From the back cover:
Following the destruction of four fleet vessels at the hands of the Omega Continuum, the U.S.S. Voyager and U.S.S. Demeter set course for a region of the Delta Quadrant far beyond anything previously explored. Captain Chakotay is determined to prove to Starfleet Command that the fleet’s ongoing mission is vital to Federation interests…and the key to doing so may lie in a distress call Voyager received nine years earlier, but could not investigate.
Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway is recalled to the Alpha Quadrant for an evaluation period to determine her next assignment. Given the trauma she has recently endured, Admiral Akaar, Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief, questions Janeway’s fitness to command the fleet. Janeway’s primary concern remains the fleet’s safety. For their mission to continue, she must find a way to secure the resources they require. But the uncertainty of her superior officers has left her powerless to act in their best interests...
One of the highlights of Trek Lit in recent years has been the excellent novels of the Voyager relaunch series, helmed by Kirsten Beyer. Her first three -- Full Circle, Unworthy, and Children of the Storm -- were some of my favorite novels. The most recent entry, last year's The Eternal Tide, didn't quite rise to the level of the previous books, but was still very enjoyable and an excellent entry in the series. So, how does this month's new release compare?
In many ways, Protectors seems like a bit of a return to the style of Children of the Storm. If you read my review of that novel, you know that I was HUGELY impressed by it. The tone and style of Protectors seems to be modeled on that earlier work. Back once again is that Star Trek ideal of seeking out new life and adding to the sum of our knowledge.
One thing Protectors showcased was Kirsten Beyer's impressive ability to take what is the very definition of a "meh" episode and craft an utterly fascinating tale from it -- in this case, calling back to Season Two's "Twisted," in which the structure of Voyager is warped such that no one can find their way to critical areas of the ship. In the end, the anomaly that causes this effect leaves without explanation after having dumped a huge amount of data into Voyager's computers.
This data is never mentioned again. In the A-plot of the Protectors, Captain Chakotay leads the Voyager and Demeter to the area of space near where Voyager first encountered the anomaly. Lieutenant Kim, having pieced together some of the information that was uploaded to Voyager's computer, believes that the initial contact was in fact a distress call. They hope to make contact with the "waveform" anomalies to find out how they can assist.
Kathryn Janeway is recalled by Starfleet, who wish to evaluate her condition following her rather unorthodox resurrection. Meanwhile, in the Beta Quadrant, a frontier outpost makes a shocking discovery: a former Borg drone who did not join the Caeliar Gestalt. This person turns out to be Axum, Seven of Nine's former "acquaintance" from "Unimatrix Zero."
More than anything else, Protectors is a character study. Kathryn Janeway is completely deconstructed in her counseling sessions and must build herself back up again. Kirsten Beyer shows incredible aplomb in handling her character in particular. As someone who was never really a Voyager fan, and a Janeway fan even less-so, the fact that Beyer made me truly care and appreciate this character is astounding.
Axum -- Seven of Nine's long-distance lover -- returns from "Unimatrix Zero."
Other characters are handled perfectly by Beyer as well. The Doctor stands out in particular, so when his reactions to Seven aren't what we expect, it comes across as all the more strange because he is written so closely to how he was portrayed in the series. From the heart-wrenching decision that the Doctor made about his programming to the heartbreak and rash decisions made by Julia Paris, Tom Paris's mother, every character great and small has their moment. Even the description of Axum’s torture by the Borg Queen was absolutely heart-wrenching and horrible.
I love that Kirsten Beyer is so averse to using the dreaded "reset button" that was such a hallmark of the Voyager television series. Rather than glossing over what happened previously and returning to business as usual, Janeway and company must face the fallout from the events of the previous novels. This is very refreshing in a universe that has, in the past, used the reset button an alarming number of times.
Protectors was a truly great read. The high point of the Voyager relaunch is, for me, still Children of the Storm, but Protectors comes very close to reaching that level as well. The plot points left hanging are very enticing, and I can't wait to find out more about the Paris family situation as well as learn more about The Worlds of the First Quadrant in the next installment!
An absolutely excellent and enthralling story that returns to what I love about the Voyager relaunch. A scientific mystery combined with seeking out new life and new civilizations. Mix equal parts character study. Stir in excellent writing, and add genuinely emotional moments to taste. Perfect!
- Reviewed by Literature Editor Dan Gunther
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