It’s an autobiography Jim but not as we know it, with a reminder of Susan Omand's thoughts on the Autobiography of James T Kirk, now out in paperback thanks to Titan Books...
Captain James Tiberius Kirk is/was/will be (it’s difficult describing a future date in the past) a larger than life member of Star Fleet and this autobiography charts his life in his own words from his beginnings on the farm, right through his life, both in the Fleet and personally, until his retirement and the commissioning of another Enterprise.
As a Kirk origins story, this is definitely a book to add to your Trek collection, with the inclusion of the photos and Kirk memorabilia alone making it something to treasure. His years at Star Fleet Academy are well fleshed out, as is his personal and family story, which adds a lot of depth to the character we are used to on the screen. All your favourite classic series Trek characters are mentioned in some form or another and it’s interesting to tie in the scenarios you remember from the series or the films to the stories in the book, including a mention of that wonderfully heartwrenching scene at the end of Wrath of Khan. The voice that McCoy’s introduction is written in is absolutely perfect and sets the scene well. The Editor’s footnotes were a neat addition and I laughed out loud at the idea that Kirk’s Grandfather’s Sioux name translated as “wears a red shirt”. There’s a lot of humour in the book as well as a lot of sadness, especially in Spock’s Afterword, explaining why the autobiography had been published.
But does it stand up as an autobiography? To misuse a Star Trek TNG phrase, I just didn’t “engage” with it as a memoir. I have read many autobiographies now, by people both real and fictional, and one thing holds true for all of them – you totally buy into the fact that these are memories of the person concerned. I didn’t get that with this book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great collection of short stories as told by Kirk and Trek fans like myself will love the background it provides, filling in the backstory as thoroughly as it does, but there’s a little too much to each memory, it’s too linear, without meandering side-tracks, and just felt too “well remembered” to be real memories if you see what I mean. I know at the end of the book it says it’s a collaboration between Kirk and a historian, which should explain away the organised, edited nature of the writing and the inclusion of editor’s notes helped, but I found it just a bit too polished and researched, with verbatim conversations and too much direct dialogue, rather than being a tale retold to an interviewer or note-taker, to feel like it was Kirk himself. It didn’t feel personal enough. I think the autobiography idea was a novelty and an interesting concept that didn’t quite pay off for me, so my advice is to ignore the title and what that implies. Treat this as a book of Star Trek short stories and enjoy it a lot for what it is rather than what it wants to be.
Image - Titan Books