The (in this fan’s opinion) long overdue Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko is finally due to release on the 21st of November. Written by Derek Tyler Attico and published by Titan Books. This is the fifth book in Titan’s Star Trek ‘Autobiography series. Much like previous instalments this book chronicles and explores the life of one of Star Trek’s most iconic characters. Giving readers insight into the character’s thought processes while exploring how they came to be what we saw on screen.
First, there was Kirk. Then there was Picard. Then there was… Janeway? Then… Wait. Spock? The Star Trek Autobiography series began with Kirk back in 2015 and seemed like it was going to proceed along the lineage of Star Trek show Captains for a time. Especially after the release of Picard’s story. When Janeway was announced Deep Space Nine fans raised an eyebrow. When the follow-up to her story was announced to be Spock I’m sure that I was not alone in wondering whether we’d ever get a closer look into the life of ‘The Sisko’.
Sisko in my view is by far the most complex and well-explored Trek captain. In no small way due to the serialized format of Deep Space Nine. A format that allowed storytelling opportunities to the production team that then gave Avery Brooks the autonomy to add a level of depth to his performance that was rarely afforded to other Trek Captains from the era. Compounding the difficulty of writing his story further, is the fact that Avery Brooks seems to have stepped away from acting and public life altogether. Brooks was last seen at a convention almost a decade ago (2014). I’m sure I wasn’t alone in questioning whether we would ever get the ‘autobiography’ chronicling his iconic performance.
About the Author and Setting the Right Expectations
Fortunately for us, Niners author Derek Tyler Attico was willing to step up to the plate to tell his story. If the name rings a bell for you it’s because it’s not his first contribution to the world of Trek, in the world of Print. Attico won the Strange New Worlds writing contest back in 2005. He also wrote the Deep Space Nine story The Dreamer and the Dream which was featured in the one-off e-book exclusive 2016 ‘Strange New Worlds‘ collection. If neither of those credits is scratching your name recognition itch and you enjoy TableTop roleplaying, Attico also contributes to Star Trek Adventures as a writer.
I must confess though, it took me a couple of attempts to really ‘crack’ the Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko and become immersed in it. This isn’t any fault of Attico’s writing or his take on Sisko. It’s more mine for having incorrect expectations. When I first heard of the autobiography I was hopeful we might get a Wolf 359 Project-esque peek into the Dominion War. One of Star Trek‘s (and in universe-Starfleets) messiest and most devasting conflicts.
My expectations were wrong. Sisko, despite stepping up when needed was never a man of war. This, amongst other things, was a mental perception and image that Attico helped me to correct. To help me remember the totality of Sisko’s character outside his most famous (and infamous) moments. To clear my ‘fog of nostalgia’ and then rekindle not only my appreciation for Sisko as a character but also the performance that Avery Brooks delivered episode in and episode out.
SPOILER WARNING if you’re hoping for a truly unspoiled experience you should close this review now. While I will be doing my best to avoid outright spoilers I will allude to certain choices in the book, or mention specific moments. That or structural decisions for this autobiography fit with Sisko’s character. With that warning out of the way, let’s crack on.
There was a further complication in telling Sisko’s story. As far as we know, he’s still in the celestial temple. While Kirk, Picard, Janeway and yes, Spock had opportunities off-screen to ‘write’ their autobiography. Sisko never did. His story was effectively ended with the Deep Space Nine finale. So how will we hear about his story in his own words? I’m sure that many others have pondered this. The simplest and most fitting solution would have been to tell his story through the lens of his son, Jake who was a writer. But then would it really be his autobiography? Attico not only found a solution for this conundrum. But he found a compelling one. I won’t say anything other than it is not… Linear.
I did mention that I struggled to get immersed in this story and the main reason for that. The other side of that reason is that this book focuses a lot on Sisko outside of Starfleet. He doesn’t even get to the academy until past page 100, of a 262-page story. But it is this focus on Sisko outside of Starfleet that I think truly highlights just how well Attico got Benjamin Sisko. I’m sure fans would agree that Sisko was never a man defined by his uniform or the number of pips on his collar. He was a man defined by his family and the rich cultural history associated with them.
Weaving a Tapestry of Trek
I’m sure some of you reading this review right now are wondering ‘If we spend so much time with Sisko before Deep Space Nine, do we get much time with the characters we know and love’? The answer is an unfortunate no. But in a very Sisko-like fashion, the time devoted to each of the Deep Space Nine characters has an incredible emotional depth, despite its brevity. It shouldn’t be a surprise given what I have written so far that the characters that have most of the focus are of course, Sisko’s family. His two half-brothers and sister get far more focus over the course of the book than say, Miles O’Brien. But I feel such narrative choices are authentically ‘Sisko’.
But does that mean we don’t get much ‘real’ time in the world of the 24th Century? Quite the opposite. If anything I’d say that this book does more to develop the ideals, beliefs, and state of Earth in the 24th century than most Trek series have dared. The narrative addresses the fact that New Orleans hasn’t become a bustling utopian skyscraper metropolis and has retained its current character. While weaving a few well-known characters throughout Sisko’s career.
It does feel at times as though the book slightly overindulges when it comes to these character inclusions. But that didn’t stop many, such as a small reference to a prominent Starbase in a Star Trek Adventures campaign, from bringing a smile to my face as I read. These inclusions are often a matter of personal taste. Each will elicit different reactions depending on the preferences of the reader.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for an easy read that doesn’t challenge you. That doesn’t challenge your idea of Benjamin Sisko, or of 24th Century living. Then this book probably won’t be for you. This book essentially writes the guidebook on 24th-century New Orleans living. It highlights the freedoms that those on Earth have. But it also highlights that Earth, for all the wonders of the 24th Century, is not perfect. Humans are not perfect and indeed, often fail to live up to the ideals of their society.
Deep Space Nine made clear that Sisko had a strong awareness of the struggles his ethnicity had faced in the past. The book doesn’t shy away from addressing his education on this cultural history and current reality in many ways for us today. These lessons shaped him as a man. But equally, there is a lot of joy in this history, again as Sisko highlighted it wasn’t all struggle.
There is joy, art, performance. Music. Especially, Jazz. Given Avery Brooks’ own love for Jazz (he even has a released album ‘Here‘). This was a wonderful inclusion in the autobiography and Attico expertly weaved it into his story as a foundation, in a way that aligned with Sisko not being outwardly musical throughout most of Deep Space Nine. While also adding a new level of depth to the scene where he takes the stage with Vic in Badda-Bing Badda-Bang.
Ultimately, the book left me with a craving to start Deep Space Nine again. So in that respect alone, it is a success. But it’s deeper than that. I feel as though I have a fresh pair of eyes. A fresh appreciation for Sisko as a character and for Avery Brooks as a performer. It is often said that the best actors put a piece of themselves into their performances. Avery Brooks did that with Sisko. But I feel that Attico also put a piece of himself into the character through this book.
This piece complements and enhances my understanding of Sisko and not only that, it enhances my appreciation for Brooks’ intentions and inspirations as a performer. If you’re a Deep Space Nine or more specifically Sisko fan, this isn’t a book you should leave on the shelf.
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