Crazy timing man. I am right now re-re-re-reading this and was going to look up the review thread.
This one goes right next to Spock's World for me. It gives such incredible insight not only into the characters but also the larger world of Trek.
I love Chris using the story to address something that has always bugged a lot of Trek fans, namely the seemingly cavalier way that Starfleet often seems to operate, especially Kirk during the original five year mission. It's nice to see a more openly introspective Kirk.
The religion stuff is perfect. Personally I am a Pagan. I have no patience for the mindless extremism and zealotry of many, but at the same time I also have no use for the materialist reductionists who want to assume that those of us who believe in "God" or Gods or paranormal phenomenon etc must either a: be stupid or b: just haven't had it explained to us properly. Because surely if they just explain for the one billionth time why their views are the only "logical" ones we will smack our collective forehead go, "Oh of course. Now I get it." and march in lock step with them.
Ultimately a brilliant novel about a very complex subject. Frankly it makes me wish that he'd write something set during the tv run of DS9.