"Cartel" isn't a good word in 21st century Earth and Captain Kathryn Janeway is going to find out why it's not a good word in the 24th century space either. Despite the warnings from Neelix of the planet called Tutopa, Captain Janeway decides to point Voyager in it's direction to avoid a hovering neighbor. In an effort to keep a low profile she decides to deal with the darker side of Cartel and go with some black marketers for some maps of the space ahead of them on their long journey. That isn't going to be the wisest decision and avoiding the Hub is going to be a lot harder than the captain anticipated however.
Anyone who has ever seen "Star Trek: Voyager" will enjoy the humor that Susan Wright has written into the characters and the relationships she honors from the show. It makes the story telling much more real to the dedicated viewer and makes it enjoyable even! That's why this larger-than-life episode story line works for this book. Voyager is tricked by their black market partners and they find that their computer processor has been hijacked. Without their computer running properly, Voyager limps to the Hub in search of the processor and enters a world of mass confusion.
The Hub and surrounding planets are run by the Cartel and beneath them are houses. The government is almost like a dictatorship, but no one really knows who the dictator is beyond the fact it's the person in charge of the Cartel. With Voyager barely operating, the crew begins their search for their computer processor. Janeway takes up negotiations with the agent from the House that the hijackers are from, while Tuvok annoys several people with his 'logical' search, and then Harry Kim is stuck trying to work miracles.
Agent Andross, Janeway's one ray of hope, offers to take them back to his House's planet. Despite the possibilities of danger, Janeway and Lt. B'Elanna Torres agree to travel with him on his ship while the crew keeps up their attempts to find it through the Hub. Things seem to be going too smoothly until Tom Paris arrested by the Cartel and Janeway finds that the black market isn't as separated from the House as she had first heard. Separated from their dying ship, Janeway finds herself and Torres in the middle of a new wave of change to a system deep with ruts.
As I said before, Susan Wright has this way of knowing the characters and being very good with writing in their personalities. This being one of the first Voyager books there is still friction between Chakotay and Janeway, Tom Paris still has his edge that 'annoys' Tuvok, and Torres is anything but a Starfleet officer in many ways. It's an interesting look at what would happen if something so crucial as the computer was taken from Voyager, although some of the techno-babble was lost on me. This book was very entertaining, intriguing, and worthy of being read again!