Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Second Reading)

(Three Stars)

The following is my 2014 review (with non-spoiler quotes added):

“I’ll try, sir,” Dahl said. “Try’s not good enough,” Abernathy said, and clapped Dahl hard on the shoulder. “I need to hear you say you’ll do it.” He shook Dahl’s shoulder vigorously. “I’ll do it.”

Sometimes the practice of offering early chapters of a book free backfires. I read the first chapters of Redshirts and, assuming I knew what it was all about, decided to pass on the whole novel. Wrong. This book is great, and it’s so much more than a send-up of science fiction television series. I can’t believe I waited to read it.

“If Q’eeng’s leading the away team, someone is going to die. Someone always dies. But if someone dies. Then whoever’s left is safe. That’s how it works.”

Oh, the basic story sounds like a Star Trek clone, which it is right up to the point where the main characters realize their story parallels Star Trek, then the fun begins.

“It doesn’t bother you that a science lab has a magic box in it?”

John Scalzi is probably the master science fiction author in America today. (Anything else I say would be gilding the lily.)

“There’s being on the edge and then there’s going all the way over the edge, and our hairy friend here is so far over the edge that the edge doesn’t even know him anymore.”

Well-told, thought-provoking story.

“In a situation like that, if you’re looking for patterns to connect unlikely events, you’re going to find them.”

And when the novel finished, the alert reader will notice that almost a hundred pages of book remain. That’s because the real fun is about to begin. Leave your preconceived notions at the door.

“How do you do that? How did you know?” “Because I’m a student of the human condition. And as humans go, you’re pretty predictable. And because I have you under constant surveillance through your phone, you dumbass.”

Unfortunately marred by gratuitous profanity. Yeah, I know why authors do it; it’s just not necessary. And distracts, rather than adds, to verisimilitude.

“Nothing’s impossible. But some things are pretty damned unlikely. This is one of them.”

2019 read: (The following quotes may be spoilers. Stop reading now if you plan to read the book.)

“Is this a Dub UU ship?” “Not exactly. It’s from the United Federation of Planets.” “Who are they” “They don’t exist. And neither does this. This is the starship Enterprise. It’s fictional. It was a science fiction drama series. And so are we.”

I docked Scalzi another star for profanity. It’s beyond gratuitous. Yes, I know this is how he talks and writes, but I can’t imagine him wanting his child exposed to—let alone speaking—all this. (I’m a thirty-year veteran. I heard all this and worse; that doesn’t make it acceptable public discourse. As I said before, it distracts.)

“We don’t know how accurate any of this information is. For all we know, this”—he scrolled up the phone screen to find a label—“this Wikipedia information database here is complied by complete idiots.”

All that said, my second reading verified that Scalzi writes some of the best SF today.

“I want you to think about what it means when I am the person in a group who is making the case for reality. I’m the least responsible person I know. I resent having to be the voice of reason. I resent it a lot.”

1 thought on “Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Three Stars)

  1. I agree about profanity. Too bad that such a good writer feels the need to pepper the language like that. Good review. I know Scalzi is one of the best but science fiction doesn’t draw me like fantasy does.

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