Story: After Voyager’s spectacular return to the Alpha Quadrant, Captain Janeway and her crew have mere days en route to Earth to readjust to life as they once knew it. Amid subdued ceremonies at Starfleet HQ, Janeway is promoted to Admiral, and several of her officers – including Tuvok, Tom Paris, B’elanna Torres and Harry Kim – receive promotions as well. The standing charges against the Maquis crewmembers are dropped and each is offered an opportunity to resume their Starfleet careers at their previous ranks (an offer Chakotay prefers to sleep on). The heavily modified Voyager is immediately impounded by Starfleet Command so that its unusual technology can be studied. The holographic doctor is annoyed to find that virtually no one pays him any attention in this new environment, while Seven of Nine is just as annoyed to find herself at the center of attention. Voyager’s crew scatters to new lives and new assignments, but when a fanatical hologram rights activist launches a full-scale revolution – inspired by the doctor’s holonovel – and several incidents of spontaneous Borg assimilation befall unsuspecting victims, Starfleet brings Voyager’s crew together again…to arrest and detain them on unspecified charges.
Review: I think I’ve stated, more than once, a faint annoyance with most “licensed property” fiction. With the “reboot” of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Pocket Books had a chance to get daring, and a few years later, Pocket got the chance to do it again with the now-decommissioned Star Trek: Voyager. And this time, they got it right – “Homecoming” is not just an inventive way to continue Voyager’s story past the television series’ irritatingly lame finale, but the book also does one Mr. Roddenberry proud by using its 24th century setting to address serious issues that were just beginning to make themselves known in the post-9/11 21st century.
The socio-political-ethical issues up for grabs should probably be obvious even from the somewhat cursory summary of the story above; at its heart, “Homecoming” hammers home questions about the seemingly limitless detention of “enemy combatants” (a phrase that, to give the author credit, is only used once), and their treatment during that detention. It seems that this issue will be dealt with further in the second book of the Voyager relaunch, “The Farther Shore” (also by Christie Golden), but the first hints are dropped here, along with the 24th century equivalent of the Patriot Act, and the massive ripple effect felt on civil liberties. I’ve complained frequently that modern day Star Trek fiction, whether in the performed realm of fan films or audio, or in the printed media, is failing on a grand scale to live up to the original series’ tradition of tackling touchy issues through the lens of the show’s science fiction trappings. “Homecoming” finally promises to deliver something that will address that.
But more to the point, the characters are developed logically here, and the author gets every one of their voices just right. I can believe that Janeway would say and do the things she does here, and the same goes for the rest of Voyager’s crew. If anything, the characters are more consistent with themselves in this book than they were in the last season or two of the television series. Even when I thought the author was pouring on the continuity a little bit thick, with guest appearances from Barclay, Deanna Troi and Captain Picard himself, to say nothing of minor Voyager characters like Harry’s girlfriend Libby, they turn out to be there for interesting and justifiable reasons.
“Homecoming” is the story we missed out on seeing in the series proper; after reading it, I found myself wishing that Voyager had gotten home at the beginning of season seven, because the wacky time-travel ending that the show did get completely cheated us out of the opportunity to see how these characters would adjust to life on Earth. “Homecoming” feels like the real beginning of the eighth season that we didn’t see, and it’s the best Star Trek novel I’ve had the pleasure to read in years – it’s a pity that the show itself was, in places, not as good as this book. Very highly recommended.
Author: Christie Golden
Publisher: Pocket Books