Sorry, I couldn't help myself, and I really couldn't have picked a better book for my #52. Scalzi is now officially on my list of my faCANNONBALL!!!!*
Sorry, I couldn't help myself, and I really couldn't have picked a better book for my #52. Scalzi is now officially on my list of my favorite authors ever, and not because what he writes is necessarily deep or profound or written in the most complex language, but simply because the guy knows how to write a smart, fun book. I know I've compared Scalzi's books to Mexican food before, but really it's the best comparison. Reading Scalzi, and Redshirts in particular, is the literary equivalent of eating a really good burrito -- it's not the most nutritious food in the universe, but it fills you up, and damn does it taste good going down.
A redshirt, for those of you who don't know the term (and where have you been living?) is a character type popularized by the Star Trek franchise. A redshirt exists only to die, a cheap and easy way to up the ante in any given situation, and in the original Star Trek series, they almost always wore the red shirt of a Starfleet security officer. Scalzi takes this concept and runs away with it, making a group of redshirts in a Star Trek spoof universe his main heroes. Instead of Captain Kirk, we have Captain Abernathy. Instead of the USS Enterprise, we have the Universal Union's flagship, the Intrepid. The new recruits, led by narrator and protagonist Ensign Andrew Dahl, quickly realize there is something horribly wrong aboard the Intrepid -- awful, catastrophic things seem to occur on a regular basis, especially on away missions, and while the five most senior officers on the ship always seem to survive, at least one crew member always, always dies. The entire crew lives in fear that they might be next, and none of them understand why.
Redshirts is a tongue-in-cheek, laugh out loud spoof, but it's also a loving homage to a subject that Scalzi clearly feels affection for. Even if you aren't that familiar with Star Trek in any of its incarnations, Star Trek itself has had such a huge impact on popular culture that you're going to get the jokes in this book, because you've seen them other places in the forty-five years since Star Trek first aired. It's part of the zeitgeist. And even if you don't get the jokes, Redshirts is still a rip-roaring good yarn with likable characters and a zippy, clever, lightning-fast narrative. Redshirts also comes with three codas, each a sort of epilogue to the main narrative that fills out the Redshirts universe and some hanging plot threads that weren't crucial to the main narrative. All three are fun little vignettes that I'm glad Scalzi included -- I like to see authors getting experimental every once in a while.
If you like science fiction at all, run out and get Redshirts right now. You'll laugh your asses off, and it will remind you of the many reasons you love the genre in the first place. I guess the rest of you can suck it, because WTF? What is wrong with you. Anyway, you might like it, too.
I really really really love this one. I think it's my favorite of all of them. Then again, I am a sucker for a good romance. And this one is good ANDI really really really love this one. I think it's my favorite of all of them. Then again, I am a sucker for a good romance. And this one is good AND kooky....more
I didn't see The Princess Bride, the movie, until I was in 7th grade. At that point, it was 1997 or 1998 and it seemed like everyone else I knew had sI didn't see The Princess Bride, the movie, until I was in 7th grade. At that point, it was 1997 or 1998 and it seemed like everyone else I knew had seen it a million times, and I'd never even heard of it*. We were on a school trip to Tombstone and we watched it on the bus. I remember I had a one pound bag full of rock sugar that I was eating like it was chips or something (honest to God, I should probably be diabetic for how much sugar I consumed as a child), and between that and my first glimpse of the gorgeous Cary Elwes as Westley, and well, the whole rest of the movie, I was high all the way home.
*My parents raised me on a strange mix of Disney, Shirley Temple, and John Wayne movies, and so by the time I grew a brain of my own, I was horribly behind in all things pop culture -- I still didn't manage to see Star Wars until I was 16. Man, that was a good year.
It wasn't until several years later that I came across the book in the library -- I hadn't even known the film was based on a book, and I had a hard time imagining what kind of book exactly could have spawned such a wacky, wonderful movie. The answer? An equally wacky -- if not moreso -- book, with an even more meta story inside of a story inside of a story thing going on. The Princess Bride and I were MFEO. I bought the book for the first time last week (for an undisclosed and super secret reason which shall be forthcoming) and decided I needed to take the opportunity to re-read it for the first time. Dudes, it was even better than I remembered it.
In fact, there's so much goodness packed inside these pages, I'm having a hard time deciding what to write about.
Should I write about the characters? The admirable and dauntless Inigo, the loveliness of gentle Fezzik, the lonely cold beauty of Buttercup, the absolute dreaminess of Westley? Should I write about Goldman's fictionalized self acting as a frame, about how "S. Morgenstern" is a fiction as well**, and how all his little interruptions and asides are gloriously made up? Or should I write about how this book is supposed to be a satire, but is so marvelous that it actually loops back around in the other direction, making itself not only a satire of traditional story tropes (most often adventure and fairy stories), but by the end, it actually becomes one of the best examples of those things that's ever been created. For example, the love story between Westley and Buttercup: Goldman shoves all this ridiculous stuff in there, like Buttercup being the 20th most beautiful woman in the world, and their over the top declarations of love for one another . . . but by the time he's done, you're actually choked up. All this wonderful, quotable, self-aware dialogue, and it still makes you FEEL things. It's beautiful, man. And the whole book is like that! Ridiculous and sublime.
**I do have to confess that when I read this the first time, I had NO IDEA that S. Morgenstern was a fiction, as was almost all of the supposed "true story" of Goldman's life as presented in the novel. When I was reading it back then, I could tell that something was just a little bit off, but I was so naive and Wikipedia didn't exist yet to tell me otherwise, that I took Goldman at his word. Honestly, it wasn't until about five years ago when I finally bought the film on DVD that I researched it a little and learned that the whole thing was made up. It made me feel much better about life.
In the end, I think I will write about none of those things, because I have too many feels and am also lazy.
So, these books are pretty much the silliest things ever.
They’re satire, sure, but the satire is so silly, it’s lost most of its bite. And not that ISo, these books are pretty much the silliest things ever.
They’re satire, sure, but the satire is so silly, it’s lost most of its bite. And not that I’m complaining, mind you, because I laugh my ass off when I’m reading them. Every one of these books has the same basic structure: the Pirate Captain gets an idea or has a problem, the crew resists due to common sense, they run into one or two famous historical figures, have verrrry deeply silly adventures, and then everything is reset at the end. The pirates don’t have real names (except for Jennifer, the lady pirate who used to be a Victorian gentlewoman), but are instead called things like ‘the pirate with a scarf’, ‘the albino pirate,’ and ‘the pirate who liked kittens and sunsets.’ There are anachronisms EVERYWHERE. All the pirates are completely neutered. The worst thing any of them do in this outing is trick Napoleon into pretending he’s having a dream where he meets famous historical generals (and Napoleon remains entirely convinced it is in fact a dream).
Actually, it’s hard to convey just exactly how silly this book is, so I’m just going to give you some examples:
“The best thing about the seaside,” said the albino pirate, “is putting seaweed on your head and pretending you’re a lady." “That’s rubbish,” said the pirate with gout. “The best thing about the seaside is building sexy but intelligent looking mermaids out of sand.” The rest of the pirates, spread out on the deck of the pirate boat for their afternoon nap, soon joined in. “It’s the rock pools!” “It’s the saucy postcards!” “It’s the creeping sense of despair!”
“All the best people aren’t appreciated in their lifetimes,” Scurvy Jake continued. “Look at Baby Jesus — nobody took him seriously. They thought he was a tramp!”
“Listen, do you know what I’d be doing if I was still a Victorian lady instead of a pirate?” Jennifer persisted. The pirates didn’t have a clue, but the pirate with long legs tried a guess. “Having a shower?”
“Well, I think it’s very exciting to have Mister Napoleon as a neighbour,” said the albino pirate. “I mean to say, he almost conquered the whole of Europe.” “And I ate the whole of that mixed grill that time. Not ‘almost ate,’ you’ll notice. I finished the job,” said the Captain with a scowl, moodily buttering his Weetabix.
“It’s not the same on dry land,” muttered the pirate with a nut allergy. “Without the romance of the sea, pirating just seems like quite antisocial behaviour.”
And then of course, there’s the Pirate Captain and his impeccable logic:
“Baby kissing is a tried and tested way of getting votes, Captain.” The Captain didn’t look convinced. “Thing is, number two, what’s the voting age nowadays?” “It’s eighteen, sir.” “Exactly!” The Pirate Captain waggled an informative finger. “So there’s not much point lavishing all this attention on babies when they can’t even vote for me, is there? I should be concentrating on the eighteen-year-olds. And you know which other bit of the electorate is overlooked? Women. So really it makes a lot more sense for me to spend the morning kissing eighteen-year-old women.”
Napoleon is pretty great, too. At one point he writes this fake suicide letter in an effort to discredit the Pirate Captain, after a giant squid washes up on the beach:
To Whom It May Concern,
I cannot go on any longer. I know people think us giant squid are just unfathomable monsters of the deep, but we have feelings, too. And it is time the world learned the terrible truth. For several years now the Pirate Captain and I have been carrying on an illicit affair. Many times I have asked the Pirate Captain to do right by me, but he refuses, always telling me that he cannot be seen having a relationship with a giant squid because of the harm it would do to his public image. Also, sometimes he hits me. Anyhow, just yesterday I discovered I was pregnant with the Pirate Captain’s secret love child! I told the Pirate Captain about this and he flew into a rage and said he would never help support his half-squid/half-pirate progeny and then he hit me some more. So now I am going to commit suicide by beaching myself.
Goodbye, cruel world The Giant Squid
Really, that’s all I have to say about this book....more
Perfectly structured, from beginning to end. Mean without being nasty, funny without being stupid. Insightful without being preach(4.5 stars, really.)
Perfectly structured, from beginning to end. Mean without being nasty, funny without being stupid. Insightful without being preachy. Terry Pratchett has a gift for lovingly pointing out the stupidities of the human condition.
This particular one is quite delightful. It's got dragons, a man named Carrot, and a group of three men who make up the city law enforcement, inept and lovable guardians of the backwards and corrupted joyful logic of the city called Ankh-Morpork.
Let me leave you with this passage from the beginning of the novel: 'The city wasa, wasa, wasa, wossname. Thing. Woman. That's what it was. Woman. Roaring, ancient, centuries old. Strung you along, let you fall in thingy, love, then kicked you inna, inna, thingy. Thingy, in your mouth. Tongue. Tonsils. Teeth. That's what it, she, did. She wasa . . . thing, you know, lady dog. Puppy. Hen. Bitch. And then you hated her and, and just when you thought you'd got her, it, out of your whatever, then she opened her great booming rotten heart to you, caught you off bal, bal, bal, thing. Ance. Yeah. Thassit. Never knew where where you stood. Lay. Only one thing you were sure of, you couldn't let her go. Because, because she was yours, all you had, even in her gutters . . .'
Also, this: 'It's a metaphor of human bloody existence, a dragon. And if that wasn't bad enough, it's also a bloody great hot flying thing.'
And this: 'People were stupid, sometimes. They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.'...more
This book was recommended to me by my eye doctor, of all people. He asked me what my major was, and when I told him it was Creative Writing, he said tThis book was recommended to me by my eye doctor, of all people. He asked me what my major was, and when I told him it was Creative Writing, he said that if he ever taught Creative Writing, he would love to teach this book. It was a sufficiently weird moment in my life that I took his advice and checked out the series. And he was right. This book is delightful (although I'm not sure I would ever teach it to an academic audience, even if I could, genre restrictions not withstanding)....more