Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

On the lineup of Books I’ve Been Meaning to Read For The Last Year or So is Redshirts by John Scalzi, and would you know it I finally got around to reading it.

John Scalzi is one of those serendipitous authors I stumbled across on the internets. I knew him more for his blog than his novels, which I’m sure is a backwards way of going about things. So previously I’ve read Fuzzy Nation and The Last Colony, and now I can add Redshirts to the list (with Old Man’s War next on the list).

Okay. Brutal honesty that has all to do with personal taste and nothing to say of skill? I actually enjoy his blog more than his novels. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Redshirts, because I did.

Highly colored, personal and all-together stupidly inclusive view on his writing? Very much like reading a politically correct courtroom drama, which is fine if you enjoy L.A. Law or Perry Mason but I never liked law or the courtroom or lawyers. Lots of great dialogue, not enough description or fantastical elements for this old fashioned high fantasy lover.

So okay, Redshirts.

We should first start off with a civilians explanation of what ‘redshirt’ means (and more or less the premise for the book). Back when the early pre-Picard Star Trek was still on (1960’s – ish?) and other sci-fi, weekly action shows aired when sci-fi was still a relatively new thing, the script writers had a habit of choosing a handful of main characters that would survive EVERYTHING, even in the most absurd of circumstances and then there were nameless, random crew who wore red shirts. The nameless, unknown characters in red shirts had an obscenely high death rate because, well hell, they were nameless, unknown characters who existed to give the audience a cheap thrill with horrific death scenes. So. Redshirts – another way of saying ‘expendable worthless character’. So now enter Andrew Dahl into our narrative. It’s now many, MANY years into our own future. Space travel not only is possible it’s happening as Dahl joins the crew of the Intrepid and finds out very quickly that something … strange is going on.

It’s almost as though he’s reenacting a real life T.V. drama complete with insane and nonsensical random deaths that are occurring at a prodigious rate. His newly founded companions scoff, until occurrence after occurrence happens with finally a freak accident that kills off a friend under circumstances that go beyond the bounds of reality, almost as though…it was scripted.

Now Dahl realizes if he doesn’t figure out how to fix this his life may soon end.

Okay, I had a lot of fun with this book. One of the things I enjoy about Mr. Scalzi’s writing is that he has very quick, sharp dialogue.

This is a book that thinks outside the box and that makes it a lot of fun. It strives to break the fourth wall, so to speak.

You enter one narrative, that of Andrew Dahl as he and the redshirts of the Intrepid desperately figure out how cross dimensions in space to save themselves from bad screenwriting and then switch narratives to that of the production company.

Very unusual but not altogether bad.

I notice that another talent of Mr. Scalzi is fleshing out characters that are relatable, like someone you would just happen to sit next to on a plane, or work with. They are readable, relatable and fulfills a common desire (for me, at least) to break the boundary between realities and meet face to face, characters from a book.

How many people have wished for fictional characters to be real?

So again, my friends, not a super long review for a book that was enjoyable. Maybe I should start hate reading again so I can get a few pages out.

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