(written from a Production point of view)
Space: Arena for Man's greatest dream…
- From the book jacket
- This is the story of a hero – and a moment forever lost to history.
- It is a tale of Starfleet's early days, of a time before the Star Trek we know. The story of a secret mission gone horribly wrong – and an instant in time where the galaxy stood poised on the brink of one final, destructive war. It is the story of a ship since passed on into legend, and a man we know only as the father of Starfleet's greatest captain.
- His name is Kirk. Commander George Samuel Kirk. He is a warrior, born and bred to battle. Now destiny has placed the fate of a hundred innocent worlds on his shoulders.
- And put the power of the greatest weapon the galaxy has ever seen in his hands…
James T. Kirk has returned to his home in Riverside, Iowa. The Enterprise has just returned from a mission; the Guardian of Forever sent Leonard McCoy to the year 1930, a painful scenario ending with the death of Edith Keeler. He finds a cache of letters his father wrote, nearly 25 years earlier, in his childhood possessions on the Kirk family farm.
Shrugging off attempts by Dr. McCoy to discuss his preoccupation with the tragedy in 1930, Kirk begins to read.
Commander George Kirk is the security chief on Starbase 2. While writing to his sons, Kirk notices trouble on the video monitor, in the public lounge area. Lieutenant Francis Drake Reed is in trouble, having attempted to hustle some players at the pool table. Kirk rescues him, and the two split Reed's loot, and discuss Kirk's letters to home.
Commander Kirk regrets missing his young son Jimmy's upcoming tenth birthday. Reed, a West Indian creole with a quizzical manner, taunts Kirk for writing paper letters to his boys.
Suddenly, the two are jumped by a woman in a surgical mask, rendering them unconscious with cloths moistened with a powerful sedative.
Hope and a Common Future
Nine years after the events of the Rosenberg rescue, Captain Robert April makes an address to the UFP general assembly, announcing his retirement from command of the Starship Program. He mentions that there are now five Constitution-class starships in the fleet, with seven more under construction. He lists the examples of USS Potemkin, USS Farragut and USS Excalibur, mentioning that the military sounding names are overridden by the class name, taken from the United States Constitution, speaking to the aim of creating "domestic tranquility while providing for the common defense" – of all lifeforms. He announces passing on command of Enterprise to Christopher Pike.
The epilogue lists the aftermath of the incident in the Zone and the fate of those involved. No log was ever filed or discussed relating to an encounter with Romulans. As far as Starfleet is concerned, there was no contact made by the unnamed starship on a mission to rescue SS Rosenberg.
T'Cael takes to a life as a Human, in disguise as "Cale Sandorsen," a statesman who ends up setting many precedents and making detailed recommendations for Federation first contact procedures and ambassadorial ethics between races.
George Kirk is assigned as Sandorsen's security chief, allowing him to spend more time near Earth with his family. Shortly after Jim Kirk becomes a junior midshipman at Starfleet Academy, the ship George and Sandorsen are on vanishes with no trace on a diplomatic assignment.
- In developing April for Final Frontier, having only the Animated Series episode "The Counter-Clock Incident" as a basis, author Diane Carey decided to give him "a warm, funny, visionary personality, and made him a gentle and wise counterpoint to the very volatile and action-oriented George Kirk. [… The] idea is that somehow James Kirk is the composite of the better qualities of both April and George Kirk, the visionary wisdom with the proactive reactionary hero." (Voyages of Imagination, p. 122)
- The full cover artwork to Final Frontier (as seen in the inside front cover of the original paperback release) depicts five main characters (James Kirk, George Kirk, T'Cael, Robert April and Sarah April) as well as two "fly-by" shots of the USS Enterprise. However, the front cover's large text limited the duplicated art to the depictions of James Kirk, George Kirk and T'Cael. The "front cover" shot of the Enterprise is actually the picture from the inside front cover shown thanks to a "cutaway" top corner of the front cover. (Some later printings have the front cover as a single piece with no cutaway or inside artwork.)
- The framing sequence of this story is set shortly after TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever".
- The dating scheme of this novel is based on the Spaceflight Chronology. The book had an original start date for the past sequences, around 10 May, 2183 – but later Trek canon has established the Enterprise was commissioned in the 2240s, not the 2180s as the Chronology assumed. The date of 10 May is also questionable, since later works generally treat Kirk's birthday as being in March. The relationships of time still make sense with the new dating system – Kirk was born in 2233, so his tenth birthday in 2243 fits as being within a few years of the as-yet-unnamed Enterprise's commissioning in 2245 – and also falls about 25 years before the events of "The City on the Edge of Forever", in 2267 – just as the novel notes. April's farewell address on 2 October (given date 2192, or nine years after the events in the Zone), would probably take place in 2252 – a logical date for Pike to be taking command of Enterprise. The Star Trek Fiction Timeline in Voyages of Imagination sets the novel in 2244.
- There are mentions of George and Lt. Reed, in 2243, wearing red Starfleet uniforms. Since the dominant uniform style has only beige, gold, and blue tunics in "The Cage", circa 2254, it therefore suggests a previous uniform style is in effect where the operations division wears red, as they did in the 22nd century Earth Starfleet.
- The audiobook adaptation was performed by James Doohan and Leonard Nimoy, and was released on cassette and as part of the Star Trek 25th Anniversary Audio Collection CD set.
- Final Frontier reached number eight on the New York Times Best Seller List for 24 January 1988, its third week on the list.  It remained on the list for five weeks.
- The Science Fiction Book Club released a special hardback edition of the novel in June 1988.
- A second George Kirk story came from author Carey three years later – the hardcover novel Best Destiny.
- The repercussions of this story have plot ties to several early Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes; namely "The Cage", "Balance of Terror", and "The Counter-Clock Incident".
- James T. Kirk
- Captain of the Enterprise in 2266. In 2243, he was a young boy approaching his 10th birthday, reading letters of his father's exploits in Starfleet. One of the promises young Jimmy's father made to him was that he would find out what his middle initial stood for.
- The story lists Kirk as approaching his tenth birthday while the Enterprise is undergoing prototype shakedown testing – this indicates a date of 2243, two years before the ship would be commissioned.
- Leonard McCoy
- Pavel A. Chekov
- Hikaru Sulu
- Montgomery Scott
- Edith Keeler
- Ron Oliver
- Captain of USS Kongo
- Kirk, George Samuel Sr.
- George Kirk was Starfleet Security personnel, holding the rank of commander in 2243.
- Christopher Pike
- Francis Drake Reed
- George Samuel Kirk, Jr.
- Winona Kirk
- "Scratch" Jones
- Anita Zagaroli
- Captain of SS Rosenberg
- T'Cael Zaniidor Kilyle
- Zayn Z'ir
- Romulan Swarm patrol ship of Commander h'Daera
- Future Fire
- Romulan Swarm patrol ship of Commander Tr'Poll
- laser pistol
- USS Kongo
- Federation starship of Capt. Taroyan
- USS Patton
- Romulan War Era Earth Starfleet ship
- Romulan Swarm flagship of Commander Idrys, under Field Primus T'Cael Zaniidor Kilyle.
- Romulan Swarm patrol ship of Commander Larl
- SS Rosenberg
- Seidman-class colony ship of Capt. Anita Zagaroli
- Romulan Swarm patrol ship of Commander H'kuyu
- War Thorn
- Romulan Swarm patrol ship of Commander Zayn Z'ir
- Final Frontier at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- Final Frontier (novel) at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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