I am a big fan of the Star Trek universe, so when I saw this book come highly recommended by a Goodreads friend, with whom I have many similar reading tastes, I snapped it up. A description from Amazon says it is the “first officially produced in-universe biography of the legendary and iconic Star Trek character, Captain Kirk“. Written as if it were the memoirs of Captain Kirk, I was prepared to love it.
Sometimes we read a book at just the right time in our lives, so the book speaks to us, as if it were written for you alone. Other times due to timing, a book is read at the absolute wrong time, so you end up hating the book. Unfortunately, this book falls into the later category for me. Let’s find out why!
The book starts out promisingly, with Kirk recounting his childhood in Iowa with his parents and older brother Sam, to the book’s “editor” David A Goodman. It proceeds through his first time off planet with his mother, then through his early years of Starfleet Academy. We meet many of the people who will play a part in his later missions, for several of them tie in with school and his first two ship assignments. Thus, the narrative takes official Star Trek canon and builds around it.
Once we hit the Enterprise years, the book came to a screeching halt. Kirk’s recollections lurched from one episode to another, recapping what we know happened in the tv show and later in the movies. Spock and McCoy were barely mentioned, and their friendship did not ring true, even with their foreword and afterwards bookends. Then the other important quartet of Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekhov were also all but ignored in this supposed memoir. There was so sense of unity or teamwork among the Enterprise staff, much less the family he left behind. Even the Khan stories lacked power.
Now let’s talk about the ladies. Kirk is known as a swashbuckling ladies man, but in this story he is a petulant man child. He is callous to his first love at the academy and is a complete ass and a deadbeat dad to Carol and their son David. There is no mention of his marriage to Miramanee, whom I felt was one of his true loves, and doesn’t mention the kiss with Uhura. The largest story goes his romance with Edith during a mission he went to the Earth’s past. He moons over her death, and then slights other women. Even with Carol and David come back into his life years later he doesn’t muster much excitement or love for them. When David dies, he isn’t heartbroken and dismisses Carol, never to see her again.
I believe there are three glaring reasons why I didn’t like the book. One- my eldest just started college, and I miss him terribly. I was angry at Starfleet for making family life basically impossible. Family relationships were torn asunder by the long absences, and the choices people made if they wanted to accept a promotion. Second- I recently had a negative experience when someone else’s bad decision affected me. So Kirk’s many decisions through out his career, where others were collateral damage to his ego, infuriated me. Thirdly- the filling in around canon didn’t seem authentic to me. While it was approved (so I assume the new info is canon too now), it all seemed fake and wooden. I recently read Superman: American Alien which did the same thing, but that story filled in the gaps of Clark Kent’s growing up years in a very believable way.
So while I hated this version of Kirk, I am going to do what many fans do when faced with problematic story lines or conflicting data- I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist. If I can forget about Spock’s brother or how Klingon’s first looked when we met them in TOS, I can forget about Goodman’s Kirk. Instead I shall remember the blustery but fun William Shatner version that started this whole Trek phenomenon. Live long and prosper, my friends.