Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Eternal Tide

Star Trek: Voyager: The Eternal Tide by Kirsten Beyer
Published September 2012
Read September 10th 2012


Previous book (Voyager): Children of the Storm
Next book (Voyager): Protectors




Click to purchase The Eternal Tide from Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for The Eternal Tide and other books in the Voyager relaunch, as well as developments in the post-Nemesis literature universe. This review contains SIGNIFICANT spoilers. You have been warned!

From the back cover:
An all-new novel that continues the epic saga of the Starship Voyager!
As the Voyager fleet continues its exploration of the Delta Quadrant, investigating the current status of sectors formerly controlled by the Borg becomes the fleet's priority. Two of the fleet's special mission vessels, Galen and Demeter, are left at New Talax to aid Neelix's people while Voyager, Quirinal, Esquiline, Hawking, and Curie move out to do a systematic search for any remnants of the Borg or Caeliar. As this mission begins, Fleet Commander Afsarah Eden, who has shared what little she knows of her mysterious past with Captain Chakotay, begins to experience several more "awakenings" as she encounters artifacts, people, and places that make her feel connected to her long lost home. She is reluctant to allow these to overshadow her mission, but this becomes increasingly difficult as time passes. But in the midst of this growing crisis, no one in the fleet could anticipate the unexpected return of one of Starfleet's most revered leaders--a return that could hold the very fate of the galaxy in the balance.

My thoughts:

The Eternal Tide is a very difficult novel to review. In many ways, it's difficult to separate the story and quality of writing from the public opinions regarding the main event of the novel: the return of Kathryn Janeway to the land of the living, not to mention the myriad opinions that were espoused when her character was first killed off in Peter David's Before Dishonor. In fact, The Eternal Tide, in its own way, gives voice to the debate that many in the novel fandom engaged in. The arguments for and against her return are presented and debated by characters in the novel, as well as arguments for and against the mere possibility of that development. At times, it felt as though I were reading the arguments straight from the Trek Literature board on TrekBBS. In this way, The Eternal Tide feels very "meta"; the novel is very much aware of the reception it will receive by the fans, for good or ill.

Although it is the one event that most readers will almost exclusively focus on, The Eternal Tide isn't merely about the return of Kathryn Janeway. A number of other significant developments occur, most notably the resolution of Afsarah Eden's story-line and big changes for the fleet of ships that Voyager is a part of. For the former, I came away from the Eden story-line feeling a little bit cheated. The developments were fascinating to be sure, but I felt that the wrap-up came a little too quickly. I really liked Eden as a character, and I am quite saddened that she is no longer a part of the Voyager story. It almost feels as though she had to be shunted aside to make room for Janeway's return, and if that's the case, it seems to me to be a disservice to the character. Similarly, the loss of so many ships and personnel from the Full Circle fleet is disheartening; I really enjoyed the dynamic of a fleet of ships exploring the Delta Quadrant, as well as the myriad characters we'd been introduced to. While most of the characters who have been well-fleshed out did survive, there were a few secondary characters whose absence will be felt.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about The Eternal Tide was its treatment of the Q. In Q's appearances in The Next Generation, he and the continuum were generally treated with dignity and as a fairly significant cosmic force, with all the attendant "deep" issues. Witness, for example, Q's final scene in that television series, in which he tells Picard of the exploration that awaits him and his species, specifically "not mapping stars or studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence." There was always a kind of reverence and "weight" associated with Q's place in the cosmos. In Voyager, however, the Q seemed to come across as lighter, and more as comic relief than anything else. The Eternal Tide, much like Keith R.A. DeCandido's Q & A, marks a return to the deeper explanation of the Q, and what their place in the universe is. I especially enjoyed The Eternal Tide's treatment of Q's son, usually refered to as "Junior." He came across quite well in the pages of this novel, both as a continuation of the young man we met in Voyager's "Q2" and someone who has significantly matured in the interim.

"Junior," played by Keegan deLancie, from Voyager's "Q2"

One character whose ultimate fate saddened me was Amanda Rogers, the Q offspring of two Q-made-human parents from the TNG episode "True Q." Due to a cosmic confluence of events, she seems to have been erased from history, with none of the Q (apart from "Junior") remembering her whatsoever. I kept expecting the novel to return to the issue, but it never comes up again, and Amanda is seemingly never restored to the timeline. Does she still exist in Federation records? Did the episode "True Q" never happen? These are questions that I wish were answered. I did really enjoy the relationship between Rogers and Junior, and they seemed such a natural pairing that I was surprised I had never thought of it before.

Amanda Rogers, from TNG's "True Q"
When all is said and done, The Eternal Tide is a very well-written novel. But then again, with Kirsten Beyer at the helm, could we expect any less? It's easy for this novel to be buried under the weight of what Janeway's return means, but even setting that divisive issue aside, it is a very competently-written novel that kept me engaged throughout. While certainly not her best work (Children of the Storm remains the absolute highlight of the Voyager relaunch for me), Kirsten Beyer still shines. It still amazes me that Voyager has become one my favorite titles in the Star Trek fiction lineup.

Final thoughts:

The Eternal Tide manages to walk the line of the "bring back Janeway" debate quite well. While Janeway does return, it comes at a high cost and doesn't feel like a "cheat." If I could trust any author to pull off such an audacious story, it would have been Kirsten Beyer, and that trust proves to be anything but misplaced. While not as strong as her other novels, The Eternal Tide is engaging, well-written, and a hell of a fun read. I highly recommend this novel, regardless of where you fall on the Janeway debate.

More about The Eternal Tide:

Also by Kirsten Beyer:

My next read:

As of this month, I have finally and completely moved back to Canada from my two-year stint in Korea. This transition marked a significant period of no activity on this site, but rest assured that I am back in full review swing! Coming soon are my reviews for:

New releases:

Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship by Una McCormack
Vanguard: In Tempest's Wake by Dayton Ward (ebook)

Backlog of past reads:

Spock's World by Diane Duane
Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan
Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson
Errand of Vengeance: The Edge of the Sword, Killing Blow, and River of Blood by Kevin Ryan
Errand of Fury: Seeds of Rage, Demands of Honor, and Sacrifices of War by Kevin Ryan
Federation by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

And finally, look for David Mack's The Next Generation: Cold Equations #1: The Persistence of Memory, to be released in the next two weeks. Stay tuned!

And for my regular readers, thanks so much for being patient during this period of transition. Please know that your readership is very much appreciated!