Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review (#4): Redshirts

Redshirts (by John Scalzi)

So yeah, I've been on a book-reading kick lately. And I guess you'll just have to deal with it, hapless readers! What control do you have over the direction of this blog? Mwahahaha!

I mean shit no come back please

...Anyway. So for pretty much anyone even vaguely versed in geekery, the term Redshirt has a very definite connotation, one pretty aptly summed up by the preceding link. If you click it, you may also note that the definition closes by specifically noting that this very book "deconstructs this trope". Well... yeah. That. Pretty much exactly that.

See, the starting premise of this novel (as kinda indicated by the tagline on the cover up there) is that these redshirts - who are the main characters here, not nameless extras as per the above link - pick up on the fact that accompanying the senior officers from  "the starship Intrepid, on a mission to seek out new life, new civili- yeah so okay kind of the point is that it's a ripoff of Star Trek" on an away mission is virtually tantamount to a death sentence. As, you know, actual human beings likely pretty damn quickly would. They then proceed to kinda freak out because what the hell man what the hell. Understandable.

Because, of course, the things going on around them - the appalling death rate among their friends and coworkers most terrifyingly - make absolutely no sense by any conceivable standard of actual logic. And this is where the whole "deconstruction" aspect starts to really kick in, as our main characters are introduced to the Very Crazy Theory of a paranoid hiding out in the ship's cargo tunnels... namely, that all this really rather more resembles something like TV logic, doesn't it. So... what if what's going on is that what they see as their reality was in fact created by a television show from back when they had such things - on 21st century Earth - and the Intrepid is the setting for that show and its senior officers its protagonists, and so that's why things on the Intrepid in general and around its senior officers in particular are so very bonkers by the normal, sane standards of reality? And naturally, after the obligatory period of scoffing and doubt owing to the Very Craziness of that theory, they're converted, essentially because no other explanation possibly fits what's happening around (and no! no spoilers) them as well as that, Very Crazy though it may be.

So if it's a TV show that's killing them... then they must kill that TV show. Which won't destroy their own reality, because it's already been established now. Probably. That last qualifier causes, oh, some minor consternation. But then they decide to go ahead anyway. Which hey, isn't actually necessarily implausible, because we did for instance choose to detonate the first atomic bomb on the basis that it probably wouldn't cause the atmosphere to ignite and burn every living thing on Earth to death. True history fact! Look it up. You know. So that you can join me in feeling oh-so-much-safer every time you hear the experts assure you that no, they've got this under control, don't worry about it. You're welcome!

But anyhow - that's enough of the plot given away. Suffice to say, shenanigans ensue (plan kinks and alterations naturally included)! Because even though rather a number of people die violently in it, this book is meant as a comedy, after all. Though that said, a couple of the codas mentioned on the cover seem to be somewhat less so intended - one, in fact, threatens to wax downright poignant, which is a pretty neat trick for an overall pretty silly book to manage. And it's a pretty funny one, too - Scalzi's a witty guy, with a gift for dialogue in particular that reflects that. Though... as long as I'm linking to TVTropes (great site by the way, as long as you don't mind potentially having a few hours of your life swallowed by Wikipedia-style link-following), did anyone else feel a huge wave of Fridge Horror wash over them when they considered a certain part of the next-to-last chapter just a little more carefully? Again, no spoilers as to just what I'm referring to - and if you didn't see it, then I'll spare you; it really does cast rather a different pall over the whole book if you let it get in your head too much.

But yeah. Overall, a funny, enjoyable book, if not quite as uproarious (in my ever-so-humble opinion, naturally) as the superlative pull quotes from illustrious sources - in the SF/F world, anyway - on the back cover might lead you to believe. Still, a good time and one I'm perfectly happy to have spent my money on. Why demand more than that?

To check it out for yourself:


P.S.: Oh, fine. You can go on and get a little spoiled, I suppose.

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