Book Review – The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman

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Take that Picard-lovers. In this fictional biography, the legendary Captain takes us on a galaxy-spanning journey that offers an intimate look into one of the greatest heroes who has/will ever lived/live. I think that’s right. It starts at the beginning of his life (naturally) and ends with him preparing for the launching of the Enterprise B.

Kirk is my favourite Star Trek captain and The Original Series is my favourite, so when I saw this I wanted it really bad. I’ve only read one other fictional autobiography, I, Partridge, and that was a riot. This one takes a more serious look at the issues that plagued Kirk throughout his life, and shows his more vulnerable side, touching on the loves he has lost, his fractured relationship with his son, and the sacrifices he made to stay in space.

But the question is, for someone who has watched countless hours of Star Trek, is this really worth it?

The answer is yes, but there are a couple of niggling things that annoyed me. We’ll get to those later.

The book largely focuses on the stuff that’s left out of the television show, like his childhood and time spent at the academy. It gives more depth to some of the things that happened on the show, like in the episode Court Martial, with Ben Finney, and it’s fun to read about how Kirk and Bones became friends, and how Kirk worked his way up to become the youngest ever Starfleet captain. Meanwhile, there are hints behind the scenes about Starfleet politics, and there’s a lot of information that deepens the events of the show and movies, linking them together even more tightly than before. It is moving at times, especially when recounting the events of The City on the Edge of Forever and The Wrath of Khan. I also appreciate the fact that it’s not just a summary of all the episodes, it mostly focuses on the time before and after the episodes, and only talks about a few that have the most impact on Kirk, skipping practically the entire third season.

I enjoyed the insights into Kirk’s character a great deal and it does feel like I was getting the events of Trek from one perspective, and the author should be applauded for that.

However, there are a few things that gave me pause for thought and took me out of the story. First of all, there were a number of name drops (like Sussman, Okuda etc). I liked the references to other works of Trek, but these came organically, whereas the name drops only reminded me that I wasn’t actually reading Kirk’s autobiography. Furthermore, I feel that if they were going to do this project they should have committed do it and made it around 500-700 pages. I mean, Kirk has had so much happen in his life that it could easily have been expanded, and perhaps I’m being too demanding here but I kept feeling like there were things being left out. In the same vein, at the end there’s an ‘about the editor’ section, which talks about the author David A. Goodman and his actual facts. Why not just make it an ‘about the author’?

I already mentioned that Goodman skipped the third season, which is much-maligned, and a similar thing happens with The Final Frontier. I’m going to go into spoilers here so if you want to read the book yourself and not know anything about i then skip to the next paragraph now. So in this book the Enterprise returns to the planet seen in Bread and Circuses where a man named Eugenio came up with a story based on the adventures of the ‘real’ Enterprise that visited the planet. It just felt stupid and doesn’t make any sense (some would say ‘that’s exactly like The Final Frontier‘) but again it only served to take me out of the book, and it only felt like a cheap shot against the film.

Overall though I enjoyed the book and aside from those faults I read it quickly, and was immersed for the rest of the time. I liked the characterization of the rest of the characters, and I loved the extra information it gave about the background events and the motivations of some of the characters that only appeared in one or two episodes. I would actually enjoy more of these, and would like to see a line of autobiographies from each captain.

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