Book Review: ‘The Jackal’s Trick’

May 11, 2021 at 1:15 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek Prey: The Jackal’s Trick is the second book in the epic crossover trilogy by John Jackson Miller, which was released in October of 2016.

Hell’s Heart set a high bar for excellence, and so it is natural that the sequel will struggle to live up to the heights of the original. And yet, The Jackal’s Trick is different enough that it doesn’t suffer from “middle book syndrome”, and in fact has an even better climax! 

What sets this book apart from the first is it’s focus. This whole trilogy is about the Klingons, and the Klingons are obviously still the overall focal point. However, this book focuses the brunt of it’s time with the principal antagonist: Buxtus Cross. Cross is the illusionist we met in the previous book, who works for Korgh and in this book breaks all hell loose. He was such an interesting character, as was his crew. The crew reminded me of the best “rag-tag” crews of various aliens that one would read in any great science fiction story. Cross himself was interesting in that he cared only for the story and for the acting. He didn’t care about the consequences (although money is always nice), and to him seeing how far the deception could go was reward enough. He’s just so unique and fun and yet exactly what this middle book needed.

This book also follows a different ship primarily. The first book focused on the Enterprise-E, with Jean-Luc and Worf as the main protagonists. While Worf is still the hero of the trilogy, this book shifts more focus to Riker and his crew aboard the Titan. Miller has proven that he can write for the crew of the Titan, as demonstrated in his e-novella Absent Enemies. While the crew members themselves don’t get too much time, Miller emphasizes enough knowledge of the ship to prove his abilities while also keeping the story going. Tuvok in particular gets some great moments, and the decision to have him pair with La Forge was something I would not have chosen, but nonetheless works for the story.

Where Miller shines the most is his ability to write complex stories and have them all connect. Most of Miller’s previous works, such as Kenobi, A New Dawn, and Knight Errant have been smaller stories and thus haven’t provided an avenue here for Miller to test his chops. The intercutting of the various plotlines and weaving of them together reminded me of the skill that great filmmakers such as George Lucas and Steven Speilberg have with their movies and the way that Brandon Sanderson and Timothy Zahn do the same in their books. Miller is proving that he can write a truly epic story. Seriously, the last 100 pages of this book flew past me, because it was all moving so fast and I was just glued to the story. There are so many twists and turns that pay off things from earlier in this book (and book one).

There is an element of the first half of the story that involves a subplot where I knew what was going to happen, but I had to still find out. It both paid off on it’s promises while still being surprising. 

There are some great scenes between Worf and Sarken that I didn’t know I needed. Sometimes kids can be cheesy in books, but Sarken was so sweet and was just written perfectly. I gasped and almost cried several times throughout their conversations. These just proved that you can have an epic action story without sacrificing character. 

Unfortunately, there is one weak point in this book, and that lies in the “Interlude”. I absolutely loved the flashback portion of book one, which involved the crew of the Enterprise-A soon after the events of The Voyage Home. This book’s flashback occurred just before the events of The Undiscovered Country with the crew of the Excelsior, and sadly it just didn’t live up. This interlude was only 40 pages, and it doesn’t feel like it has the weight that the first one did. Where James Kirk was struggling with the death of his son at the hands of Klingons, Tuvok, Sulu, and (spoiler) don’t have the same heavy themes. The story served its purpose thematically, but needed something else in order to hold up. The book needed to be close in length to the others in the series, so it makes sense why it had to trim the flashback to make room for more of the awesome climax, it just didn’t work as well for me. 

That being said, Miller was able to connect things that show true dedication to the franchise and prove that he’s not just here for the money. He may not have written as many books as David Mack or Dayton Ward, but he shows just as much care for the characters as they do. 

Overall, I really loved this book. The main story was fantastic, the climax was epic, and the surprises were wonderful. I think that the first book is just a little better in my mind, for pacing, reveals, and action. Nonetheless, this is reinforced as one of my favorite books in my favorite Star Trek series. The Jackal’s Trick gets a 5 out of 5. Excellent work JJM.

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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