Redshirts – John Scalzi

I was hesitant to pick this book up. From the vague description I had of the book, I was afraid that I would not get the joke because I know next to nothing about Star Trek. I have nothing against it,  but I refuse to watch it for the same reason I refuse to watch Doctor Who – there is far too much of it and knowing how much of a dirty completionist I am, I am afraid I will get into it and spend a horrible amount of time doing nothing but watching the shows massive corpus. I don’t have time for that kind of stuff anymore. But hesitation aside, I picked it up and I was very well rewarded for doing so.

The book had initially been decried to me as a Star Trek parody, and really that is all you need to know in terms of a synopsis – there is a spaceship with a crew and they go on missions. While that thin description certainly is accurate of the book, there is more going on to it then just that.

I drafted the first copy of this review before I had even finished the book. I had pretty much nothing but praise for it. Certainly, the book has numerous points where it earns your praise. The prologue alone shows excellence, particularly in setting a tone that really resonates throughout the whole book. Scalzi does it extremely well too, really only needing to describe the anatomy of a certain animal as ‘evolutionarily suspect’. From the first chapter you know exactly what is going on even though the book will not tell you it expressly till much later. The enjoyable feeling of the book is from guessing that something will happen (really because the author has outlined it subtly, but clearly) and then finding out that you have been proven right. if you can do that, the reader will enjoy themselves.

I did find myself feeling a bit out of it with the ‘three codas’ the book’s cover promised (at least my edition had ‘a novel with three codas’ on it). One of them felt like I was being bludgeoned with the story’s theme. I have always felt that themes in fiction are a very subtle flavor, and a lot will ruin the whole pot. But more importantly, the three codas were such massive tonal shifts that they almost felt like they could have been tacked onto a different story. Despite all this, the concluding one did feel like it wrapped the narrative of Redshirts together nicely.

But even despite the ending, I still think the book was fantastic, and would recommended it readily.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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