© 2009 Kirsten Beyer
Following the success of the Deep Space Nine relaunch, both The Next Generation and Voyager's crews received new life in the form of book series. Voyager's series stalled after four books, but her characters have continued to make appearances in TNG as it and DS9 went boldy forward to Destiny. Now Voyager is sailing once more with a new author, who is tasked with catching a four-year-old story up with the new Destiny arc and advancing it further.
Full Circle begins before Nemesis, concluding the story arcs of the early relaunch books. The most notable arc is that of a Klingon religious conflict which ensnares the life of young Miral Paris, who is declared to be a Messiah figure by two obscure but well-armed religious sects. Her birth heralds the collapse of the Klingon Empire, and when she is kidnapped her parents must call upon their old Voyager crew mates to help them find and rescue her from death at the hands of fanatics.
While Klingons usually bore me*, Beyer makes this story come alive -- and yet it is only background for the rest of the novel, which sees the close-knit family of Voyager struggle against individual and collective problems in the wake of their beloved captain's death. Janeway perished in the early days of the last great Borg conflict, and through the use of flashbacks she haunts a story that is set in the aftermath of Destiny. Beyer is at her best portraying character drama, particularly for Captain Chakotay and Commander Tom Paris. Chakotay sinks into anger and depression following the death of his old friend and budding partner, and Paris is tasked with keeping his captain's spirits up and Voyager intact while the great powers of the Alpha and Beta quadrants are savaged by the Borg and his wife is on the run with Miral, hiding from Klingon zealots hell-bent on murder. Voyager's crew is put through hell, but there is hope that their mutual support of one another will see them through some of the darkest days of Federation history.
Like Destiny, Full Circle is a prime example of the increasing quality of Trek books. There's action to be had here, but it adds to the story without dominating it. Beyer's work is about her characters, and even her Chakotay is likeable. Tom Paris' various woes were most compelling for me, and I enjoyed seeing how the puckish ne'er-do-well from the television show has grown into a family man and first officer of Voyager. While Full Circle is impressive as novel in its own right, considering that Beyer had to mesh two stories together and make the finished product her own speaks volumes of her talent. She closes off the old story neatly and sends Voyager and her slowly-healing crew into the future, where grand adventures await them. Even Trek readers who dislike Voyager should give Beyer's opening voyage a try.
*Except for their ships and marriage vows. The funstarts at 3:54.