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on March 7, 2014
Redshirts, John Scalzi (Gollancz)

meta/clever book
all about the commentary
ruled by Narrative

Journeying into John Scalzi’s mind would be an interesting excursion, albeit with a nice familiar atmosphere. He is a self-promoted geek with attention to pop culture rivaling Joss Whedon, who I thought of as I read this book. There’s a definite love of dialogue, of clever dialogue. And the premise is clever too.

I rate the overall idea of this book at a big 10, but on closer inspection I think it’s a bit telling that there’s really one one big idea here. For those who’ve watched Star Trek or other sci-fi television series, then you’ll understand how right Scalzi’s interpretation/criticism about such things is – there were plenty of times I smiled while reading, thinking ‘That’s right! Why didn’t I think of that before?’ This is a clever book, like I’ve already mentioned several times, but there are some areas which need work for this book to be more than simply a clever diversion.

Characters. I enjoy reading about characters: about their actions and thoughts, about their individuality as well as their universality. Scalzi’s characters are very inter-changeable. There’s the chance that this is deliberate, and it ties in with his clever idea, but even if it is deliberate, I don’t think it works. A key to characterization is dialogue – and in the off-chance that Scalzi was deliberately making the characters two-dimensional with only a grab-bag of background details, his lack of attention to dialogue can’t be forgiven in the same way. The senior science co-ordinator, Collins, did have a distinct voice. She was abrupt and was nicely done. But she’s the only one I can point to as being unique, and she wasn’t a main character. Every other line of dialogue could have been attributed to any of the characters. Oh yeah, that’s the second thing…

Dialogue. The dialogue is generally clever (there it is again!) and reminiscent of television (read: Joss Whedon), but the clever lines aren’t really intrinsic to any of the characters. Duvall makes observations in the same manner as Finn or Dahl. They bounce ideas off each other for convenience’s sake. Even the funny jokes are often explained by another character rather than left for the reader to ‘get’ or ‘not get’.

Plot. There’s an idea in this book and it plays out through a series of events, but there’s not really a solid sense of plot progression. There is an ending, yes. The characters get to that ending through some actions, yes. There’s just a lack these events and actions having any kind of real connection. It’s very episodic… yeah, that’s probably deliberate. On the other hand, the two Codas at the end of the book provide a nice twist on the story. That’s not plot, but it is interesting and plays well into Scalzi’s idea.

Overall, I liked the book. Its comment on science fiction television shows, particularly the original Star Trek, is pretty cool and something I hadn’t read before. It was a really easy and swift read, although by about the mid-point, the conspiracy theory/Narrative idea was already well explained and Scalzi probably spent a few chapters hammering home the same point.

I’d recommend the book to those who know a bit about the inconsistencies and face-palm moments of Star Trek. It’s a fun read, but I wouldn’t recommend a second read-through. Like I said earlier: it has a clever idea. Once you get it, you get it.

7.0/10.0
Should be a 3.5 star rating. I liked it, but didn't love it.
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on May 29, 2014
If you know anything about Star Trek, the original TV series from the 1960's, then you'll love this book! It is, as expected from the title a parody of the often short lives of security and support services officers on landing parties. You always knew that if Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and red-shirted Ensign Smith beamed down to an alien planet, Smith wasn't coming back.

The humor of Scalzi's story comes from taking this to the logical extreme when a group of new officers notice this trend and determine to take steps to end it. Warning, the 4th wall is not safe here!
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on April 10, 2014
A wonderfully imaginative, humorous sci-fi fantasy. Mr. Scalzi manages to make his fiction seem so real by using situations that everyone can relate to, then twisting it with science fantasy. I was delightfully entertained.
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on March 19, 2015
Let me say that I can't imagine how this book could have won a Hugo. It's written about as well as most of Sclazi's books, which is to say not all that well, but at least his plots usually satisfy. I really disliked this book for most of it. The whole first section to be exact. He eventually raises some interesting themes, but in such a cursory and underthought manner that it simply doesn't matter. He finally gets around to bringing things to some sort throught-provoking finality, but it is tedious getting there. His characters are as wooden and simplistic as the SF TV he spoofs. This book is a mess, not very well cleaned up. Don't bother.
I read The Bone Clocks before this, and the comparison makes this effort all the more sad. It may be my last Scalzi.
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on January 17, 2014
Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Xenobiology team of the ship Intrepid, and he is very excited about this. It is a prestigious posting. Once on board, he realizes there is a certain feel running through the lower ranks. No one wants to go on away mission as they seem to always result in some lethal outcome; lethal to those ranks dressed in red shirts. As Dahl unfolds this mystery, he finds that luck plays a part and that an officer that has managed to hide himself in the ship’s innards for years may know enough to solve this mystery.

Oh, and there is a box. Whenever one of the senior officers give the science teams some unsolvable conundrum, they feed it into The Box and let it be for a few hours. Sooner or later it spits out some answer and the mission goes on.

This parody on Star Trek was such a delight to listen to. Joking within the lower ranks intersperses the action scenes, and a dash of more serious emotional content is thrown in for roundness. Of course the answer to their conundrum was quite amusing; I won’t spoil it for you but it made total sense and even if you saw it coming it was still worth a chuckle once it was said out loud. The ending was a bit rushed and I think I could have used another chapter or two in order to keep the same pacing and to allow for the same amount of humor. But taken all together, a very enjoyable, humorous read.

The Narration: Wil Wheaton was a lot of fun to listen to and he was a great narrator. He had various voices for the main characters that were distinct. Additionally, his voice was challenged a few times by alien expletives or salutations. He met those challenges quite well.
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on January 18, 2013
This book isn't merely satire to skewer the tropes of science fiction serials. It's also a great story with funny and interesting characters in its own right. So far, my 2nd favorite novel by the author after Old Man's War. Check it out!
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on February 23, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. I had read the Old Man's War series and thought I'd give this one a try. If you like the light humor in the OMW books...then this one is the same sense of humor but in greater doses.
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on November 19, 2013
There was a lot of potential here, but I felt it was just wasted. I'm not saying it wasn't entertaining, because parts of it were very amusing. However Scalzi created an interesting riff and then some strong emotional/psychological implications but dropped them to no purpose.
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on May 7, 2014
I thought this book was ok. Amusing, funny at times, touching at times, but overall I thought it was just ok. I bought it as a recommendation for those who read and liked The Rook and Ready Player One. However, both of those books were much better and interesting than Redshirts. While I would enthusiastically recommend The Rook and Ready Player One, I can't say the same for Redshirts. Though I'm a Star Trek fan, and got the references, Redshirts only had surface appeal to me.
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on June 9, 2013
The book's underlining idea was pretty great and the writing overall was smooth and I liked the charactes too a lot. The biggest problem with the book was with suspension of disbelief. For me implementation of the concept was a bit too in-your-face and the way the characters reacted to it felt unplausible.
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