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

Redshirts by John Scalzi
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Jun 14, 12

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Read on June 14, 2012

OK, so let's start with a quick explanation of meta-fiction and "the fourth wall". Meta-fiction is fiction about fiction. Think Galaxy Quest or Neverending Story or Princess Bride. The fourth wall is the barrier between fiction and the audience, and "breaking the fourth wall" is when a fictional character addresses the reader or the viewer directly.

Redshirts is the most meta thing I've ever read. It has at least three layers of meta fiction, and I've had a lengthy debate about the ending of the main novel and again about the ending of the third coda and whether there is, in fact, a fourth layer of meta.

No one directly breaks the fourth wall, but the first coda bends it into some rather flexible contortions.

Which brings us to the other point. The story is too short. Not because it's not exactly the length it should be, because it is, but because I desperately wanted more, but the design of the narrative (pun intended) didn't allow for more. It's probably the most perfectly self-contained novel I've ever encountered. Made up of a main story and three related and utterly mandatory short stories that follow it, the whole is a perfect execution of meta fiction and layering storytelling about storytelling onto a story about stories and the stories that those stories are about (if you followed that, this book is for you, if you didn't follow that you'll still love this book because Scalzi explains it much better than I do).

I loved the characters in this book, I love the tropes that are poked, I love the jokes, and tweaks, and call outs, and general sci-fi nerd mayhem that takes place.

Oh, and the ending has an emotional punch that brought happy tears to my eyes.

Seriously good book, one that I will re-read many times. You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy this, but it only helps if you grew up watching Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Earth 2. Especially Star Trek.

Also, as someone on Scalzi's blog pointed out: the subtitle is "A Novel with Three Codas"...three=tri...now say the last two words fast. WORST. PUN. EVER.

Best sci-fi meta fiction. ever.
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Tienyin Woah! I didn't catch the pun in the title until you pointed it out. *head explodes*


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