Before I go any further with this review, I should mention that this book was written prior to the release of Star Trek: First Contact or the prequel series, Enterprise. As such, it now contradicts established canon pretty profoundly. Which is really too bad, because frankly, the picture painted in Federation is so much more vivid and interesting than either of those things.
Federation covers a lot of ground — its alternating segments are divided between the ill-defined-in-Trek World War III era (just prior to the Post Atomic Horror™), the original Enterprise just after the events of “Journey to Babel” and the Enterprise-D just after the events of “Sarek.” It weaves together a narrative that encompasses the founding of the Federation, the possible whereabouts of the immortal Flint from “Requiem for Methuselah” and the bringing together of the two Enterprise crews we know best. Sort of.
I’m not going to lie to you — there’s a lot of fan service in this book. But if you can follow it (and I did on my first read, even before I was familiar with several of the TOS threads it was picking up on), it’s a pretty amazing thing. The Reeves-Stevenses really know their way around Trek history, and no character feels underused or misunderstood here. Kirk and Picard never meet face to face (spoilers, I guess) but they are linked together by powerful narrative and thematic connections.
Federation was written as a love letter to the franchise on its thirtieth anniversary, conceived as a sort of grand “opera,” in the authors’ words. For fans of the original series and Next Generation, you could definitely do a lot worse. And honestly, I’m not sure you could actually do any better.