I wrote this a good while back, in November 2011, to be precise – after I’d read the novel. I only posted it on VAMB, but since I want to go on reviewing books here, I think this is as good a starting point as any.
… or: The book that killed (off) the greatest character in Star Trek history.
I will refer to it as “BD” from now on.
Beware that there are spoilers not only for BD, but also its predecessors and successor(s), specifically “Death In Winter” and “Greater Than The Sum”!
Another warning I add after finishing this very personal review: I love Kathryn Janeway. You will realize this when you read the following text. I knew I could never be neutral or objective when it came to writing my opinion about this book, so I didn’t even try.
When I first heard – no, realized, actually – what happens in the novels following the series, I was shocked. Which is probably the understatement of the century. But, I also knew I had to read it myself – one, to believe it, and two, to get a picture, my own opinion, after all the opinions I had read.
Actually, I had my first encounter with the fact that Janeway is dead in a TNG novel I read because I wanted to know what happened to Picard/Crusher. I started with “Death In Winter” and then jumped right to “Greater Than The Sum”, which is set after BD.
I remember texting a friend of mine “You read a book in which P/C finally get together, then leave out two books in between, only to get thrown into a story where P/C are married, think about having a child, and where Janeway is dead.” (I think there was a fourth fact I wrote about, but I don’t remember it anymore…). I never really took the whole “KJ is dead” thing seriously. Somehow it feels like my mind was just ignoring that fact, pushing it away.
But then I re-discovered my interest (love ) for Voyager (thanks to the musical We Will Rock You… yeah, don’t ask…) and began to read in forums and all that and… damn.
I said it before and I hold to that: May it be a terrible storyline, we’re still very, very lucky that it is Peter David who wrote it. I loved him from the moment I first read Imzadi many years back. He’s a fabulous author who sent me through all kinds of emotions, which are not many authors are able to do.
Being as sad as it is, BD still actually had some moments when I laughed out loud. The discussion of the admiralty about Pluto was absolutely hilarious – as were most of the moments between Beverly and Jean-Luc.
When there’s one thing Peter David is perfect at, then it is causing a roller coaster of emotions inside the one who reads his books – and this one in particular. I don’t think I felt any emotion for more than a minute or so; sometimes I went from being amused to no end to being completely horrified in a matter of seconds.
That, however, was also the problem in some way.
After fifty pages I thought I would throw up. Not because the whole thing was so badly written or anything. No, because of what happened. It was the time when Janeway was assimil… no, sorry, *absorbed* and… lost. I can’t remember a single time I felt sick because of emotions overwhelming me while reading a book. Here I didn’t know whether to simply be shocked, empty my stomach, or cry. Or everything at once.
Knowing that the authors of Pocket Books sit together regularly and discuss the novels’ plotlines, and how everything will develop, I can’t blame Peter David for what happens. Not entirely, at least, and certainly not him alone. Nor am I sure whether he’s to blame for Janeway acting so… stupidly. However, the thing about that is – it is incredibly stupid, ignoring Seven’s warnings, setting foot onto that cube. But for some reason it is exactly what I’d expect Janeway to do. Danger never had her backing away from anything, unless her crew was endangered as well. And added to that, she’s stubborn as hell. Over the course of seven years on Voyager, she’s taken many risks. And back then, she had Chakotay (Tuvok, sometimes) to hold her back. Now that she’s an admiral and Chakotay’s on his way as new captain of the Voyager…
Anyway. It still is stupid what she did. And it cost her life. No, not exactly. Worse. It cost her soul. Every time she’s mentioned in her new appearance and… “personality” I felt like something, someone was trying to choke me. More than once I caught myself simply shaking my head at what I was reading. It was the pure horror it made me feel.
One of the admirals saying “Kate” when seeing her Borg-face on screen for the first time had me almost losing it. It broke my heart. 223 pages into the book, and I realized that I was still pushing away the fact that they’d really done it, that they’d violated and “killed” one of my favorite TV characters of all time.
They – the people who had decided to do so, the people from Pocket Books, the ones I’ll probably never understand. It seemed that after seven years full of potential that was only every so often used they felt that it was time to end the charade – since no one feels really able to deal with a character so great as Kathryn Janeway, we better get rid of her.
And they did. Maybe they thought it was good, it was big and “special”. And what should I say – it is. In some very sick way. Janeway is the one we love. So many of us love so much. I’ve been listening to many panels in the past weeks and it’s fascinating how many people adore her, adore Kate Mulgrew and her character. I know so many TV shows, and there are even more characters I really like very much. God knows I was devastated when Jenny Shepard from NCIS died. And back then I thought that THIS was a bad send-off.
Looking at BD and Janeway’s send-off, however…
After 355 pages, I stopped reading. For about two weeks, the book lay untouched on my bedside table. I looked at it every day, and sometimes my hand would reach out – but I pulled it back every time. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I knew what would happen in these last pages – 52 were left – and I didn’t want to read it. Hoping that, as long as I didn’t read it, it wouldn’t be true, wouldn’t be real.
Unlike most people I’ve read of/from, I consider the books to be somewhat canon-ish. It’s the only canon we have; the only ongoing Star Trek stories officially published. Without any further series or movies, what else is there? Aside from fanfic, of course, which would make great canon, but unfortunately isn’t.
So, saying this, it may be understandable why I feel betrayed. The official novels, the only canon – and they kill the best character that ever was.
When I finally decided to go on reading… well, not that it wasn’t already bad (and worse…), but it didn’t exactly get better, either. First they violate our beloved Janeway – and then they bring in Seven the save the world. Literally. That’s like a slap in the face.
I won’t even get into the whole munity thing on Enterprise, or the Grim Vargo (WTH?!) storyline, or what else. Seriously, it’s just not important. I’ve just one thing to say: If there ever was a hateful character, it definitely is T’Lana. Such a disgusting person.
When I reached the end of chapter 45, the pages became blurry. There was nothing that could have held back the tears anymore. That last scene with Seven defeating the Borg, reaching out to Kathryn… and then those last words…
The memorial service and clearly Chakotay, though his name was never mentioned, being the one close to a break-down…
And Lady Q leading Janeway away, with a promise of lots of coffee…
It was pathetic. It was heart-breaking, and unworthy. This is Kathryn Janeway – and they gave her not even one and a half page of memorial service description.
But this is not about what they didn’t do. This is not about what they didn’t think she is worthy of.
This is about what they did.
They took her life. And they had no right to do so.