Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

As "Sword and Laser" and "I Should Be Writing" are some of my favorite sources for information on genre literature and writing, I have been exposed to quite a bit of talk concerning recent release Redshrits: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi. Based on the title alone, my curiosity was piqued. Of course, the title of the book could mean anything, but this Amazon summary narrows it down a tad.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

From the prologue on, Redshirts makes it known that it is a parody of "Stark Trek." But it doesn't tease "Star Trek" alone--in general, television shows of the science fiction persuasion are poked at throughout the book. Don't let the word "parody" turn you off, though. It is a loving tribute to the films, books, television, and other forms of media and the people who love it.

It's difficult to discuss Redshirts without spoiling the surprises of the book, especially since the turning point that occurs halfway is when it gets interesting. But the entire book is a roller coaster ride, from beginning to end. One of my favorite aspects of the book, which is a minor detail, is the irony that these redshirts get to have fleshed out lives and emotions whereas the commanding officers serve the more stereotypical, two-dimensional roles. And the self-awareness of the ensigns is wonderful, because none of them want to go on away missions and they see the entire situation as both life-threatening and ridiculous. The main storyline is then followed by three codas, and I would venture to say that these short stories are better than the main storyline because there was more of a heart to them. However, the main plot is unpredictable, which is hard to find and makes the adventure more valuable.

If you're interested in a funny and fast read, I encourage you to pick up Redshirts. It may not be the perfect book, but Scalzi was able to appeal to the geek in me and I am interested in reading his other [probably more dramatic based] works.

Redshirts is available now and can be purchased online or at your local bookstore. The unabridged audiobook is also available and is read by "Star Trek: The Next Generation's" Wil Wheaton. For more information on author John Scalzi and his books, visit scalzi.com.


Joe said...

My only huge issue with the book ius with one aspect of Scalzi's writing style. Whenever his characters get into an extended conversation there's a LOT of repition of 'x said'. Kind of like:

"statement" X said.
"reply" Y said.
"another statement" X said.
"another reply" Y said.
"a followup statement" X said.
"yet another reply." Y said.
and so on. It's just a lot of repition of [character name] said. In the audio versions of many of his books this is really grating to me as a listener. I haven't read any of books so I'm not sure if it's as noticeable in written vs. audio form. Still a very enjoyable book though.

Michele said...

Just reading your description of the book sounds awesome. Putting it on the to read list. Thanks for sharing this book.