Autobiography Of James T Kirk by David A Goodman book review

The Starfleet legend in his ‘own’ words, with a little bit of help from David A Goodman

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In The Autobiography Of James T Kirk, ‘editor’ David A Goodman (Star Trek: Enterprise) mines this iconic character’s back story for fodder, adding emotional depth from his own imagination in an absorbing first-person account of the Starfleet legend.

Kirk narrates his life story, beginning with his childhood in Iowa, through to his cadet training at Starfleet Academy and rise to become their youngest ever captain. The tone of voice feels very Captain’s log, and within a few chapters you’ll start to hear Shatner’s voice as you read.

As you’d expect, many of the big names make an appearance, such as Khan, Carol Marcus and the crew of the Enterprise, and even more obscure figures from Kirk’s early career are fleshed out. The real delight lies in how Goodman weaves people and plot strands from the series backwards into Jim’s imagined past and thoughts.

Some winks to the camera are more obvious. The Dr McCoy-penned foreword that begins “I’m a doctor, not a writer” hints at a referential tone, but you also have to appreciate nods like Gary Mitchell smirking, “Me with absolute power? Don’t you think that’d be a little dangerous?”

It’s basically fan fiction, but lovingly done, and you’d expect nothing less from the writer of Futurama episode ‘Where No Fan Has Gone Before’.

The first half is the strongest, perhaps because it follows the least familiar part of Kirk’s life. By the time Captain Kirk takes his place on the Enterprise’s bridge, the chapters become short summaries of famous episodes. Inevitably, the book loses its novelty. That said, it retains a bouncy sense of humour and playfulness.

The hardback edition features colour photographs altered as in-universe artefacts. There’s even a photo strip of stills from ‘The City On The Edge Of Forever’ taken in an ‘Ellison’ photo booth – probably named for the episode’s writer, Harlan Ellison.

You don’t get more iconic than Captain Kirk. Though fictional, Goodman gives him a very real voice.