The Romulan Prize is book number 26 in the TNG series novel count. It is one of the novels that came out while the show was still running (last episode aired on 1994), and the same year the DS9 came out.
This is the story of the new Romulan prototype star ship, the Syrinx, its mission and its encounter with the starship Enterprise. The story starts with Commander Valak as he is entrusted with command over the new prototype class Warbird, as we understand the mission only vaguely. Valak's encounter with the Enterprise is a step along the way for a special mission, one that would require a unique Romulan crew, and perhaps some Federation hostages. In their attempt to unravel the mystery of the world Hermeticus 2, a world deep within the Neutral Zone, the Romulan crew takes the Enterprise and its crew with them.
The Romulan's fear of a secret Federation base hidden on the planet has provoked them to investigate the matter at first hand. A federation starship orbiting the planet, though it is under quarantine, solves the riddle of the lost ship USS Independence. The starship was presumed destroyed some 30 years prior, and only a shuttle craft with 3 dead crewmen was ever found. This, of course, does nothing to diminish the Romulan fear, until the ship itself is investigated.
More questions than answers come up, as some of the secrets of Hermeticus 2 are revealed. It is done slowly, in a pace suiting a mystery novel. Also, everything happening on the two starships, the Enterprise and the Syrinx, is described in fascinating detail and order. Much of my enjoyment of the book was from these qualities, as I could not let the book go until I had completed it.
The only downside to the book is a questionable Starfleet historical description, related to Data, describing his past. This is still vague, and so had no effect on the hours of enjoyment the rest of the book had in store for me.
Furthermore, it is possible that several ideas in this book influenced the good writers of the Star Trek world, as they can be found in various ways, i.e., in the Voyager episode "In The Flesh" (1998), and shape changing life forms similar to what would later be called "Shape shifters" in DS9.
I recommend this book, and grant it the well deserved grade of 5 pips.
Title: The Romulan Prize