Okay! This is a full on Analysis and Spoilers review of A Pocket Full of Lies. As I was writing up bullet points, I realized that I simply had too much to say about this book. Because I loved it.
SPOILERS! In case anyone missed it.
Let’s start with THE major spoiler.
Nancy Conlon, sometime erstwhile Chief Engineer of the Starship Voyager, is dying. After the events of Atonement, she has severe genetic deterioration, which will eventually lead to her death. Also, throw in some post traumatic reactions and you have a rough day for Conlon. Which, ordinarily should be enough of a ringer, but she’s now pregnant. Presumably with Harry Kim as the sire, because, well, she’s been… let’s say aggressively pursuing him. (Including one really awkward time in Chakotay’s Ready Room).
It’s not the “event” of Conlon being pregnant though. The reveal occurs in the process of the fleet doctors explaining to Conlon her condition. All of it. How, eventually, even a cold could kill her. Followed not casually but not ceremoniously with disclosure of her pregnancy. I say disclosure because it’s not a joyous moment. Not for the fleet doctors and not for Conlon.
If this were a lesser novel, this moment would be the heartfelt “You’re pregnant. Now you have a reason to live. To fight” cliché. Coupled with the news that the fetus’s stem cells could be Conlon’s only hope, this moment has all the trappings of a powerful, uplifting scene.
Except, in a profound and amazing turn of character building and narrative events, Conlon admits she doesn’t know if she wants the child. She doesn’t even know if she wants to live. No assurances that they will find a cure or that she’ll live, from any of the doctors, placate her. Certainly, as she admits to Harry, even as the (presumed) father, he has no say in whether she keeps the child. The implications here are clear. She might chose to have an abortion.
It’s a stunning moment of character. This scene is made by the small details. The fatalistic, resigned look in the Doctor’s eye as he delivers his news. The distinction of being a self-defined action taken by a secondary, FEMALE character which is not used to promote or advance a MALE character arc. Is it sad that this is extraordinary?
Juxtapose these events with Admiral Janeway and Command Torres.
Torres juggles two children, status a Full Circle’s fleet Chief Engineer and, in Conlon’s absence, chief engineering duties of Voyager. She loves her children, clearly depicted by previous story lines and has, on past occasions, been willing to sacrifice her career for their safety.
Janeway has clearly considered children but chosen her career in Starfleet above that familial notion. This decision is highlighted in the prologue of A Pocket Full of Lies. Janeway, speaking to Torres’s child, Miral Paris, clearly and definitely states that she only wants to be a parent vicariously. Chakotay experiences a moment of sadness but Janeway moves past it. Her life. Her career. Even her partner’s opinions are secondary.
The parallel hits home again as Denzit Janeway, an alternate version of Kathryn Janeway stranded in our time-stream, has a child. Q states that of all the Janeway’s in all of existence in any multiverse or timeline, this was the only Janeway that chose to conceive a child. That statement is striking.
Three fully independent, realized FEMALE characters. All have different life agendas and perspectives when it comes to children. The fact that Kristen Beyer treats these moments as matter of fact makes them all the more powerful.
In a completely unrelated note, another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed is the use of oft maligned Voyager episodes to tie together the larger universe. A Pocket Full of Lies calls back to “The Year of Hell” and “Shattered. While I love these episodes for what they are, there is no arguing that the Voyager had a real problem with “resetting” the timeline. So much so that it became almost self-referential in later seasons. Personally, I don’t mind “reset button” shows. I enjoy the bottled episode structure of syndicated television but that era is long past. Thankfully, Beyer has a strong knack for taking these stories and weaving them into a larger tapestry.
Back to the depressing.
Depression. Disorders. Post Traumatic Syndrome. These are all real. These are all bad. Tuvok and Conlon each experience their effects in one shape or another. Tuvok is still reeling over the loss of his son in the Borg invasion of Star Trek: Destiny. Conlon is suffering from her own trauma.
Tuvok is able to overcome his through venting and acknowledging his anger. Conlon hasn’t quite found a light in her life, swinging between mania and depression. Both of these are respectful treatments of severe mental issues. They are 3-dimensional representations of people who are suffering. That Conlon is not magically fixed is refreshing and makes me relate to her, given my own history with depression and manic periods.
Yes, it is a focus in A Pocket Full of Lies. But it’s not a defining focus. By this, I mean that the existence of these conditions doesn’t reduce our characters to ONLY these conditions. Just like pregnancy doesn’t reduce Conlon to a stereotype, neither do these mental hurdles.
On the lighter side, I really rather get a kick out of the fact that the Voyager Relaunch is playing in it’s own timezone. Riker is still captain of the Titan and Voyagers mission has only just begun. Beyer studiously avoids the trap that many other connected universes fall into. She lets Voyager move at it’s own pace and trusts that the reader knows events don’t have to happen in the same week as Star Trek Titan’s series.
The idea that the Krenim would have a counter part to the Federations Department of Temporal Investigation in the Krenim Temporal Defense Agency makes perfect sense. They wouldn’t have simply lost the ability to manipulate time and they would certainly have no problem changing it to fit their needs. That’s exactly what the DTI does in the first place, when it suits Federation interests.
Overall, I’m ecstatic that Beyer continues to run unabated through this corner of the universe. Her excitement and enthusiasm for the material, her love for the characters, shines through in every page. This a definite read if you’re into the Star Trek Relaunch universe. and, if you’re not? It’s not a bad way to spend an evening.