spirit bullshits her way out of actually answering his questions.
The dreamscape vanished, dissipating like the sand paintings of the Navajo at the end of the Sing.
HAVE THEY MENTIONED THAT HE'S NATIVE AMERICAN? BECAUSE HE IS, YA KNOW. HE TOTALLY IS! THAT'S HIS ONE CHARACTER TRAIT!
So he wakes up because Janeway is calling all the senior staff to come meet her. Fortunately, we do not hear about Chakotay contemplating what dress to wear. That would be a little weird.
So what is the thing that is causing all this pants-wetting excitement? A subspace anomaly.
Whee. If you ever saw the show, it might as well be called "Star Trek: Anomaly Hunters" - they are always finding wacky little anomalies, and they have to investigate EVERY FUCKING ONE OF THEM. If they didn't stop to investigate the anomalies, their trip home would probably take about three and a half hours.
But this particular subspace thingy has technobabble things that mean it might be a wormhole... or maybe not. If I were Tuvok, I probably would check it out a little more closely before waking everybody up to say, "Guess what! I might have found something that MIGHT be something useful!"
the things that Ensign Harry Kim, fresh faced and hopeful, had found once before.
Now his spirit was crushed like an eggshell, and he was cowering in fear lest Janeway beat him again.
She'd once encouraged hope above all else. Hope did need to spring eternal aboard the Voyager, but it needed to be tempered by prudence.
Again... why are they waking all the senior officers up in the dead of night? This is 3:00 AM. If you want to be prudent before letting people get excited, why not let them sleep while you investigate what the hell the anomaly is?
There could be no true night on a starship, of course; the difference between "night" and "day" was purely artificial, but the regular cycles provided a sense of comfort and stability to a largely human crew used to normal planetary cycles.
That doesn't seem like a good idea. Wouldn't the crew who are on duty be more likely to be drowsy if the lights are low and they're thinking of it as "night time"?
Then Chakotay and Tom Paris come in, which causes Janeway to gawp at them.
They were getting along much better these days, the big Indian and the slim, cocky youth
Paris is clearly in at least his late twenties. He isn't a teenager.
Curiosity burned in both blue and brown orbs
THE PROSE! IT BURNS!
Oh, and who is Tom Paris? He's the not-Kirk who is supposed to be charming and roguish and attract all the ladies, except they dropped that last one pretty quickly. And "roguish" mostly meant he was mildly snarky on the bridge. He annoyed the shit out of Chakotay for awhile, and then they got over it.
"As you can see, gentlemen," said Janeway, "it's got all the earmarks of a wormhole. This," she said, tapping a graphic, "is what worries me."
"Specifically, I'm worried that this wormhole has ears."
Chakotay's face, like Tuvok's, revealed little emotion, but Janeway saw the concern fall like a hawk's shadow across the dark Indian features.
FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK. That is twice in less than a page that he's been called an Indian, plus a random mention of hawks. We get it! We have figured out what his ethnic background is! Please shut up!
So what is the problem with the wormhole? Well, it may actually be a black hole... which some people think might be where wormholes exist. But since those wormholes are no good to anybody, Star Trek maintains that there are a number that just sorta float around outside black holes. And if aliens are living inside them, they might actually be of use to someone.
Paris snorted slightly. "A wormhole inside a black hole is about as helpful as no wormhole at all. We might get back to the Alpha Quadrant, but we'd be an awful mess by the time we got there."
Janeway strode down to her chair and seated herself, crossing her legs and settling in. "Lieutenant Paris does have a point. We've been closer than we'd like to singularities before," she said.
- I think something just popped inside my brain.
- Apparently Christie Golden thinks her readers are SO DUMB that they need to be told that it's really, really bad to go into a black hole.
- I guess they're too evolved to say, "Thanks, Captain Obvious."
- No, instead Janeway acts like "Black holes mess ya up!" is actually an insight, even though probably everybody there knows about singularities!
So they head straight off to the place they're heading, and Janeway promptly starts nodding off. For about thirty seconds. And after traveling for less than half a page... they immediately bump into a bunch of debris. Wow, the sensors of this ship really suck. They literally can't pick up garbage just a few seconds away.
"I don't like the look of this. Not one bit." She hit her comm badge. "Janeway to Neelix." There was a long pause. "Neelix, come in please."
"Should I wear clothes?"
And who is Neelix, you ask? He is this guy:
He is every bit as irritating as that picture would suggest, to the point where Tuvok once tested his emotional control by seeing if he could restrain from strangling Neelix. He's a local who is supposed to be their guide/cook/morale officer, but is pretty shitty at all those things. I think they expected him to be like Quark from DS9, except... Quark was smart. And competent. And he always knew what people thought of him. And being a businessman meant he had to try to actually please people instead of love-bombing them.
Neelix is apparently going to just roll over and continue sleeping, but his Suey girlfriend Kes insists that he get his ass out of bed.
Janeway stood and planted her hands on her hips, her chin tilted up in an unconscious gesture of defiance. She strode toward the screen, her gaze roving over the corpses of ships whose pilots and crew had long since disappeared. They whirled past the Voyager in the cold silence of space, drifting close to the ship's shields before being gently repelled.
- Defiance toward WHAT?
- Is she being defiant toward the wrecked ships?
- And seriously, how awful are their sensors?! Less than a minute ago, Harry noticed that there was some debris. And now suddenly there are a bunch of WRECKED SHIPS that are actually bouncing off their shields! Was Harry asleep at his post,and he just woke up when they started banging into the ships?!
It turns out that all these ships were destroyed in the sector that they are heading towards, but hey, it's probably okay because they weren't as awesome as Voyager. There's also a message buoy. Neelix chooses that moment to come charging onto the bridge, and his whiny bitching is interrupted by the sight of the buoy.
"Open a hailing frequency, Mr. Kim," said Janeway, her mental warning alarms going off like mad. "Let's see what this buoy has to say to us."
Oooh, not a good idea. It plays those fucking Flo commercials from Progressive.
"Attention, alien vessel. You have violated Akerian space."
"The punishment is spanking. Drop your pants!"
"Retreat immediately. We will not tolerate trespassers."
"And we have a dog, so we mean business."
So it keeps repeating the same message, which is basically, "Get outta here, for your ass is grass and we are the lawnmower!" Neelix practically soils his pants at hearing this, which apparently isn't enough of a clue for Janeway to get that these are BAD SCARY PEOPLE.
So he infodumps Janeway, stating that the Akerian empire has about the same level of tech as the Voyager crew, and... THEY KILL PEOPLE!
Seriously, is that surprising? They said they were gonna destroy everybody.