Back in the day, I used to read a LOT of Star Trek novels. Then one day I just stopped, having gone through something of a slump in the wake of the Abrams reboot. I’ve been slowly reconnecting. First I got some Original Series as there’s simply no substitute for the classic crew, then recently I started up with Enterprise, picking up right where the series left off and that same novel inadvertently reconnected me with Deep Space Nine along the way. It’s been great therapy so far, restoring my faith that there are still writers that never lost touch with the values, characters, and storytelling potential that Star Trek had to offer.
And now I’ve re-established contact with The Next Generation via, ironically, one of my favorite Star Wars writers. I could not have asked for a better reintroduction. John Jackson Miller has proven that, just like with that Galaxy Far, Far Away, he understands the characters and everything else that provides the heartbeat of the universe for which he’s writing.
I was grabbed in by the very first paragraph: “The one good thing about having a job that took you to hell and back was that you slept soundly. All your nightmares had already happened during the day.” Then build on that to a cliffhanger first chapter and a mindscrew in chapter two, and the rest is history. I was hooked all the way to the end. It’s so visceral, I can hear the thrum of the warp core while I read.
Despite having seven seasons, TNG left a lot of dangling story threads wide open, and Takedown plays up on a big one that I’d actually forgotten was unresolved. In the interest of not spoiling it, I won’t say which one. Suffice it to say, the very nature of this story is that the more you know about Trek, the more expectations you can make, and the more predictable some story elements become, but through it all I was still guessing to the very end. Much like with the Enterprise novel, this TNG novel reconnected me with other incarnations of Trek. There are characters from and references galore to TOS, TNG, DS9, and Voyager, some of them obscure, and none of it forced. It’s just part of the natural experience of the story. As with the Enterprise novel, it was refreshing to find that the overall timeline continued well past the final end credits of the series and movies, and stepping back into the story felt like coming home. Characters have been reassigned and promoted, but they’re still the friends I left behind so long ago. As a testament to Miller’s capabilities, not only can he play on the nostalgia, but the story he tells is just amazing fun. And really, that’s the most important part, is it not? It’s Star Trek II levels of starship combat, combined with some tactical maneuvering that Tom Clancy would be proud of, and a little something that Abrams-Trek lost sight of, that critical core of hope and awe that makes Star Trek what it is.
Bottom line, this long-time Trekkie approves whole-heartedly. Suspense, wonder, humor… this book has it all. If I have any complaints, it’s that the publisher hasn’t released audios for the bulk of the Trek novels, and those that do get audio are abridged to pointlessness. Without audio, that meant instead of burning through this story in a day or two, I had to wait in anticipation all day before I could return to the book, reading what I could, where I could. Oh, the horror. But it was well worth it, obviously. The best stories always are. I can’t wait to see what Miller pulls out of his hat next, regardless of which universe.