Sunday, October 25

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk (2015)

“Edited by” David A. Goodman

I will lead with the most important point: This is indeed the first-person narrative of the life  of the original series James T. Kirk, not the alternate-timeline doppelganger that is featured in the newer movies.

That having been established, this is an enjoyable book. It’s not great, but quite interesting. It’s not really a fleshed-out faux “autobiography.” It might better be termed “memoirs.” It’s constructed as a series of short vignettes, most of them several pages long but organized into about a dozen chapters (unnamed) spanning the 23rd-c. lifetime of James Tiberius Kirk, most famous as the captain of the Starship Enterprise. There is a great deal of overlap with episodes of the original Star Trek television series and the subsequent motion pictures, but a great deal of “new” material on Kirk’s youth and linking the events chronicled in the TV/movie canon. What I found most interesting was the insight that is given into the mind of the heroic captain, who comes off in his own mind as a decidedly unheroic figure, filled with self-doubt and remorse for many of the actions that were celebrated in those stories, many of them necessary in the situations in which he found himself, but which he so often wishes could have been different and recognizes were driven – especially in the later episodes and even afterward – by an incredible hubris that had sometimes devastating effects on those around him. On the other hand, we do get a sense of the sterling character that inspired the great love and loyalty evidenced by his crew and friends. All-in-all, we get a very different view of Kirk that makes him a more realistic character than I think I’ve ever experienced him to be.

Just to comment on a couple of specifics, without giving too much in the way of spoilers: First, the vignettes in the early, pre-Enterprise, sections of the book set up and allow us to experience incidents from his early life and career that would serve as springboards to various episodes of the series, e.g., The Conscience of the King, Court Martial, Obsession, and others. We get to discover with him some of the consequences that his actions had, such as why there seemed to be quite a bit of turnover among heads of Starfleet Command in the later years, and including a nod to the joke that “the Galactic Womanizer” must have left at least some unknown children scattered across the galaxy which serves as an ingenuous way to account for what is commonly considered the low point of the post-series movies, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. There are, of course, plenty of other Easter Eggs and nods to Star Trek lore throughout, including even a subtle acknowledgment of the changing appearance of the Klingons from the series to the movies.

This is very much a book by a fan (albeit a professional, who wrote episodes for the later series Enterprise) for fans – which has the downside that I don’t think there’s anything here for someone who is not a fan, which is, I’m sure, true for most Star Trek prose fiction. I wouldn’t know, not having read any of it with any regularity for well over twenty years. If you don’t have a firm grounding in at least the original series and the movies starring the original cast, I doubt you’d be interested in this book. If you do have that background, however, I think you may well enjoy this book as much as I did.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading!

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