Saturday, 25 August 2012
Starfleet Year One - Michael Jan Friedman
Title: Starfleet Year One
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
"Starfleet Year One" by Michael Jan Friedman is the latest novel in my Star Trek Reading Challenge and the first book I have read that sits outside recognized canon. It really should be appreciated that this book was written prior to the launch of the Enterprise TV series and takes an alternative look at the formative years of the Federation. Therefore, I tried to read and review this book on its own merits rather than trying to compare it to continuity developments that occurred later.
The plot is focused around the formation of the United Federation of Planets and the direction that its newly formed Starfleet will take. The reader gets to follows the actions of two distinct groups, the first group wants Starfleet to be dedicated to military strength whilst the other groups is pushing for exploration and science to be the prime focus. The first six captains exemplify one side or the other of this debate or the other which pushes them into competing against each other to try and ensure that Starfleet evolves along the lines they want it too.
The story itself is actually quite interesting and has a style and pacing that makes it nice and easy to read. I also enjoyed seeing an alternative look at the foundation of Star Trek and it was good to see Friedman cleverly utilize what he knew about from the TV episode "Balance of Terror" to create what was a perfectly plausible origin story of the Federation and Starfleet.
However, there are quite a few issues as well with the novel, some of this is actually linked to how light and easy the story is to read. There is no real complexity or depth to what goes on throughout many of the plotlines. For example, the formation of the Federation is conducted over a couple of pages as a few ambassadors approach various species and then some other diplomats get together in a room. I just found things like this incredibly weak and lacking in any tension or interesting development.
The other main issue resulted from the decision to focus on the six separate captains. This resulted in every one of them getting only a little bit of coverage in the novel so that there was no real characterization, development or back story generated. There were all so bland and thinly constructed beyond a basic premise such as a loner captain, an alien captain, a scientific captain and three military captains.
Overall, this is a very middle of the road Star Trek novel that I think was more focused on trying to introduce a new franchise than to actually provide an enjoyable standalone story with interesting characters. It is a shame really as Friedman's writing is not bad per say, I just think he took on way to much to cover in one novel. However, it is still a nice and easy read for anyone interested in seeing a different take on the formation of the Federation.