Skip to content

Month: March 2019

READING THE TBR, DAY 79: Z for Zachariah (1974) by Robert C. O’Brien

Dread.

From the very beginning, this book is filled with dread.

In many ways, our heroine Anne is living a pastoral idyll, self-sufficient in her green valley. Outside of this hamlet everything is dead, the trees brown and bare, the sky empty of birds, the nights silent.

Growing her own crops, husbanding her own livestock, canning and cleaning and scavenging, and even attending Church, she is a frighteningly competent fifteen-year-old surviving alone with her sanity remarkably intact. Seriously, we all want to be Ann when we grow up.

But the coming of John Loomis  – she calls him “Mr. Loomis”, because he is an adult and she has been raised to be respectful – a scientist in a radiation-proof suit who foolishly gets himself quickly radiation poisoned, changes everything for her, at first as she hides from him, sensibly assessing his threat level, then as she cares for him in the depths of his illness, and then as he tries to exert both verbal and physical control over her at every turn.

Ann is a particularly perceptive, determined young woman, but this book is very good at illustrating that even very perceptive young women can and will fall into patterns of politeness and appeasement when confronted with an aggressive, domineering man. It is Loomis’s own madness — we want to believe his brain was affected by the radiation, but his fever-fuelled flashbacks prove he was always a dick — that eventually drives Ann away from the home she has cared for so diligently (she’d idly considering marrying him, this Last Man Alive, when he first arrived; on her seventeenth birthday would be perfect, she thought), and as a parable for female empowerment this book works even better than as a warning of the devastating effects of science gone mad.

It is a book of terrible beauty, a knife’s edge read, where the peaceful serenity clashes so perfectly, so devastatingly, with the gut-wrenching fear that the cognitive dissonance is almost too much to bear.

Two characters and a dog. That is all this book gives us. But it does so much with them, tells such a big story so intimately, through the clear, matter-of-fact journal entries of the intrepid Ann, that it never falters, never fails to make its point. It is a force of nature.

I’ll be thinking about this book forever.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 79: Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien  
GENRE: Post-Apocalypse
PUBLISHED: 1974
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Dymocks.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 78: F*** You Very Much (2018) by Danny Wallace

I can’t believe I missed it. 

Originally titled I Can’t Believe You Just Said That, this book came out in 2016. Apparently my obsession with humorist and drunken bet/boy adventure enthusiast Danny Wallace, with whom I have been smitten since his cameo appearances in 2001’s hilarious Are You Dave Gorman?  (by Dave Gorman), and whose relationships I am weirdly invested him — I was devastated when he broke up with the pragmatic Hanne in Join Me; I was elated when he found a new love in Yes Man — has played me false. Or maybe it’s just that I wasn’t keeping an eye out for new non-fiction novels from him when he’s clearly been going through a kids’ book phase with his Hamish series (also, by the way, on my TBR).

Whatever it was, I only learned of this book’s release when it came out under its new punched up title, and I bought it immediately.

But, yeah. Old story by this point. Just got to it today.

This book is the second one about rudeness I have read in a week, which is not intentional, but actually works really well as a strange kind of (extended) double-bill. Lynne Truss, in Talk to the Hand, was equally outraged in her own investigation, but there are significant differences between these two analyses of the exact same subject.

For a start, Wallace is outraged over a specific incident — a cashier in a diner who hated him on sight and made him wait an hour for a pre-paid hot dog — and that incident is the overriding force behind the book, and behind Wallace’s introspection on his own possible culpability. But the main difference is, where Truss cited experts and previously written texts to punch up her own thoughts with some academic cred, Wallace mostly conducts interviews with experts and impromptu online surveys, commenting on their content and findings in his inimitable style. (He does also quote from books, though. And also from internet comments sections and Twitter. Plus a sanitized version of Snakes on a Plane where Samuel L. Jackson laments “I have had enough of these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!” That made me laugh so hard.)

The book is genuinely very funny, as it tackles the topic of what rudeness means, and how what constitutes rudeness differs depending on the country and culture, and how notions of civility are simultaneously declining and being espoused by increasingly militant people across the world. It delves into the psychology of rudeness, in its contagiousness and carry on effect (anyone who has ever snapped at someone who didn’t deserve it because someone was mean to you will understand that it’s a communicable disease), and lives the dream by confronting an online troll in person and making him feel bad.

Wallace’s humour can be subtle. There was one point where he says “Since not buying a hot dog, I’ve become a bit of a fan an Israeli academic” and then claims “I’m also the only person to ever have said that sentence.” My first thought was, of course, “Hey! Have you never heard of Noah Yuval Harari? Everyone loves Noah Yuval Harari!” and then I wondered about all the Israelis who are doubtless fans of some of their less internationally renowned scholars.

Then, I parsed the sentence, and oh. “Since not buying a hot dog…” That bit was crucial to the humour. And that’s how it is with Danny Wallace — you have to pay attention.

Does he come up with any conclusions? Not really. Do we stand up against rudeness, or is it more polite to turn the other cheek and try not to pass on the bad day to others? He’s not convinced either way. (He does exhort us all to be nicer to each other, in the end.) But this truly is a fascinating and informative journey through common courtesy, what the means now and how that has changed in such a short time, in addition to being generally amusing throughout, as is all of Wallace’s non-fiction.

Good to see him go boy adventuring again! I look forward to the next one, and hope it doesn’t take me nearly so long to learn about it.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 78: F*** You Very Much by Danny Wallace  
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Sociology, Anthropology
PUBLISHED: 2018 (original title: 2016)
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year. 
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.co.uk.
KEEP: Yep.

READING THE TBR, DAY 77: Cat’s Cradle (1963) by Kurt Vonnegut

This book takes a longer time to apocalypse than most apocalyptic fiction, but when it does, it apocalypses hard. But before that there is a long, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, often just deeply upsetting, contemplation of cultism and mad science, with a side helping of human frailty and genocide.

John is a journalist. He is researching a book on the bombings of Japan that ended World War II, and begins to research the late physicist Dr. Felix Hoenikker, a key figure in the invention of the dread atomic bomb. To that end he tracks down Hoenikker’s children, diminutive Newt and statuesque Angela, and there is something not quite right about them, so John drops his bomb research and gets sent on assignment to the tiny, impoverished island of San Lorenzo.

But what do you know? Newt and Angela are there! And also Frank, their elder brother. Also there total babe Mona, whom John has loved a long time but also just met, and she is betrothed to Frank. With “Papa” Monzano, the island despot prone to threatening summary executions (but rarely going through with it) dying in secret, Frank is next in line for the dictatorship of the island and Mona is to be his bride. But Frank doesn’t want the job and so kicks it (and Mona) over to John. 

But before John can really take pleasure in his new position, Papa decides to end his own suffering with a lethal — that is to say, any amount — dose of ice-nine, a chemical invented by the elder Hoenikker with the aim of helping soldiers cross gloopy marshes and bogs by changing the freezing point of water to “room temperature.” But, what? A scientist did something he could without wondering if he should? Because a single drop of ice-nine can freeze the oceans, and the lakes, and the rivers. And the mostly water inside a human body. The Hoenikker children all had a vial of the stuff, kind of a souvenir they decided to keep of their father’s genius, but they never imagined it might get out into the world. Or did they? I have serious questions about Angela.

Meanwhile, on the island of San Lorenzo a fabricated religion, Bokonon, was both invented and banned by the same two American social engineers, and Bokonon is the most genius part of what is an entirely genius book. But the rest is pretty damned genius, too. Funny, outrageous, absurdist, but also terrifying. Quite a trick. Crazy that I’ve never read it before; I’ve meant to forever, and have owned a copy for years.

I’ve been blown away by several long-neglected books on my TBR so far this year. But this one… It makes this (entirely self-indulgent) mission of mine infinitely worth it. Some books just make you smarter. This is one of them.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 77: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut  
GENRE: Apocalyptic Science Fiction
PUBLISHED: 1968
TIME ON THE TBR: 10 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 76: Last Hero Standing (2005) by Tom DeFalco

It is weird to be commenting on the font of a book, but man, the lettering in this one annoyed me. Specifically, the word “of” is rendered terribly in here, at almost every instance — the “o” and “f” blend together, giving a dark line between the two that is massively noticeable and distracting, and the lettering in a comic should only be noticeable when it is cool. (Like, also in this book, when Darkdevil has a slightly devilish font. Turns out letterer Dave Sharpe isn’t all bad.)

But onto the story. This 5-issue limited run is set in a future where original heroes like Captain America and Iron Man and Spider-Man are either retired or getting too old for this shit, and a new order has taken their place, many of them legacies, like Wolverine’s daughter Wild Thing and Spider-Man’s daughter, er, Spider-Girl. Cap still leads the Avengers, but he is slowing down, and when heroes start disappearing, teams like the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men (who actually sit most of this one out) set out to track them down. It’s a great way to have newcomers like American Dream and Thunderstrike get some screen time (and it could even be a good Phase 3 idea for the MCU; the original Avengers are out after Endgame, after all) and the ultimate villain of this piece is pretty fun.   

It’s also pretty cool when Hulk takes on pretty much every hero ever, and wins.

But much of the book feels like it’s very hard work, which is mainly down to the stiff writing and jokes that just don’t land. It’s a shame, because having such a cavalcade of talent, both new and old, and your disposal should make the story sing, but instead the only time the dialogue really pops is when it is giving us the Shakespearean stylings of assorted Asgardians.

It’s a shame, because crossover events like this can be super-fun, and the idea behind it — especially the passing of the torch from the old guard to the new breed — should have been a gimme. But when even the dramatic death of a major character, in the series’ closing moments, can’t bring the emotions, then clearly there is something very much missing. 

So, it was… okay, I guess. But it really says something when the strongest feeling I have about a title is the poor lettering job. Cap and co. deserved better.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 76: Last Hero Standing by Tom DeFalco, illustrated by Pat Oliffe 
GENRE: Marvel, Superheroes, Comics
PUBLISHED: 2005
TIME ON THE TBR: ~13 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Forbidden Planet, London.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 75: The Strain (2010) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

My friend Brendan raved about this vampire horror when it was first released, and since we have similar tastes, I promptly bought it in hardcover. Then waited a decade to “read it immediately so we can talk about it!”. (Sorry, B!) 

One of the reasons I left this book so long is that I really don’t love horror. Oh, vampires, sure. Lots and lots of vampires, especially ones that fall in love with very ordinary human women. But I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to pure horror, and  while I have adored a lot of Guillermo del Toro’s movies (Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy movies, etc.), he does have a penchant for the creepy, and I could imagine the the  book was infused with cinema-like jump scares, which are not my favourite.

But I freaking loved this book! (Again: sorry, B!)

It takes a while to get going, but once the mysteries of the dead-on-the-runway plane, and the disappearing bodies from said plane, and the cabal of rich and powerful acolytes who want to live forever, are established, the action really heats up, and it is adrenaline-pumping pretty much all the way through from that point on. 

Our hero is Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, who has the expected ex-wife and kid-custody issues (every survival story protagonist has elements like this; why, who knows?) and is sleeping with his professional partner, but is otherwise the only person with much sense in the five boroughs. You see, a plane full of dead — and four survivors — lands at JFK, and though everything about the incident screams the supernatural, the powers that be mostly treat it as just kind of a strange day at the office, (We are later given the reason that the wealthy psychopath behind this vampire incursion is bribing people left and right for their silence and cooperation, but that does not entirely make up for this early frustration.) When Eph witnesses one of the plane’s survivors attack a colleague with a stinger from his neck and drink his blood, he begins to think there is something truly odd going on here. Fortunately, a New York pawn shop owner by the name of Abraham Setrakian  — a holocaust and vampire survivor, he’s doing pretty well for an old dude — knows what is happening, it is the strigoi, old country for “vampire”, and he makes Eph believe in the insanity of this with some pretty effective, very gruesome evidence.

The cause of vampirism in this book is icky as hell, and I do not like it. The passages where the blood worms, and their incursions into the human body, are lovingly described and nightmare-inducing, but no more than the insights into the minds of the newly-turned victims of the initial vampire’s depredations. There are a couple of incidental characters who win you over quickly — -petty criminal Gus, and exterminator Vasily, they’re pretty much the best — and while female representation is less than ideal, I’m hopeful that the two sequels (which I will be reading as soon as possible) remedy this oversight in what is an otherwise most excellent and compelling story of pandemic and potential vampire apocalypse.

There is a TV show based on these books, which I have never seen for a variety of reasons (mainly, that I had yet to read the source material; really: sorry B!), and a big part of me wants to go watch it immediately, while the rest of me would prefer not to see those blood worms in the CGI’d flesh. Usually, I find it hard to resist and adaptation, but this time, I think I’ll probably leave it.

My brain’s version of events is terrifying enough.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 75: The Strain (The Strain #1) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
GENRE: Horror, Vampires
PUBLISHED: 2009
TIME ON THE TBR: 10 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur, Melbourne.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 74: Last Night at Chateau Marmont (2010) by Lauren Weisberger

In company with most every other woman in the world, I read The Devil Wears Prada, and while it drove me to distraction with its doormat heroine and snarky colleague and martinet boss — brought so gloriously to life in the star-studded film — it was nevertheless entertaining chick lit, and marked Lauren Weisberger as an author I… didn’t mind reading.

So when I saw this book on one of those giveaway Take-a-Book Leave-a-Book installations at a shopping centre, I took it. And it languished unread for at least six years before I finally got around to it today. And… yeah. It was… fine.

The story of nutritionist Brooke and aspiring musician Julian, whose happy Manhattan lives are turned upside down by Julian’s sudden worldwide success as the hit singer-songwriter of the moment, it is a study of a marriage as much as it is of the fame industrial complex. There are the pushy Hollywood types, all about image and self-promotion, and there are the fabulous events at which Weisberger namedrops stars real and imagined, and there are starstruck friends and family and acquaintances and there is the ever present paparazzi and gossip rags, seemingly determined to tear our happy couple apart.

And, of course, there is the drunken mistake that threatens to end a long-term relationship.

Brooke is a very sympathetic heroine, even if she is not very assertive, and Julian’s narcissism and self-involvement after he hits it big is understandable, if not especially commendable. These are very real people, in a very surreal situation, and Weisberger cunningly makes us care for them, in all their foibles and flaws. It’s easy to read a book like this and be dismayed by how a character handled it, to put yourself in their shoes and declare you’d do it differently, better. But the trick Weisberger pulls off here is even when you feel a certain contempt for, say, the passivity or passive-aggressiveness of Brooke, you still like her, and still want her to figure her shit out.

It’s not a book to think too much about, and even giving it this much head — and blog — space is probably granting it more contemplation than it deserves. But as a light, vaguely voyeuristic read, about two pretty people with deep insecurities who find themselves the very definition of the maxim “Be careful what you wish for,” it is a perfectly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours and not have to think too much about anything.

Except, perhaps, for all the weight issues Weisberger fixates on here. After the fashion industry-based fat shaming in The Devil Wears Prada, it is refreshing to see her address the topic calmly and rationally here, but it is also dwelt upon overmuch and overlong. We get it. Hollywood perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards! Normal women don’t measure up! The book’s weakest parts are when it tries to be topical; its strengths are when it focuses on the intimacies of a marriage and the effects life changing success can have on a couple in crisis.

And now, I have really spent too much time thinking about this book. These kinds of books are cotton candy for the brain. And, as Brooke would doubtless say of cotton candy, best enjoyed in moderation.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 74: Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger 
GENRE: Women’s Fiction
PUBLISHED: 2010
TIME ON THE TBR: ~6 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: No, I’ll pass this on.

READING THE TBR, DAY 73: Department Nineteen (2011) by Will Hill

My friend Sara recommended this book to readers of Geek Speak Magazine, back when that was a thing that existed and for which we wrote reviews, and since I admire Sara’s tastes in almost all things (her preference for Star Wars over Star Trek notwithstanding), when I saw it for sale a couple of years later, in hardcover but at a steep discount at one of those remainder bookstores in which I spend way too much time, I thought it worth the outlay of $7.

The first observation I would make of this book is that it is very long. For a YA novel, especially so — it’s over 500 pages, and they are not large print, as I had kind of assumed when first I saw it, knowing the book’s target audience. It doesn’t drag or anything, the pacing is actually quite zippy, and the 500+ pages gallop along pretty quickly. But it is quite an investment of time, which at first didn’t seem like it was going to be worth it. The story takes quite a while to get going.

But once it does, once we are thrust into a dark, often legitimately terrifying, world of literary monsters (Victor Frankenstein, Professor Van Helsing, the gang’s all here), and our young hero Jamie is battling against the stern director of Department Nineteen in order to save his mother from an insane, bloodthirsty vampire, the heft of the novel is no longer a factor, as every scene sets the heart racing and the blood pumping and it all just absorbs you in its mystical, blood-laden depths.

I should not have been surprised at how much I enjoyed this book — Sara’s recommendation and all — but I truly did, and am eager to seek out its four sequels. I’ll need some time before I do, though. This book genuinely scared me. There is a scene on an island that will definitely engender more than one nightmare. Usually, I don’t like being scared, and it is a little humiliating that it happened to me due to a YA book. But in this case, I am so impressed with the novel’s interesting take on the monsters-among-us underground-government-department thing, as well as its coming-of-age vampire-hunting fractiousness, that I will risk being frightened silly because I am so eager to see what comes next. The last time that happened to me, it was Stranger Things, and I couldn’t watch it alone. But a book is a wholly solitary experience, for the most part, so I will just have to toughen up. 

I mean, if Jamie can do it…

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 73: Department Nineteen (Department 19 #1) by Will Hill 
GENRE: YA Fantasy, YA Alternate History, YA Steampunk
PUBLISHED: 2011
TIME ON THE TBR: ~6 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: The Book Grocer
KEEP: Probably not.

READING THE TBR, DAY 72: Talk to the Hand (2005) by Lynne Truss

As a self-described grammar nerd (and I am not the only one who calls me such; sorry, friends and family!), Lynne Truss’s 2003 primer Eats, Shoots and Leaves is among my very favourite non-fiction joys. Her anecdote at the beginning of the book, of picketing the London premiere of the Hugh Grant/Sandra Bullock rom-com Two Weeks Notice with an apostrophe, missing from the title for no discernible reason, marked her as a kindred spirit, and the whole of the text is filled to the brim with such accessible advice and palpable rage over the decline of proper punctuation throughout the English-speaking world that it sang to me and my semantic, pedantic soul as have few books before or since.

Several years ago, this follow-up called to me from the window of a quite fancy second-hand bookshop in Melbourne — the kind of shop where you’ll typically pay more for the used book than you would have when it was new, where you’re paying for its carefully curated rarity as much as for the book itself — and as its price was not too outlandish, I bought it in lovely, miniature hardcover, and promptly did not read it until now.

Like Eats, Shoots and Leaves, this book is Truss on the rampage, but instead of being fed up when apostrophes are misplaced, she is furious about the steady decline of mannerliness. Quoting liberally from other sources — I was chuffed to see her reference George Mikes’s 1940’s classic How to Be Inimitable, I stumbled upon that book as a teenager and still adore it — she uses real world examples and scholarly think pieces to explore the burgeoning culture of rudeness, as well as its possible causes, with particular emphasis, of course, on her native Britain. 

Truss’s vehemence on the subject is both energizing and amusing, and while I personally don’t agree with all of her pet peeves — though I doubtless have others of my own — this erudite, literary version of shouting at kids to get off your lawn is an eminently satisfying visit with a stickler for courtliness (or, at least, common courtesy) with whom I do have rather a lot in common, I have to confess. Much has, of course, changed societally, in the decade-and-a-half since Talk to the Hand was penned, and the title has dated even more than the text. (It’s such an aughties expression, isn’t it?) Nevertheless, the book remains immensely enjoyable and relevant — and highly relatable, as well.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, for some reason I feel the need to send the author a thank you note…

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 72: Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door by Lynne Truss 
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Language Arts
PUBLISHED: 2005
TIME ON THE TBR: ~4 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Alice’s Bookshop, Carlton
KEEP: Sure — and I will be lending it around as well.

READING THE TBR, DAY 71: Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming (2003) by Christie Golden

Okay, so this book did something pretty clever. The standard Mean and Suspicious Starfleet Admiral cliche got turned on its head a bit here, and I liked it, and the reveal of just who was behind the Borgifying plot and the reasons for the conspirators’ involvement came early enough to be a bit of a twist, and yet also with enough grounding from the rest of the story to actually make sense.

When we left off in Book 1 of this post-series tale, the crew of Voyager was desperate to get their friends Seven of Nine, Icheb and the Doctor out of custody. The reason they are there eventually makes sense — they could have helped foil the plot, they had to be gotten out of the way — and their rescue is effected in a nice heistly way that is pretty fun and old school Trek adventure, as is the admittance of Data, on loan from the Enterprise, to their inner circle. (Hi, Data!)

The book moves along at a pretty fast clip  — except for yet more Boring Klingon Ritual Stuff with B’Elanna, WHY DO YOU DO THIS, no one is interested in the Boring Klingon Ritual Stuff, especially when it has absolutely nothing to do with anything that is happening anywhere else — and it ends up being pretty satisfying, when it wraps up the story in a neat bow. An epilogue-style last chapter gives us what everyone gets up to following their single-handed saving of Earth from Borg infiltration (Tom and B’Elanna move to Boring Klingon Ritual Planet! The Doctor and Seven work at a think tank! Janeway and T’uvok — much absent from the action of the books, by the way, for no discernible reason — run a class together at the Academy! Icheb is dating one of the students who attacked him, because Icheb is an idiot! Chakotay gets given captaincy of a Starfleet ship, because sure, okay!) and there we have it. Closure.

I can’t say I loved these two books unreservedly. The crew of Voyager deserved better than Starfleet’s general disinterest and/or suspicion of them, and I don’t think it entirely tracks that they would be treated so shabbily because of the aftermath of war, no matter how devastating that war might have been. B’Elanna’s stupid side mission was stupid, and throwing in the hologram uprising (and the scenes of immersive punishment meted out to random humans, who are forced to act like holographic slaves — it’s all very “The Gamesters of Triskelion” from TOS) just added way too much to a mix that was already overflowing with capital-P Plot. But I read the books quickly, and compulsively, and desperately wanted to know what was going on, what was happening, and what everyone did next, and was pleasantly surprised more than once when I at last found out, so on the whole, they have to be considered successful additions to their universe.

They really were better than the final episodes of the series, anyway. Not that that is too difficult. The end of Voyager was one of the most disappointing series finales ever. Close to two decades on, I’m still bitter.

At least these books, for all their flaws, take away some of the sting.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 71: Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming (Homecoming #2) by Christie Golden 
GENRE: Science Fiction, Star Trek: Voyager, Media Tie-in
PUBLISHED: 2003
TIME ON THE TBR: ~2 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: A second-hand shop.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 70: Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming (2003) by Christie Golden

There was a time when I had read every single Star Trek novel ever published. I would await each new release eagerly, delving into these fanfic stories of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and Voyager and even The Original Series. There are literally hundreds of those titles, and as more and more of them were released, and as the assorted 90s Star Treks came to an end, my interests swerved and I fell behind on them. I’ll probably never catch up. 

But when I happened upon two Voyager books last year, set after the return of that far-flung ship to the Alpha Quadrant at the end of the series’ sevenths season, I could hardly resist their allure. I had not even known they existed (that is how far out of the loop I had fallen, Star Trek media tie-in-wise; they came out in 2003!), but obviously I was intrigued. 

Today, at last, my intrigue won out, and I jumped right in. And immediately began to cry. Happy tears, obviously. Because the first few chapters deal with everyone home after their seven years lost in space, and from Tom Paris’s reunion with his stern admiral father to everyone joyously greeting Reginald Barclay, the eccentric former TNG engineer who helped get them return, it is just lovely. 

But then it all goes a little off the rails. Part of that is simply that the book is set after DS9‘s crushing Dominion War (and, indeed, Voyager did come to an end two years after that conflict), and apparently that has taken up so much energy that the triumphant return of a long-missing ship is barely of note. Seven of Nine and newcomer Borg-escapee Icheb (I’d actually forgotten about Icheb, but yeah, I remember him now, one of four youngsters rescued from recent assimilation in a dead Borg cube and the only one left aboard at the end of the series) are objects of interest and/or fear, but the holographic Doctor and his incredible feats of sentience and medical brilliance, along with the rest of the crew — both Starfleet and rebel Maquis — are left feeling very unwelcome by one of Star Trek‘s very familiar Mean and Suspicious Admirals, this one called Montgomery.  

Familiar faces appear — Deanna Troi counsels little Naomi Wildman to meet the father she’s never seen; Captain Jean-Luc Picard welcomes back Captain Janeway — and author Christie Golden handily dispenses with the Chakotay-dates-Seven of Nine nonsense posited in the series’ final episodes, thanks for that, Christie Golden! Elsewhere, there is an unsettling thread of backstory sprinkled throughout, of a woman being abused by her step-father, and then damn it all, the Borg are back, this time under the guise of a drone-making virus that is infecting humans somehow, and not only are Seven and Icheb brutalized and imprisoned, but the Doctor finds himself held without charge as well, because of an ill-timed holographic revolution led by a messianic fanatic. Meanwhile, Harry Kim has a girlfriend (his once-and-future fiancee, Libby) who also works for Starfleet Intelligence and is ordered to investigate who is selling advanced technology to the bad guys of the Orion Syndicate, by getting close to Harry once more.

For some reason.   

Also, B’Elanna — whose daughter is only two weeks old — goes off on a Boring Klingon Ritual thing, something to do with her mother (who appeared to her in a dream in one of Voyager‘s Boring Klingon Ritual Episodes; every latter series of Star Trek has  share of these), but that is all highly skippable and no one cares.

So, there’s a lot going on. The first book of this Homecoming saga (happily, there are only two of them) ends on something of a cliffhanger, with the senior staff of Voyager determined to break their ex-Borg and current-Doctor out of jail, and also get to the bottom of this Borg virus and who is trying to set them up and what the hell is up with Admiral Montgomery and also, seriously? Starfleet has both a Borg problem and a hologram program and a) they leave it all in the hands of one highly suspect Admiral and b) they don’t consult the biggest experts they have on either of those subjects, because the highly suspect Admiral doesn’t want to, and no one… like… questions that at all? 

I really hope the next installment takes the time to explain what the hell that’s all about. Because as it stands, this is a pretty frustrating return home for the U. S. S. Voyager. And if I wanted to be frustrated by Voyager‘s return, I could just have stuck with my dim, mostly-repressed memories of the two-part time-travelly finale that got them there in the first place.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 70: Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming (Homecoming #1) by Christie Golden 
GENRE: Science Fiction, Star Trek: Voyager, Media Tie-in
PUBLISHED: 2003
TIME ON THE TBR: ~2 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: A second-hand shop.
KEEP: Sure. For the sake of my completism, if nothing else.