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Francis W. Porretto
on Aug. 29, 2011 :
This book has both great promise and some serious problems. The promise arises from the obvious confidence and skill of depiction the author brings to her imaginings. The problems have a variety of roots.
A writer who sets out to braid several plot threads into a novel must decide at the outset which of those threads will dominate. "Pantheon's" author seemed unable to decide which of the plot threads of this book would be the principal one. Because such an emphasis was missing, the character development suffered as well. Athene and Pan could not quite decide what was most important to them. Worse for the novel's resolution, Walt, who proved ultimately to be a major player, doesn't get nearly enough time "on camera."
When several plot threads are all kept "at the front of the stage," there are inevitable sacrifices. Some of those sacrifices are developmental: foreshadowing, backstory allusion, and scene-setting. Others are characterological: lack of time to give each of the Marquee characters time to become three-dimensional. Finally, there's the problem of theme, which might be the most serious of the lot: without a "main thread" that's clearly more important than the others, it's almost impossible to establish a clear theme. The rationale for the overall conflict tends never to be elucidated.
Thus: As a corporate-espionage / corporate warfare thriller, "Pantheon" works well -- but to make that judgment, I have to compel myself to omit all consideration of another major plot thread: the situational semi-erotic romance. As a situational semi-erotic romance, it works well -- but to make that judgment, I have to compel myself to omit all consideration of another major plot thread: the corporate espionage / corporate warfare thriller. As a Bildungsroman about a young, supremely capable woman learning, at long last and to her great surprise, about her origins and her true priorities, it doesn't really work, for reasons of timing and plausibility.
There are also stylistic problems and mechanical problems. The author has an affinity for the "[Participial phrase], I [did something]." syntactic structure, which works far less often than not. (Not to mention that syntactic repetition of that sort is very noticeable and distracts the reader from the story.) There are some blatant grammatical errors where such errors cannot be justified. Finally, there are "com conversations" from which an appropriate font convention is lacking, the result of which is that it's easy to mistake who is speaking.
There's also a plausibility error involving communication over interplanetary distances that, in all probability, only another physicist would have noticed. (Yes, I bear that burden.) So I can't give a lot of weight to it. All the same, it's there.
Lachesis's entry at the end of the novel as a significant villain strikes me as a case of "diabolus ex machina." There wasn't nearly enough development of that character to make her appearance in that role believable.
Finally, and perhaps most significant, the number of major ideas evoked or alluded to is too large for a single story. By my count, the author expresses enough ideas here for not one but THREE novels -- a unified trilogy. Cramming them all into a single, fairly compact novel underplays all of them.
Despite all that, I can't seriously down-rate "Pantheon." The author displays immense promise. The action segments are particularly well done. She has obvious imaginative powers, can clearly write, and probably needs nothing more than a tough-minded editor with a sense for novelistic structure, well-honed stylistic discipline, and a well-sharpened blue pencil to make the jump to excellence. So I'm giving it five stars, but more for the author's demonstrated potential than for this particular achievement. I want to see more from this writer.
(reviewed the day of purchase)