Hugo Reading Progress

2024 Hugo Awards Progress
57 / 57 items read/watched (100.00%)
7433 / 7433 pages read (100.00%)
1435 / 1435 minutes watched (100.00%)

12 June 2024

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Prey: The Jackal's Trick

Star Trek: Prey, Book 2: The Jackal's Trick
by John Jackson Miller

March 2386
Published: 2016
Acquired: May 2023
Read: March 2024

The Jackal's Trick picks up the plot threads from Hell's Heart, but shifts focus in terms of character somewhat. Whereas Hell's Heart gave us a lot of the Enterprise crew as its main Starfleet characters, this one, especially in its earlier chapters, focuses more on the Titan crew. Hell's Heart had no mention of anything from Titan: Sight Unseen except for Riker's new job; suddenly, here there are recurring characters from Titan like the new XO, Riker's aide, and Ethan Kyzak the North Star cowboy and references to specific scenes in Sight Unseen. (Did James Swallow turn in the manuscript after Miller wrote book 1 before he wrote book 2?) This works to the book's benefit; while Hell's Heart had somewhat bland Enterprise characters reacting to Klingon machinations again and again, The Jackal's Trick has a lot of fun scenes with the Titan crew as they manage to actually deal some setbacks to the Klingon cult.

I enjoyed Worf's strand a fair amount, as he is taken prisoner and tries to teach an Unsung child about honor... only he killed that child's father in honorable combat! Kahless gets some fun moments. Probably the real MVP of the book is Valandris, who is going through a challenging time in terms of values and circumstances. I enjoyed following her narrative, and I look forward to seeing where it—and that of the rest of the Unsung—goes in book 3.

Still, though, if the novel as a form is about characters who grow and change, it feels like Prey is curiously short of them given it's made up of three novels. Surely there's more fun to be gotten from a Tuvok/La Forge team-up than this? A big part of the problem are the two principal villains, Korgh and Cross. Both are very one-note... but feel like with a few tweaks, they could have been more fun and have more depth. Korgh is a wronged man, and one who has used dishonorable methods to reclaim his honor. Surely we could have more sympathy for him, and experience more of his turmoil? But whenever we go to his perspective, he's just cackling manically (inwardly) at a fullproof plan. Whatever interest I saw in Cross from book 1 was undermined almost right away in book 2 when he turned out to be a creepy psychopath. I feel like he could have been the kind of villain you kind of want to win because he's so clever, but again all his scenes feel the same.

This book feels like it's treading water for the people in it, even as the plot is always getting more complicated. I think in those old days, when Star Trek fiction had a lot of three-book series but not much of an ongoing story, you could have a trilogy that told an exciting story but didn't really move much forward. But this book is part of an ongoing tapestry—and yet it feels like no one in it is allowed to change or develop, even the characters original to it. Miller writes in a way that's fun and easy to read, I never dreaded this book or anything, but it doesn't feel like it has enough of a point to be three novels.

Continuity Notes:

  • "The Federation has been at peace with the Klingon Empire since Kirk visited Khitomer." Well, you know, except for the war!
Other Notes:
  • Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'd guess there's a straight line from Miller enjoying writing Kyzak here to The High Country.
  • On p. 116, Cross is proud of himself for using a particular Klingon word... is he supposed to be speaking tlhIngan Hol the whole time? Because if so it would be easy to use a particular word! If not, it raises a bunch of questions best left avoided.

I read Destiny-era Star Trek books in batches of five every few months. Next up in sequence: Gamma: Original Sin by David R. George III

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