The 'small universe' syndrome has caught some flack, but I didn't have a problem with it. The military has many families with histories going back generations. It seems likely that they will be involved in major events, and following them seems to me to be a valid approach.
It was very much a 'setting the scene' novel, but the political angle was the most interesting - I'd have liked a little more of it. That and some more background to the ships of Starfleet - particularly the later NX's and refits.
My major gripe was that both of the 'ship' stories were resolved with a slightly heavy emphasis on the way forward being exploration and understanding. I'm not arguing against that - it's at the heart of Star Trek, but to have two stories making the same point seemed a bit much.
I'm certainly looking forward to the next one !