Friday, February 28, 2014

Absent Enemies

Star Trek: Titan
Absent Enemies by John Jackson Miller
E-book exclusive
Release date: February 24th, 2014
Read February 24th 2014

Previous book (Titan characters): The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms
Next book (Titan): Sight Unseen

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Spoilers ahead for Absent Enemies, the outcome of The Fall, and the Titan series!

From the back cover:
Newly promoted Admiral William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan are ordered to race to Garadius IV—a planet Riker knows all too well from an unsuccessful peace mission when he was still first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. But this time, he finds a mysterious new situation: one with the potential to imperil the entire Federation. One of the warring parties has simply vanished…

My thoughts:

First of all, a warm welcome to John Jackson Miller to the Trek universe! After having read his recent Star Wars novel, Kenobi, I've been very excited about his first foray into the world of Star Trek writing. How did Absent Enemies turn out? Read on!

As the first follow-up to The Fall, Absent Enemies presents a very different Riker and Titan than we have come to know in the novel series. No longer a captain, but an admiral, Riker finds himself having to adapt to this new role. Some of the best parts of this novella feature him realizing that he is in danger of becoming the overbearing and self-righteous admiral or Federation official that so often plagued missions aboard the Enterprise. Perhaps my favorite recurring bit is when Riker says "This is outrageous!" in exactly the way that the aforementioned Federation interloper would, rather than taking action the way a Starfleet captain would. Riker, upon realizing this, would scold himself for becoming something he hates.

The story itself is an interesting diversion from the usual inter-connected quadrant-spanning political tales of late. The stakes are lower than usual, and the overall tone of the story is closer to an episode of the television series than full-size novels tend to be. Much like last year's The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow, Miller has effectively used the size of this novella to his advantage. The temptation might be to tell a huge story but then trim it down to fit the format. Instead, Miller has crafted the perfect tale to fit the parameters of this novella. The end result feels like it should: a small adventure that is easily consumable in an evening.

The flashback to the voyages of the Enterprise-D was very welcome. In some circles, there has been a desire to see stories set aboard the Enterprise, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager that take place during the timeframe of the respective television series. Although the flashback takes place in a very small part of a small story, it was very nice to see the crew back together again. I also enjoyed the connection to the TNG episode “The Next Phase.” In particular, I have to give points to Miller for his valiant attempts to explain the scientific implausibilities in that episode!

In "The Next Phase," how were Laforge and Ro able to pass through walls but remain standing without falling through the floor? And how could they breathe? Kudos to John Jackson Miller for attempting to explain these questions!

If I have only one complaint, it's that at certain points in the story, the voices of the characters seemed a little off. In the flashback portions in particular, characters such as Picard or Troi didn't quite sound like themselves. However, it is a very minor quibble, and for the most part I found Absent Enemies to be a very enjoyable story!

Final thoughts:

A tightly-plotted and fun little story that is very much in the spirit of classic Star Trek. A good start for John Jackson Miller's Star Trek adventures. And it has been reported that Miller will be writing a full-length Trek novel to be released in 2015. After reading Absent Enemies, I am very much looking forward to more from him!

Further resources:

Also by John Jackson Miller:

My next read:

Next up will be my review of Greg Cox's new novel, No Time Like the Past, featuring an exciting crossover between the original Star Trek and Star Trek: Voyager!

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