- Star Trek: Voyager: String Theory (#3)
- Set between seasons 4 and 5 of Voyager
- Published by Pocket Books in 2006
- Space Opera Adventure
- 398 pages
Tom and Harry are missing, presumed dead. Janeway lies in a coma. The Doctor is lost in another dimension. Things are looking bleak for the USS Voyager, but it is in the darkest moments that finest hours are made . . .
And so the String Theory trilogy comes to an end not with a bang, but with a whimper. This being the end of a series, there’s a lot to unpack, but I can summarise my problems with Evolution in just one word. Better, I can do it in just one letter.
Look, I’m actually quite fond of Q’s many appearances across the Star Trek universe. Whether it’s turning Worf into a merry man, offering Janeway a puppy, or getting punched in the face by Sisko, he’s always good fun. But a solid ninety percent of that fun stems from John de Lancie being allowed to do whatever he wants. He is the only man who could have played the role the way he does it, and even when the episodes and writing are nonsensical, de Lancie pulls it off with charm. But this charm only works if he is there to make it work. On paper, Q just doesn’t work at all. The smug arrogance is annoying rather than entertaining, and the wit doesn’t have the same sparkle.
The Q continuum as a whole fails to translate to text. Firstly, the constant finger clicking and scene-hopping becomes a jumbled mess very quickly, with such ludicrous images of Tom and Harry as infants morphing into Harry with an ear for a head simply falling flat. The jumble is not helped by the split timelines of the rest of the novel, with The Doctor exploring ancient Ocampa, while Chakotay struggles to run an increasingly divided ship. Returning to Q, we also have another member of the species, labelled q. Even leaving aside Harry Kim’s seeming enthusiasm for women who can kill him, q annoys me on a literary level alone. Personally, I’m a big fan of proper nouns being capitalised. That’s all.
I haven’t read a Heather Jarman book before, but she has written other Star Trek novels, most notably in the Deep Space Nine relaunch. She clearly has a good grasp of the universe, but I’m not sure her choice of focus in this novel works for me. Perhaps with a more traditional story arc I might have enjoyed her writing a little more. When I eventually tackle the rest of the Litverse, I’m sure I’ll find out for sure.
Overall, I’d say Evolution is worth reading if you’ve read the rest of the trilogy, but as an individual book, it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.
Deeper Dive: Let Us Never Speak Of This Again
One of my least favourite tropes in fiction is the one where the characters mutually agree never to mention a certain event or person again. A lot of the time, as it is here, it’s a clumsy retcon added to a prequel to justify it never being mentioned in the main series.
Evolution features an extremely egregious version of this trope. You see, Janeway spends this entire book in a coma, having been exposed to unimaginable horrors by Phoebe, a member of the Caretaker’s species. Such is the strain on her mind that it is best for her health if she never remembers the events. So everyone just agrees to pretend all of this never happened.
First off, you’d think some evidence of a massive cosmic battle might remain behind. You might also think that Janeway would have questions. But no. It’s all swept under the rug. What an absolutely abysmal way to end an anniversary celebration.
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