auto-kirk-coverThe Autobiography of James T. Kirk chronicles the greatest Starfleet captain’s life (2233–2371), in his own words.

From his birth on the U.S.S. Kelvin, his youth spent on Tarsus IV, his time in the Starfleet Academy, his meteoric rise through the ranks of Starfleet, and his illustrious career at the helm of the Enterprise, this in-world memoir uncovers Captain Kirk in a way Star Trek fans have never seen.

Kirk’s singular voice rings throughout the text, giving insight into his convictions, his bravery, and his commitment to the life—in all forms—throughout this Galaxy and beyond.

Excerpts from his personal correspondence, captain’s logs, and more give Kirk’s personal narrative further depth.

Order The Autobiography of James T. Kirk:

While James T. Kirk is arguably Starfleet’s “greatest captain,” we haven’t gotten his life story in his own words… until now.

Thanks to his editor, David A. Goodman, and the application of some “wibbly-wobbley timey-wimey” stuff, you can now read The Autobiography of James T. Kirk right from the horse’s mouth!

The book itself is laid out in a chronological fashion, with Kirk’s childhood and early years comprising the early chapters and his later Starfleet career making up the majority of the book.

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Jim Kirk’s entire life is covered, including his time at Starfleet Academy.

Revealed are his experiences on Tarsus IV during the massacre by Kodos the Executioner and the events that led him to apply to Starfleet Academy, all the way up to the days leading up to his disappearance during the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B in Star Trek: Generations. The conceit is that this memoir is published posthumously, with a touching foreword by Leonard McCoy and an afterword by Spock of Vulcan.

It’s a fairly quick read, with Kirk moving quickly from one event to the next. If there is any kind of main throughline to the story, it is Kirk’s attempts to balance his personal life with his professional life as a Starfleet officer.

Time and again, he must sacrifice his sustaining of a relationship or any semblance of a “normal” life in order to chase his best destiny: command of a starship. From that one woman from far in the past who touched his life, Edith Keeler, to Carol Marcus who ends up being the mother of his son, Kirk struggles to find love and ultimately winds up married to his career above all else.

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All of Kirk’s major experiences are touched upon – and of course, his time on Tarsus IV.

One fun thing that this book does is to link disparate parts of Kirk’s life together, bringing deeper meaning to what were once small “throwaway” lines in Star Trek episodes and films. Additionally, in what will likely prove to be a controversial choice for many Trek fans, David Goodman deals with the inconsistencies in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in a very unique way.

Another great touch was the addition of “editor’s notes” throughout the narrative that lent a feeling of verisimilitude to the pages of the book. Little things that Kirk gets wrong in the book that are “corrected” by the editor make this feel like a real autobiography. Also, a full color insert of pictures in the middle of the book from Kirk’s life, including his Academy graduation photo and travel documents to Tarsus IV, lend even more credibility.

I definitely preferred the parts of the book where an effort has been made to expand on or create new events in Kirk’s life, rather than rehashing what we already knew. There are some interesting insights to be gleaned here, and Goodman’s writing kept me interested throughout the book such that I finished it quite quickly, reading through it in a couple of evenings.

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So, did this happen – or not?

If you are interested in learning more about the process of writing this book or further insights from the author on his experience in creating Kirk’s backstory, please check out the latest episode of Literary Treks, in which I and co-host Matthew Rushing talk to David Goodman at length about this book!

Final thoughts:

From reading The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, it’s very clear that David A. Goodman knows his stuff. He captures the unique voice of Kirk in the pages of the book, and his relationships with those around him feel very real.

I would have like the book to go more in depth in some of the areas we know less about, but Goodman does a very good job in balancing what we know with new material. There are some very clever choices made in this book that made me grin, but that might make other fans dislike the direction he takes.

Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone, but I think that Goodman has crafted an entertaining life story for our intrepid captain, and this volume will have a place on my bookshelf.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
"The Autobiography of James T. Kirk"
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  • Thanks for the review! I have a copy sitting on my desk and, for some reason, it hasn’t made it to my nightstand. I think I’m worried that it will somehow sully my view of Kirk. It sounds like I’m safe to go ahead and start it.

    • Actually, I’d recommend that you NOT read it. The Kirk in that book isn’t the one I saw in TOS, and he’s full of angst and self-doubt, perpetually tortured by his lack of a stable romantic relationship, and a mean-spirited jerk who tries to break up other people’s romantic relationships because he has none of his own. That’s not James T. Kirk!

  • They have TOS KIRK born on the Kelvin?! WTF?

    • Hank Drake

      No, that’s a mistake that was in the blurb and never corrected. In the book, Kirk is born in Iowa.

      • TrekRules

        Yeah, you should see the number of reviews on Amazon that say the book is bad because of that – obvious they never read it and just want to complain.
        Sounds like it might be interesting. It is cool that they made an Academy photo of Kirk – helps make it feel more real. Goodman is sure carving out a nice spot for himself as the Star Trek historian.

      • Oh, good. Thanks for clarifying!

      • Bob Oh Mighty

        If I recall, Kirk said he was FROM Iowa. He never said where he was born.

  • Zarm

    As an (the world’s only?) avid Star Trek V fan, my wife is offended. I’m bummed at the apparent gloss-over of the second five year mission, but I will check this one out nonetheless.

    • Zarm

      I did, and… it was terrible. Absolutely wretched. A tortured work of continuity porn that- all due respect to the reviewer- failed in any way to capture the voice of Kirk.

  • Oh, thank goodness according to other comments, the mention of the Kelvin on the back cover isn’t reflective of the text of the actual book.

    It’s cool that they made a photo of Kirk at the academy, but what exactly is the uniform he is wearing? That doesn’t look like the uniform Finnegan was wearing in Shore Leave.

  • Campe

    Read the book over the past few days. Hate the attempted retcon of Trek V but really enjoyed the rest of it.

  • M33

    Good book,

    However….
    There is a MAJOR SCIENTIFIC MISTAKE.

    At one point, Kirk is briefly exposed to the vacuum of space and he -holds his breath- until he gets back into an oxygen environment. The real science is that holding your breath in space wil cause your lungs to burst and also force air into yoyr bloodstream. Youd be dead in 10 seconds or so. 2001 made the same error.
    Other than typos, good stuff.

  • Muzer

    Wow, just finished reading this book. What an amazing read! The author is clearly a very talented man. Though there were a few sections that slightly confused me, and a couple of what I assume were jokes or references that went over my head, it was still a very cleverly written and amazingly well-thought-out book, with excellent attention to detail to bring together and flesh out all the scraps we learn about Kirk throughout the franchise into one cohesive, believable and really, really interesting story. I genuinely felt the emotion at multiple times; hell, I felt the impact of David’s death so much harder than I did actually watching Star Trek III!

    And I do love how he reconciles Star Trek V ;).

    I’m going to have to read it again.

  • CmdrR

    Shatner’s eyes are hazel, but show VERY green in that pic. I know it’s possible… if he were standing next to an army tent or something at the time. It’s a cool idea, but I would want something with more substance. I wouldn’t mind seeing Shatner take a crack at a Kirk POV story. That could be cool. (No run-ins with SpaceJesus, though.)

    • Muzer

      Having read it, I can’t agree that something written by Shatner would have more substance than this!

  • crosseyedlemon

    I always liked the idea that there was a certain amount of mystery and speculation about Spock’s background that even Kirk and fellow officers weren’t aware of. Knowing everything about our heroes is not always a good thing. I don’t have a problem with a Kirk autobiography per se but I think a little mystery in his past would be beneficial and help add to the legend.

  • David

    Let’s just suggest that in the 23rd century, they recognize conception on the U.S.S. Kelvin as notable. With no Narada, they made it to Earth in time for Winona to deliver James Tiberius at home in Riverside, Iowa. Works for me. We’ve got till 2233 to sort it out.

  • Wayne C. Brooks

    Totally enjoyed it. A terrific read.

  • I’ve seen all 79 episodes of TOS many, many times, and the James T. Kirk I saw in those episodes is NOT the man portrayed in this book. The Kirk in this book is full of angst, paralyzed by self-doubt, and constantly tortured by his lack of a stable romantic relationship. He’s also a mean-spirited jerk who tries to break up OTHER people’s romantic relationships because he has none of his own and is jealous of theirs.

    Does that sound like Kirk to you?

    I don’t know how Goodman got the contract to write this book, but he was the wrong guy for the job. He’s clearly done some research and knows a lot about Star Trek in general, but he has completely missed the heart and soul of the character he claims to be portraying.

    Yes, we do see in “The Naked Time” that Kirk misses having a stable romantic relationship. But to take the things Kirk said while he was not himself because of the polywater intoxication and generalize them as being the One True Thing about Kirk is a mistake. Yes, we do see Kirk have moments of self-doubt, such as in “The Apple,” when he second-guesses himself about not having aborted the mission after the first death. But those are MOMENTS of self-doubt that exist to humanize the character; that self-doubt isn’t perpetual!

    The man I saw prowling the bridge of the Enterprise is a bold and confident man who absolutely adores being the captain of the ship. He’s a tactical genius and a persuasive orator. He’s a man who treats his crew like family and who is, in turn, adored by them and given everything they have. Unfortunately, that man is not present in this book.

    While Kirk never gets to have a stable romantic relationship, he does have deep and important relationships in his life. Though they’re not romantic, his friendships with Spock and McCoy are deep and important relationships that do much to fill his heart, and he considers those two men his family. Those relationships are given short shrift in this book; their importance in Kirk’s life is occasionally stated but rarely shown.

    Kirk’s childhood and family background are adequate, though I have trouble picturing the Kirk we know coming out of the background he’s given here. But I’m a clinical psychologist in real life, so I accept that what I consider to be a realistic background may not be the same as what other readers would want. 🙂

    Aside from the mis-characterization of Kirk, the book curiously flat. The book makes the Tarsus IV tragedy … not terribly emotionally affecting. Over and over again, events are portrayed, but most of the emotional punch that should go with those events is absent. The author writes clear prose, but it’s not very affecting.

    This book is a grave disappointment, because it misses the greatness of James Kirk and makes him a much smaller, weaker, and more mean-spirited man than we know him to be. I wish Spock had neck-pinched the author while he was writing it, so that this travesty had not been foisted on the public.

  • Fish Griwkowsky

    Small issue, but ***spolier alert*** if using time travel they change the events of The Naked Time (specifically the freezing to death in the shower), how does the TNG clue into it later by that event during The Naked Now? Took me right out of the book.

    • Greg Price

      Simple explanation: they didn’t change the events. They simply moved on while those events still occurred.

      • Zarm

        But they did go and change them, very explicitly, in this book.

        • Greg Price

          Nope. They just waited for Enterprise 1 (the pre-time warp Enterprise) to vanish then they went on about their business.

          • Zarm

            (Wait,we are talking about Psi 2000, right?) It very clearly says (in this book) that about 2 seconds after the bridge scene at the end of the episode cut away, Kirk suddenly realized no one at the research station had died yet, orders Sulu to turn around, stuns the shower-guy before he can turn off the life support, and saves the staff on Psi-2000.

            I mean, I know that’s not the version of events we’ve traditionally had (like int he Janus Gate trilogy), but that is *this* book’s version of events for The Naked Time. (I’m guessing that’s where we’re disagreeing, because you’re saying- and if so, I agree with you- that that’s not what we’ve been shown happening at the end of Naked Time before? It’s just that this time, they changed it.)

            I’m not saying it jibes with what was implied in the episode (where it was suggested they’d do exactly what you said; just wait for their past self to disappear and resume their lives then), but I think that was the original poster’s criticism; that this book tried to change things (half this book is a giant retcon), and it doesn’t really end up fitting.

            In a similar way, the book seems to suggest that Where No Man Has Gone Before was 2 years into the 5 year mission, so that season 3 of TOS was the 5th year and there was no TAS afterward, that Lori Ciana never existed (and in fact, that it was the Enterprise’s helmsman that died next to Sonak, with Illia being a last minute replacement), that Kirk ditched Rand because he felt guilty about what his other half had almost done to her in The Enemy Within (jerk move!), and that Kirk was actually demoted back to Captain rather than commanding as an Admiral during the post-TMP second 5-year mission. Or heck, that somehow bringing Gillian Taylor forward in time (who was also a ‘visionary’ the way Edith Keeler was) made up for not saving Edith and gave Kirk peace, which has to be the biggest stretch I’ve ever heard of. So basically, this book is the Enterprise of novels- boldly flying into the face of previous expanded continuity like a wrecking ball and disregarding most of what had been established before… including the events that directly followed The Naked Time.

          • Greg Price

            I don’t remember it happening in the book that way. I’d have to get hold of it again and re-read it. If it did, then yes that would be a WTF moment because Starfleet officers are not supposedto alter history in that way.

          • Zarm

            Yeah, I really just think that this book was mostly an exercise of the author taking items that personally irked him (to his credit, it never occurred to me that they’d gone back in time to a point where the staff of Psi 2000 *could* be saved), and ret-conning them; the whole book seems to pick and choose its incidents (at least, in command of the Enterprise) at random, base don whatever the author seems to think he had something to add or alter. Which really makes it very fan-ficy (in the negative sense), since it’s really all just about reshaping TOS in his image (which explains the poor characterizations and aggressive moralizing on religion, marriage, and career vs. family), ignoring the broader work of the franchize and the other materials and details of Kirk’s life that did not conveniently fit the author’s preferred narrative.

            In short, it was full of WTF moments because little things like a Starfleet officer’s duty seemed to be secondary to the author’s head-canon becoming reality.

  • Greg Price

    Thin spirited and frankly MEAN spirited revisionism. This book never should have gotten past the approvals process.