“We lived on a farm near Riverside, Iowa, on a piece of property that had about 200 hectares of crops. We grew soybeans and corn, had chicken for eggs and cattle for milk and cheese. As far back as I can remember we were up at 4am every day …”
Such was the childhood of Starfleet’s greatest Captain, James Tiberius Kirk.
Aged 43, having lived a thousand lives on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, Kirk decides to retire to these rural roots. Affronted by his friend McCoy’s disdain for such a mid-life crisis, he reminds Bones of this farming upbringing.
“You grew up in outer space,” replies Bones. “I was there.”
This brilliant book, an imagined autobiography, is the story of James T. Kirk’s great growing up and growing old in the galaxy. From his raw cadet days, to his final hurrah, sort of, as featured in the movie Star Trek VI: Undiscovered Country, Kirk tells us the story of his life.
It’s ingeniously and succinctly done – warts and all, a Kirk autobiography would run to a Sarpeidon library. From the Captain’s chair we get the Jim Kirk take on events we know from the series and films, as well as others realised brand new. Kirk’s bravery and loyalty are present, but also his stubbornness, his anachronistic Mad Men of the future worldly ways, and his drive to succeed whatever the cost.
He regrets many things – lost friends and explorers, his failures as a father, his burden of pride – but he revels in the magic and excitement of space exploration. Looking back, he understands the cycles of his life: when one period of voyage was over, the shore leave, then the yearning to go spacefaring again. Even as we leave him, a man of incredible achievements, he is justly proud of his adventures, but not a little haunted.
I love this book, no other way to put it. Pushing at an open door of course; William Shatner’s Jim Kirk is as real to me as many real people – more so in fact. When I was a kid, he was my favourite by a long way. While the early sections on Kirk’s youth are very enjoyable, the book really goes into warp speed once events start to touch on films and episodes you particularly like and remember. Obviously if you know the Canon inside out, this will be a doubly interesting process, but if you’re just a basic fan like this reviewer, it works just as well. It’s just a great story, well told, well imagined.
As we end, it is 2093 and USS Enterprise B is about to leave the dock. Our man is about to take his seat, a distinguished guest in full media spotlight as a new crew take command. Of course, disaster awaits, and Kirk saves the day – at great cost. Typically – onboard ostensibly as aged celebrity voyager of yesteryear – Kirk finds himself having to wrestle control of the chaos. Somehow these events and their follow-up, the story of the film Star Trek Generations, never seemed the most fitting last show for James T. Kirk. I think this book brings him back a bit from that forlorn cairn on Veridian III for a proper send off.
Of course, to break the spell, it’s not a real autobiography. Of course not – how foolish (ahem) to have been sucked in. ‘Editor’ David A Goodman has done a wonderful job – capturing particularly the tone of William Shatner, his brusqueness at times, that galaxian ego, the gambler. And also that deeper current, the reasons for Kirk’s endurance as a character, indeed the achievement of Shatner’s portrayal – his heart and humanity, his fundamental goodness, his incredibly endearing motivations in the face of danger and destruction. The Original Series Star Trek characters, like Holmes and Watson, say, just have this enchanted depth. They are the vanguard of a fifty year old cultural phenomenon that shows no sign of slowing, and Kirk is their leader – only the very best fictional creations live in this air.
The minute this book begins – brilliantly with a Foreword from Bones (“First let me just say, I’m a doctor, not a writer”) – there’s a soundtrack and a fanfare starting in your head. It’s a book for those of us who hear those first notes of the theme from the Original Series and get goosebumps, for those of us who get sad at the end of Star Trek VI, for those of us who have always dreamed of Starfleet.
This is no ordinary book. This is the autobiography of the Captain of the Enterprise – damn it, Jim!
The Autobiography of James T Kirk is published by Titan Books and is written by David A Goodman. You can read the interview with David that accompanied this original review over at One Giant Read.