Erik Nelson's Reviews > Redshirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi
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Jul 13, 12

Read from July 12 to 13, 2012

This is a damned difficult book to review. It's a fast, breezy read similar in tone to Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and, as you might guess from its title, a bit obsessed with SF tropes. This is, in the end, fiction about fiction.

The problem with being a novel playing around with bad SF tropes is that the novel suffers some of the same crippling problems: underdeveloped characters, etc. Of course, this is all by design--but the novel doesn't quite fully reach escape velocity here. The giant vortex of suck that goes along with these bad SF tropes drags the story down at times despite Scalzi's best efforts.

What really saves the novel from itself are the three coda tacked on to the end, which comprise over a quarter of the novel's length. Whatever emotional resonance the main body of the story lacked, Scalzi brings back in torrents here. The tone is night to the main novel's day. It almost feels like Scalzi was saying, "Yeah, I know I've been toying with you for 150 pages. So, here's what you really want." It's great, because the coda are classic Scalzi. It also sucks because I wished the entire novel had been more like those coda. Even though that would have defeated the purpose of the book.

The meta aspects of the novel don't really offer sufficient payoff in my opinion. It's fun, it's quirky, it's entertaining, but never quite satisfying. And the coda, while great in themselves, don't really raise the book to a higher level so much as they save it from disappointment. There's entertainment to be had here, but in the end this novel felt more like a novelty.
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