Thursday, July 14, 2011

Children of the Storm

Star Trek: Voyager: Children of the Storm
Published June 2011
Read June 13th

Previous book (Voyager Relaunch): Unworthy

Next book (Voyager Relaunch): The Eternal Tide

Click the cover to purchase Children of the Storm at!
Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Voyager, Children of the Storm, other novels of the Voyager relaunch, and other novels in the larger Trek Lit continuity.

From the back cover:
Little is known about the Children of the Storm—one of the most unique and potentially dangerous species the Federation has ever encountered. Non-corporeal and traveling through space in vessels apparently propelled by thought alone, the Children of the Storm at one time managed to destroy thousands of Borg ships without firing a single conventional weapon.
Now in its current mission to the Delta Quadrant, Captain Chakotay and Fleet Commander Afsarah Eden must unravel why three Federation starships—the U.S.S. Quirinal, Planck, and Demeter—have suddenly been targeted without provocation and with extreme prejudice by the powerful Children of the Storm . . . with thousands of Starfleet lives at stake from an enemy that the Federation can only begin to comprehend. . . .

About the novel:

Children of the Storm occurs concurrently and immediately after the events in the previous Voyager novel, Unworthy.  As Voyager and the rest of the fleet explore the Indign, the starships Planck, Demeter, and Quirinal investigate The Children of the Storm, and enigmatic race fleetingly encountered by the USS Aventine under Captain Ezri Dax during their brief sojourn into the Delta Quadrant in the novel Star Trek: Destiny: Lost Souls.

The encounter, when it finally comes, proves anything but routine when The Children quickly overpower and destroy the USS Planck, and surround and capture the USS Demeter.  The Demeter, tasked with providing hydroponically grown food to the fleet, has garnered special interest from The Children, who demand "the life."  In the engagement, the USS Quirinal barely manages to escape by plotting a slipstream away from the area, eventually crash-landing, heavily damaged, on a planet thousands of light-years away from the scene of the battle.

Soon, Voyager and the rest of the fleet realize that something must have happened when the trio of starships fails to arrive on schedule.  Captain Eden decides to take Voyager to investigate.  Voyager comes upon the scene of the battle and realizes that Demeter has been captured and Quirinal has escaped.  Despite the danger to Demeter, Captain Eden decides to follow Quirinal's course and discovers the crashed starship. 

 Meanwhile, Demeter's commanding officer, Commander Liam O'Donnell, realizes that The Children of the Storm are utterly fascinated by the life-cycles of the plants the ship carries.  He orders the crew to begin round-the-clock planting of the seeds in ship's stores, and this seems to placate The Children, who accelerate the growth cycles of the plants and derive pleasure from observing them.  O'Donnell uses the time to attempt to come up with a more permanent solution to their predicament.  The Demeter's first officer, Commander Atlee Fife, quickly grows impatient with O'Donnell's methods and desires a more militant response to the situation.  Tension between the two begins to mount, and Commander Fife begins to contemplate outright insubordination and mutiny.

My thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Children of the Storm.  I've gone on the record through this blog saying that Voyager is my least favorite of the Star Trek series.  Character development and coherent storytelling were often sorely lacking in the television show.  I wish to now go on the record as saying that Kirsten Beyer should have been in the writer's room at Paramount when Voyager was on the air.  She has shown through Full Circle, Unworthy, and now, Children of the Storm, that Voyager could have been a completely worthy successor to the Star Trek name.  If only this quality of writing had been apparent during the series.

I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of Fife and O'Donnell.  Commander Fife is a product of the last few years of "Star Trek history": a massive invasion by the Borg, and before that, the Dominion War.  It is no wonder that many in Starfleet pick up a phaser before attempting diplomacy.  O'Donnell, on the other hand, is old-school Starfleet in the tradition of Picard during the TNG television series (NOT the movies!).  He is quick to embrace scientific discovery and diplomacy to accomplish his goals.  His eventual solution to the problem of The Children of Storm is both elegant and courageous, and I hope to learn more about O'Donnell in (I hope!) many more Voyager re-launch novels to come.

Children of the Storm is not only Star Trek in name, but in spirit as well.  We see an exploration of a completely alien species whose motivation and circumstances seem very bizarre on the surface, but are completely justified as the reader learns more about them.  It was rare in any of the filmed Star Trek to see any truly alien race, but this task is accomplished much more easily in novel format.  The original tagline of Star Trek, to seek out new life and new civilizations, is shown explicitly in Children of the Storm.  To me, Children of the Storm illustrates perfectly the reason that I watch and enjoy Star Trek: the idea that violence and war are tools of last resort, and that we as a people can accomplish much more through ideas, non-violent engagement, and diplomacy.

Final thoughts:

The story is very thoughtful and engaging, and the characters are well fleshed-out and "real."  The plot is fast-paced and easy to follow, and the story is true to the Star Trek ethos in a way many other stories aren't able to accomplish.  I give Children of the Storm a solid 10/10.

More about Children of the Storm:

Also by Kirsten Beyer:

Next review:
The next review is of another old-school Trek novel: The original series' The Final Reflection by John M. Ford.