Warp Factor Trek

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David Mack’s new novel, Firewall, released this week, puts its focus on Seven of Nine in the years between USS Voyager’s return to Earth and the time fans saw her wonderfully resurrected on Star Trek: Picard. It is a fascinating time frame to examine. Of all the veteran characters that Star Trek: Picard reintroduced, there was perhaps none that seemed so fundamentally changed as Seven. The story of what happened to her in those interweaving years was ripe for the telling, and Mack, for the most part, does a great job of it. He has convincingly answered many of my questions about a favorite character.

The Basic Plot

We encounter Seven some two years after her return to Earth to find she has been repeatedly denied Federation citizenship and can therefore not rejoin Starfleet. Aside from sporadic contact with Kathryn Janeway, she has ended her relationship with Chakotay and all but lost touch with her former shipmates. She is isolated, self-conscious, and unhappy. Add to this that she is routinely subjected to prejudices because of her Borg implants, and we have a woman who — if it were anyone else — might have spiraled out of control.

And for a time, to be sure, she does. We see her engage in risky behavior at the start of the novel: drinking too much, dancing in the mosh pit to punk bands (such a great detail!), and abandoned by a one-night stand she picked up in a club. The Seven we encounter is one with serious self doubt, a lack of any real ambition, and no idea how to move forward.

But all of that changes when she is approached by a shadowy figure called Arastoo Mardani who works for the equally shadowy Federation Security Agency. He recruits Seven to spy on the renegade Fenris Rangers — considered vigilantes by most of the Federation — and promises to get her reinstated to Starfleet at the completion of her mission. Seven, very quickly, changes course and decides instead to join the Rangers in their efforts to defeat the nasty pirates who hold millions of innocent Qiris System citizens at the brink of total annihilation. 

Faced with a lack of funding, equipment and firepower, she is frustrated by the Rangers’ limited ability to help these people. Enter the Seven of Nine we know and love from her early days on Voyager: She bucks the system, questions commands, bends the rules, and takes control of opportunities where no one else will. And, of course, it doesn’t always go as planned. On one occasion, her actions not only result in the death of a respected Fenris Ranger, but also, in her mind at least, countless civilians she had set out to save. Eventually, just as she did under Captain Janeway’s tutelage, she learns to become a member of the team.

Canon of Character

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Seven has always been a favorite character of mine (as I tend toward those who are actively seeking what it means to be human), and Mack has put together a believable history of her life post-Voyager, one that makes sense. The story is based on a few key lines from the Star Trek: Picard episode “Stardust City Rag”, and an audio release called “No Man’s Land”, so, plot-wise, it’s based on canon of the character, which I imagine must be the most difficult part of writing a Trek novel.

Seven’s Emotional Journey

Firewall is equal parts action thriller and an introspective coming-of-age story. Throughout the book we watch as Seven struggles with her burgeoning human emotions and makes an attempt to define who it is she truly wants to be. At times, though, her emotional outbursts are a bit difficult to believe, and they took me out of the story once or twice. For example, at one point Mack shows us this:

Painful sobs racked Seven’s torso even as she struggled to breathe. Tears rolled from her eyes. The harder she fought to choke back her weeping, the more terrible the pressure on her chest became. She was drowning in a sorrow greater than anything the Borg had ever imagined or could ever understand.”

To be fair, she is reacting in this passage to unthinkable horror and suffering, and it is meant as the thing that finally cements her commitment to join the Fenris Rangers in the first place. But for me, I had a hard time imagining Seven of Nine falling into a complete heap like this. Yes, we often saw her vulnerable side on Star Trek: Voyager, but this was one of a few places I felt it went over the top.

Final Thoughts

That being said, however, Seven’s emotional coming-of-age is an interesting journey to witness. We see her suffer the pangs of guilt at the similarities between the atrocities of the pirates and the assimilations she took part in as a member of the Borg. We see her at her most vulnerable when she opens herself to the possibility of love with a Trill woman on the Rangers. We see her wrestle with the anger she feels toward Starfleet for its quick and callous dismissal of her desire to be accepted. We see her eventual understanding that doing what is right doesn’t always mean doing what is most efficient.

Rating: 3/5

By the end of the story, Seven of Nine has become a principled and thoughtful human that one can be sure Janeway would be proud of. She’s also become the absolute badass we saw on Star Trek: Picard. Oh, and she has sure as hell earned that captain’s chair.

1 thought on “Star Trek: Picard – Firewall in Review

  1. I just finished reading Firewall. I agree with your fair review. I did get tripped up by the characterization of Sevens emotional state multiple times. There are things I think she wouldn’t do in certain environments/situations…for example, I don’t think she would stop to kiss her lover in the middle of trying to take over Kohgish’s ship. I believe when she’s facing a serious situation also involving precision and danger, she doesn’t typically engage that sort of emotion. Certainly she is evolving emotionally, but I think if one of the women authors had written this book, there would be hints of the lesbian relationship being important but we wouldn’t see those strong women be distracted by it in the middle of the critically serious activities. In fact most humans faced with a situation involving danger and rapid action are not thinking, I should kiss my lover. Also, while I appreciate the effort to grow the character in connection with Picard; I truly loved the voyager reboot series and the evolution of Seven esp after the Caeliar (from which the Borg originated) fixed the Borg problem.

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