Mark's Reviews > Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

Redshirts by John Scalzi
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Jun 07, 12

bookshelves: humor, science-fiction
Read on June 05, 2012

Three quick things first off: 1) This book is not worth $12. 2) This book is probably not worth reading if you're not a fan of Star Trek or similar sci-fi television (or at least making fun of it). 3) This is outrageously fun if you are a fan of making fun of campy sci-fi television.

I'm going to assume whomever is interested in reading the book is such a fan, and just recommend that nobody else pick it up.

This was an easy one day read. And when I say easy, I mean it was written for a fifth-grade or lower reading level. Most of the book is dialogue with, "[character's name] said," after each spoken line. It's practically script form. (I suppose that makes sense.)

It's every conversation a group of Trekkie geeks ever had making fun of Star Trek inconsistencies over pizza around a gaming table. It borrows from a swath of fourth-wall breaking sci-fi, including Stargate, Galaxy Quest, and others, and borrows humor from a myriad other places. (I thought the name of the "doctor" was good for a chuckle, and guffawed at lines from Monty Python and Galaxy Quest being swiped nearly verbatim.) It doesn't just poke fun at the beast of bad sci-fi TV, though, it strings it along and probes it for both causes and solutions, which I found sort of charming.

I particularly loved how self-conscious it was, calling itself "meta" at least twice. It's more than just fourth-wall breaking, it calls out anything you've ever written and invites it to take up a consciousness of its own.

The humor was good, not too constant (though the premise was, out of necessity, hammered quite hard), but character voice was weak. More than half the time, I didn't even bother to engage reading comprehension skills after a quote to see who was saying something. Everybody was essentially interchangeable for 95% of all conversations.

The science fiction has actually been replaced with philosophy, and after the situational and commentary humor, what's left is really a philosophical exercise that I wasn't really expecting. But for it to be developed and explored in about 150 pages just wasn't enough for the philosophical questions. Certainly nothing was left over for non-philosophical questions such as science.

About that 150 pages, that's due to the last quarter of the book following that being reserved for three appendices that are really different exercises entirely. They're all told for different reasons. One seems to speak to writers (whether of campy sci-fi, aspiring writers, or just writers in general), one speaks to a different philosophical angle, and the third is a quirky romance and growth story. They're all interesting short stories told in a contemporary setting related to the rest of the book.

Anyway, it's good, but save yourself $12. If you're not a Trek or other genre fan, give it a pass entirely. If you are, pick it up at a library or wait until it's $6 or $7.
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