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The Trek Nation - Homecoming & The Farther Shore

Homecoming & The Farther Shore

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at June 25, 2003 - 2:33 PM GMT

Title: Star Trek: Voyager, Homecoming
Author: Christie Golden
Release Date: June 2003
Format: Paperback and eBook
ISBN: 0-7434-6754-X

Title: Star Trek: Voyager, The Farther Shore
Author: Christie Golden
Release Date: July 2003
Format: Paperback and eBook
ISBN: 0-7434-6755-8

Let me begin by saying that I have no doubt that many of the fans who read these two post-finale Voyager novels are going to be delighted with them. Sadly, I was not. Like most, I had been eagerly looking forward to reading these two novels to learn what happened to the valiant crew of the USS Voyager after they returned to the Alpha Quadrant. I hoped that author Christie Golden would tie up some lose ends left by the series finale and start the crew on a bold new direction now that they have returned home. Homecoming and The Farther Shore did satisfy in that respect in some ways but as I read these two novels, I found myself becoming increasingly dismayed with each passing chapter with the direction the story was taking and the overall plot. More detail on why I was so disappointed with this 'relaunch' will follow the story synopsis and I will warn you now that this review contains major spoilers for both novels. While I will not give the details of the how, who and why there are still plenty spoilers so, if you do not want to know what happens-STOP READING RIGHT NOW.

The USS Voyager, after seven long years has returned home to the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation. But the Federation they have returned to is not the same one it left. The Dominion war has changed the Federation and Starfleet, and the recovery, both material and psychological, is slowly and painfully ongoing. Instead of being feted, the crew is almost an afterthought, quickly dismissed to pick up the threads of the lives they left behind. In some cases, the reunions, promotions and partings are bittersweet as the major characters attempt to come to terms both with their reception and the profound changes that have taken place in their absence.

Seven and Chakotay part ways. Icheb enters Starfleet Academy, where Tuvok has accepted a teaching position. Janeway, now promoted to Admiral, attempts to find a new role for herself at Starfleet Command. When B'Elanna decides to travel to Boreth to resolve the mystery of what happened to her mother, Tom accompanies her with their baby Miral. What B'Elanna learns on Boreth makes her decide to undertake the Challenge of Spirit and Tom returns to Earth with their daughter where the very bored Doctor agrees to help with the baby during B'Elanna's potentially extended absence.

Harry Kim is reunited with his lost love Libby Webber, but what Harry is unaware of is that Libby is now a covert operative for Starfleet Intelligence. It seems that someone in Starfleet has been leaking technological information to the Orion Syndicate, and the return of Voyager with its Borg enhancements and advanced technology makes it imperative that the mole be uncovered. Libby has been assigned to rekindle her relationship with Harry in order to flush out that mole.

Meanwhile a mysterious illness that Starfleet is calling the Xanarian flu has begun striking children and the elderly on Earth, transforming them into Borg. Those affected are being quarantined as Starfleet desperately tries to cover up the illness and affect a cure. It would appear to be too much of a coincidence that these spontaneous Borg transformations should begin shortly after Voyager's return to Earth and many begin to suspect that the Voyager crew may somehow be involved.

In the midst of everything else, the Doctor's holographic novel “Photons Be Free” has sparked a holographic uprising. When evidence surfaces that the Doctor is involved in the revolution he is arrested and temporarily deactivated. Janeway is able to have the Doctor reactivated but is unable to have him released. Things soon deteriorate even further as Seven and Icheb are also arrested under suspicion of somehow being involved in the Borg transformations. When Starfleet refuses their offers to assist in unraveling the myriad crisis Earth is facing, Janeway and the remaining Voyager crew decides to take matters into their own hands.

The Farther Shore takes up the story as B'Elanna begins the Challenge of the Spirit. Back on Earth Janeway has called upon Commander Data to help fight for the Doctor's rights as Starfleet has decided to lobotomize the holographic Doctor. Meanwhile Seven and Icheb are physically deteriorating under Starfleet's none too gentle treatment. Libby has begun to suspect that there is much more going on than just a Starfleet mole and she secretly begins to investigate on her own and furtively supplies information to Harry to aid Janeway and company's own attempts to untangle the many layers of conspiracy they are facing.

Resorting to desperate measures Janeway joins forces with Oliver Baines, the leader and instigator of the holographic uprising. With his help, our intrepid heroes successfully affect a jailbreak and take over Voyager in a risky and dangerous attempt to discover why innocents are being transformed into Borg and to find the answers that will not only save their friends but that Starfleet so desperately needs. Just in the nick of time, Libby discovers that the threat comes not from the Borg, but from within Starfleet itself providing the final clues that allows our heroes to save Earth and prove their innocence.

If the plot of this two part story, Homecoming and The Farther Shore, sounds complicated, believe me it is. The complications of the plot have both a positive and negative effect on the story. On a positive note, the story was engrossing but on the other hand, Christie Golden throws everything but the kitchen sink into a story that to often overreaches itself. Too many things, such as the cameo appearances by Picard, Troi, Barclay and especially Data, read as if they have been shoehorned into the story.

There were too many easy answers, too many simple and farfetched resolutions, and too many things in the story that were just too implausible to accept, even for Star Trek. For example within minutes of Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant Tuvok's son is miraculously on hand to effect a cure for his disease by administering fal-tor-voh. Pretty convenient that he just happened to be in the neighborhood. Small things like this creep into the story throughout the plot and left me feeling incredulous.

Homecoming begins with a great hook. The prologue introduces a mysterious child that is living in an extremely abusive situation. Throughout the first two thirds of the story, the thoughts of this tortured child are interspersed to make the horror of her situation abundantly clear and the reader begins to not only to feel outraged on her behalf but empathize with her as well. This was extremely effective as a plot devise.

As the story progresses the first 100 pages or so are almost entirely devoted to reunions and the varied reactions Voyager's crewmembers have to returning home. It takes a while for the plot to begin to take shape. While many of the scenes were highly effective and touching Ms. Golden's repeated use of the many variations of “a lump in my throat” soon became tiresome. A little more variety in describing such emotional scenes would have been appreciated. However, the characterizations were excellent and the author successfully represented the state of mind of each main character as the story unfolded.

In addition to the expected and familiar characters one of the highlights of the story, and one of its most redeeming features, were the complex characters created by the author. It was very easy to despise the awful Admiral Montgomery who first dismissed the crew and then set about imprisoning some of them. Brenna Covington, director of Covert Operations for Starfleet Intelligence is one of the most skillfully depicted characters to ever appear in a Star Trek novel. Libby Webber, Harry Kim's former fiancé was an absolute joy as was the extremely likeable Trill Dr. Jarem Kaz.

B'Elanna's quest to find her mother was another highlight of the story. But perhaps one of the things I appreciated the most was the author's explanation of two of Star Trek greatest mysteries. First, very early in the story on page 10 was an explanation of the why the series set in the 23rd and 24th centuries depict the Vulcan mind meld technique as being used for a wide variety of reasons in their culture but the latest Star Trek series, Enterprise, implies that it is practically unheard of. But the most satisfying revelation is how and why the Borg Queen can so easily return from the dead.

When I finished Homecoming, which I will admit I had to force myself to do, I had hoped that by reading the conclusion The Farther Shore I would have a different reaction to the story. I really, really wanted to like these novels. Unfortunately by the time I had finished the second half, all I felt was disgust. I read Star Trek novels, indeed any novel, but especially Star Trek novels, for entertainment. Often escapist entertainment. If I want to read about brutality and idiocy, I will read the newspaper or turn on the news. Everyone has different tastes in what they find enjoyable but I myself do not pick up a Star Trek novel and expect to read about horrific abuse, the torture of innocents and paranoia at a level that allows all that is so positive about Gene Roddenberry's depiction of the future to be thrown out the window.

Granted nothing is perfect, not even Star Trek's 'vision' of the future, but for this reader these novels took a direction I would rather not have gone to. Subtle social commentary is one thing, but the sledgehammer approach doesn't cut it with me. The plot quickly dissolves into an us versus them mentality as Voyager's crew is pitted against a Starfleet that rejects them and in these novels is portrayed as being populated by a bunch of paranoid morons.

The Further Shore ultimately ends on a very positive note but with the crew scattered in many different directions. Christie Golden drops several hints that the crew will be drawn together once again for further adventures. I can only hope that whatever that story is, it will be more satisfying and enjoyable to read than this one was.

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Jacqueline Bundy Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.