Star Trek: Voyager: Atonement by Kirsten Beyer

Star Trek: Voyager: Atonement - Kirsten Beyer

To be honest, the only reason I even picked this book up was because I'm a completist - I can't leave a series uncompleted. So, was it worth the effort? Yes and no.


I think the Voyager relaunch has been flaundering since Janeway's return - which changed the dynamics on Voyager back to what they had been in the series. That's a shame. I don't need a self-doubting Chakotay who will always look towards Janeway to make the difficult decisions. And I certainly don't need a Janeway who is calm and collected all the time, who turns out right all the time etc... who's just flat as a character, I don't see any depth there worth exploring. And I don't need one character again overshadowing all the others who finally had some time and space to breathe (and what a marvel to witness that has been!). That's boring, I've seen just that for 7 years on TV. Move on.


The second complaint is the mass of energy beings who can take over personalities or swallow ships etc which VOY has seen in the course of the most recent books. That leads to technobabble, and the thought of doom all around (which won't happen anyway - at least not to the canon-ships). I think it's a cheap plot-device because there's little left in the "real world" that can pose enough of a threat to the protagonists. That's not just the case here, but overall in Star Trek lately.


The final complaint about this book in particular is the sort of reset-button-feeling I got at the end. The Federation and the Confederation part ways amicably (if not as allies), Paris and his mother are back on good terms, Janeway's sister has forgiven her in absentia for the grievous act of returning to Starfleet, Seven and Cambridge are back to being an item (even if Seven's still got to deal with the aftermath of her experiences), Icheb's now assigned to Voyager making any ties to Earth quite neglectable etc. The only one not coming out of the experience unscathed is the Doctor, but even he comes to terms with what happened to him and his programme. It's too neat, and I imagine due to this being the end of a trilogy, making it impossible to leave things unanswered.


Atonement certainly didn't have it easy as a follow-up to Acts of Contrition which I honestly disliked. It's not that I felt uncomfortable which I usually actually enjoy, but some ideas just felt ludicrous, such as the Paris-mediation or Janeway's referring to the chain of command (Janeway and listening to the chain of command?!?) when the Doctor reported his misgivings over Starfleet Medical's handling of the epidemic. And I was particularly repulsed by Cambridge's juvenile angsting, and even more so by the Starfleet's officers reaction to the Confederation's internal politics - granted, their stance towards women's rights is appalling, as is the way people go hungry when it would be possible, but not profitable to do something about it. It's a mirror image to how the world works right now, and I find it terrifying that enlightened Starfleet isn't able to remember its own past and to not just see the horrors, but also the potential to evolve... like Earth did. It's not just this moral highground that's bothering me, it's also the fact that moral conflicts didn't prevent the Federation from allying themselves with the Klingons - or later on with the Cardassians, Ferengi etc. So, is it really the appalling moral stance on important issues? Or rather the fact that the Confederation doesn't pose a direct threat? Or that it doesn't offer an immediate benefit to the Federation to form an alliance? They are after all quite a distance away... Honestly, I find that double standard harder to swallow than I found the social issues within the Confederation. And that Mattings in the end advocated for "The Source" - when Janeway and Chakotay were all for destroying this being without knowing about it, without making any effort to contact it (safe for using the protectors)... well, what does that say about Starfleet?


The intriguing and redeeming aspect of this book certainly was Seven and Paris' revealing the one-man conspiracy surrounding the plague. Although, again, I'm not sure whether Starfleet really learned from the past. Where is a system of checks and balances? How is it possible for one man not only to create and perpetuate a plague, but also to recreate an extinct species? I liked the way Julia Paris finally felt useful again (which was the reason for her being so ridiculous in the previous books, I suppose), and I liked seeing her on her home turf - organizing things, moving with and handling prominent figures. Again, that's a nice allusion to nowadays politics, I guess, where the experienced elderly are often shoved to the side instead of making use of their experience and connections. As said before, just giving her a purpose and letting her see her son in his professional environment seems a bit simplistic to make all the familial trouble vanish. But then again, it came pretty out of the blue, and that's where it should go again. Garak's appearance felt more like a plot-device, used as a link between what's happening in the Tamarian Embassy and getting the higher-ups to listen. I really love Garak, and his voice felt right here... but it also felt a bit like small-universe syndrome. I mean no one thinks about using the media without having Garak pointing it out?!?


Interestingly, Beyer's strength is to introduce diverse and 3-dimensional original characters - O'Donnell is one example with his unique style of command (or, rather, relinquishing command), Dr Sharak is another. I'm not too fond of the episode which introduced the Tamarians, but his interaction with Wildman becomes one of the highlights of this trilogy. I'm unsure as to how much we'll see of the Wildmans in upcoming books, though, since they're all relocating to Ktaria and settling down nicely. Which, as mentioned before, made Icheb to sole loose end on Earth - which gets tied up as well. Admiral Akaar who takes command over the Voyager fleet personally lets him graduate early because of his actions during this trilogy, claiming that he reminds him of Kirk... First of all, I don't agree with that assessment at all since Icheb's actions were a result of his loyalty to the Voyager crew, not his own initiative. And I'm not sure how Admiral Akaar who was born during Kirk's 5-year mission can be reminded of Kirk - wouldn't that require some more personal acquaintance? Kirk died when Akaar was in his mid-20s... so how much of Kirk's intuitive actions can he have witnessed to be reminded of him a century later?


Then there's Seven's development as a person, an adult woman - and boy has she grown into herself. Her handling of Axum, of not being persuaded to join him but instead still reaching out to him whenever he's ready to accept his reality as an individual, is an immensely important step for her as an individual. And it feels real and consistent. Perhaps that's why Cambridge's reaction to her returning to Earth and his angsting over their relationship feels so juvenile and immature. It's quite interesting to see the triangle between Cambridge, the Doctor and Seven develop - and to see the more probably emotionally stunted beings be more in tune with the situation than the ship's counselor. Overall, the Doctor experiences quite an interesting development in this novel as well, choosing to sacrifice part of himself for the greater good. His conversations with Cambridge and especially the reunion with Seven were highlights of this novel. Understated, yet deeply emotional. Well done.


This novel felt like the ending of season 1 of the VOY-relaunch (or re-relaunch if you will) as many of the plotthreads opened in earlier books, mainly Meegan, were picked up in this trilogy and resolved. I'm not going to get more into that plot than I already did at the beginning of this review as it didn't really pull me in in any way. Maybe if Kashyk's possession had played out differently... It remains to be seen whether the transmission of Janeway's trial will make an impact on the species VOY alienated during its first mission in the Delta Quadrant. And it remains to be seen whether the original characters, like O'Donnell and Fife or the Vesta's crew, will continue to play an important role - or whether they'll be sidelined. Unfortunately, I'm always a bit wary of a big cast of characters in a series where there are only 1 or 2 books per year.


And I'm still not sure whether I like Beyer's Janeway who's just so perfect. And I keep returning to that one aspect, unfortunately. Of all the VOY characters she comes across as the most 2-dimensional one, yet the one overshadowing everyone else, even if she's not on screen so to speak. Is Chakotay in particular now going to be only defined in relation to Janeway? Or is he allowed to be his own person - because how else should their romantic relationship even work if they're not equal? 4 books into her resurrection I still wished she had remained dead, honestly... also because the current trend in TrekLit to resurrect anyone borders on the ridiculous. Is it too much to ask that being dead is permanent? That it can't be undone on some editorial whim?


Still, I guess I'll keep tuning in to the ongoing drama in the Delta Quadrant - but how about transferring Seven to the Demeter and setting it loose in its own series? There wouldn't be any doubt about whether I'd pick up that one...