Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Redshirts (by John Scalzi)

Redshirts is a charming sci-fi novel that focuses on the "redshirts" on an Enterprise-like vessel who realize that a disproportionate number of them die, and that there seem to be strange rules governing their world. Love John, love the concept of the novel, love the sense of fun and humor throughout the book.  I'm going to throw out a couple of issues I had with it though.

First of all, a lot of the characters sound like prototypical Scalzi characters, and many of them use his verbal tics. (One character says something like "I am. I so very am." that I feel like is as classic Scalzi as you can get.) As a result, they're not very well differentiated. (Could be at least partly on purpose, but given the meta twists at the end, I think the characters could have had a little more depth to them, even if it was very broad or cliche.)

Second issue: It feels like this book could have used more sentence-level editing. It has a loose, fun style that you wouldn't want to edit away, but couldn't someone go through and fix the dialogue tags? Every single piece of dialogue doesn't need a "he said" or "she said" after it, and that is an easy editorial fix.

I was also confused about one of the twists. The rule seems to be that in the Intrepid's timeline, the show Chronicles of the Intrepid doesn't exist. So they go back in time using Intrepid timeline rules to 2012--but shouldn't that be the 2012 within the world of the show? The show shouldn't exist there either! So how does it? (I guess that can be explained by the final meta twist, but it bugged me the whole time I was reading that section, even if I did love how that whole 2012 bit played out.)

And I also think Jenkins just laying out the rules of the world was a little too Jenkins ex machina for me. I would have loved if it took a little more time to figure it out, or if we figured out how Jenkins figured it out, since it seems impossible for him to have the level of knowledge he did about, say, Star Trek. Maybe I was reading too fast and missed it, or I don't quite understand the rules of the world.

All of this is not to say that I give the novel anything other than a thumbs up--it is really fun and fast to read and breezy and all that good stuff. But a good edit would have made it even better, in my  humble opinion.

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Blogger Beth said...

I had all of those same issues with the book (and also loved it anyway). I have those same issues with all of his books, although the editing errors were worse in this one. My solution is for John to hire you to edit ALL of his books. Then everybody (well, me anyway) will be happy.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

And then I will hire you to edit my blog comments because wow, that was a collection of terrible sentences.

10:56 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

There was also the scene at the bar, when Dahl was all "I know we barely were extras together... but it's really really really good to see you... I'm so glad I skipped the club to see you... let's take a picture together..." and it was like, this guy is totally hitting on you. I was hoping for that scene to just go all the way and have them make out or something.

3:46 PM  

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