BOOK REVIEW: Cybersong, by S.N. Lewitt

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Rating: 3 out of 5.
  • A Standalone Novel
  • Takes place during Seasone One of Voyager
  • Published by Pocket Books in 1996
  • A Space Opera
  • 277 pages

Stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager seeks the fastest way home. But while travelling through a dangerous region of space, the ship finds itself drifting off course. Something is calling to Voyager. Something that may not be as angelic as it claims . . .

Having completed my readthrough of the post-‘Endgame’ Voyager continuity, I am now free to dive back into earlier voyages of Janeway and her crew. Back to a simpler time, in many ways. Free from the convoluted politics and long-running character arcs that characterise the post-Nemesis landscape. Cybersong takes us back to the very early days of the show, way back to the first season in fact. And it’s here that we have to address the elephant in the room. Star Trek shows have a reputation for not being at their best in season one. As with many shows, they’re still figuring things out behind the scenes, which leads to some rough storytelling and characters who aren’t what they will become later on. As a result, Cybersong (which was written alongside the first season), features some elements that were dropped later on. There is both good and bad to this, which I’ll get into soon enough.

Like a lot of these early novels, Cybersong is a quick read that’s fairly straightforward. S.N. Lewitt crafts a story that treads the line between cyberpunk and horror, with a heavy dose of melancholy on top. There’s quite a fun psychological edge to the book as the ship turns against the crew, and the crew begin to wonder if they can trust one another. This brings us to one aspect of early Voyager that should have seen more use on the screen. The crew is only half Starfleet, with the other half being a terrorist group known as the Maquis. With the reason for the divide (the Cardassians) not present in the Delta Quadrant, this angle was essentially dropped after the pilot episode, except for odd returns later on. Cybersong uses the split in the crew to foster a sense of mistrust, with alien intervention initially suspected to be the work of a traitor from within. Two characters benefit greatly from this. Tuvok is always fun when in detective mode, and the brief snippets of his investigation we see here largely serve to make me wish there were more of them. But the major recipient is Chakotay. Often underused in both show and books, Chakotay takes the lead here, showing just why he was chosen by Janeway to serve as first officer.

Another character who gets a lot to do is Neelix. Now, he is largely relegated to the role of foolish chef, but he still gets more to do here than he does in the entire relaunch era. The chef gimmick is fun, but we also get to see some of his Delta Quadrant veteran coming out, with his recounting of ghost stories and providing of local knowledge. The downside of this being set early in the series is that we have to sit through Neelix being jealous of anyone who pays attention to Kes. Both Kes and Neelix are good characters, here and in the show, but putting the two together rarely ended with a compelling narrative. But if an uncomfortable relationship is the price to pay for more Neelix, I suppose I’m willing to pay.

Cybersong is a fun book, with a great mystery at its core, and some wonderful science fiction ideas too. There are definitely worse ways to spend a night of reading.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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