Federation is perhaps the most solid and entertaining Star Trek stories you will ever read. It is an extremely ambitious story in that the authors - who are renowned for their Star Trek knowledge and contributions - effectively takes several threads of the Star Trek universe, and ties them all together masterfully. This is the movie we were meant to see. Kirk's Enterprise - while still on the first five year mission - effectively works with - but not quite interacts with - Picard's Enterprise. Both crews at their youthful glory. Not the old geezers we began to see in the movies. In this book, they have captured the best of both crews.
A friendly warning: Throughout the book I was looking forward to the crews of both Enterprises interacting. If you want interaction between each crew, read The Return by William Shatner - that is the best you will find. Unfortunately, I was slightly disappointed with the ending of Federation because of this factor. But once I got over it and looked back at how the authors brought the two crews "together", it was done ever so magnificently.
The story goes along on three different time tracks. Two, we have discussed above. However, the third follows Zephram Cochrane - father of the warp drive - through out his life. It starts in the mid twenty-second Centruy.
Most younger fans will know of Cochrane as the drunk from the TNG movie First Contact. However, those who watched The Original Series saw the original portrayal of Cochrane during the TOS episode Metamorphosis. We see a man who clearly is not a drunk and much more honorable and somewhat shy. This is the Cochrane that is portrayed in Federation. A respectable man. It is worth noting that First Contact was written about two years after this novel was on the bookshelf. Not only does the movie change the character, but it significantly changes the world (of the twenty-second century) that we read about. Do not let this stop you! In fact, Federation's portrayal of the twenty-second century is truly one of the major highlights of this book and follows everything we have learned from Past Star Trek history including aspects we have seen from Khan Noonien Singh, to events that were mentioned in TNG episode Encounter at Farpoint. The writers of First Contact really did a poor job at following their own history.
Plot wise, the common thread is the adventure of Cochrane as we see the events leading up to the episode Metamorphosis, and on though. We see how he is followed by his crazed nemesis, Colonel Adrik Thorson of the twenty-second century Optimum Movement - who is an extremely well developed character and one of my favorite adversaries from any novel - and how he is tracking Cochrane through different time periods just to learn the secret of the fictional "Warp Bomb". To make a long story short, the chase continues through Kirk's time and end's during Picard's.
I suspect that fans of The Original Series will like this book better than The Next Generation fans. However, I recommend this book to all!