REVIEW: “Star Trek: Titan — Absent Enemies”

Star Trek: Titan
Absent Enemies
By John Jackson Miller
Release Date: February 24, 2014
Pocket Books (eBook exclusive)

 

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 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.

Absent Enemies is the first follow-up to The Fall, and this story presents a very different Riker and Titan than we have come to know in the novel series. Now 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.

admriker

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 9, and Voyager that take place during the time frames 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!

riker-phase

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!

- Reviewed by Literature Editor Dan Gunther

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  • Tuskin38

    I still need to read the last titan novel. This one sounds interesting though, had no idea Riker had been promoted.

  • Matt Littledyke

    Surely Picard would be a Federation Ambassador by now