Redshirts, by John Scalzi

RedshirtsLet’s start this review off with some high praise from my husband, Scott, from earlier this week: “I think we may have to buy this book, because I already want to read it again.”

Add that to the constant quoting of humorous lines and the exclamations of “That totally happened on that one episode of Star Trek I just watched!” (he’s working his way through Voyager on Netflix), and I’m pretty sure this book is a winner.

So, easy summary: if you are currently watching old episodes of Star Trek, or just have them memorized, or just kind of like things that are related to the ST universe in some way, you’re going to like this book.

Now personally, I fall in the last category up there. I’ve watched tons of Star Trek thanks to my mother’s love of it, but I remember only broad details. And based on what I overhear when Scott’s watching it, I think that’s for the best. So when I started reading Redshirts, it was similarly painful to watching Star Trek. The book is a send-up of the show and those that copied it, so necessarily the crew members have incredibly weird and nonsensical and scientifically inaccurate things happen to them, and I was often like, really?

But the book is also completely meta and the characters are more or less aware that weird and nonsensical and scientifically inaccurate things are happening to them. Sometimes this conceit works, sometimes it doesn’t, but definitely the whole time I was thinking, “How is Scalzi going to pull this off?”

It’s hard to say anything about the novel proper without spoiling that mood for you, so I’m going to move on to the three short stories that follow the novel and which I thought were the best parts of the book after the novel’s last chapter. Best chapter ever? Possibly.

Anyway, the stories — I had just listened to a Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast in which they talked about minor characters getting their own spinoffs (you should totally give it a listen), which made these stories feel serendipitous. Each stars, if you will, a different minor character from the novel dealing with the novel’s aftermath, and they are quite beautifully done. One is humorous and references Jasper Fforde so therefore 10 points to it, the next is more serious and questioning, and the last maybe made me cry a little bit, but I’ll cry at almost anything so don’t worry about that. 🙂 Also, they are titled, in order, “First Person,” “Second Person,” and “Third Person,” and the number of meanings you can wring out of those titles is brilliant.

Recommendation: See above; also probably for those who liked the weirdness of Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream.

Rating: 8/10

6 thoughts on “Redshirts, by John Scalzi

  1. Redhead says:

    Yay for Redshirts! but you know I’m a Star Trek nerd, so I loved it. While reading, I too was wondering how in the heck Scalzi was going to pull it off, but in the end, I think he did!

    • Alison says:

      For a little while, I thought you had disliked Redshirts (I think I confused it with Blackbirds, you know, color-plural-noun, whatever) and I was concerned it was going to be less than super awesome. Thank goodness I was wrong on both counts! 🙂

      • Redhead says:

        too funny, because I have that same problem where I’ll sometimes mix up book titles that are grammatically similar! or even worse, titles that are exactly the same. . . but completely and utterly different books.

        something else we have in common, our husband both liked Redshirts too.

        totally off topic randomness – are you doing BBAW interview swap again this year?

        • Alison says:

          Well, Scott liked Redshirts until he realized he can’t watch Voyager any more… too many references to inertial dampeners and too many unexplained explodey things. 🙂

          And yes, yes I am! I may be getting myself into too much by signing up for BBAW, but it’s so much fun every year!

  2. Carl V. says:

    Redshirts was fun and in addition had some really interesting things to say about the craft of writing and creating characters. At the same time I felt it lacked that something special that I expect from Scalzi’s books. I am a huge fan of his work and I’m not sure if too much pre-publishing hype colored my experience or what but while I enjoyed this one a lot I didn’t love it like some did. As a Trek fan I think I wanted more from that too and felt that the joke got old much sooner than it should have for me. Still, it is a Scalzi book and as such is well worth reading and is not something I would steer anyone away from.

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