Hel speak: Let me begin by saying, I do not like science fiction, except for the kind that involves aliens invading earth. And the new Star Trek movie, because the actors in it are actually attractive. I can appreciate that. Despite my innate dislike for SciFi, I have been made to watch plenty Star Trek by Panda, as well as my husband. So I'm not completely ignorant of the subject. When I bent to buy Redshirts, I saw that Scalzi has quite a few published novels, which gave me hope for this book, even though I really didn't want to read it. I'm not sure how his other works compare to this, but I come bearing mixed reviews.
For starters, Redshirts feels like those books written for teenagers that enable you to essentially write your own story. Like, "option 1: Michael attacks his opponent, skip ahead to page 112. Option 2: Michael runs away like the pansy he is, skip ahead to page 98". You know what I'm talking about, right?
Those books aren't well written, and neither is this. It's not BAD, like some books we've reviewed, but it's not GOOD either. It's bleh.
The humor. I guess Scalzi is known for being funny? I appreciate humor in books, especially because I personally am very bad at writing humor (have you noticed?), but I like it to be sandwiched between substance. This book lacked that (mainly - I'll explain what I mean later). All said, Redshirts did make me laugh quite a bit, and I read several passages to my husband.
This was while I still thought that Redshirts was a Star Trek parody. You'll be disappointed to hear it's not. In fact (and I assume he did this so he wouldn't have to pay royalties),... oh lordy, how do I even explain this. See, in Redshirts, SPOILER, there are two universes. One of them is ours, basically. In our universe, there exists a rip-off TV series of Star Trek. Then, there is the other, futuristic universe, in which the characters of the rip-off show actually exist in real life. However, the rip-off show is basically based off their lives, and whatever happens on the show happens to them. Even if it's out of character for them or really makes no sense whatsoever. They mainly carry on doing their own thing, since the TV show doesn't portray every moment of every character's life, so they are free to do whatever they want as long as there isn't an episode running.
Even this I would have been semi-willing to run with. A few of the characters figure out what's going on, and decide to try and stop it. This is where things get incredibly dumb:
Our main characters travel through a wormhole into our universe to persuade the producer of the rip-off show to stop making it, so the future universe can be left in peace. And this is where the book suddenly gets really deep and philosophical and stupid.
I'll skip through the big spoiler section to let you know that at what you think is going to be the end, things get even weirder. The protagonist suddenly figures out that even what they think to be real, really isn't. Thye are still somehow trapped in someone elses fantasy, or SOMETHING. It's impossible to tell. Scalzi is really vague about it, and then THE END.
Except not really.
The book has three more parts, these told from the viewpoint of three characters from OUR universe. This is where more of that out of character depth and philosophizing comes in. Pointless, stupid, STOP IT.
The more I think about this book, the more I hate it.
Don't read it.
Panda didn't. She will be doing a punishment post. I don't blame here.
Fat Panda has failed you all!!!
Redshirts was a DNF for me. But, I will review the half of the book I did read.
100 pages in and it still felt like the same long-running joke that was trying to remember the punch line.
Really, this book should have been a short story or novella. The characters were underdeveloped because they were just names on a page. I could hardly tell them apart. Except for the one girl character.
I know it is supposed to critique Star Trek and TV shows of the like. I get that. But when your critique can be summed up in one sentence, it makes me angry. Something like this would be funnier and more effective as an uber intertextual episode of Community.
I read to exactly half in my book. And by then the logic was so thin I was like, ‘I can tell this isn’t going anywhere.’ So I stopped.
In sum, don’t waste your time or your money. Scalzi is a big name, but I’m not so sure he deserves it. Or his seat on the SFWA or whatever.