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Fallguy
1st August 2002, 05:35 PM
This book has a ridiculously long title, so bear with me here:
Star Trek: The Next Generation : The Valiant is written by Michael Jan Friedman.

This book falls into what I would call the Trek groupie Science Fiction catagory.

Personal Disclaimer: I would like to admit a few of things before I begin this review.

Firstly, I am not really a huge Star Trek fan, I rarely watch the television series, and when I do its only because there is nothing else on. I don't mind the movies (1 through 6 at least, the rest are really boring), and I concede that there are undoubtedly some good and thought provoking episodes of a genuine science fiction nature, but mostly I find Star Trek to be bland commercialised rubbish.

OK, so why do I own a Star Trek book then, if I don't like Star Trek? Well, it was a birthday present, so I could hardly refuse. An lets be honest, if I'm bored I'll read almost anything.

Now for my final admittal - I really don't like commercialised series of books (e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek, etc). I think this aversion stems from some truly awful Star Wars and Star Trek novels I read about 8 or 9 years ago, whereby I realised that provided the book has the "magical" label on it, some dumb idiot is going to buy it regardless. Having read the literary endevours of William Shatner, I can see a flaw in that scheme straight away. It has been my experience that some of the worst written pieces of utter pants ever to grace the pages of a book have come under the "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" logo, and consequently I take great care to avoid them like the plague normally. The only exceptions I make to this are books written by authors I know and recognise from novels not written in a Star Wars or Star Trek universe (for example, Alan Dean Foster, R. A. Salvatore, or Timothy Zahn).

Ok, so I'm not a Star Trek fan, I didn't buy the book, and I have an aversion to Star Trek literature. Nothing like going into a review with an open mind hey...... ;)

This book was first published in April 2000, and the copy I have is hardback (I presume somewhere there may be a paperback version of this book?). The author, Michael Jan Friedman, has written several other Star Trek novels (oh, lucky me) including Reunion, Kahless, and Planet X, as well as the Brother Keeper trilogy. He has also penned story lines for the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book series. So the guy has not written anything outside the Star Trek universe.... [this is normally the bit where alarm bells start going off in my head, I put the book back on the shelf, and run towards the Asimov section sprinkling holy water behind me, and chanting an exorcism under my breath].

So, anyway, prejudices aside, lets get on with the background of the story. If you've got this far into the review, you probably are a Star Trek fan. This book is based on an episode of the origenal Star Trek series, the one where the commander (referred to as Gary Mitchell, can't remember what the actors name was) gets zapped when the Enterprise tries to cross the Galactic Barrier, gets some silver contact lenses and starts turning into an evil superman. Anyway, this book, as the title suggests, is based initially on the S.S. Valiant, the first ship to try and cross the barrier. Things go wrong, and the ship is abandoned as the captain battles with one of his crewman turned superman. As the ship is scuttled, the captain releases an emergancy beacon, which is then picked up by the Enterprise (which then foolishly attempts to recreate the feat of crossing the barrier). Anyway, as far as the Federation is concerned thats the end of the matter. Until a pair of strange human-like people arrive at a star base a few hundred years later, and claim they are the descendants of the survivors of the Valiant, and are under attack by a currently unknown race. To find out the truth, the U.S.S Stargazer is sent out to investigate. On board is then 2nd officer Lieutenant Commander Picard.

So, the main character, is of course a youngish Picard (love the CGI image on the front of Patrick Stewart with hair, lol). I personally haven't seen very many TNG episodes, so I have absolutely no idea how realistic or not the characterisation is. Speaking as a non trekkie, I found many of his actions to be frankly highly unbelievable. But then again, the entire prospect of Star Trek is fairly implausible anyway, so I guess that fits in. There are other characters used in the book, but Picard is the main one.

The story is developed mainly from Picards perspective, although in credit to the author, he does attempt to use other perspectives to weave the story. This weaving is what I would call partially succesful - it is necessary to the development of the storyline, but it is also overdone, with the inclusion of several sub plots which serve only to bulk out the book (and irritate the hell out of me).

So then, do I like the book? Well it has its good points and its bad points. In fairness, I may not be the most impartial reviewer, so please take this into account. I wouldn't recommend this book unless you are a major Star Trek fan - in terms of general Science Fiction, it is not stunningly well written, it does not have any really interesting characters, and the world detail is extremely thin. The plot does actually go somewhere in the end, but its not exactly gripping and I found many of the "plot twists" to be extremely simplistic and contrived. In credit to the author, this is probably one of the better Star Trek books I have read (I can't help but think this reflects poorly on Star Trek literature as a whole though), so if you are a Star Trek fan, you will probably enjoy it. It is fairly short, however - only 279 pages of fairly large print, probably less than 200 pages in paperback, and could easily be cut down to a short story by some quick editing. It only took me 3 hours to read it, and normally I read 60 to 70 pages an hour.

Fallguy