Review: ‘The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard’ Adds New Life To Star Trek: TNG’s Captain

Review: The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

Author: by David A. Goodman
Publisher: Titan Books, Hardcover 288 pages

Over the years, some who have reviewed my career as captain of the Enterprise have questioned my decision, specifically how I could let a teenager who’d never gone to the Academy take the conn of the Federation flagship. My answer is that I trusted my first officer, who’d trained the young man, and our experiences proved him to be correct: Wesley was an excellent navigator and helmsman. But that wasn’t the true reason I did it. The reason that I acceded to it was much more personal.

 I enjoyed having Wesley at his father’s post. (Page 223)

There are times, as a reviewer for TrekMovie.com, when reading a Trek novel can feel like a chore, chugging through page after page, hoping to find interesting things to talk about. And then there are times when as soon as the package arrives, I tear it open eagerly and read the book every spare available moment out of sheer delight. The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard was one of those more delightful times.

Rare for Star Trek books these days, the Picard autobiography is a hardcover

After James T. Kirk, arguably the most recognizable Star Trek character is Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Spanning 178 episodes and 4 films, Star Trek: The Next Generation turned Star Trek into a franchise, and Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard became the face of Star Trek, for many fans and non-fans alike. Embodying benevolent authority with ease, combining the virtues of the diplomat, explorer, philosopher, and king all in one package, the character is as popular today as ever.

Latest Star Trek “autobiography” focuses on Jean-Luc Picard

Which is what makes The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard: The Story of One of Starfleet’s Most Inspirational Captains such a delight. “Editor” David A. Goodman, author of The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, staff writer for Enterprise, and currently executive producer and writer on The Orville, takes the stories we know so well, and the backstory that we think we know so well, and fills in many of the gaps, giving the whole thing a fresh, exciting spin – making it feel almost brand-new. Curious about Picard’s childhood? It’s here. Wondering how Picard first met Guinan? You’ll love it. What happened to him after the (prime universe) events of 2009’s Star Trek film? Just wait and see.

Goodman, channeling Picard, grounds the story in a troubled home, and paints our beloved Captain as a man in search of a father, who finds a family. Raised by a mother who loved him and a father who could not express his emotions, young Jean-Luc reached for the stars. There, he found challenge, adventure, success, and horror, all the while bound to his home by ties he could not explain.

“[Jean-Luc] is not in school anymore.” Father was very aggravated, impatient with what must have been a tragic situation for him. “He’s a grown man.”
“I know, you don’t have to tell me,” mother said, but her voice wavered. Then it looked like she’d started to remember. “You were in space.”
“Yes, Maman,” I said.
“You’re the pilot…you always wanted to be the pilot…”
“Come to bed,” Father said.
“I’m having tea with Jean-Luc…”
“I said come to bed!”
“We’ll have tea in the morning, Maman,” I said. I helped her to her feet, and my father took her hand and walked her out of the room. I sat alone in the room.
Nothing I’d seen in my years of command prepared me for this. (Page 130)

The author picks up on the fact that every other supporting character we meet in The Next Generation seems to know Picard from way back. He has a history with every admiral, captain, scientist, and star-crossed lover the Enterprise-D comes across. Telling these stories makes this book richly layered, and there’s a treat to discover on every page. It also brings enormous poignancy to stories like the Battle of Wolf 359, as a Jean-Luc Picard partially-assimilated by the Borg into the persona of Locutus faces a fleet full of faces that he knows, personally.

Picard autobiography adds to the story of Picard becoming Locutus

The book is based entirely on canonical Star Trek, ignoring the continuity of the Star Trek novels, allowing the author to tell his own story, especially about Picard’s life following Star Trek: Nemesis. This makes the book easily accessible to fans that have not read any other Star Trek book. At the same time, he digs deeply into that canon, bringing forth fanboy treasures galore. My favorite deep canon bits involved the disappearance of the Denobulans, and their eventual impact on the destruction of the Hobus star. Fans will pick up numerous references to characters and events in every Star Trek series, including a nice link to Star Trek: Discovery.

Even cranking through Next Generation episode highlights at trans-warp speeds, the narrative still leaves out some fairly significant bits of Picard’s life. Given the prominence of the Crusher family in this story, it is surprising that Wesley Crusher’s departure with the Traveler is not mentioned. Goodman gives excellent attention to Picard’s relationship with Beverly Crusher – some of their scenes made me cry! – but the absence of other flames like Vash, Kamalla, and especially Nella Daren is keenly felt.

Picard’s relationship with Beverly Crusher gets a focus in new autobiography

Goodman has a lot of fun with his footnotes, including a running joke from his Kirk autobiography.  There were a couple of weird editing errors in my copy of the book, such as an incorrectly labeled footnote and some typos, but these little gaffes are trivial to the enjoyment of the book.

I soon returned to the repaired Enterprise, fully repaired myself. Robert had become the brother I’d wanted. Maybe even the father. I realized that I needed Robert; he was the only one left in the world who knew me before I’d become “Captain Jean-Luc Picard,” the only person I could show true weakness to. (Page 246)

In the center of the volume are a selection of Picard-related photographs from the Federation Archives, and each one is a delight. These photos and illustrations were made specifically for the book.

Sample of illustrations included in Picard autobiography

Goodman tells TrekMovie that his next book will likely be The Autobiography of Spock. In this book, Goodman’s version of Spock’s wedding to an unnamed human woman is amusing in the ways that the bride’s identity is shielded from the reader. This left me curious how Goodman will address that gap in canon in his next novel.

Bottom line: The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard will delight casual fans and canonical deep divers alike. It is fun, exciting, and emotionally satisfying, and brings new insight into one of Trek’s most beloved characters. Highly recommended!

Available now

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard was released October 17th in hardcover, and retails for $24.99. You can pick it up at Amazon for $18.81 or get the eBook version for $8.01.  You may also want to pick up Goodman’s other Trek books: The History of the Federation and The Autobiography of James T. Kirk .

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42 Comments on "Review: ‘The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard’ Adds New Life To Star Trek: TNG’s Captain"

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Thanks Denes! So glad you liked it!

I received the book today and I’m reading it now. Great! Really Great! Thank you for writing it! And it’s great that you are here reading the review. Hope to see and read more! Yor are great!

YOU are great (of course)

Thanks Thomas! Interested to hear what you think, good and bad.

Mr. Goodman, after the masterpiece that was the Kirk autobiography I will be buying this tonight!

David A. Goodman – I can’t wait for the Spock book! And I loved the James T Kirk bio, as well. Yer my fav’rit!

Sounds good. Although why on eaten isn’t there a picture of Picard on the cover? This looks like those old TNG technical manuals

Why on *Earth, even. (Autocorrect fail)

It matches the design of the last book I wrote. There’s a picture of Picard on the back cover. It’s a choice, maybe not the right one. The problem I think with having a picture on the cover is it adds to the honest confusion some people have of whether this book was written by Patrick or me. I guess you could have a drawing…

I agree with Muse – the cover makes it look like a tech manual or encyclopedia. It also implies that the only important ship associated with him is Enterprise-D, whereas he was certainly poetic when he professed his love for the Stargazer in ‘Relics’ (not to mention his time on other ships such as Enterprise-E). (And yes, I know that most people passing this in the bookstore wouldn’t recognize the Stargazer, and that Enterprise-D is a more logical choice in terms of recognition amongst more casual fans.)

That’s not a complaint or meant to be a knock against it – just that at first glance, for me, I didn’t get the sense that it would be written in a true autobiographical style. I was going to skip this one, but this enthusiastic review has piqued my interest.

Good luck – I hope it’s a success for you!

A painting might be cool, since some really nice art was created for the “archival images” pages.

Amused by people literally judging book by its cover.

Sounds like good read. I wish there was audio book. If PS not available then a soundalike

Ooooh, THAT would be perfect! Please Sir Pat, make it so!

Shut up and take my money!

:)

I recently read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the James Kirk autobiography. Looking forward to this one.

Thanks! Post what you think of the new one, good and bad.

“…and this one time, at Borg Camp…”

I’ve been waiting years to make that joke.

Life is sad.

This looks great. Picard is still one of the best Starfleet Captains IMO and making a biography around him was a great choice. Sounds like an amazing read.

I haven’t read it yet – I plan to. But I’m glad it looks like you touched on “Family”. As I young man I despised the episode. But as an adult I’ve come to see it as one of the best episodes of TNG. Picard’s breakdown in front of his brother – so poignant.

Agree wholeheartedly about Family being one of the best episodes. It was the perfect epilogue to the insanity of the previous episode(s) involving Picard’s capture by the Borg.

“Family” was central to the book, as it gives us insight we have into Picard’s home life.

I do hope the ‘autobiography’ explains why Picard is such an Anglophile with a British accent. Was he sent to a boarding school in England? That would certainly help explain things.

Accents do change over time, so maybe in the 24th century France sounds like Britain?

I would like to think that Picard’s mother was English, or perhaps a grandparent. Also another vote for Patrick Stewart reading the audiobook version.

I had a footnote explaining why not only Picard but everybody in 24th Century France had an English accent, but it is one of the editing difficulties the reviewer pointed out and it accidentally got cut out.

I always imagined that he had a summer in Britain in a Shakespeare acting company [because of some English actor relatives], and since that was where he learned to master the English language, the accent just flowed forth. ;^)

I’m sure this has been suggested, but how amazing would it be to have Patrick Stewart read the audiobook version!

It would be amazing, but I unfortunately don’t think it will happen.

I would love for Patrick Stewart to do a audio version of this book

Was thinking the exact same thing! At the very least, I’m going to read this book in Patrick’s voice.

borg, record it for us, and we’ll all listen to it! :)

The lack of certain characters (JLP’s past flames, specifically) from TNG… I guess, one could say, they were intentionally not included for IC Reasons (assuming that the book is written as a IG product)?

~Pensive’s Wetness

What are IC and IG?

I think that omission is odd too.
Heh — maybe there’s going to be a 2nd edition.

In Character, In Game (so to speak)

I actually don’t know the terms either, and what they mean in this context.

Father was very aggravated
It seems Picard is not the best grammarian, but perhaps by his time that irritating habit in written English will be fully acceptable.

I usually hesitate to buy such books, but I have a great affection for the character of Picard, so may chance it. I’m a little more flexible than I used to be. Except with grammar.

[Reminder: in these threads I communicate informally.]

read the book and loved the book, i was hoping for riker or Sisko , love to see how they will and do any voyager characters

Spock is next. After that, who knows?

I’m half through the book and like it a lot. Seeing, that the author answers some questions here, I would like to know, if the captain of the “USS Rhode Island” is an intended tribute to Family Guy?

Well, maybe…

I’ve really enjoyed the Kirk book and will pick this up when I’m done.

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