Star Trek: Picard – Rogue Elements (2021) – John Jackson Miller

The year is 2391, four years after the Romulan star was destroyed, and Simon & Schuster’s next entry in the Star Trek: Picard, is an enjoyable entry that mixes a lot of humor with a very noir detective story that ties back to one of the biggest events of the 23rd century.

The longest of the Picard novels thus far, the story continues to tie in nicely with established continuity and canon, and like the two previous novels, Last Best Hope, and The Dark Veil, is a solid adventure on its own, as we dive into some of , but not all, of Cristobal Rios’ backstory, from his acquisition of the freighter La Sirena, to why all of the shipboard holograms look like him.

And all of it wrapped up in a story that is equal parts humor, via The Original Series episode A Piece of the Action, an adventure in collecting, betrayals, and rare items via The Next Generation’s The Most Toys, and a hefty touch of film noir transposed to the tail end of the 24th century.

There is a reference to a Next Gen writer, we encounter familiar faces (not all of them friendly), there are twists, in-jokes and reveals, and at its center is Rios, who is just trying to get one job done right since his departure from Starfleet, caused by a secret he’s been forced to keep.

The novel is able to walk that fine line of having laugh out loud sequences (and some great dialogue), with moments of emotional depth as we delve into Rios. Miller gets his characters, and the story’s style and pacing makes for a lighter entry in the novel series than the previous instalments. It feels like Trek is letting loose a little bit, while still being respectful of the material. Trek can be very funny when it wants, and this one wants and is.

Through a number of odd jobs, and breaking in a new crew he had no real hand in hiring, Rios finds himself manipulated, chased, betrayed, and more as he comes into possession of La Sirena, and its contents, some of which could have financial benefits, if he lives long enough to enjoy them.

All the trappings one would expect to find in a classic noir detective novel, say like a Dixon Hill story, can be found here, simply juxtaposed into the Trek universe, and it works perfectly. Miller brings Rios, already a fan favorite, more layers in this story, and it perfectly complements his portrayal in the series by Santiago Cabrera.

And that is one thing all three novels in the expanded universe of Trek novels have gotten right… the feel. Each of these stories ties to things that have and will happen and gives them additional depth.

I don’t want to talk about the other characters outside of Rios, because it’s fun to discover them as they enter the story. The tale plays out exactly as it should, and more importantly, there’s just enough of a window after the end of this story and when La Sirena appears in the first season of Picard, for a couple more solo Rios stories yet.

All three of the Picard novels, to date, have been exemplary offerings of Trek writing, and some of the best I’ve read to date. It also is firing up the old warp engine for me to continue my journey through The Original Series novels, all of which, like the Star Trek: Picard novels, are available from Simon & Schuster!

Beam them up, and boldly go!

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