Adam's Reviews > Redshirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi
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Jul 09, 12


** spoiler alert ** "Huh."

That was my response to Redshirts.
Now, to be fair I finished the novel in a severly jetlagged state
and so I blame that for at least part of my ambiguous and incoherant response.

To be fair though, it's a kind of an apt summary.
Let me clarify. It's a nuanced "huh." vaguely positive, said with a small nod, but perhaps with
furrowed eyebrows. A "huh" that says, "I understand, but will have to
ponder about what I think about all this."

For those of you living under a rock* Redshirts is the new novel by John Scalzi in which he deconstructs the lives
of the hapless members of a Star-Trek-ian away team who would inevitably suffer some horrible fate to add additional drama
or convince the watcher that the situation really is dangerous.

Scalzi himself claims the novel can be spoiled, so consider yourself forewarned, but frankly, I had been avoiding reading reviews
before hand for fear of spoilers, and I had a pretty good guess about the twist by the time I had finished the prologue.
I mean, it's pretty obvious, really.

The concept is fun. The Universal Union is appropriately evocative of Federation Starfleet, and the deaths that
inevitably befall the crew are amusing and keep (most of) the moribundity at bay.
I actually felt like the writing and editing were weak for scalzi. The device "a part of his mind said this, a part of his mind said this, a part of his mind said,
boy I sure do have a lot of parts today" is used like two too many times.*** And to be frank the characters are all a little too slight. I realize this is part of the
conceit, but I feel like a better written (or hell, maybe just a longer) book could have preserved the conceit and still given each character enough dialogue
to formulate a more distinctive voice. Plus, there's a major gaping plot hole which kind of ruined the mood for me.

Ultimately, though, the novel isn't really about being on an away team or anything else. It's a deeper meditation
on living, living well, dying, dying well, destiny, fear, and fate. And actually, the real meat of the themes doesn't really come out in the novel itself but rather in the
codas.

Which brings me to the primary redeeming quality of this book.

The codas are really great. The first one is best. It's really funny, but it's also a slightly profound look at art and life.
The other two are pretty great too, but revisit some pretty familiar Scalzian themes.****

So, "huh" John Scalzi. I liked this. And I was worried after Fuzzy Nation, but if you average a good novel and a great set of codas I think you get something very good. I wish it were better, but I think very good is probably good enough.

* By which, of course, I mean most normal people who aren't tied in to the nerd-o-sphere.**
** To everyone else, though, you should have heard of this. It has a theme song from Jonathon Coulton for god's sake.
*** To be fair, I think it was only used twice.
**** (This one really is a spoiler) I'm on to you Scalzi--Having two people fall in love because their alternate representations
were in love sounds an awful lot like what happened to John Perry and Jane Sagan in Old Man's war.
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