Thursday, June 21, 2012

E-book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi


Title: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
Author: John Scalzi
Page count: 318
Price when I bought it: $11.99
How I read it: Kindle 
When the lower-ranking crew members of a starship realize that away missions always end badly for everyone but the high-ranking officers, they are determined to find the reason why while avoiding the missions at all costs.

Opening Line:
From the top of the large boulder he sat on, Ensign Tom Davis looked across the expanse of cave toward Captain Lucius Abernathy, Science Officer Q'eeng and Chief Engineer Paul West perched on a second, larger boulder, and though, Well, this sucks.

My Thoughts:
 I liked Redshirts. It's funny, the dialog is snappy and the story never drags. If you like Star Trek and you like funny, you'll probably like this.

That being said, I have two reservations.

First, the price. $11.99 doesn't seem entirely unreasonable for a brand-new, 318 page book, but taking into consideration that the last quarter of the book is actually the "codas" (related short stories), that means the main story ends around page 240 (I'm estimating since I read on the Kindle). Someone who wasn't as into Scalzi as I am might feel cheated by paying twelve dollars for so short a story. If that's you, I'd suggest waiting for the price to drop or checking it out of the library.

Second, the character descriptions. I had a real problem telling the characters apart in Redshirts. They often talked alike and, aside from their gender, we are told nothing else about their appearance. The only one who I recall being described well was Jenkins: we're told he looks like a yeti. That's a short, sweet description and does the job perfectly - after I read it, I had no trouble remembering who Jenkins was. If only there were snappy descriptions like that for the rest of them.  There was one poor character, Hester, whose gender I forgot early on and it wasn't until near the end of the main story that I was able to figure out from context clues that he was a he.

I know some authors prefer to leave their character's appearance up to the reader's imagination, but I feel like I need to know SOMETHING about their looks so I can get a picture in my mind, even if it's just "he was brawny," "she towered over them" or "he looked like a yeti."  And was Q'eeng an alien or just a human with a weird name? Were there even any alien crew members on the ship at all? I guess I'll never know for sure, but that's okay. The story in Redshirts is good enough to make me forgive these minor problems.

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