Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 3, 2013

Redshirts by John Scalzi

We had nine attendees for this meeting. The topic was Redshirts, a humorous space opera. In this book, several  members of a starship crew start noticing vast differences in the life expectancies of their shipmates based solely on the colors of their uniforms. This leads to startling realizations about the nature of their reality, and drives them to some surprising actions. Everyone at the meeting had read Scalzi before. All of us started and finished the book. Three read it in e-book form.

A couple of readers simply loved this book. One said the first few pages seemed all seemed a big cliché, but then he realized that was the point of the book. He came to enjoy it a great deal as homage and parody. He thought the main story was good but not great, but the three codas at the end of the book blew him away with their quality. He felt they contained the best writing and deepest characterization Scalzi has done. Another reader said this book grabbed her from the beginning. She loved how the characters noticed illogical things happening and figured something was not right.  She enjoyed the existential musings and recursive story bits.

Most of us enjoyed how the crewmen came to realize that they were characters in a story. Several members compared this book favorably to other works where the characters are self-aware, like Galaxy Quest and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. One reader liked the line “Quantum Mechanics must be the product of a hack sf writer.” Another reader liked how the characters in the book suddenly got previously-unmentioned skills (like the ability to fly a spaceship) as needed by the story. A favorite character of many us was Jenkins, the crewmember who figured things out first and then hid in the walls of the ship to avoid being sent on away missions.

A couple of us were less satisfied with the book. One reader felt the story was too silly and characters too shallow, and would have preferred something more along the vein of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. Another felt the story setup took way too long to get going.

Overall we had a fun discussion. After the meeting, many of us had a nice meal together at Waterloo Ice House.

–A. T. Campbell, III