"Into The Void" is a strange title for this book, the "void" turns out to have quite a lot of stuff going on in it. You can treat it like "Encounter at Farpoint", "Emissary" and "Caretaker". We have a new ship and a new crew, a new situation that really isn't all that new, Jellico summed it best in the last book when he talks about 'a potentially incendiary position, with possible enemies all around them'. Sound familiar? Well yes it is, but here it works, anything this crew does will have lasting consequences throughout the sector.
All the heads of departments are here, I've re-written this review a few times and I tried to talk about each character in turn. The result is a pretty hefty piece of text, but in a nutshell, I liked this new Captain - he reminds me of Sisko without quite so many ethics. Shelby has evolved over the years, but still remains true to what we remember, she makes quite a good devils advocate, or a bad one seeing as how Calhoun usually ignores her, it all depends on your point of view: Soleta- half Vulcan, half-Romulan is a science officer, and Selar, a Vulcan is the chief medial officer. Ci Cwan who I've already mentioned, stows away on the ship because he is in search of his sister (Kung Fu style). And that's about it really...sure there are other characters, who will play a major part in the series as a whole, but they don't do much now.
Anyway on to the plot. For the first half of this book, it's the 'ol getting to know you routine, which I know is needed and I'll admit useful, but while I was reading it, my mind was screaming 'C'mon warp into the bloody void'. Thankfully I wasn't screaming very long, Peter David seems to know how to walk the fine line between what is needed and what is just plain annoying, so I never actually put the book down.
Anyway, the Excalibur blasts off into Sector 221-G. Meanwhile, however, Captain Hufmin a smuggler for someone in Thallonian space, is in a spot of bother. He is ferrying a load of refugees in a spot of uncharacteristic nobility. Thhe problem is, he has been attacked (by who no-one really cares). His ship is in a critical condition, soon his air will run out and everyone on board will suffocate... Meanwhile back on board the Excalibur, Si Cwan has been discovered - after a bit of deliberation it is decided he will stay on board and act as a "guide"...AWOOGAAA! AWOOGAAA!...That was the sound of alarm bells going off in my head, thankfully my concerns were unfounded, Si Cwan it turns out, is nothing like Neelix:
By the way there is a sly reference to Neelix during this exchange - Calhoun says "A guide? Why don't I just make you ship's cook while I'm at it?" I know it does sound a bit clumsy and dumb but at least suggests that Peter David may not hold Voyagers moral officer in the highest regard...Which is fine by me. Anyway that's quite enough Neelix-bashing for this paragraph. Back to Si Cwan. Well, to say the least he's a little pig headed, there will never be any compromises. What is nice to watch (or read in this case) is the way that Calhoun deals with him - he isn't afraid of the guy and uses an odd mix of Picards diplomacy with Sisko's character when he's in his "I'm a bit of a bastard" mode. Just for the record, I loved Si Cwan's line "I wish to remain taller than you" when Calhoun asks him to sit down.
Back to the drifting Cambon and it's captain, who by this point is contemplating flushing out all the refugees out into space thus, buying him some breathing time...This train of thought is derailed suddenly. The reason? A little girl comes into the cockpit to say thank you...I not going to comment on that too much, all I'm going to say is Hmmmm. No description is given of the girl, but I can picture her in mind...clothes in tatters...grimy face...tearful eyes...possibly a teddy-bear in one hand...Oh PAH-LEASE. Surely there must have been a better way to change the captains mind other than resorting to Hollywood clichés.
Luckily the Excalibur arrives in the nick of time (another cliché, but this time it's also a Trek one, so that's OK). Hooray all those innocent people are going to be saved! But what's that old saying about frying pans and fire?
Meanwhile Si Cwan and Kebron (the chief security officer) go off in a Runabout, to look for a ship that Si Cwan's sister might be a passenger, little do they know that an old enemy of Si Cwan is on-board...As good a place as any to end a book I suppose.
So how would I rate this book? Well in the grand scheme of things nothing cataclysmic or earth shattering actually happens, I'm not saying I only like huge space battles and explosions, but there isn't any meaningful insight into anyone, nothing too challenging or probing happens it's a bit like an episode of "Sienfeld" or for those British people out there, an episode of "Emmerdale Farm". That doesn't mean I wasn't entertained, most of the dialogue is sharp and witty, and this group of people seems like a team already. But like I said, the first half of the novel can get a bit dull, and that section with the little orphan girl just made me want to tear out the offending pages and burn them.