Sunday, February 8, 2015

Takedown

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Takedown by John Jackson Miller
Release date: January 27th 2015
Read January 31st 2015


Previous book (The Next Generation): Q Are Cordially Uninvited...

Next book (The Next Generation): Armageddon's Arrow



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Spoilers ahead for Takedown and the current post-The Fall novel continuity!

From the back cover:
When renegade Federation starships begin wreaking destruction across the Alpha Quadrant, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are shocked to discover that the mastermind behind this sudden threat is none other than Picard’s protégé and friend: Admiral William T. Riker. The newly minted admiral is on board the U.S.S. Aventine as part of a special assignment, even as the mystery deepens behind his involvement in the growing crisis. But the Aventine is helmed by Captain Ezri Dax—someone who is no stranger to breaking Starfleet regulations—and her starship is by far the faster vessel . . . and Riker cannot yield even to his former mentor. It’s a battle of tactical geniuses and a race against time as Picard struggles to find answers before the quadrant’s great powers violently retaliate against the Federation. . .

My thoughts:

John Jackson Miller made his Star Trek literature debut last year with the e-book novella Absent Enemies, featuring Admiral Riker and the Titan crew. As I noted in my review of that story, I had very much enjoyed his Star Wars novel Kenobi, and looked forward to his take on the Trek universe. I enjoyed the novella for the most part, with the small exception of feeling that he didn't have the characters' voices quite "right." That minor quibble, however, has been completely rectified with Takedown.

Miller has a terrific grasp on the voices of the main characters, with old standbys like Picard and Riker coming across perfectly. And indeed, the secondary original characters that Miller introduces in this novel are a lot of fun to read about as well.

Captain Ezri Dax and the
Aventine feature in Takedown.
This is probably the closest we've come to Captain Ezri Dax of the Aventine having a novel of her own, and Miller proves that such a story can be truly great! I've come to really enjoy reading about her and her crew ever since their introduction in David Mack's Destiny trilogy. Takedown has renewed my interest in seeing more of Dax and her ship in future stories.

The premise of Takedown is an enticing one: Picard and Riker going head to head in a battle of wits and tactics. While the story itself turns out to be much more complicated than that, we do get some interesting scenes seeing these two tactical minds facing off. Miller channels his love and knowledge of Trek into some great plot twists and reveals, making Takedown a fun roller coaster of a story.

While I did enjoy his earlier work, Absent Enemies, I felt that some parts were a little too "silly" or uncharacteristic of Star Trek. However, with Takedown, Miller has struck a perfect balance. The story is rich and compelling, while still having a lightness to it that made it a lot of fun. Many of the current slate of Trek authors will include small winks and nods, such as in-jokes or subtle references that are amusing, but most don't have the perfectly irreverent tone that Miller has managed with Takedown. In this way, Miller's tone in very evocative of that of one of my favorite Trek authors, Peter David. Take, for example, this description of an inept Romulan senator, Bretorius, who turned into one of my favorite characters by the end of the book:

Unfortunately, Bertorius had found mediocrity too high a bar. He had advanced in the fleet the old-fashioned way: he'd stuck around so long they had to give him a command, or muster him out. He'd commanded a vessel that had managed to miss every major engagement the Romulan Star Empire had participated in during his tenure. The critical battle of the Dominion War was waged without Bretorius's ship, when his entire crew came down with food poisoning after an ill-advised prebattle celebration. And during the time that Shinzon was courting allies in the Imperial Fleet for his eventual coup, Bretorius was never contacted once. It wasn't that Bretorius wanted to overthrow the government, but it would've been nice to have been asked.

The risk is that the story will devolve into complete silliness (as has happened with a few of Peter David's works), but that never happens here.

Final thoughts:

A fun and exciting entry into the post-The Fall continuity of Trek novels. It was great to see the continuity touchstones that John Jackson Miller used to craft this story, including the reintroduction of a species from TNG that I've always been curious about (I won't include that particular spoiler here as I feel it guts the story to know it in advance). A definite improvement over Miller's previous foray into Trek literature, and hopefully a portent of many more great stories to come!

Further resources:


Also by John Jackson Miller:

My next read:

Next up is my review of A Sea of Troubles, the first book in the TNG e-book series, Slings and Arrows.