Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Escape

Star Trek: Voyager #2
The Escape by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published May 1995
Read April 15th 2017

Previous book (Voyager): #1: Caretaker

Next book (Voyager): #3: Ragnarok

Mass-market paperback: | |

Spoilers ahead for The Escape!

From the back cover:
The U.S.S. Voyager is in desperate trouble, her systems damaged, her warp engines failing. Without immediate repairs the starship and her crew will be trapped forever between the stars. Captain Kathryn Janeway must guide her ship to an ancient, deserted planet that could hold the key to their survival -- a planet that is hiding more than one deadly secret.

My thoughts:

Back when Star Trek: Voyager first premiered in 1995, I had it in my head that I would collect every novel that was published in the Voyager series. It was a new, shiny Trek series, and I was pretty excited to embrace the journey full steam from day one. That goal didn't last very long, but I did pick this novel up back when it was first published. I remember devouring it, really enjoying the time-twisting plot and the very cool depiction of a society whose people travelled through time as easily as you or I might get on a flight to a sunny beach destination. When I recently re-read The Escape for the Literary Treks podcast, I hoped I wouldn't be disappointed, as I remembered really enjoying this story.

For the most part, I wasn't disappointed. While The Escape is the first original Voyager novel, and thus is vulnerable to the pitfalls of not knowing much about the source material beyond the series bible and scripts of the first few episodes, the story manages to stay very true to the Voyager series with characters who, for the most part, feel much like the characters we get to know on the show.

Voyager characters, such as Paris and Torres, are well-represented in The Escape, especially given how early this novel was written, before any episodes of the series had even aired!

There are certainly a couple of exceptions: Neelix in particular feels very out of character. Sure, he was annoying and a little troublesome in Voyager's first season, but his ineptitude and "bumbliness" in this novel is a bit over-the-top. Also, The Doctor is given a name: Doctor Zimmerman, which was apparently to be his name on the show before the producers decided to go in a different direction. However, this is a minor detail that is easy to overlook while reading The Escape.

One character who unfortunately misses the mark a bit is Neelix. He was never quite as annoying as he is in The Escape.

The story itself is quite fascinating, focusing on a culture that employs time travel to an extensive degree. Citizens of Alcawell travel into the distant past, governed by a strict set of laws whose purpose is to protect history from being altered by a significant margin. Voyager's crew, of course, inadvertently runs afoul of these laws when an away team accidentally travels back in time while exploring the deserted remains of the planet. Watching Paris, Torres, and Neelix come up against an implacable bureaucracy was, at times, very amusing, and reminded me a lot of every time I have to call my phone, internet, or other utility providers. The brick wall they come up against is as frustrating as it is familiar.

The resolution to the plot is satisfying, with the Voyager crew coming to an understanding with the authority that governs the planet Alcawell. It's certainly nice to see someone come out ahead when dealing with ridiculous bureaucracies; I would probably do well to get Captain Janeway to call my internet provider on my behalf the next time I'm subjected to the torture of having to deal with them!

Final thoughts:

Voyager, more than any other Star Trek series, dealt with crazy anomalies and confusing time paradoxes on a fairly regular basis. In that respect, The Escape does a very good job in predicting the tone of Voyager and crafting a tale that feels right at home in that series. This, combined with fantastic world-building and the nearly spot-on representations of the Voyager crew, make The Escape one of my favorite "in-series" Voyager novels, quite a feat by the authors given how early in Voyager's run it was written. Four out of five stars.

More about The Escape:

Also by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

My next read:

Next up is my review of the William Shatner novel Dark Victory!

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