Star Trek: TOS--Final Frontier (Diane Carey)
Pub Date: 1988
Read again? In another few years.
Billed as the "third giant Star Trek novel," the book follows George Samuel Kirk, father of 10-year-old James Kirk. George and his comic-relief sidekick Francis Drake Reed are nabbed from their Starbase, taken to an undisclosed location, and asked to help rescue a bunch of settlers whose ship has been disabled by Space Weather. The back of the book tries to play cagey and mysterious about the ship George and Drake are aboard, but it's pretty easy to figure out from Carey's descriptions--even though the ship is brand new and un-named. Isn't that unlucky or something? Or have the Trek folks moved past superstitious sailors?
We also follow James Kirk, some 25 years later, just after the events in "City on the Edge of Forever." Kirk is upset at losing the woman he loved (Edith Keeler), so he holes up in the barn of his family farm, reads 25-year-old letters from Dad, and ignores the hell out of everyone else, determined to feel sorry for himself just like dear old Dad was doing when he wrote those letters. McCoy and Spock show up in turn to try to help their friend and captain with his grief.
This being "Star Trek," there have to be bad guys. This time it's the Romulans--and they're curious about this unknown, un-named starship that suddenly drops right in their laps. It's a very Cold War story, with all the mutual suspicion and paranoia about the Evil Other. It's a precursor to the "Balance of Terror" episode of the original series in some ways. The episode marks the first "official" time humans and Romulans get a look at each other--but "Final Frontier" has George Kirk meeting a Romulan face to face. No idea whether this book's story line is accepted as canon among fans, but the way the meeting is resolved, it doesn't conflict with the show.
That said, I didn't like the wrap-up of the Romulan plot, so I gotta take a point off.
It's been maybe 10 years since I last read this one--and I've put off reading any sci-fi, any big series, and especially either of the Big Two franchises (Star Wars is the other one) because they wear me out--a lot of the books just plain suck. So anyway, it's been a decade. The book's an easy read and the three main plot threads are nicely braided together, but it will be a long time before I read it again, if only because of the other 1500 or so books I still need to look at.