Signature Edition: Pantheon, by Michael Jan Friedman

Signature Edition Pantheon, by Michael Jan Friedman book coverGenre: Star Trek
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: 2003
Review Posted: 10/1/2004
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by Jeff Edwards

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Pantheon is a special signature edition reprinting two Star Trek: The Next Generation novels – “Reunion” (1991) and “The Valiant” (2000).

In “Reunion,” Captain Morgen of the Excalibur is about to assume the throne as hereditary leader of the planet Daa’V. He has invited seven Starfleet officers – including Jean-Luc Picard – to be his honor guard at the coronation ceremony. But one of Morgen’s old “friends” from the Stargazer has a different agenda – to assassinate the Daa’Vit before he ever reaches his homeworld.

In “The Valiant,” descendants of a doomed starship’s crew return from beyond the galactic barrier to warn the Federation of an imminent attack by an aggressive species called the Nuyyad. The Stargazer is sent to investigate, but after the captain is killed and the first officer badly wounded, second officer Picard must take the helm and determine who is trying to sabotage the mission.

Pantheon offers plenty of excitement for Picard fans – the captain must thwart a would-be assassin in “Reunion,” while trying to free the Enterprise from a dangerous slipstream carrying the ship along at warp 9.95. And in “The Valiant,” Picard simultaneously battles the Nuyyad, a mutinous crew, and his own self-doubts about his untested abilities at the helm.

Michael Jan Friedman’s writing is competent, but he tends to repeat himself, using similar phrases so often that they become distracting (“Crusher cursed inwardly” and “Worf turned,…cursing inwardly,” “Troi maintained her composure despite the interruption” and “the Klingon,…[did] his best to ignore the interruption”). Friedman tries to avoid repetition when mentioning characters (Worf is referred to as “the Klingon” and “the security chief” on the same page; Picard is alternately referred to as “the older man” and “the captain” in one scene; Troi is described as “the empath” and “the ship’s counselor” within the same passage), but the narrative flow may have been better served by simply using the characters’ names. Friedman also seems reluctant to let his characters “say” things – instead, they “announce,” “bellow,” “holler” and “thunder.” Some might argue that the technique adds drama, but this reviewer prefers dialogue to speak for itself without the author adding exclamation points.

Friedman attempts to add some technological window-dressing to the normally “soft” science-fiction of Star Trek – for example, he mentions the holodeck’s “electromagnetic fields,” “transporter-analog matter-conversion technology” and “stereoscopic image comprised of polarized interference patterns.” The author also skillfully plants enough red herrings in both novels to keep readers guessing. While “Reunion” is the more overt whodunit, “The Valiant” contains its share of mystery and treachery.

Although both stories in Pantheon were originally published as Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, they mainly serve as showcases for Picard’s old Stargazer crew. With the obvious exception of Picard, Friedman essentially created this crew from scratch. Star Trek purists may resent the spotlight being taken away from the more familiar Enterprise crew, but most readers will appreciate the author’s efforts to breathe life into a new cast of characters – characters who have lived on in Friedman’s continuing Stargazer series.

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