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Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas Paperback – January 15, 2013
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“John Scalzi sets his imagination to STUN and scores a direct hit. Read on and prosper.” ―Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box
“I can honestly say I can't think of another book that ever made me laugh this much. Ever.” ―Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind
“Scalzi takes apart the whole Star Trek universe and puts it back together far more plausibly--and a lot funnier too.” ―Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians
“A real joy to read… It's hard to imagine a reader who wouldn't enjoy this one.” ―Booklist, starred review
About the Author
JOHN SCALZI is the author of several SF novels including the bestselling Old Man's War and its sequels and the New York Times bestseller Fuzzy Nation. A winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Scalzi won the Hugo Award for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a collection of essays from his wildly popular blog The Whatever. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
Top customer reviews
There WAS stuff I liked about this book, but ultimately I think it's suffered from improper billing, both public and artistic. I first heard of this book as a kind of meta-narrative, of Star Trek redshirts figuring out their expendable nature and trying to change their narrative around that. And yes, the book works on that level, to an extent, but just when I grew weary of the codas at the end, and the last few chapters in general, Scalzi pulled a fast one and made this book ultimately about choice and fate, something almost Pirandello-like, though a good majority of the book seems to put aside such considerations for a lot of expositional dialogue and occasional wit, which is what wore me down in the first place.
Redshirts has some worthwhile ideas in it, but the execution suffers the reader to put up with a lot to get to the juicy bits.
Essentially, the main characters in the story discover that they are actually fictional characters in an early 21st century science fiction television series modeled after Star Trek. As in Star Trek, while the “key” players (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott) avoid death, there are always unfortunate “ensigns” on the “away team” that are considered expendable by the writers. Our protagonists are horrified to learn that they play the role of Redshirts, or expendable extras. Others on the crew have recognized this pattern and a culture of avoidance and nonsensical technology has developed on the Starship Intrepid as crew members go to great lengths to prevent assignment to away teams.
The newly assigned Redshirts come upon a way to address their seemingly hopeless situation which involves time travel and confrontation with the producers and writers of the television show.
Following the relatively short “main story”, which ends rather humorously, the author follows with three “codas”, or short stories that expound upon the original novel through vignettes focusing upon minor characters in the main story
The premise is cute and presents some interesting situations, but is just a little bit too silly to work for me.
I knew when I saw the title what the premise of this book had to be. Having been a reader of Mr. Scalzi's blog for years, I had this suspicion confirmed long before I had the chance to actually read it. I put off reading "Redshirts" for a while, partly because I couldn't imagine any scenario in which the story wouldn't be so abominably meta as to become unreadable. I suppose that's the difference between me and a masterful science fiction author like Mr. Scalzi; he CAN imagine such a scenario. In fact, he did. And funny as the story can be at times, the characters don't come across as jokes. Rather, as a reader, I found myself bound to their lives, feeling their pain and reveling in their triumphs. My favorite aspect of a book is when the characters become real enough that the barrier between the real and the fictional is blurred. And if you think that's an awfully predictable thing to say in light of the book's plot, tough. The fact that this one achieves that recursively both within the story and between book and reader is just another reason I gave this five stars. It's a delightful read, and I can't wait for it to be made into a television show and become trebly recursive.
TLDR Version: Holy science fictiony fun, Batman! You gotta read this!