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Redshirts Paperback – 2012
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“Gripping… A perfectly executed plot clicks its way to a stunningcourtroom showdown in a cathartic finish.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Fuzzy Nation
“In a genre flooded with bloated epics, it's a real pleasure toread a story like this, as compactly and directly told as a punchto the stomach.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on Fuzzy Nation
“If Stephen King were to try his hand at science fiction, he'd belucky to be half as entertaining as John Scalzi.” ―Dallas Morning News on The Ghost Brigades
“ Scalzi's captivating blend of offworld adventure and political intrigue remains consistently engaging. ” ―Booklist on The Last Colony
About the Author
JOHN SCALZI is the author of several SF novels including the bestselling Old Man's War sequence, comprising Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, and the New York Times bestselling The Last Colony. He is a winner of science fiction's John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and he won the Hugo Award for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a collection of essays from his popular blog Whatever. His latest novel, Fuzzy Nation, hit the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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I believe that because "Redshirts" is just not as substantial as most novels. There is virtually zero descriptive language about the universe in which the characters live, the spaceship they're on, the planets they visit, the monsters that attack, etc. The characters are never described physically, and the character development is scant. It's basically a clever story that just doesn't seem to have much depth...
... Until you get to the codas. The main part of the novel is often humorous and lighthearted. It's a fun read, even though characters die. But when you get to the codas, in particular the second and third ones, all of a sudden the book turns serious. The codas are good, especially the third one, but they are not funny or lighthearted. They are poignant and at some times sad.
Which again supports my theory that "Redshirts" was originally a screenplay: The main story was a too short and too shallow to be a good novel, so the author added the three codas in an attempt to give it some gravitas. And even though the codas were good and well-written, what we're left with is kind of a Frankenbook that can't decide whether it wants to be a comedy, a drama or a love story.
I really liked the idea of the book, even though most of the plot is patently obvious to us seasoned SciFi fans. Even if the plot is predictable, it still brought a smile to my face when those predictable events happened. The one thing that did catch me off guard was the revealing of who the actual "protagonists" were. That was kind of smart and I enjoyed that. I thought the part of the book that is roughly equivalent to the ST4:TVH plot line felt a little too rushed and too quick to come to conclusion. Things just seemed to work themselves out a little to easily. Also, the way the end was supposedly resolved was very confusing, and seemed to go counter to the rest of the novel. The final "swap" was not explained properly and I have a feeling that Scalzi didn't really think it through well enough to come up with an explanation. Given that the novel was so short, I felt like the author just needed to get something out the door, and should have spent more effort in coming up with an elegant description of the finale.
As far as the codas go, the first one is just a joke. Completely unreadable. Filler only. I have a sad feeling that it was required to meet some kind of word count or something. The second coda is readable, and good. The third coda is simply wonderful. It's sweet, thoughtful, sad, and everything else you wanted to read at the end of the novel. It really could have been integrated into the main part of the work, but I understand that Scalzi wanted a comedy and the emotions of the third coda may have worked against the rest of the novel.
The best part about this book is that it introduced me to Scalzi -- I had not read any of his works before this. Scalzi, if you are reading this, you'll be happy to know that I have how purchased many of your novels, I enjoy them all (to various degrees), and I'll probably be purchasing more.
But! If you think it's going to be like Star Trek think again.