Book Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown

John Jackson Miller

An all-new novel of Star Trek: The Next Generation—one of the most popular Star Trek series of all-time, featuring the adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise!

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…

This was a pretty good read.  The premise certainly intrigued me — how could the author put Riker and Dax into such a situation without shattering their careers?  And, if their careers are to be shattered, then we’re losing an awful lot of Star Trek characters over the past few years.

The set-up was certainly intriguing — a secret peace summit that ends with Riker and several other of the major powers wreaking devastation across their own territory and each other’s territory.  However, the execution of the premise left me a little unsatisfied.

I read a writing book recently that said it ruins storytelling to keep a secret from the readers.  I had a real hard time understanding and accepting this.  The fun of books is when they surprise you, right?  Turns out that’s wrong — the reader likes to have obvious clues that allow them to (correctly) guess the answer to the plot, then the “surprise” is satisfying.  There are some exceptions, but they are carefully carried out.  Orphan’s Triumph by Robert Buettner, one of my favourite sci-fi books of all time, has a complete surprise ending that blew my mind — but when looking back, I realize that the clues were so obviously laid out, I had just interpreted them wrong.  And that’s why it was satisfying, because the clues were actually there.

Takedown suffers from the problem of surprise.  Miller keeps the reader so very in the dark that the reader can’t even begin to make guesses as to what’s happening.  There are minuscule clues, but not enough to lead to a satisfying surprise.  Halfway through, I was struggling to continue because I found this complete lack of information made me lose interest.

In the end, I’m glad I kept on with it.  The ending was satisfactory and, really, I enjoyed the story as a whole.

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot, which is why it’s taken me almost a month to get to the review.  If the author had let the reader in on the secret — which would keep the reader happier and interested — would the consequences of the plot been as riveting?  Part of the tension was wondering what’s happening with these impeccable officers and how can they survive and get out of this relatively unscathed.  If the secret to the plot had been revealed earlier, and thus the solution vaguely telegraphed to the reader, would the plot still have it’s gripping appeal to it?  I think not.  Revealing what’s happening would risk losing some readers, much as not revealing what’s happening could lose some readers.

My disappointments with the execution of the plot aside, I found John Jackson Miller to be a good writer.  The pages were quick to read and his plot shows that he knows his Trek.  (If I recall, the author bio said this is his first Star Trek novel.)  I hope to see more from Miller in the future; I’m quite sure a stronger plot would allow him to excel.

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