Book Review: ‘Rogue Elements’ by John Jackson Miller

August 24, 2021 at 5:32 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek Picard: Rogue Elements is the third novel in the Picard series. It was written by John Jackson Miller and was released in August 2021.

After nearly 6 years, John Jackson Miller returns with his third hardcover novel…although this time, it is his first hardcover for Star Trek. As such, Miller has made this quite the full story, tapping the full book out over 400 pages, a new longest novel for the illustrious author. 

I had a really difficult time with the Picard series. As such, I was nervous that I wouldn’t like the books involved. However, if the Discovery novels have taught me anything, it is not to judge a book by it’s tie-in property. Earlier this year I read and absolutely loved The Last Best Hope. When it was announced that John Jackson Miller was going to be writing a Picard novel, I knew I had to read it.

This book follows Cristobal Rios, the captain of La Sirena (it is so hard not to type “the La Sirena”). You could probably tell from the show, but Cristobal Rios is really the Star Trek version of “Han Solo”. Both are starship captains who gather eccentric crews to go on fun adventures. I really felt like I was reading one of the old Star Wars Han Solo novels except this book was much better. 

Miller throws in a lot in this book. He has stated in the past that this was intended to be a fun book, and a fun book it is. The shenanigans that Rios gets involved with are so much fun that I was racing through each chapter to find out what would happen. In typical JJM fashion, there are plenty of twists and turns that shocked me. I can totally see how he laid out the pieces in the beginning, but I did not see it coming as I read the book. Excellent execution of a mystery plot within the overall narrative.

Miller ties into a lot of different Star Trek episodes and lore. I won’t spoil them all here, but there were some great references to TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, and of course, Picard. There were some other references in there as well, including a “Knight Errant” reference which made me giggle when I read it. 

Part of what makes this book so great is it’s characters. All of the cast is easily distinguishable from each other, and yet they all work together so well. Ledger served as a great foil to Rios, and yet he played off all of the Holograms and crew members very well. 

In the first half of the book, I was really feeling let down by Miller. It was a fun story, but I couldn’t see the depth, the purpose, the pure HEART that all of his other books had. All of Miller’s best books have something that I can hold onto and say “That’s why you should read this book!”. However, I just couldn’t figure out what that missing piece was.

Until I got to the end of the book. Let me tell you, JJM knows how to write a climactic ending! I thought that not only was the ending of the book brilliantly executed, but it had that added depth and purpose that made the book so worth it. It truly turned around my thoughts for the better. Unfortunately, if I even danced around that theme, it would be a potential spoiler, so you’ll have to read and find out.

I will say that I believe that Miller is best in the Star Trek universe when he is writing about Klingons. The “Sto-Vo-Kor” scenes were the absolute best in the book and I could’ve read a whole book about them. John’s Prey Trilogy is one of the best, if not THE best Star Trek series, and it features Klingons heavily. Miller has definitely become my favorite Klingon writer. He also blends the histories of the 23rd and 24th century timelines well with the Discovery/Picard timelines. It all fit into place very well.

Recently I critiqued Miller’s use of Ferengi in Takedown. Mr. Miller informed me that he took another stab at them here, and he has very much improved his craft. He balanced all of the new species and characters well and they felt like they would have on the show.

I do have critiques though. One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Mr. Miller’s books is that they are, for the most part, free of swear words and sexual scenes. This book had more swear words than everything else I’ve read by Mr. Miller combined (I’d have to check the math on that, but I don’t believe it’s much of an exaggeration). In addition, there are several moments of sexual innuendo (and not even innuendo, but straight up sexual scenes) that really took me out of the book and frustrated me. I expect this type of thing from authors like Dayton Ward and David Mack, but certainly not from Miller. It might have been that since the series Picard is rated R and has language and sex that the editors required it in the books. Whether that is the case or if Mr. Miller decided to include them on his own, I did not appreciate them and was very disappointed. 

I will also say that the beginning of the book was a tad too slow for me. I can handle slow books, but this one needed more of a jump start. I don’t know how that could have happened, but I’m sure there could have been more of a hook for the book. The true hook doesn’t come until about 150 pages in. However, Miller’s second 2/3rds of the book more than make up for the first portion, so it all worked out in the end.

If I might add one more piece of praise to the book, it is that the book was absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud many times, and that doesn’t usually happen with Star Trek books. 

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book by John Jackson Miller. It was definitely fun, but it had a very unexpected heart at the end. I laughed out loud so much and enjoyed myself a lot. This feels like it could have been a prequel miniseries, but works just fine as a Star Trek book. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 (or 9.0 out of 10). 

In terms of my JJM ST book rankings, I’d say that this is above The Enterprise War for me, but is not quite as good as all of his other Star Trek books. If we are counting his Prey Trilogy as one single book, I would rank this book #6 out of 11 books that I’ve read of Mr. Miller.

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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