Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Jackal's Trick

Star Trek: Prey
Book 2 of 3
The Jackal's Trick by John Jackson Miller
Release date: October 25th 2016
Read November 9th 2016

Previous book (Prey): Book 1: Hell's Heart

Next book (Prey): Book 3: The Hall of Heroes

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for The Jackal's Trick!

Publisher's description:
Continuing the milestone 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek—an epic new trilogy that stretches from the events of The Original Series movie The Search for Spock to The Next Generation!

The Klingon-Federation alliance is in peril as never before. Lord Korgh has seized control of the House of Kruge, executing a plot one hundred years in the making. The Klingon cult known as the Unsung rampages across the stars, striking from the shadows in their cloaked Birds-of-Prey. And the mysterious figure known as Buxtus Cross launches a scheme that will transform the Klingon Empire forever.

Into danger flies Admiral William T. Riker and the USS Titan, charged with protecting the peace forged nearly a century before during the Khitomer Accords. Aided by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise, Riker and his officers scour the stars, seeking to find the Unsung and uncover the truth behind the conspiracy before time runs out.

Yet even as Commander Worf departs on a deeply personal mission of honor, hidden sinister forces seek to turn the crisis to their advantage. And the conspirators’ plans threaten to spiral out of control, jeopardizing the very empire they aspire to rule.

My thoughts:

The Prey trilogy continues in book two, The Jackal's Trick! In this instalment, Galdor (recently revealed to be the treacherous Korgh) has seized the House of Kruge through dishonorable means. His troops, The Unsung, believe they are being led by the legendary Kruge himself. However, "Kruge" is actually a Betazoid con artist by the name of Buxtus Cross. Book one, Hell's Heart, was an examination of the history of Galdor/Korgh, while this book takes a look at what led Buxtus Cross to where he is now.

Cross was a former Starfleet officer who had murdered a fellow officer. Escaping from prison thanks to some skilled "truthcrafters," Cross now leads the troupe as they ply their schemes across the galaxy. "Truthcrafters" are basically con artists who use tricks and illusion to hoodwink unsuspecting victims. Think Ardra from the TNG episode "Devil's Due," who used cloaking technology, transporters, and holography to convince the people of Ventax that she was their version of Satan, returned to collect on an ancient debt. Cross, in his guise as Lord Kruge, has taken control of the Unsung in order to carry out Korgh's scheme. However, he has his own goals in mind as well.

The people manipulating the Unsung have created a cult of personality around their fake version of Lord Kruge.

One thing that stood out to me in The Jackal's Trick is the way in which the Unsung are manipulated. It has a very familiar feel to it. They have an unwavering belief in and support of Kruge, to an extent that is downright scary. It does, however, make a lot of sense. The Unsung are discommendated Klingons, which makes them among the most vulnerable in that society. People who have had everything taken from them can be very easily manipulated. Weakened or oppressed people have always been easy targets of a charismatic leader. Germany's disillusioned population after World War One fell under Hitler's sway, and cults will often target new arrivals to a city because they are cut off from family and may feel lonely and vulnerable. In fact, the Unsung feels very much like a cult. One Klingon in this book says to Worf that it "doesn't matter" that their leader may not truly be Kruge; he is nonetheless "saying the right things." This all seems eerily familiar, which makes it all the more terrifying.

One thing that John Jackson Miller excels at is writing exciting, beautifully visual scenes. There are a few in this book that certainly jump out. At one point, the Unsung are attacking a conference being held at H'Atoria. During the battle, just when you think the Starfleet forces are completely outmatched, Riker issues a coded order and Starfleet troops emerge from beneath the water in a brilliant counterattack. Not only is the sequence amazing to imagine, but it is reflective of part of the story being crafted in this trilogy. Throughout the narrative, Korgh and his schemes makes some headway, seeming to embarrass Starfleet and harm their standing in the Klingon Empire. However, at no point are they completely defeated, and the result is a sort of cat-and-mouse game in which both sides score their own victories from time to time. This makes for an exciting story in which you are never really sure what will happen next.

Admiral Riker and his flagship, the Titan, put in an appearance in the Prey trilogy.

Also fun to see is Riker and the Titan getting some more "screen time." The crossover aspect of these event trilogies are always a highlight, and it's great to see the various crews working together to solve a problem. With the Aventine set to show up in book three, Prey is looking like a more epic story all the time. While maybe not on the level of Destiny, it's still good to see these larger stories being undertaken by the novels.

As with Hell's Heart, The Jackal's Trick ends on a completely unexpected note. In this second book, we learned a lot about Buxtus Cross and what makes him tick, but in book three, it seems as though there is yet another mastermind behind what has been happening. Her story is yet to come...

Final thoughts:

Another strong entry in this exciting trilogy! I'm really getting into the story of Korgh, and once again, Miller has crafted a tale with plot twists that I didn't see coming at all. After reading a few hundred Trek novels in my life, I would not have thought it possible, but there you go. Setting up an exciting conclusion for book three, this trilogy just keeps getting better and better.
4.5/5 stars.

More about The Jackal's Trick:

Also by John Jackson Miller:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

The Prey trilogy concludes in Book 3: The Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller!

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