Book Review: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAMES T. KIRK

Here is a fact: I am a massive Star Trek fan. I was first introduced to the series by my fellow-nerd mother in middle school, and an epic 3-year marathon later, I had seen EVERY episode. (Yes, and the movies. No, not the animated series.)

This is all to say that when I saw THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAMES T KIRK in the bookstore, I had no choice but to read it, I bought it on the spot–as opposed to getting it through the library like I do most of my reads.

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KIRK is essentially a re-cap of all Star Trek history from the Original series through movie number 7 (Generations), with gaps filled in and greater complexity cast on Kirk’s life from childhood to death. The book paints a much more conflicted Kirk than is obvious from the 1966 show, and gives him a cohesive arc of youthful potential to middle-age hubris to elderly regret–something easier to grasp in a several-hour reading than over the 30+ year span of TV and movies the character inhabited.

Like any fandom book, the real fun is in recognizing the references, both to other settings, characters, and situations in-universe, as well as a few subtle nods to the TV show production itself. My favorite was a throw-away line about the planet Tarsus IV looking “just like Southern California”–because of course so many of the alien landscapes in the Original series were filmed outside LA.

Really my only complaint is that I wanted more. The description of the academy curriculum was tantalizingly short. The chapters dedicated to the 3 years of the Enterprise’s on-screen 5-year mission read like a highlights reel, little emotional nuggets of background to many of the episodes I know and love. I never dove into tie-in novels as a kid, but this is one I thoroughly enjoyed.

So I actually read this book several months ago, but have held off publishing a review on account of it being intended as a gift for someone who frequents these pages. In that time I’ve been thinking a lot about fandom additions–both in light of this book and a certain other franchise that has the word STAR in it. (Yes, I have seen that certain other movie that just cracked $1b, and yes, I liked it more than I anticipated.) Really I think JJ Abrams and his teams deserve prodigious high-fives for even daring to take on two of the largest sci-fi pop culture icons and dragging them into the 21st century. No, they aren’t perfect, but I found both the 2009 Star Trek movie and the 2015 Star Wars movie to be worthy successors of their respective mantels. Giving a fandom more is the definition of a double-edged sword, and we should be grateful that there are people–like Abrams and the author of KIRK–who are willing to try.

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