Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: Hell's Heart, by John Jackson Miller

A Star Trek novel for Klingon fans that mashes Picard and Kirk into the same story.

Hell's Heart

Pocket Books, 2016, 400 pages

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!

When Klingon commander Kruge died in combat against James T. Kirk on the Genesis planet back in 2285, he left behind a powerful house in disarray - and a series of ticking time bombs: the Phantom Wing, a secret squadron of advanced Birds-of-Prey; a cabal of loyal officers intent on securing his heritage; and young Korgh, his thwarted would-be heir, willing to wait a Klingon lifetime to enact his vengeance.

Now, 100 years later, while on a diplomatic mission for the United Federation of Planets, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise are snared in the aged Korgh's trap - and thrust directly in the middle of an ancient conflict. But as Commander Worf soon learns, Korgh may be after far bigger game than anyone imagines, confronting the Federation-Klingon alliance with a crisis unlike any it has ever seen!

I am not a fan of media tie-ins. I can probably count the number of media tie-in novels I've read in my life on the fingers of one hand. And I'm not a huge Trekkie either. I like Star Trek well enough — I've seen most of the movies and TOS, TNG, and DS9 and bits of the other series. But normally I would just not be interested in reading a novelization of the further adventures of Kirk and Picard — there are too many, well, actual original SF novels set in original universes to read.

But this one was on sale at Audible, and I'd just played the Star Trek: Ascendency boardgame (which is very good, if you like 4x games), so what the heck.

Star Trek Ascendancy.jpgv
I always thought the Cardassians were just wannabe Klingons. But they sure do motivate their workers!

Now, here is where I tell you that I am so glad I did, and it totally changed my opinion of tie-in novels, right?

No, not really. Hell's Heart is a decent romp through the Star Trek universe, and packs a ton of recognizable characters into what reads convincingly like an episode of a never-aired extra season of ST:TNG. But that's all it is, more adventures of the TNG crew. With extra historical flashbacks to include some Kirk and Spock as well.

Hell's Heart is mostly about Klingons. Aside from the Enterprise crew, most of the characters are Klingons, and the plot starts with this guy:

Commander Kruge

Commander Kruge, who you may remember from Star Trek III, the Search for Spock, was the Klingon who killed Captain Kirk's son and ended up getting thrown into a lava pit. Villainously played by Christopher Lloyd, a hundred years later he is remembered by some Klingons as a renegade, and by others as a Klingon's Klingon who'd never have stood up for some namby-pamby treaty with the Federation. The author of Hell's Heart goes into a lot of (no doubt Paramount-approved) detail about Klingon culture and politics, sets up a colony of forgotten Klingon ronin, and a plot by Kruge's alleged heir to regain his legacy and incidentally undo the alliance with the Federation.

Picard and Ryker go through their paces being Picard and Ryker, and naturally Worf is the star of many chapters. There are also, as I said, several chapters going back to events of a hundred years ago in which we learn of Kirk and Spock's role in the creation of this situation. There are Klingon politics, starship battles, and Star Trek-style fisticuffs. Somehow, even in conflicts between civilizations with FTL, teleportation, and energy beams, they always wind up going at it in hand-to-hand combat.

That's trademark Trek — that, and the familiar technobabble, and the obligatory moment where Geordi La Forge fails his INT-roll in order for the story to proceed. (It's just so convenient that cloaked starships happen to emit exactly the same sort of subphase betablipper yobbleflammistan particles that old freighters with wonky impulse drives might radiate, so who can blame a highly perceptive veteran Starfleet officer in charge of screening arrivals at an important diplomatic conference for deciding those funny emissions must be the latter and not the former?)

This isn't a deep novel, and it doesn't do anything radical or exceptional with the Star Trek universe, but if you're still missing The Next Generation and Picard is your Captain, it's an entertaining enough visit with old friends.

This is the first book in a trilogy, so it ends with obvious dangling plot threads. If you're into Trek you'll probably find it worthwhile to continue — I might if the next book comes on sale.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, reviews, science fiction

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