Star Trek: Voyager
Spirit Walk, Book One
Old Wounds

Author: Christie Golden
Pocket Books
RRP 6.99, US $6.99, Cdn $10.50
ISBN 0 7434 9258 7
Available 06 December 2004

Chakotay's first mission as captain of the USS
Voyager, to return a group of displaced colonists to their home planet, seems easy enough. He even has an extra reason to enjoy the trip: his sister Sekaya has joined the mission as the colonists' spiritual advisor. But Sekaya and many members of the crew bear spiritual wounds that have not yet healed...

I have a couple of issues with the synopsis on the back of this book, part of which I have adapted above. For a start, I have omitted its comment that "sceptics back at Starfleet Command are watching [Chakotay] closely for any sign that he will revert to his renegade Maquis ways." That may be so, but it doesn't really come into play here, beyond the fact that Starfleet refuses to allow the captain to have another ex-Maquis, Tom Paris, as his first officer. The blurb does this new two-book tale a disservice by making it seem too similar to Michael Jan Friedman's recent Stargazer books, which also featured an untried captain (Picard) who was expected to fail by certain cynics in Starfleet.

There are some superficial similarities to the Stargazer series, however. Though this is a continuation of the Voyager television series, many of the starship's crew are unfamiliar. Only Chakotay and Harry Kim (who is now head of security) remain from the main cast of characters, as well as a few more minor recurring characters such as the Vulcan engineer Vorik. However, the continued exploits of the rest of the old team, plus Kim's girlfriend Libby (who, unknown to him, is now an agent for Starfleet Intelligence), are followed in cutaway scenes that pick up story threads from Christie Golden's last two Voyager novels, Homecoming and The Farther Shore.

The great dilemma about continuations of popular series is always whether to keep the old characters together at the expense of credibility (in the fifth and sixth Star Trek movies, the Enterprise had three captains serving aboard it!) or writing some characters out to the disappointment of fans. By dispersing the crew but keeping them all in the story as they go their separate ways, I think the author has struck a happy medium. It is certainly refreshing to read a narrative that is not set at some point in Star Trek's "past" but rather moves the franchise forward.

My second gripe about the back cover blurb is that it gives away events that take place in the final 60 pages of the book. (Don't worry, I have omitted that paragraph from my synopsis!) I suppose the marketing team at Pocket Books were struggling to make the plot sound sufficiently exciting, since this is more of a spiritual and emotional tale than one of action and adventure. In fact, it is very much the first half of a two-book story, rather than a separate novel in its own right, so there is a lot of character-based setting up before the cliffhanger ending.

Don't be put off, though, because this character development is mostly very engaging. The relationship between Chakotay and his sister, and her own recollections of the past, are moving. Flashbacks to a previous life experienced by Kaz, the ship's new Trill doctor, are suitably traumatic. Best of all, conflict is rife between the old crew of Delta Quadrant veterans and crew replacements who saw action in the Dominion War. Some of the new people feel that the old Voyager staff got off lightly by escaping the Dominion War. This is the kind of conflict that we should have had between the Starfleet and Maquis personnel during the first season of the television series - though admittedly prose is a better medium for conveying this sort of thing.

As I indicated earlier, this is essentially the first half of a story, rather than a complete book. But it is a very involving first half.

Richard McGinlay

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