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By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at October 29, 2003 - 11:21 AM GMT

Title: Star Trek: Pantheon
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Release Date: September 2003
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-8511-4

Star Trek: Pantheon is the first of the new Signature Edition offerings that Pocket Books is producing. This omnibus combines the two Michael Jan Friedman novels that are essentially the first and last novels in the Stargazer series, Reunion and The Valiant. What makes this edition stand apart from the usual omnibus is the content. Rather than just print both novels under one cover, the two books have been intertwined and new material added to create a unique retelling of the original stories. The volume also contains a lengthy interview with the author.

A straight out "whodunit", Reunion is set during the fourth season of The Next Generation. Originally published in 1991 as the first TNG hardback, at that time there was no thought of a series of novels based on the adventures of Jean-Luc Picard as captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer. It wasn't until the publication of The Valiant in 2000 that the idea for the Stargazer series was born. The Valiant took readers back to the beginning of the Stargazer saga, using several of the Stargazer crewmembers established in Reunion but setting them at a much earlier point in their careers in a plot that ties together continuity elements from the original series, The Next Generation and several novels.

As you read Pantheon you get to do a bit of time travelling. The story starts by recounting of the loss of the S.S. Valiant in 2068 ("Where No Man Has Gone Before"). Fast forward to the U.S.S. Enterprise-D in 2367 when Picard welcomes his former shipmates aboard to accompany one of their comrades to his home planet of Daa'V to assume the hereditary leadership of his people, the Daa'Vit. But the happy reunion of old friends soon turns into a deadly race when an assassin begins to strike at the former Stargazer crew one by one.

The second part of the story jumps backwards again to 2333 when individuals claiming to be descendents of the doomed S.S. Valiant's crew bring a warning that a hostile race from beyond the Galactic Barrier, the Nuyyad, are planning to attack the Federation. When the Stargazer is assigned to investigate, Captain Ruhlater is killed and the first officer is incapacitated. A young, relatively inexperienced Jean-Luc Picard is forced to step in and command the Stargazer under extraordinary circumstances.

It might sound like a kind of backwards way of telling a story to have the Reunion segments come before the bulk of The Valiant mission, but it works surprisingly well. There was less new material than I expected but the rearrangement of the original The Valiant ties it all together into one package. Despite having read both Reunion and The Valiant before I could still become caught up in the overall story and enjoy the suspense.

The characterization of the Next Generation crew members was right on the money but the story is predominantly about the former Stargazer crewmembers. Given the number of years that Picard commanded the Stargazer there were changes in the Stargazer's key personnel that are reflected in the separate settings but Picard fans will be in their element and greatly enjoy seeing the younger, inexperienced Jean-Luc take the reins for the first time. Carter Greyhorse, Ben Zoma, Idun Asmund, Phigus Simenon and Pug Joseph are common to both time frames though and the contrast of seeing their younger selves after knowing where their lives lead them only adds to your appreciation of those characters.

If you haven't read either Reunion or The Valiant before keep your eyes out for this volume. Even if you have it's well worth picking up and would be the perfect gift for any Picard fans on your gift-giving list for the holidays.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.

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