One of the longest story-lines in the Star Trek universe is definitely the one about those almighty beings called the Q. They, together with their most well known representative Q (portraid by John de Lancie), had their first appearance right in the first episode of the second Star Trek show: Star Trek: The Next Generation and since then appeared in not only a couple of other TNG-episodes (including the last one) but also in DS9 and Voyager. With Q & A Keith R.A. DeCandido extends the world surrounding the Q Continuum with another story that brings Q again down onto Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise to finally explain some things.
The story is set shortly after the TNG-book Resistance and the reader, according to the trend Death in Winter and Resistance started, gets to know a whole lot of new people that should accompany the old crew on finally getting back to what Starfleet is all about (although it was missing for the most part after the first seasons of DS9): exploring the universe. But right when the Enterprise-crew is about to get on with the whole exploring-thing, Q appears and starts talking about the end of the universe etc.
First to the good things: As I’ve mentioned above, this book introduces again some new characters (replacing those that were killed in Resistance) which is normally a dangerous thing to do, but I’m really glad to say, that the new characters feel like good additions to the already known crew, with Zelik Leybenzon being a war veteran who got field-promoted to an officer although he personally doesn’t really like officers, and Miranda Kadohata being chosen by Data himself as a replacement for him back when he was supposed to be the Enterprise’s new first officer. In general the whole interaction between the characters was great, esp. with Q, acting as the always annoyed and never understood omnipotent being who just wants to have some diversion while still doing everything to save the universe.
The whole story was actually quite good, but for my taste involved perhaps a bit too many flashbacks. Given that Q experience time different than us merely mortals, it’s not really a problem that most of the background story of the whole Q vs. Picard-thing is explained using flashbacks, but still … well, actually the book’s plot that takes place in the “now” is more or less just the end of the other big story told here. Just so much: Naturally, it’s all about Q ;-)
There were also some guest appearances by Will Riker, Admiral Shelby and Admiral Janeway which at least didn’t felt as … annoying (yet still unnecessary except for Janeways and unnecessary) compared to those in Death in Winter. Perhaps just letting completely random people make those appearances would help making the whole ST-universe appear bigger than how it fells right now.
What should make up for all these flashbacks (in case you don’t like them), is the whole character development involving the new characters as well as little things like how Geordi deals with the loss of Data (doesn’t fit in with some stores in Strange New Worlds X, but anyway).