I read Ex Machina
in 2009. It remains one of my favorites because it's so well-written. I agree it's not for those who prefer more action-packed novels. But if one appreciates stories focused on character building, Ex Machina's
a great read.
What I like most about the novel is that it establishes Will Decker was captain of the Enterprise
and not merely a place-holder for Kirk. Most of the crew was hand-picked by either Decker or Uhura- an element that fits nicely with the rest of the story as the crew had expected to serve under Decker rather than Kirk- during the refit and had to adjust to the sudden return of the old guard.
There are also interesting challenges for the Big Three. Kirk has to face whether he made the right choice by taking the ship back, as he grapples with whether Decker could have accomplished the mission in his absence. Kirk's situation manifests in several awkward exchanges with Scotty. The latter seems to be on a perfectionist jag due to his uncertainty about Kirk's ability to command a vessel with which he's not familiar. Spock copes with the repercussions of his mind meld with V'Ger. McCoy and Natira try to get reacquainted.