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David A Goodman

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

After my rough start with The Autobiography of James T Kirk, I was leery of picking up The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, but I’m glad I did. Listed as the “story of one of Starfleet’s most inspirational captains” it is presented as if it were written by Picard and once again it is “edited” by David A Goodman.

The foreword by Beverly Crusher Picard immediately establishes that Picard and Dr. Crusher married sometime after their TNG days together, which pleased me to no end, but when Q co-opted her foreword I almost put the book down. The editorial choice for Goodman to interrupt a book by Q was unbelievably lame.

We start in Picard’s youth on his family’s vineyard in Le Barre, France, and he establishes the difficult relationship he had with his father and older brother. He shows ambition from an early age and never gives up on his quest to join Starfleet. His Starfleet days showed that he was a stickler for the rules, and didn’t necessarily have the charisma that you associate with a captain.

To me, the book started to take off when he graduated and began his career leading to an early captaincy of the USS Stargazer. He ended up spending 20+ years on that ship, and we are shown why he would choose to stay on an old ship for so long. Normally we associate officers in Starfleet as having stellar careers but Picard has some ups and downs, and sometimes makes decisions that are a bit suspect. He also has time off-ship and has to deal with bureaucracy and uncertainty.

What I liked about this book, so much more than the Kirk novel, was that the relationships between Picard and others were so much more believable and fleshed out. His friendship with Jack Crusher and a young Beverly on the Stargazer, established the crushing guilt he felt when Jack died under his command leaving Beverly widowed with a young son. He long carried a torch for her but felt he couldn’t act on it. I enjoyed meeting some people from his past that were new to me, and I loved every time that he first met a character that you knew would play a role in what we know as Star Trek canon.  When he was given the USS Enterprise to lead he specifically asked for some officers that he had met in past missions on other ships.

His time on the Enterprise wasn’t covered in-depth, as this book is geared mostly to fill in gaps of his life we are not familiar with. I was disappointed that so few pages were devoted to his time with the Borg, as I thought that was a crucial and life-changing event for him. His later years, including his time as Federation Ambassador to Vulcan, and his late in life marriage to Beverly isn’t given much time either.

These books are supposed to be viewed as canon, as they are approved by Paramount and CBS Studios, but as it was written in 2017 I question how much it will hold up as it was recently announced that there will be a new Star Trek series starring Patrick Stewart who will once again play Jean-Luc Picard. While I am thrilled at the chance to experience further adventures with Picard, I do wonder how they will handle storylines, and if any of his TNG crew will make appearances, especially Gates McFadden who played Beverly. Please have all of them on the show- make it so!

An autobiography about Spock will be coming out in August of 2019 (edit- pushed back to September of 2021), and since my opinion of these novels written by Goodman has improved, I plan on picking it up. I need to know the identity of Spock’s wife that was hinted at in this book! In the meantime- live long and prosper my friends.

-Nancy

For more information on Picard’s book, tune in to the enjoyable podcast Trek FM: Literary Treks 209 that interviews Goodman

 

The Autobiography of James T Kirk

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.

-Nancy

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