Book Review: ‘Hell’s Heart’

April 27, 2021 at 5:49 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek Prey: Hell’s Heart is the first book in the epic crossover trilogy by John Jackson Miller, which was released in September of 2016.

When I picked up this book back in 2017, I hadn’t really read many Star Trek books (possibly none, if memory serves correctly). So picking up an epic crossover trilogy, with characters from multiple series and eras intertwining should have been daunting, but it really wasn’t. Why? Because John Jackson Miller does a fantastic job explaining relevant information to the audience.

I’ve read three crossover series now. Star Trek Destiny promised an epic crossover of the 24th and 22nd centuries in a huge, end-all-be-all Borg war. While it delivered on some things, I felt that the trilogy didn’t provide enough epic scope and scale. Star Trek: The Fall was an epic crossover series from the 24th century, which told some amazing stories…and some not so amazing ones. While I had a blast reading most of the books, they were so inconsistent in style, in purpose, and in characters that I have a hard time ranking it high as a whole. Star Trek Prey, however, is a much different story. Miller promises a Klingon centered story with overtones of The Undiscovered Country. While this is only the first book in the trilogy, it has already delivered exactly what is promised.

This book has two main plotlines. The majority of the book follows the crew of the Enterprise-E in the 24th Century, with connections to the Titan series and others in small moments. This is the main thrust of the story, and shows “All Hell Breaking Loose” as a rogue set of Klingons attack a sacred ceremony. From the beginning of the story, you are clued in that something is up with the ceremony, but Miller does a great job of keeping the full mystery hidden until the opportune moments. This makes the reader intently interested in finding out even the smallest of reveals. While some of this might be more obvious to experienced readers, there are still some shocking moments in the book.

The second plotline is much smaller, and takes up only 1/3rd of the book, following James T. Kirk and the Enterprise-A after the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I expected this portion to drag, as it simply serves as backstory and is in a previous timeline. Usually, prequel stories aren’t as interesting as the main story because you already know the consequences. However, as the reader doesn’t know everything about the mystery yet, this portion was really gripping for me. This might be in part because I love the motion picture era, but also because the actual story had me cheering for the various characters involved.

One of the great things about the story is revealing characters who pop up later. There were several characters, particularly Odrok, General Potok, and others who were introduced in one act and had significance later. It served well to weave them in and out of the different centuries, making the whole story feel worthy of it’s crossover title.

Much like his character work in Takedown, I thought that John Jackson Miller did a great job nailing character voices, particularly in Worf, Picard, Riker, Spock, and Kirk. If this had been episodes of the series, the dialogue and character developments would have fit perfectly.

Because this book is nonstop action and story, it blows through very quickly. While there are still important character moments, they happen while important story moments are happening as well. This makes the whole book become one entertaining chapter after another. It helps make the book’s pace quick.

Every book has to serve a purpose for it’s time. Old Star Trek books had to tell stories while leaving the universe 100% intact. This led to several boring stories that didn’t feel necessary or have consequences. Since the “Relaunch”, Star Trek books have had an ongoing story. Still, authors have to be careful not to break the toys too much (unless their name is David Mack). Miller sets up an epic story with potential huge consequences, but doesn’t do so in a way to hamstring his fellow writers. 

Another thing unique to this book/series is it’s format. Rather than use “Parts”, Miller splits the story up into “Acts”. Rather than use “Prologue” and “Epilogue”, Miller employs the terms “Prelude” and “Entr’acte”, which signify this as more of an opera or play than it does a novel. I personally think this is a great way for Miller to stand out among his peers of 700+ Star Trek books, and it allows him to connect more with the Klingon characters, who love their operas. As we were told in The Undiscovered Country, you have not heard Shakespeare until you’ve experienced it in the original Klingon. 

Overall, this is a perfect first book that delivers exactly what it promises. I know many people were disappointed in the Star Trek Legacies Trilogy which was the TOS 50th Anniversary series. I haven’t read that series (although I intend to soon), but I can tell you that this trilogy is a worthy holder of the “50th Anniversary” label. Hell’s Heart gets a full 5 out of 5 from me.

My next review will be of The Jackal’s Trick, the second book in the Prey trilogy. I honestly don’t remember much of it from my first readthrough, so I’m excited to begin again.

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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