Following the success of The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, David A. Goodman explores the background of another well-known and well-respected captain in the Star Trek franchise with The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. The funny thing about it is, from page one until the end, there is a sinking suspicion that Picard is, in fact, a real person, and he wrote the book himself. Or it could have been Patrick Stewart who went under the radar and penned the book while Goodman provided the editing. Alas, neither are true, but Goodman does capture the voice of Picard pretty well, thus making this a worthwhile read for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It should be noted that The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard is directly related to The Next Generation and the feature films that followed, and has no connection to the numerous novel tie-ins. So, for the many Trekkies that have delved into the tie-ins, there may be some glaring omissions and alterations that will be upsetting.
Some of The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard derives from some of the best and most well-known episodes of The Next Generation. The opening prologue is a recount of when Picard was captured by the Borg and transformed into Locutus in the “The Best of Both Worlds” episodes, which is arguably the best two-parter of the series. During the prologue, Picard recalls how he was feeling while he was being transformed into Locutus, and how he felt trapped and couldn’t escape no matter how much he tried. More of Picard’s transformation into Locutus is explored later in the book as well.
A lot of the book focuses on Picard prior to him taking command of the USS Enterprise-D. Picard discusses how both his father and brother were disapproving in his decision to join the Starfleet Academy. Even when he graduated and became captain of the Stargazer, they were both not happy with the decisions he made.
What’s great about The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard is that we get to witness a more human element to Picard, as he describes in detail his emotions felt toward being rejected by the Starfleet Academy the first time around and how he hasn’t been able to have a solid relationship with his father and brother, and he hasn’t been able to find a woman right for him. The most notable and toughest relationship that ended was with Dr. Beverly Crusher, which, of course, ended before she came onboard the Enterprise, and before the marriage to Picard’s best friend, Jack Crusher.
When the book gets closer to bringing the whole crew of Enterprise together, The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard becomes a little too crammed with characters and the narration isn’t as consistent as it was in the beginning. It bounces around to elements already covered in the series and doesn’t give too much new detail to a lot of them. The Enterprise crew are all given proper introductions, but it almost feels like Goodman was rushed for time and hurried them all in so they could fit with the timeline. The same could be said for the stories outlined in the final chapters. We keep getting mentions and some detail about them, but it felt like they could have had more to them.
As a whole, though, The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard is a quick read that does offer some new and intriguing insight into one of the most beloved captains of the Star Trek franchise. It is a fun read that Trekkies will want to check out if they want to hear what Picard has to say about his life leading up to being captain of the Enterprise and after retirement.