Book Review: ‘Takedown’ by John Jackson Miller

April 13, 2021 at 1:00 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown is a standalone novel featuring the crews of the Titan, Aventine, and Enterprise-E, written by John Jackson Miller, and released in February of 2015. 

I’ll start out by saying that this was the first Star Trek I ever read back in 2017. I had watched some of the shows, but didn’t know where to start in the literature. I’ve been a longtime fan of John Jackson Miller’s Star Wars novels, and I listened to an interview (here on Roqoo Depot of all places) where he discussed how he makes every book he writes introductory. He knows that every book is someone’s first, so he actively tries to give them the relevant information to start. I always admired that and thought I’d jump in. This truly is an excellent place to jump in, and it’s had me hooked on Trek literature ever sense.

I’ll go ahead and tip my hand and say that this is my favorite Star Trek novel I’ve read (and I’m at about 50 right now, haven’t checked my exact number recently). This book balances the needs of a standalone novel while also serving as the next logical book in the ongoing “Relaunch” books. It also serves as a great sequel to “The Nth Degree” episode of Next Generation. All the while it ties into the various other ongoing series without feeling too complicated. It is fun, surprising, and kept me on the edge of my seat…even upon reread!

The best part about this novel is it’s mystery. John Jackson Miller laid out tons of information throughout the novel to allow the reader to pick up on it, but not necessarily know why. When the reveal happens at around the two-thirds point in the book, it makes total sense and makes the reader think “I should have seen that coming”. Even after the big reveal, there is still much mystery shrouding the whole book, particularly with how the climax will resolve itself. Star Trek books don’t typically have shocking, Game of Thrones-level endings that kill off all the characters in a sad ending, so the job of the author is to make the reader wonder how everything will be set right again. Miller does this perfectly, and even has some great hints for stories going forward.

I loved reading about Senator Bretorius. He is considerably different from standard issue Romulans. His ineptitude turned genius made me kind of root for him, and made him a sympathetic character, which is hard since I don’t usually like Romulans. His arc with Nerla was fascinating and served as a side-plot that still connected to the main plot. 

The whole Typhon Pact vs the Khitomer Signatory storyline has struck me as a Cold War analogy, and anyone who has read Miller’s Star Wars books knows that Cold War analogies are his jam. He played the various characters off of each other, and it made me think about the various conferences that occurred throughout the twentieth century. 

Perhaps the most enticing portion of the novel is the idea of Picard vs. Riker. We know that under no circumstance would Riker turn against Picard, so the reader is left to rationalize all of Riker’s decisions until they can no longer be rationalized. Even the members of the Aventine crew slowly had to unravel the puzzle, serving as a stand in for the audience, an effective tool in storytelling. 

The characters who probably get the most “page time” are Ezri Dax and Sam Bowers of the Aventine. There is a term I’ve used before that’s used in television which serves as the overall through line for a television series, called the “Pipe”. The Aventine crew’s story picks up well after the events of the Fall and they have probably the most change and impact of the story. After her recent disobedient actions against Starfleet, Dax is incredibly afraid to disobey orders again, especially from someone like Riker. I’m not a fan of Deep Space Nine in and of itself, but the characters of the Aventine are certainly very compelling and make me want more stories with them. 

I also really enjoyed how John Jackson Miller set up the “Takedown” operation. He set up a very believable and logical reason for why Riker is acting the way he acts, and even though I didn’t have a star chart near me or a list of all the characters and races, Miller is able to deftly explain everything that’s happening. The fact that the reader never once sets foot on a planet is utterly fascinating to me, and shows some real masterful skills from Miller.

If I have a small critique, and this is miniscule at best, I think that Miller wasn’t the best at writing the Ferengi. His writing was somewhat bland the few times they showed up and felt like the characterization that the show writers for Next Generation and Voyager would do, rather than what the novelists have done. However, the Ferengi literally are on the page like twice and it is barely perceptible to the reader, so I don’t really fault John for this.

Overall, I think it is pretty obvious that I LOVED this book. I don’t use capital letters that often in reviews, but this book earns it. This is great if you’ve read all the Star Trek books or are just getting in. This really is a crossover book that focuses on events and characters from TNG, but includes DS9 and even TOS and Voyager references. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown gets a full 5 out of 5 from me. Well done John Jackson Miller!

My next book review will be of Hell’s Heart, the first book in the Prey trilogy, which is also one of my favorites.

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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