Way back when, I read through several early ST:TNG novels (all put out during first season). It was a pretty sad bunch. One of them was notably better than the others (not to say that it was worth recommending), and it made sense when I looked at it afterwards and noted it was by Peter David.

Now I’ve come into possession of some slightly later ones; I think this was put out between seasons two and three (and officially it’d need to be set during season 3, as Dr. Crusher is mentioned, though she never gets ‘on camera’). And I can say things have gotten better for the novel line by this point.

Just. Barely.

There’s some good ideas here. The Enterprise ends up involved in a lost colony where all forms fiction are banned, and the repressive government is dedicated to ‘truth’, if not necessarily honesty. There’s a long-running underground rebellion dedicated to preserving literature and mythology. This part is handled fairly nicely, including a very multi-cultural set of story traditions.

However, there’s a couple of side plots that don’t work well at all. In fact the secondary plot gets going first, and looks like it will tie in directly to the main plot, but eventually turns out to be nothing but a red herring. This undermines a fair chunk of the structure of the novel, which is a real shame because at the same time it was also an early look at Troi and her abilities, and undermining that also hurts. The shift to red herring for the secondary plot could have been a nice subverting of expectations, but the payoff isn’t good enough to make it work. (I much prefer my initial expectation that the area happened to be where some form of extra-dimensional thought-beings resided, and Rampart’s efforts to quash fiction was started as an effort to keep from being unduly influenced by beings they can’t understand. Spoiler: Nope.)

And the world-building itself is lackluster. You never get to see what passes for normal life on this planet, never get a sense of what an ordinary person on this planet is like, how the overall culture works, and just why/how there’s apparently a constant bleed of people into the resistance. Also, this setup apparently got started by a bunch of Christian fundamentalists (the “truth” of the colony starts with an inerrant Bible), but there’s no hints as to how they got to be in charge, because the stories and myths that the resistance is preserving shows that the original colony ship had a very diverse population. Also, in the current day the planet has quite a bit of super-tech that lets them plot execption much of what a 24th Century starship can do.

So, it would take a lot of work, but we have a salvageable high concept here. One that could say some interesting things in the tradition of the best of Trek. But we get an underbaked plot, poor characterization (not something to attach a lot of blame to, as the main cast characters would still be developing in the time period the book would have been written, since there can be a notable lead time for that), and no more moral lesson than ‘fundamentalism is bad’ (it would have been fairly easy to point more at ‘stories are important’, and middle does this, but not so much the conclusion).