Star Trek: Prey by John Jackson Miller (Book Review)

The period from 2016-2017 has been a banner year for the Star Trek franchise. A new Kelvin-verse (aka Abramsverse) movie, a new Star Trek show, new comics, and even two new book trilogies that celebrated fifty years of the franchise. The first of the latter, the Legacies trilogy that charted some of the adventures of Commander Una of Starfleet, was an enjoyable series that went to some of the roots of the franchise and delivered a great outing for one of the best female characters of the franchise. The trilogy wasn’t as great as I’d hoped, but it was a good read nonetheless, especially if one wanted to “get back” into the swing of things as I did.

Which is where John Jackson Miller’s Prey trilogy comes in. Written as a bridge between the movie The Search For Spock and the second TV seriesThe Next Generation while bringing it all into the modern era, it is a grand adventure of that typifies the franchise, a grand tale spanning dozens of characters across many different eras and ships as they all come together for a greater whole. It was a blast to read this one, an excellent political thriller and military adventure that you don’t get to read often enough in the franchise.

It all starts when the dead Klingon warrior from The Search For Spock, Commander Kruge, is seemingly resurrected and embarks on a mission to regain the lost prestige of House Kruge even as he does his damnable best to destroy the peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. John Jackson Miller absolutely has his work cut out for him with this new epic, and he doesn’t disappoint with the execution. This is a story that has several excellent twists as we delve deeper into the mystery of how Kruge survived, what he means to do to takeover the Klingon Empire, and how the valiant heroes from the USS Enterprise and the USS Titan intend to stop him. For the peace that has existed between the Federation and the Klingon Empire since the Khitomer Accords almost a century ago is a fragile thing and the merest destabilization of that peace means doom for the rest of the Alpha Quadrant.

What I absolutely loved about this trilogy was that John drew on characters not just from the Federation or the Klingon Empire but well beyond that as well. And even then, we have such a wide range of characters to read about, whether as villains or as heroes. John has always been a solid hand at integrating existing lore with new concepts, and Prey is certainly no different. Alongside the greats such as Commander Worf, Captain Picard, Admiral Riker, Chancellor Martok, Emperor Kahless and others, we have a host of new characters who take us on a journey across the Alpha Quadrant. We meet several other species as well, such as the Orions, the Kinshaya, the Breen and many others. Prey is a veritable treasure trove in that regard, and I’m still astounded that John managed to give everyone equal time and weight throughout the trilogy. The scope of it, whether temporal or contemporary, is just astounding.

At times the trilogy reads like a heist, sometimes like a con-job, sometimes like a political thriller and at other times it has a really strong martial tone with some excellent space battles. Amidst all of this, what John manages to achieve is something remarkable. The way the trilogy is written, I would love for there to be an honest and detailed adaptation for television. He touches on so much of what defines Star Trek as a franchise and as a concept in itself. The relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire is at the height of what makes the franchise so unique and through his incredible plotting, he effectively redefines what that means and brings it forward for a modern audience. The Klingons have a great depth of character to them as a race and it is on full display here, the good and the bad alike in all its glory.

Certainly, we see a lot of the Klingon culture through the eyes of Martok, Worf, Kahless, Kruge, Odrok, Valandris and others. There’s so much to explore in their culture, and John presents many of these different facets to the reader, right down to the very end. By that point, we learn so much of the hidden shame of the Klingons as well, and see how the many changes over the years, particularly the reign of Emperor Kahless has changed them, and how the return of Kruge and his efforts once again redefine the Empire with respect to its relationships with the other races of the Alpha Quadrant and even within between the different Houses.

Hell’s Heart is the opening salvo of the trilogy, with The Jackal’s Trick being the roar of the guns as the glorious charge begins and The Hall of Heroes is the triumphant victory that follows. The amount of detail that you can find here, the various twists and turns, it can be overwhelming at times, and even a little cumbersome since all you want to do is get to the final page quick as you can but have to read carefully or you end up missing out on certain key details. That’s what happened to me as I’m generally a fast reader and had to slow down in several places to make sure that I understood some of the interconnecting dots and all.

The consequences of events herein will indeed have ramifications for the new generation of lore for the franchise, and I certainly look forward to reading more of what comes next, to see how the lives of all of these characters are changed, for good or for ill. For all of that, when Pocket Books tells you that this trilogy is meant to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek, you certainly end up believing it. It doesn’t have some of the outrageousness of the other grand stories, but as I said before, Prey is rooted into the heart of what defines Star Trek.

On a personal level, I feel that Prey is an even better celebration of these 50 years than Legacies was. Perhaps that’s because we have a single author at work here, rather than three different ones. As much as collaborations are highlight of the franchise and there have been some great ones such as The Fall series, there’s something to be said about such a massive-scope trilogy as Prey being written by a single author.

In the end, when we get right down to it, what matters is that Prey had an excellent pacing, that it was a grand roller-coaster adventure, and that it tied together so many disparate elements of the franchise as exist today. This is, in many ways, classic Star Trek fiction, and I’m really happy that this series came out when it did and that John executed on its inherent promises so very well. I loved every single character that we got to see, especially the Breen and the Orions who, while minor, nevertheless had a great impact on how the larger story unfolded. Sure, there were the bigs and greats like the crews of the Enterprise and the Titan, but really, there’s so much more here than just that.

Buxton Cross, someone at the heart of the disastrous conspiracy unfolding within the Klingon Empire, was also a fantastic character, and I was blown away by how well he was written and the affect that he had on those around him. Without someone like him, Prey might very well have not gelled together as well as it did. And of course you have Emperor Kahless who reaches a spiritual apotheosis of sorts by the end, which is a fitting (temporary) conclusion for his character given that he is nothing more than a clone of the real Kahless.

It’s been a few months since I’ve read the trilogy, and with some of that hindsight, I do want to say that I really enjoyed the trilogy as a whole and that it is one of those stories that you definitely want to get back to again at some future point. The re-readability factor is there in spades.

So yes, this is a highly recommended series.

Rating: 9.5/10

More John Jackson Miller:

More Star Trek:

  • Cast No Shadow by James Swallow (Review)
  • Legacies Trilogy by Greg Cox, David Mack, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore (Review)
  • The Fall #1: Revelation and Dust by David R. George III (Review)
  • The Fall #2: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (Review)
  • The Fall #3: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack (Review)
  • The Fall #4: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow (Review)
  • Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack (Review)
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