Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Redshirts: "Act and you shall have dinner; wait, and you shall be dinner"

I’ve been wanting to read John Scalzi for a while now, ever since I started closely associating him with Wil Wheaton (the Internet is a nutty place, you guys). But also, you know, he’s written a bunch of sci-fi novels and won the Hugo Award, in addition to working as creative consultant for Stargate: Universe. So this guy knows sci fi, is all I’m saying.

Redshirts, Scalzi’s most recent book, focuses on Ensign Andrew Dahl, newly assigned to the Xenobiology lab on the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid. After just a short time on the Intrepid, it becomes apparent that working on this ship is . . . different. Every away mission to explore a new planet or answer a distress call or carry out any other routine task ends badly—as in, someone being eaten by a Borgovian Land Worm or mulched by a fleet of rogue robots. The thing is, the fatalities are limited to low-ranking crew members. The high-ranking officers, while often dramatically injured/attacked by an alien virus/infected with a painful STD, inexplicably survive these missions every time. Dahl and his friends set out to discover what's behind this curious pattern and how to avoid becoming the next away-mission casualties.

This book is best described as an extended and supremely terrible episode of Star Trek, which is 100% intentional on Scalzi’s part (according to me, who apparently feels entitled to speak for Scalzi). It has all the fantastical sci-fi elements and cheezy dialogue that characterize practically every episode of Star Trek ever. And page 14 made me honk . . . like a laughing goose.

But despite all these things . . . I just didn’t love it. I realized this at about page 150, when I put the book down in what is essentially the THICK of the plot and didn’t really care to pick it back up again.

But I did pick it back up. I sufficiently enjoyed the last 50 pages. And there’s a whole section toward the end that employs second person effectively, for which props MUST be given.

The highest of fives for you, sir.

So I super-enjoyed the beginning, was somewhat bored with the middle, and regular-enjoyed the end. And this review will be of absolutely no help to you in deciding whether or not to read the book.

A brief note on the editing: I really tried not to mention this, because it seems kind of petty. But, Scalzi, your copy editor has done you a grave disservice. There are typos APLENTY throughout the book, and at one point there’s even a mix-up with the names of two major characters. This is stuff that really should have been caught by the person who was PAID TO DO SO. I’m sure you’re very sweet, Scalzi, since you thanked your copy editor by name in the “Acknowledgments” section. So I’ll take it upon myself to say what needs to be said here. Scalzi’s copy editor (whose name I know but will refrain from putting on the Internet in connection with the following words), Hab SoSlI' Quch. (That means “Your mother has a smooth forehead,” and I assure you it is QUITE an insult if you happen to be a Klingon.)

I'm sure she's a very nice person, this copy editor.


  1. Sorry the book wasn't better, but I love the gifs you use AND the fact that you care about bad copy editing. You, my [internet-only-but-maybe-we'll-meet-in-real-life-one-day-at-BEA-or-something] friend, are after my own heart. Why don't copy editors seem to know standard English any more? And why don't they pay attention to the details they're paid to pay attention to?

  2. I almost did that thing where I talk myself into liking the book after all. But no...it has so much unrealized potential.

    Here's my thing with the bad editing. I read messy manuscripts all day. That is what I do. I do not want to be made to deal with such things in my leisure time. SO, when the copy editor doesn't do his or her job and thus forces me to care about things like typos IN MY LEISURE TIME, I take it as a personal affront. I am affronted personally.

  3. OH BURN!

    I've been umming and ahhhing about picking up this book FOR EVER, but I think this was enough to make me hold off for just a little longer. It sounds lukewarm, cool concept, not so hot execution, and there are too many good books on my shelf to worry about a lukewarm book.

  4. Ahahahaha the laaaaast GIF the laaaast

    "in addition to working as creative consultant for Stargate: Universe" -- BOOOOOOOOOOOO

  5. Do we not like Stargate: Universe? You have to TELL me these things so I can pretend to know them already!

  6. But what if you LOVE it? I'm having book-reviewer anxiety.

    But actually that's exactly it. Cool concept, mediocre follow-through.

  7. I feel more justified in my opinion of this book now.

  8. Agreed. That last gif is PHENOMENALLY APT.

  9. I'm starting to feel a little bad about being mean to a stranger on the Internet...but not very I guess.

  10. I'll get to it, but it'll be from the library instead of the book store. You've potentially saved me $30 so thank you!