Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Mr. Scalzi, your with us on this away party....
John Scalzi's satire about a classic episodic science fiction shows is something I have looked forward to since his reading of the first chapter at Borderlands last year; I was in the audience of people he made swear they would tell no one about it not even it's title other then the fact it was great, inspired and really funny. It was and I actually told no one, that's me I keep my promises, well mostly. I've been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy since the reading; the book is out now and I was lucky enough to get a review copy from Tor Books.
John plays fast and loose with both narrative and science in this loving send up of the convention of throwing a recent addition to the crew under the bus to display the gravity of the situation in the opening minutes of the episode before the commercial break. He introduces the premise right away he read this chapter at Borderlands Books last year and honestly then it was hysterical. So its out now and is getting a lot of attention..... so if your on the fence about it let me tell you how I feel about it now.
I'm honestly conflicted because there are moments I really loved and was either moved to chuckle or to tear up but on the whole i have to question the cost of admission to this show. I know I say I will only talk about novels and stories I like and to be honest I do like this book, but I really wanted to love it. I was turned onto Scalzi because someone mentioned hearing about Old Mans War on Nancy Pearl's show on KUOW (plug plug) years back. I gave her first crack at Redshirts when TOR graciously providid a review copy. Its one of the few books I saw her actually frustrated with and one she ultimately did not finish. I liked it more then her, that is mainly what I will cover, but we have spoken a lot more about it then most books we have both read.
The Good or the reasons to buy this book. I teared up in the ending scene of the last of the codas, which my partner may never have gotten to. I empathised with the feelings of the background characters brought to greater life by the codas and particularly the last; itreminded me of the feelings I had for the XO in Battlestar Galactica (the remake) in the opening episodes of the third season in dealing with his wife it was not at all the same but it was that strong for me. Scalzi effectively played with the formula of episodic TV working faithfully withing the framework and the rules of the game he set up. He maintained tension in scenes that well knowing his title youcould write them endings. I found lots of geeky injokes and dropped names funny along the way particularly thatof the..... oh well that would be telling. I also enjoyed the fact that I reallyfelt like I got what he was doing..... ok so I was wrong along the way butI'd have been sad to have predicted the whole thing. Lastly I did like his protagonists, they were in an unenviable positionof being background in someone elses story but sometimes aren't we all.
TheBad: or why I am conflicted about Redshirts. I have been a sci fi TV watcher since i was a child... Original Star Trek(reruns Im not thatold) STTNG, STDS9, Space 1999 (original run sadly I'm that old) Galactica (both new and old), Buffy, Angel, Farscape(yeah), Babalon 5, Sanctuary... you get the picture not counting comics and reading and gaming (yes I'm thatkind of geek). Ok bad run on sentences aside I am versed in geekdom (long before it was cool) and though all that allowed me to really get what he was well getting at it may have been an issue too. He sort of breaks the fourth wall but not having a history with the characters like when they did it on Farscape or Buffy/Angel/Firefly the impact was more along the lines of "well that was a little funny but (fill in the blank did it better) and that was from more history with the characters. John also appealed to the game theorist in me but it was too much in the narriative for my taste, the storywas maybe too conscious it was a story. I enjoyed reading his exposition of the theory and his cracking of jokes directly to me much in the way Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Grant Morrisson does but maybe he got there a little to late for me.
The Ugly: though I realy really want to love this book because of the emotion I felt for it's end I can't say its worth the ticket price right now. At this time with the economic straits I and other fans may find themselves in paying 26 plus dollars for this is just too much my tearing up not withstanding. I enjoyed the book much more then my partner; I still would love to see John Scalzi get a dumptruck of money backed up to his house. I hope I'm wrong and that I'm in the minority about how funny the novel is and from the other reviews I read it seems that way. I loved it for what I got from it and if you are along term sci fi comic and pen and paper role playing geek you may get as many or more laughs then me but I can't say its worth the ticket price.
Had John posted this as a lark on his Whatever blog it would have been an amazing easteregg for his fans. I enjoyed the book; I just did not think it that funny overall..... It did lead me to several thoughts about what I may write for NANOWRIMO this year and what I'd like to post for people to read....
As an aside for everone out there....
Tor and John Scalzi recently posted here that beginning this winter he will be returning to the Old Mans War universe and that is something to be exited for even if this light satire is not your cup of jo. It will be published initially electronicly in episodic instalments to be followed by a print version. I am looking forward to this a lot.... I love episodic stories and short fiction is so under rated. Me I'm still wanting to love all of Redshirts and will be bringing it to a signing since I'm a sucker for those and maybe I'll find it pee myself funny after my next stab at NANOWRIMO this winter when I try to do a bit of satire myself.