The second Shatnerverse novel, The Return, captures the egomaniacal glory of the series. Unlike the first Shatnerverse entry Ashes of Eden, which follows a late Kirk adventure that put him against Starfleet, The Return picks up shortly after the events of Generations.
From the ravages of Veridian III, Kirk comes back to life via the machinations of his greatest enemies, the Romulan Star Empire. The Romulans brainwash the returned Kirk and set him not just against Starfleet, but specifically against Jean-Luc Picard. Why Picard, you ask? For the sake of the Romulans’ new allies, the Borg Collective.
That audacious combination aside — one that presents the usually crafty Romulans as buffoons easily hoodwinked by the Borg, a race not really known for their strategic acumen — The Return has some fun conceits. The adventure takes the heroes across the galaxy, including a layover on Deep Space Nine with appearances by Dr. Bashir and Quark. Strangely, Sisko doesn’t drop by, despite the man having met Kirk and holding strong opinions about the Borg. Spock’s mind-meld with V’Ger in The Motion Picture plays a surprising role in the story, and Bashir teams up with McCoy for a surgical procedure.
But really, The Return exists to make sure everyone knows that Jim Kirk is the greatest Starfleet officer who ever Starfleeted. While still in the thrall of the Borg and Romulans, Kirk takes out nearly every member of the Enterprise-D bridge crew, punking Data and Geordi and outfoxing Riker. More importantly, Kirk uses Picard’s knowledge as Locutus to find the central Borg hub and, basically, flip the “off” switch, doing what Picard couldn’t — at least, until Picard season two.
Indulgent as that story certainly is, it unfolds at a ripping, well-written pace. In fact, that trait holds across all of the Shatnerverse novels, in terms both good and bad. Ashes of Eden puts Kirk and Scotty on a new ship to defend a planet from Starfleet interference, nearly pitting these two venerable officers against their old shipmates. Sequel Avenger finds Kirk and Spock teaming up to avenge the death of Spock’s father Sarek (Sybok and Michael Burnham couldn’t be bothered, apparently).
In the three-part Mirror Universe saga of the Shatnerverse, Kirk and Picard team up and go to the Mirror Universe to battle with the ruler of the Terran Empire, Emperor Tiberius — Kirk’s own evil counterpart, who has survived into the 24th century. The final three novels in the series insert Kirk into major 24th-century events, including the fallout of the Dominion War and the assassination of Kirk following the attack on the Romulan Senate after Star Trek: Nemesis. Along the way, Kirk interacts with almost every member of the TNG, DS9, and Voyager crews, while reuniting with his old friends along the way.