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Re: VOY: Protectors by Kirsten Beyer Review Thread (Spoilers!)
Yeah; by necessity this wasn't as glamorous or mind-blowing as the last two - setup isn't going to be as satisfying as resolution. (Well, unless the resolution underwhelms, but she hasn't seemed to have that problem yet.)
But this was still really strong. Voyager remains my favorite series running at this point, by some margin.
Mostly I just keep coming back to how good she is at developing these people. Even in a book of lots of setup and very little payoff, there was so much depth and so many genuine character arcs.
My particular favorite, at first reaction, is Harry Kim. There's always been something a little weird, there, buried, I think. Every alternate universe or future version if him is an emotionally dead, stone cold badass. This relationship with Conlon is starting to pry open that characterization for me, give some sense of the ambition and drive that's really buried there. Can't wait to see him as first officer next time around; feels like he's just about to really come out of his shell. Of course, Beyer writing it, I'm sure that coming out of his shell will be the most painful experience of his entire existence somehow. But anyway.
Her handling of Janeway is masterful, too. I love the revelation that it was Janeway refusing to forgive herself her mistakes that led to the old Janeway's irrationality. That's genuinely deep, and gets at a truth about Janeway that feels real without ever having been stated before, while also acknowledging all the awkwardness about her choices and their consequences of late. No reset buttons here; this is a changed woman, for the better, and dealing with the demon of that future Janeway is no small thing.
I remember in college, my first impression of one of my roommates was that he was distant and boring, until about a month into the school year we finally had a long conversation where a ton of new things tumbled out of him. He kept his same low-affect deadpan, but sort of showed me what was really going on behind it. He didn't change, but I understood him more, and it made all our earlier interactions make more sense suddenly. I feel like every time she writes a story focused on one of the Voyager characters, I get that same sense, like watching the show I always felt like things didn't add up or the character was boring or static, and then reading her analysis of them I look back on the show and realize that there was a really interesting person in there that just never quite let us see all of themselves. Chakotay was the big one, but Kim too now.
If she has a blind spot at all, it's Paris, I think; the stories of him and Torres as parents are strong and pretty unique, as the parents in the TNG and Titan novels don't spend as much time thinking about that aspect of their lives as Paris and Torres do, but he's first officer and I've never really gotten why. That's one of Christie Golden's random, unjustified changes, and possibly the only one that Beyer hasn't worked out for me. I still don't quite believe he'd be good at that job, or really even want it.
But really everyone else. Chakotay learning to work with O'Donnell (how cool is he, really?), The Doctor and Zimmerman, Seven and Cambridge, even a little bit with Icheb, the scene at the end with Naomi, B'Elanna's pregnancy insanity, Farkas's confrontation with Janeway and eventual reconciliation (I love that she's still around, she's one of my favorites)... she even adds complexity to Montgomery. So much awesome. So much.
And, compared to the last mostly-setup-book (Unworthy), I think this is a huge improvement. I mentioned in my review of that one that Starfleet didn't come across looking too competent, and that the narrative got a little soap-opera-y; here, it's not out of balance at all. Her biggest strength is the character work, of course, but the catom plague, the new pseudo-Federation, the return of old antagonists, the literal Strange New World (and one of the strangest in recent memory)... all great. And I remember the opening of Children of the Storm completely shocking me with her facility with action sequences; it's nice to see that return in the fight at the end.
She just ties this all together and balances it all so well. The whole book is about Protectors, of some variety; O'Donnell gets the perfect story to follow his introduction in Children; a half dozen throwaway stories from the show turn out to matter here, including Unimatrix Zero, but it also introduces wholly new situations; and every action has a consequence.
Can't wait to see where she's going with all of this. I couldn't be happier that the wait is shorter than usual, and that she gets some space to really set up and pay off some long arcs. This is great stuff.
Nice review. I agree with you on her character skills, she makes them come alive in a way that I wish the TV series would have been able to accomplish. Harry Kim is a very tough nut to crack, and she has been able to make him appealing and interesting and valuable. I think in time she will be able to fully flesh out her interpretation of Tom Paris, but for now at least she has been able to capture his concern and caring for his family. Thank you also for pointing out the fantastic action scenes, as I had neglected to mention that in my review. I just love this book series.