I've had a busy summer, and so it took me until now to get around to this, so sorry this is a little late. I'm glad I've read it now though, because this is really worth saying:
This is *the* TrekLit novel I've been waiting for since Destiny. The one.
For my money, Beyer saw, with a stunning clarity of purpose, the moral question that's been hanging over everything since then, and hit it head on in the finest emotional catharsis TrekLit has produced in years.
See, the problem I've always had with Star Trek is that it's just a little too easy to be optimistic when you're the most powerful dude around and you never lose. I think even one of TNG's writers referred to the show as a sort of atheist bible at some point, but you can't escape the fact that every once in a while the argument in the Federation's favor is "we won, we must be right". Which I find unconvincing.
Destiny took that and killed it. Destiny gave us a universe in which our heroes didn't win, not quite. They were saved by their ideals in the end, but at a greater cost than Trek has ever before portrayed. The arguments around here about that were intense and occasionally heartbreaking; I'm sure we all remember. But to me, this deconstruction was essential. To me, to believe in anything, or fight for anything, you must acknowledge that sometimes you can't possibly win. It is a vital piece of honesty for any system of faith. (And optimism in the future and humanity's ability to make a better world/universe is an act of faith, no question about it.)
But ever since, I think there's been a need for a novel to look at Destiny, and its aftermath, and say exactly that. That you don't always win, but it's worth it anyway. That being optimistic is an act of faith, not a data-based decision, and that it's the right act of faith, even when the data doesn't agree.
I had hopes for Typhon Pact. I had hopes that what we'd see there was an entity opposed to the Federation on finally equal terms, so the Federation wasn't the biggest badass in town, but that even still on the strength of its ideals it would win. But those were some depressing-ass books, huh? Downers, every one. And yes, we had a couple of fluffy optimistic books, like Indistinguishable From Magic, that no one on Earth would call pessimistic but that got there by kind of ignoring all the pessimistic stuff. Went back to the TNG sort of feel.
And now: Children of the Storm. I contend this is the most optimistic Trek book since Destiny, at least, because it earns its optimism every step of the way. It starts with the most suspensful sustained action sequence again since Destiny, the brutal assault by the Children and aftermath. I was so into it, I was actually yelling at the book. "Oh shit this is bad! This is BAD!" But then the second half of the book demonstrates conclusively on multiple levels and in multiple stories the benefit of being optimistic. We get Chakotay dealing with the numbing sense of loss. We get B'Elanna and Tom finding the wonder of parenting. We get the genius - oh god so genius - O'Donnell storyline, one of my favorites ever.
But here's the thing about this book. Even in its moral victory at the end, it doesn't cheat. At the end, there's still the conversation about the fighters. This is a natural reaction to Destiny, and the book doesn't hide from it. Even better, Eden doesn't make any attempt to find meaning in the death of the lost ship, just in how everyone reacted to it and stayed optimistic anyway, even though their deaths were pointless
. The end of this book is very much about acknowledging, taking in, dealing with the reality of the Trek universe since Destiny, staring it right in the face, and saying "it's still right to be an optimist." It's still right to believe. The end of this book literally made me cry, and that almost never happens.
And with this tour de force, Beyer takes her rightful place as the heart and soul of modern TrekLit; the moral compass that's perhaps been lacking or vague of late.
Brilliant. Just brilliant. I adore Kirsten Beyer and I hope she writes 40 more of these. And, wonder that Full Circle was, this is definitely the best one yet. Keep it coming.
...and congratulations if you actually read all that