Pocket Books, out now
Admiral Janeway may be back from the dead, but it’s far from business as usual for her and her former colleagues…
Anyone who thought that the return of Janeway at the end of the previous book meant that a magic wand was being waved to ‘set right’ the allegedly egregious error of killing the admiral off, and that everything would go back to how things were before – with Janeway in charge of the Full Circle fleet, Chakotay her lover and number two, with everyone (bar Tuvok who’s off being busy in the Titan novels) back around her like the family that Voyager fans remember – is in for a shock. It’s an interesting mental exercise once you’ve completed this novel to take Janeway out of the storylines, and see just how much of this tale could have taken place without her return (assuming that the previous battle had been won differently, or not taken place at all) – and there’s a heck of a lot.
The book starts with the return of an old friend (although we don’t necessarily realise that at the time), and sees a lot of people assuming the role described in the title. At different times, all of Voyager’s command crew (as well as others in the fleet) have to protect each other either on Starfleet business or on a personal level, and that’s reflected in the alien creatures with which they interact. Sometimes this protection is requested; other times, people act for what they perceive as the best (one of the final revelations certainly comes under this heading). And sometimes this protectiveness isn’t wanted or needed…
Beyer has a strong understanding of these people, and you can easily hear the lines being spoken by the actors, even down to the inflections that Robert Beltran or Robert Duncan MacNeill used. But like some of the characters, Beyer gives the Voyager audience what they need – movement forward, obstacles to face – rather than necessarily what they want (the cozy status quo). She isn’t afraid to challenge the decisions made by the writing staff on the series (you won’t look at Endgame in the same light again after the last couple of books), or indeed the way the characters have been written since. It makes for a book that satisfies those who want a standalone adventure (there are continuing strands, but the central mystery is sorted), and ones who want the Voyager novels to have a serial feel.
Verdict: Some bold choices by the author mean that this latest Voyager novel is never predictable – exactly as it should be. 8/10