The Borg are so familiar to us, they’re like old friends. Perhaps more like old enemies. We know them in a way Starfleet, indeed no one who wasn’t on Voyager, can understand. We’ve lost a lot of our fear of them out of necessity. I think we’ve forgotten how terrifying they are.
-Admiral Kathryn Janeway, late of the U.S.S. Voyager
Things looked as if they were going to be all right. The U.S.S. Voyager had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, and although it wasn’t as celebratory as they may have expected, the crew was at least glad to at least be home. But things started going bad. Admiral Montgomery was distinctly hostile to the crew, and seemed obsessed with the futuristic technology still on board Voyager. Holograms based on the EMH Mark One have begun to go on strike-and worse, their leading advocate, Oliver Baines, has killed on their behalf. B’Elanna Torres has gone on a Klingon spirit quest in order to find her mother-if she still lives. And, to top off everything else, people on Earth are beginning to mysteriously transform themselves into Borg.
The Farther Shore opens with Seven of Nine, Icheb, and the Doctor imprisoned; unsurprisingly, Janeway doesn’t take to kindly to this, and as longtime viewers of the series know, it doesn’t pay to mess with her. She’s on a bit of a deadline, though-Montgomery wants to delete all but the most essential programs from the Doctor’s to serve as an example to the other holograms, and he’s content to keep Icheb and Seven out of regeneration chambers, which will lead to their deaths. On a different front, Libby Webber, Harry Kim’s old flame (and quickly becoming current) and secret member of Starfleet Intelligence, is tracking down a lead concerning corruption in Starfleet, but quickly leads to something far, far worse-something known as the Royal Protocol. Corruption is the least of Libby’s problems at that point.
This secret, as well as other bits of uncovered information, causes Janeway to make one of her famous alliances of convenience to make a breakout in a fashion eerily similar to that of another famous Trek breakout. The methods involved in the breakout are substantially different, though; it also helps that Doctor Kaz, who works under Admiral Montgomery, is highly sympathetic to Seven and Icheb’s danger. Meanwhile, B’Elanna manages to continue to survive the wilderness of Boreth. On another front, the rights of the Doctor are also explored, by the one being in the Federation who has had to fight for those rights himself before-Commander Data, of the Enterprise. The Commander also proves useful in other activity as well.
As for my own impressions: I was only somewhat surprised to see that my guess concerning the source of the Borg virus was off. I’d really expected a “Dark Frontier” explanation, but I can tolerate the explanation given in this book. The entire B’Elanna arc felt like the B-story of an episode of Voyager, and ultimately had nothing at all to do with the main plot of the book. The same can also be said of a short subplot involving Baines’s holograms, as he puts the shoe on the other foot for some Starfleet personnel. Neither one of these subplots really did much for me; the book would have been okay without them. (As an aside, I don’t have a problem with the B’Elanna and her mother subplot; it’s just that it would’ve been nice if it tied in to the story, somehow. I realize that real life isn’t that neat, either)
Ultimately, The Farther Shore was an okay read; it was certainly better than a large number of the show’s episodes, but it wasn’t as deep and as enjoyable a read as the DS9 Avatar books. Then again, Voyager didn’t tend to be as deep as DS9 (hm, that bias of mine is showing again). Still, for fans of the Voyager series, I believe they’ll find little wrong with the conclusion of the Homecoming storyline; there aren’t as many loose ends to tie up, but the series shows some promise, and will be worth following for at least a while longer.