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Redshirts by John Scalzi
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Redshirts (edition 2012)

by John Scalzi

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1,5861604,597 (3.82)1 / 190
Member:sawyl
Title:Redshirts
Authors:John Scalzi
Info:Gollancz (2012), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, ebooks
Rating:****1/2
Tags:science fiction, 2012

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Redshirts by John Scalzi

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English (157)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
This was an interesting book. I will likely read it again and my ultimate view of it may hinge on the second reading. That said, I'm not sure which way my future opinion will swing. I tend to be charmed by Scalzi's writing, so I'm going to guess that future me will decide he likes it a lot. Going on that hunch, I'll describe the annoyances of the book first, then its charms.

Annoyances:
This is a book about writing. At least the writer part of Scalzi's brain makes a huge appearance in the text. Sometimes this is a good thing: think about the movies Adaptation and Barton Fink. Sometimes the writer loses the readers who don't want to see the making sausage/law part of the creative process.

The supposed plot is pretty weak. This is clearly intentional and not really an annoyance, but we warned, the book isn't about what it might seem to be about at first. Actually, the ending is a pretty brilliant way of signalling to the readers that this isn't a book that is described by its plot. Speaking of that:

The ending. (You only get one of those, Scalzi. I hope it was as much fun as it looks.)

Charms:
The three codas. Without spoilers: these are the payoff. These are what the book was about. These could not be told without the lead in. These were heartwarming, wise, and wonderful.

Doing something completely different, well. I can't imagine that someone who isn't established in his craft could have sold the idea behind this book to her/his publisher. It is new and risky. I liked it.

Humor. Scalzi is good at making me laugh. Even when the jokes are shallow tripe being offered up as cheap distraction for a longer con he's working on, they still work.

Fuck it, OK, I like Star Trek and this, among other things, is a nice elegy for pulp sci-fi on TV, with many Trek tropes acknowledged and fondly given a roast.

Final Assessment
As with many self-reflective ambitious works, this could end up being self-indulgent crap. I don't think it will. It does enough well that I think it will go down as at least a cult novel, well and fondly remembered by Trekkies and readers alike. With Fuzzy Nation and then Redshirts, Scalzi seems to be going to his roots for inspiration. I like the results, but I'm also kind of hoping that now that his next books will offer something different. (Note: his next book is The High Castle, set in The Android's Dream universe, so it pretty clear he's going to stick w/ referential inspiration. Which is cool, too.) ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I don't think I'm a big enough fan of Star Trek to get the humor - I watched The Next Generation and that was at least 20 years ago. I enjoyed the Codas more than the main story. And I was really disappointed that Denise Hogan isn't a real author ... ;-) ( )
  kwbridge | Sep 6, 2014 |
A very fun read, particularly for a Star Trek fan. Clever ideas, snappy dialog. ( )
  mazeway | Sep 5, 2014 |
Summary: Ensign Andrew Dahl's first posting in the Universal Union is to the starship Intrepid, as a member of the science team in the Xenobiology lab. Dahl's pretty excited about it, but he hasn't been on board very long before he starts noticing some very strange things. Things like Away Missions that have an unusually high mortality rate - except it's always some low-ranking crewman that gets killed, and never one of the senior officers (although Lieutenant Karensky does seem to get severely injured - and miraculously healed - surprisingly frequently). Most of his fellow crewmates deal with this by avoiding the senior officers at all costs and trying not to think about it too hard, but Dahl and a few of his fellow new crew members start doing some digging to uncover what's really going on - and the answer just might be stranger than any one of them could have imagined.

Review: Awesome. Totally awesome. I enjoyed the heck out of this. I was raised on Star Trek - not TOS, but my dad got me started on TNG at an early age - so this book was right up my alley. It was funny, it was clever, and it was meta in a way that was funny and clever and not meta in the way that makes me want to throw things (good job, too, since I listened to it on my phone). I also kind of love that because of the meta-ness, it can be read on multiple different levels. On the surface, it's a fun and fast-paced sci-fi action adventure about these guys on this weird ship trying not to die, and you can read it just for that and it works just fine. But on a deeper level, it also gets into ideas of free will and fate and coincidence and destiny… and then on an even deeper level, it starts asking some questions about the nature of fiction vs. the nature of reality, and authorial intent, and the relationships between writers and their characters and their readers. It's pretty impressive that Scalzi can pull all that off while still keeping the story up and running and packed with jokes. Even some of the things that I might ordinarily complain about - some of the secondary characters felt a little flat, some of the plot twists seemed kind of arbitrary or convenient - even those things were almost certainly done purposefully, because it all ties back into the central theme of the book. (Either that, or Scalzi very cleverly found a theme that could be used as the perfect cloaking device for any flaws in his story… which is still an impressive achievement.)

Wil Wheaton does a great job with the narration for this book. He doesn't necessarily have the most varied voices or the smoothest narration out there, but he's a natural fit for a book about a young ensign assigned to a spaceship, and I have to imagine that his experiences practically growing up on the set of TNG lent a little extra bite to some of Dahl's sarcasm and incredulity. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Recommended for Star Trek fans (primarily ones who loved one or more of the series, although if you come to Star Trek fandom from the recent movies: welcome! You'll probably still have fun with this book.) I'm not going to say it's absolutely necessary to be a die-hard fan, but you need to be fairly familiar with the world in order to get most of the jokes… and they're jokes worth getting. Basically, if you "get" the title, you should read the book. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Aug 5, 2014 |
My blog post about this book is at this link. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Aug 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Scalziprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hayden, Patrick NielsenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lutjen, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheaton, WilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
Redshirts is dedicated to the following:

To Will Wheaton, whom I heart with all the hearty heartiness a heart can heart;

To Mykal Burns, my friend since the TRS-80 days at the Glendora Public Library;

And to Joe Mallozzi and Brad Wright, who took me to space with them.
First words
From the top of the large boulder he sat on, Ensign Tom Davis looked across the expanse of the cave toward Captain Lucius Abernathy, Science Officer Q'eeng and Chief Engineer Paul West perched on a second, larger boulder, and thought, Well, this sucks.
Quotations
"Someone who knows that no matter what, you don't deal upward on the chain of command," Dahl said. The crewman grinned.
"I don't think luck had much to do with it."
"That's it? 'The Box'?" Dahl said.

"If it makes you feel better to think it's an experimental quantum-based computer with advanced inductive artificial intelligence capacity, whose design origins comes to us from an advanced but extinct race of warrior-engineers, then you can think about it that way," Collins said.

"Is that actually what it is?" Dahl asked.

"Sure," Collins said . . .
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Book description
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is even more thrilled to be assigned to the ship's xenobiology laboratory, with the chance to serve on "Away Missions" alongside the starship's famous senior officers.

Life couldn't be better... until Andrew begins to realize that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officers, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) sadly, at least one low-ranked crew member is invariably killed.

Unsurprisingly, the savvier members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is... and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

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Enjoying his assignment with the xenobiology lab on board the prestigious Intrepid, ensign Andrew Dahl worries about casualties suffered by low-ranking officers during away missions before making a shocking discovery about the starship's actual purpose.… (more)

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