Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Farther Shore

Star Trek: Voyager
The Farther Shore by Christie Golden
Published August 2003
Read August 10th 2018

Previous book (Voyager): Homecoming

Next book (Voyager): Spirit Walk, Book One: Old Wounds

Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Homecoming and The Farther Shore

From the back cover:
When the long-lost Starship Voyager returned home to Earth, did Kathryn Janeway and her crew unwittingly bring with them a deadly Borg infection from the heart of the Delta Quadrant? Many in Starfleet think so, and Seven of Nine finds herself the prime suspect as the carrier of the plague. Now, following the events of Homecoming, Admiral Janeway must reunite her crew in a desperate attempt to discover the source of the contagion -- and save the people of Earth from total assimilation into a voracious Borg collective.

My thoughts:

In Homecoming, the crew of the Starship Voyager finally makes it all the way back home to Earth. In a whirlwind of quick events, Janeway is promoted to Admiral, all the rest of the crew get promotions, Chakotay and the Maquis are pardoned, Chakotay and Seven of Nine end their relationship, Tom is chummy with his dad again, and Harry gets back together with Libby. And this is all in the space of just a few chapters!

The Farther Shore continues the break-neck pace of the plot as the "Borg virus" continues to spread throughout the planet. Voyager and her crew are naturally blamed due to the fact that they just returned from the Delta Quadrant, home of the Borg Collective, not to mention the fact that two of her crew are liberated Borg drones. However, the truth of what is behind this outbreak is certainly something no one imagined.

It turns out that an unhinged Admiral, Brenna Covington, who is the head of Starfleet Intelligence, is behind the outbreak that is rapidly turning people around the world into Borg drones. Stemming from her abuse at the hands of her step-father from a young age, Covington has come to see Borg as liberators as they ended up killing her abuser. Now, she has the ultimate goal of becoming a new Borg Queen and establishing dominion over the earth and its population, assimilating them as drones under her command. I have a few problems with this story-line. For one thing, I don't like the idea of someone suffering abuse as a shorthand for them turning evil and twisted. The abuse is shown in interstitial chapters throughout this book and the previous one, and in the end, all that comes of it is a small amount of empathy from Seven of Nine when Covington is finally defeated. Sure, have the abuse be what causes these events, but play that factor out a bit more rather than just sweeping it away in the end. I feel that this aspect of the character needed to be explored more to justify its use as her motivation.

The villian of this novel, Brenna Covington, intends to become a new Borg Queen.

The other major plot in The Farther Shore is the holographic rebellion instigated by a man named Oliver Baines, who was inspired by The Doctor's holonovel, Photons Be Free. This is another part of the story that I felt was lacking somewhat. Our main perspective on this part of the narrative is through the character of Vassily Andropov, a starfleet lieutenant who has been captured by Baines and replaced with a hologram. Andropov, trapped on a holodeck, experiences torture at the hands of Baines, ostensibly to learn what life as a hologram is like. I like the concept of having the roles reversed and learning different perspectives, but what happens to Andropov is nothing more than torture, which to me makes Baines just as bad as the force he is opposing. In the end, I think the message ends up somewhat muddled.

One aspect of the novel that I was really looking forward to was the inclusion of Lt. Commander Data into the plot. Janeway requests him for the purpose of arguing The Doctor's rights, in a similar vein to how Data's rights were argued for by Picard in the TNG episode "The Measure of a Man." However, this never comes to pass. Instead, Data accompanies the Voyager crew on an operation to rescue Seven of Nine and Icheb from imprisonment, and then aids them in taking down Brenda Covington. At no time is he used to further The Doctor's legal rights in any way, which was really disappointing to me. I was looking forward to a test of The Doctor's rights and an impassioned argument from Data for legal recognition of a fellow artificial intelligence. The fact that this plot element was dangled in front of the reader and never fulfilled frustrated me to no end.

The Voyager crew borrows Data, but I felt that his role in the story wasn't worth bringing him in. The potential for having Data in this story feels squandered.

In the end, The Farther Shore can be summed up as a book of missed opportunities. I feel like its pages were filled with good ideas that ultimately went in directions that were unsatisfying. A mentally disturbed person who suffered abuse wanting to become a new Borg Queen? Fascinating, but when the villain in question becomes nothing more than a mustache-twirling caricature with shaky motivations, it does a disservice to the story. Similarly, the promise of an intellectual argument for the rights of sentient artificial beings that ultimately goes unfulfilled is the worst kind of tease.

Final thoughts:

While Homecoming was an interesting, if rushed beginning to this story, I felt that The Farther Shore squandered a lot of the story's potential. There are certainly a number of truly interesting ideas in this book, but none of them are taken in particularly satisfying directions. A lot of the actions of both the main characters and the antagonists feel like they don't follow up on the promise that the story initially had.

More about The Farther Shore:

Also by Christie Golden:

My next read:

Book 5 of the A Time To series: A Time to Love by Robert Greenberger.

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