In “I Am Slaughter” and “Predator, Prey,” the first two novels in Black Library’s 12 part mega event “The Beast Arises” story for their Warhammer 40,000 line a massive threat was introduced to the Imperium of Man; the Orks. The story takes place after their “Horus Heresy” story line, but before their novels set in the 41st millenium. So it’s been years since the bestial but often comically unintelligent Orks have been seen. In these first two novels though they come roaring back more powerful than ever because they’re better armed and their intelligence and cunning levels appear to have evolved.
So in the first two novels the stage is set by establishing just how dangerous a threat the Orks are. We see them tear planets apart and they even bring an entire Space Marine chapter to the brink of extinction. Those made for fun and exciting novels, but I’m glad for the third novel in the series “The Emperor Expects” Gav Thorpe does something different, but just as interesting; he focuses on telling a story of political intrigues.
Much of the action in Thorpe’s novel takes place in two locales; in deep space as the massive spacefaring vessels of the Imperial Navy muster to prepare for an assault on Ork battle moon. (I love typing those words. The idea is so fun and imaginative) that’s attacking a vital Imperial shipyard, and on Earth in the Imperial palace. The Navy scenes are enjoyable, but they didn’t really kick off until to the second half of the book for me when I had become attached to the new characters that Thorpe had introduced. The Imperial Palace scenes were excellent all the way through though.
In those scenes we get to spend more time with Drakan Vangorich, the Grand Master of the Officio Assassinorum, who has played a major part in the first two books. We also get to know a little more about his mysterious and reluctant ally Inquisitor Wienand. The two are part of ongoing struggle in the Imperial Senate over how the Imperium should cope with the Ork invasion. So we get lots of machinations, double dealings, and political gambits with them. It’s not something you often see in 40K novels so it’s fun to watch unfold, especially when rival Inquisitors show up to try and oust Wienand and seize power.
Thorpe also checks in with Captain Koorland, one of the last (if not the last) surviving members of the Imperial Fists Space Marine chapter. I really liked Captain Koorland in the first novel and seeing how he copes with the fact of being perhaps the lone surviving member of his chapter is fascinating. I look forward to more scenes with the character. Watching how he carries himself and tries to reconcile his place in the universe humanizes the Space Marines in a way you don’t often see.
“The Emperor Expects” isn’t all about politics and survivor’s guilt though. There are some great action scenes. The second half of the novel is when the time you spent aboard the Oberon class voidship with Captain Rafal Kulik and his chief officer First Lieutenant Saul Shaffenback pays off. You root and fear for those characters as their ship takes part in the assault on the Ork armada protecting the battle moon and as they repel some green skin invader that board their ship.
While that’s going on we also get some action on Holy Terra as Inquisitor Wienand deals with an attempt on her life. Those scenes are a lot of fun because Thorpe writes them like scenes from a great spy/political thriller and they unfold against the backdrop of another facet of 40K we don’t often see the pilgrims that come to Earth.
I don’t want to reveal to much, but another reason I love the action scenes in “The Emperor Expects” is Thorpe gives them some hope. Too often in stories like this, where brave underdog heroes are put on the back foot against a powerful alien menace, there’s a tendency to have the heroes lose all the time and get their asses handed to them. It’s frustrating and makes the heroes look kind of incompetent. So it’s refreshing to have the heroes score a victory here and there, what’s even greater about the victory in this novel is that it by no means turns the tide of battle. If anything the stakes are escalated and the Imperium is in even greater danger by the end of “The Emperor Expects.” So Thorpe not only gives readers a fun, refreshing story with great characters he also moves “The Beast Arises” story forward in a way that makes me excited to read the next novel in the series.
In the ‘90s I became a pretty big fan of the Weird Western genre thanks to the Jonah Hex comic books that writer Joe R Lansdale and artist Tim Truman did for DC Comics Vertigo imprint and some of the short stories I read by one of my favorite pulp writers, Robert E Howard (creator of Conan), that mixed elements of the Western with horror and darker fantasy. The Weird Western was just a fun combination. It was like the literary equivalent of Psychobilly; a musical genre that melds punk and rockabilly and often featured horror imagery and lyrics.
So it’s no surprise that the cover to Shane Lacey Hensley’s “Deadlands” roleplaying game caught my eye in 2006 when I was browsing through a book store. The cover of an undead gunslinger by Gerald Brom and the tag line of “The Weird West Roleplaying Game” just spoke to me and I quickly bought the book. I also picked up pretty much all the source books in the line and it’s two spinoff lines “Deadlands: Hell on Earth,” and “Deadlands: Lost Colony.”
What made “Deadlands so intriguing were its fun rules and great character design mechanics, but also the fantastic world that Hensley and his later collaborators built. Essentially “Deadlands” is a cleverly conceived cocktail of the alternate history, steam punk, horror, and fantasy. Everything melds together to form an insanely cool world, and the way that world blends actual real world history with the genre elements is fascinating.
In the world of “Deadlands” American history was changed forever by two major events. The first was a massive supernaturally triggered earthquake that dropped much of California into the ocean and transformed the area into a network of cliffs, canyons, and waterways dubbed “The Great Maze.” That earthquake also lead to the discovery of “Ghost Rock” a new mineral that acts super fuel to a whole host of steam punk style devices. The other major event was that the American Civil War never ended because at the Battle of Gettysburg the soldiers that died got back up . . . and they were hungry. A consequence of the war never ending is that Sioux were able to build their own nation within the United States borders.
So in “Deadlands” undead gunslingers haunt foreboding trails, murderous mad scientist construct clockwork doomsday devices, and magic is a very real and potent weapon. It’s a very fruitful and fun world to play in.
Even though I don’t play the Deadlands RPG anymore (One of the downsides to becoming an adult is it because increasingly hard to find people to commit time to RPGs) I still love the setting and I was very excited that the creators were going to let some authors play in their world in a series of official novelizations. Even more exciting was the fact that one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Maberry would be first up.
If you’re a fan of Maberry’s work, especially his Joe Ledger series, you know he’s a master at genre melding particularly when it comes to blending action and horror. So the world of “Deadlands” is a good place for Maberry to cut loose and have some fun, and that’s just what he does with his novel “Ghostwalkers.”
Much of the action in “Ghostwalkers” plays out as a buddy action tale between two fun and different Western heroes. The first hero we meet is very much your classic western protagonist; a travelling gunslinger with a mysterious past named Grey Torrance. When we first meet Grey he comes to aid of, or at least attempts to come to the aid of, Thomas Looks Away a different type of Western hero. That’s because Looks Away is a member of the Sioux Nation who fled America for Europe as part of a traveling Wild West show where he acquired an education and contacts in the esoteric and dangerous world of Ghost Rock powered sciences.
Looks Away is fleeing the agents of a powerful businessman and scientist who is also a master of necromancy and needs protection on his return trip to the Great Maze town of Paradise Falls. So Looks Away hires Grey and they head out to the Maze together. As they travel Grey becomes more and more acquainted with the weirder aspects of the Deadlands world and bonds of friendship and trust between him and Looks Away are formed. They’re the classic mismatched buddy pair.
“Ghostwalkers” really picks up when Grey and Looks Away reach the Great Maze because Maberry has a real feel for the place and expertly brings it to life via his prose. He depicts it as almost a dusty combination of nineteenth century America and the world of Mordor from “Lord of the Rings.” It’s a treacherous world of canyons and cliffs where hellish and ancient monsters that had been locked away in the Earth can attack at a moment’s notice.
Grey and Looks Away arrive in Paradise Falls soon after reaching the Maze and that’s when the pacing, action, and fun in “Ghostwalkers” becomes fast and furious. More supporting characters are introduced but we also get harrowing action sequences with zombies, demon possessed undead, undead dinosaurs, giant worms, and all manner of crazy technology. It all climaxes with an epic and full out battle for Paradise Falls where a ragtag band of townsfolk and their Ghost Rock weapons face off against an army of the dead.
So if you want a rocket powered pulp western style thrill ride featuring great characters, weird menaces, and Maberry’s trademark awesome action scenes pick up “Ghostwalkers.” You’ll be glad you did. Maberry clearly had a hell of a time running wild in the weird and wonderful world of “Deadlands” and so will you.
Warhammer 40K and Horus Heresy novels can do a lot of things. They can take you to strange and futuristic worlds, present intriguing characters, offer up fascinating and complex moral questions, but most of all they’re kick-ass adventure tales. The best ones are all of those things, but that doesn’t mean the ones that don’t do several of those things or the ones that just end up telling an over the top, in your face, Heavy Metal, adventure story are necessarily bad. Quite the contrary. I look for entertainment and things that the author does right in my 40K novels, which is probably why I didn’t judge Mitchell Scanlon’s Horus Heresy novel “Descent of Angels” as harshly as some reviewers and maybe as harshly as I should of.
I say that because I just finished the eighth novel in the Horus Heresy series, Ben Counter’s “Battle for the Abyss” and I liked it. It may not have done a lot of the other stuff I enjoy about Horus Heresy novels, but it was a kick-ass, over the top in the best Heavy Metal sort of way adventure story. So was it “Legion,” Dan Abnett’s fantastic seventh entry in the Horus Heresy? No, but “Battle for the Abyss” was still a heck of a lot of fun.
In the book Counter winds time back a little bit until just before most of the Imperium of Man is aware that the Space Marine Legions of the Primarch Horus and the Legions of several of his brother Primarchs have rebelled against the Imperium. One of the Traitor Legions, the Word Bearers, lead by the religious zealot Primarch Lorgar Aurellian who worships the four malevolent Chaos gods, are looking to make a devastating secret first strike against the Ultramarines, one of the most righteous and by the book of the Loyalist Space Marine Legions. So with the help of the traitorous Tech Priests of Mars that have sided with Horus, Lorgar sends a massive warship loaded with fanatical members of his Legion to launch a surprise attack on Macragge, the Ultramarines’ home world.
In the early stages of “Battle for the Abyss” a ragtag band of Space Marines from several different Legions catch wind of Lorgar’s scheme and head off on a desperate pursuit to stop it. So Counter’s story starts off as sort of a chase novel and one of ship to ship combat, and honestly those are the weakest and slowest parts of “Battle for the Abyss.”
I enjoy it when the colossal void ships of the Warhammer universe battle, but for me “Battle for the Abyss” didn’t pick up until midway through the book when Counter opens the door for man to man battles between Space Marines. That point is where the battle against the Word Bearers and the Loyalist Space Marines gets really savage and interesting. The void ship battles pick up too because then they become battles of endurance where the mettle of Counter’s battered, bloodied, and weary heroes is tested in a multitude of ways.
It’s also where Counter tuns the action up to 11 and things get epically METAL! We get running gun battles and savage melee combat between Space Marines. At one point a Space Marine battles a demon on a collapsing star ship. I’ll say that again a SPACE MARINE BATTLES A DEMON ON A COLLAPSING STAR SHIP! When I read that fight I almost dropped the book because I had to throw up Dio style metal horns with my one of my hands. It was that cool.
Of course the battles don’t mean anything if you’re not invested in the characters and by the time the final battles start I was invested in the heroes of “Battle of the Abyss” and I really wanted to see the villains taken down– and hard. In terms of characters Counter did something a little different from previous Horus Heresy novels he drew his cast from several different Space Marine Legions instead of just one or two. That had both advantages and drawbacks.
The main drawback was that we didn’t get to take as deep a dive into the warrior cultures of the Space Marines as we had in other novels. Counter does give us quite a bit of insight into the Word Bearers since they’re the antagonists of the novel, and we get some about the Ultramarines since members of their legion make up the bulk of the force trying to stop the Word Bearers, but we get less about the cultures of the other, and in my opinion far more interesting Legions the Space Wolves, the World Eaters, and the Thousand Sons. Of course the other draw back is with time split between so many different heroes and villains it’s harder to get to know and appreciate them all.
As I said though, by the end I was fully invested in Counter’s cast. The Word Bearers are great villains and Counter uses them effectively. They’re fanatical super soldiers, that make pacts with demons and worship evil gods. So they’re fearsome and incredibly fun to hate. Counter’s heroes were kind of a mixed bag starting off. It took me a while to bond with his main Ultramarine characters since they can be a little stodgy especially if there’s not room to develop them, but the writer makes them more likable and interesting by forcing them to overcome huge obstacles and make tough calls. So by the end I was cheering for Captain Cestus, the leader of the Ultramarines and the commander of Counter’s intrepid band of heroes.
I have a soft spot for members of the Traitor Space Marine Legions who went against their Primarchs and stood by the Emperor of Mankind. So I was very happy that we got not just one, but two of those characters in “Battle for the Abyss,” the World Eater Skraal and the member of the sorcerous Thousand Sons Legion known as Mhotep. Both of those characters were fascinating and well used by Counter.
Counter also includes some Space Wolves in the band of heroes chasing down the Word Bearers, but I was not as impressed with his portrayals of them as I was his other heroes. Still, I did find myself rooting for their captain Brynngar– when he not being a jerk. Of course in Counter’s defense I’m not sure if I was supposed to like Brynngar and the Space Wolves for most of the book. The writer does provide some interesting explanations for their behavior in later chapters.
So in summary, “Battle for the Abyss” started off slow and came on really strong at the end. It may not have done as much as some of my other favorite 40K and Horus Heresy books, but it did do one thing and it did it exceedingly well– tell an epically over the top, action adventure story. And the end result was an incredibly fun book.
I started doing these book reviews as a writer’s exercise. Basically the goal was just to capture what felt about what I just read well also preserving any surprises that may come, because those can be some of the most enjoyable parts of a book; especially the kinds I read for enjoyment which are usually mystery/crime, horror, science fiction, fantasy and action adventure. Preserving those reveals can be a challenge though. Which is a good segue way into talking about Jonathan Maberry’s latest Joe Ledger novel “Kill Switch.” There’s so much cool stuff here, but you know what? I can’t talk about it! I don’t want to spoil it for you. So let’s see what we can do.
In many ways “Kill Switch” is a payoff novel. If you’ve followed Joe Ledger through his seven other adventures you’re going to love “Kill Switch.” This is a book where a lot of the pieces from other novels come together to give you some solid and exciting answers, but at the same time raising more questions. I can also say if you love Joe Ledger and the DMS this book is going to hurt you. It’s going to worry you, and if you’re like me there’s a good chance it might even make you cry in some (and in my case a lot of) spots.
From that pain though that Maberry inflicts on his cast and us readers comes some great drama. We already know that Joe and his colleagues are tough, heroes, but in “Kill Switch” we get to see how tough they are as they tangle with situations that would break the hearts and snap the sanity of lesser people. We also get to see that these larger than life heroes are human. Because they fail and they fall on more than one occasion, but they get up and they keep trying to hold back the darkness even against impossible odds.
When I say impossible odds I’m not kidding either. I can’t delve too deep into that area because, again spoilers! (The book really is a wild and fun ride of “OH SHIT!” and “HELL YEAH!” moments). Let’s just say this time Joe, Mr. Church and the DMS are up against a many headed hydra that includes real world foes, old foes, secret cabals of powerful and wealthy men, and what just might be the forces of one of the greatest horror franchises ever created. If you’re a fan of that horror franchise you’ll be happy to see that Maberry is clearly a fan as well. The book is full of fun little easter eggs and direct homages to said franchise.
What makes the story even more powerful though is at its core one of the things “Kill Switch” is about is the relationship between fathers and sons. There’s more I want to say here, but again spoilers! I can say these relationships involve some new and fascinating characters that are incredibly nuanced. You look at a character one way, but then you look at them through the eyes of that father-son relationship and you see him in other powerful and sometimes poignant ways. I will also say I love one of these new characters and hope that we see them again in future Ledger novels.
So if you’re a fan of Jonathan Maberry this book has it all! It might even have some fun nods to his other book series! For me, The Ledger series has sort of become the novel equivalent of the big summer movie blockbuster. They hit right around the time summer begins and every year they never disappoint. This year was no exception. In fact having gone through “Kill Switch” with Joe Ledger and his DMS family I would say I’m more invested than ever in these characters. Maberry leaves them with a perfect ending and you can bet when he picks them up again in the next Ledger book I’ll be right beside them yelling, “Hooah!”
With “I Am Slaughter” writer Dan Abnett, one of the Black Library’s best authors kicked off their newest event series “The Beast Arises” with a bang. It was a fun and thrilling read, populated with fascinating characters, and imaginative worlds. Best of all it gave us a glance of something we’ve never really seen in Warhammer 40,000; the Imperium of Man in a state of relative peace. So I was excited to tackle the next chapter in the year long event story line, the novel “Predator, Prey” by Rob Sanders, a writer whose work I had not read before.
Let’s get my one real problem with the book out of the way first. I’m not really a fan of the Orks as villains. They’re entertaining as obstacles and side missions, but to me they’re kind of forces of nature like the Tyranids. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re truly terrifying like how they were when Abnett wrote them in “I Am Slaughter” and other times they’re just sort of faceless obstacles like how they were portrayed here. Don’t get me wrong. The action scenes still crackled and were full of tension and intrigue, but with wave after wave of unrelenting ork slaughter some scenes felt like a disaster movie rather than a battle with a monstrous force of foes.
So in future novels I’m hoping to see more personalities within the Orks. I also want to see what united them and armed them with their fearsome and awesome attack moons. I sense something there and it could be Sanders wasn’t allowed to reveal that yet since he was charged more with setting the table in this second entry to “The Beast Arises.”
What Sanders does succeed at in “Predator, Prey” is creating some memorable places and populating them with interesting characters. For me, the most fascinating place was Undine an aquatic hive world where giant cities floated on chemical seas. On that world we follow the fight for survival of Lux Allegra, a member of the Planet’s defense force and her allies. Lux is a pretty likable character and her planet is a really interesting one; especially when Sanders takes us to one of the fringe cites that have developed on the water world. The action on Undine was fast and furious. So despite my complaint about faceless orks the scenes there still work. I loved the scope and scale of everything.
The other new batch of characters Sanders introduces are the Fist Examplars, a Second Founding (think spin off) Space Marine chapter that originated from the Imperial Fists. In “I Am Slaughter” Abnett really captured the culture of the Imperial Fists and it was one of my favorite things about the book. Here the Examplars, especially their sort of leader Maximus Thane, are interesting characters and there’s some fun action scenes with them, but there’s not as much about what makes them distinctive. They didn’t resonate with me as much as the few scenes Sanders included with their more fanatical brethren in the Black Templars, another spin off chapter of the Imperial Fists.
Sanders also gets to have some fun with returning characters like Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of the Offfico Assassanorum, and his chief enforcer Beast Krule. These scenes are a lot of fun. Sanders has a knack for action, but the political machination scenes were also highly enjoyable.. It was also interesting to see the underlying tension in the political arrangement between the Imperium of Man and the Machine Cult of the Adeptus Mechanicus. There’s a few chapters that give you some clever insight into just how delicate the arrangement between the two cosmic empires are and illustrate how self motivated each can be. I say that too as someone who doesn’t really find the Adeptus Mechanicus all that interesting.
So despite the one slight problem I had “Predator, Prey” was still a pretty great entry in “The Beast Arises” series. I’m excited to see what comes next especially with the really cool reveal that Sanders gives readers in the book’s final chapter.
As I’ve come to get to know and love the diverse, dystopian, science fantasy world of Games Workshop and Black Library’s “Warhammer 40,000” I’ve discovered one of the reasons why the genetically engineered fan favorite warriors of the various Space Marine legions are so popular is the original 18 legions and the thousand of others that formed in subsequent foundings is the eclectic cultures they hail from and the cool premises behind them. For instance, the members of the Space Wolf legion essentially are futuristic vikings with werewolf style powers. I repeat futuristic vikings with werewolf powers! That’s a fantastic premise with a lot of promise.
So I was excited to read “The Space Wolf Omnibus” by William King which collects his first three novels featuring the titular Space Marine Legion, “Space Wolf,” “Ragnar’s Claw,” and “Grey Hunter.” Now having finished the book I can whole heartedly say that King took the awesome and very Metal premise of the Space Wolves and fleshed it out into something fun and fascinating. He also expertly and slowly immerses readers into the big, exciting world of 40k. If you or a friend are looking for an introduction into the 40K universe and it’s larger lore “The Space Wolf Omnibus” is a good place for them to start.
The culture of the Space Wolves revolves around the one found on the “Death World” (a planet inhospitable to human life) of Fenris. It’s a snowy world of islands so its human population very much lives as the ancient Vikings did; as seafaring warriors and hunters who battle rival clans for territory. It’s from these clans that the Space Wolves, who are viewed as god like beings and sorcerers recruit new aspirants.
So in “Space Wolf” King kicks things off with a chapter that throws you headlong into an exciting battle, with the protagonist of the three novels, Ragnar Blackmane, and then in chapter two he winds the clock back and reintroduces us to a very young Ragnar who is still a pretty fierce warrior even at his young age. You get to spend some time with him and the members of his clan as they use one of their boats to ferry a Space Wolf back to one of their facilities. Then King plunges you headfirst into the tragic events that lead Ragnar to become a potential recruit for the Sixth Space Marine Legion. What makes the story even more interesting is that a mortal enemy of Ragnar’s clan named Strybjorn is recruited at the same time as Ragnar and the two are forced to cooperate.
From there we follow Ragnar and his fellow aspirants through the various trials of becoming a Space Wolf. We get to learn a lot more about the fascinating and frozen environment of Fenris and the customs of the Space Wolves. You also learn a lot more about Ragnar and his unique perspective among the Space Wolves.
So “Space Wolf” is definitely more of a character driven novel and probably my favorite of the three in this omnibus. Ragnar’s journey from human to genetically enhanced warrior is a pretty epic one and watching him learn about the larger universe is fun if you’re new to the world of 40K or someone who’s pretty knowledgeable like myself. In the final part of the book King tests the mettle of Ragnar and his new Space Marine comrades by forcing them to confront one of their Legion’s ancient and most hated foes.
In “Ragnar’s Claw” King introduces readers and Ragnar to another important 40K institution as the surviving Blood Claws are recruited by the Inquisition for a mission. It’s an exciting one that takes them to a variety of classic 40K locales like a world under siege by an Ork Waagh and a Space Hulk. The novel is very much a classic and fun adventure story as King’s heroes travel to various locales looking for pieces of an ancient artifact that will help them combat the powers of Chaos. The climax where Ragnar and his comrades invade an ancient Eldar temple to confront the forces of a specific Chaos God is especially satisfying.
Then in “Grey Hunter” King immerses readers deeper into the universe of 40K by upping the scope and scale of the novel to epic proportions. In the story Ragnar and most the of the Legion are called to defend a world sacred to the Space Wolves that is under siege by a massive army of Chaos aligned heretics. The story is pretty much a war novel with some thrilling set pieces. I particularly loved the boarding action Ragnar and his brethren engage in as they storm a hostile Chaos warship and the final apocalyptic confrontation with the leaders of the heretic army.
So over the course of “The Space Wolf Omnibus readers are given some breathtaking action sequences and taken to many strange alien vistas, but what really makes those scenes work is the connection the readers feel to Ragnar and his fellow Space Wolves. King really makes these characters larger than life. They’re daring in battle, loyal to their friends and love to celebrate victories with ale capable of intoxicating them even with their enhanced physiques.
Ragnar is especially interesting because of his introspective nature and the time we spend with him as he processes all theses new things and learns and deals with his inner demons like his hatred of Strybjorn or what appears to be claustrophobia (At first I wasn’t sure what to make of that because my understanding was Space Marines are genetically programmed to not feel fear, but I just let it go. It helped humanize Ragnar a bit)
My other favorite characters included Ragnar’s Seargeant, Hakon, and Berek Thunderfist, the Wolf Lord of Ragnar’s division of the Space Wolves. Hakon is a classic gruff but fair instructor type, and Berek Thunderfist is as cool and as Heavy Metal as his name suggests.
So if you’re looking for a great entry point into the “Warhammer 40,000” universe, or if you’re looking for three novels that celebrate some of it’s awesome fundamental and unique traits definitely check out “The Spacewolf Anthology.” It’s packed with fun action, cool characters, and makes great use of one of “Warhammer 40,000’s” most Metal premises
Book Review: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk: The Story of Starfleet’s Greatest Captain by David Goodman
When I was a growing up Saturday night for me was all about two wondrous television programs “The Muppet Show” and reruns of the original “Star Trek” series. The former probably helped shaped my sense of humor and wonder the latter my sense of adventure and heroism. Indeed several years later it was Star Trek that introduced me to the fact that heroism had a cost when I sat in a darkened theater with my dad and watched my beloved Mr. Spock sacrifice himself to save the Enterprise. It was the first time I realized my heroes could die. It was a pretty powerful moment and to this day when I hear Spock say, “I have been and always shall be your friend” tears come to my eyes.
As I grew older I still loved Spock, but my love for his best friend Captain James T. Kirk grew. I loved his never say die attitude, his sense of loyalty, his sense of humor, and his sense of adventure. He was my favorite Star Trek Captain until I met a man named Benjamin Lafayette Sisko, but that’s a story for another time. So I was saddened when Kirk was killed off in such a blah way in “Stark Trek: Generations” and then really happy when William Shatner with some help from the great Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens brought Kirk back in a series of fun novels. They were highly enjoyable reads, but after a while the series sort of lost steam for me.
Then last year I heard about David Goodman’s “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk: The Story of Starfleet’s Greatest Captain.” I was very curious. Could this be a chance to catch back up and relive the exploits of a hero who shaped so much of my youth? A chance to see some of Captain Kirk’s adventures from a different perspective? I had to find out. So I added the book to my Amazon wishlist and got it as a Christmas gift. I just finished the book and I’m happy to report that the answers to my two earlier questions was a resounding yes. “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk” is a fun and fantastic read that captures the true spirit of Star Trek in the way the Nu-Trek series of films wishes it could.
When you first open “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk” you’re greeted by a foreword by
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy and it becomes clear from the get go that Goodman knows the characters he’s writing about. He perfectly nails McCoy’s voice. Then we get the book itself which is told in first person by the titular character, whose voice he also captured perfectly. Goodman then brings the book to a fantastic close with an afterword by Kirk’s best friend, a now older, wiser Spock and I can practically hear Leonard Nimoy’s voice in my head.
The other great thing about “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk” is the fact that it’s a purely character driven story. Goodman expertly ties together Kirk’s childhood, years in Starfleet Academy, as well as both his television and small screen exploits into one singular narrative. It’s a tale that’s fun, exciting, powerful, and heartrendingly poignant. That’s because Goodman gets Kirk.
He understand that the galaxy’s greatest hero might have some swagger when it comes to romancing a green skinned alien woman or facing down a Klingon commander, but at heart he’s a humble man whose haunted by his failures. Over the course of the book you see Kirk both fulfilled and haunted by his commitment to duty. He struggles to forge a family outside of his career while not realizing how strong a family he has forged while sitting in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise.
There’s plenty of new stuff in “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk” that’s interesting, but Goodman makes the parts you know, where Kirk recounts his film and television adventures, equally fascinating. I particularly loved how he handled the heartbreaking loss Kirk experienced in “City on the Edge of Forever” and the mixture of emotions that came as we got Kirk’s insight into the films “Wrath of Khan,” “Search for Spock,” “The Voyage Home,” and “Undiscovered Country.” I also loved how he handled the wretched fifth Trek film “The Final Frontier.” I’m not going to spoil it, but I think long time Trek fans will enjoy what Goodman does.
So if you’re a “Star Trek” fan or just looking for an insight into what makes a great hero tick do yourself a favor and pick up “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk.” It’s a fascinating look at the exploits of one of pop culture’s greatest and most wonderfully flawed heroes.