Thursday, October 16, 2014

Acts of Contrition

Star Trek: Voyager
Acts of Contrition by Kirsten Beyer
Release date: September 30th 2014
Read October 10th 2014

Previous book (Voyager): Protectors
Next book (Voyager): Atonement

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Spoilers ahead for Acts of Contrition and previous books in the Voyager relaunch series!

From the back cover:
Admiral Kathryn Janeway has now taken command of the Full Circle Fleet. Her first mission: return to the Delta Quadrant and open diplomatic relations with the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant, a civilization whose power rivals that of the Federation. Captain Chakotay knows that his choices could derail the potential alliance. While grateful to the Confederacy Interstellar Fleet for rescuing the Federation starships from an alien armada, the Voyager captain cannot forget the horrors upon which the Confederacy was founded.

More troubling, it appears that several of
Voyager’s old adversaries have formed a separate and unlikely pact that is determined to bring down the Confederacy at all costs. Sins of the past haunt the crew members of the Full Circle Fleet as they attempt to chart a course for the future. Will they learn much too late that some sins can never be forgiven . . . or forgotten?

My thoughts:

Acts of Contrition is the sixth post-"Endgame" Voyager novel penned by Kirsten Beyer, and under her direction, the series continues to be a highlight of the year's slate of Trek novels. As I've mentioned before, Voyager was easily my least favorite of the Star Trek television series, but Kirsten's novels are fantastic. Her handling of character, plot, and theme are all truly superb.

This novel was a terrific read. There is so much to love between the covers of Acts of Contrition, I scarcely know where to begin. Kirsten's handling of the canon characters such as Janeway, Chakotay, and even Harry Kim is excellent, while the novel-exclusive characters such as Hugh Cambridge and Dr. Sharak are equally entertaining. Dr. Sharak in particular gets his chance to shine in this novel as he accompanies Seven to Earth to investigate the growing threat of a "catomic plague," seemingly borne of the exotic matter that replaced Borg components at the end of the events of the Destiny novels. As a Tamarian (introduced in the Next Generation episode "Darmok"), Dr. Sharak brings a unique perspective. I loved his conversation with a fellow Tamarian, and his interactions with Lt. Samantha Wildman as she learned to see things in his species' unique way was a treat to read.

Dr. Sharak is a Tamarian, like  Captain Dathon (pictured). The  Tamarians usually speak only in metaphor, making for an interesting perspective on the world.
If I were to describe what I took to be the theme of Acts of Contrition, it would be something along the lines of "every action we take has consequences, whether they're good or bad, and intended or not." We see this theme of consequences come up in every sub-plot in this novel (and there are more than a few sub-plots to be found!). Tom and B'Elanna's actions in protecting the life of their daughter has brought the wrath of Tom's mother down upon the family. The Doctor's action of ridding himself of his feelings for Seven of Nine has had a profoundly negative effect on his program. And, perhaps most important to the plot, the actions of the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant early in its history have shaped what it has become now.

Another issue that came up in this novel was the idea of a clash of cultures. Granted, this has been explored in Trek before, but never with this level of subtlety, nuance, and verisimilitude (in my humble opinion). Many times, notably in Voyager, the crew would encounter a civilization that seemed compatible with the Federation's ideals. Inevitably, towards the end of the hour, they would come up short, and Janeway would take Voyager away in a huff, possibly after exchanging a few torpedoes with them. (See: The Sikarians in "Prime Factors," the Trabe in "Alliances," Riley's Borg Cooperative in "Unity," the Malon in "Night," the Vaudwaar in "Dragon's Teeth," etc. etc.) I was very happy to see Acts of Contrition take a different and more nuanced approach to relations between the Federation and other civilizations. Of course, the fleet is in a better position than Voyager was during the series and has the luxury of Starfleet support. However, it is still interesting to juxtapose this approach with that of Voyager years earlier.

A coalition of Voyager's former adversaries has formed, threatening both the Full Circle Fleet and the Confederacy.

Finally, it is with Voyager's prior experiences in the Delta Quadrant in mind that we turn to another revelation in this novel: a number of Voyager's adversaries have teamed up to form a coalition of sorts, one that is threatening the Confederacy. Among this group's members are the Devore ("Counterpoint"), the Turei and the Vaudwaar ("Dragon's Teeth"), and most distressingly, it seems that the very powerful Voth ("Distant Origin") may have a role to play in this alliance. This feeds back into the aforementioned theme: actions have consequences, and the consequences doled out by this coalition are dire indeed.

Final thoughts:

Once again, Kirsten Beyer has knocked it out of the park. This story was beyond outstanding. I barely touched on the sub-plot that had Tom Paris fighting in family court for custody of his own children against his mother. Scenes in that courtroom were incredibly moving. Also barely mentioned in my review was the catomic plague that Seven and Dr. Sharak are investigating. Kirsten Beyer has said that Acts of Contrition acts as the middle book of a trilogy, consisting of the previous novel, Protectors, and the up-coming Atonement. I believe that we will learn more about this catomic threat in that novel. Unfortunately, it looks as though Atonement won't be released until September of 2015. That's a long time to wait, especially given the cliffhanger ending of this novel! Ah, well. It will most certainly be worth the wait, at least!

More about Acts of Contrition:

Also by Kirsten Beyer:

My next read:

Coming next week: this month's all-new e-book exclusive novella by Rudy Josephs, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q Are Cordially Uninvited...

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