–this review contains major spoilers–
Series: Voyager: Full Circle (#4)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2012
Fourteen months ago, Kathryn Janeway gave her life to save the Federation from the Borg. Now, as Voyager continues its expedition into former Borg space, Admiral Afsarah Eden must face difficult choice of her own. Even in the Delta Quadrant, no one is free from the ghosts of the past . . .
This book is impossible to discuss in any detail without going into spoilers, but since that spoiler can basically be guessed from the front cover, let’s just dive right into it: In The Eternal Tide, Kathryn Janeway comes back from the dead. I have not yet read Peter David’s Before Dishonor, the book in which she was killed off, but my understanding is that it was pretty unambiguous. Janeway was assimilated by the Borg, killed, and in an epilogue it was hinted that her ‘soul,’ for want of a better word, had joined the Q Continuum. Obviously that last part leaves the door open for her return, because if Trip Tucker has taught us anything, it’s that Star Trek deaths rarely last forever. I’m firmly of the opinion that resurrections undercut the narrative strength of major characters’ deaths, and Janeway’s return does feel like a backward step, especially when the last three books have focused fairly heavily on Chakotay moving past her loss and stepping out from her shadow. The fact that Afsarah Eden is written out in this book, and Janeway essentially replaces her, only compounds my feelings here.
As well as bringing back Janeway, The Eternal Tide also shines a light on the Q Continuum. Now, Q episodes tend to fall into one of two categories. Outright comedy, or thought-provoking drama. Just compare The Next Generation‘s ‘Qpid’ with Voyager‘s ‘Death Wish.’ Right from the outset, Q-centric stories have been held together by John de Lancie’s phenomenal acting. Stripped of his comic timing and flair, Q’s appearance here can’t help but feel muted. Q’s son (who surely should have been called Qnior, but I digress) is much better portrayed. Obviously, it’s hard to write a character when they are so identified with a single actor, but the Q sections of this novel, and there are a lot, simply don’t make for very compelling reading.
Lest I appear overly negative, the side plots here are actually very interesting. By this point it’s pretty clear that the Borg truly are gone, but Chakotay’s following-up on leads brings the sense of exploration that much of Eden’s story is lacking. And while I don’t particularly like Janeway’s return to the land of the living, the crew’s reactions are as convincing as they are diverse. Of course some would be happy to see her, but the suspicion of others is only natural after all they’ve seen and been through. More than any other series, Voyager always seemed to convey that Starfleet officers were used to encountering the bizarre. The calmness with which they tackle this book’s potentially multiverse-ending events speak highly of their professionalism, and Beyer captures each character’s essence marvellously.
With everything that goes on, The Eternal Tide feels like the ending of one stage of Voyager‘s latest journey. And while it’s definitely the weakest book in the relaunch so far, I am intrigued to see where that journey goes next.