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Redshirts

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

Entertaining and quick read

I have an inherent fondness for Scalzi books. He and I share a similar sense of humor and of drama. Redshirts is a great example of what I'm talking about here. This is a darkly humorous book, somewhat of a send-up of Star Trek, but told from the point of view of the "r...
I have an inherent fondness for Scalzi books. He and I share a similar sense of humor and of drama. Redshirts is a great example of what I'm talking about here. This is a darkly humorous book, somewhat of a send-up of Star Trek, but told from the point of view of the "redshirts" of the crew, those extras whose sole job it is to die horrible deaths so that we know our heroes are in danger. In this case, the protagonists of the book are newly graduated cadets of a Universal Union who all score the most prestigious posting in the Fleet, the Intrepid. As far as they know, they live in a normal universe, leading relatively normal lives. They bond over drinks in the space station bar before the shuttle takes them to their new home. Once aboard the Intrepid, they start to notice that things are very odd there. Whenever the Captain, the Science Officer, the Engineer, or any of the other "main cast" crew members are walking down the corridor, all of the other crew members suddenly find reasons not to be found. Our protagonists discover why, as they go on "away missions" and barely survive. As they talk with other crew members (once they survive their "initiation"), they discover that for some reason, the rules of physics and statistics are severely bent out of shape in the presence of the "main cast" officers.

There were a few editorial oversights with mixed up names and such. I can generally overlook that, but it was jarring this time. Also, some of the names of the protagonists are visually similar and it took me a while to sort out which backstory belonged to which character. But the biggest complaint I had with the novel was that it seemed to end too soon. I don't mean the book was short; I mean that it felt like one of those TV shows where everything looks like it's wrapped up neatly but you still have fifteen minutes to go, so you expect that there's some big twist that's just about to happen to make the story that much more interesting. This novel seems to set up such a big twist, but then suddenly ends. It was disappointing because that apparent big twist had such potential.

After the main story ends, the book has three "codas", extensions of the main story with characters that were featured in the main story but were not the main characters. Each of these codas were interesting additions to the story in very unique ways. The first coda is a first-person narrative told in blog/epistolary form. The second coda is written in second-person, a very unusual and difficult style that rarely works. This time I thought it did, exploring the thoughts and feelings of someone who has been told he was in a terrible accident with severe brain damage, and is trying to account for a couple of weeks missing from his memory. Finally, the third coda is in... you guessed it, third person, which tells the story of an actor who learns how profoundly and positively affected someone was by her portrayal of a bit part character, someone who had all of a couple of minutes of screen time. It's sweet and perfectly caps a story line from the main story.

posted by jkusters on June 9, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

A Good Quick Read

It should be said that your enjoyment of this book will likely hinge on being, at least in some small way, a fan of classic Star Trek. And in poking fun of the same old tropes, it uses them all, some repeatedly. I was left wondering if I would have gotten more enjoyment...
It should be said that your enjoyment of this book will likely hinge on being, at least in some small way, a fan of classic Star Trek. And in poking fun of the same old tropes, it uses them all, some repeatedly. I was left wondering if I would have gotten more enjoyment from a standard episode of the show than I did this satirical send up. But that probably says more about my personal tastes than the quality of Mr. Scalzi's work. All in all, it was quite enjoyable.

posted by 339600 on June 20, 2012

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  • Posted September 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Scalzi Scores with Sci Fi Insight and Wit John Scalzi has an in

    Scalzi Scores with Sci Fi Insight and Wit

    John Scalzi has an incredible knack for writing novels that read effortlessly, smoothly and all too quickly. While “Redshirts” doesn’t build a world as robust and realistic as the universe in his military-focused “Old Man’s War” series, Scalzi has written another terrifically creative and engaging work.

    Scalzi’s wit drives a plot centered on the concept that secondary characters in sci fi entertainment tend to die (frequently) so that their senior officers (and show/movie/book stars) will live. The story is propelled by Scalzi’s insights on the human condition as well as the entertainment industry.

    The concept is not new to sci fi fans - the title of Scalzi’s book draws from the standard uniform color of expendable characters on “Star Trek” whose deaths, as Scalzi points out, “are a feature, not a bug”. Scalzi uses the foundation of this small premise and builds a credible and interesting world. He avoids the standard and expected clichés and has developed a fully realized, nuanced and captivating novel.

    I didn’t find the characters in “Redshirt” as three dimensional as those in Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” series. I acknowledge, though, that he had several books with which to build those up as opposed to the single 300+ pages in “Redshirts”. The strongest character development comes within the three codas Scalzi attaches to the end of the primary narrative to bring to conclusion some of the more poignant, but less central, plot elements of his story.

    As usual, Scalzi’s characters are smartly written and imbued with a cynical, insightful, but never over-written, sense of humor. “Redshirts” is strewn with inside jokes on modern entertainment, many at the expense of agents, writers and the business-side of Hollywood business. I often found the tone similar to Scalzi’s approach in his novel, “Agent to the Stars.”

    “Redshirts” made me chuckle, and Scalzi’s fluid writing style and strong story development drove me to devour the book in only a couple of days.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    I enjoyed the meta style story, I found it to be a thought provo

    I enjoyed the meta style story, I found it to be a thought provoking
    continuance of a line of thought I first saw in Tron.

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  • Posted July 10, 2012

    A fun read!

    Greatly enjoyed the premise and storyline. Especially as a fan of the Star Trek series! Scalzi has become one of my favorite authors.

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