Read again? Yes.
Talin IV is a dead world. Five Enterprise officers are blamed: Captain Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura have all resigned from or been kicked out of Starfleet. Dr. McCoy has resigned in protest. Everyone scatters into fish-out-of-water plotlines, learning that they had been living easy aboard Enterprise. Now they can't just go wherever they want. Things they once took for granted cost money now. Finally, they get to see that the Utopian mindset of Starfleet doesn't really trickle down to the regular people.
Kirk goes off by himself, taking odd jobs and moving on as people realize who he is, sort of like Bruce Banner in "The Hulk."
Sulu and Chekov team up, fighting their way into crew positions on an Orion freighter.
McCoy and Uhura join forces. He's the sloppy liberal, she's the neat-freak conservative...hilarity ensues!
Spock joins the Space Hippies.
Mr. Scott is the only Enterprise officer untouched by the scandal, and he's put in charge of recovering the crippled starship. How'd it get crippled? There need to be some surprises.
Naturally, all roads lead back to Talin IV. Starfleet won't investigate further, settling for a quarantine of the Talin system, and it's up to the Enterprise folks to figure out what happened and make Starfleet give them back their jobs.
This is maybe the 5th time I've read "Prime Directive," but it's the first time in about a decade. It's aged well, especially compared to Peter David's "Vendetta" novel. The Stevenses' style is much sharper--and in some ways it's like watching a good "Trek" episode or movie. I especially like the way they don't fall into the stock "Trek" trap of depicting the Federation and Starfleet as near-perfect, Utopian government systems. There's a bureaucracy in each with enormous inertia--and sometimes that inertia keeps the higher-ups from being able to stop and look at a situation carefully. Then, they blame the media (didn't see it specifically in the book, granted; but humans haven't changed much in thousands of years. Why would they be so different in a few hundred?).
Characterization is good, the plot and story are engaging...right up until we find out what killed Talin IV. I didn't care so much for the cause, and that's what I took a point for.