Although I didn't find the book too bad, either, I'd like to point out that we can think of alternate stories for that time period as well.
Outside the novels, we don't really know that Picard had a stellar career aboard the Stargazer
. By onscreen references alone, it could be that Picard only commanded that vessel for something like three years, and never achieved anything of importance before the Battle of Maxia deprived him of the ship - perhaps his third command, even though the first at Captain rank.
It might be that at the time of the loss of the Stargazer
, Picard was a virtual nobody, and now carried the stigma of having lost his ship as well. However, he would then go on to command two other vessels in glorious adventures and triumphant military campaigns, scoring diplomatic victories and scientific breakthroughs left and right, and this is what would earn him the command of the Federation Flagship in 2363. Anybody who dared bring up the fact that this was Jean-Luc "Stargazer
" Picard, the infamous loser, would be quickly beaten up by the crowd that cheered the Captain's heroic record of 2354-63.