Luke Burrage's Reviews > Redshirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi
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it was ok
bookshelves: reviewed-on-the-sfbrp, recommended-by-sfbrp-listeners, audio-book

Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #162.

A lot like, so much to dislike, even more to make me crazy, plus some codas that seemed to be written and included with the sole purpose of pissing me off. Luke said.
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Reading Progress

June 27, 2012 – Started Reading
June 27, 2012 – Shelved
June 27, 2012 –
3.0% "I need to look up the narrator of this, because he is (almost) the worst I've ever listened to. Luke said."
June 27, 2012 –
30.0% "Narration has improved a bit, attribution in dialogue still annoying, but the story is really good fun. I'm sticking with it."
June 28, 2012 –
90.0% "What the fuck is this coda at the end? Seriously, what the fuck? Do I have to get to the end of it to make any more sense of the story that's already over, or is it just superfluous? It's utterly boring and annoying at the same time. And the narrator has exactly one dimension of emotional range, and this is at the teeth-grind-inducing end."
June 28, 2012 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-the-sfbrp
June 28, 2012 – Shelved as: recommended-by-sfbrp-listeners
June 28, 2012 – Shelved as: audio-book
June 28, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by James (new) - added it

James Ritter Don't you think Wil might be being meta in the narration?


Luke Burrage James wrote: "Don't you think Wil might be being meta in the narration?"

I mentioned this in the review. While I think an author might get away with playing a game like that, I don't think an audiobook producer would intentionally make something so difficult to listen to.


Fred Fenimore Loved the review. Almost totally disagreed with it but loved it nonetheless.


Mike Thicke I thought Wil was fine as a narrator. Pretty much agree with your review otherwise. I actually thought the codas were better than the novel, but that's because the novel was pretty terrible.


unknown "blank said" is a huge problem with scalzi's writing, especially when you listen to his audiobooks. he attrbitues every. fucking. line. even in scenes with two characters talking back and forth. he does it in every book too. either he thinks the readers need to be coaxed through every scene or he's not that great a writer.


Mike Thicke If he did that in Old Man's War I didn't notice, but I sure did in the audiobook of Redshirts (I read OMW).


Kristen You're overthinking it Luke. Scalzi is not playing a mean trick on the readers by writing an intentionally bad book to make a point.

He was interviewed yesterday on NPR and made a few points relevent to your review. 1) He was writing Redshirts as a comic novel. The codas were not meant to be comic. Hence the difference in tone. 2) He mentioned how he went looking to see if anyone had written a novel about the "redshirts" concept and could find nothing. He did not mention looking for it in movies. 3) Scalzi was also excited that his good friend Wil Wheaton was narrating the audio book as he had narrated some of his other audio books.

I can't disagree too much with your review. I like Scalzi much better as a fan writer than a sci fi novelist. He writes light, fluffy sci fi. I get a brief kick out of reading them, but they do not stick at all. Redshirts was like that too; although, I was less enthralled by the second half adventures in meta than I was with the first half set on the Intrepid and poking fun at the original ST. The first half was fun to me. The redshirt characters were all cardboard and interchangeable even the female one.

Reading the novel I did not have the same issue you had with narration, but good God that sample was painful. And I kind of recall I had a bit of trouble tracking that scene myself but I didn't catch on why.

I'd be interested to have you review H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy and John Scalzi's rebooted version of it named Fuzzy Nation. Little Fuzzy's sexism and smoking marks it as a book of its time, but I still found it to have more meat than Scalzi' Fuzzy Nation which is just fluffier and doesn't make the legal arguements that Little Fuzzy does. Scalzi did do a better job with the characters than usual or maybe he just had less of them so it wasn't too hard to tell them a part.


message 8: by unknown (last edited Jul 13, 2012 08:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

unknown i think scalzi is generally terrible with characterization. every one of his characters talks in the same super smartass sarcastic tone, just like one of his blogs, and you can never tell anyone apart. redshirts was by far the worst of his books in this regard -- i couldn't tell you how many characters there were, or who had what role, because it didn't matter. and when he tried to give the second half resonance with some death and ennui, it totally didn't land because how am i supposed to care? he pulled the same tonal shift in agent to the stars and it didn't work there either.

the codas were... whatever. i hated the first one (if i wanted to read scalzi writing a blog, i could read his blog), the second one was rather on the nose, and the third one was sweet but played off the book's least believable moment.


Luke Burrage SF_Fangirl wrote: "You're overthinking it Luke. Scalzi is not playing a mean trick on the readers by writing an intentionally bad book to make a point.

He was interviewed yesterday on NPR and made a few points rele..."


Damn it! Am I thinking about this stuff too much? This is what I love about literature and science fiction, that combined they let you play around with the world in such away that Scalzi could pretend to be a shit writer that improves over time due to a visit from the future.

I though it was meant to be like Flowers For Algernon, but shit.

I don't think I'll be trying any other Scalzi novels for a while.


message 10: by Keith (new)

Keith Jones Someone so moved by what he was writing that he actually became a better writer and the only way you, the reader, know this is because the book gets better actually sounds like a really cool idea. Hard as hell to pull off but cool idea. I'm trying to think of examples, and the closest I can get is The Princess Bride, which is about an author in a loveless marriage translating a book about true love. Of course, that one required translator notes to pull off, but it really floored me. Took me years before I realized that the translator was part of the book's fictional universe and wasn't really real. Damn effective, I tell you.


message 11: by Luke (new) - rated it 2 stars

Luke Burrage Keith wrote: "the closest I can get is The Princess Bride ..."

Great book recommendation!


message 12: by Keith (new)

Keith Jones Oh, and I think my memory is faulty. I think he edited the text not translated.

PS. Sorry about spoiling the book's big bombshell but--you know--it's old. Even the movie adaptation is from the 80s or something. Also, the movie really kind-of took a sledgehammer to the book and turned it into a heartwarming tale. You almost can't compare the two.


message 13: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Evans Hi Luke,

Just finished listening to your review which was, as with most of your rants, highly enjoyable.

Now, I haven't read the book yet, but from the sounds of if, it sounds as if his book is as much a critique of the Science Fiction publishing community in the US as it is of Star Trek per se.

The he said, she said, etc. element of his writing sounds like a direct comment on "he-said-sims" That is, the critique one gets if one uses any word other than said to describe the fact someone is speaking. For example, I have even had editors switch the word aksed for said. (i.e "I wonder what she is doing?" he asked changed to "I wonder what she is doing?" she said.).

Since Scalzi is just finishing up his tenure as President of SFWA, one cannot help but wonder how much his meta-novel might just be a directed poigniant commentary.


message 14: by Eric (new) - added it

Eric thanks for the rant Luke!


message 15: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Evans Keith wrote: "Oh, and I think my memory is faulty. I think he edited the text not translated.

PS. Sorry about spoiling the book's big bombshell but--you know--it's old. Even the movie adaptation is from the 80s..."




Yeah, Goldman wrote The Princess Bride, making himself as the editor of a translated version of a non-existing book that was a satyrical commentary on the social structure of a non-existing country. So the meta is pretty damned deep in that one too.


message 16: by Luke (new) - rated it 2 stars

Luke Burrage Thomas wrote: "Now, I haven't read the book yet, but from the sounds of if, it sounds as if his book is as much a critique of the Science Fiction publishing community in the US as it is of Star Trek per se. "

No, it turns out it is just a shit book. I *thought* he was being more clever, but by all accounts he just wrote a shit book.

From his panel at Comic Con:

“Five weeks. I wrote it in five weeks and sent it to my editor.”

“One draft?”

“In five weeks.”


Ho hum.


message 17: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Evans Ahh... yes... well that does explain things. Funny because I've heard a lot of great comments about it. I will probably HAVE to read it myself, but from what you say, it really doesn't sound like I'll like it that much.


message 18: by Tj (new)

Tj Dombrowski I'm happy i found your podcast and book lists, SciFi is my favorite. I love that you also love the older hard scifi and not just recent books. Your review of redshirts was highly entertaining. I found you by your review of Slan. I belong to a book club that sent the novel out and had never heard of it and was googling reviews of it. what I a find. Glad you are doing this. thanks for helping the sci-fi reader community.


Linguana Luke wrote: "No, it turns out it is just a shit book. I *thought* he was being more clever, but by all accounts he just wrote a shit book."

I'm finished now and I agree with your entire review. I was actually debating whether I should even write a review myself or just tell people to go listen to your podcast and go: Yeah, what Luke said. :)

After reading this (and spending money on it!) I am somewhat personally pissed at John Scalzi. Of course, if you've got his name, you get away with stuff like that.
Also, I found the first coda very ironic - not a bad writer, just doing bad writing... sounds familiar, doesn't it?


molosovsky You broke my heart with your rant, Luke ;-)
I liked the audiobook, except for the very sentimental last two codas. Your description of Wheatons narration is quite accurate, but I am a sucker for his voice and therefore found his reading style entertaining and not hard to follow.


message 21: by Hein (new)

Hein I had a long drive home today in the traffic, but this review had me in hysterics the whole way. Really liked the Audible advert halfway through it: "Please, for fuck's sake, don't download Redshirts."


Emanuel Landeholm Well, I'm going to read it anyway. :-)


message 23: by Luke (new) - rated it 2 stars

Luke Burrage Reading is probably better than listening.


message 24: by Julie (last edited May 18, 2013 06:10AM) (new)

Julie Davis Luke wrote: "SF_Fangirl wrote: "You're overthinking it Luke. Scalzi is not playing a mean trick on the readers by writing an intentionally bad book to make a point.

He was interviewed yesterday on NPR and mad..."


My favorite Scalzi novel was Agent to the Stars. However, that might be because I work in advertising so I liked the comic light he shone on that industry. I think one must read most of Scalzi's work as very light and inconsequential. And then it is ok as entertainment.

That is not to say that I liked Red Shirts. I read three chapters and quit it. But you can't go by me. I loved Night of the Living Trekkies.


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