Friday, January 10, 2014

Review of Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

A happy and prosperous New Year!

Just getting around to reading last year's Hugo winner, "Redshirts."
Besides being a popular hit, this small masterpiece demonstrates that
the author knows all the rules of scifi writing and how to break
them, much to our delight.

The hilarious Prolog kicks off with one of the security detail officers on the Intrepid, a Star Trek-like starship, being killed by a massive, carniverous Borgovian land worm while on an away mission to the planet below. Before his untimely demise, Ensign Davis keeps having thoughts that don't seem to be his own. They also seem to be
violating the rules all fiction writers are held to by their editors, namely, to avoid background exposition at all costs. We immediately
suspect that Davis is being taken for a ride a la "Stranger Than Fiction," wherein he finds himself to be the main character in a novel over which he has no control of the narration happening to him.

Soon we learn that all the "redshirts" (junior officers) aboard
the Intrepid are aware of a high mortality rate on away missions. New
recruit Andy Dahl and his friends begin to seek the reason
why. The Intrepid is like any other ship in the fleet, yet its
mortality rate has gone up sharply. (Could this be due to another
demand we see from editors and producers, namely, that constant
obstacles be thrown in front of the characters to keep the action
going?) Gradually they become convinced they are fictional characters
in a television show from the past.

After an entertaining and laws-of-physics-bending trip to the year
2012, they meet their lookalike actors and manage to convince the
writers of the tv show to stop killing them off. Satisfied, they
return to their spaceship and live happily ever after. But people in
the real world are left shaken by the impossible turn of events. Did
they really meet these visitors from another world, or have they simply
gone crazy? The novel concludes with three touching and
thought-provoking codas, as each character contemplates the example
set by his or her fictional doppelganger.

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