We met on January 29th to discuss Redshirts by John Scalzi. I’ll do my best here to summarize what people had to say, but we always welcome more discussion — so comments are welcome!
- Our discussion actually began with some comments about the codas in the book. Glenn said it was “the best ending ever” — he wasn’t expecting this, and thought it was awesome, and liked how Scalzi tied things together.
- Menolly said that she really loved the beginning of the book, where the characters are making their various discoveries. However, she was glad this wasn’t the entire story, and that Scalzi took things much further. Other readers agreed with this, as well.
- Burt Macklin, FBI, however, said he was disappointed when the characters found out they were on a TV show — he liked something imposing The Narrative, but he felt the story lost its way when the characters went in search of the writers. Theresa – made a comparison to another book – Sophie’s World – and here, where they break out of their world and come back – the whole idea of being in charge of your own destiny.
- There were some readers who really enjoyed the various Star Trek-esque parts. Rachel, as a longtime Star Trek fan, enjoyed it immensely. Furry, and other readers, said they loved the part where they are introduced to The Box, which is like a little microwave. Rachel said this took her back to the original Star Trek show, where they would use something that looked like a salt shaker, but made it into something very sci-fi.
- Hola made a comparison to GalaxyQuest, which she really liked. She had started the book thinking it would be a text version of that and liked the turn for the meta that the book took. She appreciated that the author took it to a deeper level and still managed to keep a lot of humor in the story. Nathan said he also liked the book, although he said it was a bit lighter than he expected, and he was surprised it won the awards that it did. Les said he was just relieved that there wasn’t a main smart-alecky character (well, not too smart-alecky).
- However, lest we go too deeply into the Scalzi adoration …. not all readers loved the book. Mike said that he “found the book trite, shallow and really thought the ending was like someone called him to dinner and he didn’t come back.” He said he actually liked the codas better than the story. However, he read the book twice and still felt there should be more. However, he admitted that he was never a big fan of Star Trek – he got the joke, but in his opinion, it had occasional flashes of inspiration, like the opening scene with the land worms. However, he wanted more explanation — although he wondered if it was supposed to be read like a written episode of Star Trek where there isn’t a lot of explanation? Taylor said that she liked that it was a short read, but she didn’t have any feelings one way or the other on the book (so for her, this was a middle-ground kind of read). Another read, who admitted that he is not a huge Scalzi fan, said he felt, to the extent that this works for a reader, it’s a case of being a geek cultural artifact. People talk about it friends with similar interests. It’s an homage. He said the character of Kerensky was a high point for him and that he liked the directions that that went in, and that there is a narrative and people hiding out from the narrative and liked how this fit together.
- Burt Macklin, FBI listened to the audiobook, which led us to ask how it was (considering it’s read by Wil Wheaton). He thought it was fine and said he’s found there are 2 different kind of readers — those who read the text (like Wheaton) and some who give everyone their own voice, like Jim Dale, where it’s a performance. But he thought that Wheaton read it pretty well. He also remembered that Wheaton “went all Shatnerian” in a few parts, which was funny.
- Hola stated that she didn’t like that there aren’t many descriptions; you don’t know what people look like, what the ship looks like, etc. Glenn said he felt there were lots of referential things here, so when Scalzi mentions someone or something, you can tell who it is. So, a description isn’t necessary. Rachel pointed out that they are Red Shirts. after all. Menolly said that for her, Star Trek focuses a lot on the ship and the main characters and you get panning shots, and in this book, it’s not about the ship or the captain; it’s about the ancillary guys who get killed off. Theresa pointed out that in our discussion of Fuzzy Nation, that Scalzi lets us build up our mental image for each character based on their personalities — and that many readers liked this. Hola said she understood these points, but still felt the characters were interchangable — which other readers thought might be the author’s intention.
Mr. Scalzi was kind enough to answer a few questions that I sent him, on behalf of the group. I’ll share one of those here:
Do you have a favorite Star Trek episode (original or TNG) or character? Favorite episode is “Yesterday’s Enterprise” from TNG, which I think is where that series finally got onto solid footing. Favorite characters, in no particular order: Spock, Data, Q.
Please note — we have enough devoted John Scalzi fans in this group that his upcoming book was chosen for our next reading cycle. There was only a brief synopsis of the book to go on, but we chose it anyway. That’s dedication for you.
The group gave this book the codes: HAA, SOP, TTL, LEL, HUGO and the averaged-out rating was a 4. As I mentioned, we welcome more comments to continue our discussion, so if you have something to say, please do!